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Post  Admin on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 3:59 pm

Patience Is Virtue

James 1:2-4

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Trials are not given to make us weak, but to make us learn to wait. Jesus Christ wants to develop our faith, and He rarely develops it in the normal circumstances of life. It is most often through the interruptions, the heartbreaks, and the discouragements that our faith progresses.

A young black girl living in the poverty section of Philadelphia enjoyed singing in her Union Baptist Church choir. The adults noticed latent talent in her voice and began "The Fund for Marian Anderson's Future." They raised one hundred twenty-six dollars in pennies, nickels, and dimes, and she began taking singing lessons.

When she was eighteen she auditioned with a famous instructor, but was rejected. Those who continued to believe in her planned a concert in a town hall in New York City. However, the critics were brutal in their reviews. While on a European concert tour, she was well-received, but in Washington, D.C., she was not allowed to sing in Constitution Hall because of her race.

For many years, Marian Anderson wallowed in self-pity. Her mother finally said, "Marian, I want you to think about your troubles and your failures a little—and pray a lot." Then her mother said something that Marian never forgot: "Marian, you must learn that grace comes before greatness."

Marian Anderson became a well-known opera singer, performing for the Eisenhowers and their guests in the White House, being appointed a delegate to the United Nations, and winning a Medal of Freedom. All of this came only after learning the valuable lesson that her mother had taught her.

This is the same lesson delivered throughout Scripture. Learning to fail, yet to persevere, comes as we learn to live a life of faith. Times of trial are not only necessary to teach us humility, but they remind us where our true possessions lie—in Christ.

What better example than Christ—the Model—who shows us that grace comes before greatness . . . humility before honor.

Prayer Point: Take time to do the unthinkable: thank God for something painful in your life, whether a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, a failing grade, an illness, or a difficult circumstance. Pray that God will give you strength to persevere during the test, no matter how long it takes—even a lifetime. Remember that trials are given for your good, and even the painful times are a gift from God.

Extra Refreshment: Read Philippians 2 and James 1. Notice what these Apostles had to say about the purpose of trials in the lives of believers and the necessity of humility.
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Post  Admin on Mon 02 Apr 2012, 7:51 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.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Sat 31 Mar 2012, 2:15 pm

Chosen to Cheer

Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

A young boy waited anxiously to hear what part he would have in his 2nd grade school play. The boy had told his mother that every child in the class would be given a special part, but she didn't want to overly encourage him. She knew he probably wouldn't get a speaking part and feared that he might become discouraged. Therefore, she simply smiled and kept her worries to herself.

It was a good thing she did. The next day when her son came home from school, she was standing by the door. As he approached, he was beaming from ear to ear. "Did you get a part?" she asked, trying to mask her surprise. "Oh, yes—I did!" "Well, what part did you get?" his mother wanted to know. "You won't believe it, Mom!" he responded, "I've been chosen to cheer!"

Wow, what an attitude! I don't suppose this is the answer his mother was expecting to hear, but I'll bet she was humbled by it and very proud of her son.

Wouldn't it be terrific if we were a lot more like that little boy? Oh, how different our homes would be then . . . not to mention our churches.

What would the church be like if people came to cheer everyone else on? Sunday morning would be more like a pep rally than a funeral procession; instead of spilling out our own problems and frustrations, victories and successes, we would be quiet and listen, and encourage others.

In Hebrews 10:24-25, the apostle Paul writes with fervor, "and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."

The word for encourage in this verse is parakaleo, which means "to put courage into another, or to cheer on another." How well do you do that?

I suggest that you pick out some pom-poms! You have been chosen by God, not only for a speaking part, but also for the role of applauding and cheering others as they run their race for Christ.

Hurry! . . . there's the starting gun!

Prayer Point: Pray that God will make you a better cheerleader for His name's sake . . . that you will not only lay aside your own desire for encouragement, but you will pray for God to show you people who could use your encouragement.

Extra Refreshment: Read Romans 16. Notice how the entire chapter is filled with encouragement and honor to those "to whom it is due."

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Fri 30 Mar 2012, 8:23 pm

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.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Thu 29 Mar 2012, 8:34 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.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Wed 28 Mar 2012, 7:22 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.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Tue 27 Mar 2012, 6:48 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.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Mon 26 Mar 2012, 10:40 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.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Fri 23 Mar 2012, 9:42 pm

Taking the Bible to Heart
Psalm 119:160

The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.

The word on the street today is that God's Word is really not all that important. People are beginning to believe that the Bible is a book written for those who lived thousands of years ago, and is irrelevant for us today.

I have actually had people leave our church because "we took the Bible far too seriously." To them, the Bible is a nice collection of moral tales and Jewish fables, rather than God's blueprint for living. Although this idea is widespread, it remains dreadfully wrong.

Some years ago my wife and I had dinner with a couple who had recently moved into our city. Both of them were medical doctors, but they had come to the point in their lives where they knew they were missing something. We listened as the couple told of growing up with religion—one in the Catholic church, and the other as a Protestant, both eventually abandoning their churches.

Upon moving to Cary, they decided to find a church for their children's sake, feeling that a little religion might do their family good.

One Sunday morning the father decided to stay home and watch the kids so that his wife could visit a nearby church. It just happened to be ours! She told of slipping into the back row in her "first-ever evangelical service," and hearing the message from the book of Esther. With excited eyes she reminisced, telling us of sitting in her seat dumbfounded, realizing for the first time that everything she had heard as a child about the Bible being merely a collection of stories was not true. Instead, the Bible was alive and real and had meaning for life, here and now; it was meant to be obeyed. She went home afterward, walked into the house, and said, "Honey, we've been wrong—the Bible is for today."

They came to Colonial the next Sunday and the next. It was after those two weeks that they called the office and asked me to come to their home. They both accepted Christ, and I discipled the husband for nearly a year. On one occasion I was told, "When we went to church in the past, we believed a lie about the Bible. But we were wrong . . . now we know the truth. The Bible is for us to follow today."

If you ask the average religious person about the Bible, he will say it is a good book to own; it is a nice thing to quote at weddings, funerals, and family reunions; but it is only a collection of stories at best, not something to build your life upon. Can you blame him? As long as so-called Christians are indifferent to the Bible, the world will be, as well. God's Word won't change their lives until they see it has changed ours.

Don't believe the lie that this couple believed for so many years. Read God's Word; love it, listen to it, and live by it. Your relationship with God will never be intimate if your relationship with His Word is casual.

Frankly, since God wrote the Bible, we can't afford to take it lightly . . . see that you don't!

Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for preserving the Word for us . . . thank Him that you own at least one copy. Ask Him to develop a greater longing in your heart to read and obey His Word. Ask Him to speak to your heart through His Word; commit to Him that you intend to obey what He says.

Extra Refreshment: Read another portion of Psalm 119 and note in each verse the difference the Word of God makes in our lives.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Thu 22 Mar 2012, 9:37 pm

Revival Starts with You

Matthew 5:16

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

How does the church gain the world's attention? How will the local church catch the ears of those who so desperately need to hear the gospel? It will only happen when Christians begin to get real with their faith and start living it out before men.

People are watching you. So, when you say you will do something, do it. When you fail at something, admit it. Don't claw and scrape and climb over others like everyone else. Trust that God is at work and settle for nothing less than the holiness and purity that He requires of you. Let this so establish itself in your character that it emanates from you before a needy and watchful world. If our gospel will change the world, it must first change us.

These words are from an Anglican bishop who lived a few generations ago. They were found among his last effects:

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older, I discovered the world would not change. So, I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But, it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family—those closest to me. But, alas, they would have none of it. Now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize, if I had only been changed, then by example, perhaps I could have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world.

This is where we must begin. It must start with the person staring back at you from the mirror, the one willing to make any changes necessary—not for your own glory, but for the glory of God. Christ reminds us in Matthew 5 that "they [will] see your good works and glorify [the] Father in heaven." Your ultimate purpose and joy will be in seeing others come to know the Savior as you have, for it is God who changes lives, and we are living testimonies of that.

For that reason, we are to be like mirrors in the world, reflecting His character. If the world is ever going to see God, they must first see Him . . . in us.

Prayer Point: Pray that you will be a living reflection of Jesus Christ to the world, as well as to your church. Then, pray that God will work in the hearts of Christians in your church, calling them to dedicate themselves in living holy lives, breaching the gap between the church and the world.

Extra Refreshment: Read Ephesians 2—reminding the Church how we were called out, and what we have been called to do.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Wed 21 Mar 2012, 12:54 pm

Hold the Sugar . . . Pass the Salt!

Matthew 5:13

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

Has it ever occurred to you that Jesus never told you to become salt? In Matthew 5:13, He tells us that we are the salt of the earth. Some Christians, on the other hand, have the wrong impression; they think we're supposed to be the sugar of the earth. Although both are seasonings, they serve very different purposes.

I remember when I taught my kids how to eat oatmeal—not the instant, pre-packaged kind, but the real thing. At first they turned up their noses and refused to eat it. That is, until I sprinkled brown sugar over the top and added milk to the mix. Then they ate three bowls apiece! Why the sudden change? Because they knew it would be sweet. They said, "Dad, this is good. I can taste the sugar." Well, who doesn't love sugar?!

But salt is different from sugar in that it can create intense thirst, prevent decay, cleanse, flavor, and preserve, but never sweeten. Now, I'm not suggesting that Christians shouldn't be sweet—that's an obvious pursuit.

However, in 2 Timothy 3:12-13, Paul says: "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived," reminding the believer that the world will want to be rid of us. Christ says the same thing in John 15:20, when He claims, "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also." Being salt is a lot more dangerous than being sugar!

Just as salt can draw attention to food, Christians can draw attention to sin. The world hates being held accountable. Our message only tastes good to those who wish to be cleansed from sin and preserved from everlasting death, not to those who hate God. We make them thirstier for a happiness they can't find, and more aware of the sin they try to hide. No wonder the world prefers something that tastes sweet . . . a message that's sugar-coated.

At the same time, the world needs salt even though it doesn't want it. Through our ministry as saltshakers, many will come to the knowledge of the truth.

It isn't surprising that salt was meant for sprinkling, not collecting. Our churches tend to become boxes of salt, which is good for keeping our flavor intact, but not for spreading it around. The world can't be reached from inside the church. As one author said, "We need to get out of the salt box and into the world."

Let's take our mission to heart and our message to the world, even if people do prefer sugar . . . to salt!

Prayer Point: Have you backed away from sharing your faith because you haven't been too well-received? Have you upset someone by your message regarding Christ, the cross, sin, and forgiveness? Ask the Lord to help you identify someone today who needs the salt of truth.

Extra Refreshment: Read Matthew 5:1-20.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Mon 19 Mar 2012, 6:30 pm

The Signature That Saves

Psalm 32:1

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!

The late Harry Allen Ironside, former pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, Bible teacher, and prolific author, used to tell the story of a young Russian soldier. Because his father was a friend of Czar Nicholas I, the young man had been made paymaster in one of the barracks. He meant well, but his character was not up to his responsibility and he began gambling, eventually losing a great deal of the government's money and all his own.

In due course the young man received notice that a representative of the czar was coming to check the accounts. That evening he took out the books and totaled up the funds he owed, then went to the safe and retrieved his own pitifully small amount of money. As he sat looking at the books and money, he was overwhelmed at the astronomical debt versus his own small store. He was ruined! Disgrace was certain; prison was looming!

The only solution was to take his life. He pulled out his revolver, placed it on the table before him, and wrote a summation of his misdeeds. At the bottom of the ledger where he had totaled up his illegal borrowings, he wrote, "A great debt! Who can pay?" He decided that at the stroke of midnight the deed would be accomplished—he would end it all.

As the evening wore on the distraught young man grew drowsy and fell asleep. It was during this time that Czar Nicholas I, as was sometimes his custom, made the rounds of the barracks. Seeing a light, he stopped, went in, and saw the young man asleep. He recognized him immediately and, looking over his shoulder, saw the ledger and realized all that had taken place.

He was about to awaken him and put him under arrest when his eye was fastened on the young man's message: "A great debt! Who can pay?" Suddenly, in a surge of magnanimity, he bent over, wrote one word at the bottom of the ledger, and slipped out.

When the soldier awoke, he glanced at the clock and saw that it was long after the midnight hour. He reached for his revolver, but his eye fell upon the ledger and he saw something that he had not seen earlier. There beneath the exclamation that he had written—"A great debt! Who can pay?"—was a single signature: Nicholas.

He was dumbfounded! It was the czar's own signature. He thought to himself, "The czar must have come when I was asleep. He has seen the book! He knows all! Still he is willing to forgive me!" The young soldier then rested on the word of the czar, and the next morning a messenger came from the palace with exactly the amount needed to meet the deficit. Only the czar could pay . . . and he did.

What a great reminder of what Christ has done for us. Beneath the words, "A great debt! Who can pay?" there has been written a single signature: Jesus.

Only Christ could pay for our sins . . . and He did!

Prayer Point: The Psalmist says that you are blessed because your sin is now covered by Christ's blood. Thank Him for paying that enormous debt for you.

Extra Refreshment: Read Ephesians 2.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Sun 18 Mar 2012, 4:21 pm

The Aisle Seat

John 13:34-35

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Rebecca Pippert, in her fascinating book entitled Out of the Salt Shaker and into the World, told the story of her arrival in Portland, Oregon, where she met Bill, one of the students on the campus where she served. He was a brilliant young man with messy hair and, as she recalls, he was perpetually shoeless. From outward appearances he was a little strange, but inwardly he was inquisitive and incredibly bright.

One day Bill decided to attend a middle-class church that was across the street from the campus. He walked into this church of well-dressed people in his tattered jeans, tee shirt, and, of course, barefooted. In truth, this was the first time he'd ever been inside a church sanctuary.

People looked a bit uncomfortable, but no one said anything as Bill walked down the aisle looking for a seat. The church was quite crowded that Sunday, and as he came to the front pew he realized there were no seats left. So without any hesitation, he sat down on the carpet in the middle of the aisle, the same way he sat when his Christian friends invited him as they met for Bible study. He casually crossed his legs and waited for the service to begin.

The tension was palpable as people murmured, craning their necks to see the stranger in the aisle. Then one of the elderly deacons—a man who was well-respected in the church—began walking down the aisle toward the student. Rebecca's friends who witnessed this scene told her that they whispered to each other, "Well, you can't exactly blame him for scolding the guy . . . he is a disruption to the service!"

As the well-groomed deacon neared Bill, the church was deathly quiet. All eyes were glued front and center to see what would happen next. With some difficulty, the old man lowered himself to the floor and sat down next to Bill. He crossed his legs and shared his hymnal with the college-aged boy. The crowd was stunned.

That Sunday the deacon not only worshiped there on the floor, but he reminded the congregation how to worship.

Jesus Christ considers us His representatives on earth and we are to win the world for Him. How? Bribe them? . . . threaten them? . . . scare them? . . . debate them? No!

We are to show them the love of Christ by showing them our love for each other; we are to reflect the character of Christ to those around us.

Unbelievers may rebuff your message, refute your argument, and reject your faith, but they can't deny your loving spirit toward them.

So, be on the lookout for aisle seats. You never know when you'll be in the perfect place to serve up a heaping helping of "loving spirit" . . . for the glory of Christ.

Prayer Point: Pray for humility; think of others as you go through this day, and try to love those in the world as God loves them.

Extra Refreshment: Luke 10:30-37 tells the story of the good Samaritan, an illustration of the kind of love God wants us to practice.
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Post  Admin on Fri 16 Mar 2012, 3:30 pm

Dry Bones

Ecclesiastes 12:13

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, for this applies to every person.

In his book Bones of Contention [the leading creationist work in fossil study], Professor Marvin Lubenow tells the story of Sir Arthur Keith, one of the greatest anatomists of the twentieth century.

Arthur Keith was a Scottish anatomist and anthropologist who became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. In 1908 Keith heard that bones had been found just forty miles from downtown London. After inspecting the bones himself, he considered them a monumental discovery. It was soon announced by the Geological Society of London that these were the remains of the earliest known Englishman, Eoanthropus dawsoni—otherwise known as the "Piltdown Man."

The bones quickly became the darling of the scientific culture and the personal obsession of Sir Arthur Keith. To him they were the validation of his evolutionary beliefs.

Over the course of his lifetime, Keith would write more on the subject of the Piltdown Man than anyone else. His most famous work, The Antiquity of Man, used the bones of the Piltdown Man to explain our human origins.

In 1953, however, science caught up with speculation, and the British Museum proclaimed the entire discovery a fraud. Their investigation undeniably shattered the myth of the bones as a missing link to prehistoric man.

The Piltdown Man was actually nothing more than the tampered-with remains from a human corpse. The bones had been treated with iron salts to make them appear old. Careful observations through microscopic lenses revealed scratch marks on the surface of the teeth—evidence that the teeth had been filed down to make them appear sharp.

Sir Arthur Keith was eighty-six years old when the fraud was discovered.

Some of his colleagues visited him at his home to break the difficult news to him. The bones which had captivated his entire adult life [his believing they were evidence that discounted creation] had themselves been discovered to be a hoax.

His life's work—the foundation upon which he had based his speculation—was now meaningless. And he found out at the end of his life!

One man in Scripture who experienced something similar was King Solomon. As an old man, he looked back over his accomplishments and achievements. All his wealth, chariots, horses, gardens, buildings, and wives were now meaningless. He realized the only thing that really mattered in life was to fear God and keep His commandments. Nothing else would bring purpose and satisfaction to life.

As a young man, Arthur Keith attended evangelistic meetings in Edinburgh and Aberdeen and watched students make their commitment to Jesus Christ. He even claimed that during a few of those meetings he felt "on the verge of conversion." Instead, he chose to reject the Gospel because he thought it contradicted the truths of science.

The tragedy of Sir Arthur Keith and Solomon is that they are not alone. Men and women all over the world live their lives every day for what they think will bring them pleasure.

No matter where you are today—rich or poor, single or married, old or young—learn from the lives of two men who failed to live for what mattered.

Follow the advice of an aged Solomon who learned late in life: obey God's Word and live a life that respects and trusts His leadership.

This kind of lifestyle will never be meaningless. In fact, it is the only life that produces satisfaction . . . both now and forever.

Prayer Point: Give this day to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to guide all your steps—even the ones that seem insignificant—so that in the end, you won't have to look over your shoulder with regret.

Extra Refreshment: Read Ecclesiastes 12.
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Post  Admin on Thu 15 Mar 2012, 9:21 pm

Thirsty People . . . Living Water

John 4:13-14

Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

A sports reporter was invited to the estate of former heavyweight boxing champ, Mohammed Ali. During a tour of the grounds, Ali took the reporter into a refurnished barn which was located at the back of the property. It had been converted to showcase all of Ali's memorabilia, and was filled from floor to ceiling with pictures, articles, plaques, and trophies.

On one wall there were a number of magazine covers displaying his picture. The covers had been enlarged to life-size photographs and framed in glass. As the reporter stood gaping in amazement, Ali walked over to the frames and peered at them. He was perturbed by the traces of droppings from the birds who still made their home in the barn and had no reason to respect their legendary host.

After mumbling under his breath, Ali shuffled to the doorway of the barn and stood staring out into space. When the reporter asked him what he had mumbled earlier, the aged superstar responded, "I once had the world . . . and it was nothing."

What a portrait of our own generation! People are restless and unsatisfied, though laden with earthly treasures. The world searches for relevance and significance, but to no avail. Individuals go from one activity to the next, one fashion to the latest, one relationship to another. They are literally dying of thirst, but hoping that the "new drink" will satisfy them. It never does.

Like billionaire Howard Hughes, whose emaciated body was scarred by needle marks from his addictions, or the millionaire tennis star who was caught shoplifting a fifteen-dollar ring, the population of the world today is in desperate need of satisfying, living water.

Take a look around you at the office, the mall, the library, the grocery store, the park—you are surrounded by thirsty people who are drinking from wells that will never satisfy.

This is the quencher: Through His sacrifice, Christ carved out a well in the midst of the desert, to slake the thirst of our dying world.

Although you cannot force anyone to drink from His well of living water, you can take them to it and tell them how it satisfied your thirst . . . forever!

Prayer Point: Step out of your comfort zone for a moment and pray for someone like Mohammed Ali: a famous actor, musician, athlete, politician, or another person of prominence. Pray that God will bring salvation to that person, and through his or her conversion, many people will see the radical change of lifestyle and also come to Christ.

Extra Refreshment: Read Acts 9:1-31.
Best Friends Forever

John 15:15

"No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

A very special event happened some years ago on October 31. No, it wasn't Halloween, with thoughts of extra candy at hand. And it wasn't the "beginning" of the Protestant Reformation—for all you spiritually and historically minded people reading this.

It was something quite personal: the birth of our fourth child, Charity, occurred early on the morning of October 31.

She is our last child . . . I promise. She is the child of my "old age," as I often remind her.

As I was sifting through some old notes recently, I came across a story which told the beginning of a tradition that Charity and I still carry on to this day.

When she was around two-and-one-half years old, she could not pronounce her r's. I remember her coming into our bedroom one evening with some of her favorite books and asking me to read them. She snuggled down beside me on a pillow and smiled really big as I opened to the first page. But before I began to read, she looked up at me and said, "You'we my best fwiend."

I have to admit she said the same thing to her mother as well, but she didn't mean it quite the same way as when she said it to me. You'll just have to trust me on that one!

A few days after that incident she went up to her mother and announced, "I'm gonna go see my fwiend named Daddy."

That started it. From that day to this, we have observed a tradition that has continued now into her high school years—a tradition I cherish. She and I will say to one another at different times, "We'll be best friends forever."

That's why whenever October 31 rolls around in the Davey household, nothing—not even a national party or an ecclesiastical event—can hold a candle to the celebration of my daughter and the reminder that we will be friends . . . forever.

As I began thinking of that sentimental little promise I share with Charity, I considered how God has so clearly given the same message to us throughout Scripture.

We are His children now—adopted through the finished work of His own beloved Son. And it doesn't end there as if salvation were nothing more than a cold theological transaction.

It is much more personal. In fact, we are not just regenerated disciples of Christ but someone He considers His "friends."

Although Paul elsewhere will call himself a bond servant to Christ, as well as a slave to righteousness, he also reveals the remarkable truth that what ultimately defines our relationship to our Lord is everlasting friendship.

Let this thought warm your heart today with greater affection for Him. He is revealed as many things in Scripture: a consuming fire, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Great Counselor, and a righteous Judge, among other titles.

But for those who have accepted Him by faith alone, He is something far more personal and intimate to us all: He is our friend.

In fact, we will be best friends . . . forever!

Prayer Point: As you open your Bible today, pull up a chair and imagine that you're sitting next to your best friend, eagerly awaiting the story He is about to read to you. Take time today to thank Him for being such a loving Friend who is always there for you.

Extra Refreshment: Read John 17, where Christ prays an intimate prayer to the Father, revealing the love that He has for you.
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Post  Admin on Tue 13 Mar 2012, 10:11 pm

Prayer Changes Nothing

Nehemiah 1:5-6

I said, "I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant . . . we have sinned against You."

Prayer that gets past the living room ceiling is prayer that recognizes, first and foremost, that God is sovereign and man is nothing more than a servant. Proper praying places God on His throne and mankind at His feet.

Prayer is not having our way with God—it is God having His way with us. Prayer is not our manipulating and controlling God—it is God influencing and controlling us. It is not our putting pressure on God—it is God putting the pressure on us!

If you are not willing to change, to submit, to work, then whatever you do—do not pray!

The great preacher, Donald Grey Barnhouse, once shocked his congregation by beginning a sermon with these words, "Prayer changes nothing." You could have heard a pin drop. His comment was designed to make Christians think about the sovereignty of God—that God is seated in the heavens and nothing ever surprises Him or falls outside His control.

We're due a good reminder as well. Prayer isn't our attempt to bribe, cajole, or convince God to change. In the scriptural accounts that seem to indicate that God changed His mind, the broader context reveals that it was actually part of His sovereign plan. He is unchangeable.

I think Barnhouse's statement is correct but incomplete. When Nehemiah fell on his knees before God, begging God to show grace to His people, something did change. Was it God's will? No! It was Nehemiah's heart. To Barnhouse's statement I would add that prayer changes nothing about God . . . but everything about us.

Powerful prayer does not change God's heart . . . it radically changes ours.

Prayer Point: Pray and commit your plans to the authority and will of God, rather than asking Him to make certain things happen. Thank Him for His unchangeable character and faithfulness.

Extra Refreshment: Read Psalm 51 and Nehemiah 1.
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Post  Admin on Mon 12 Mar 2012, 6:02 pm

God's Love for a Prodigal World

Psalm 8:3-4

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?

The Hubble space telescope has been re-engineered with a new wide-field camera that can take pictures of objects twelve billion light-years away. Astonishing, isn't it? But even as unbelievable as this technological advancement is, a question quickly comes to my mind: "What exactly are we looking for?"

Newsweek basically answered this question when it stated, "Radiation from so far away, and hence so long ago, should carry messages about the universe's childhood and shed light on how the cosmos began and grew." There you have it, plain and simple!

Humans are looking for some kind of clue which will tell us where we came from and how we got here. Like an adopted child who searches for his biological parents, humanity is searching intensely for its true Father. We have an inborn desire to find the answer to the age-old question, "Out of whose womb did we come?"

The truth is obvious . . . and the newest discoveries of our universe are pointing to a Designer.

Tony Rothman, a theoretical physicist, wrote, "When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it's very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it."

One such astronomer, George Greenstein, actually did come close to admitting it in his book, The Symbiotic Universe, wherein he writes:

As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?

We know the answer to be a resounding, "Yes!" Sadly though, our world continually looks for God in the far reaches of the universe, using man-made telescopes that will always fall short of finding Him.

Praise God for giving us His telescope— His Word—through which we catch amazing glimpses of His glory, His attributes, and His plan for the world. If you want to see God, you don't need to look twelve billion light years into the vast universe. Pick up the Bible . . . and in His Word discover the God-Man who walked among us, died for our sins, and restored our relationship with Him.

The inhabitants of our planet should cease looking to the stars for answers and look toward the Son. Would you like to see Him? The Bible is the telescope through which we discover the Creator of the cosmos . . . this prodigal world we live in.

Prayer Point: Read the passage from Psalm 8 again and consider the enormous depth of God's kindness toward us. He is not obliged to love us, rescue us, or to think upon us with joy; yet He does it anyway. Think also upon the trillions of light years that stand between our world and the rest of the universe, and thank God for stooping down to rescue sinners on His prodigal planet. We should never cease to be grateful.

Extra Refreshment: Read John 1 & Psalm 19
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Post  Admin on Fri 09 Mar 2012, 7:36 pm

Walking in the Spirit

Romans 8:3-4

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin . . . so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Did you notice that the verse you just read is all about God and not about us? Simply paraphrased, Paul is saying, "For what we through the Law could not do . . . "

Everything from salvation to sanctification to future glorification is all a work of God's Spirit on our behalf.

This is another way of saying that people who "walk in the Spirit" are not people who have everything figured out. They are merely people who rely on God's strength, one step at a time.

I have a friend whose testimony illustrates this point very well. Before he became a believer, he was sentenced to four years for "white-collar crimes." But God would use his imprisonment to bring spiritual freedom.

Early into his incarceration, he was on the phone with his sister who shared the gospel with him. He broke into tears and prayed to receive Christ as His Savior. His life would change dramatically from that point.

His first night as a Christian, he began reading a Bible that a friend had given him. A fellow inmate saw him reading and asked him if he wanted to start a Bible study. He thought that was a great idea, but he didn't want to be in charge of leading it; besides, he was a brand-new believer and didn't know much about the Bible.

Nevertheless, after dinner that night, my friend made his way to the Bible study. When he arrived, the same inmate slipped an "Our Daily Bread" devotional into his hand and asked him to read it. Many of the men in the Bible study couldn't read or write, so he began to read aloud. That particular devotional was all about giving your heart to Jesus Christ. When he finished reading several men said, "We want to do that . . . but how do we do it?"

He wasn't quite sure what to say. And at that very moment, he was paged to come to the office wing of the prison. As he walked there he prayed, "Lord, help me provide an answer to these inmates who want to know You personally."

On his way back, an inmate standing nearby reached out and handed him a bookmark and said, "You might want to read this sometime." The bookmark was entitled "How to Be Saved," and it clearly outlined the steps and verses of Scripture for accepting Christ as Lord and Savior.

Suddenly equipped with exactly what he needed, he walked back to the Bible study and read each step on that little bookmark from "Admit you are a sinner" to "Ask Christ to be your Savior." Four inmates prayed to receive Christ that night!

When this newly converted inmate had a problem . . . God was ready with His provision.

It is little wonder that to this day, now released from prison, my friend continues to share the gospel of Christ with anyone who will listen.

Let's learn from his experience. Walking according to the Spirit is as much a work of God as becoming a Christian or leading someone else to faith in Christ.

When we, like this inmate, admit our helplessness to God, He accomplishes His desires, for His glory alone, in us and through us.

And His provision will always be just what we need, when we need it most. It might not be anything all that special to anyone else, but to us it will be unmistakable evidence that we are walking in the Spirit . . . even if it's nothing more than a little bookmark!

Prayer Point: Let's pray the simple but effective prayer that Charlie prayed: "Holy Spirit, work with me here!" But only pray for God's help if you're really ready for Him to use you . . . because He will!

Extra Refreshment: Read Romans 8.
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Post  Admin on Thu 08 Mar 2012, 6:43 pm

The Stops of a Good Man

Proverbs 4:26-27

Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.

Three young men from Tampa FL were driving home one evening after finishing a night of bowling. Kevin was driving his white Camaro, his friend Brian was riding in the front passenger seat, and Randall was sitting in the back. They drove through a familiar intersection, unaware of the danger that awaited them. Kevin didn't notice that the stop sign was missing from this busy intersection. He never even slowed down.

He assumed the other car would stop . . . it didn't (that stop sign was missing, too). The two cars collided; Kevin, Brian, and Randall were instantly killed.

An investigation eventually led to discovering the young men who were responsible for this tragic accident. They confessed to stealing the stop sign. It was just a prank. In fact, they admitted to stealing other stop signs in the area and dumping them into the river on the outskirts of town.

Who would be reckless enough to steal a stop sign?

Apparently, stealing road signs is a fairly popular prank these days. In the state of Texas alone, 50,000 road signs are vandalized every year—costing the state more than $2,000,000! But two million dollars can't compare to the lives of three men. The cost of those lives is priceless.

I can't help but think of the analogy to our culture today. It seems that wherever God puts up a stop sign, someone comes along and takes it down. It's just fun to do. Besides, stop signs mean rules—laws—and no one likes either . . . they slow you down.

What a dangerous game to play. Pulling down God-ordained stop signs is a setup for disaster.

Christians are not immune to tragic collisions. Even believers ignore the fact that God has given us stop signs to help us rather than harm us. They are for our spiritual protection, safety, and security.

God isn't interested in creating a bunch of rules because He's some kind of cosmic killjoy, but our society would have us think that.

God actually sees the headlights of an oncoming car; He's fully aware of dangerous intersections; He protects us by clearly revealing His wisely ordained stop signs along the road of life.

Are you surrendered to the Lord's direction for your life? This includes both steps and stops!

What are some of the signs that you might be tempted to ignore today . . . or to remove?

Perhaps a friend is warning you to slow down or stop; Scripture jumps out at you, highlighting the verses on the danger of dating an unbeliever; the Holy Spirit persistently whispers a warning regarding dangerous activities: online surfing . . . boardroom compromising . . . expense account fudging.

Whatever form God's stop signs take, learn to obey them . . . stop signs are there to save your life!

Prayer Point: Would you let the Lord examine your heart today and convict you of any hidden sins you might be holding on to? Ask Him to give you eyes to see beyond the here-and-now—eyes that look into the future to see where your decisions might be leading you. Then pray for wisdom to make courageous decisions, knowing that God has promised to give you the strength to slow down—or maybe even stop—at just the right time.

Extra Refreshment: Read all of Proverbs 4, where Solomon tells his son to watch out for some very important stop signs.
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Post  Admin on Wed 07 Mar 2012, 10:11 pm

Patience Is Virtue

James 1:2-4

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Trials are not given to make us weak, but to make us learn to wait. Jesus Christ wants to develop our faith, and He rarely develops it in the normal circumstances of life. It is most often through the interruptions, the heartbreaks, and the discouragements that our faith progresses.

A young black girl living in the poverty section of Philadelphia enjoyed singing in her Union Baptist Church choir. The adults noticed latent talent in her voice and began "The Fund for Marian Anderson's Future." They raised one hundred twenty-six dollars in pennies, nickels, and dimes, and she began taking singing lessons.

When she was eighteen she auditioned with a famous instructor, but was rejected. Those who continued to believe in her planned a concert in a town hall in New York City. However, the critics were brutal in their reviews. While on a European concert tour, she was well-received, but in Washington, D.C., she was not allowed to sing in Constitution Hall because of her race.

For many years, Marian Anderson wallowed in self-pity. Her mother finally said, "Marian, I want you to think about your troubles and your failures a little—and pray a lot." Then her mother said something that Marian never forgot: "Marian, you must learn that grace comes before greatness."

Marian Anderson became a well-known opera singer, performing for the Eisenhowers and their guests in the White House, being appointed a delegate to the United Nations, and winning a Medal of Freedom. All of this came only after learning the valuable lesson that her mother had taught her.

This is the same lesson delivered throughout Scripture. Learning to fail, yet to persevere, comes as we learn to live a life of faith. Times of trial are not only necessary to teach us humility, but they remind us where our true possessions lie—in Christ.

What better example than Christ—the Model—who shows us that grace comes before greatness . . . humility before honor.

Prayer Point: Take time to do the unthinkable: thank God for something painful in your life, whether a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, a failing grade, an illness, or a difficult circumstance. Pray that God will give you strength to persevere during the test, no matter how long it takes—even a lifetime. Remember that trials are given for your good, and even the painful times are a gift from God.

Extra Refreshment: Read Philippians 2 and James 1. Notice what these Apostles had to say about the purpose of trials in the lives of believers and the necessity of humility.
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Post  Admin on Tue 06 Mar 2012, 10:37 pm

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.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Mon 05 Mar 2012, 10:50 pm

A "Forever" Kind of Love

Romans 5:7-8
For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the 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.

We find it easy to love people who are easy to love. In reality, we tend to like people who are like us. Furthermore, we assume that God's love is bound by the same standards. If He loves us, we assume it must mean that we are not all that bad. Not only is this view false in every way, it destroys a deep appreciation for the amazing beauty of God's love—that He loved the unlovely, and died for the unloving.

D. A. Carson illustrated the difference between our vision of love and God's:

Charles and Susan are walking down the beach, hand in hand. They've kicked off their shoes and the wet sand squishes between their toes. Charles turns to Susan, gazes deeply into her large hazel eyes and says, "Susan, I love you; I really do." What does he mean? If we assume he has decency and Christian virtue, the least he could mean is something like, "Susan, you mean everything to me. I can't live without you. Your smile paralyzes me from fifty yards; your sparkling good humor, your beautiful eyes, the scent of your hair—everything about you transfixes me . . . I really love you."

Or do his words I love you mean something like, "Susan, in spite of the fact that your nose is so large it belongs in cartoons, your hair has enough grease to lubricate an eighteen-wheeler, your knees make a camel look elegant, and your personality would scare Attila the Hun, I really love you."

I'm guessing Charles meant the first one! Yet this is how human love differs from God's love. When Romans 5 tells us that God "loved us," it doesn't mean that God looked down on us and said. "You mean everything to me. I can't live without you: your personality, your witty conversation, your beauty, your smile— everything about you."

Not a chance! When God says, "I love you," He is saying, "Listen—your nose and greasy hair, your disjointed knees and selfish personality, your wretched sinfulness—all make you disgustingly unattractive to Me. But I love you because I have chosen to love you, through My Son, your Savior."

My friend, if you think you deserve God's love, even to the smallest degree, you will never feel totally secure in Him. You will live in perpetual fear that you might do something undeserving of His love and, if that is the case, then you definitely will!

Don't be afraid. This is the amazing beauty of God's love toward us, that "while we were still sinners, He died for us." The truth is, there isn't anything you can do that will ever change His mind. His love for you is the same yesterday, today . . . and forever!

Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for loving you so much that He not only chose to die for you while you were still in your sins, but He chooses to love you every day in spite of your sin. Pray that He will give you strength to obey His command to love others in the same way He has loved you.

Extra Refreshment: Read the whole chapter of Romans 5.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Fri 02 Mar 2012, 6:38 pm

Seriously!

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Sir Isaac Newton, the English mathematician and physicist, is considered by many to be the greatest scientist who ever lived. He was accorded the honor of being the first scientist to be buried in Westminster Abbey.

The well-known story relates that, on seeing an apple fall in his orchard sometime during 1665 or 1666, Newton conceived that the same force governed the motion of the moon and the apple. He calculated the force needed to hold the moon in its orbit, as compared with the force pulling an object to the ground. And that's how he discovered gravity!

Seriously, what you may not know is that it seems to have been due to the influence and tact of Sir Edmund Halley at his visit in November, 1684, that Newton undertook to attack the whole problem of gravitation, and practically pledged himself to publish his results: these are contained in the Principia. The printing of the work was slow, and it was not published until the summer of 1687. The cost was borne by Halley, who also corrected the proofs, and even put his own research aside to press the printing forward. Historians call it one of the most selfless examples in the annals of science.

Newton began almost immediately to reap the rewards of prominence, while Halley received little credit for his work. But he is known for discovering the comet named after him, which appears briefly every 76 years. However, one profound biographical fact regarding Halley stated that he didn't care who received credit for discoveries—his single mission in life was to advance the cause of science . . . and he did.

It seems there is an ever-growing problem in the church today, stemming from confusion surrounding our mission in this world. Why exactly are we here? The members of the early church seemed to have had this answer figured out. Gibbon noted in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that the most sacred duty of the new convert was to diffuse among his friends and relatives the blessing which he had received. Harnack, another church historian, wrote that the great mission of Christianity was accomplished by means of casual missionaries.

Why has it become so difficult in our own society to determine why we are here? George Barna, in his book What Americans Believe, revealed the results of a survey of people claiming to be born-again believers. When asked, "Do you have a responsibility to explain your religious beliefs to others who may believe differently?" less than 45% answered affirmatively.

This is a far cry from the passion and fervency displayed by our brothers and sisters who have gone before us, living and dying to advance the gospel. They took the great commission seriously . . . and it didn't matter who got the credit.

Have you committed your life to advancing the cause of Christ? Think about it . . . seriously!

Prayer Point: If you do not come in close contact with unbelievers on a regular basis, then pray that God will bring someone into your life with whom you can share the Gospel. If you already have relationships with those who are unsaved, pray that God will not only open doors of opportunity for you to witness, but that He will give you boldness when that time comes.

Extra Refreshment: Read the book of Jonah and witness God's incredible mercy on display, as well as His heart for the lost.
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Post  Admin on Thu 01 Mar 2012, 11:37 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.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.
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Post  Admin on Wed 29 Feb 2012, 4:47 pm

Jealousy . . . or Jesus?

Romans 13:13-14

Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

In one of his books, Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie, retired Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, retells an ancient Greek legend of a major foot race between two competitive young athletes. As in all sports contests, there is a winner and a loser—and the loser of this one was devastated. He had trained long and hard, believing himself to be the superior of the two runners. His memory became haunted by the face of his opponent and the man's adoring fans.

Moved by the victory, the city erected a statue in the winner's honor. The losing athlete was consumed with envy, both physically and emotionally; he could think of nothing but his defeat and his opponent's new-found prestige. Ultimately, he reached the decision to destroy the statue that plagued him with the daily reminder of lost glory; a plan began to take form in his mind.

Late each night, when the city square was empty, the youth went to the statue and chiseled away at the base, hoping to weaken the foundation enough to make it eventually topple. While chipping at the sculpture with especially violent envy one night, he misjudged his efforts. The heavy statue teetered on its already fragile base, crashing to the ground. The disgruntled athlete was crushed beneath the weight of the marble replica of his nemesis, literally destroyed by his own jealousy.

Obviously, the moral of this story lies in the fact that this man had been dying long before the statue fell on him. Inch by inch, blow by blow of the chisel, he had become the victim of his own dissatisfaction.

How many Christians have you known who were overcome with bitterness? It chips away at a believer's life, destroying the spirit and corrupting the heart.

Hebrews 12:15 warns, "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." The Scripture is clear—a Christian is to overcome his feelings of bitterness lest he become overtaken by them, for to be defiled is to be destroyed . . . and bitterness has the power to do both.

In addition, bitterness resulting from jealousy is the complete opposite of putting on Christ—as you would put on clothing, your attire should be "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control," as described in Galatians 5:21-23.

Since you can't wear both, which outfit will you choose to wear—jealousy . . . or Jesus?

Prayer Point: Are you struggling with bitterness toward someone? Is your spirit being eroded by the slow chipping away of jealousy's chisel? Pray that God will reveal to you any hidden malice in your heart toward others; ask Him to replace it with a spirit of gentleness and kindness.

Extra Refreshment: Read 1 Samuel 13—a story of jealousy and its consequences.

Millions of Muslims throughout Iraq, Israel, and Jordan now hear the Gospel in their own language on Wisdom for the Heart! Click on The Forward Movement to read more about this exciting project.

to read more about this exciting project.
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