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Post  Admin on Fri 28 Feb 2014, 6:41 pm

A Wisdom Retreat
Bearing It All
2 Corinthians 5:21
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Do you understand the concept of Christ's bearing the sin of the world? I can only imagine a fraction of what it means. Mark Mosley captured a small drop from the ocean of truth encompassing this profound act of infinite sacrifice. This is his humbling reminder of just how far Christ went on our behalf:
Jesus bore the sins of the Assyrians, who gloated over the captives they had skinned alive; the sins of SS troops, machine-gunning women and children running from burning synagogues with clothing ablaze.
Jesus bore the sins of child molesters, making sure their victims never have to testify; the sins of the Pharaohs, sacrificing thousands of laborers' lives, to build themselves deifying tombs.
Jesus was tossed about in these endless storms: enraged fathers beating toddlers to death; pimps seducing runaways into lives of drugs and prostitution; church ladies cannibalizing other church ladies over coffee; Canaanites throwing their children to Moloch, their sun god; impoverished parents in China selling their children into slavery.
Jesus bore the sins of embezzlers; gangsters; bullies; rapists; liars; the indifferent; the sadistic; the self-righteous Bible-believing leaders praying long and loud, while their wives sat in back pews praying that heavy make-up covered their bruises.
It is a scene of unbearable horror and unspeakable madness. He is the accused for us all, bearing the weight of abused children; families destroyed by adultery or apathy; civilizations decaying; wars ravaging victims. Yet, through it all, deep in the terror of hell, He keeps His eyes wide open.
He is not just a bystander caught in the accident; He has come deliberately. He will accept it all, absorbing the full force of this storm of wrath in His body, His mind, His heart, and His soul, until there is nothing left to feel.
Finally, the tumbling will slow a bit; the storm will slacken, and Jesus will lift Himself on His nailed feet to snatch a gasp of air and force His swollen tongue to shout, "It is finished—I've come; I've seen; I've paid for it all."
I would add to that last line, "And I have borne all this for them." The mercy that God expended upon mankind at the cross was immeasurable. Christ died for the worst of sinners, and loved the most hateful of enemies. What a powerful reminder of God's enormous love! Christ bore our sin and our punishment so  we could bear His righteousness and His reward.
This is the greatest reversal in all of human history: Sinners become sons of God, because the Son of God became sin . . . for us!
Prayer Point: Although you can never begin to grasp the extent of Christ's sacrifice on your behalf, thank Him for the part that you
can understand:  that He took your place on the cross so that you could have a place with Him in heaven.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 3—another testament of God's love toward fallen humanity. 


Thursday, February 27, 2014
A Wisdom Retreat 
A Father's Love . . . and Loss
John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Dr. Thomas Dooley, the late missionary doctor in Laos, in his book entitled The Night They Burned the Mountain, tells the story of Laotian friends giving him a tiny Himalayan moon bear as a pet.  Dr. Dooley loved the cuddly ball of brown fur, so full of interesting antics.  While he was working on a cage for the animal, an old Chinese man walked by him. The man stopped, stared, and then began to sob as he stood before the cage. Dr. Dooley walked toward him, hoping to discover the reason for his tears.
The Chinese man told him how he and his son had once worked together on a commune in Red China. He reminded the doctor that laborers on the communes during harvest time were not allowed to have even one grain of rice for themselves, for it all belonged to the Republic. But his wife had become very sick with beriberi and malnutrition, and one day his son concealed a few handfuls of rice in his clothing to feed his starving mother. His act was discovered and the authorities decided to make a public example of the young boy.
He was imprisoned in a cage, not unlike the one that Dr. Dooley had built for his pet bear, and the cage was placed in the center of the city. It was so small that the boy could not move or even sit up straight. The man went on to say:
His mother and I were forced to watch, she from one side of the square and I from the other. But the guards would not allow us to go near him. Day after day, as we looked on, my boy died slowly under the broiling sun, with nothing to eat or drink, covered with filth and flies. It was good when the guards pronounced him dead.
The prolonged tragedy in this story is that the father was not allowed to save his son. He was forced to sit helplessly by and watch the horror unfold, and the image would remain with him the rest of his life.
When I read this story, the crucifixion of Christ immediately came to mind.    What an amazing thought . . . God the Father could have stepped in at any moment to save His Son from the agony of the cross, but He chose to allow His death. Unlike the Chinese father in Dooley's story, our Heavenly Father could have sent a legion of angels to rescue His Son, bringing judgment upon those who sought His life; yet He willingly stood by and watched the abomination unfold.
Why? Because He loves you so much that He freely offered His Son . . . for your sins and mine.
Prayer Point: Take a moment to think upon the horror of Calvary. In humble contemplation, praise the Father for His amazing love that caused Him to choose to sacrifice His son on your behalf.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 17—Christ's incredible prayer to His Father before His own death on the cross, capturing only a fraction of the Father's love for you and me.

Confession, Cleansing, and Conversion
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
In 1971, a revival came to many churches in Western Canada. It made news in the secular press because of the number of people who journeyed to stores and other businesses to make restitution for their past sins.
Whether it was paying delinquent income tax, admitting dishonesty in business dealings, or going to the border to confess they had lied about goods brought over from the States—hundreds of people were willing to do anything to be fully right with God and man. One author writing about the incident recorded: 
 
When these Christians displayed such a desire for righteousness, the world both admired and hated them. On the one hand, people were thankful that  Christians had the courage to make past wrongs right; but on the other hand they deeply resented such integrity. For in the process of seeing righteousness at work in the lives of others, they saw their own hidden sins exposed. 
 
The Bible describes two very different kinds of Christians: those who claim the name of Christ but refuse to live for Him, and those who not only claim the name of Christ, but live for Him as well. The hypocritical Christian is loved by the world because he gives people all the more reason to castigate the church and call it "that bunch of hypocrites"; it actually makes them feel good about themselves. The distinctive Christian, however, is hated by the world because he exposes the world for what it really is—fallen and sinful.
True Christianity is like the glass of a mirror. Not only do we reflect the glory of God to the world, but we show the world its marred image, exposing all its defects and its attempts to hide the blemishes.
This is why we must confess our sins constantly to God and to others, not only to renew our fellowship with Christ, but to show the world where our true identity lies. Indeed this is one of the greatest witnessing tools that you and I have—to live repentant lives before men.
Will you sin? Yes. Will you struggle at times with sin? Absolutely. Will the world notice it? You bet they will. But then, to their shock, they hear from you an apology . . . confessions
. . . attempts to make restitution. In so doing, you declare to the world the message of the gospel: People sin . . . but there is a Savior!
Prayer Point: Ask God to reveal any sin in your life that you are hiding, or may not even recognize.  After confessing it to Him, pray for the strength needed to change. Is there anyone who needs an apology from you? Is there restitution that you should make? Ask the Lord for courage to make amends and set the record straight.
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalms 32—a prayer of repentance and restoration.
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Post  Admin on Tue 25 Feb 2014, 10:50 pm

Victory in Jesus
1 John 5:4
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Sometimes it takes more faith to believe that God is in control of your own personal life than it takes to believe that He is in control of the whole world.
When my children were young, my wife, Marsha, read to them before bedtime. One book that I vividly recall her reading was the biography of Adoniram Judson, pioneer missionary to Burma.
On one occasion Judson was falsely accused of being an English spy. As a result, he endured a cruel imprisonment by the Burmese government. His wife, Anne, faithfully and courageously attempted to have him released through every possible channel, but to no avail.
His prison cell was so tiny that he was forced to stand, while the cells of others allowed room to lie down to sleep. The sun was unbearably hot at times; prisoners were never allowed to bathe; pain filled every fiber of his body as he was tortured day after day. His only respite from the agony of his incarceration was a visit from Anne. In those brief but wonderful moments, she would encourage him with the same message, "Hang on, Adoniram, God will give us the victory."
Week after tortuous week, Anne came and encouraged him, delivering the same words, "God will give us the victory." After many months, Adoniram was unexpectedly released and assigned the task of interpreter for affairs between the English and Burmese. Because of this new duty, he was still separated from Anne. Sadly, during his time of absence, Anne became deathly ill.
Months passed and Judson was finally allowed to return home a free man. Body broken and weak, he approached the place he once called home. As he slowly limped toward the door, he saw a child sitting in the dirt. The little girl was so covered with filth that he failed, at first, to recognize her as his own daughter. He went into their simple hut, squinting in the darkness, and gasped as he saw the emaciated form of his wife lying on a cot, weakened by disease. Tears coursing down his cheeks, he hugged his daughter close to him and knelt beside the cot.  Anne looked up at him and with her last breath, smiled and whispered the words, "Adoniram, God will give us the victory."
If you were to be able somehow to interview the Judsons today, they would no longer be saying, "God will give us the victory"; instead, they would joyfully deliver the news, "God has given us the victory!"
Be encouraged, my friend. No matter what you're going through right now, your life is in God's hands. Hold fast to your faith as Anne and Adoniram did, even in the face of squalor and disease, deprivation and disappointment, heartache and loss.
Your reward in the end is everlasting, and the celebration of final victory is . . . just ahead!
Prayer Point: Pray right now that God will give you the kind of faith that Adoniram and Anne Judson exercised, even in the face of persecution. Then, thank God for giving you victory over sin, death, and the world, through Christ's perfect life, His sacrificial death, and His resurrection.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 16.
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Post  Admin on Mon 24 Feb 2014, 11:05 pm

Finding the Right Fit
1 Corinthians 1:18-19
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside."
The philosophy of Western culture has changed in the last 50 years from that of pluralism to syncretism. The term syncretism is simply the blending together of ideas. When it comes to religion, you can choose a little bit from Christianity, New Ageism, Hinduism,  Protestant doctrine, Catholic tradition, and mix them all together to form your own religion. Choosing a religion is like buying a pair of shoes . . . pick the god that fits best.
In Erwin Lutzer's book entitled Christ Among Other Gods, he describes his exposure to the Parliament of World Religions, which met in Chicago in 1993. Six thousand delegates attended this convention under the major theme "Unite or Perish." It was a call for all the religions of the world to find common ground in their beliefs about God. The Parliament of World Religions actually held seminars to help people get over the thought that one religion could be superior to another—an idea that they considered "the crucial obstacle" to religious unity!
At this conference Dr. Lutzer made an interesting observation. In many of the seven hundred workshops offered, Christ was favorably admired, quoted, and compared to other religious teachers; however, He was merely one enlightened man among many. Though He was respected, He was not worshiped as the one  true God.
This is the so-called wisdom of the world: That there is no right way to God, and no way to properly decipher truth from falsehood. Hence, we are told to find common ground and then agree to disagree. Even though no one is exclusively right, everyone has something valuable to bring to the table.
Paul's young apprentice, Timothy, was struggling with similar problems in his own generation as men were turning their minds from Scripture to other means of finding God. Consequently, Paul's challenge to Timothy during that era has much bearing on our dilemma today.  Paul's advice is in 2 Timothy 3:13-15: 
But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 
In other words, Paul is saying, "Hey, Christian! Of course the world is going to hate you! They're going to think you're foolish, and closed-minded, and intolerant; that's what they thought of Christ as well! But you have been given the truth in Scripture and are being delivered by it. You have no reason to become deceived."
While everyone tries to find a religion that fits, we have a relationship that has fashioned us . . . for everlasting life.
Prayer Point: Take a few moments to examine your heart before God:  have you been feeding on God's wisdom, or the world's. Have your co-workers or fellow students influenced you to be more open-minded about "other gods"? Pray that Christ will give you the power and strength to share His gospel with others, even at the risk of being considered foolish.
Extra Refreshment: Read all of 2 Timothy 3, as Paul further encourages Timothy to remain faithful to God, even in a world of deceitful men.
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Post  Admin on Fri 21 Feb 2014, 10:52 pm

Almost Home
Philippians 3:20-21
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
If Jesus Christ really is immortal, infinite God and His words are completely trustworthy, then our future is eternally secure in Him. It's guaranteed forever.
Whether you have little faith or great faith; are a mature disciple or an immature one;  have been a Christian for years or have just recently received Christ—you are on your way to heaven. Your hope is secure in Christ.
Is it any wonder that around 125 AD, the Greek scholar Aristides marveled at the enormous hope Christians had, even in death? He wrote: "When a member of the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God. They escort the body to burial with songs and thanksgiving, as if he were setting out from one place to another place nearby."
Do you have this hope in God that these early Christians had? Their faith was real, active—touching every part of their lives, even the most sorrowful moments—even at death.
Don Wyrtzen so beautifully wrote this truth into his song, "Finally Home":
Just think of stepping on shore, and finding it heaven; 
Of holding a hand and finding it God's; 
Of breathing new air and finding it celestial; 
Of waking up in glory . . . and finding it home!
This is wonderful poetry but an even greater reminder—heaven is not some figment of your imagination; it is real, and far beyond your wildest dreams!
Do you have unanswered questions, fears, or doubts about eternity? If so, be encouraged. The truth is, we all do. But there will come a day when all our questions will have answers, and all our fears will be put to rest— not to mention that all our tears will be wiped away!
It will not happen here. It will happen there . . . when we are finally home. But until we reach that glorious land, remember that Jesus Christ is completely trustworthy and faithful, regardless of what you see happening around you. He will stay true to His Word.
You can bet your life . . . and your death on it!
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for holding you firmly in His hands. Thank Him that your security isn't based on your strength or commitment, but on Him. Praise Him that He will never violate that commitment nor fail in His strong promise to take you home!
Extra Refreshment: Read the description of your future home in Revelation 21
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Post  Admin on Thu 20 Feb 2014, 11:36 pm

Taking a Bath . . . Daily!
Psalm 85:6
Will You not Yourself revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?
The believer who wants true revival throws away his list of favorite excuses for sin. Confession replaces excuses. Commitment replaces compromise.
You might be tempted to say, "But I've confessed, tried, and failed so many times—revival just doesn't last." A skeptic once made a comment to evangelist Billy Sunday in the early 1900s. He tried to make the point that since personal revival wasn't a permanent end-all to temptation, sin, and failure, times of revival weren't really that important. "Revival just doesn't last," the man complained to Billy Sunday one evening. Sunday just smiled and replied, "Well, a bath doesn't last either, but it's good to take one occasionally!"
Has it ever occurred to you that a great word to describe Christianity is exposure? You become a Christian after being exposed as a sinner. You grow as a Christian after being exposed to your need of change in some area. You confess daily sin as it is exposed in your life. You flourish in your walk as a result of being exposed to the Scriptures.
No wonder every Christian is in need of daily revival. We so easily sugarcoat our selfishness and rationalize our rebellion. We manage our sin, but fail to confess it. We conveniently forget how heartbreaking sin is to our heavenly Father.
Revival, then, could be defined as a movement of God's Spirit in the believer's life, which produces both private confession of sin and public obedience to the Scriptures. The priority for our outward behavior is to please God—a priority that will undeniably impact  personal relationships, financial decisions, and lifestyle choices. Therefore, revival is not a once-and-done event . . . it is daily. And it should interrupt your life over and over again.
By the way, you can't plan for revival but you can pray for it. You can't orchestrate it or announce that it is going to happen in a series of meetings the third week of May. All you can do is beg God to give you a heart that confesses and a life that obeys.
So, take His Word daily; ask God to blow on the smoldering embers of your heart, making it burst into flaming affection for Him all over again. While you're at it, remember that revival is not so much about emotion as it is about action.
Don't wait for a week of revival meetings to pray, "Revive me, O Lord" . . . do it today!
Prayer Point: Pray the prayer of David, asking the Lord to create in you a longing for Him, for His Word, for His will, and for His work.
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalms 85and Hebrews 4. 


Pure Logic
John 14:6
Jesus said to him: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
Men have used the laws of logic in mathematics, science, and history, but when it comes to the spiritual world, they throw these laws away. Instead, they suggest: What is right for you to believe is correct, and what is right for me to believe is equally correct. 
I read about a man who was driving in the country. He passed a barn with painted targets on the side facing the road. Interestingly, in the center of each target was an arrow. The driver was amazed by this farmer's skill with the bow. He decided to drive up to the farmhouse and congratulate the farmer.
To his astonishment, the farmer laughed and said, "I didn't do that. It was done by a young guy in our town who shot a bunch of arrows into the side of my barn, and then painted bull's eyes around each arrow."   
What a perfect illustration of the shift that has taken place in today's society. The once-held conviction that everyone had a right to his own opinion has been replaced with the belief that every opinion is equally right. Thus, not only is our society living in complete rebellion to Scripture, it is also living in opposition to the very laws of logic to which it holds. It simply invites you to shoot your arrow and then assures you that wherever it strikes, it will be a bull's eye!
But think about it for a minute . . . you have a pot of water sitting on top of your stove; it's boiling and the burner is red hot. You say to your friend, "I believe the water is hot," but he says, "I believe it's cold." So you and he agree that the truth is the water is hot for you, and cold for him. How absurd would that be? The water is either hot or cold. One of you believes the truth,  the other believes a lie.
Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the brother of Satan and is one of many "sons of God." You, on the other hand, believe that Christ is God in the flesh and completely unrelated in essence or created matter to Satan. Although both of you could be wrong, both of you cannot be right.
The Western world now believes that you can shoot your arrow of faith in any direction and a benevolent supreme being will approve every shot. This is why you can tell someone that you believe Christ is a fine moral leader, and you will be viewed as a nice religious person. On the other hand, if you dare to say that you believe Jesus Christ is the only true and living Savior, you are labeled an intolerant zealot.
The truth remains:  there is a real target—God— and Romans 3:23 informs us that our arrows are continually falling short of Him. In fact, we're consistently shooting broken arrows that don't fly straight . . . they never even hit the target.  But we can get in range of it when we open our  hearts to  the truth  in His Word . . . and maybe someday we'll hit the bull's eye!
Only by Christ's redeeming grace are we able to discover that He is the right Way, the correct Truth . . . and the only Life.
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for opening your eyes to see the truth, and for the person or means through which it was revealed to you:  the Holy Spirit, a Sunday school teacher, parent, sibling, friend, pastor, etc. Thank Him for that time when He, in His mercy, brought you into the way of salvation.
Extra Refreshment: Read Romans 3—a portrait of man's senselessness, and of God's mercy toward him.


The Search for the Sacred
John 1:14
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Newsweek ran an article entitled, "The Search for the Sacred." It was a typical article, speaking of the search and longing for spiritual truth, without ever mentioning Jesus Christ.
What I found most fascinating—and heartbreaking at the same time—is the way people responded to the article in the "Letters to the Editor" section of the following issue:
My parents had open minds and allowed me to explore different teachings and beliefs, rather than stifling me or limiting me to any one path. I'm grateful for that. As a youth, I studied Greek mythology and I read Frazier's The Golden Bow. I then read the Bible from cover to cover after a near-death experience. I have spent my life examining various   philosophic and religious beliefs through independent study. And today, I have a deep and significant relationship with the god of my understanding.
This writer has obviously rejected the God of creation, having replaced Him with a god of her own creation. 
Another wrote:
Although I didn't consciously seek the sacred in my travels during the last five years, I found it—at dawn in the Hong Kong botanical gardens, observing the Chinese practice Tai Chi. I found it on a drizzly morning in a London church listening to a rehearsal of a Mozart selection. I found it at midday in an outdoor Hindu temple in Bali, and at night in the Karnak temple in Luxor, Egypt. I found it in all of those places.
I wouldn't want this person's blended religion, but I'd sure like to have his frequent flyer miles!
Yet another respondent made this complaint:
Tell me, when are we atheists going to get equal time? We don't lack inner strength, peace, identity, self-esteem, or a purpose for living. What we do lack is the need to lean on a crutch of a fantasy figure who will make everything alright [sic], who will take care of us and forgive us, no matter what we do. We lack the desire to have our lives and loves defined by a two-thousand-year-old collection of documents. Atheists don't have all the answers, but at least we know that the place to start looking is within oneself, not into the ozone.
Wow! We certainly live in a world searching for spirituality. And how do we know which religion is right? Plato, a renowned Greek philosopher, provided an answer somewhat accidentally when he wrote, "It may be that someday there will come forth from God a logos  [Word], who will reveal all mysteries and make everything plain."
My friends, Plato's desire has been answered!  John 1 says that the logos or Word from God came and revealed Himself to  mankind. That same Word died on our behalf so   we might be able to have a personal relationship with Him. Man's journey to search for God ends with . . . Jesus Christ.
Prayer Point: Ponder for a moment what an incredible privilege it is to know God and to be called His child. Then, thank Him for pursuing you, even to the point of death, and making it possible for you to know Him.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 1 and mark in your Bible the words that speak of God's revealing His truth to us through Christ (hint: came, dwelt, revealed).
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Post  Admin on Mon 17 Feb 2014, 11:41 pm

Monday, February 17, 2014
A Wisdom Retreat 



Sorrow Is Fleeting . . . Salvation Is Forever
Romans 8:18
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Philip Yancey tells the story of the Woodson family in his book, Disappointment with God. The Woodsons had two children, Peggie and Joey, both born with cystic fibrosis. They were thin, no matter how much food they ate, and coughed constantly, breathing laboriously. Twice a day Meg pounded their chests to clear out mucus. The children spent several weeks each year in the local hospital, and both grew up knowing they would probably die before reaching adulthood.
Joey, a bright, happy, all-American boy, died at the age of twelve. Peggie defied the odds by surviving several health crises in high school and even lived to experience her college years. To the Woodsons delight, she seemed to grow stronger as the days passed—days filled with desperate prayers from Meg and her husband, but there was no miracle. Peggie died at the age of twenty-three.
One night, sometime later, Philip Yancey came across a letter Meg had written to him after Peggie's death. Part of that letter read: 
 
I find myself wanting to tell you something of how Peggie died. I don't know why except that I need to talk about it and I have run out of people to tell. I was sitting beside her bed a few days before her death, when suddenly she began screaming. I will never forget those shrill, piercing screams. Nurses raced into the room from every direction and surrounded her with their love. Eventually, their words and touches soothed her, though as time went on and the screaming continued, they could not comfort her. Nurses can only stay on that floor so long—God, who could have helped, looked down on a young woman devoted to Him, quite willing to die for Him to give Him glory, and it seemed He decided to sit on His hands and let her death top the horror charts.
One of the greatest frustrations we face during a trial is knowing that: God could rescue us; He could restore us; He could heal us; He could give us that much-longed-for baby; He could provide that much-needed job—all with one stroke of His omnipotent finger. Yet sometimes, He chooses not to. Why?
Is He, like Mrs. Woodson wrote, "sitting on His divine hands?" Absolutely not!
Paul reminds the suffering believers in Philippians 3:20-21, that "our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself." This is a powerful thought for a Christian who is suffering through any trial, great or small. It is as if Paul is shouting, "Remember believer! This is not the end, but merely the rugged path which leads us to the beginning!"
What a powerful hope we have in Christ. He may not promise freedom from our sorrows here on earth, but His hands are at work. He has promised us that hardships and sorrow are temporary . . . the prize that awaits us is eternal.
Prayer Point: Meditate on the fact that God is in complete control of your life, even though you may not understand what He's doing. Then pray for the willingness to accept whatever trial He brings you, whether or not you ever receive an explanation for it.
Extra Refreshment: Read 1 Peter 4.
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Post  Admin on Sat 15 Feb 2014, 7:37 pm

The Fountain of Life
Matthew 26:27-28
And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins."
Imagine digging in your back yard while planting some flowers. You overturn a slab of sod and a thin spurt of water shoots upward. You watch as the water trickles onto a patch of brown, dry grass and to your amazement, the grass slowly turns green. The water then flows toward your tomato plants and immediately the wilted leaves stand upright and the tomatoes blush red. You run into your house, grab a cup, and run back out to this tiny fountain. You fill your cup, then drink it in one long gulp. Suddenly, you feel invigorated.
You run back into the house, look in the mirror, and notice that some of your wrinkles are ironed out, leaving a youthful complexion that you haven't seen in years. Your jaw drops in amazement as the realization hits you: you have discovered the Fountain of Youth!
What would you do with this fantastic discovery? Would you share it with your spouse, your children, your older sister or brother? Would you tell your mother who is dying of cancer? Would you invite all of the families in your neighborhood to a barbecue and give them all they wanted to drink? Of course you would! Who would be selfish enough to keep so great a discovery to himself?   
Yet we, who have been partakers of the greatest discovery the world has ever known—namely, eternal life through faith in Christ—keep it to ourselves most of the time.
Has it ever occurred to you that the more you value Christ's sacrifice, the higher your priority will be in sharing Him with others? If you do not consider His mercy to be the most significant thing that has ever been given to you, then you will not consider it worth sharing. This would be the most terrible of all tragedies. For if there is one discovery that should never be hidden nor taken for granted, it is the fountain of living water which Christ has offered through His gift of salvation; a fountain wide enough for all to drink and deep enough for all to bathe.
Romans 10:14 says, "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?"
How well are you doing at sharing your faith with others? Are you taking Christ's sacrifice for granted, covering it over with dirt and hoping no one will ever know that you are a Christian?  Let me urge you to fervently tell the world about this miraculous, incredible discovery . . . the Fountain of Living Water.
Prayer Point: Take time to thank God for His sacrifice on the cross and for sending that person who first shared the news with you. Pray that you will cease from taking Christ's sacrifice for granted, but rather, that God will bring you to people who need the living water.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 4:1-45.
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Post  Admin on Thu 13 Feb 2014, 3:17 pm

God's Beloved
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The word beloved is a special word that is reserved by God only for His children. While God has a general love for the whole world and a sustaining love even for His enemies—He sends sunshine to warm them and rain to water their crops, just as He does for believers—this term of endearment is unique for those who are His precious possessions.
You may remember the first time this word was used in the New Testament. Christ was to be baptized by John the Baptist, when a voice echoed from heaven, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased" (Matthew 3:17). It was the voice of God the Father, who loved Christ dearly; that same voice still echoes today, calling you beloved.
You may be thinking to yourself, "How can God call me that? Doesn't He know how unlovable I am?" The answer is simple. He calls you beloved, not because of some righteousness you have in yourself or because you are worthy of it, but because Christ has deposited His righteousness into your personal account.
When the Father looks down upon you, He no longer sees your sin, but instead, He sees the blood of His Son that was shed on your behalf. That is why Paul can say in Romans 8:1, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death." You are eternally free in God's eyes, and that is why He loves you as His beloved.
Think of it in terms of marriage. A wedding ceremony does nothing to change the character or personality of the bride or groom. In fact, several weeks after the wedding, both of them are going to realize just how much they need to change. Although their character and personality may not have changed, their status did. They first walked down the aisle as two independent people who could have belonged to anybody, but when they walked back up the aisle, they belonged to each other. Now they were one.
Just the same, when you became a believer you immediately became the bride of Christ. Although the Lord will continually change your character over the course of your life, your status has been changed forever. You are God's special possession and He deeply, unfailingly, eternally loves you.
You forever will be . . . His beloved.
Prayer Point: Thank God for sending His beloved Son to die for your sins, that you could become a beloved child of God.
Extra Refreshment: Read Revelation 19:1-10 describing the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is the day when you, as God's bride, will finally be joined to Him.
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Post  Admin on Thu 13 Feb 2014, 3:13 pm

Does Anybody Know Who I Am?
Galatians 3:26-27
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Following World War II, there were more than two hundred French soldiers with amnesia who returned to Paris. They had been prisoners in Japanese camps and suffered through horrible ordeals of privation and torture. These men had been so psychologically devastated by their imprisonment that they lost the conscious awareness of who they were and where they had lived before the war.
Most of the soldiers' identities were quickly established from Red Cross records or with the help of fellow prisoners, but after all known efforts were exhausted, there were still thirty-two men whose existence seemed impossible to trace. Not only were there no records of them, but none of the other soldiers knew anything about them. The doctors who were treating these thirty-two men believed that the chance for recovery would be impossible unless they were reconnected with family and friends.
Someone proposed publishing photographs of the men on the front page of newspapers throughout the country. A date, time, and place of meeting would also be given, hoping anyone having information about them would come. The plan was implemented and French newspapers soon published the pictures, adding that the Paris Opera House would open its doors for the potential identification and connection with loved ones.
On the assigned day, a huge crowd gathered inside the opera house to view the  veterans. Every seat was taken and people spilled out onto the streets. Finally, in a dramatic entrance, the first of the amnesia victims walked onto the stage of the darkened room and slowly turned around under the glare of the spotlight, giving everyone a full view. Then, according to instruction, he and the other thirty-one soldiers who followed asked the same pleading question: "Does anybody out there know who I am . . . does anybody know who I am?" 
Thankfully, many of the men were soon reunited with their families.
Isn't this the same question that all of humanity is asking? Sadly, many people have a terrible case of self-imposed amnesia. But this is to be expected from a generation that has stepped back from God's Word. Sadder yet is the church—professed Christians seem to have forgotten that they belong to Christ.
So who are we? We are called sons of God (Galatians 3); new creations (2 Corinthians 5); children of God and heirs of God (Romans 8).  The New Testament is brimming with descriptions of the Christian's identity in Christ.
Understanding who we are in Christ will cause us to recognize why we are different from the world. The truth is, if we don't understand what makes us different from the world, we will never be able to make a difference in the world.
We, of all people, need never ask, "Does anybody know who I am?"  We are new creatures . . . children of God.  
Prayer Point: Thank God for the incredible, life-changing work He has accomplished in your life: through His death on the cross, paying for your sin; through His resurrection, securing for you eternal life; through His mercy, flowing for you every day. Don't live in a state of spiritual amnesia any longer; instead, meditate on God's promises on your behalf, and thank Him for who He is molding you to be.
Extra Refreshment: Read 2 Corinthians 5.
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Post  Admin on Tue 11 Feb 2014, 11:39 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.

 

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 Sat 08 Feb 2014, 12:03 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.
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Post  Admin on Thu 06 Feb 2014, 11:45 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.
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Post  Admin on Wed 05 Feb 2014, 10:45 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.



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 Fri 31 Jan 2014, 10:22 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 Psalms 119 and note in each verse the difference the Word of God makes in our lives.  
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Post  Admin on Thu 30 Jan 2014, 11:02 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.

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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Post  Admin on Tue 28 Jan 2014, 4:40 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.
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Post  Admin on Tue 28 Jan 2014, 4:33 pm

Reviewing the Journey
 
James has effectively pulled up a chair and gathered all of us around him. There have been times when his words have been harsh and hard-hitting and, at other times, like gentle reminders from a favorite friend.  
Either way, James has spoken the truth in love.  He considers us all members of the same family. So before we end our 31-Day Journey in James, let’s review some of these convicting, encouraging truths from the pen of this apostle. 
 
James opens his letter by reminding us that trials are an inevitable part of life; they are also part of God’s plan for our sanctification.  He encourages us to embrace them and worship God through them, rather than seeking to avoid them.  He reminds us that while we can’t choose our crosses, we can choose our responses.
 
He then challenges us to flee temptation and reminds us that, like trials, temptation is inevitable. Every day brings new opportunities for the devil, the world, and our flesh to wage war against our spirit and the Spirit of God. We need to stop flirting with temptation and start running from it.
 
James moves on to talk with us about God’s Word. He says we should be quick to hear the Word and slow to talk back to it—and certainly slow to become angry with the truth of God’s Word.  God’s Word is an x-ray machine which reveals who we are on the inside.  If we aren’t constantly reviewing those films, we’ll never clean our lives up or grow up just right.
 
Next he challenges us to stop showing favoritism in the body of Christ.  Christians shouldn’t be snobs.  Favoritism, prejudice, and partiality don’t belong in the Body.  The Gospel of Christ is blind to status, race, gender, and class. Christ died for all—that means no one is too low to be lifted by faith in Him.
 
James stuns us when he reminds us that demons believe in God, too.  Faith is more than just believing truths about God, i.e., Jesus is the Son of God, He died, He rose again on the third day.  The demons believe all that, too—they saw it happen.  But demons will never surrender to Christ as Sovereign Lord, in spite of all they know and believe about Him.
 
James really begins to meddle when he brings up our mouths. In fact, James wrote more about speech than any other topic in his letter.  He was the first to challenge the concept that actions speak louder than words. James went further than that in telling us what we really need to do is make sure our words say the same thing as our actions; we really need both . . . equally, in order to be effective.
 
James even brings up the subject of patience and why it is an essential virtue in the Christian life. Like farmers, we have to fertilize our spiritual lives and trust our growth to the Lord as we pray and serve Him.  Farmers don’t rush their crops. Likewise, we can’t rush our spiritual growth . . . patience is needed as we weed our hearts and fertilize our spirits with the water of truth and trust.  Growth takes time.
 
James wraps up his letter with a challenge to understand the importance of pursuing prodigal brothers and sisters. Yelling “Fire!” is always appropriate whenever there is a fire.  
 
These are some of the milestones along our journey . . . and this epistle ends most practically at bringing sinning believers back to the truth.
 
Learn from this half-brother of Jesus who served Christ faithfully for years before dying as a martyr for his faith: Christianity isn’t a walk in the park. It’s sweaty . . . and difficult . . . and it daily requires constant surrender to the Holy Spirit. 
 
So let’s roll up our sleeves, as James both commanded and demonstrated, and dive into a life of practical faith . . . for our good and the glory of our Master, Jesus Christ.
 
Prayer Point: Which of James’ words have been most convicting to you?  Pray for God to give you courage and strength to make a change in that area. The New Year has begun . . . resolve today to put your faith into practice and your words into action. 
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Luke 14 as Jesus preaches the true cost of discipleship.
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Post  Admin on Thu 23 Jan 2014, 11:14 pm

Broken Cisterns                             
James 4:4
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
 
The hard-hitting vocabulary of James in this passage leads some to believe he isn’t talking to Christians. After all, he starts out by calling his audience adulteresses!
 
Not exactly Sunday school vocabulary.
 
But the Jewish believers reading this indictment would have immediately understood his use of the word as a reference to spiritual unfaithfulness. Israel is often referred to as the wife of Jehovah in the Old Testament. 
 
Sin is a violation of love between us and our Bridegroom, which means that every time we choose sin over Christ, we commit spiritual adultery.
 
Let that sink in.

When James refers to the world in this passage, he is speaking of the ideologies of the world system. It stands for everything that Christ isn’t. 
 
The word James uses for friendship doesn’t mean some casual relationship; it’s one based on common interests, desires, and pursuits. In fact, this is a deeply affectionate word that is often translated love in the Greek New Testament.
 
James is simply telling us that we can’t love the ideologies and material pursuits of this world system and love Christ at the same time. 
 
In other words, we can’t kiss up to sin and kiss the Son, too. Judas tried that . . . and things didn’t turn out so well for him. We have to choose between the two. 
 
There is a war between Christ and this world, and James is forcing us in this passage to ask ourselves the eternally significant question: whose side are we on?
 
I love how God, through His prophet Jeremiah, depicts sin. God says:
 
“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” (Jeremiah 2:13).
 
This is one aspect of sin we so often forget.
 
Sometimes we see God as a cosmic Kill-joy who wants to rob us of any happiness. The world seems to be having all the fun.  So we forsake God’s Word in moments of prodigality and join the party. 
 
But the party ends and we not only wake up as unfaithful people, but we rob ourselves of genuine satisfaction and joy. Sin—all sin—is a broken cistern that simply can’t hold water. Sin is a bucket full of holes . . . a dry well filled with dead leaves, branches, and other debris.  
 
Righteousness and faithfulness to Christ—no matter how difficult or dull or seemingly unrewarding—brings lasting nourishment as we are drawn closer to our faithful Bridegroom. 
 
Daily abandon those empty wells . . . daily drink from the Fountain of living water. 
 
Prayer Point: What broken cistern are you drinking from today? What sin are you choosing over Christ? Confess it to Him now and pray for willingness and strength to destroy it before it destroys you. 
 
Extra Refreshment: Read the whole chapter of Jeremiah 2 and listen as God rebukes Israel for their idolatry and disobedience.
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Post  Admin on Wed 22 Jan 2014, 5:58 pm

Keeping Your Word                                                 
 
James 5:12
o not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall into judgment.
 
I asked a business owner in our church how he was doing. He told me his business was struggling. He had one major competitor in the field, a larger company that produced the same product, and he seemed to always come in second place. 
 
A prospective client, however, offered him a large contract and the president of the company even gave him a personal phone call to place the order.
 
In the course of the conversation, the president told him that they really needed to receive shipment by a certain date if he were to take the job. So the president asked the obvious question: “Can you meet my deadline?”
 
This Christian businessman knew that with his smaller staff, he would need another two weeks to fill the order.  He recalled to me how strong the temptation was to promise that man something he knew was virtually impossible to perform. Thoughts crossed his mind like, “I can always sign the contract now and just make some excuse later for why things are delayed . . . that’s standard procedure!”  
 
Instead of making the promise with his fingers crossed behind his back, he told the prospective client the truth and was rewarded, yet again, by watching his competitor get the contract.
 
You’re probably expecting me to tell you that his business began to take off after that honest decision.  Unfortunately, the opposite is true. He struggled a few more years until he finally went bankrupt and lost his company.
 
My friend is now with the Lord. I don’t think for a moment he regrets his decision to conduct business by honest principles. Christ has, meanwhile, given Him eternal rewards in heaven far richer than any business prospects he lost on earth.
 
He was a man of his word . . . he’s now in the presence of his Savior who keeps His word, too.
It seems a bit radical nowadays to say yes when you mean it and no when you mean that, too. Perhaps that’s because we have rationalized honesty to such an extent that it no longer seems important. Are honesty and a handshake really that big  a deal to God?
 
Evidently. That’s the kind of God we represent. We are His ambassadors in this world, and He happens to be a God who always keeps His word (Hebrews 6:18). His fingers are never crossed behind His back.
 
Think about it: What if God didn’t keep all the promises He made throughout Scripture? What if He just let one promise slip by unfulfilled? Which promise would you want that to be?  
 
They all matter. 
 
In John Phillips’ commentary on James, he gives an excerpt from David Livingstone’s diary, relating to integrity. Livingstone was the famous missionary who bravely carried the Gospel into the unreached interior of Africa in the nineteenth century.
 
According to Phillips, Livingstone wrote in his diary how, at every great crisis, he retreated to the promise of Jesus Christ, which happened to be his favorite text of Scripture: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
 
Livingstone concluded his journal entry with these words: “And this is the word of a gentleman of the most sacred honor and that’s an end of it!” 
 
Christ keeps His promises . . . and so should we.
 
Prayer Point: Have you dropped the “integrity” ball lately? Is there someone you failed to keep your word to? Confess to God right now and then make things right with that person.
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Hebrews 6:9-20 and notice the references to our promise-keeping God.
 

Prayer That Gets Past the Ceiling                           
James 5:16-17
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.
 
I remember being a student in Bible college and thinking I had to be extremely dedicated and rather righteous if I ever hoped to gain God’s attention through prayer.
 
I got up before the rest of the student body and went to our campus prayer tower where special kneeling benches had been crafted. There were a few other fellas up there trying to get God’s attention by rising so early. 
 
Even if I fell asleep on occasion—which I did—I was convinced that God was impressed by my righteous zeal.
 
Isn’t that the kind of Christian James is talking about in our text?  

Well, hardly.

James is not encouraging us to be self-righteous or even self-sacrificing in order to gain God’s attention or favor. In fact, James is actually writing to encourage believers that because we already are righteous, our prayers can accomplish much.
 
That’s why he reminds us in the above passage that the Prophet Elijah was just like we are. In fact, the word Elijah uses for righteous is dikaiou, which is a title used for every Christian.
 
This would have shocked the Jewish readers during James’ day. To them, Elijah was the greatest man in Israel’s history. He raised someone from the dead, he called down fire from heaven, he killed the prophets of Baal, and he even outran the king’s chariot. On top of that, he actually manipulated the weather. James had written earlier:
 
nd he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit - (James 5:17–18).
 
Nevertheless, James is actually saying that Elijah was no different from us. If you read Elijah’s account in 1 Kings 18, you quickly realize that he wasn’t actually praying to manipulate the weather. Rain wasn’t really the issue. Elijah was in a battle between the gods and wanted to prove why his God was greater than all other gods.
 
Did God need Elijah to reveal His glory? No. Could God have destroyed the prophets of Baal and send a rain shower without Elijah’s prayer? Yes. But that’s the amazing thing about God’s grace. He allows us to have a special part in His will.
 
Paul wrote to the Corinthians that God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
 
So if you’ve come to faith in Jesus Christ, you have His righteousness credited to your account—right now!  Which means your prayers, like Elijah’s, can accomplish much. When James says righteous men will be heard by God, he’s referring to ordinary, run-of-the-mill Christians . . .  like you and me.
 
Now James doesn’t say we can just come haphazardly before God and expect Him to answer our requests. He already told us earlier in his book that prayer should start with confession of sin and move forward with elements of trust in God’s perfect plans.
 
The secret of prayer that gets past the ceiling is not our righteousness but God’s . . .  which He demonstrates through the prayers of His sons and daughters.
 
Prayer Point: Spend time thanking God for the fact that He always listens to you and always answers your prayers—even when the answers aren’t exactly what you wanted.
 
Extra Refreshment: Read 1 Kings 18 and note the simplicity of Elijah’s prayers and the sovereign power of Elijah’s God.
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Post  Admin on Mon 20 Jan 2014, 8:48 pm

Not Ashamed 
James 5:10-11
As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured.
 
When James is writing this letter, Jews have been exiled from their homes and lost everything during widespread persecution. James offers them encouragement they can relate to: “Remember the prophets . . . they suffered, too.”
 
These early Jewish readers would immediately remember Hosea who suffered humiliation from his unfaithful wife, yet faithfully loved her and brought her back home as a sign of God’s faithfulness to His unfaithful people.
 
They would remember Jeremiah who fearlessly preached God’s Word to Israel even though God told him that not a single person would heed his message. 
 
They would recall Micah who was also ridiculed for his message, and Zechariah who was murdered for his testimony. 
 
They would remember Amos and Haggai who were persecuted for the sake of God’s Word; Isaiah who was placed in the hollow of a tree and sawn in half by his own people.
 
Who among them would forget the more recent prophet John the Baptist who was beheaded in a Roman prison because of his faithful ministry?
 
James is reminding his readers that if anyone had it tough, it was the prophets. They were mistreated, misunderstood, maligned and, many of them, murdered.  Almost all of them lived difficult lives and died tragic deaths.
 
But James goes on to say that we count those blessed who have endured. Why? Because they are receiving the eternal reward for their ministry! James is reminding us that our present suffering is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to us one day in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:18).
                                              
The writer of Hebrews commends faithful men and women throughout the ages for their endurance. He writes:
 
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they  desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He  has prepared a city for them - (Hebrews 11:13-16).
 
That last line is incredible: God is not ashamed to be called their God. That’s the blessing that awaits us one day as believers in Christ. Far more precious than a new heaven and a new earth, far greater than the glorified bodies we will receive as we step into immortality, vastly superior to the fact that we will be finally perfected and safely home is the fact that God will not be embarrassed by calling us His own . . . He will, in fact, be proud of us.  What amazing grace is that?!
 
So don’t back down or walk away from a tough assignment today. Persevere in the life Christ has planned for you. And keep in mind it is no more difficult for us to live for Christ today than it was for the prophets of old.
 
One day, as the Father beams with pride over us—His frail and often-faltering children—every insult we bore and every injury we suffered will no longer matter as they are exchanged for the rewards of His good pleasure.
 
Let’s follow in the footsteps of the prophets . . . today.
 
Prayer Point: The greatest example of suffering in Scripture is given by Christ Himself; consider all He endured for you, then pray for strength to share in His sufferings. 
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Romans 8:12-39 and notice the perspective Paul had in the midst of his suffering.
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Post  Admin on Fri 17 Jan 2014, 11:21 pm

His Invisible Presence
James 5:8-9
You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.
 
When we are living in sin, the concept that God is standing nearby is a cause of both conviction and holy fear.  However, when we pursue righteous living, the idea that God is standing nearby is a cause of confidence and peace. His presence at the door both encourages us in the midst of suffering and challenges us in the midst of disobedience.
 
During our toughest assignments Christ is already present. During our worst suffering, He is at hand. During episodes of mistreatment and persecution, He is still Emmanuel—“God with us.” 
 
Chuck Swindoll illustrated this truth in his book Getting Through the Tough Stuff with a story of a personal encounter he had with a blind student name John. Upon asking John how he’d lost his sight, Swindoll heard about his accident as a teenager and how it caused him to want to give up on life:
 
When the accident happened and I knew I would never see again, life had ended, as far as I was concerned. I was bitter and angry with God for letting it happen; I took my anger out on everyone around me. I felt that since I had no future, I wouldn’t lift a finger on my own behalf. Let others wait on me. I shut my bedroom door and refused to come out except for meals.
 
One day, in exasperation, my father came into my room and began lecturing me. He said he was tired of my feeling sorry for myself. Winter was coming, and it was still my job to put up the storm windows. He commanded, “You get those windows up by suppertime tonight,” then walked out of my room, slamming the door behind him.
 
Well, that made me so angry that I resolved to do it! Muttering and complaining to myself, I groped my way out to the garage, found the windows, a stepladder, all the necessary tools, and I went to work. “They’ll be sorry when I fall off this ladder and break my neck,” I thought . . . but little by little, I got the job done.
 
As he concluded the story, tears began to form in his eyes. “I later found out that at no time during that afternoon had my father ever been more than four or five feet away from my side.”
 
You might be tempted to consider James as insensitive in the way he speaks of God’s nearness to us, referring to Him as a Judge instead of Father. But the apostle is merely reminding us that our Heavenly Father, like the father in this story, wants to challenge our character and command our holy behavior.  
 
Remember, James began his letter by writing, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (James 1:2).  Four chapters later, James reinforces the same truths.
 
So no matter what trial you’re experiencing today, be strengthened in your resolve. God may be commanding your obedience through challenging times . . . but He’s never more than an arm’s length away.
 
Prayer Point: What trials are you experiencing that cause you to assume God has commanded more than you can possibly endure?  Answer His challenge and pray for the needed resolve to pursue holy obedience.
 
Extra Refreshment: Read James 1 again as James reminds us why trials produce patience.
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Post  Admin on Thu 16 Jan 2014, 3:30 pm

Not My Will . . .but Yours
James 4:15
“If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 
 
When I was a newly married seminary student, I held a number of different part-time jobs, while Marsha worked full-time to put me through school and cover the majority of our bills.  I’ll never forget that year I convinced her that the timing was right to bury our old car and get a newer model.
 
Ours was a bucket of bolts and a pile of rust, but the truth was, I simply wanted a car with less than 100,000 miles on it. I knew it would be tight financially, but with both incomes, we’d have just enough to make monthly payments on a new car. 
 
A friend heard I was looking for a car and offered to sell me his little hatchback for a decent price. It was small and didn’t have air conditioning, but it had low mileage and seemed like a great deal.  I confess that I didn’t even pray about it. I don’t think I test drove it.  It was new, with not a trace of rust anywhere.
 
We managed to squeeze the payments into our budget. 
 
Two weeks later, I heard of a courier job for a commercial real estate company. The president was a believer, and he had decided years earlier to hire Dallas Seminary students—partly because he trusted the students and partly because he knew they needed help financially. 
 
It was perfect and I gratefully accepted the position—one that I would hold until graduating from seminary the following spring. Then the president told me that I would be  given an added perk: a loaded Buick LeSabre to drive as I delivered packages and contracts.  But after work, it was mine to take home and keep throughout the week—24/7—with all expenses paid.
 
Now I had a problem . . . an expensive problem. There was this little hatchback that we didn’t need to drive anymore—but monthly payments had to be made.
 
Bottom line: I tried selling it back to my friend (he wasn’t interested); it gathered dust for a year; we sold it at a loss. 
 
Since that time I’ve often thought about my impulsive decision . . . and lack of prayer. If I had just waited two weeks, God was already prepared to bury my bucket of bolts and give us a beautiful car without any financial obligation.
 
Have you ever, literally, gone ahead of God?
 
It’s evidently a common enough temptation that James reminds us to stop taking control—talking like we’re sovereign—and start surrendering to the Savior. James is cautioning that before we make any plans for today or tomorrow, we should say, “If it’s the Lord’s will.” 
 
These aren’t magic words. James isn’t giving us a formula for getting better cars . . . or healthier bodies.  He’s actually giving us a new mindset—a way of thinking and living that places our decisions within the borders of His will.
 
The Apostle Paul demonstrated this in 1 Corinthians 4:19, where he wrote, I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills. Later, in 1 Corinthians 16:7, he wrote, I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits. In Romans 1:10, he wrote, Perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. 
 
Frankly, we should live in the same manner and then wait—even if it means driving a bucket of bolts a few more months . . . or a few more years.
 
Prayer Point: Are you willing to bring your plans to God and ask for His affirmation . . . His peace . . . His will to be done? 
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Genesis 15 where God promises Abraham a son; then read Genesis 16 where Abraham and his wife lose faith and take matters into their own hands. Learn from their failure this truth: God’s plans are always higher than our plans.
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Post  Admin on Tue 14 Jan 2014, 8:25 pm

Come a Little Closer
James 4:7-8
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. 
 
James wants us to know that when we are battling against the devil, we are battling against a person, not just some power.
 
The name devil literally means accuser, which reveals one of Satan’s chief weapons against believers. Read the Book of Job and you’ll discover just how far Satan will go in his attempt to both accuse us before God and accuse God before us.
 
And don’t forget that Satan and his demons are rather careful students of your life.  He has game film on you, so to speak, and he studies it like football teams study the game film of their opponents. He knows what he’s up against. He knows your weaknesses and strengths. He knows what you like to do and what you like to talk about. He knows what makes you tick and what ticks you off.
 
Do you know your own weaknesses? Do you know where you are prone to sin? Do you know what kind of places to stay away from and what kind of people to be careful around? Do you know when to turn off the computer or TV?
 
Resisting the devil involves knowing where he’s going to show up . . . and when.
 
But James goes further in reminding us that resisting the devil isn’t our main focus as Christians. Our main objective is to turn away from sin and run to Christ. In fact, when we draw near to God, Satan will naturally want to avoid us.
 
While serving as a missionary in Paraguay, Stuart Sacks wrote of an Indian named Rafael who came one day to join him on his porch. Stuart wrote:
   
I was eating at the time and went out to see what he wanted. He responded, “Ham heneck met.” Again I asked what I could do for him, but his answer was the same. A missionary later explained to me that this was Rafael’s way of honoring me. His words “Ham heneck met” meant, “I don’t want anything from you—I have just come to be near.” 
 
The Indian was telling Stuart that he found satisfaction just being near him.
 
How convicting.  How many times do we go to God because we want something . . . or need something? How often do we line up in front of God’s throne to petition Him for a miracle or an answer to a request? 
Where’s the line of saints who just want to draw near to God? 
 
That was the passion of King David when he prayed: When You said to me, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek” (Psalm 27:8).
 
Try standing in that line today.  Even if God doesn’t give you the answer you desire, find joy in His presence. 
James gives a wonderful promise in the next phrase of this text: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
 
You never have to get out of bed and wonder if it’s too early for God. You never have to muddle through your prayer and wonder if He’s still listening. You never have to experience a crisis and wonder if God hears . . . or cares. 
 
Draw near to Him as you discover your greatest satisfaction in His presence alone. And remember, draw closer to Christ . . . you’ll be farther away from the devil. 
 
Prayer Point: Be silent before God and clear your mind of all other distractions. Then just talk to Him. Put your watch away and don’t worry about the time. No agenda.  Just pull up a chair near the Heavenly Father and find joy in His presence. 
 
Extra Refreshment: Read the wonderful words of David in Psalms 25 as he finds refuge in God’s presence.
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Post  Admin on Mon 13 Jan 2014, 11:30 pm

A Lifetime of Growth                           
James 4:3
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
 
When British Parliament member John Ward died, a prayer was found among his papers; it was rather embarrassing to those inheriting his estate:
 
O Lord, Thou knowest that I have mine estates in the City of London, and likewise that I have lately purchased an estate in the county of Essex. I beseech Thee to preserve the two counties from fire and earthquake; and as I have a mortgage in Hertfordshire, I beg of Thee likewise to have an eye of compassion on that county; as for the rest of the counties, Thou mayest deal with them as Thou art pleased.
 
This type of prayer is so common in our churches today. We ask God for temporal pleasures the way a toddler asks for a popsicle. And when He doesn’t give it to us—and in the flavor we want—we’re likely to throw a spiritual fit.
 
If we want to live truly satisfied lives, James tells us that we’ll have to get rid of our self-seeking, self-indulgent attitude. To live according to the will of God will require daily surrender of our own will. And the key word here is daily.
 
Just keep in mind that daily transformation isn’t finished in a day . . . it’ll take a lifetime of surrender and growth.
 
The day my twin sons turned four years old, I went upstairs to their room when I came home from work.  One of my sons had tears in his eyes. This surprised me, so I said, “Hey, buddy, what’s the problem?”
 
He wiped his eyes and responded, “Today’s my birthday.” I thought to myself, You oughta save those tears for when you hit 40! Instead I said,  “Well, I know it’s your birthday . . . so why aren’t you happy about turning four?”  With childlike sincerity, he looked up at me and replied, “Because I thought when I turned four, I’d be big.”
 
My brokenhearted son had the false idea that he was going to grow up overnight.  He was so disappointed to discover he wasn’t any larger today than he was the day before.
 
Some of the greatest saints I’ve ever met—men and women in their 70s and 80s—never talk to me about reaching some point in their lives where they felt they’d made it to spiritual maturity. Instead they speak about the growing pains and the constant struggle to be satisfied in Christ.
 
This was true of the Puritans as well. One of them made this honest confession before God:
 
When thou wouldst guide me, I control myself.
When thou wouldst be sovereign, I rule myself.
When I should depend on Thy provision, I supply myself.
When I should submit to Thy providence, I follow my own will.
When I should honor and trust Thee, I serve myself.
 
Don’t wait until tomorrow to make things right with God. Submit your will to Him now . . . you’ll be able to see growth later on.  In fact, the Lord is committed to growing you up and completing His work in you on the day He calls you home.  
He just so happens to be stretching your growth process over the course of your entire life . . . so be patient.
 
Prayer Point: Pray through the lines of that poetic confession and consider how each applies to you specifically. How do you rule yourself and supply yourself and serve yourself? Confess these things to Christ and pray for humility to let them go.
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Nehemiah 1:1-31 and compare Nehemiah’s prayer to John Ward’s prayer at the beginning of this devotional.
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Post  Admin on Fri 10 Jan 2014, 11:53 pm

Taking Out the Garbage
James 3:17-18
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
 
The most important description James gives of heavenly wisdom is that it is first pure. He isn’t using “first” in the sense that purity is the first item in a list but that purity is first in importance. That means if you want wisdom, you must be pure.
 
This is the opposite of the world’s wisdom. James tells us in the preceding verses of chapter three that worldly wisdom is corrupt, sensual, criminal, demonic, and self-serving.  It fits our culture hand in glove.
 
The word James uses for pure describes someone who shrinks from the pollution of sin. It’s not that true wisdom is simply clean—it despises uncleanness. It does to sin what we do to the garbage: get rid of it!
 
When my older daughter Candace was still in college, I went to pick her up for Christmas break. My younger daughter Charity was with me, and together we loaded Candace’s things into the back of my Chevy pickup truck.
 
I had a garbage bag in the back that I had forgotten about. After the bed of the pickup was crammed full, I plopped the rather large bag of trash on top and away we went.
 
About an hour down the road, however, the wind began to pick up and the bag of trash shifted, slid, and finally toppled out onto the highway. I watched through my side-view mirror as that bag exploded onto the pavement and sent garbage everywhere!
 
After turning off at the nearest exit and stopping to get some trash bags, we made our way back to the scene of the debris. Trash was strewn on that highway for 40 feet, and we found everything from egg shells and empty cartons to food scraps. My daughters and I all picked up the garbage the same way: with our fingertips.  It was a nasty job, and we didn’t want to get our hands dirty. 
 
Trash isn’t something we hang up in our living room or collect as a hobby—at least, most people don’t. Garbage is something we don’t want around.  That’s why our 32-gallon cans are outside and not in the middle of the living room. 
 
This is the picture James is painting for us: sin doesn’t belong inside. The wiser we become in our Christian walk, the less we will coddle, embrace, and accommodate impurity.
 
A woman told me that she had been involved with a man for some time before finally breaking it off. She was single and he was married. They both claimed to be Christians and both were involved in a local church. 
 
She said to me, “We had both wandered so far from biblical wisdom and were so self-deceived that we would actually meet at a hotel room, get out our Bibles, read and pray together before committing adultery.”
This is why James tells us that purity is first and foremost a part of godly wisdom. If we get purity wrong, we’re going to get everything else wrong.
 
As you ask God for wisdom today, start by confessing any impurity in your heart. Ask God to give you strength . . . strength to throw the garbage out.
 
Prayer Point: Are you being deceived by sin like the woman in our devotion today?  Have you chosen a path that you are convinced is right, while at the same time knowing it is impure?  I encourage you to choose one of the verses listed in Extra Refreshment and memorize at least one passage, praying specifically that God will apply His wisdom to your life as you battle your way back to the path of godly wisdom.
 
Extra Refreshment: Here are some verses to add to your mental arsenal as you battle sin: Romans 6:12  Romans 13:14  Ephesians 4:22; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 John 2:16-17.


TODAY'S BIBLE VERSE 
"Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who
builds a house on solid rock." – Matthew 7: 24
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