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Post  Admin on Thu 09 Jan 2014, 11:23 pm

The Grass Is Always Greener . . .
James 3:14-16
 
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.
 
Do Christians compete with one another? Do they compare business cards and job titles? Do they notice neighborhoods and automobiles and the designer labels of others on Sunday morning? Are they tempted to share their child’s latest accomplishments given the slightest opportunity?  Do they ever posture themselves for positions in the church?
 
Unfortunately, yes.
 
James warns us that jealousy, self-centered ambition, and bitterness will hinder our testimony and may even destroy the effectiveness of our lives.
 
History, both secular and scriptural, is replete with those who harbored envy within and ultimately were destroyed by it. Perhaps one of the most prominent examples was King Saul. He disobeyed God’s orders given through the prophet Samuel for the battle at the city of Amalek, then set up a monument to himself. Ultimately, Saul was rebuked by Samuel and told that the Lord regretted that He had made him king over Israel (1 Samuel 15). His jealousy of David’s popularity with the people of Israel led him to plot David’s death (1 Samuel 19), even though David had married one of his daughters and was his son’s best friend. Saul died by his own sword as the end of his life dwindled to that of an undistinguished man.  
 
James is telling us that we, like Saul, will destroy ourselves with envy and bitterness. James is encouraging us to grow up in wisdom and understanding—to apply and focus God’s truth in our lives.
 
While James describes the “normal” practice of everyone around you, he wants you to know that acceptability of the majority’s actions is a far cry from the desired response. 
 
Never confuse the wisdom of the majority with the wisdom of God. The wisdom of the world might sound good and seem right but remember that Solomon wrote: There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12).
 
D.L. Moody once said that if someone had a business that was able to photograph the spiritual condition of people’s hearts, he’d go bankrupt. No one would hire him!
 
James begins this text by writing, If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Frankly, every Christian would have to admit to the same verdict: Guilty!  However, the verb for “to have” (echete) actually means “to harbor or foster.” 
 
This means the person whose growth in wisdom is stunted doesn’t just struggle with self-centeredness . . . he welcomes it. He isn’t confessing it—he’s nursing it. Like a pot boiling with ambition and jealous thoughts, he keeps it simmering.
 
Do you want disorder in your family? Keep envying your neighbor’s possessions. Do you want disorder in your church?  Keep seeking ministry opportunities that will allow you to be recognized. Do you want disorder on your job? Keep complaining when others around you are praised or promoted.
 
It comes down to this: are you content in Christ? The cure for jealousy and selfish ambition is thanksgiving and humility. Begin thanking God today for all that you have . . . and are.
 
Prayer Point: Who are you envious of today? Confess your envy to God, and then pray for Him to give you contentment as you focus, not on what you don’t have, but on what you have.
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalms 9, where David wrestles with the fact that ungodly men seem to “have it made.”
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Post  Admin on Wed 08 Jan 2014, 9:20 pm

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
A Wisdom Retreat 
Talking to Immortals
James 3:9
With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.
 
When James mentions cursing in this passage, he’s not talking about profanity or calling down from heaven a curse on someone. This is literally a reference to slander, gossip, and accusation against other believers.
 
You might say, “Well, that’s not so bad . . . at least we’re not saying bad things about God.” But James anticipates this loophole and clarifies his rebuke a step further: he points out the contradiction between blessing God on the one hand and cursing someone made in God’s image on the other.
 
People have been made in the likeness of their Creator and that sets us all apart from the rest of creation. We are the image-bearers of God. Mankind isn’t just a more slightly evolved animal. We have conscience and self-awareness, with moral reasoning, along with creative ability to shape the world around us through art, music, science, philosophy, and mathematics. An animal never admires a sunset and ponders in spirit the issues of creation.
 
James reminds us especially that when we offend other believers, God Himself is offended.
 
Think of it this way: imagine being invited to someone’s home for dinner. While you’re there you notice a picture hanging on the wall and you whisper to your wife, “I hope he didn’t pay a fortune for that painting; it’s horrible!” Then you discover the artist is your host—and he overheard you! Would you then say, “Look, don’t take it personally . . . I’m not criticizing you; I’m only criticizing your work!”
 
You can’t separate the two, can you? To belittle the art is to belittle the artist. God is as interested in what we say to each other as He is in what we say to Him.
 
One author illustrates the radical change that should come from understanding the value of God’s highest order of creation, the human being.  In his book The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis writes:
 
Remember that the dullest and most uninteresting believer you talk to will one day be a creature which, if you saw [him] now, you could be strongly tempted to worship [him]. It is in light of this that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
 
After James spends an entire chapter dealing with our speech, he cuts to the heart of the matter by revealing why we really struggle so much with our speech. Our problem isn’t our mouths . . . it’s our minds. So the solution isn’t to speak better; the solution is to think better!
 
The reason we criticize and slander and castigate people is because we’re not seeing them the way God sees them. Our thinking is wrong.
 
So, who are you struggling to love and think kindly of today? Heed James’ words . . . treat them as an immortal creation of Christ.  
 
Prayer Point: Have you hurt someone with your words recently? Confess it to God and then confess it to that person.  You’ll be happy you did!
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Paul’s convicting words regarding your speech in Ephesians 4:25-32.

Drive Wisely!
James 3:13
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
 
I remember arriving at my first Driver’s Ed class and being thrilled to discover the car I would be learning to drive  was a Volkswagen Bug. My parents had the same stick shift VW at home, and I knew I was already way down the road, so to speak! I had spent hours driving in our neighborhood, learning to back up and pull in without popping the clutch too quickly and stalling.  Frankly, I was ready to go.
 
I slipped into the driver’s seat, my instructor in the seat next to me. I pushed in the clutch, started the engine, put the car in first gear, pressed the gas pedal, eased off the clutch, and away we went. Suddenly the car screeched to a halt. I looked over and discovered that my instructor had a set of brakes on his side of the car—something my wife has wanted for years!
 
He looked at me and said, “Young man, we’re not here to race anybody . . . you’re gonna learn to drive according to my rules.”
 
Frankly, learning to walk as a Christian is much like learning to drive.  We have to do it by His rules.
As you grow in your faith, your understanding and application of the Bible is constantly tested and sharpened.  Like driving, the scenery’s always changing. You not only have to keep your eye on the road but on others who are sharing the road with you. Walking with Christ isn’t for cowards!
 
Maybe that’s why so many people prefer to stay in the garage. We learned to drive; we have our license. We’ve earned the right to get behind the wheel. And that’s good enough . . . we’ll let someone else do all the driving. 
 
James is telling us here that in order to grow up in Christ we have to take what we learn from God’s Word out onto the open road. Drivers don’t show people they are good drivers by flashing a driver’s license; they show it by driving. In the same way, Christians don’t show their faith by talking about the date they came to Christ—they show it by doing good works and by doing those works in the gentleness of wisdom.
 
Wisdom is really the key point, by the way. You can look around and find some really good people who aren’t believers. Many of them are humanitarians, soldiers, doctors, counselors.  Some are better at doing good than Christians are! 
 
But the difference is one day they will all throw their good works at Christ’s feet and say, “Look what I’ve done! This is why I deserve to be in heaven!” And Christ will stun them by saying, “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity, for I never knew you” (Luke 13:27).
 
The truth is unbelievers are not motivated by the Spirit of God.  No matter what they do, they are doing good works so that people will see their good works and glorify them or, perhaps, they will simply feel better about themselves.  Christians do good works in humility, knowing that people will look at those works and glorify their Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). And James considers this the life of wisdom.
 
The more we take our faith out of the garage and onto the highway, the more opportunities we’ll have to say, “Look what a great Savior I serve!” 
 
So live wisely today, friend. Let the world see our good works, and then let them hear us return the glory to Whom it belongs . . .  it may surprise us how much God will use us when we refuse to accept the credit.
 
Prayer Point: Have you been accepting too many compliments on your own lately?  Do you need the reminder to give the glory to God?  Ask Him today to give you the wisdom and humility needed to make a real difference in the world.
 
Extra Refreshment: Read John 3:25-30 and stand amazed at the humility of one of Israel’s greatest prophets, John the Baptist.
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Post  Admin on Mon 06 Jan 2014, 7:13 pm

High Calling . . . Higher Accountability
 
James 3:1
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.
 
James doesn’t sound fair: those who teach are warned of a higher standard—a stricter judgment.  Why the extra scrutiny? 
 
Simply put, teachers deal with words, concepts, ideas, and doctrines that will shape the thinking and direct the lives of their students.  
 
James refers to a didaskalos (teacher), and the word he chooses comes right from the context of a Jewish synagogue.  The rabbi, in Jewish tradition, was a teacher who studied the Law and taught his students how it applied to everyday life. He was the most highly revered person in the synagogue, next to the men who served on Israel’s Supreme Court, the Sanhedrin.
 
This was quite a heady position.  In fact, Old Testament scholar William Barclay explained that the rabbi was treated in a way that was likely to ruin his character. The very title Rabbi literally meant “Great One.”  So everywhere he went, people greeted him as such. Imagine everyone telling you that you are the “Great One.”  That almost guarantees not only pride but an overabundance of applicants for the position of rabbi!
 
James is writing to Jewish teachers in the Church who are possibly feeling some personal sense of glory or pride from their high calling. These are the early days of church history; the transition between synagogue life and church life hasn’t been fully developed.  That explains why James issues a stern warning for his fellow pastors and teachers in the Church.   
 
James, effectively, says to us as well, “Do you want a platform? Do you want the attention and prestige that accompanies the role of being a teacher of God’s Word?  Fine.  Just don’t forget that one day you’ll be held to a higher accountability than those you taught.”
 
The Apostle Paul echoes this same challenge as he exhorts Pastor Timothy to handle the Word of God accurately and with great care (2 Timothy 2:15). 
 
But what exactly does James mean by his warning that teachers will incur a stricter judgment? He is referring to the Bema Seat of Christ, where every believer will one day stand and be rewarded for their service to Christ. This is not a place where we will be judged for our sin—Christ has already paid the penalty for that—it’s where we will give an account for how we used our lives and gifts for God’s glory (2 Corinthians 5:10).
 
So James is reminding those of us who have authority over others that we will be given an additional evaluation on a higher standard: did we practice what we taught or preached?  
 
It’s one thing to be a student and learn biblical truth and refuse to obey it.  It’s quite another to be a teacher and disobey the truth we have just taught to others.  All who dished out the truth will give an account for how they lived out the truth. 
 
Scottish Reformer John Knox was so awed and burdened by the responsibility of the office he was just beginning that, when he stood in the pulpit to preach his very first sermon, he began weeping uncontrollably.  He was overwhelmed with the gravity of what he was about to do. It was more than preaching the truth . . . it was living the truth.
 
Knox’s attitude will prepare us well as we consider both our high calling and higher accountability . . . it’s just around the corner at the coming Bema Seat of Christ. 
 
Prayer Point: Pray that the Lord will impress upon your heart the attitude of John Knox as you prepare to teach His Word to others.  Also, thank Him for His grace in using imperfect messengers to deliver His perfect message to the world. 
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Paul’s first chapter written to Titus; notice the qualifications he gives for pastors and teachers. These are actually wonderful goals for every believer.
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Post  Admin on Sat 04 Jan 2014, 1:20 am

Changing Tags
James 2:25
as not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
 
If you’ve ever been to the emergency room, you’ve experienced the process known as triage. Triage is a French word that means “to sort out,” and it refers to the system that doctors and nurses use to decide which patients are in dire need of help and who isn’t.
 
In an Allies war camp during World War II, the triage supervisor had the unenviable job of labeling the soldiers with one of three colored tags. 
 
The first was given to patients who were “Hopeless”: they would be made as comfortable as possible and allowed to die. The second tag was given to those who were “Hopeful”: they were left alone because they would survive without immediate help. The third was given to the “Doubtful”: they were given the most meticulous and immediate treatment—treatment that would mean the difference between life and death.
 
A soldier named Lou arrived at one of these makeshift hospitals. He had been hit by shrapnel and one of his legs was completely shattered. He had also lost a lot of blood.
 
The triage supervisor examined him and tagged him “Hopeless.” The nurse assigned to Lou noticed he was conscious and she began talking with him. She soon discovered they were both from Ohio. After getting to know his life story, she made the decision to do something that was against triage protocol: risking her medical career and reputation, she changed Lou’s tag to “Doubtful.”
 
A few hours later, Lou was given intensive care. He was transported from the front lines to a better medical facility where his life was spared. He would spend the rest of his life balancing on one leg, but he was grateful to that nurse for giving him a second chance to live. 
 
In this text, James introduces us to an Old Testament woman who received a similar act of mercy. She, too, was considered hopeless by human standards. She was a Gentile living in a nation that was about to be completely destroyed by God. She was also a prostitute who ran a brothel in Jericho.
 
God came to bring hope to people like Rahab. His grace isn’t handicapped by our ancestry or pedigree or resumé. It isn’t even hampered by our past. And when God changes our tag, He doesn’t just erase our past . . . He writes a new future!
 
Scripture tells us that after Rahab declared her faith in the God of Israel, she was rescued when the Israelites came to conquer Jericho.
 
She was accepted by the Jewish nation and even married a godly Jewish man named Salmon. They would have a son together and name him Boaz. Boaz would grow up and, like his father, marry a Gentile convert named Ruth. 
 
Fast forward the genealogy film and you discover that Rahab is the great-grandmother of King David. She has found a place in the very bloodline of the Messiah! 
 
What does this tell us about the heart of God? It tells us that He loves changing people’s tags. 
 
Is there someone in your life whom you’ve tagged as “Hopeless” . . . “Depressed” . . . “Addict” . . .  “Doubter” . . .  “Faithless” . . .  “Ungifted” . . . “Lazy”? James’ message for you today is to remember that God changed your tag too . . . and He can change theirs, as well.
 
Prayer Point: Have you given up hope on someone in your life? Pray that God will rescue that person—and ask the Lord to help you persevere in prayer on their behalf, no matter what their tag says.
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Rahab’s story for yourself in Joshua 1.
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Post  Admin on Thu 02 Jan 2014, 11:54 pm

One cold evening, the men of the village piled into their company bus and made their way down the mountain after a long day’s work.The narrow road was slick with ice and the experienced driver had to navigate carefully. To the left stood the towering, jagged rocks, and to the right lay the edge of a sheer cliff.
 
Suddenly, as they came around a bend, the men could see just ahead the figure of a little boy, sitting in the middle of the road playing with a toy. The driver had only a split second to make a decision. If he swerved, he would either crash into the mountain wall or plunge off the cliff, potentially killing all of his passengers. If he continued forward, he would surely kill the little boy.
 
He braked as hard as he could and kept the bus in the middle of the road. After the bus stopped a few hundred feet beyond the crumpled body, the driver leapt out. He picked up the lifeless form, buried his head in the boy’s coat, and wept. 
It was his own little boy.
 
When the Apostle James searches inspired history for a biblical example of faith in action—faith and obedience that defy reason—it’s no wonder he goes back to that unforgettable story in Genesis 22 where Abraham offers his son Isaac as a sacrifice.
 
This was the son God had promised him for more than twenty years. This was the son who was supposed to father many nations. And now God was asking Abraham to give him away.
    
Would Abraham argue, “What about your promises? What about the fact that I waited so long to have this son? How can you ask such a sacrifice?”
 
Instead, Abraham climbed up Mount Moriah with his son and prepared the altar. 
 
Fifty years of faith and growth had paid off, and Abraham was ready for the test of his life. He believed God would fulfill His promise. Even after death, he believed God would resurrect his son Isaac in order to keep His promise.  
 
Abraham believed that God would keep His word. 
 
This is the kind of faith that the world can’t help but notice. It’s what we could call dynamic faith. It trusts entirely in God’s character, regardless of circumstances:
• Dead faith never walks up the mountain—it never makes an altar of anything in life. 
• Demonic faith knows that God will keep His promises, but it refuses to personally bow before His altar. 
• Dynamic faith walks up the mountain, builds an altar, and prepares to kneel before a sovereign Lord, no matter what the sacrifice.
 
James says this kind of faith justifies us before men. While we aren’t saved by making sacrifices, our submission and obedience to Christ proves to the world that we have the genuine item. Our faith is real.
Follow in Abraham’s footsteps up a mountain today . . . prepare to build an altar somewhere along the way.
 
Prayer Point: What has God asked you to place on the altar of your life? A job? A hobby? A relationship? A dream? Place it in His hands today . . . and leave it there.
 
Extra Refreshment: Read how the story of Abraham and Isaac concludes in Genesis 22.
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Post  Admin on Wed 01 Jan 2014, 8:10 pm

The Devil’s Theology
James 2:19
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
 
Has it ever occurred to you that demons are good theologians? Think about it:
 
• Demons don’t debate who created the universe. They were there, singing praise to God with the rest of creation (Job 38; Colossians 1).  
• Demons don’t question the historicity of the Resurrection. They were there to witness the scene!
• Demons don’t question if the Bible has recorded the truth. In fact, they evidently know biblical prophecy so well that they asked Christ in Mark 5, “Have you come to torment us before our time?”
• Demons don’t debate that Christ is the Son of God. In Mark 3, we hear them affirm that, loud and clear.  
 
So demons can check off all the theological boxes with perfect precision. They would beat our best theologians in a game of Bible Trivia. They know all the facts; but that’s all it is to them—facts.
 
You see, demonic faith is recognition without relationship; it’s acknowledgement without acceptance; it’s reverence without repentance.
 
James is, effectively, asking his readers the probing question, “What distinguishes your faith from that of demons?”  
 
There must have been a lot of fidgeting in the pews when these words were read. Remember that James’ audience is primarily made up of committed Jews—not half-hearted Gentiles. These Jews prayed a prayer every morning and evening known as the Shema: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
 
This affirmation of monotheism is what separated them from their polytheistic and pluralistic Gentile neighbors. It was their creed: they believed that only one true God existed, and that fact would guarantee them a place in Paradise.  
 
But James only quotes half of the Shema. The second half included: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
 
So what James is revealing to his audience is that there is a difference between recognizing the facts about God’s existence and actually loving Him.  It’s possible to affirm His existence without giving Him your existence.
 
It’s time for us to come to grips with James’ message and start practicing what we are preaching! Stop mentally checking off the boxes of basic truths regarding Christianity, and pursue the person of Jesus Christ in a living, personal way.
 
 There is a difference between carrying your cross as a Christian and wearing one around your neck. 
What will your response to the Gospel be today?
 
Demons believe and shudder. They believe and have an emotional reaction!  But they don’t get past facts and feelings.
 
Will you believe and act? Don’t heed the popular voices of culture and mainstream Christianity. Martin Luther, the Reformer, said in the sixteenth century, “The devil knows the truth, but he remains the devil.”
Good theology isn’t just believing facts; it’s about following Jesus Christ personally . . . and then behaving accordingly.    
 
Prayer Point: Is there a bit of “demonic” faith in your life? Is there some aspect of truth you believe but aren’t practicing? Confess it to Christ today and then pray for courage and conviction to change.
 
Extra Refreshment: In Revelation 3  Christ sends two different messages to two very different churches. One has “demonic” faith and the other has vibrant, active faith. As you read it, ask yourself where you fit in this chapter.
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Post  Admin on Tue 31 Dec 2013, 5:48 pm

Faith in Action
James 2:14
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? 
 
The State of Massachusetts faced a unique and rather agonizing court case involving the family of a man who drowned and another man who refused to save him.
 
According to court evidence, the deceased and his friends had been at the lake for the afternoon when he accidentally tripped on a rope, lost his balance, and fell off the dock into the water. He couldn’t swim.
He surfaced, flailing his arms wildly as he sputtered and cried for help. He did this a few more times before finally sinking beneath the lake’s surface.
 
His friends were standing on the adjacent dock and saw what was happening, but they couldn’t get there fast enough to save him. When they pulled him onshore, he couldn’t be revived... it was too late.
 
Their grief and anguish was compounded by the fact that, just a few yards from where their friend had fallen, a man was sunbathing in his beach chair. Even though he had heard the splash and the cries for help, and even though it would later be proven that he was an excellent swimmer, he had chosen not to go to the man’s rescue. 
 
When the dead man’s family heard this news, they were beside themselves with anger. They took the apathetic sunbather to court to sue him for negligence. The case went all the way to the State Supreme Court, where strong arguments were made on both sides.
 
The court’s decision was rendered, and the grieving family lost their case.
 
It was decided that the young man on the dock had no legal responsibility to try to save the drowning man’s life. He had the right to choose whether or not to help.
 
We are living in a time when passivity can be defended, even if it means the death of another human being.  
Jesus Christ said, “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” (Matthew 5:16).
 
Christianity is not merely the Gospel of words... it is the Gospel of works! So what work can you do today that will reflect the light of Christ’s Gospel to a dark, self-absorbed, passively uncaring-for-others world?
 
Maybe a waitress who receives small tips on Sundays from families coming directly from church needs to see that Christians do care. Will you give her a large tip for God’s glory?
 
Perhaps a friend is going through a crisis right now and is in need of a listening ear. Call him or visit, and simply sit and listen, praying for him before the conversation ends.
 
Your co-workers may need to stop hearing you complain about your boss and your income and your hours and your bills and, instead, see you working hard—and with a good attitude.  
 
If the world wants to determine what authentic Christianity is, they won’t examine your faith—they don’t know how—but they will examine your life. 
 
Heed the inspired words of the Apostle James: get involved in the lives of people. It demonstrates your faith in Jesus Christ, the One who came to get involved and save people for His Father’s glory.  
 
The lake is there... don’t just sit on the beach! 
 
Prayer Point: Yesterday I encouraged you to pray for God to reveal how you can use your gifts in ministry.  Did you figure out some way you can get involved?  Thank Him for the opportunity and pray for insight to determine other opportunities around you today.  Be prepared to get out of your seat.
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Acts 17 and notice how Paul turns a normal, everyday situation into an incredible witnessing opportunity.
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Post  Admin on Tue 31 Dec 2013, 5:47 pm

Don’t Be a Snob
James 2:1
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.
 
Jesus Christ was anything but a snob. He never walked around with His nose in the air, reminding everyone that He was somebody special. He, of all people, could have.
 
He treated the Samaritan woman at the well as kindly as He treated noble Nicodemus. He was as gracious to a beggar and a prostitute as he was to Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue.
 
James writes, Act like Jesus Christ; think like He thought; live as He lived; treat others as He treated them.
Don’t miss the fact that Christ turned conventional wisdom upside down.  The world says, “Treat people like they treat you.”  Our Lord—repeated by James in our text—challenged us to live with an entirely different attitude.
 
An article from Johns Hopkins University Press highlighted the writing of Hesiod, a poet who lived 700 years before Christ, in which he wrote these words, “Love those who love you and help those who help you. Give to those who give to you and never to those who do not.”
 
And the world would say amen to that!
 
Living by that standard would be easy.  It comes naturally to us. But Jesus preached and modeled a different message—a holy perspective—when He said, “Do unto others as you would like for them to do to you, even if they don’t return the favor” (Matthew 7:12 Amplified Bible).
 
James is writing his epistle only a few months after the great revival in Jerusalem took place.  The Spirit of God had descended, the Gospel had been preached, and 3,000 people had placed their faith in the resurrected Christ (Acts 2).  The Church was born.  But it wasn’t long before the infant church had become a playground of prejudiced people who had divided into races, treating Jewish widows better and with more care and provision than Gentile widows (Acts 6).
 
James delivered an emphatic message to this congregation and every other assembly of believers who would read his letter: Stop it! The heart of God doesn’t play favorites among His chosen.
 
The Apostle Paul would echo, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).  
 
In other words, as it relates to the Gospel, God doesn’t play favorites.  The ground at the foot of the cross is level.
 
That’s a message the twenty-first century Church needs as much as the first-century Church. We still come to church carrying the baggage of our former lives. There is division among believers between Hispanics and Blacks, Whites and Blacks, Japanese and Chinese, blue-collar and white-collar workers, married and single people, parents and those who are  childless, the elderly and the young.
 
There’s not much movement across the aisle.
 
James commands that this attitude not define the life of the growing disciple. Don’t fall back into the classism and racism that defined your former life. Don’t follow Hesiod’s natural rule—follow Christ’s Golden Rule. 
 
The cure for prejudice, partiality, and favoritism is the heart of Christ. Let’s draw near to Him today and learn from Him.  It will help, for starters, to remember how far He condescended in order to love us.
 
Let’s do the same to everyone around us . . . don’t be a snob.
 
Prayer Point: Who are you struggling to accept? Pray for God to give you His heart and His condescending grace, so you treat them with love . . . perhaps even serving them with grace.
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Jesus’ profound words in Matthew 5:1-25 where He describes the radical way in which Christians are to love and treat both friends and enemies.
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Post  Admin on Fri 27 Dec 2013, 8:09 pm

Availability 
James 2:5–6
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
 
This wonderful text of Scripture makes me think of Charles Spurgeon, the well-known nineteenth-century English pastor. He was raised for a period of time by his grandparents because his own parents were too poor to adequately care for him. Spurgeon’s father was what we would call today a bi-vocational pastor, holding both a pastoral position while at the same time working another job to make a living.  Spurgeon’s grandfather had also been a pastor.
 
Charles never received a college education but was trained in the common manner of village children.  The exception to his early training was his godly grandmother who gave him a penny for every hymn text he memorized. This explains why Spurgeon’s sermons are sprinkled with lyrics from many hymns.
 
At seventeen years of age, though uneducated and untrained theologically, he began preaching to a handful of villagers meeting in a makeshift barn. Within two years, his congregation grew to 400 people.
 
When he was nineteen, Spurgeon received a surprise invitation to preach in London at the prestigious New Park Street Chapel. Once a great church that seated 1,000 people, less than 100 attended at the time.
When he arrived, he was like a fish out of water. A teenage girl in the congregation later recalled how Spurgeon’s appearance was distracting, if not comical. She wrote that he had “badly trimmed hair, an oversized black satin coat, and a blue handkerchief with white spots in his coat pocket.” This girl would one day become his wife!
 
In spite of his backward appearance, however, Spurgeon’s message moved the hearts of his listeners. He was asked to return to the chapel as their pastor, and he accepted. Within a few years of ministry, he found himself preaching to 5,000 people every Sunday morning.
 
James reminds us in this text that God delights to use seemingly insignificant people to accomplish eternally significant things. 
 
This makes sense when we consider that Christ Himself was considered a rather insignificant man: born in a stable, raised in a poor carpenter’s home, physically unattractive (Isaiah 53:2), and from the obscure village of Nazareth.  Jesus was a poor man by worldly standards.
 
But through the testimony of His life and the lives of His followers, we learn anew that man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). 
 
It doesn’t matter where you grew up or who your family is. It doesn’t matter how attractive, wealthy, strong, or gifted you are. God doesn’t depend on your ability . . . He only asks for availability and then, through you, works His purposes.
 
James writes that God most often chooses the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of His coming kingdom.  
 
Let’s imitate the young boy who, instead of looking at the impossible size of the crowd, offered to Jesus five loaves and two fish, then left it up to Jesus to determine the breadth and scope of his simple offering.
Give the Savior whatever you have . . . you might be amazed at what He chooses to do with it.
 
Prayer Point: What can you offer Christ today? Whatever it is, pray for humility and strength to offer it for His glory. The opportunities are there; ask for the Lord’s help to see them . . . then take the initiative and act!
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1 (especially the end of the chapter) where he reminds us that God uses small people for great ministry.
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Post  Admin on Tue 24 Dec 2013, 2:02 pm

Stooping to Get the Best
 
James 1:22  
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
 
Chad Walsh, an American poet and theologian of the early 1900s, wrote with prophetic precision these words:
 
Millions of Christians live in a sentimental haze of vague piety with soft organ music trembling in the light of stained glass windows. Their religion is a pleasant thing, demanding little more than lip service to a few harmless platitudes; it is much safer from Satan’s point of view to vaccinate a person with a mild case of Christianity so as to protect him from the real disease.
 
Part of Satan’s strategy is not so much to try to get the believer to discard the Bible but, rather, to disregard it.
 
A visitor at church once emailed the complaint that I took the Bible way too seriously.  At the heart of this criticism was the obvious message that she really had no desire to practice what she heard preached—she would rather change the message than herself. 
 
God never intended the application of biblical truth to be optional. The practice of godliness isn’t a hobby that we do in our spare time. It’s a lifestyle.
 
The immature believer wants whatever he learns at church to stay at church. He wants whatever he reads in the Bible to stay tucked inside the Bible. Immaturity says, “I’ll do what I’m supposed to do but not one thing more.” Maturity, however, says, “What can I apply from Scripture and how can I live it more faithfully?”
 
James wants us to become servants of God who don’t just put in time but who give everything we have to please the Lord and reflect His character in our lives.  The next verse adds that those who apply the Scripture find true blessing from God. F.B. Meyer, British pastor and commentator, wrote about this text in James:
 
I used to think God’s blessings were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in character the easier we could reach them. I now find that God’s gifts are on the shelves one beneath the other, and it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower. We have to go down, always down, to get His best gifts.
 
This is at the core of spiritual growth . . . we prove our subservience to the Word.  We stoop in servitude to the truth of Scripture.  When and if we do, we find our faith grows stronger and our walk with Christ, sweeter.  
 
Robert Chapman, a British pastor and contemporary of Meyer, was asked by a missionary what principle he might advise for the missionary to remain faithful in his work and intimate in his walk with Christ as he was heading for the mission field.  Chapman told him in simple terms: “Keep low, look up, and press forward.” 
In other words, stay humble; stay focused on Christ;  press forward in serving Him. Don’t be content with just listening to Scripture—respond in humility to it.  You are actually responding to its Author, Jesus Christ, with whom your walk will be enriched and encouraged. 
 
So take it seriously—which means you won’t be satisfied with simply listening to it . . . you’ll grow in your passion to live it!    
 
Prayer Point: Have you heard but haven’t been willing to heed it?  Have you learned but haven’t begun to live it?  Pray to your Heavenly Father that He will empower you to stoop to the Scriptures. Stoop in surrender to the Spirit as you live out the truth of Scripture today.
 
Extra Refreshment: 2 Kings 22–23 is a powerful Old Testament story about a young king who reads God’s Law for the first time. Upon reading it, he shows us what it means to be a doer of the word and not a hearer only.

It’s in My Genes
James 1:13-14   
 
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
 
A group of Swedish researchers surprised the scientific community when they published their findings that sexual immorality is genetically influenced. They had isolated a gene which they believed influenced a man to cheat on his wife.
 
They nicknamed it the “sin gene,” and it came to serve as alleged proof that people were helplessly wired for sin. One of the researchers said, “These findings shed light on the fact that all of our behaviors are influenced by nature.”
 
What he means is that any idea of sinful behavior should be discarded in favor of an understanding of the evolutionary process. In other words, sin isn’t really our fault—we can’t help it. It’s simply part of our genetic structure. 
 
So a criminal can say (and many do) that the reason they committed their crime was because of the neighborhood they grew up in or because of a dysfunctional family or because of a lack of education or because of the media or because of social injustice, ad infinitum.  
 
In other words, prisons aren’t filled with villains . . . they’re filled with victims! 
 
Christians can play the blame game, too.  Like our first parents Adam and Eve, we find it easy to point fingers of blame at others. What’s worse, we sometimes point our finger at God.
 
How many times do we rationalize our sin? How often do we entertain the thought,  Well, God, if You had given me a better job, I wouldn’t be so greedy; if You had intervened a little earlier, I wouldn’t have become so angry; if You had just changed my heredity (or my environment, my education, my income, my geography, my alma mater—you fill in the blank), I wouldn’t be in the fix I’m in . . . I’d be a better person!
 
James reminds us that it is our nature to play the blame game. We are, indeed, hard-wired to blame someone else for our sinful behavior.  One moment we’re blessing God for His goodness and the next, we’re blaming Him for our sin.
 
Let’s face it: we’re going to run into temptation sometime during the next 24 hours. We’re going to be confronted by several thousand commercials from billboards, newspapers, magazines, radio, television, internet, family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors . . . and somewhere along the way, we’re going to be tempted to want what they’re offering. 
 
This is why James doesn’t say, “If you happen to be tempted, here’s what to do.” No. James says, “When you are tempted—because every Christian is—here’s how you’d better think if you want to pass the test.”
 
Keep in mind that passing the test has nothing to do with perfection—it has to do with confession.  So reject sin, and when you fail . . . repent, confess, and keep moving forward.
 
Spiritual maturity is measured not so much by how often you sin, but by how quickly you repent.  It has a lot to do with refusing to play the victim—so put fingerpointing away . . . for good.  
 
Prayer Point: After sinning with Bathsheba, David prayed, Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. He understood that we can’t fight against temptation until we desire righteousness more than we desire sin. So pray today for God to renew your hunger for purity, humility, and love, just as David did.
 
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalms 32  where David confesses his sins of murder and adultery to God. He doesn’t shift blame. He doesn’t point fingers. He just confesses. And you can’t help but notice how much joy it brings him in the end.
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Post  Admin on Fri 20 Dec 2013, 11:28 pm

Lord, Kill the Spider!
James 1:21
Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted.

The Apostle Paul echoes James’ warning to the Ephesians when he writes:

n reference to your former manner of life, lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:22–24).

To the Colossians he also writes:

ut them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self (Colossians 3:8–9).

Both James and Paul never hesitate to call sin what it is. They don’t beat around the bush and pat any of us on the back and say, “Well, you’re only human.”

Instead, they warn us to put aside the old self, which is described as filthiness. The root word for filthiness in James 1:21 is a word the Greeks used to refer to wax in the ears, which hindered a person from hearing clearly. The Christian who is keeping sin hidden in his life is unable to clearly hear the Word of God. He, effectively, has wax in his ears.

James also refers to wickedness, which describes moral corruption, and he warns us to get rid of it.
He doesn’t mean that we are going to fully rid ourselves of all that is sinful and achieve some level of perfection. Rather, we should be constantly cutting back the sin that continually grows up around us. Like weeds in a garden, sin will grow back and strangle our intimacy with Christ if we aren’t using the Word of God to root it out.

According to James, one of the marks of spiritual maturity is an aversion to sin that actually leads us to do something about it.

Greek scholar Spiros Zodhiates told of a Christian who attended prayer meeting every week at his little church, and every week he would confess the same sins, closing with the same prayer: “O Lord, the cobwebs have come between You and me; please clear them away.” Finally an older Christian grew tired of hearing the same thing week in and week out, so he prayed immediately afterwards, “Lord, would you have him kill the spider?!”

This is exactly what James is telling us to do. Deal with sin. Don’t expect to allow a spider to roam free in your mind and not become entangled in the web it weaves.

Whatever analogy says it best, do something about it today: get rid of the wax in your ears, the weeds in your heart, and the spiders in your mind.

Growing old in the faith is not nearly as rewarding as growing up in the faith. And those who are growing up will clear away the cobwebs . . . and kill the spider!

Prayer Point: How did you do yesterday in regards to temptation? Did you choose to host a little spider or did you choose to kill it? Make it your prayer and ambition today to root out the smallest weed of sin. Choose today to love Christ with all your mind, heart, and strength.

Extra Refreshment: Read Ephesians 5 and listen to Paul’s warning to Christians who choose to accommodate and practice sin.
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Post  Admin on Thu 19 Dec 2013, 10:47 pm

God’s Gift to Us (Part 1)
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. —John 3:17
When you’re a child, Christmas is all about receiving gifts. In December, your head is swimming with nothing but images of your favorite toys.
But the true message of Christmas is not the presents we give to one another. The true meaning is the gift that God gave to us, His Son Jesus Christ.
During the next two days, I want to point out to you three things about the gift God gave to us in that tiny manger in Bethlehem.
The first thing we want to realize about God’s gift to us is that it came in simple wrapping. Some people will go to great lengths to wrap presents beautifully. But God’sgift came to us not in beautiful, ornate wrapping, but in a dirty manger found in a cold cave in a little-known town called Bethlehem.
That’s the beauty of the Christmas event. Jesus took His place in a manger so that we might have a home in heaven. The Savior was not wrapped in satin sheets, but in common rags. There in a manger rested the greatest gift in the plainest of wrapping.
The second thing I want to point out about God’s gift to us is that we don’t deserve it. Consider this: God gave us the ultimate gift of His Son Jesus Christ while we were still sinning against Him (see Romans 5:8).
We did nothing whatsoever to merit or deserve His gift. That is the amazing truth of Christmas. Despite who we are, God sent His Son so “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
With Christmas just days away, begin to prepare your heart for the celebration of the birth of our Savior. Meditate on the fact that Jesus was born to die so that we might live.
Copyright © 2011 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.
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Post  Admin on Wed 18 Dec 2013, 5:49 pm

What’s in an Introduction?
James 1:1
To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

Hudson Taylor was used mightily by our Lord in taking the Gospel to the Chinese mainland in the 1800s. He was a quiet, unassuming man who had served God faithfully for fifty years.

At one point during his ministry, he was invited to speak at a large church in Australia. Upon arriving, he found the church so packed with people that many had to stand in the back. The moderator introduced the elderly missionary pioneer statesman with eloquent descriptions as he praised the mighty ccomplishments of Hudson Taylor. He ended his introduction by referring to Taylor as “our illustrious guest.”

Mr. Taylor approached the pulpit and then stood quietly for a moment before responding with these words: “Dear friends, I am the servant of an illustrious Master.”

This is the kind of humility the Apostle James expresses in the opening lines of his epistle. James could have introduced himself to his readers as “James, the Lord’s half-brother” or “James, the chairman of the Jerusalem Council,” or “James, the pastor of the world’s largest congregation”!

All of those things were true. Instead, he introduces himself as “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

James effectively says, “You wanna know what my highest privilege in life is? I am the servant of a most illustrious God!”

This proclamation becomes even more revealing when we look at the word James uses for bond-servant. It is the Greek word doulos, which literally means slave. The verb form of the word means to bind, so James here is literally boasting in the fact that he is bound to Christ.

This is an incredible declaration when you consider the fact that, for years, James had eaten at the same table, shared the same home, and attended the same synagogue school as Jesus. He had grown up with Him!

He witnessed the development of his amazing older Brother who, by the way, never seemed to do anything wrong.

This had all been lost on James for so long. Frankly, he could have lived the rest of his life in bitter regret. But the truth of Christ’s resurrection changed everything . . . Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be. And that same truth has changed your life, as well.

James’ introduction at the beginning of his letter reveals the radical transformation that had taken place in his heart upon believing the Gospel bound up in his Half-Brother. He had spent years of his life scoffing at Jesus for His incredible claims; now he is bowing before Him in complete submission. What a transformation!

When people hear your name, do they think of you as a man or woman who is totally committed to Christ? Do you describe yourself based on your spiritual, physical, or financial achievements—or on your relationship to the Savior?

How would you like to be known: as an illustrious Christian . . . or as a slave to an illustrious Christ?

Prayer Point: Consider some of the blessings God has given you; remember what He saved you from and has forgiven you for over the years. Remembrance leads to worship; worship leads to true humility.

Extra Refreshment: Read the Apostle Paul’s personal introduction in Philippians 3. Like James, he reminds us to boast in Christ rather than our selves.


Choosing Your Response
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. - James 1:2–4

Speaking from his experience as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, Dr. Viktor Frankl made the profound statement, “Everything can be taken from a human being but one thing: the freedom to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstance.”

James would agree. In fact, he unapologetically challenges our attitude during difficult days and makes the rather startling announcement that we actually choose the perspective of joy. The word for joy refers to a settled acceptance. It isn’t the joy of happy times, balloons, and butterflies. It’s deeper—faith-anchored . . . spirit-surrendered acceptance of trials.

Put another way: you can’t choose your crosses . . . but you can choose your responses.

I can’t think of a better illustration than Old Testament patriarch Joseph. By the world’s reckoning, he had every reason to grow bitter and angry, living with a constant grudge because of the injustice of his brothers. They had taken him away from his father and sold him into slavery; he was falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison.

But when he was finally released from prison two years later, he wasn’t glaring at the guards or cursing God. Instead, we see him in Genesis 41 emerge with greater faith and humility. How? He believed that God had orchestrated everything according to His plan. He wasn’t able to choose his cross, but he could choose his response.

Howard Hendricks illustrated this in a story of his losing a game of checkers to a veteran champion:

The game started out well for him. After a few moves, his opponent put one of his checkers in the line of fire and said, “Jump me.” Hendricks did, scooping the piece triumphantly off the board. A few moves later, the same thing happened again. Hendricks happily took another piece from his opponent. But then the table was turned. The old man picked up one of his checkers and skipped down the board, jumping four of Hendricks’ pieces at one time, and said, “Crown me!” That was the beginning of the end for Hendricks.

After telling this story, Dr. Hendricks went on to say that no good checker player minds losing an occasional piece—and he can do it with joy—so long as he knows he’s heading for a crown.

Likewise, we can choose the perspective of joy as we lose earthly things, clinging to the promise of our future which will include glorious things. No matter what you’re going through today, will you choose to respond with joy, acceptance, and trust?

Trials are here on purpose for a purpose . . . and there’s a crown just ahead.

Prayer Point: In what way are you suffering today? Remember that Christ understands what it is to suffer, as well. He knows the pain of rejection, persecution, misunderstanding, injustice and, even, death. So as you cast your cares upon Him today, remember to thank Him for being able and willing to bear your burdens as He shepherds you along His chosen path.

Extra Refreshment: Read the reminder in 1 Peter 2 how Christ set the ultimate example for us in His own time of trial.
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Post  Admin on Sat 14 Dec 2013, 11:34 am

You're on Candid Camera!
Ephesians 4:30
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
I received an unwanted surprise in the mail not long ago. At first I didn't understand why someone was sending me pictures of my Ford F-150, but it suddenly dawned on me that I had received a notice from the Cary Police Department.
My beloved town had installed cameras at key intersections that were designed to take photographs of drivers in the act of running red lights. 
Doesn't technology just warm your heart?
It seems that I was one of those drivers . . . and I was looking at the proof!  There were three photographs of my truck: the first, in the left turn lane; the second, in the middle of the intersection with the traffic signal above; the third [and the clincher], a close-up of my license plate—POIMENAS.
POIMENAS is the Greek word for shepherds, which is the same word translated pastor in the plural form. When I first got that special license plate, my wife told me she was glad it was in Greek because of the way I drive! 
I didn't think that was funny.
The uniqueness of my license plate didn't help my cause any; there was no denying that this black Ford F-150 bearing a license plate with a foreign language definitely belonged to me. The town of Cary instructed me to send 50 dollars by mail or else face further civil action. In the face of such clear evidence, I immediately forked over the money.
I have to admit though it was really odd seeing pictures of me driving through an intersection while overhead [shown clearly in the photograph] the light was as red as Rudolph's nose.
Frankly, I was embarrassed by the whole thing. I had broken the law and someone else had seen me do it. It wasn't a very good feeling—especially for a shepherd.
But that got me thinking: what if we were to go to our mailbox tomorrow and find a surprise letter filled with snapshots of all the things we had done the day before, including facial expressions and captions of the words we had spoken. I wonder how many of the photographs would bring us embarrassment or chagrin.
The Apostle Paul encourages us not to "grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom we have been sealed for the day of redemption." 
The truth is, wherever we go we take God's Spirit with us. Whatever we say in private, He hears. Whatever thoughts we think that no one else can see, He sees. I imagine we must grieve Him often.
Unfortunately, we don't have the motivation to stop sinning because we see our sin caught on camera. Frankly, there aren't cameras powerful enough to capture the gossip, pride, and rebellion that can escape our lips and occupy our hearts every day. But God sees it all . . . and it grieves His heart.
So, let's start today by praying that God will open our eyes to see what He sees and give our hearts a sensitivity to even the smallest transgression that might otherwise slip by unnoticed. 
Maybe it's not such a bad idea to pretend there's a camera following us . . . or should I say dwelling inside us!
Prayer Point: As you begin or end this day in God's Word, pray for God to give you an awareness of His abiding presence with you. Then pray as the Psalmist often prayed for God to give you clean hands and a pure heart.
Extra Refreshment: Psalms 139, taking special note of verses 22-24, as David prays for God to reveal those sins in his heart which he is not able to see.
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Post  Admin on Thu 12 Dec 2013, 9:23 pm

The Signature That Saves
Psalms 32:1
How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!
The late Harry Allen Ironside, former pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, Bible teacher, and prolific author, used to tell the story of a young Russian soldier. Because his father was a friend of Czar Nicholas I, the young man had been made paymaster in one of the barracks. He meant well, but his character was not up to his responsibility and he began gambling, eventually losing a great deal of the government's money and all his own.
In due course the young man received notice that a representative of the czar was coming to check the accounts. That evening he took out the books and totaled up the funds he owed, then went to the safe and retrieved his own pitifully small amount of money. As he sat looking at the books and money, he was overwhelmed at the astronomical debt versus his own small store. He was ruined! Disgrace was certain; prison was looming!
The only solution was to take his life. He pulled out his revolver, placed it on the table before him, and wrote a summation of his misdeeds. At the bottom of the ledger where he had totaled up his illegal borrowings, he wrote, "A great debt! Who can pay?" He decided that at the stroke of midnight the deed would be accomplished—he would end it all.
As the evening wore on the distraught young man grew drowsy and fell asleep. It was during this time that Czar Nicholas I, as was sometimes his custom, made the rounds of the barracks. Seeing a light, he stopped, went in, and saw the young man asleep. He recognized him immediately and, looking over his shoulder, saw the ledger and realized all that had taken place.
He was about to awaken him and put him under arrest when his eye was fastened on the young man's message: "A great debt! Who can pay?" Suddenly, in a surge of magnanimity, he bent over, wrote one word at the bottom of the ledger, and slipped out.
When the soldier awoke, he glanced at the clock and saw that it was long after the midnight hour. He reached for his revolver, but his eye fell upon the ledger and he saw something that he had not seen earlier. There beneath the exclamation that he had written—"A great debt! Who can pay?"—was a single signature: Nicholas.
He was dumbfounded! It was the czar's own signature. He thought to himself, "The czar must have come when I was asleep. He has seen the book! He knows all! Still he is willing to forgive me!" The young soldier then rested on the word of the czar, and the next morning a messenger came from the palace with exactly the amount needed to meet the deficit. Only the czar could pay . . . and he did.
What a great reminder of what Christ has done for us. Beneath the words, "A great debt! Who can pay?" there has been written a single signature: Jesus.
Only Christ could pay for our sins . . . and He did!
Prayer Point: The Psalmist says that you are blessed because your sin is now covered by Christ's blood. Thank Him for paying that enormous debt for you.
Extra Refreshment: Read Ephesians 2.


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Post  Admin on Wed 11 Dec 2013, 9:02 pm

Dry Bones
Ecclesiastes 12:13
The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, for this applies to every person.
In his book Bones of Contention [the leading creationist work in fossil study], Professor Marvin Lubenow tells the story of Sir Arthur Keith, one of the greatest anatomists of the twentieth century.
Arthur Keith [1866-1955] was a Scottish anatomist and anthropologist who became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. In 1908 Keith heard that bones had been found just forty miles from downtown London. After inspecting the bones himself, he considered them a monumental discovery. It was soon announced by the Geological Society of London that these were the remains of the earliest known Englishman, Eoanthropus dawsoni—otherwise known as the "Piltdown Man."
The bones quickly became the darling of the scientific culture and the personal obsession of Sir Arthur Keith. To him they were the validation of his evolutionary beliefs.
Over the course of his lifetime, Keith would write more on the subject of the Piltdown Man than anyone else. His most famous work, The Antiquity of Man, used the bones of the Piltdown Man to explain our human origins.
In 1953, however, science caught up with speculation, and the British Museum proclaimed the entire discovery a fraud. Their investigation undeniably shattered the myth of the bones as a missing link to prehistoric man.
The Piltdown Man was actually nothing more than the tampered-with remains from a human corpse. The bones had been treated with iron salts to make them appear old. Careful observations through microscopic lenses revealed scratch marks on the surface of the teeth—evidence that the teeth had been filed down to make them appear sharp.
Sir Arthur Keith was eighty-six years old when the fraud was discovered.
Some of his colleagues visited him at his home to break the difficult news to him. The bones which had captivated his entire adult life [his believing they were evidence that discounted creation] had themselves been discovered to be a hoax.
His life's work—the foundation upon which he had based his speculation—was now meaningless. And he found out at the end of his life!
One man in Scripture who experienced something similar was King Solomon. As an old man, he looked back over his accomplishments and achievements. All his wealth, chariots, horses, gardens, buildings, and wives were now meaningless. He realized the only thing that really mattered in life was to fear God and keep His commandments. Nothing else would bring purpose and satisfaction to life.
As a young man, Arthur Keith attended evangelistic meetings in Edinburgh and Aberdeen and watched students make their commitment to Jesus Christ. He even claimed that during a few of those meetings he felt "on the verge of conversion." Instead, he chose to reject the Gospel because he thought it contradicted the truths of science.
The tragedy of Sir Arthur Keith and Solomon is that they are not alone. Men and women all over the world live their lives every day for what they think will bring them pleasure.
No matter where you are today—rich or poor, single or married, old or young—learn from the lives of two men who failed to live for what mattered.
Follow the advice of an aged Solomon who learned late in life: obey God's Word and live a life that respects and trusts His leadership.
This kind of lifestyle will never be meaningless. In fact, it is the only life that produces satisfaction . . . both now and forever.
Prayer Point: Give this day to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to guide all your steps—even the ones that seem insignificant—so that in the end, you won't have to look over your shoulder with regret.
Extra Refreshment: Ecclesiastes 12.


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Post  Admin on Wed 11 Dec 2013, 12:13 am

Carrying the Cure
1 Peter 3:15
But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.
Moody Monthly published a heartbreaking story about an event that occurred in the life of one of Chicago's most well-known surgeons. Dr. Leo Winters was awakened one morning around one o'clock. There had been an accident and a young boy was in the hospital. Nurses there felt that he alone had the skill to save the boy's life.
Without any hesitation, Dr. Winters rushed out of bed, threw on his clothes, grabbed his keys, and ran to his car. As he made his way in downtown Chicago, he took a shortcut through a dangerous area known for its rough gangs. The risk was worth it to him, for he knew that only precious minutes stood between the injured boy and death.
But something happened. As he sat at a stoplight waiting for it to change, a man wearing an old flannel shirt and a gray hat suddenly rushed from the shadows. He opened the car door, grabbed the doctor and threw him out, screaming, "I've got to have your car."
Dr. Winters tried to plead his situation but the man was gone before he could utter two words. This was before the days of cell phones, and it took at least forty-five minutes to find a pay phone and call a taxi. By the time he arrived at the hospital, more than an hour had passed.
The nurses on the floor shook their heads and said, "You're too late, Dr. Winters; the boy died thirty minutes ago. You'll find the father down the hall in the chapel. He's awfully confused—he can't understand why you didn't come."
Without taking time to explain to the staff, Dr. Winters hurried down the hallway and opened the chapel door. There, sitting in the front row, was the crumpled form of the weeping father, wearing an old flannel shirt and clutching a gray hat. In his desperation to get to the hospital, he had pushed from the car the man who could have saved his son's life.
Do you want a picture of humanity? Here it is: rushing after life; racing after satisfaction and fulfillment; hungering for meaningful relationships and lasting commitments; hoping for peace and relief from guilt and sin—yet, at the same time, pushing away the only One capable of saving their lives.
But we must never give up on them. We must continue to rush through the cold, dark streets no matter what danger awaits us and try to reach them in time.
Will some people throw you out? Yes. Will some people refuse to listen to you? Yes. Will some people curse at you? Yes. But God's mercy is worth your greatest effort. We have been given the cure for the disease of sin, and we know the Divine Healer who offers that cure to all.
So make haste to reach everyone . . . while you can.
Prayer Point: Pray that God will give you a heart for people, and a desire to see lost and dying unbelievers come to faith in Christ Jesus. Then, pray for the strength to remain a gentle and loving witness, even to those who refuse you.
Extra Refreshment: Read Acts 3—one of the many accounts whereby the disciples boldly proclaim Christ to the unbelieving Israelites.
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Post  Admin on Mon 09 Dec 2013, 8:35 pm

The Last Laugh
Psalm 2:1-4
Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, "Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!" He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.
To oppose God is a foolish thing. The Psalmist says that God laughs from heaven as He watches corrupt humans doing their best to deflect His will. Even the best attempts seem to backfire against them, as God uses their own corruption to further His sovereign plan in the world.
Have you ever seen this happen? God turns something that was meant to oppose Him into something that is useful in spreading the gospel. According to David, God actually has a sense of humor, too, and He always gets the last laugh.
I remember viewing the funeral service of Richard Nixon. It was being broadcast all around the world. To my amazement, I watched as Billy Graham, the well-known evangelist, stepped up to the podium. He had been invited to be the keynote speaker of the service, much to the chagrin of many in the audience. The liberal media was literally roped in, forced into giving free airtime to this preacher as he delivered the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Millions of people throughout the world gathered around their television sets to watch the event unfold. Ungodly politicians cringed in their designated seats as Graham preached to them the gospel of sin and hell, forgiveness and heaven. And they couldn't go anywhere—they were literally stuck in God's trap! They could do nothing else but listen as Graham boldly called them all "sinners in need of the Lamb of God, who died on your behalf." His message was clear, and at the conclusion he gave everyone an opportunity to accept the claims of Jesus Christ and find forgiveness at the foot of His cross. The gospel was preached in the faces of those who despised it. I imagined the hosts of heaven laughing.
Atheistic Romania was once ruled by a man who, to the core of his being, hated Christ. Masses of Christians were persecuted throughout his regime as he continually blasphemed the name of God. However, just when he thought he had the upper hand on Christianity, God took his life. A short time later, seven graduates walked across a seminary platform in Arad, Romania. One of them was a pastor from Zalow, who had once been poisoned by the communist tyrant but had survived. He, along with former dentists, an engineer, and a newspaper editor, determined to spend the rest of their lives preaching the gospel to their countrymen. God laughed at the feeble attempts of that dead communist tyrant.
During the "Age of Enlightenment" in the 1700s, deism was sweeping Europe. In the midst of this development, Voltaire, the infamous French skeptic, proclaimed that within fifty years the Bible would be forgotten and Christianity would be a thing of the past.  He penned these words: "You have seen what one Jew did to create Christianity; I will show you what one Frenchman will do to destroy it."  Yet on his deathbed he screamed to his doctor, "I am abandoned by God and man!  I shall go to hell!"
Tragic . . . and no laughing matter.
Prayer Point: Joseph understood this truth well when he said to his brothers in Egypt: "What you meant for evil, God has meant for good." The same is true today. Thank God that He not only arranges the lives of believers to accomplish His work, but He also acts in the lives of unbelievers to accomplish His work.
Extra Refreshment: Read Genesis 50.
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Post  Admin on Sat 07 Dec 2013, 9:27 pm

Outside My Window
Luke 12:15
Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions."
G.W. Target wrote a short story in 1973 called "The Window." It illustrates powerfully the choice we all have of living for self or living for others:  
Two men were confined to a hospital room due to their illnesses. One man had to lie on his back at all times; the other had to sit up for one hour every day because of the accumulation of fluid in his lungs. His bed was next to the only window in the room.
Each day for one hour, he would describe to the man in the hospital bed what he saw out the window. The man in bed began to live for that hour; his roommate spoke of the beautiful lake down below, describing the fishermen and the results of their efforts. Another day he described the skyline of the city on the horizon and the busy lives of the people living there. Mountains in the distance, capped with snow were reported on other days.  And so the months and seasons passed with these two men.
Eventually, the man confined on his back began to resent the reports from the window. He was ashamed to admit it to himself, but it didn't seem fair that his roommate had a window by his bed. In time, this resentment turned to anger, and then bitterness. One night he was awakened by the coughing of the man next to him, desperately needing to clear his lungs. He looked over and saw him stretching to reach the call button for the nurse. It would have been easy to push his own call button, but he didn't. He chose to offer no help, and in a few moments the coughing ended. It was replaced with labored wheezing, and finally . . . silence.
A few hours later the nurse discovered that the patient by the window had died during the night. His body was removed from the room and the other man said quietly, "Since I am now alone in this room, may I have my bed moved where I can look out the window?"
The nurse agreed, and after the bed had been moved and he was alone in the room again, he summoned all his strength to pull himself up on his elbows. At last he would see all that awaited him outside  his window.
It was then that he made the discovery—  outside the window there was nothing except a brick wall.
Contentment is sometimes a difficult thing for a believer.  "Why does he have a better job . . . a nicer house . . . a closer family . . . ? "
Why does the other person always get the window seat?  Life just doesn't seem fair!
Romans 12:15 says to "rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep,"  meaning that contentment is not only being joyful in what you have been given—great or small—but being happy for others in what they have been given.
According to the words of Christ,  happiness is not found in our possessions . . . but in our perspective.
Prayer Point: Consider the needs God has met for you in the past week, and the ways He has blessed you beyond those needs. If you have been envious of others, confess it to Him; ask Him to give you the proper perspective on life to make you content in every circumstance.
Extra Refreshment: Read Luke 12:13-34.
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Post  Admin on Sat 07 Dec 2013, 1:01 am

Pull Up a Chair
John 17:3
"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
I read a gripping story of a godly old man whose days were coming to an end. A priest went to visit him in his hospital room and noticed an empty chair beside the man's bed. He asked, "Have you had a visitor?" The man replied, "No, I haven't had a visitor. But when I became a Christian as a youth, someone told me that praying was like talking to your very best friend. When I heard that, I decided to pull up an empty chair beside me every day and invite Christ to sit and talk with me. And I just finished my conversation with the Lord."
After the man passed away, his daughter wrote of her visit to the hospital room. She said of her father:
"He seemed content, so I left him for a few hours. When I returned, I knew that he had gone to be with the Lord. But the interesting thing was that his head was not resting on his pillow. His body had turned and his head was resting on the seat of an empty hair that had been pulled up close to his bed."
Isn't that a remarkable picture? We, who are weak and frail like this dying man, have been given the opportunity to rest our head on the loving, omnipotent breast of God. Death is only a continuation of the pursuit we begin in this life to know God. That is why prayer is a taste of heaven on earth. God, in His humility and love toward us, stepped down from His heavenly throne and seated Himself upon the chair of our heart where we can intimately and personally converse with Him.
George Macdonald, the Scottish pastor who had a profound impact on C. S. Lewis, illustrated this beautifully when he said:
"I used to play a game with my two children when they were young. I would clutch some pennies in my hand and allow them to pry open my fingers to get the coins. My children would sit in my lap and work feverishly to get the money. Once they captured the coins, they would scream with delight and jump down to treasure their prize. I loved having my youngsters laugh and play while sitting on my lap—the pennies were insignificant."
Macdonald went on to apply this truth:"While God, in His grace, does give good gifts to His children, He offers us more than that . . . He offers us Himself. Those who are merely satisfied with the trinkets in the Father's hands miss the best reward of prayer—the reward of communicating and communing with the God of the universe."
As we go to God in prayer, let's remember that the greatest thrill in praying to Him is not in seeing how He will answer our petitions, nor in discovering what trinkets He might be holding in His all-powerful hand. The greatest privilege is actually being able to have a conversation with God Himself!
Perhaps prayer will become a personal conversation . . . if you pull up an empty chair.
Prayer Point: Go ahead—pull up a chair beside you right now and tell God how grateful you are for His friendship. Spend a few moments talking with Him:  tell Him your struggles, your joys, your thoughts; ask Him your questions; thank Him for allowing you to have a conversation with Him, much less a personal relationship with the Lord of all the universe.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 17.
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Post  Admin on Wed 04 Dec 2013, 12:00 am

Pull Up a Chair
John 17:3
"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
I read a gripping story of a godly old man whose days were coming to an end. A priest went to visit him in his hospital room and noticed an empty chair beside the man's bed. He asked, "Have you had a visitor?" The man replied, "No, I haven't had a visitor. But when I became a Christian as a youth, someone told me that praying was like talking to your very best friend. When I heard that, I decided to pull up an empty chair beside me every day and invite Christ to sit and talk with me. And I just finished my conversation with the Lord."
After the man passed away, his daughter wrote of her visit to the hospital room. She said of her father:
"He seemed content, so I left him for a few hours. When I returned, I knew that he had gone to be with the Lord. But the interesting thing was that his head was not resting on his pillow. His body had turned and his head was resting on the seat of an empty hair that had been pulled up close to his bed."
Isn't that a remarkable picture? We, who are weak and frail like this dying man, have been given the opportunity to rest our head on the loving, omnipotent breast of God. Death is only a continuation of the pursuit we begin in this life to know God. That is why prayer is a taste of heaven on earth. God, in His humility and love toward us, stepped down from His heavenly throne and seated Himself upon the chair of our heart where we can intimately and personally converse with Him.
George Macdonald, the Scottish pastor who had a profound impact on C. S. Lewis, illustrated this beautifully when he said:  
"I used to play a game with my two children when they were young. I would clutch some pennies in my hand and allow them to pry open my fingers to get the coins. My children would sit in my lap and work feverishly to get the money. Once they captured the coins, they would scream with delight and jump down to treasure their prize. I loved having my youngsters laugh and play while sitting on my lap—the pennies were insignificant."
Macdonald went on to apply this truth: "While God, in His grace, does give good gifts to His children, He offers us more than that . . . He offers us Himself. Those who are merely satisfied with the trinkets in the Father's hands miss the best reward of prayer—the reward of communicating and communing with the God of the universe."
As we go to God in prayer, let's remember that the greatest thrill in praying to Him is not in seeing how He will answer our petitions, nor in discovering what trinkets He might be holding in His all-powerful hand. The greatest privilege is actually being able to have a conversation with God Himself!
Perhaps prayer will become a personal conversation . . . if you pull up an empty chair.
Prayer Point: Go ahead—pull up a chair beside you right now and tell God how grateful you are for His friendship. Spend a few moments talking with Him:  tell Him your struggles, your joys, your thoughts; ask Him your questions; thank Him for allowing you to have a conversation with Him, much less a personal relationship with the Lord of all the universe.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 17
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Post  Admin on Tue 03 Dec 2013, 12:12 am

Drawing from the Right Well
Jeremiah 2:13
For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
If religion is a broken cistern—a shattered reservoir that can't hold water—why do so many people try to drink from it? First Samuel 16:7 answers, "Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart." That is, man runs to religion because it makes him look and feel better.
The heart is passionate about creating appearances, like a quartz that masquerades as a diamond, or "fools gold" which has false value. It gives people the impression that they are good, while veiling their inner evil.
Religion is the greatest impostor the world has ever known.
Imagine stumbling into a run-down farmyard: windswept, barren, and nothing more than hard, dry ground. But there is a well, with a wooden platform and a rusty old pump. You are dying of thirst and step onto the platform, anxiously beginning to pump the handle. It squeaks and complains with every push and pull. After five minutes—nothing but air. After fifteen minutes of sweating, coaxing,  pleading, there is still nothing . . . the well is dry. 
Let me tell you what the institution of religion has done: It has scraped all the rust off the pump handle and painted it bright red. Better yet, it has replaced the old handle with a shiny brass one which gleams brilliantly as the sun strikes it. Flowers have been planted around the well and a pleasant path has been marked out through the farmyard so people can come from all around. People do indeed come; they gaze; they marvel; they rhapsodize; and they decide to build a platform, put up a pump, plant some flowers, and lay a stone path.  But there is no  water!
You may say, "But I know people who aren't Christians and yet, are committed to their families, are ethical in business, and are moral, upright citizens. How can you say that their religion is devoid of the water of life?"
This is a fair question, but we must remember that religion focuses on the work of the hands, while ignoring the sin of the heart.
David says in Psalm 14:2-3, "The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one." God has seen what lies beneath man's facade, and He is far from impressed.
Are you satisfying your spiritual thirst with the living water of a relationship with Christ, or are you still painting broken pump handles? Christians can do it too, you know— getting more caught up in reputation than in a relationship to God. We draw from broken cisterns when we care more about what the world thinks of us than what God thinks of us.
Christian friend, even though you have already tasted of Christ's life-giving stream, you must quench your constant thirst and draw from the right well.  Allow His Word to satisfy . . . nothing else will.
Prayer Point: Christ says in John 7:38 that "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.' " Thank the Lord for offering that living water to you and for reviving your thirsty soul. Then confess all the broken cisterns you have been running to for satisfaction, rather than Christ.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 4—a beautiful story of a sinner who drinks the living water of Christ and is made well.
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Post  Admin on Fri 29 Nov 2013, 6:52 pm

More Than Letter-Reading
James 1:22
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
The president of his own company employing several hundred workers was preparing for an extended business trip. Before leaving he sat down and wrote a lengthy letter,  detailing projects he wanted accomplished in his absence, clients he wanted contacted, and the tasks he expected his employees to do while he was away. He finished it, put it in the company post office box, rode to the airport, and boarded his plane.
On his return several months later, he immediately noticed the grounds were unkempt: the grass obviously had not been cut in weeks, the lawn was littered, the shrubs and trees needed trimming, and the doors were marked with handprints. He parked his car and hurried inside. Employees were lounging in their chairs, drinking coffee and talking, feet propped on desks, and most weren't dressed in office attire. A ping-pong table had been set up, and an array of video games littered the flat surfaces.  His arrival went unnoticed. 
Angrily, the CEO called a meeting of the  entire management staff. When all had assembled, he began his tirade: "I can't believe what I'm seeing!  Everything is completely different from what I expected it would be.  What's been going here?  Didn't you get my letter?" Their faces brightened, and someone replied, "Yes sir, we did. We love that letter. We read it almost every day."  "In fact," said one man, "I've even memorized several paragraphs from your letter." "It's terrific reading," others  chimed in.  Another spoke, saying, "Sir, we've organized some study groups. We gather at least once a week and re-read portions of your letter to make sure we understand it all."
Dumbfounded, the president asked, "But did you finish the projects? Did you call the clients? Did you do the things I asked you to do?" At that, everyone looked down.  One man finally spoke on behalf of the group, saying, "No sir . . . you see, we're still studying your letter."
Our problem is not in our failure to understand certain biblical truths, but to live the truths we understand. We have all been entrusted with a letter from God—an inspired letter from our great King. Are you content to merely read it, study it, and perhaps memorize it?  When are you going to put it into practice?
It is one thing for believers to say, "We believe the Bible!" It is quite another to behave as though we believe. May our belief and our behavior be one and the same—for the glory of God.  Then, indeed, there will be no shame . . .  should He return today!
Prayer Point: Search your heart before God right now. Ask Him to open your eyes to the ways in which you have not been obedient to His Word, and confess those shortcomings to Him. Then pray for the power to change those habits, and strength to flee from those besetting sins.
Extra Refreshment: Read James 1.

Sitting in the Sonlight
John 15:5
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."
James Montgomery Boice wrote about a dinner he had with a fellow pastor. During the meal, the pastor relayed to Boice the story of a man who had challenged him deeply in his walk with Christ. Bishop James Ussher, an old man who was once a notable Bible chronologist, suffered from many diseases, and was crippled by an inflammation in his joints. His condition forced him to stay home, unable to participate in normal activities.
A visitor hoped to encourage Dr. Ussher, and didn't know that he was the one who would be most encouraged. The experience that day gave him a life-changing perspective.
It seems that every day Dr. Ussher asked his nurse to seat him by the east window in the morning, where he could enjoy the warmth of the rising sun. At noon, his nurse moved him to a window with southern exposure, where the warm rays of the midday sun cheered and soothed him. As the afternoon wore on, he was moved again to a window facing westward, and he sat watching the sun slip below the horizon. As the pastor recalled to Boice during their meal, "Dr. Ussher spent his day literally abiding in the sun."
What an incredible reminder to us! How closely do we follow the Son? Are you abiding in Him as He commanded? If you focus your energy on abiding in Christ, He will reproduce His character in you, over time. That is His promise to us. All those who choose to abide in Him, to literally walk with a constant acknowledgment of His presence, will eventually bear the same qualities that distinguish Him.
Think of it this way: You never sat down with your child and said, "Okay, I'm going to teach you to talk just like me, and speak your words with my accent and inflection." Mom, you didn't give your little girl lessons on how to hold her hands like you do; Dad, you didn't give your son a lesson on how to walk like you do. They learned it over the years of abiding with you—you literally rubbed off on them.
And they are not the only ones who bear resemblances to their parents. Even now, things that you learned from your father and mother are manifested in a variety of situations. You can't fight it . . . this is an inevitable result of spending time with someone, observing and imitating both the desired and undesired characteristics.
Resemblance is the result of relationship.
That's why we must focus our eyes on Christ and give daily attention to our relationship with Him. He will teach us to talk like Him, walk like Him, view life like Him, and love like Him.
When you begin to abide in Christ, people will not see you only, but Christ in you. It will be His life, through you, responding to the daily environment and conditions that affect you.
Like Dr. Ussher, we are all crippled and in need of Sonlight. We need His warmth and soothing touch. So pull up your chair beside the window of God's Word, gaze upon the glory of the Son, and reflect the warmth of His light . . .  the true Sonlight.
Prayer Point: Ask the Lord to give your heart contentment in His presence; ask Him to cause you to long for His presence in your daily activities; take time to talk to Him throughout the most mundane activities you perform today.
Extra Refreshment: Read Ephesians 5, where Paul calls believers to imitate God just as a child imitates his parents.
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Post  Admin on Thu 28 Nov 2013, 1:26 am

WISDOM RETREAT
Grace from Heaven's Bank
Romans 2:4
Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Understanding grace doesn't mean that you can sin without penalty. Understanding grace means that you never want to sin again. It is the goodness of God that motivates us to repentance and holy living. 
I read of a rather unusual accountability partnership that demonstrated the power of grace over sin. Paul was trying to break his habit of using profanity. Swearing had become a second language to him and he desperately wanted to overcome it. He began meeting with another man from his church, and with Bill's help, set up an aggressive plan for purifying his speech.
Here's the plan: each Sunday Paul would report to Bill the number of times he had used profanity during the week and would put five dollars in the offering plate for each incident. The first week cost Paul one hundred dollars! Although the following weeks improved to some degree, he was not having the success that he desired, not to mention the fact that he was quickly running out of money!
After a few weeks, Bill had an idea that he thought might make the difference. He informed Paul that things were going to change the following Sunday, but he wouldn't tell him how they would change. Curiosity gnawed at Paul all week. A few times he tried to find out what the new plan was, but each time Bill simply responded, "Trust me, Paul. This new strategy will cost you less and challenge you even more."
Sunday finally arrived, and before the worship service began Paul looked more discouraged than ever. Bill knew his friend had failed again. This time Bill put a hand on his shoulder and said, "Paul, my new plan is called grace." Bill then took out his own checkbook, wrote in the church's name, dated it, signed it, and left only the amount blank. He handed the check to Paul and said, "Your sin still costs something, but you can go free on my account; just fill in the numbers—I'll take care of the cost. Oh, by the way, next week there will be more grace."
That first week of grace cost Bill fifty-five dollars, but the second week cost him only twenty. And there was no third week . . . Paul was so overwhelmed by the grace of Bill that his heart broke to think of his friend having to write another check to cover his sin.
It was only after the discovery of Bill's grace and love toward him that Paul was able to overcome his life-long, sinful habit of swearing.
If you are feeling overcome by sin today, look again to the cross. Counseling sessions, accountability, personal discipleship, and twelve-step programs won't be enough to ward off the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Only when you gaze upon the grace of God, realizing again that He paid the debt for your sin with the blood of His Son, will you find enough motivation to consciously quit your sin.
Christ handed you a blank check . . .  how much will it cost Him today?
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for His goodness—it leads to repentance. Thank Him for His grace—it is undeserved favor and love. Thank Him for His mercy—it withholds eternal punishment, which we so clearly deserve.
Extra Refreshment: Read Isaiah 53.  

God's Love for a Prodigal World
Psalm 8:3-4
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?
The Hubble space telescope has been re-engineered with a new wide-field camera that can take pictures of objects twelve billion light-years away. Astonishing, isn't it? But even as unbelievable as this technological advancement is, a question quickly comes to my mind: "What exactly are we looking for?" 
Newsweek basically answered this question when it stated, "Radiation from so far away, and hence so long ago, should carry messages about the universe's childhood and shed light on how the cosmos began and grew." There you have it, plain and simple! 
Humans are looking for some kind of clue which will tell us where we came from and how we got here. Like an adopted child who searches for his biological parents, humanity is searching intensely for its true Father. We have an inborn desire to find the answer to the age-old question, "Out of whose womb did we come?" 
The truth is obvious . . . and the newest discoveries of our universe are pointing to a Designer. 
Tony Rothman, a theoretical physicist, wrote, "When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it's very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it." 
One such astronomer, George Greenstein, actually did come close to admitting it in his book, The Symbiotic Universe, wherein he writes: 
As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?
We know the answer to be a resounding, "Yes!"  Sadly though, our world continually looks for God in the far reaches of the universe, using man-made telescopes that will always fall short of finding Him. 
Praise God for giving us His telescope— His Word—through which we catch amazing glimpses of His glory, His attributes, and His plan for the world. If you want to see God, you don't need to look twelve billion light years into the vast universe. Pick up the Bible . . . and in His Word discover the God-Man who walked among us, died for our sins, and restored our relationship with Him. 
The inhabitants of our planet should cease looking to the stars for answers and look toward the Son. Would you like to see Him? The Bible is the telescope through which we discover the Creator of the cosmos . . . this prodigal world we live in. 
Prayer Point: Read the passage from Psalm 8 again and consider the enormous depth of God's kindness toward us. He is not obliged to love us, rescue us, or to think upon us with joy; yet He does it anyway. Think also upon the trillions of light years that stand between our world and the rest of the universe, and thank God for stooping down to rescue sinners on His prodigal planet. We should never cease to be grateful. 
Extra Refreshment: Read John 1 & Psalms 19.
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Post  Admin on Tue 26 Nov 2013, 12:22 am

Food for the Taking
Matthew 5:6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
When Moses was leading the Israelites through the wilderness for forty years, God supplied bread for them to eat. Without God's provision, they never would have survived.
It's the same for us. We, like the Israelites, are walking through the dry and dreary wilderness of life, with constant dependency on, and need for, spiritual food—God's Word. Just like the manna that fell from the skies, His Word is offered to us fresh every morning, bringing nourishment to all who will eat.
There are many other similarities between the manna sent from heaven to the Israelites, and the food sent from heaven to us. Manna basically fell right into the Israelites' laps. They didn't have to search far and wide to find it; it was there for the taking. In the same way, a meal in God's Word is available to us if  we will only reach out and take it.
Manna was available in abundance to those who would collect it. Similarly, the Word is available to those who will study it. It would have been foolish for the hungry Israelites to step outside their homes and gather only enough manna to whet their appetites, instead of gathering enough to satisfy their hunger. It is just as foolish when Christians open the Word of God and read only a verse or two, rather than studying it to savor the nourishing truths God has provided in the writings.
Manna was never force-fed, but the Israelites had the opportunity either to eat it or go hungry. In the same way, you will never be forced to feed upon God's Word. It will have to be your choice, whether or not you eat or go spiritually hungry.
If a friend complained of lack of energy, you would ask when she last had anything to eat.  Her reply that she had skipped breakfast and lunch would tip you off to her problem, and you would be perfectly in order to say, "No wonder you're weak . . . get some food in you!"  If someone came to you and told you that he was spiritually weak, you would be justified in asking, "How often do you study the Bible?"  The reply would reveal the reason for his weakness: "Well, I read it a couple of times during the week, but I get a good dose of it on Sunday."  He's starving himself!
Spiritual anemia is the condition resulting from not spending time in God's Word. That Word is readily available—in fact, you probably have three or four Bibles in your home and a few more in your family vehicle.
Just because it isn't force-fed, it doesn't mean that it should be ignored. The truth is, you can't live without it. You will never survive the harsh desert winds of doubt, fear, materialism, gluttony, lust, and pride if you are not reaching out every morning and gathering the food that God has offered you. You simply cannot live without physical food . . . how do you expect to live without spiritual food?  You can't.
One of the critical differences between  manna and Scripture is that God's Word never grows stale. Unlike manna when it was hoarded, God's Word is still fresh when you store it away in your heart; you can gather, save, stash as much as you want for future needs.
So . . . when's the last time you had a solid meal?
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for the availability of His Word. Confess your lack of desire to know His Word better and ask Him for additional discipline to daily read and study His Word.
Extra Refreshment: Read several paragraphs from Psalms 119 and notice how each verse mentions God's Word.
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