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Post  Admin on Mon 18 Jun 2012, 10:02 pm

The Peacemaker

John 16:33

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."

No matter the efforts, the world and its inhabitants are unable to attain peace. In the last five thousand years, there have been at least 14,000 wars. In the past four centuries alone, the Western world has entered into 8,000 peace treaties—each one averaging a two-year "life expectancy."

One author put it best when he said peace was only a period of time when everyone stopped to reload! Humorous though it may be, the world seems to use the interludes between wars to gear up for the next round of conflict.

It isn't any wonder to us that Isaiah, in his prophetic book of the Bible, called Jesus Christ the "Prince of Peace." Christ is the one and only remedy for a violent and corrupt world, and He has promised to be that remedy to all who believe on His name. So why do people refuse Him? If they want peace so badly, why won't they reach out and take it?

Why? Simply because the world wants peace without the Prince!

The prophet Jeremiah decried the lack of peace in his own generation, as people sought their own solutions apart from God. In chapter 6:10-14, he wrote,

". . . Behold, their ears are closed and they cannot listen. Behold, the word of the Lord has become a reproach to them; they have no delight in it . . . For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely. They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,' but there is no peace."

In other words, "Everyone in my generation and among my people is consumed with greed. They desire more and more gain, and all of them, from the leadership down, are living deceitful lives—lying to one another, deceiving one another, and deceiving themselves in the process."

This is the grim portrait of society—Jeremiah's and ours.

People talk about peace, but they don't have it. They patch things together for a few weeks or months, but it doesn't last very long. That's because they have rejected the Prince—the only One capable of providing peace on earth.

The world hasn't changed much since Jeremiah's day. Men still reject God and His Word, making small talk about peace but never experiencing the real thing. World leaders can hold one peace summit after another, sign peace treaties repeatedly, and pass as many resolutions in the UN as can be voted, but the problem will never be solved.

Peace comes to those who have surrendered to the Prince of Peace—Jesus Christ, and have crowned Him ruler of their lives. To them He gives His peace . . . even in the midst of a warring world.

Prayer Point: Simply thank the Lord for His peace which passes all understanding—a peace that many in the world will never experience because they have rejected the Savior. Then pray that you will be a better servant of Christ, your Prince, and your service will overflow to others.

Extra Refreshment: Read Psalm 29.
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Post  Admin on Sun 17 Jun 2012, 9:29 am

Dirty Kisses
Romans 6:1-2

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

A pastor wrote a rather interesting article in a minister's journal; it dealt with a problem in the bathroom of a middle school in Oregon. Girls were setting the precedent of pressing their lips to the mirrors after applying lipstick, leaving dozens of messy lip prints all over the glass.

When the principal declared that something must be done, she devised a rather ingenious plan and told the custodian exactly what to do. After summoning the girls and the custodian to the bathroom, the principal explained that the lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian, and instructed that the girls stop the nasty practice that wasted his valuable time.

Of course, the girls were oblivious to this request and were irritated at having to meet with the principal—they didn't even try to hide it. Not being deterred, the principal continued with her scheme, and asked the custodian to show them how he had been cleaning the mirrors each day after school.

He promptly took out his long-handled brush, dipped it into one of the nearby toilets, and scrubbed the mirrors with the brush. The girls' mouths dropped open in shock. Not surprisingly, since that demonstration, the lip prints have never reappeared!

There is a valuable lesson to be learned from this story. Although sin may seem as innocent and harmless as kissing a mirror, we are often unaware of the vile and evil things lurking on the periphery—waiting to wreak havoc in our lives.

Have you ever said this to your kids: "Don't let that dog lick you on your face—you have no idea where she's been!" I try to warn them, but they never seem to connect the dots. In my case, I know whereof I speak—or should I say warn. We have a dog who loves nasty, yucky stuff! Whenever she gets loose in the horse pasture beyond our backyard fence, she rolls around in the grass—filth and all—just for fun. I watch her in utter disgust, but she pays no attention to my opinion of her personal hygiene.

You see, my dog has a serious problem with the way she thinks! Maybe that's okay for her . . . she's a dog . . . but for Christians to roll around in the filth of sin and thoroughly enjoy it is a completely different matter. There is something dreadfully wrong with the heart of a Christian who enjoys kissing dirty mirrors.

Paul warns the believer in this text "Don't call yourself a Christian if you are going to continue in a lifestyle of sin! Have you forgotten who you are? You are a child of the King—start acting like it!"

Paul is not saying that we will never sin, or that we will never fall at times, because we will. He is referring to people who love sin more than God. These are so-called Christians who overlook the passages in the Bible about refraining from deceit, pride, sexual immorality, slander, bitterness, and more, while holding on to their sin, rather than upholding God's standard.

Paul's point is simple: Christians have been saved from sin; they should refrain from "kissing" the world . . . including mirrors and dogs!

Prayer Point: Confess any sin that has been lingering in your spirit, whether it has been there for a few hours, months, or years. Pray the prayer of the psalmist who asked God to "search my heart and see if there be any wicked way in me, and blot it out."

Extra Refreshment: Read Romans 6
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Post  Admin on Fri 15 Jun 2012, 3:09 pm

Using Your Quota
James 3:8-10

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

Psychologists have estimated that we have 700 opportunities to speak every week; with those opportunities, we construct 12,000 sentences, speak up to 50,000 words, and author a 150-page book. Did you get that?—every week! That is an astounding number!

But there is a great danger unexpressed in this statistic. If James says that our mouth is "full of deadly poison," and we are opening our mouth 700 times a week, imagine how much damage is spewed forth without our even realizing it!

In America we are constantly reminded of our right to "free speech," but this right is never given to us in Scripture. Rather, the Bible warns us of the danger of using our words flippantly. James 1:26 says, "If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless."

In other words, James is saying that the 700 words we speak every week are indicators of our walk with Christ. If we are claiming to love God, yet all the while poisoning our brothers with thoughtless, cruel, or malicious words, we are only deceiving ourselves.

This story graphically illustrates the danger of speaking careless words. A young man living in ancient Greece had said something very harsh to one of his friends, later discovering that what he had said wasn't true. He went to his wise teacher and asked, "Master, I hurt my neighbor with my words; what can I do to right this wrong?" His teacher said, "Find a sack and fill it with feathers. Tonight after everyone has retired, go around the village and put a feather on each doorstep."

The young man was confused but obeyed the master's command. When he had finished and returned to his home, he lay in bed and pondered the meaning of the task. Tossing and turning all night, he could not make sense of it. The next morning he ran to his teacher and declared, "Master, I've done what you've said. Now what do I do?"

His teacher responded, "Get your sack, go back to each doorstep—and retrieve every feather." The young man retorted, "That is impossible! There is no way I can retrieve every feather. The wind has come during the night, people have been walking, animals have been moving, and the feathers will have been scattered by now."

The teacher then explained, "The same is true with your words. They were very easy to speak, but they are impossible to retrieve."

Fifty thousand words a week; 200,000 words a month; 2,400,000 words a year—that is the number of "feathers" we scatter, sometimes without thinking how far they will drift. We must develop the habit of thinking and praying before speaking, or we may deceive ourselves and destroy others around us.

And James reminds believers . . . "these things ought not to be."

Prayer Point: Ask God to bring to your mind someone you may have hurt by your words, whether in the past week, month, or even this year; confess your sin to God. Then, as an extension of that confession, go to the person you harmed and ask for forgiveness.

Extra Refreshment: Read Proverbs 12.
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Post  Admin on Thu 14 Jun 2012, 11:05 pm

Let the Confession Begin!

Proverbs 28:13

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

The term "priorities" used to be referred to only in the singular form—priority. It was "set your priority straight," not priorities. Today we have many priorities, and I'm afraid we're a lot like Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's. When asked by The New York Times what he believed in, he responded by saying, "God, my family, and McDonald's hamburgers." Afterwards he added, "And when I get to the office, I reverse the order."

The problem is a universal one, and all humans, whether Christian or not, will be forced to deal with it. It is a problem called pride; we not only deceive others by it—we deceive ourselves.

This is how it usually comes down: because of pride, you go to church on Sunday and look and act like a Christian—everyone thinks you're an upright citizen. Then, like Ray Kroc, you go to your workplace on Monday and look and act like an unbeliever—your co-workers think you're an okay guy. In reality, you're the farthest thing from either description!

"Confession is the road to healing," as one songwriter once said, and it is the cure to self-deception. We all would like to think that we're good people, or at least better than average—certainly not as bad as the other guy! The truth is, just because we're saved doesn't mean we're perfect.

Consider the examples God gives us in His Word: Old Testament figures were saved by their faith in the promise of the coming Messiah: Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samson, David, and many others. In the New Testament, there is one who stands out from all who followed Christ: Simon Peter. These men of God faltered in their walk of faith—floundered in the sea of sin—failed God, themselves, and others. Yet . . . all repented and regained their testimonies with God and men, and six of them are listed in the Bible's "Hall of Faith" chapter, Hebrews 11.

Perhaps the world has to see us admit our sins and confess our wrong doings before they will be able to see their own need for confession and repentance. Christ died for sinners, and when sinners who have been saved reach out to sinners who are still lost, conversions will be the result.

Some people will hate us because of our message, as Christ promised in the gospel of John, but others will come to Christ through our transparency and love.

The point is simple—don't be a Pharisee. Never stop confessing your sin to God and to others, and never stop telling the world of their need for Christ's love and mercy, for "all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) . . . and that includes you.

Prayer Point: Confess your sins to God right now, and ask Him to reveal the people to whom you need to make reconciliation. Then, pray for humility to confess your wrong, knowing that God is glorified when you do.

Extra Refreshment: Read Psalm 51—David's prayer of confession after sinning greatly against the Lord.
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Post  Admin on Wed 13 Jun 2012, 11:50 am

Comforting Arms
Matthew 5:4

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

There is a vivid memory etched in my mind—a day when one of my sons hugged a tree in our back yard. The tree had a "ladder" of nails driven into it, and he used them for climbing. I was about fifty yards away, watching and admiring the athletic prowess of my son, as he hung from the first branch eight feet from the ground. But his foot slipped off the nail and I saw his body swivel around to the other side of the tree.

As he held on to the trunk with one arm and wrapped a leg around the tree, he yelled for help. I began walking toward the tree, but in his moment of distress, he didn't wait for me to arrive. Typical of the very young, he hadn't yet discovered that sometimes it hurts more to let go than to hang on, so—he released his hold on the branch. He slid down the trunk and skinned himself on every nail protruding from the tree. A long bloody gash stretched from his waist to his chest.

He hit the ground, immediately bounded up, and came running. His feet were moving so fast that he even fell once as he ran. When he reached me, he leapt into my arms and began to wail. I just held him and hugged him, because I knew he was experiencing more pain than he had ever felt before. Although I am not a great father—in fact, sometimes, I'm not even a good father—I did what comes naturally to any parent witnessing his child in pain . . . I comforted him.

Why is it that we think God will do any less for His children? Why is it that we think God groans when He sees us coming to Him in pain? We assume He is thinking, "Oh, no . . . you're hurt again?" If we, as fallen, sinful, earthly parents can comfort our children in times of distress, whatever the cause, how much more will our perfect heavenly Father comfort us in our distress—whatever the cause?

The word for comfort in Matthew 5:4 is not sympathy, which means to feel with, or empathy, which means to have experienced the same thing and feel with, but a combination of two Latin words which mean to put strength in; to infuse with power.

This means that God doesn't just pat us on the back when we are in mourning; He gives us what we need to endure the pain of sadness. It's as David said in Psalm 138:3, "On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul."

Have you fallen from any trees lately? God will lift you up—blood, tears and all. So go ahead . . . wail to Him in your sorrow; cry to Him in your distress; jump into His arms of healing.

Your Father is waiting to hold you close to Him. Then you will learn what Christ meant when He said, "Blessed are those who mourn . . . for they shall be comforted."

Prayer Point: Perhaps you are bleeding today from some emotional gash, and are in need of a giant "bear-hug" from God. Be encouraged, friend! God says in Scripture that you can cast your cares upon Him because He cares for you. No matter how great or small your concern, God will give you the strength to deal with it.

Extra Refreshment: Read 1 Peter 5.
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Post  Admin on Mon 11 Jun 2012, 12:26 pm

The Right Answer

Romans 10:9-10

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

In 1955, a dance instructor and manager of an Arthur Murray Studio in Tampa had wearily turned in just before dawn on Sunday morning, after an almost-all-night dance party. He set his clock radio to awaken him to music at the appointed time, but was jarred wide awake by a voice that sounded as if it were thundering right out of heaven. It was the weekly broadcast of Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, a Philadelphia pastor and one of the first great radio evangelists.

Jim got out of bed to change the station, but before he reached the radio, the preacher stopped him with a question that set him back on the edge of the bed: "Suppose that you were to die today and stand before God, and He were to ask you, ‘What right do you have to enter into My heaven?'—what would you say?"

Jim was dumbfounded! He continued to listen to the explanation of the plan of redemption through faith in Christ—a message he had never heard before. On that remarkable Sunday afternoon, Jim made the transition from presumption to truth. He had presumed that he was good enough to make it into heaven; he didn't realize that he was calling God a liar—God, who says, "There is none good, no not one." He knew he would never make it!

That week he stopped by a corner newsstand and asked if they sold religious books. The owner had only one, The Greatest Story Ever Told. Each night Jim read a portion, and when he completed the book, it seemed as if the cross of Christ had been erected right in his apartment. He slipped out of his chair onto his knees and asked Christ to come into his heart and forgive him and cleanse him of his sins . . . he found the answer.

By the way, Jim's name was D. James Kennedy. He was founder and pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, founder of Knox Theological Seminary, as well as the international evangelism ministry called "Evangelism Explosion," training people in every country of the world, showing them how to share the gospel, asking that famous question.

What would your answer be today? Why do you think you're going to heaven? What right do you have to ever think you could live for eternity in the presence of God's glory? Do you have an answer?

There is only one way. You must travel on that bridge fashioned in the form of an old rugged cross—the eternal bridge between earth and heaven, between corruption and consummation, between religion and redemption. This is the bridge built by our Redeemer, and no religious acts or good deeds will allow you to walk across it. Heaven is on the other side for all who are willing to come by Christ's finished work alone.

If you have already believed in Christ for salvation, then ask yourself this question: "God is at work in the world around me; am I taking part in it? Is there someone in my life to whom I should pose this life-changing, eternity-destined question? If so, what are you waiting for?

Today is someone's day of salvation; go . . . ask the question!

Prayer Point: We have been offered the most precious gift by our Savior, Jesus Christ. As Romans 12:1 says, it is our "reasonable service" to give our lives completely to Him in response to His mercy. Ask God to begin to show you, through prayer and the reading of His Word, how you can best take part in the work of spreading the gospel.
Extra Refreshment: Read 1 Timothy 1—a reminder that God saves sinners, not good people.
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Post  Admin on Sat 09 Jun 2012, 7:51 pm

Why Pray?
Psalm 86:6-7

Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; and give heed to the voice of my supplications! In the day of my trouble I shall call upon You, for You will answer me.

R. A. Torrey, a former president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, once wrote ten powerful reasons why believers should pray:

1.There is a devil and prayer is the God-appointed means of resisting him.
2.Prayer is God's way for us to obtain what we need from Him.
3.The apostles, whom God set forth to be a pattern for us, considered prayer to be the most important business of their lives.
4.Prayer occupied a prominent place and played a very important part in the earthly life of our Lord.
5.Prayer is the most important part of the present ministry of our Lord, since He is now interceding for us.
6.Prayer is the means God has appointed for our receiving mercy from Him and obtaining grace to help in time of need.
7.Prayer is the means of obtaining the fullness of God's joy.
8.Prayer with thanksgiving is the means of obtaining freedom from anxiety, and in anxiety's place is peace which passes understanding.
9.Prayer is the means by which we are to keep watchful and be alert at Christ's return.
10.Prayer is used by God to promote our spiritual growth, bring power into our work, lead others to faith in Christ, and bring all other blessings to Christ's church.


In other words, the question should not be why should we pray, but how can we afford not to pray?

Just look at that list! It is not exhaustive, by the way. All one needs to do is look into a few of the Psalms to find that prayer should be the most vital part of a believer's life. Just as a wife cannot have a good relationship with her husband without speaking, so also a believer cannot have a good relationship with God if there is no communication. Prayer is how we talk to God, and His Word is how He speaks to us.

It baffles me how shallow our view of prayer has become in the church today. Think about our own perspective: when there is a crisis with a family member—a child is rushed to ICU; your father has a heart attack; your sibling is experiencing depression—what is the first thing that believers often say in these circumstances? "Well, I guess all I can do now is pray."

I can't tell you how many times I've heard that in these past few years; I've said it myself. I don't know where this "last-resort" idea comes from, but it is terribly wrong.

Prayer isn't the last thing—it's the best thing that you and I could ever do for anyone.

He's listening . . . are you praying?

Prayer Point: 1 Peter 5 says to "cast our anxiety upon the Lord, for He cares for us." Thank God for never turning a deaf ear to your call to Him, and for always listening to your supplication.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 17—the prayer of Jesus.
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Post  Admin on Fri 08 Jun 2012, 8:52 am

Saved from the Flames

1 John 4:10

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

I will never forget reading about a Midwestern fire that swept across the prairie, devastating crops, houses, and everything else that lay in its path. It ravaged without warning, leaving families and homesteads in ruin. Only one family was unharmed, and this is their story.

They had seen the smoke coming from a distance and knew they could never outrun it. The father grabbed a brand from the hearth and set their own field afire, lighting smaller fires in patches along the surrounding area. The wind fanned the flames and carried them a mile or so ahead of the on-coming prairie fire. He loaded his family into the wagon and then drove into the middle of their burned-out field . . . and they waited.

Within minutes, the great wall of fire reached the edge of their field. Finding nothing to burn, it merely licked its way along the outer edges. Ultimately, the massive wall of flames met at the back of the field and continued downwind with a fury.

They were safe!

Why? Because they were standing on ground that had already been burned. It had withstood the fire and could not be burned again. It had become this family's propitiation.

Do you know why you will never have to face the wrath of God in fiery judgment? Because you stand in Christ—He is your propitiation. Against Him, the wrath of God has already burned, and for us who are in Him, the fire of God will never burn again. John tells us why God did this for us in 1 John 4:10: "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

We come to Christ as our Propitiator, not because of something we did or some measure of worth that we had in ourselves, but because of what He did on the cross and because of His eternal worth as God the Son.

There is a coming firestorm that will sweep up those who have not accepted the propitiatory work of Christ. It is a place called hell; in it, the wrath of God will burn against all those not standing in the finished work of Christ.

For those who have placed their faith in Christ, they are forever safe from that flame. Because of the cross, which is stained with the perfect blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, God's judgment for sin has been fully satisfied.

The wall of flames has passed away for those who are in Christ . . . there is no need to fear.

Prayer Point: Thank Jesus for drinking the cup of God's wrath that you deserved, and for standing in the way of the fire that was headed for your doorstep. Thank Him for a love so great that He was willing to die on the cross.

Extra Refreshment: Read all of 1 John 4.
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Post  Admin on Thu 07 Jun 2012, 10:18 am

Saved and Assured

1 John 1:1-4

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.

Queen Victoria, sovereign of Great Britain from 1837-1901, attended worship in St. Paul's Cathedral and listened to a sermon that piqued her interest. After the message she asked her chaplain the question, "Can one be absolutely sure in this life of eternal safety?" His answer was, "No, there is no way that anyone can be absolutely sure."

This incident was published afterward in the Court News and came to the notice of a humble minister named John Townsend. After reading the Queen's question and the answer given, he prayed for wisdom, and felt compelled to send these words:

To Her Gracious Majesty, our beloved Queen Victoria, from one of your most humble subjects: With trembling hands, but heart-filled love, and because I know that we can be absolutely sure now for our eternal life in the home that Jesus went to prepare, may I ask Your Most Gracious Majesty to read the following passages of Scripture: John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10. I sign myself, your servant for Jesus' sake, John Townsend.

John Townsend took others into his confidence, and they offered up prayer to God on Her Majesty's behalf. About two weeks later, he received the following letter:

To John Townsend: I have carefully and prayerfully read the portions of Scripture referred to. I now believe in the finished work of Christ for me, and trust by God's grace, to meet you one day in that place He has prepared for us in heaven. Victoria Guelph

The Queen of England bowed her heart and surrendered her life to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords—the One whose majesty extends over all the earth. After she discovered the assurance of salvation through faith in Christ alone, she eventually carried copies of a small booklet to give to her subjects. Safety, Certainty, and Enjoyment contained the plan of salvation and the assurance that one could have in Christ. These were the very things she had discovered upon receiving the Truth.

My friend, don't be deceived by the wisdom of the present age, which says that truth cannot be known, and that material, scientific evidence must be obtained before anything can be proven. As John writes, the proof is in our hearts, and only those who have tasted the everlasting water which God has so freely offered (John 6) can be assured of its never-ending benefit.

Here are the facts: Jesus was born; He died; He rose again on the third day; He is living in the hearts of all those who trust in Him.

And the Apostle John says . . . of this we can be assured!

Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for writing down an eyewitness account of His ministry, His miracles, and His mission, so that "you may know that you have eternal life." Then, thank Him for giving you assurance in your heart, even when you are crippled by doubt.

Extra Refreshment: Read John 20—a passage where Christ proves His divinity by conquering death, and blesses those who have "believed in Him even though we have never seen Him."
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Post  Admin on Tue 05 Jun 2012, 9:41 pm

The Gospel . . . and a Cup of Tea

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

Sam Kamaleson, the vice president of a worldwide mission organization, told a tremendous story of a seventy-year-old lady who came to faith in Christ.

Like many newly-converted believers, her desire was to serve God in any way possible, but she had one troubling question for which she had no answer: how could she best be used in God's service? She eventually approached her pastor with the dilemma and said, "I believe God has called me into some sort of ministry; what should I do?" Since he had no idea what might suit her, he replied, "Maybe you should go home and pray about it." Now, this is Pastoring 101—if you don't know the answer, suggest prayer!

After returning home, she followed her pastor's advice, and sensed that God wanted her to do something to reach students who attended a nearby university. Thinking of how to connect with them, she hurried to the drugstore, bought a pack of 3x5 cards, and wrote on each one: "Are you homesick? Come to my home for tea at 4:00." Then she added her address.

She took her stack of cards and went around the University of Melbourne campus, putting them in places where students were sure to see them: bulletin boards, dining hall, restroom mirrors, car windshields—you name it. She went back home and began preparing tea. When four o'clock came, no one knocked at the door. Day after day, no one showed up. Instead of becoming discouraged, she continued to pray and prepare tea . . . just in case.

At last, on the fifteenth day, an Indonesian student was at her door, homesick and as eager to talk as she was to listen. Excitedly she served tea and gave him a listening ear as he intently told his story.

When he returned to campus, he told all his friends, "Hey, you won't believe it! I met a lady that's just like my grandmother." The young man's visit was the beginning of other students going to her home at four o'clock for tea. Soon her house was filled with college kids eager to talk. What started as a simple God-given desire to minister to lost souls led to ten years of one-on-one ministry for a woman who sought God's direction in her service for Him.

When she died there were no less than seventy pallbearers, all of whom were Indonesian, Malaysian, Indian, and other international students who had come to her home for tea and conversation—and had found Jesus Christ.

Imagine that!

The moral of this story is simple: God has called you for a purpose, and you have been uniquely gifted for it. No matter what your limitations may be, God can use you to touch the lives of people who need Christ.

So, if it's putting on the kettle and setting out an extra cup—there are still people out there who are in desperate need of the gospel . . . and a cup of tea.

Prayer Point: Pray right now, just as that woman did, for an opportunity to share the gospel with someone else, or the opportunity to help a brother or sister in need. Ask the Lord to impress on your heart some specific way you can serve as an ambassador of heaven. Then thank the Lord for giving His life in service for you, setting the perfect example of humility and love.

Extra Refreshment: Read John 13:1-20.
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Post  Admin on Mon 04 Jun 2012, 9:49 am

Equal Blame—Equal Blessings

Galatians 3:28-29

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.

Pastor Gary Tolbert told the story of a little boy who had come to see the sights of Washington, D.C., with his parents. When they arrived at the Washington Monument, the boy was speechless as he stared at the obelisk stretching into the sky. He noticed a guard standing by and walked up to him, saying, "I want to buy it," pointing at the monument erected in memory of our first President.

The guard said, "Excuse me?" The child said a little louder, "I want to buy that!"

The guard bent down and asked, "Well now, just how much money do you have?" The boy reached into his pocket and pulled out a quarter. The guard said, "I'm sorry son, that's not enough."

The boy replied, "I thought you'd say that," and he reached into his other pocket and pulled out a nickel and four pennies, holding his hand up to the guard for him to count the money.

The guard looked at the boy, then squatted down and said to the disappointed negotiator, "Listen son, you need to understand three things: First, you don't have enough money to buy this thing—34 cents or 34 million dollars wouldn't be enough to buy the Washington Monument; second, you need to know that the Washington Monument is not for sale; third, you need to know that, if you are an American citizen, the Washington Monument belongs to you—it's already yours."

What a wonderful picture of Christianity! No matter what kind of person you are—red, yellow, black or white; tall or short; fat or thin; rich or poor; Baptist or Presbyterian; pessimist or optimist (and I could go on and on!)—you are an equal shareholder in God's kingdom if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ.

In fact, your half-dollar and your neighbor's fifty dollar bill are on equal par when it comes to earning favor with God—you can't tip Him. You can have His favor and all its rewards freely through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God has already purchased salvation and offers it to you through the sacrifice of His Son.

Just as the Washington Monument belongs to both a little boy with pocket change and a millionaire businessman, so also the promises of God belong to every believer.

The truth is, we are equally deserving of condemnation, but by God's grace we have become equally endowed with an inheritance that will never pass away . . . claim it today!

Prayer Point: How are you reaching out to those who are different from you? In what ways are you developing relationships with men and women who have a different ethnic, social, or family background from you? Ask God to give you opportunities to develop strong relationships with those who are different from you outwardly, but share oneness with you in Christ.
Extra Refreshment: Read Matthew 20:1-16.
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Post  Admin on Fri 01 Jun 2012, 10:38 pm

The Bubbles Are Always Right

Proverbs 14:12

There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

I arrived on the Island of Malta while on a mission trip and stayed in a hotel which overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. The water was crystal clear and as I stood on the balcony, I could see the rocks at the bottom of the sea, shimmering as sunlight pierced the water.

There was a swimming pool near the edge of the water, and I watched scuba divers taking lessons and practicing the elements of the sport. Before ever venturing out into the Mediterranean, they safely mastered the basics in a pool.

As I watched them, I was reminded of one of my seminary classmates who was an avid scuba diver. He regaled me with his adventures on several occasions when we were together.

One insight from his experiences made a profound impact on me. I learned that when a diver was deep under water, he could lose all sense of direction. He becomes weightless—no sense of gravity—and swimming without a natural source of light causes him to become disoriented and swim sideways, thinking that he is rising to the top.

In fact, a diver can become so convinced that his perception is correct that he continues to swim in the wrong direction until he eventually runs out of air and drowns. My friend then said that the only way to keep this from happening is to follow the direction of your air bubbles. "No matter how you feel, or what your brain may tell you," he said, "the bubbles are always right."

The world today is like a group of scuba divers: disoriented and void of direction. Absolutely convinced that their perception of right and wrong is correct, they ignore the warnings, while the bubbles of truth tell them otherwise. Instead, they willfully follow the directions of other disoriented expert divers who say, "Live like this . . . believe like this . . . think this way . . . go that way"—and all the while their tanks are running out of oxygen.

According to the book The Day America Told the Truth, 74% of Americans think it is all right to steal from people who they believe will not really miss it; 64% believe it is acceptable to lie, as long as no one gets hurt; 93% say they decide moral issues by their own experience or opinion. Choosing to ignore the bubbles, they swim to their deaths.

The Word of God has been given to us that we may have direction for living. As Christians, we have no excuse for moving through life disoriented; the verses in Scripture are like the air bubbles from a diver—they show the way up.

Make sure you're swimming in the right direction . . . just follow the "bubbles"!

Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for showing you through His Word how to live a life that pleases Him, instead of leaving you on your own, disoriented, and on a path that leads to death.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 8:12-59.
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Post  Admin on Thu 31 May 2012, 8:37 pm

Salvation Is for Sinners
Mark 2:17

And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Jacob Koshy grew up in Singapore with the ambition to become as rich and successful as he possibly could—the desire that ultimately led him into the world of drugs and gambling. In time, he reached his goal, becoming the leader of an international drug-smuggling network. But in 1980, that dream came to an abrupt end when he was caught, arrested, and detained in a government drug rehabilitation prison in Singapore.

Locked in a tiny cell, Jacob became frustrated and embittered. He wanted to smoke, but cigarettes were not allowed in the prison. Friends smuggled in tobacco and he rolled it in the pages of a Gideon Bible that had been left in his cell. One day he fell asleep while smoking and awoke to find that his homemade cigarette had burned out; all that remained was some charred paper. He unrolled the paper and read the words, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"

Curiosity struck him and he asked the guard for a new Bible. Upon receiving it, he read the story of Saul's miraculous conversion. Immense joy overtook Jacob as he realized the truth of what he had read—if God could save an enemy like Saul, He could save him as well! Without wasting a second, he fell to his knees and prayed for God to forgive his sins. Tears flowed as the Lord heard his prayer and saved his soul.

Jacob began sharing his story with other prisoners; some of them accepted Christ as well. When he was released from prison, he became involved in a Bible-believing church, met and married a Christian woman, and together they began serving as missionaries in the Far East, sharing the gospel with sinners in desperate need of the Savior.

The value of the human soul is so precious that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit devised a plan before the world was created: The Son of God would die to redeem fallen man. No matter what has happened to you, my friend, no matter what you have made of yourself, you can become whole again in the eyes of God.

It was Christ Himself who said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" . . . aren't we all? If you are lost in your sin today, there is good news: Christ died on the cross for people . . . people just like you.

Prayer Point: If you have never placed your faith in Jesus Christ for your salvation from sin, confess now and accept His free gift to you. If you are a believer, thank the Lord that, although you are a sinner who continually "falls short of His glory" everyday of your life, He never ceases to love you.

Extra Refreshment: Read Acts 9—the story that changed Jacob Koshy's life.
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Post  Admin on Wed 30 May 2012, 11:57 am

A Dead-End Street
James 1:14-15

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

I read of a couple who had been married thirty-five years, had three grown children who loved them dearly, and were blessed with financial resources. They were finally able to purchase a lakeside retirement home they had dreamed about for a long time. Put on the market by a widower, it was the perfect place.

Before the offer to buy was finalized, the woman had a change of heart and direction. In fact, life would dramatically change for both the owner of the lake house and the prospective buyers. It seems the wife wanted a divorce—not the retirement home. Her husband, feeling a surge of confusion and anger sweep over him, shouted, "How could you be planning something like this... after all this time... when we're so close to buying our dream home... after thirty-five years?"

She explained that she hadn't been planning a long time to ask for the divorce—it had been a recent decision. The man who held her interest . . . and her heart . . . was the widower who owned the lakefront home! How could this be?

It seems she had run into him several weeks after they had met to discuss the purchase of the home. There was a quick lunch together, which led to another lunch, and then another . . .

Wow! Now she's telling her husband that she is in love with this man and isn't about to change her mind. Not even her grown children, horrified by the turn of events, could talk sense into their mother.

The day of the wife's departure, her husband was walking through the kitchen with her luggage, and on his way to the garage, stopped, looked at her with tearful eyes, and said, "I guess this is the last time I'll be doing this." Feeling awkward and guilty, she hurriedly grabbed her coat and purse and left the house, driving to meet the new man in her life.

Two weeks after she moved in with him he suffered a massive heart attack, lingered a few days, and died. In just two weeks, the lives of so many were irreparably damaged. Trust was destroyed, the future changed, bright prospects of grandparenting clouded with sorrow, and the vows of marriage shattered by a series of painful events.

My friend, whether you are single or married, God requires purity from you. In your marriage, the smartest thing you will ever do is stay faithful and committed to your spouse.

Christ says in Matthew 5, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Are you satisfying your desires with impure thoughts, images, or relationships? Then you are not able to see God. Don't be deceived by the promises of sin—they are dead-end streets lined with guilt and sorrow.

God knows our hearts; He sees every thought and deed. He isn't fooled by excuses and cover-ups. So I beg you . . . don't destroy your life and the lives of others by choosing or covering sexual sin.

God's way avoids the dead-end streets and broad avenues that lead to destruction. Don't take that detour—stay on the narrow way... it leads to life.

Prayer Point: Confess any perverse thoughts or actions that you have been covering up, and ask God to rid you of them, replacing them with pure thoughts which are pleasing to Him. Stop any plans or flirtations with relationships that will either erode your spiritual walk or hurt your marriage.

Extra Refreshment: Read 2 Samuel 11—a reminder of the devastating consequences of sexual sin.

Let the Wisdom Search Begin!

Proverbs 3:13-14

How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold.

Contrary to popular belief, wisdom is not an easy thing to attain. Like diamonds, you won't find it lying on top of the ground. It is something that many would like to have, but few ever mine the depths in order to discover where it lies.

I read a story of a young man who approached the great thinker, Aristotle, and asked him the profound question, "How can I have wisdom?" Aristotle smiled and replied, "Follow me."

The young man followed closely as they made their way down several streets, arriving at a shallow pool in the city square. Without any hesitation, Aristotle gathered up his robes and waded into the water. The young man stopped for a moment, but then followed him into the pool.

When both men were standing in the middle, Aristotle suddenly turned, grabbed the younger man by the neck, and pushed his head under the water. The student flailed with his arms, but to no avail. Aristotle was the stronger of the two, and he held the struggling lad's head beneath the surface. At the last possible moment, Aristotle pulled him up, dragged him over to the edge, and sat him down. Coughing and gasping for air, the student could hardly believe what had just occurred.

Unmoved by the young man's confusion and surprise, Aristotle simply asked him, "Young man, when I held you under the water, what did you want more than anything in the world?" He sputtered between coughs, "Air, sir . . . air!" Aristotle then responded, "When you want wisdom as badly as you wanted air, then you will find it," and he walked away.

The test for wisdom is: do you believe you can live without it? If it isn't as vital as food, shelter, or clothing—all of which can be purchased—it won't be found. Although you may desire it, you'll never find it. After a few scrapes with a shovel or pick, in search of this rare jewel, you'll never get much farther than scratching the surface before completely giving up.

The Bible is all about wisdom. Read Psalms, Proverbs, Ephesians, or Colossians, and you will find this word used repeatedly. Proverbs 2:7 tells us that wisdom is obeying God's commands and seeking to know His will; therefore, even believers can run low on wisdom! But when we first desire wisdom "as silver and hidden treasure" (Proverbs 2:4), and then ask God for it "who gives to all generously and without reproach" (James 1:5), as well as cherish what we find (Proverbs 3:5-6), we will become that rare person who not only pursues wisdom . . . but finds it.

Prayer Point: Ask the Lord to give you a longing for wisdom—that ability to discern between right and wrong—the quality of thinking that puts truth into action.

Extra Refreshment: Read Proverbs 8.
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Post  Admin on Mon 28 May 2012, 9:21 pm

Little White Lies
James 1:26

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless.

In the summer of 1899, four Denver newspapers, including the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, published a story claiming that American business firms were planning to demolish the Great Wall of China and use the rubble as paving gravel in a series of new roads.

Of course, there was no such plan—the Great Wall remains fairly intact to this day. So what happened? As it turns out, four reporters met by chance at Union Station, where they were hoping to catch the latest scoop from elsewhere coming in on one of the passenger trains. When no newsworthy items materialized, one reporter suggested that if they all published the same fictitious story, no one would be the wiser.

The group made their way back to the Oxford Hotel where they conspired to craft a tale that would be exciting, believable—and not easily verified. They determined that a story set in the Far East would be less likely to be unraveled by anyone close to home.

The Great Wall hoax was published the next day—reporting that a Mr. Frank C. Lewis of Chicago, stopped at the Oxford on his way to the West Coast to meet with Chinese representatives about the plan. The fabrication was soon published in other major newspapers.

But the joke didn't end there! Decades later, in 1939, Denver songwriter Harvey Wilber published an article claiming that the Denver news report had reached China, infuriating the Chinese people. Wilber said that the Chinese citizens were so outraged by the prospect of westerners demolishing their ancient wall that they rioted, setting off the Boxer Rebellion.

Wilber's source for this legend was a Methodist bishop who was speaking to a Denver church about the power of the printed word—and what may happen when an untruth is allowed to circulate. Yet there are no reports in China that suggest that news of the Denver story ever reached the country. Though the Denver Great Wall hoax made an excellent cautionary tale, the idea that it set off the rebellion in China was itself an urban legend.

Although every lie won't launch national concerns or international bloodshed, lies are at the heart of rebellions against God. It's little wonder that lying is considered ungodly, and treated harshly by our Lord. When you tell the truth, it's easier to live with the consequences. When you tell a lie, the consequences just might cost you more than you ever could have imagined.

Honesty is still the best policy . . . it's certainly the biblical practice to pursue.

Prayer Point: Ask the Lord to reveal dishonesty in your heart—cutting corners at the office; padding expense accounts; cheating in class; exaggerating accomplishments—and ask Him to make honesty your automatic response in life.

Extra Refreshment: Read Acts 5:1-11, a reminder of how much God hates dishonesty.
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Post  Admin on Fri 25 May 2012, 6:44 pm

The Gospel Is Thick Ice

1 John 5:13

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

It was one of those bitter nineteenth-century winters. Sam and Bessie lived on the west bank of a wide river that had to be crossed by rowboat in mild seasons, and by foot or wagon in the winter. Across the half-mile river was a small trading post that served as a general store, selling groceries, medicines, and hardware items.

This particular winter Sam and Bessie briefly extended the hospitality of their cabin to a traveler in need. Little did they know that their visitor left behind an unwelcome gift—a highly contagious disease. In a matter of weeks Bessie was terribly ill. Sam recognized the symptoms and knew that his wife needed medicine available to him only at the trading post.

It was early winter, nights were cold, and although the river lay frozen, Sam was sure that the ice was neither thick enough to support his weight, nor thin enough for his boat to break through. He dearly loved Bessie and determined that he would rather die crossing the river than lose her to the fever. He kissed her, assuring her that he would be back soon, and made his way to the river bank.

Pushing a large plank of wood in front of him, he stretched out his body and began to crawl upon the ice. Slowly and cautiously he inched his way across the ice, praying as he slid the plank before him. All was silent on that great expanse for the first twenty minutes; then the ice began to groan. He scooted ever so gently forward, only to be welcomed by a more insistent creaking.

Sam had just breathed a quick prayer when the groaning became a roar, followed by a terrible crashing sound—the ice was breaking up! He squeezed his eyes shut, bracing for the worst. Nothing happened.

Turning in the direction of the loudest sound, he saw a man driving a wagon pulled by a team of horses, crossing the river 100 yards from where he lay. The horses galloped past him, up the other bank, and stopped in front of the trading post. Sam leaped to his feet, threw his arms into the air, and shouted, "Hallelujah!" He ran across the ice to the store, purchased the medicine, hitched a ride back on the wagon, and raced home to minister to his sick wife.

His fear turned to confidence; his crawling gave way to running; his praying turned to shouts of joy. What was once a weak belief that the ice could hold him was transformed into a confident assurance that it would hold him!

My friend, this is what our faith in God should be like. Listen to the voice of John, the beloved disciple of Christ, as it echoes across the centuries: "Hey believer! I wrote these things so that you can know that you have eternal life!"

The gospel of Christ is not a thin sheet of ice under us, tenuously holding our weight as we desperately pray—it is rock-solid substance we can run, jump, and build our lives upon. The good news of Christ eliminates the fearful crawl and replaces it with a confident walk—sometimes even a leap or two . . . for joy!

Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for the assurance you have of salvation—not because of anything you've done to deserve assurance, but because of Christ's rock-solid promises.

Extra Refreshment: Read 1 John 5 and underline the promises of assurance, writing your own name in the margin of your Bible.
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Post  Admin on Thu 24 May 2012, 7:48 pm

A Message for Prodigals

Psalm 37:23-24

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.

Maria and her daughter Christina lived in a small hut in a Brazilian village. Christina's father had died when she was just an infant, and her courageous mother had done her best for the child. Maria made her living by cleaning houses, though it provided very little income. The day came when Christina was finally old enough to earn her own way.

Instead of finding a small job in the village where she had grown up, she dreamed of going to the great city, Rio de Janeiro, and seeking an opportunity there. But when she told her mother of her desires to leave the village, a look of fear came into Maria's eyes and she said, "The streets are cruel, Christina. There's nothing for you there."

Maria knew that if her daughter went to the city, the only work she would find at her age would lead to prostitution. That's the reason Maria's heart was broken the morning she found her daughter's pallet empty. She knew where Christina had gone, and she feared she may never see her again.

Maria immediately gathered some clothing and boarded a bus for the city. When she arrived in Rio De Janeiro, she went to a small drug store, stepped into a photography booth, and made as many pictures of herself as she could afford. Armed with her bag of clothing and a purse full of little black and white photographs, she headed for the back streets, entering bars, hotels, and nightclubs—anywhere prostitutes gathered. She taped her picture to walls, mirrors, bulletin boards, and bathroom stalls, in hopes that her daughter may see one of them and read the message written on the back.

Tired and broken hearted, out of money and photos, Maria gave up the search and rode the rickety bus back to her village without ever finding Christina. The mother wept for her lost daughter.

Months later, Christina glanced across the lobby of a hotel to see a familiar face taped to a mirror. Recognizing it, she quickly ran to the mirror and pulled the picture off. It was indeed her mother. With trembling hands she held it, staring at her mother's face. Turning the photo over, she noticed the writing on the back. When she read the words, her throat burned and tears began to stream down her face. The note said, "Wherever you are, whatever you have become, I will forgive you. Please come home."

So . . . Christina did.

What a beautiful picture of true mercy; yet this is merely a glimpse of the mercy which God shows to us. Regardless of all the thousands of times we sin, the thousands of choices we make which are contrary to His Word—He continually pursues us and loves us.

Even when we run away, He searches for us, leaving a message that never changes: "Wherever you are, whatever you have become, I will forgive you." And you can count on it . . . He will!

Prayer Point: Thank the Lord that no matter how many times you have failed—and will fail—Him, He never stops forgiving and loving you. Pray that He will help you to love others with that same kind of love.

Extra Refreshment: Read Luke 15—an incredible illustration of God's mercy toward His children.
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Post  Admin on Wed 23 May 2012, 10:07 pm

Take a Good Look!

James 1:23-24

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.

J. B. Phillips was a British scholar who paraphrased the New Testament. Because of his nationality, he occasionally threw new light on a passage through his use of the British explanation of terms.

One example is found in his interpretation of Romans 3:20. In England, what Americans call a ruler was known as a straightedge; when Phillips paraphrased the passage "For through the Law comes the knowledge of sin," he wrote, "Indeed it is the straightedge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are."

I can show you crooked . . . have you ever tried to hang striped wallpaper? You know very well that it's only when you come to a corner, a door, or a window that you suddenly realize how crooked the wallpaper is. Stay away from stripes—they will wreck your marriage!

The straightedge for unbelievers is the Law, for by it, Paul says in Romans, they are condemned. But the straightedge for believers is the Word of God.

In His Word, God reveals to us how we should live and what He desires of us in our homes, our churches, our schools; on the ball field and golf course; at work and play. The Bible is the ruler by which a Christian measures his life, and the rule by which we should live.

This is what God's Word does for us. It not only shows us when we're doing things all wrong, but it also encourages us in knowing how to make the corrections.

In light of this, James describes God's Word as a mirror. While a mirror can, with absolute precision, reveal the dirt on your face, it can't wash it off. It can show that you need to shave your stubble, comb your hair, or brush your teeth, but it can't shave, comb, or brush anything. You have to do that.

As foolish as it would be for a man to look in the mirror and then forget what he looked like, so it would be for you and me to look into God's Word and forget what it says. The truth is, our response to the Bible is a good indication of the condition of our heart. Are you looking at yourself in the mirror of God's Word? Are you praying that God will change you into His image?

Don't be discouraged. We are all works in progress . . . just keep changing. Being a doer of the Word is evidence of true conformity; behaving in the manner of true believers is evidence of growth in Christ. Look again . . . you can become the mirror-image of our Savior.

Prayer Point: Ask the Lord to help you respond immediately to whatever His Spirit has challenged you to be as you've read this page. What needs brushing up? What needs cleaning up? Don't walk away—don't wait another moment.

Extra Refreshment: Read several sections of Psalm 119 and notice how the Word of God impacts the way we think, feel, and respond.
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Post  Admin on Tue 22 May 2012, 11:18 pm

Correction, Please

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

When my parents were building a new home, my father and I went to view the progress. The living room hearth had been partially bricked, but as we looked at it, we realized it was crooked and leaning to one side. He called the contractor about the problem, and the order was given to tear down the hearth and start over. My father and I again inspected the progress and, to our dismay, the nearly completed hearth was leaning to the other side. It was still crooked! Dad called the contractor, and once again the crew tore down the hearth and rebuilt it.

When we returned the next afternoon to check on the work, the hearth and fireplace had been completed all the way to the ceiling. It was perfectly straight!

What made the difference? We found out later that the contractor had hired a young, inexperienced crew, but this time he showed them how to brick the hearth correctly. He stayed with them until the project was finished.

God has effectively done the same thing for us. The Bible is our contractor and it teaches us how to live.

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul wrote: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." In other words, the Bible is good for teaching—it tells us what is true; it is good for reproof—it tells us what's not right; it is good for correction, literally meaning "to stand us up on our feet"—it tells us how to get it right; and finally, the Word of God trains us to perform what is right. That's a pretty hefty resume for one book. A book like this must be taken seriously.

Many years ago, a man named Robert Chapman gave Christians a powerful reminder of our privilege and responsibility as stewards of God's Word. He wrote:

This book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, and the soldier's sword. It should fill the memory, test the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and condemns all who will trifle with its sacred contents. Christ is its grand subject, our good is its design, and the glory of God is its end.

The question then is not "Why study the Bible," but "How can we afford not to?" What will you do with God's Word today? It's not meant to simply adorn the table in your living room or lay on your bedside table, unread.

Pick it up—use it. It's the perfect blueprint . . . for building your life!

Prayer Point: In John 17:17, Christ asked His Father to "sanctify them [His disciples] in Your truth; Your word is truth." Make this prayer a personal one for you, and pray that God, through His Word, will continue to conform you to His image.

Extra Refreshment: Read 2 Timothy 3—a powerful reminder of how vitally important the Bible is in our lives.
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Post  Admin on Mon 21 May 2012, 8:52 pm

Carrying the Cure

1 Peter 3:15

But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.

Moody Monthly published a heartbreaking story about an event that occurred in the life of one of Chicago's most well-known surgeons. Dr. Leo Winters was awakened one morning around one o'clock. There had been an accident and a young boy was in the hospital. Nurses there felt that he alone had the skill to save the boy's life.

Without any hesitation, Dr. Winters rushed out of bed, threw on his clothes, grabbed his keys, and ran to his car. As he made his way in downtown Chicago, he took a shortcut through a dangerous area known for its rough gangs. The risk was worth it to him, for he knew that only precious minutes stood between the injured boy and death.

But something happened. As he sat at a stoplight waiting for it to change, a man wearing an old flannel shirt and a gray hat suddenly rushed from the shadows. He opened the car door, grabbed the doctor and threw him out, screaming, "I've got to have your car."

Dr. Winters tried to plead his situation but the man was gone before he could utter two words. This was before the days of cell phones, and it took at least forty-five minutes to find a pay phone and call a taxi. By the time he arrived at the hospital, more than an hour had passed.

The nurses on the floor shook their heads and said, "You're too late, Dr. Winters; the boy died thirty minutes ago. You'll find the father down the hall in the chapel. He's awfully confused—he can't understand why you didn't come."

Without taking time to explain to the staff, Dr. Winters hurried down the hallway and opened the chapel door. There, sitting in the front row, was the crumpled form of the weeping father, wearing an old flannel shirt and clutching a gray hat. In his desperation to get to the hospital, he had pushed from the car the man who could have saved his son's life.

Do you want a picture of humanity? Here it is: rushing after life; racing after satisfaction and fulfillment; hungering for meaningful relationships and lasting commitments; hoping for peace and relief from guilt and sin—yet, at the same time, pushing away the only One capable of saving their lives.

But we must never give up on them. We must continue to rush through the cold, dark streets no matter what danger awaits us and try to reach them in time.

Will some people throw you out? Yes. Will some people refuse to listen to you? Yes. Will some people curse at you? Yes. But God's mercy is worth your greatest effort. We have been given the cure for the disease of sin, and we know the Divine Healer who offers that cure to all.
So make haste to reach everyone . . . while you can.
Prayer Point: Pray that God will give you a heart for people, and a desire to see lost and dying unbelievers come to faith in Christ Jesus. Then, pray for the strength to remain a gentle and loving witness, even to those who refuse you.

Extra Refreshment: Read Acts 3—one of the many accounts whereby the disciples boldly proclaim Christ to the unbelieving Israelites.
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Post  Admin on Fri 18 May 2012, 8:11 pm

Under the Hood

Ephesians 4:29

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Gary Graff, a pastor in Lancaster, Minnesota, tells a story of something that happened to his friend. After shopping at the mall all day, the man walked out to his car, only to smell a foul odor coming from beneath the hood. Upon lifting the hood, he discovered the body of a cat that had been caught in the fan (cat lovers, I offer my condolences!).

In disgust, the man stared at the mess, not knowing what to do. He decided to place the remains in an empty shopping bag. After closing the hood, he walked back toward the mall to wash his hands. As he neared the entrance, he looked back and noticed something unusual happening. He watched as a middle-aged woman approached his car, looked around, then grabbed the bag he had tied and left on top of the car. He stood in shock as she walked quickly past him, hurrying into the mall. This was too good to be true! He followed her.

She went into a restaurant and sat down in a private booth. Once seated, she untied the knot to survey her stolen prize. As soon as she opened the bag and saw the dead cat inside, she screamed—and promptly fainted! Of course, the management was alarmed that a customer had fainted in the restaurant, and paramedics were called. In no time, the woman was strapped to a gurney and rolled outside. The "owner" of the cat bag couldn't resist: he took the bag from the booth and just as the woman was being loaded into the ambulance, ran over and said, "Hey lady, don't forget your bag!" Then he laid the bag on top of her.

As humorous as this story is, it reminds me of many people I know—people who look shiny and clean on the outside, but once the hood is opened, the rotten smell assaults our noses. In fact, our mouths are like that, revealing what's inside . . . they're a window of our heart.

In Luke 6:45, Christ says, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart." One of the greatest distinctives between believers and unbelievers should be the way we speak.

If God has truly redeemed us, His Spirit has given us the power to live holy lives. We have no excuse for gossip, lies, crude jesting, cursing, or taking the Lord's name in vain. These are the marks of heart defiled, rotten . . . not redeemed.

Do you have decayed remains under the hood? Open your mouth—examine your heart—start changing your vocabulary . . . today!

Prayer Point: Pray that God will give you renewed conviction about your conversation so you will become more aware of the damage and power that lie in your words. Admit your need to a friend and ask him to hold you accountable to speak only wholesome words.

Extra Refreshment: Read James 3.
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Post  Admin on Thu 17 May 2012, 9:41 pm

Goodness to All
Matthew 5:43-44

"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

God's goodness is experienced by all creation, and everyone who has ever lived has personally benefited from the grace of God in numerous ways. In Psalm 33:5 the psalmist wrote, "The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord."

Matthew 5:45b tells us that God "causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Theologians refer to this as God's common grace. One author described it this way: "He gives both the righteous and the unrighteous food to eat, a fire to keep warm, water to quench thirst. He gives us all blue sky, a warm sun, green grass, and beautiful mountains."

If you were God, things would be very different, wouldn't they? If your neighbor ridiculed you for going to church, you would cause rain to fall on every lawn except his. In fact, you might even strike his yard with lightning and destroy his lawn altogether! But God doesn't do that. Your neighbor's lawn might look better than yours, or his kids seem healthier than yours, or his promotions come faster than yours, and his appliances last longer than yours!

God allows unbelievers to experience relationships that bring love and happiness. He gives them the thrill of excitement over the birth of a child, or the accomplishment of a life-long project. He gives them a sense of personal worth and an intuitive knowledge of right and wrong. Unbelievers can paint, sing, create, innovate; write symphonies, build skyscrapers, invent medical cures, design computer programs.

Sadly, David lamented in Psalm 107:8, "Oh, that men would praise the LORD for His lovingkindness." But they don't do that, do they?

They ignore His goodness and take it for granted. As Romans 1:21 says, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Yet God continues to pour out his lovingkindness even on those who will not acknowledge Him, nor give thanks to Him.

Did you know that we are to do the same? As Christ's ambassadors in this world, we are to show the same love and goodness to our enemies as God shows to us. Romans 5:7-8 declares, "For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for a good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." In other words, we are not to wish for the destruction of unbelievers, but rather to pray for their salvation. We are not to think hateful thoughts of them and condemn them in our minds, but rather forgive them for any grievance against us, and show them the love of Christ.

Loving our enemies is not an easy task, but it is what God did for us. If we are to be Christ's representatives in the world, we must learn to show "common grace" as He does . . . to all men.

Prayer Point: Pray that God will give you a merciful and gracious spirit toward unbelievers, rather than a prideful and domineering spirit which constantly says, "Look, I'm better than you." Thank God for loving you while you were still an enemy and a sinner, giving you an example of how you are to love others.

Extra Refreshment: Read Luke 10:25-37.
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Post  Admin on Wed 16 May 2012, 10:28 pm

Only God Knows

Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became his counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

The 1921 story of David and Svea Flood, missionaries to the Belgian Congo, is little-known today. But what follows is a remarkable story of faith . . . and restoration.

The Floods left their native Sweden with a two-year-old son, set out for the interior of Africa, and together with another young Scandinavian couple, the Ericksons, sought God's direction for their endeavors. Rebuffed by the chief who would not let them enter the village for fear of alienating the local gods, the two couples opted to go half a mile up the slope and build their own mud huts.

They prayed for a spiritual breakthrough, but the only contact with the villagers was a young boy, who was allowed to sell chickens and eggs twice a week to them. Svea Flood decided if this was the only African she could talk to, she would try to lead the boy to Jesus—and she did. But there were no other converts.

Malaria struck the members of the little team and, in time, the Ericksons returned to the central mission station. The Floods remained; when the time came for Svea to give birth, the village chief allowed a midwife to help her. A healthy girl, Aina, was born, but the delivery was difficult for Svea; she died seventeen days later.

Angry with God, David dug a crude grave, buried his young wife, and took his two children back to the mission station. He left the baby with the Ericksons and returned to Sweden, saying, "God has ruined my life." Both Ericksons died eight months later, and little Aina was taken in by American missionaries, coming to the States at age three. Aggie, as she was now called, grew up in South Dakota, attended North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, and married a young man named Dewey Hurst.

Years later her husband became president of a Christian college in the Seattle area, and she found much Scandinavian heritage there. One day a photo in a Swedish religious magazine caught her eye. There in a primitive setting was a grave with a white cross—and on the cross were the words SVEA FLOOD. Six hundred Christian believers now lived in that village . . . a testimony to David and Svea Flood!

Aggie knew she had to go to Sweden! Her father, now married with four children, and an old man, was bitter and broken. When she came to his bed, he turned away and began to cry. "Aina, I never meant to give you away." "It's all right, Papa," she replied, taking him gently into her arms, "God took care of me." By the end of the afternoon, David had come back to the God he had resented for so many decades.

Some years later, the Hursts attended an evangelism conference in London, where a report was given from the nation of Zaire, the former Belgian Congo. The superintendent of the national church, representing 110,000 baptized believers, spoke eloquently of the gospel's spread in his nation. Aggie asked him afterward if he had heard of David and Svea Flood. "Yes, madam," the man replied in French, "Svea Flood led me to Jesus Christ. I was the boy who brought food to your parents before you were born. You must come to Africa; your mother is the most famous person in our history."

Later, in Zaire, Aggie Hurst and her husband were welcomed . . . by cheering throngs of villagers in the place where she was born!

Prayer Point: Praise God for His goodness to you, even in your times of doubt and confusion. Thank him that He never leaves you in your bitterness, but restores you to Himself.

Extra Refreshment: Read Jonah—a story of how God's kindness led to salvation for thousands.
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Post  Admin on Wed 16 May 2012, 8:24 am

Drawing from the Right Well

Jeremiah 2:13

For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

If religion is a broken cistern—a shattered reservoir that can't hold water—why do so many people try to drink from it? First Samuel 16:7 answers, "Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart." That is, man runs to religion because it makes him look and feel better.

The heart is passionate about creating appearances, like a quartz that masquerades as a diamond, or "fools gold" which has false value. It gives people the impression that they are good, while veiling their inner evil.

Religion is the greatest impostor the world has ever known.

Imagine stumbling into a run-down farmyard: windswept, barren, and nothing more than hard, dry ground. But there is a well, with a wooden platform and a rusty old pump. You are dying of thirst and step onto the platform, anxiously beginning to pump the handle. It squeaks and complains with every push and pull. After five minutes—nothing but air. After fifteen minutes of sweating, coaxing, pleading, there is still nothing . . . the well is dry.

Let me tell you what the institution of religion has done: It has scraped all the rust off the pump handle and painted it bright red. Better yet, it has replaced the old handle with a shiny brass one which gleams brilliantly as the sun strikes it. Flowers have been planted around the well and a pleasant path has been marked out through the farmyard so people can come from all around. People do indeed come; they gaze; they marvel; they rhapsodize; and they decide to build a platform, put up a pump, plant some flowers, and lay a stone path. But there is no water!

You may say, "But I know people who aren't Christians and yet, are committed to their families, are ethical in business, and are moral, upright citizens. How can you say that their religion is devoid of the water of life?"

This is a fair question, but we must remember that religion focuses on the work of the hands, while ignoring the sin of the heart.

David says in Psalm 14:2-3, "The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one." God has seen what lies beneath man's facade, and He is far from impressed.

Are you satisfying your spiritual thirst with the living water of a relationship with Christ, or are you still painting broken pump handles? Christians can do it too, you know— getting more caught up in reputation than in a relationship to God. We draw from broken cisterns when we care more about what the world thinks of us than what God thinks of us.

Christian friend, even though you have already tasted of Christ's life-giving stream, you must quench your constant thirst and draw from the right well. Allow His Word to satisfy . . . nothing else will.

Prayer Point: Christ says in John 7:38 that "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.' " Thank the Lord for offering that living water to you and for reviving your thirsty soul. Then confess all the broken cisterns you have been running to for satisfaction, rather than Christ.

Extra Refreshment: Read John 4—a beautiful story of a sinner who drinks the living water of Christ and is made well.
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Post  Admin on Mon 14 May 2012, 10:29 pm

Just Look Up!

Proverbs 14:12

There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

There is a story in the Old Testament of a time when God judged Israel in a severe manner by sending poisonous snakes into their camp. The Bible called these snakes "fiery serpents," because their venom would cause a hot fever in the bodies of its victims, ultimately killing those who were bitten.

The Israelites cried out for mercy, and God responded with His grace and mercy toward them. He gave Moses instructions to make a brass serpent, hang it from the top of a long wooden pole, and hold it up in the midst of the camp. Then he was to tell the people of Israel that anyone who simply looked up at the brass serpent would be healed and recover from their snakebite. As easy as that!

All the Israelites had to do was look up and they would be saved. They were not required to develop medicine for the infection; they were not asked to work for their cure; they were not commanded to kill all the serpents in order to be healed. If you can imagine it, many still refused to look at the brazen serpent lifted up in the midst of the camp. Why? Because the natural instinct of the human heart is to do things its own way—to find its own remedy for sin. But there is only one remedy for sin and death, and God is the One who provided it.

Donald Grey Barnhouse, the late well-known pastor and radio preacher, illustrated how the human heart responds to "fiery serpents":

In the religious fashion of our day, there would have been a rush to incorporate the "Society for the Extermination of the Fiery Serpents." There would have been badges for coat lapels, cards for district workers, secretaries for organization branches, pledge cards, and mass rallies. There would have been a publication office and a weekly journal to tell of the progress of the work. There would have been photographs of heaps of serpents that had been killed by the faithful workers, all of them feverishly trying, by human effort, to overcome the serpent's bite of sin!

This Old Testament event, found in Numbers 21, is really a wonderful picture of what Christ would do thousands of years later on the cross. He would hang in our place as a sinner so that all who looked upon Him might be saved.

In John 14:6, Christ says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." There is no other way to God but to look upon the crucified Savior and believe.

People today are surrounded with all the trappings of religion: they join churches, sign pledge cards, go through Bible lessons and catechisms, give money, get baptized, and in the end, still die without the cure for sin. The truth is, we all have been bitten by sin and its poison is steadily and continually rushing through our veins—we are terminally infected with the venom of sin's curse.

Our only hope is to look to that wooden cross upon which the Lamb of God was held up for all to see. Look there! . . . God has provided your cure.

Prayer Point: Though you already may have accepted Christ's gift of salvation, it is very easy to take your eyes off Him. As Paul said, we must "fix our eyes on Jesus," and that should be your prayer today. Don't let yourself forget the awesome work Christ did for you at the cross; practice thanking Him for it . . . start today!

Extra Refreshment: Read Numbers 21—the story of God's deliverance of the Israelites from the fiery serpents.
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