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THE MASTERS LIST Dean W. Masters - Page 24 Empty Re: THE MASTERS LIST Dean W. Masters

Post  Admin on Wed 24 Jun 2015, 8:28 pm

What It Means to Pray for Your Enemy

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
(Matthew 5:44)

Prayer for your enemies is one of the deepest forms of love, because it 
means that you have to really want that something good happen to them.

You might do nice things for your enemy without any genuine desire that 
things go well with them. But prayer for them is in the presence of God who 
knows
your heart, and prayer is interceding with God on their behalf.

It may be for their conversion. It may be for their repentance. It may be 
that they would be awakened to the enmity in their hearts. It may be that 
they
will be stopped in their downward spiral of sin, even if it takes disease or 
calamity to do it. But the prayer Jesus has in mind here is always for their
good.

This is what Jesus did as he hung on the cross:

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (
Luke 23:34)

And it's what Stephen did as he was being stoned:

Falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold 
this sin against them!” (
Acts 7:60)

Jesus is calling us not just to do good things for our enemy, like greeting 
them and helping supply their needs; he is also calling us to want their 
best,
and to express those wants in prayers when the enemy is nowhere around.

Our hearts should want their salvation and want their presence in heaven and 
want their eternal happiness. So we pray like the apostle Paul for the 
Jewish
people, many of whom made life very hard for Paul,

My heart's desire and prayer to God is for their salvation. (
Romans 10:1)

For more about John Piper's ministry and writing, see
DesiringGod.org.


Receiving God's Power

Have you ever felt so weak that you could not take another step? Have you 
ever felt so inadequate for a task that you almost quit before you began it?
Our own power is infinitesimal compared to the power of the Holy Spirit. How 
do we acquire the Holy Spirit's power? First we must admit our weaknesses,
and then we must avoid our enemy's ambushes.

The apostle Paul discovered the secret of power through the Holy Spirit when 
he openly confessed his weaknesses instead of bragging about his own 
strengths.
In dealing with his thorn, Paul prayed repeatedly for God to remove this 
weakness in him. Yet God answered him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for 
my
power is made perfect in weakness" (
2 Corinthians 12:9).
Through this trial, Paul learned firsthand about the power of God: 
"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that 
Christ's power
may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in 
insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak,
then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9,
2 Corinthians 12:10).

Paul was conscious of his shortcomings and realized that he was nothing 
without God. He knew he did not have the power to overcome his temptations, 
but
he knew through God's power he would be victorious. Paul felt pain, sorrow, 
and need, yet when the power of the Holy Spirit flowed through him, he 
experienced
joy, contentment, and peace.

God's power in us works best when we admit our shortcomings and weaknesses 
and rely on His strength alone. We crowd out the potential for God's power 
when
we rely on our own abilities, talents, or intelligence. Like Paul, we should 
rejoice whenever we remember our weaknesses because then we will be able to
see God's full work and power within us.

In our own strength, we will fail every time. We will give in to the world's 
temptations and philosophies and cravings for power. Paul warned, "Those who
live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature 
desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds
set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the 
mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace" (
Romans 8:5-6).

In addition to admitting our weaknesses, we must also avoid the enemy's 
ambushes. We must constantly be aware and prepared for the traps of the 
devil.
We cannot afford to live in ignorance or denial. When we are informed and 
ready, we are more likely to avoid the traps "in order that Satan might not 
outwit
us. For we are not unaware of his schemes" (
2 Corinthians 2:11).

What are some of the ambushes we need to be aware of? One tactic Satan uses 
is convincing us that God's principles do not work in a fallen world and we
need to depend upon our own ingenuity to survive. He lures us into the trap 
of worldly power by calling it practical and realistic. Instead, we need to
exercise faith in the living God, the One who will carry us through until 
the end.

We are ambushed when we seek out the Holy Spirit hoping our lives will 
become supernaturally easy and smooth. However, the Bible does not teach us 
that
we will live a stress-free life in the Holy Spirit, but rather He will equip 
us to face these difficult times.

A third ambush is the temptation to indulge our feelings of inadequacy and 
failure, which leads to focusing more on ourselves than on God. The Holy 
Spirit
wants to empower us, but we need to surrender our shortcomings to Him 
instead of holding on to them.

Are you actively seeking the Holy Spirit's power in your life or are you 
depending upon your own strength? Are you keeping your path clear for the 
Holy
Spirit, or are you getting sidetracked by the devil's ambushes? Ask the Holy 
Spirit to show you how to draw from His power more effectively.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full 
armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes."
Ephesians 6:10,
11

****
Jesus, Jihad and Peace

What does the threat of Islamic extremism mean in terms of Bible prophecy? 
In a world that cries out for peace, which will prevail—Jesus or jihad? In
Jesus, Jihad and Peace,
Dr. Michael Youssef provides answers that are concise, Biblically accurate, 
and targeted on the challenges that confront us in a world that is 
increasingly
fraught with peril. Order your copy today through Leading The Way!

We are Leading The Way for people living in spiritual darkness, at home and 
around the world, to discover the light of Christ as we passionately 
proclaim
uncompromising Truth. Visit us today at
http://www.ltw.org/
Michael Youssef

Watch And See What God Will Do ~ Don’t Give Up
by Dean Masters


Exodus 5:22-23 and 6:1
Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to 
this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I cam to Pharaoh to speak 
in
your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your 
people at all.”

But the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do…….”
When things seem to look the worst ~ look up, not around! Just because 
things don’t seem to be going right doesn’t mean that God isn’t working. God 
may
be getting ready to show Himself mighty in your situation so remain faithful 
and hold on, God isn’t finished with this yet! Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know
the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans for good and not for 
evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

There’s so much evil going on in the world, worse than I have ever seen in 
my lifetime and believe me if you read Revelation you will see just how 
mighty
God is going to show Himself to be! In the meantime though He is still all 
about showing Himself mighty in His peoples lives if they will just remain 
faithful
and follow Him. The way may seem uncertain and scary at times but He will 
always do what He has said He will do! In this case poor Moses felt somewhat
responsible because He was the one telling the people that God was going to 
deliver them and now things were worse than they were before he showed up 
and
the people were suffering and angry.

It is often when we feel as though things couldn’t get any worse that God is 
working and He is about to show up to do great things so hold on to your 
hope.
Don’t give up now! God is always at work and He knows what you have been 
facing ~ your tears have not escaped His notice. Pour your heart out to Him 
today,
hold on to every ounce of faith you have left and pray for the strength to 
get to the other side, if you have no strength left ask Him to carry you 
through
and He will. Take some time and read about all of the miracles God did to 
deliver the people of Israel if you need some encouragement. Trust Him and 
He
will deliver you!

Quote:
“Even if you are on the right track you will get run over if you just sit 
there.” Will Rogers
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Post  Admin on Tue 23 Jun 2015, 10:01 pm

Why Daughters Were Made to Dance
ALICIA BRUXVOORT

"So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, 
you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we 
call
him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we 
are God’s children."
Romans 8:15-16
(NLT)

She’s fresh out of bed, still clad in her pajamas, when she finds me outside 
sipping coffee with my husband.

Her daddy is dressed in shabby jeans and a faded t-shirt, the patron uniform 
of Saturday morning yard work. But when that song she loves pulses from the
radio, our littlest girl turns to him like he’s a tuxedoed prince and asks 
if he’d like to dance.

There’s grass to mow and weeds to pull, but he sets down his coffee and 
accepts the invitation with a regal bow. I clutch my coffee cup and savor 
the sheen
in my daughter’s eyes as her daddy twirls her around with a smile.

And suddenly I remember the woman who once told me she didn’t need a daddy …

We’d met at a church retreat where we’d learned about our identities as God’s 
daughters. She sat beside me, her hair wound tightly in a bun, with arms
folded even tighter across her chest.

On our last evening together, the speaker used a simple metaphor to retell 
our salvation story. It wasn’t perfect theology, but the imagery resonated 
with
the women in the room.

"Once upon a time there was a Father who created His children to dance. But 
those kids’ feet got shackled by sin and their hearts stopped beating to the
rhythm of Heaven’s love. And, in time, they forgot who they were.

"But their Father didn’t forget.

"While His children stumbled and staggered, He devised a plan to set their 
feet free and teach them to dance again. He stretched out His arms on an old
rugged cross and invited His children to return to His embrace and waltz 
with Him into eternity …"

When the speaker finished, women jumped to their feet to worship with 
abandon. Except for the woman beside me.

She sat silently until the music waned. Then with trembling lips she 
murmured to me, "I don’t need a daddy. I just need a savior."

Her eyes brimmed with a lifetime of hurt and I asked if I could pray for 
her. Embarrassed, she shook her head no and headed for the door.

I sat there alone, stunned and sad, and closed my eyes in prayer anyway. 
Moments later, I felt a hand on my shoulder. "I still think I’m too old to 
ask
God to be my daddy," the woman explained. "But if I ever change my mind, I’ve 
always wanted to learn to waltz …"

My attention returned to the dancing duo before me. My daughter’s arms 
flapped happily like a bird set free.

And I see it clearly — how every daughter of God was made to soar in the 
safety of her heavenly Father’s arms.

Then my husband holds our daughter close as the music slows, and together 
they sway to the song’s end. Maggie nestles her chin on my man’s shoulder 
and
exhales a satisfied sigh. "I just dance better in your arms, Daddy!"

I smile at my daughter’s declaration and wonder if the woman at the retreat 
ever learned to "dance." I hope she did.

She was right, of course. We all need a savior. But according to our key 
verse, that’s not where our story ends. Once we’ve been set free from sin, 
God
invites us to call Him "Abba," a loving and familiar term, similar to 
"Daddy."

It’s there, in our heavenly Daddy’s arms, where we’ll learn to "dance" 
freely, living as His treasured children.

Your steps won’t look like mine. And mine won’t mimic yours. But we can all 
grab our Daddy’s hand and let Him lead us step by expectant step into the 
life
He’s dreamed for His girls.

And, remember, according to my daughter, we all just dance better in our 
Daddy’s arms.

Dear Jesus, I don’t want to miss the life You’ve dreamed for me. Guide my 
steps and teach me how to live as Your child: confident, joyful and free. In
Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 30:11,
"You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing." (NLT)

Psalm 90:12,
14,
"Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. … 
Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to
the end of our lives." (NLT)


Love Worth Finding Ministries

Faithful in Your Words

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by 
the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay,
nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.”
James 5:12

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
In June we take time to focus on fathers, and I’ve discovered in talking 
with teenagers that many of them harbor bitterness and resentment. Much of 
that
resentment is directed toward their fathers over the serious matter of 
broken promises. If you’re a dad who wants to restore your relationship with 
your
teenager, one of the best things you can do is to remember those broken 
promises. Then go to them with a remorseful spirit and say, “I’ve asked God 
to
forgive me, and I want you to forgive me.” Ask this question, “Have I ever 
made a promise to you that I’ve failed to keep? If so, I want you to tell me
because I want to repent. I want you to believe that your dad is a faithful 
man.”

ACTION POINT:
Are you a man of your word? If not, start fresh today and make a commitment 
that you will stand behind your word.
© 2014 Love Worth Finding Ministries | PO Box 38300 - Memphis, TN 38183-0300

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You
Daily Devotional
The Power of a Father's Smile - #7420

It's important for fathers and sons to do things together, right, like my 
son helping me with the yard work so we can bond, of course. I remember one 
day
when my oldest son was probably just about five. It was a hot day. I was 
mowing and my son was following around after me clipping. I looked over to 
him
and I smiled. About five minutes later he came over and yelled over the 
mower, "Daddy, could you please do that again?" I said, "Could I do what 
again,
son?" He said, "Daddy, could you smile at me again? Your smile keeps me 
going."

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Power 
of a Father's Smile."

Our word for today from the Word of God comes from Ephesians 6:4. Parenting 
instructions: "Fathers do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them
up in the training and instruction of the Lord." God says, "Don't tear your 
children down. Bring them up." A father has incredible power to be either 
one;
to make your son or daughter feel inadequate and small, never good enough, 
or to make your son or daughter feel competent, worthy, appreciated, and 
valued.
It's clear which one God expects from a father, and from a mother for that 
matter.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12, Paul is likening the lives of believers to a 
positive father. Here's what he says, "For we dealt with each of you as a 
father
deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live 
lives worthy of God." Did you get the verbs there? Three words: they're the
godly ways of a father; to encourage your child, comfort your child, and 
urge him or her to live a godly life.

How are you doing? Did I just describe most of the conversations you have 
with your son or daughter; you're encouraging, you're comforting, are you 
urging?
Think about the comments, for example, made years ago by one of President 
Clinton's most impressive advisors, a man named Bill Galston. The news 
article
I read back then said he was at the peak of his career when he resigned from 
his position. No one could believe it! Why?

Well, Bill Galston had worked hard trying to balance time with his 
10-year-old son and his hugely significant job. He took his son to his White 
House office
so they could talk while he worked. He even woke up at 6:00 in the morning 
so they could spend a few minutes together. But Bill was at the breaking 
point.
He couldn't do both. His son wrote him a letter saying, "Baseball is not fun 
when there's no one there to applaud you."

There's just no substitute for a father. In the moments that mattered to 
them; the proud moments, the hurting moments, the amusing moments, the 
arriving
home moments, the serious moments. And there are few sources more 
influential on earth than your approval of your son or your daughter. Could 
it be that
there's been too much emphasis on what's wrong with your son or daughter, on 
what you want them to improve, on their weak points rather than majoring on
the positive?

So much of the sense of security and sense of worth comes from knowing that 
Dad is pleased with them; that Mom is pleased with them. Just focus on the
encouraging, on praising what's good about them, on noticing even a 
slightest improvement, on building up not tearing down, on the life that 
concentrates
on the things that matter to them. Realize what your most important job is. 
Bill Galston told the President of the United States, "You can replace me.
My son can't."

Does your son or daughter need to hear your applause again, see your smile 
again? Maybe you need to make a new beginning by asking their forgiveness. 
Or
start now to make it your daily mission to build them up, to focus on their 
good points, to give them all of you sometime during that day. Your son or
daughter is looking your way for something only you can give them; the smile 
that keeps them going, because a father's smile is the most important smile
Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, Inc. · P.O. Box 400 · Harrison, Arkansas 72602 · 
USA
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Post  Admin on Mon 22 Jun 2015, 11:07 pm

Spiritual Fruit - Peace
by Dean W. Masters
"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
self-control. There is no law against these things!" (Galatians 5:22-23,
NLT)

The third part of the fruit which grows through the Holy Spirit is peace.
Here is what the Holman Treasury of bible Words says about peace:

Peace means many things to different people. To those in war, peace means
the cessation of battle and enmity. To those living hectic lives, peace
means calm. To those with troubled minds, peace means inner tranquility.
The Greek term for peace was used for all of these meanings, both
in Greek literature and in the New Testament. The word could be used
as a greeting or farewell, as in Luke 10:5; Gal. 6:16;
James 2:16; John 20:19. It could also signify the presence of domestic
tranquility (1 Cor. 7:15) or the cessation of conflict – national conflict
(Luke 14:32; Acts 12:20) or interpersonal conflict (Rom. 14:19; Eph. 4:3).
Jesus came to bring peace on earth. When Jesus was born, the angels
proclaimed: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with
whom he is well pleased (Luke 2:14, NASB). This means that Jesus as the
Messiah would usher in God's reign of peace. This peace was Jesus' farewell
gift to the disciples (John 14:27); it was given to them when He breathed
His Spirit into them (John 20:19–22). The greatest “peace†Jesus achieved
for us is that He took away the enmity between us and God by His death on
the cross to absolve our sin. Those who accept Christ's salvation have peace
with God (Rom. 5:1-2).
This gift of peace with God, made available through Christ, means that
Christians in the community of faith need to live in peace with each other
(Rom. 12:18; 14:19; Heb. 12:14). This concept of peace alters the meaning of
the common greeting “go in peace†to “go, and live in peace.†As used by the
Christian community, the expression “grace and peace be with you†conveys
total well-being, prosperity, and security all emanating from God's presence
with His people (1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; 1 Peter 1:2; 2
John 3; Jude 2; Rev. 1:4). When we say or hear the phrase above, it is not a
mere wish for peace, but a reminder of the peace given through Christ.

There are some people who look like they are at peace but inwardly they are
all torn up. These people are producing their own fruit of peace. It is not
the peace which the Holy Spirit grows. True peace cannot be manufactured
through meditation or thinking good thoughts. True peace only comes through
Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, working in and through you in the power
of the Holy Spirit.

If God’s peace is in our hearts, we carry it with us, and it can be given to 
those around us, not by our own will or virtue, but by the Holy Spirit 
working
through us. We cannot give what we do not have, but if the spirit blows 
through the dark clouds, and enters our hearts, we can be used as vehicles 
of peace,
and our own peace will be thereby deepened. The more peace we give away, the 
more we have.

Madeleine L'Engle

"Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen." (Romans 15:33, KJV)

11 Steps to Find God When He Seems to be Missing
Whitney Hopler

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of 
Linda Evans Shepherd's book,
When You Can’t Find God: How to Ignite the Power of His Presence,
(Revell Books, 2011).

Trouble hits everyone in this fallen world. Even Jesus suffered while He was 
here on Earth, and so will you – no matter how much you love God.

But the presence of trouble in your life doesn’t mean the absence of God. To 
the contrary: Trouble may actually help you experience the reality of God’s
presence in deeper ways, if you respond to it by seeking God.

God is never missing from your life, even when He seems to be. Here’s how 
you can find God and enjoy His presence, despite the trouble in your life:

Find God in your circumstances. Look at your circumstances from God’s 
perspective: as an invitation to draw closer to Him. Choose to trust God’s 
promise
that He has a plan to bring good purposes out of even the worst 
circumstances. Ask God to help you be aware of His presence with you, feel 
His love for
you, show you whatever He wants you to learn from what you’re going through, 
and anoint you with hope.

Derive the strength to endure from key practices. God will give empower you 
while you go through tough times if you: root out sin from your life so you’re
not blocking God’s work, praise God to invite more joy into your life, seek 
a closer relationship with God Himself rather than seeking changed 
circumstances,
and focusing on God rather than on your troubles.

Give your troubles to God. God has promised that He will give you rest if 
you trust Him to handle your burdens, so stop striving to handle them 
yourself.
Instead, give all that’s troubling you over to God and follow His guidance 
every step of the way to deal with your concerns successfully and 
peacefully.
Keep in mind that the troubles in your life will pale in comparison to the 
riches you’ll receive as you draw closer to God.

Stand against evil. The evil that exists in our fallen world may cause you 
suffering that God doesn’t intend for you to go through. So be sure to close
any doors in your life through which evil may come. Devoting every part of 
your life to God every day is the best way to keep evil spiritual forces 
away
from you. Repent and confess of your sins regularly; ask God to help you 
develop virtues that will mature you (such as humility, patience, and 
self-control);
pray about any hopeless thoughts that enter your mind, asking God to give 
you the hope you need; and rejoice in God’s unconditional love and reliable
care for you.

Pray against strife. If conflict with other people is causing you trouble, 
ask God to help you live at peace with everyone, as far as it depends on 
you.
Rely on God’s help to forgive people who have hurt you. Avoid people who 
continue to cause strife, despite your best efforts to work for peace 
between
you. Surrender any attitudes that cause strife in your own soul (such as 
bitterness and selfish ambition) to God and embrace His peace in return.

Pray for breakthroughs. When you’re dealing with persistent problems, ask 
God to help you solve them. Pray about your problems consistently until God 
brings
you breakthroughs – either by changing your circumstances, or by empowering 
you to handle your circumstances in better ways.

Pray for trust. Rather than trying to make circumstances turn out the way 
you want them to be, seek what’s best for you, trusting that God truly does 
know
what’s best and will work in your life to bring that about if you invite Him 
to do so and don’t work against Him.

Pray for grace and favor. Sometimes God will decide to give you an 
undeserved gift, simply because He loves you and you asked Him to consider 
it. Make
sure that you’re not blocking the work God wants to do in your life by 
ridding your life of a refusal to repent, strife, fear, envy, selfish 
ambition,
opening doors in your life up for evil to enter, doubt, confusion, 
presumption, exaggeration, worry, gossip, lies, and a habit of neglecting
prayer.

Pray for hope and healing. Seek the hope and healing you need from God by 
incorporating prayer and Bible reading into your life on a regular basis, 
and
seeking God’s voice constantly. Don’t fail to pray because you’re afraid 
that you’ll be disappointed by how God chooses to answer. While you can’t 
predict
the specific ways in which God will answer your prayers, you can be sure 
that God will definitely give you hope and healing in whatever form He 
decides
is best.

Pray for peace. Expect that you’ll often encounter storms in this fallen 
world, but also expect God to be right beside you in the midst of them. Ask 
Jesus
to give you the peace that only He can give – peace that transcends any kind 
of circumstances, and that you can experience even without understanding it.

Find joy. Decide to worship God no matter what you happen to go through at 
any particular moment, because God is worthy of your worship all the time, 
simply
for who He is. The more you focus on worshipping God, the more you’ll become 
aware of His presence with you, and the more that will bring you joy that
you can use to overcome even the most troubling circumstances.

Adapted from
When You Can't Find God: How to Ignite the Power of His Presence,
copyright 2011 by Linda Evans Shepherd. Published by Revell Books, a 
division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich.,
www.revellbooks.com.
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3780 cdd Radically Different
Tuesday April 14, 2015
Volume 16 Number 074

Today's Author: Pastor Bill

Scripture: Mark 6:12
"Then they were on the road. They preached with joyful urgency that life can 
be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they
brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits" 
MSG Bible Paraphrase

A friend should be RADICAL;
They should show you the love of Christ when you're un-lovable,
Hug you when you're un-huggable,
And bear you when you're un-bearable.

A friend should be ENTHUSIASTICAL;
They should be indelible in their influence for Christ in your life
Cheer for you when the whole world boos,
Dance with you when you get good news,
And cry with you when you cry too.

But most of all, a friend should be MATHEMATICAL;
They should evaluate every opportunity to share Christ with you
Multiplying joy while dividing the sorrow,
Subtracting the past when adding for tomorrow,
Always calculating the needs deep in your heart,
And come up bigger than the sum of all the parts.

Prayer: Father thank that I can be a Radically Different friend for Your 
kingdom. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!

Africa 2015 support to date: $14.015.50 Remaining needed: $23,984.50
Cross Giving Click Here

Pastor Bill Team Prayer:

Father please bring 1............. 2............. 3.............. into your 
kingdom.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!

Copyright (c) 2015

Pastor Bill Christian Cyber Ministries


How to Understand the Bible

Who Was Paul, and How Should We Understand His Epistles?

Besides Jesus, no single figure was more influential in the beginnings of 
Christianity than the apostle Paul. Of the 27 books of the New Testament, 13
are attributed to Paul. Take a look at a Bible map showing the missionary 
journeys of Paul, and you will be astonished to see the territory he 
covered—not
just geographically, but culturally as well.

He was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, and he became an impassioned member 
of the Pharisees (
Rom. 11:1; Phil. 3:4-5; Acts 23:6).
He came from the city of Tarsus, grew up in the midst of Greco-Roman 
culture, and was a Roman citizen. This remarkable background meant he was 
able to
speak the gospel into urban settings. He was comfortable in Jerusalem, but 
also capable of moving into places like Crete, Greece, and Rome. His 
adaptability
was amazing. He spoke with magistrates and philosophers and tradespeople.

PaulTrial

Trial of the Apostle Paul, 1875, Nikolai K. Bodarevsky

His strong views about faith in Christ were most certainly tempered by his 
dramatic conversion. In the New Testament there is no more radical story of
personal change than the story of the young man who was drafted by his 
fellow Pharisees to actively investigate and prosecute the early followers 
of Jesus.
He stood by as the first Christian martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death. But 
while traveling to Damascus in Syria to find and arrest more of Jesus’ 
followers,
he had a supernatural encounter with Jesus and would soon undergo the utter 
change of mind and heart, which in his epistles he describes as conversion
or repentance.

It wasn’t easy for the other apostles to accept this persecutor in their 
midst, much less endorse him as a teacher. But with the passing of years, 
Paul
eventually set out on his first great journey with a few close companions in 
tow.

There is quite some variation in the epistles of Paul. Four are called his 
“prison epistles” because he wrote them from prison (Ephesians, Philippians,
Colossians, Philemon). The stress of being in prison comes through at 
points. For instance, while writing the epistle to his dear friends at 
Philippi,
he believes he may be close to execution.

Of these four, one is written to one person about a runaway slave 
(Philemon), whereas another, Ephesians, seems to have been written for a 
whole region
of churches.

Three of the epistles, written very late, are usually called “the pastoral 
epistles” because they contain instructions to Paul’s companions Timothy and
Titus on how to protect order, harmony, and correct teaching in their 
churches. Not surprisingly, these are epistles that church leaders look to 
in shaping
ministry roles in congregations. The qualifications for elders and deacons (
1 Tim. 3; Titus 1),
for instance, describe essential leadership character and are easily applied 
in our own churches today.

Romans is a powerful, comprehensive description of the whole of the gospel. 
It covers creation, sin, redemption, and eventual restoration. The special
issue of righteousness and grace is emphasized in Romans, as it also is in 
the epistle of Galatians. First and 2 Corinthians offer great insight into 
an
apostle trying his best to respond to tensions in a troubled church, to 
challenge bad values, and to call people to action. There is a special 
poignancy
in 2 Corinthians as Paul describes his own hurt through the efforts of those 
trying to discredit him, and his anxiety about his relationship with the 
Corinthian
church. Here we see the humility of Paul, even as he describes himself as 
unimpressive in physical appearance and unremarkable as a public speaker. 
Now
that is astonishing to read! The apostle Paul, a so-so preacher.

What should we bear in mind as we read and try to comprehend the epistles of 
Paul?

In order to understand the epistles of the New Testament, we must begin with 
context. Every epistle was written to a specific audience and for a specific
purpose. If we dig around, we can figure out what false teaching the book of 
Colossians is countering, what slavery looked like, what family life was 
like,
what the features of the culture were at the time. Then we can ask: “What 
universal and timeless truths is the author drawing on, truths that apply to
us today?”

We may not “greet one another with a holy kiss” (
Rom. 16:16)
today, but Christian grace and civility still apply. First
Peter 3:3
recommends not wearing gold jewelry because in that culture it was 
ostentatious to do so. Today, avoiding ostentatiousness still applies, 
though having
a gold ring or a gold cross does not rise to that same level. Having elders 
oversee the ministry of churches today still applies, although having one 
man
appoint them (as Paul instructed Timothy to do) isn’t typically the method 
of selection that is used.

The epistles extend the richness of Holy Scripture, and they remind us once 
again that the word of God is truth in relationship.

_______________________________________

Engaging with the Word of God is one of the most important things we can do 
for our spiritual heath.
About The Author - Mel Lawrenz serves as minister at large for Elmbrook 
Church and leads The Brook Network. Having been in pastoral ministry for 
thirty
years, the last decade as senior pastor of Elmbrook, Mel seeks to help 
Christian leaders engage with each other. Mel is the author of eleven books, 
the
most recent for church leaders, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to 
Engagement.


Prove it!

(J.R. Miller,
"The Glory of the Commonplace")

It is related that the famous French artist Gustave Dore was once wandering 
in the mountains of Switzerland, when some officials met him and demanded 
his
passport. "I do not have it with me," he replied, "but my name is Gustave 
Dore." "Prove it, if you are," replied the officers, knowing who Dore 
was--but
not believing that this was he. Taking a piece of paper, the artist hastily 
sketched a group of peasants who were standing near, and did it with such 
grace
and skill that the officials exclaimed, "Enough, you are Dore!"

In the same way, the world cares little for a mere profession. We say we are 
Christians, and the challenge is, "Prove it!" If we are of Christ, then we
must do the works of Christ, live the life of Christ, and show the spirit of 
Christ. The artist's skillful drawing proved his identity. Just so, we must
prove that we are the followers of our Master by the love, the grace, the 
beauty, the holiness of our life.

Religion is not merely a matter of creed and profession, or of church-going 
and public worship; it is far more a matter of daily life. It is not how we
behave on Sundays, nor the kind of creed we hold, nor the devoutness of our 
worship--it is the way we act at home, in school, in business, in society,
in our associations with others. It is vitally important that all who 
profess Christ--shall manifest Christ's beauty in their life and character. 
It is
not enough to preach the gospel in words alone; others must also read it in 
our daily life. "So that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders."
1 Thessalonians 4:12

"Whoever says he abides in Christ, ought to walk and conduct himself in the 
same way in which He walked and conducted Himself." 1 John 2:6
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Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:

"From morning till evening he (Paul) expounded to them, testifying to the 
kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of 
Moses
and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others 
disbelieved." Acts 28:23b-24

By Answers2Prayer
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No Guarantee

It was well over a century ago that Dwight Moody shared the Savior's story 
of salvation in East London.

An unbeliever, a fellow by the name of Bradlaugh, heard of the crusade. 
Wishing to throw a monkey wrench into the proceedings he encouraged all his 
atheist
and agnostic friends to attend the first meeting. It was their plan to 
disrupt things by being vocal in their scoffings.

The unbelievers came in droves. I have to confess things started out well 
enough for them. When they were asked to sing a hymn, they laughed. They 
thought
their success would continue during and past the sermon. Their amusement 
began to change when Moody told them of their sin, Christ's salvation, and 
the
forgiveness the Savior offers.

After the sermon, Moody asked all who believed in Christ to say, "I do."

One man, Bradlaugh, the leader of the atheists, quickly shouted, "I don't."

Moody responded: "Men you have your champion. Now I ask those who need and 
believe in Jesus to say 'I do.'" By the Holy Spirit's leading, 500 men, 
having
realized their previous beliefs had been wrong, terribly wrong, sprang to 
their feet, shouting, "I do! I do!"

Now I share this story not to encourage emotional altar calls in our 
congregations.

It is shared so we all may once again be reminded of the power of the Holy 
Spirit when it is applied through the Word. Now if you're thinking, well, I
know that.

I can only reply I'm sure you do. Even so, there are times when we hold back 
in our witnessing. The reasons for that are numerous:

* We may think we don't have the right words.

* We may believe what we say is going to be rejected.

* We may believe we will cause some kind of offense and upset to our 
listeners.

Now, I have to confess, it is quite possible those undesirable things may 
happen. It certainly happened to the apostles of Acts as they made their 
proclamation.

But it is also possible the Holy Spirit may touch hearts and save souls 
through your sharing of His Word. And if you're wondering how -- or if -- 
you can
determine how what you are going to say will be received, all I can say is 
this: Paul couldn't; Peter couldn't; nobody can.

All any of us can do is trust the power of God's Word and humankind's need 
for the Savior, who rescues us from sin, death, devil -- and ourselves.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I believe. Help me in my sharing with others who do 
not know Jesus as their Savior and Lord. May my witnesses, long or short, 
brilliant
or simple, be Your tool to touch sinners and support those who already 
acknowledge the Christ. In His Name. Amen.

Pastor Ken Klaus

Lutheran Hour Ministries
All rights reserved; not to be duplicated without permission.

Announcement:

Would you like to make a difference in the world? Why not join the 
Answers2Prayer team? We have many volunteer positions available. By joining 
in, you
can help in carrying out the Great Commission: Matt 28:18-20 “Then 
Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been 
given
to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the 
name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them
to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to 
the very end of the age."

The time is right and we are in need of many laborers. Matt 9:37-38 "The 
harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, 
therefore,
to send out workers into his harvest field."

If compelled by God,
let us know.

©Copyright 2011 Answers2Prayer | Matt 10:8 "Freely you have received, freely 
give."


What is Your Life But a Mist?

“How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? For the length of your 
lives is as uncertain as the morning fog—now you see it; soon it is gone. 
What
you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we shall live and do this or 
that.’ Otherwise you will be bragging about your own plans, and such 
self-confidence
never pleases God”—James 4:14-16 (TLB).

Flowers began to bloom around town—and in my yard—before the first official 
day of spring on March 20. Three weeks later, some of those early blooming
flowers are already beginning to fade. Those early bloomers are often some 
of the most spectacular, but they don’t stick around very long.

Like flowers that bloom for a short period of time, we often forget just how 
precious and fleeting our lives are—no matter how long it lasts. One recent
afternoon, I was walking my dog through the neighborhood. As I passed a 
friend’s house, I greeted him and another neighbor with a wave and a hello.

As I continued my one-mile walk through our neighborhood, I was startled by 
the screaming sirens of police cars and other first responders flying past
me. I began to run. I didn’t know what was going on or where they were 
headed. Rounding a corner, I saw the neighbor, whom I had greeted not more 
than
20 minutes before, lying on his driveway where the EMTs were performing CPR.

Four days later, Fred passed away. He was 80-years-old and his doctor had 
recently given him a clean bill of health. I never suspected this humble man
had just celebrated eight decades of living. And he did live—for others. I 
know, because I was a recipient of his generosity and kindness.

Fred’s passing has left a hole in many people’s hearts, including mine. How 
could someone so vibrant and full of life be gone that quickly?

James is right about life—it is but a wisp of fog. Like a morning fog that 
vanishes, so is our life—short and uncertain. Whether we live for only a few
years, or over 100, the time we have is still relatively short. We have no 
guarantees about tomorrow, let alone next week, next month, next year or 
even
10 years from now. Because we only have one life to live, we must make it 
count.

In Ecclesiastes, wise King Solomon reminds us that no one can escape death. 
Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go
to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living 
should take this to heart.”

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of 
wisdom.”

God’s wisdom is what we must seek if we want to live a life pleasing to Him, 
a life of humility and obedience. Ultimately, everyone who has ever lived
or will ever live will die. Truly, our lives are but a mist.
For more inspiration, visit my blog at
carolaround.com
Copyright © 2015 Carol Round, All rights reserved.

Afraid of Getting Old? How to Love the Elderly
Julie Barrier

Aklak shivered, fighting back tears as he hugged little Kaya for the last 
time. He would never again gaze into the pudgy round face of his 
great-grandson.
Aklak’s gnarled limbs and weak heart confined him to the corner of the 
crowded igloo. He could no longer hunt or fish in the desolate wasteland of 
snow
and ice. He was dead weight in a
family
fighting to survive. Mamook, his son, knew what must be done. He placed his 
feeble father on a snowy ice floe and pushed him out to sea to die alone. 
Such
was the custom of the Inuit tribe in northern Alaska.

Getting old is hell. Paul taught that as the outer body wastes away, the 
inner spirit is renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 5:1-2) NIV However the 
“wasting
away” part is inevitable. Watching your loved ones systematically lose their 
strength, hearing, sight and mental acuity is heart-breaking for you and 
gut-wrenching
for them.

Not all cultures abandon their elders. Hispanic matriarchs rule the roost of 
bustling households filled with cousins, sisters, brothers and babies. 
Tucson,
where we served as pastors, is situated one hundred miles north of the 
Mexican border. Abuelitas and Tios come to Tucson hospitals for cancer 
treatments
and bypass surgeries. I loved to see the surgery waiting rooms filled with 
hoards of friends and family members. Toda la familia (everyone in the 
family)
watched, waited and prayed.

How do most Americans treat the aged? Too often they look away. I’ve visited 
a plethora of nursing homes. Many reek with the stench of unwashed bodies,
dirty floors and rotting feces. Even the most exclusive facilities still 
underpay and under-appreciate their employees. Always, always I hear the 
voice
of a demented mother incessantly calling for her son or daughter. It breaks 
my heart.

One of my dearest friends was the victim of elder abuse. We didn’t discover 
the hateful mistreatment for five years. Mary was a retired pediatrician who
married a multi-millionaire. She gave millions to hospitals, universities 
and to our church. As Mary’s health began to decline, she wanted to remain 
in
her home and employ a live-in caregiver. Sue was a slick con artist who 
ingratiated herself by “taking care” of our aging friend. In three years, 
she siphoned
off hundreds of thousands of dollars to bank roll her daughters’ Ivy League 
educations and lavish lifestyles. Only after a fierce legal battle was Mary
freed from her “captor’s” secret threats and emotional abuse.

People are living longer. But are they living better? How can you and I love 
the elderly in our midst?

Honor them. God obviously deemed it important or He wouldn’t have proclaimed 
it the Fifth Commandment. (Exodus 20:12) Webster defines “honoring” as 
showing
great respect, admiration and recognition.

Listen to them. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way 
of righteousness.”(Proverbs 16:31) NIV. Younger adults often consider the
words of the aged to be irrelevant and unimportant.

Meet their emotional needs. Too often we assume that if our loved ones have 
their physical needs met, we have done our part. They need our devotion, 
appreciation,
affirmation and time more than ever.

Help them grieve their losses and give them comfort. Their friends have 
either passed away or are homebound. Most elderly women outlive their 
husbands.
Every time an older person faces an irreversible health issue, they need 
comfort. Men grieve the loss of independence and earning power.

Include them. Besure to celebrate with them! Birthdays, holidays, reunions 
are wonderful opportunities to cheer your elder family members.

Give them permission to talk about death and heaven. Family members shy away 
from talking about death, but it is never far from the older person’s 
thoughts.Sing
to them, read to them and pray for them. Paul was unafraid to talk about his 
death. Here’s what he wrote to Timothy, his son in the
faith:

“ For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at 
hand.I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the 
faith.
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, 
the righteous judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto
all them also that love His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8 KJV

Older family members loved you and carefully cared for your needs. Now it’s 
your turn.
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It's Time to Tell Someone
SUZIE ELLER

"I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God 
who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the
watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow."
1 Corinthians 3:6-7
(NLT)

They showed up at my door when I was 14.

Because they went to my school, my mom let them in. They stumbled into my 
room, standing awkwardly with their youth pastor behind them. One invited me
to come to church. Another teen shuffled from foot to foot and asked if she 
could tell me about Jesus.

I didn’t want to hear it. I was angry at God, if there even was one.

I didn’t grow up in church, so I didn’t know a lot about the Bible. All I 
knew is that life was hard, and I didn’t want anyone to fix me.

Thank you very much, now here’s the door.

I can only imagine the scene afterwards. A bunch of teenagers clustered on 
the sidewalk outside our home on Latimer Street, wondering what in the world
just happened.

I’m sorry. I really am.

Wherever you are, I want to thank you for trying. I don’t know why you 
picked me, but I love the fact that you wanted to tell me about Jesus.

That day you didn’t find fertile soil, but a small seed was planted. Jesus 
eventually rooted His love in my heart and changed not only me, but also 
generations
after me. I wish you knew that the angry girl in the bedroom became a woman 
of faith who loves nothing more than telling others about Jesus.

In today’s passage, Paul and Apollos had faithfully planted seeds of 
teaching in a new church body. We see the newness of the church as members 
debate
about who is the most important, Paul or Apollos.

Paul diverted the attention away from himself to remind them of a simple 
truth: Telling others about Jesus is not about one person or another. It’s 
not
about recognition. It’s not even about success or failure.

It’s about faithfully planting seeds, watering them and allowing God to grow 
them.

If someone were to look at those teens standing in my room, they might think 
that their words had little effect. One day in Heaven I plan to thank them.
For every person, including them, who bravely shared the truth with me 
planted a seed of faith in my heart.

Like Apollos and Paul, one planted. Another watered.

And then, at just the right time, a seed sprouted and broke the crusty soil 
of my angry heart.

Why am I telling you this?

Maybe you’ve sensed for a long time that you’re to talk to someone about 
Jesus. You’ve hesitated because you don’t know how or you don’t want to 
fail.
Perhaps you even experienced someone like I once was, and it made you think 
twice about trying again.

But I want you to know something.

When you move beyond your fears to tell someone that Jesus loves them, it 
may be exactly what they need to hear that day even if they don’t know it 
yet.

I want a front seat one day in Heaven when those teens discover that their 
bravery wasn’t in vain. I want to hug their necks and thank them. In fact, 
there
will be a lot of seed sowers I want to thank, because all of them together 
made a difference.

They sowed. Some watered. God grew me.

If God is leading you to tell someone about Jesus, don’t miss that moment. 
There might be someone in your path — a woman, a girl, a friend, a loved one
— who doesn’t know Jesus loves them and His love changes you forever.

Lord, thank You for allowing me to plant a seed, or water a seed or perhaps 
to even watch a seed come to fruition in the life of another. Lead me. Guide
me. Show me what to say and when to say it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 17:20,
"I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever 
believe in me through their message." (NLT)


Daily Devotional by John Piper

Talk to God, Not Just About Him

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no 
evil, for you are with me.
(Psalm 23:4)

The form of this psalm is instructive.

In the first three verses David refers to God as “he”:

The Lord is my shepherd . . .
he makes me lie down . . .
he leads me . . .
he restores my soul.

Then in
verses 4 and 5
David refers to God as “you”:

I will not fear, for you are with me;
your rod and staff comfort me;
you prepare a table before me;
you anoint my head with oil.

Then in verse 6 he switches back to the third person:

I shall dwell in the house of the Lord.

The lesson I have learned from this form is that it is good not to talk very 
long about God without talking to God.

Every Christian is at least an amateur theologian — that is, a person who 
tries to understand the character and ways of God and then put that into 
words.
If we aren't little theologians, then we won’t ever say anything to each 
other about God and will be of very little real help to each other’s faith.

But what I have learned from David in
Psalm 23
and other psalms is that I should interweave my theology with prayer. I 
should frequently interrupt my talking about God by talking to God.

Not far behind the theological sentence, “God is generous,” should come the 
prayerful sentence, “Thank you, God.”

On the heels of, “God is glorious,” should come, “I adore your glory.”

What I have come to see is that this is the way it must be if we are feeling 
God’s reality in our hearts as well as describing it with our heads.

For more about John Piper's ministry and writing, see
DesiringGod.org.
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7 Thoughts for More Effective Prayer
by Ron Edmondson

Hezekiah ruled over Judah and was a good and faithful king.

Hezekiah often became the target of warring nations. The king of Assyria, 
which was a much more powerful nation, made plans to overthrow Hezekiah’s 
kingdom.
Throughout the stressful time in leadership, Hezekiah consistently used the 
same battle plan.

He went before the Lord in prayer—and—he followed the Lord’s commands.

Hezekiah relied on prayer to rule his life. This king knew how to pray and 
he prayed in a way that got results.

At one point, the Assyrian king launched a huge smear campaign against 
Hezekiah with his own people. It scared Hezekiah’s people.

Hezekiah heard about the threat and went before the Lord. God assured 
Hezekiah everything would be okay, but the Assyrians wouldn’t let up their 
verbal
assaults. They kept taunting the kingdom of Hezekiah, throwing threats 
towards Hezekiah. Finally, they sent a letter by messenger to Hezekiah, 
which basically
said, “The Assyrians are tough, and they are coming for you next.”

It was a credible, realistic threat. In a practical sense, Hezekiah had 
reason to be afraid.

What do you do when you are backed into a corner as a leader and you’re 
about to face something bigger than your ability to handle?

Well, Hezekiah received the letter with all the threats and began to pray.

We find this account in
2 Kings 19:14–19.

What can we learn from listening in as Hezekiah prayed?

Here are 7 Thoughts for More Effective Prayer from a Stressed Out Leader 
Named Hezekiah:

Hezekiah got alone with God. There is corporate prayer like we do at church, 
and there is prayer where a few are gathered. But probably some of the most
effective prayer time of your life will be the time you invest alone with 
God.

Hezekiah’s prayer was immediate. His prayer wasn’t an afterthought. It was 
prior to making his plans. We are so geared to react as leaders that it’s 
hard
for us to go first to God. He may be second or third or first when we are 
backed into a corner and have no choice, but we need to develop a discipline
and habit to make God the first place we turn in our lives. Like Hezekiah.

Hezekiah’s prayer was open and honest. Hezekiah was transparent before the 
Lord. I love the imagery here in this prayer story of Hezekiah. He took the
letter, went to the house of the Lord, and spread it out before Him. I get 
this visual image of Hezekiah, and this letter—laying it there on the table,
and saying, “Okay, God, what now? What do I do next? What’s my first move?”

Are you in a tough spot right now? You may just need to get you some note 
cards—write down all the things you are struggling with—lay them out on a 
table
and say, “Okay, God, here are my struggles. I can’t do anything about them. 
What now?”

Writing your prayer requests before God is a great idea for 2 reasons.

a. It helps you remember to pray for them.

b. It helps you to watch as God answers. We get more answers than we realize 
if we only ask.

Hezekiah’s prayer was honoring, humble, and respectful of who God is. 
Hezekiah knew his place as king—and he knew God’s place in the Kingdom. 
Hezekiah
was king of a nation and that is an important job, yet Hezekiah willingly 
humbled himself in prayer, because he knew his place before the King of 
kings.

Hezekiah’s prayer was bold. He said, “Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your 
eyes, O LORD….” Hezekiah had the kind of relationship with God where it wasn’t
a surprise when Hezekiah showed up to pray. They talked frequently; probably 
throughout the day. Because of that relationship, Hezekiah didn’t wonder if
God would be there when he came before Him. He knew he could ask God to act 
on his behalf.

The more you grow in your relationship with God, the bolder your prayers can 
become, because the more your heart will begin to line up with God’s heart.

Hezekiah’s prayer was dependent. In
verses 17–18
he prays, “It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these 
nations and their lands.” Hezekiah knew he was out of his league facing the
Assyrians. From the way I see that Hezekiah responded to life, however, I 
don’t think it mattered the size of the battle. Hezekiah was going to depend
on God. Every time. In every situation.

Hezekiah’s prayer was certain. Because it was based on his personal faith 
and trust in God. In
verse 19,
Hezekiah prayed, “Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all 
kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”

Hezekiah had a faith in God that allowed him to pray with confidence. You 
need to understand that faith is always based on the promises of God. Some 
things
God has promised to do—and some He hasn’t. God has promised to always get 
glory for Himself and always work things for an ultimate good. He hasn’t 
promised
to rid everyone of cancer or to heal every bad relationship. Or settle every 
leadership issue we face.

(That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for everything. We don’t know His will, 
but we can’t guarantee God to do that which He hasn’t promised to do.) 
Sometimes
we get upset because God doesn’t do something we asked or wanted Him to do, 
but the fact is He had never promised to do it.

Hezekiah knew God had promised to save His people. He knew God had placed 
him in the position of authority over them. He had confidence that God would
do what He had promised to do. Hezekiah trusted God to be faithful to His 
word so he was willing to act in faith.

What situations are you dealing with today that you know you are helpless to 
do on your own and you desperately desire God’s answer?

Are you a stressed out leader?

Get alone with God, spread your problems out before Him honestly, humbly, 
and boldly; then, allow His will to be done, as you wait for His response.

--------------------------------------
Ron Edmondson pastors Immanuel Baptist Church. Find out more at:
http://www.ronedmondson.com/about

Spiritual Fruit – Joy

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, 
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and 
self-control. There is no law against these things!" (Galatians 5:22-23, 
NLT)

The fruit of love is the first part of the fruit that the Holy Spirit gives 
to believers. The fruit of joy is the second part. What is joy? Joy is a 
quality of life and not an emotion. Happiness is an emotion that depends on 
circumstances. Joy is something deep in the life of a Christian that is 
there no matter what the circumstances. We see this in the following verses:

" Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 
because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, 
not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4, NIV)

"You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, 
you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you 
became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia." (1 
Thessalonians 1:6-7, NIV)

Some may try to grow their own joy instead of letting it be grown by the 
Holy Spirit. They put on a happy face and are happy when things are going 
well and may even put on a good face when things are not going well. There 
are some people that are just naturally perky but it does not necessarily 
come from the Holy Spirit. One does not have to put on a show all the time 
but may have deep everlasting joy deep within when things are not going 
well.

I pray you will have happiness in your life but more than that, I pray you 
will have the true joy that only God can give.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so 
that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 
15:13, NIV)

by Dean W. Masters
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Stuck in the Muck
Rachel Randolph

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet 
on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."
Psalm 40:2
(NIV)

After several cold rainy days in October, the clouds parted and the sun came 
out. Tired of being cooped up, we seized the moment and met up with a few
friends at a small petting zoo. The sunny morning was exactly what my son 
Jackson and I needed.

When his naptime approached, we were having such a good time that I decided 
to linger a little longer. Then the rain reappeared and poured on our 
playdate.

I said my goodbyes and marched across the now freshly soggy farm to where 
Jackson was playing. "It’s time to go, buddy," I said, reaching out for his 
hand.

"I don’t waaaaaant to goooooo!" he whined, walking backwards out of my 
reach.

"I know," I empathized. "It’s hard to leave fun places."

"Nooooooo! I STAYYY!" my now overly tired toddler yelled, turning to run 
from me. I quickly scooped him up and carried him across the petting zoo as 
he
screamed and kicked his muddy shoes all over me.

"Stand right there," I firmly ordered, setting him next to the car and 
reaching inside for the baby wipes. When I turned around to clean him off, 
he was
running like an escaped convict through the parking lot.

My sharp-eyed, fast-footed 2-year-old was running toward a back entrance to 
the zoo. In hot pursuit, I followed. But by the time I made it through the
gate, he’d positioned himself on the opposite side of an empty, muddy horse 
pen.

Across the rusty red bars, he was staring me down with the iron will of a … 
well, of a defiant, exhausted toddler.

I darted to the right to grab him. He matched my steps. I slowly paced to 
the left. Across the pen, keeping steady eye contact with me, and like a 
cowboy
ready for a draw, he paced with me. After a few rounds of this, I realized: 
checkmate. He had me. I could not get to him. Unless …

I could make him fall.

I walked to the left, and he followed my lead straight into a muddy patch. 
His pace slowed as his boots sunk down into the muck. I quickly moved to the
right. He did too, but his boots didn’t follow, and he fell right into my 
muddy trap. His strong-willed defiance quickly turned to a whimpering plea 
for
his mommy.

I wonder how often God feels like this with us. He simply wants to get us on 
the road to a safe place for nourishment and rest, while we jet off in our
own direction, sure of something better.

Does He, in His love, let us fall into a muddy puddle so we can feel the 
discomfort of life without Him?

Isn’t it true that when we find ourselves stuck in the muck of life, we long 
more deeply for God’s loving arms to come and take our hands and lead us 
out?
We cry out, "Daddy, I need You. Please pull me out of this mess!"

I imagine He gives the same knowing smile I did when my son, laying face up 
in the mud, finally cried out for me. He kneels down and as we see in
Psalm 40:2,
lifts us out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire — our muddy boots 
dangling from our safe perch in His arms — and whispers, "I’m here love, 
been
here all along. I’ve just been waiting for you to ask. Now let’s get you 
cleaned up." Then He sets us on solid ground, giving us a firm place to 
stand.

Heavenly Father, I pray that I would trust and obey Your lead in the good 
times and in the times when I feel like I’m sinking into the mud and mire of
life. I truly believe God, that Your way is better, Your way leads to a 
fuller, deeper, more nourishing life. Help me to stop running from You and 
instead
run toward Your loving embrace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 25:4-5,
"Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and 
teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." 
(NIV)

When You're Stuck in the Middle
ALICIA BRUXVOORT

"Then Jesus became explicit, ‘Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes 
that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now 
let’s
go to him.’" John 11:14-15 (MSG)

The poor teacher couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong. One minute, my 
daughter’s face had been decorated with her signature smile; the next, her 
cheeks
were streaked with silent tears.

My third-born is sensitive. As a baby, she cried around the clock. As a 
preschooler, she cried when her big brother pulled her ponytail.

And in first grade, she cried in Sunday school when she heard the tale of 
Lazarus bursting forth from the tomb.

Befuddled, the teacher pulled me aside after church that day and apologized 
for "whatever upset Hannah during story time." I’d assured her we knew about
our little girl’s tender heart.

However, later I asked Hannah about the unexplained tears. Like her teacher, 
I had no idea what might have prompted her sadness. After all, the 
resurrection
recorded in the eleventh chapter of John seems more like a 
celebration-sparker than a tear-jerker.

"I wasn’t planning to cry, Mommy," Hannah explained. "But that story just 
made me feel so sad."

I squatted low to look my daughter in the eye. "Honey, the story of Lazarus 
is one of Jesus’ greatest miracles."

"I know," Hannah conceded. "I just felt so bad for those sisters. I kept 
thinking about how I’d feel if Jesus had let me down like that."

"But, Hannah" I said, "You already know the ending to the story. Jesus shows 
up and makes everything right. Those sisters get their brother back, and 
they
all have a graveside party!"

My girl exhaled an exasperated sigh, whispering, "Even if you know the 
ending, the middle can still hurt."

My stomach lurched at the huge truth that hung between us, and suddenly, I 
understood the tears.

My little girl had gotten stuck in "the middle."

She’d stood at the edge of the tomb where a beloved brother lay lifeless, 
crying right alongside those sisters.

I’ve been there. And if you’ve been traveling this world’s broken road for a 
while, you probably have, too.

The middle is where we call on God and wonder if He hears our cries.

The middle is where doubts rage loud, and our Savior grows quiet.

The middle is where life doesn’t make sense, faith seems foolish and hope 
seems lost.

When sickness strikes, when a friend betrays, when a spouse disappoints or a 
child rebels, we can find ourselves hoping for a better ending to our story.

Maybe you’re there now, feet planted shakily at the edge of the tomb where 
your hopes and dreams are buried. If you are, I’m sorry.

But listen to what Jesus told the disciples before raising Lazarus from the 
dead: "You’re about to be given new grounds for believing" (John 11:15).

You see, the middle isn’t just a place of pain. It’s a place of possibility. 
That middle ground is fertile soil for flourishing faith.

The middle is where we decide what we believe about Jesus — regardless of 
our circumstances. Before Jesus performed a miracle, Martha made her 
decision: "I
have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has 
come into the world from God" (John 11:27b, NLT).

And Jesus replied with a promise we can claim for ourselves: "Didn’t I tell 
you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (John 11:40b, 
MSG)

Do you see it now? We don’t survive the middle by rewriting the story; we 
survive it by anchoring our hope to the One who has already scripted the 
perfect
ending.

There will come a day when no one will be stuck in the middle, with no more 
tears and no more pain (Revelation 21:3-5).

So, plant your feet firmly on the promises of Christ, dear friend. Because 
life on this side of Heaven is just the scene before the miracle. And if we
believe in Jesus, we already know there’s a happy ending.

Dear Jesus, I’m stuck in the middle and it hurts. But I believe You are the 
resurrection and the life. Help me choose faith instead of fear. Renew my 
hope
in Your glorious ending. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Revelation 21:6a, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning 
and the end." (The Voice)

1 Corinthians 1:7b-8, "All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait 
expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And
not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on 
track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus." (MSG)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Sometimes our dreams feel like they’re dying, but God is at work preparing 
us for the next step. If you can relate, join our next
P31 Online Bible Study,
What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst. Registration is 
open and the study begins next Monday, April 13.

Stop by
Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog
today for more encouragement and for a free printable that will help turn 
your middle ground into new ground for believing.

Hold On To Your Hope ~ Don't Let Go
by Dean Masters

Psalm 130:5
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in His word I hope;

Are you good at waiting on God or are you like me where you tend to be 
chomping at the bit like a horse waiting to take off or bolting ahead 
saying, “Now
that I see what you have, I’ve got this�

Yesterday while I was outside with one of the dogs I could hear an animal 
screaming but couldn’t figure out what it was and when I would walk in the 
direction
of the noise the neighbor dog would start barking at me and the noise would 
stop. After two times of that happening I finally went to see if he was 
tormenting
something in the corner of their yard on the other side of their wooden 
fence. They have a fence that is wooden with a wire fence to keep small 
animals
out (that didn’t work so well). There was a small rabbit stuck in between 
the wires of the fence with one leg stuck through one small square and it’s 
body
through another and it was frantically trying to get away from the dog even 
though the dog didn’t seem to intend to hurt it. I was shocked that the 
bunny
allowed me to calm it down and get it’s legs straightened out and Bill 
pulled back one wire and I slid it through, set it down and it took off. If 
the
bunny had continued in it’s frantic efforts instead of calming down and 
allowing us to help it, it could have killed itself, or the dog may have 
after
a while.

Like that bunny, if you are struggling or you are getting ready for the 
amazing plan God has in store for you, calm down a minute. Allow God to 
guide you
and straighten the path in front of you so you can be free to do His will! 
God is so good and you can always trust Him to do what is best, there is no
need to be frantic. Spend time in His word and look for His promises and 
hold on to your hope in Him! He is the God of all and all that you face is 
“but
a small thing for Him to fixâ€.

If you are not the one going crazy right now and you have someone close to 
you who is, be there for them and help them to see that God is in control. 
Life
get’s crazy sometimes for all of us, no one is exempt from trouble in this 
world, but God can handle it if you will just give it all to Him.

If you have finally found something God has for you to do, allow Him to 
guide you in it! Don’t get so caught up in the moment that you take off out 
of
the gate like a race horse without a jockey. Hold on and press into God and 
allow Him to guide you in all that you do and I can promise you then that 
the
best is truly yet to come!

Quote:
Our greatest danger in life is in permitting the urgent things to crowd out 
the important. Charles E. Hummel
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Love Just One
(En Español)

We've stated that true spiritual discernment comes from knowing the mind of 
Christ. Let me make this quest as practical as possible: if we would know 
the
thoughts of Christ, we should seek to know His motives, for thoughts exist 
to fulfill motives. Jesus Christ came into the world, "not . . . to condemn
the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:17 NAB). 
Thus, if we truly understand the love that motivated Jesus, we will 
increasingly
hear and understand His thoughts.

Or consider Paul's words, "And this I pray, that your love may abound still 
more and more in real knowledge and all discernment" (Phil. 1:9). The route
to true knowledge and all discernment is to possess abounding love. Let us 
learn to rest our heads upon Christ's breast and listen to His heart. For in
hearing His heart, we can discern His love for those around us.

Yet I acknowledge that, for some, to love others as Christ has loved us 
remains an ideal too far to reach. Therefore let's start small and bring 
this task
closer to home. Rather than attempting to love everyone everywhere, let us 
reduce the challenge and make our aim to love just one person. Now I do not
mean we should stop loving others whom we already love. I mean add just one 
person to your heart, and release your love to that individual in a more 
Christlike
way.

This person may be a lost neighbor or a backslidden friend; he or she might 
be a sick acquaintance or an elderly person from church. The individual may
be a child in physical or emotional pain. (I am not suggesting you focus on 
an individual of the opposite sex.) The Lord will lead you. He will put one
person on your heart and give you grace to grow in love.

Come to this experiment without seeking to correct him or her, unless they 
themselves ask for advice. Pray daily for the person. And as you listen to 
the
voice of God's love, something inside you will flower and open naturally 
toward other realms of discernment. Inspired by God, impulses and ideas born 
of
love will increase and expand to your other relationships as well. In truth, 
the knowledge and insights you gain from loving just one will become a 
natural
catalyst in loving many.

Discernment will grow and mature even as you love just one.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Adapted from Francis Frangipane's book Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of 
Christ, on sale this weekend only for $7.50 at
www.arrowbookstore.com.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In Christ's Image Training

Class begins April 3, 2015

Registration extended through Monday, March 30, 2015

In Christ's Image Training
is a six-month, online course developed by Pastor Frangipane. It is based on 
44 years of seeking God, study and revelatory insights. These are proven
truths that break chains and lead to power in our Christian walk

ICIT provides focused training in four essential stages of spiritual 
development:

The vision of attaining Christ's likeness
Possessing Christ's humility
Developing a strong prayer life
Becoming one with other Christ believers

The course comes right to your home via email and audio messages and is 
designed to lift one's focus toward the actual presence of Jesus Christ. The 
complete
course not only includes 48 lessons and 39 audio messages, but the 
discerning student will actually find the Lord using the weekly lessons to 
stage opportunities
to deepen the truths found in the training.

For those with limited funds, the entire text is free by email. Please 
choose the Free Lesson Plan when enrolling.
Francis presenting the course

Enrollment overview:

1) Go to
www.icitc.org
and read through the
Level I
page,
FAQ
page
Level I Syllabus
page and
Tuition
page.

2) Choose an enrollment plan

3) Next, complete the Level I Registration form

4) Submit the registration any time between now and March 26, 2015 Extended 
to March 30, 2015. Class begins April 3, 2015.

Feel free to forward this offer to friends and family members.

For more info, please see
www.icitc.org
A service of Frangipane Ministries, Inc.
Copyright (c) 2015
All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations were taken from the
NASB.


Love Worth Finding Ministries

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Chosen Before Time Began

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, 
that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”
Ephesians 1:4

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Did you know that God chose you before He laid the foundations of the earth? 
You talk about “old time religion”! Well, friend, you can’t get much older
than that! Before there were any trees, mountains, birds, and bees, God 
chose you to be one of His children. Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “God 
certainly
must have chosen me before I came into this world because He never would 
have chosen me afterward.”

That means you and I cannot take credit for our salvation. First John 4:19 
says, “We love Him, because He first loved us.” Somebody asked a little boy,
“Have you found the Lord?” And the little boy said, “I didn’t know He was 
lost.” How miraculous that God has chosen us. When left alone to ourselves, 
we
would never have chosen Him.

ACTION POINT:
Though election is a divine mystery, it can bring great assurance to a 
believer’s heart. Allow God’s Word to teach you further what it means to be 
chosen.
Read Matthew 20:16, 24:22; Luke 10:20; John 6:37-39; Romans 8:28-39; 1 
Corinthians 1:26-31; Ephesians 1:9-11; 2 Timothy 1:9.

Devotions taken from the messages of Adrian Rogers.
© 2014 Love Worth Finding Ministries | PO Box 38300 - Memphis, TN 38183-0300

A Note of Encouragement

from Ciloa
I have decided...by Terry L. Coleridge

Life had been exceptionally challenging. I was home recovering from very 
painful surgery. My mother was in the hospital a thousand miles away. Our 
recently
married daughter and son-n-law learned they might lose their jobs. Then I 
discovered my own work hours had been cut by half.

The problems just seemed to escalate. One evening I got a hold of my mother 
who, in a weak voice, said she would have to undergo a more invasive 
surgical
procedure. At dinner I burst into tears. I could have been there for her if 
I'd known my hours were being cut.

The next day I read about Jesus' agony at the Mount of Olives. He prayed so 
intensely that it appeared He was sweating blood from His brow. (see Luke 
22:41-45)
Thinking of my own anguish, I felt humbled remembering the grief and pain He 
went through for me.

My husband later asked, "Do you remember about praying to God for a break?" 
He reminded me that our Lord answers our prayers, but not always in the way
we want. Deep down I knew He was answering me.

One morning a song kept playing in my mind. "I have decided to follow Jesus, 
No turning back, No turning back." In all the stress and discouragement, I
was surprised to hear those words. I hadn't sung this in years.

With the gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit, I started singing, at first 
tentatively while doing the breakfast dishes, then later more assertively 
while
driving to work. Later, a co-worker had her song book at our Bible study and 
we sang the song.

That same day I received most of my hours back and these were better than 
before. I was joyful and thankful to the Lord Jesus Christ. And to think I 
had
thoughts of quitting! After work, I picked up my husband from his job and 
told him all about it. He asked if I knew the story behind the song.

The lyrics are based on the words of a man who lived in Assam, India, in the 
19th century. He, his wife, and children converted to Christianity, angering
many there. When called to renounce his faith by the village chief, he 
declared, "I have decided to follow Jesus, and there is no turning back."

After seeing his children murdered, he said, "The world can be behind me, 
but the cross is still before me." His wife was then killed. Just before his
own death, he said, "Though no one is here to go with me, still I will 
follow Jesus."

This display of faith was reported to have led to the conversion of that 
same chief and many others in the village. His words, put to traditional 
Indian
music, became part of an enormous evangelistic effort in Northern India. In 
time this new song would make its way to churches across the world.

How like God to place in my heart the words of this faithful man facing 
death to remind me of His call to trust and follow Him and that regardless 
of the
situation I have not been abandoned.

Like the man in Assam, we have to trust the Lord in the midst of troubles, 
difficulties, and hardships. Often it is only when we let go of our lives 
that
God takes care of the situation, working it for the benefit of everyone 
concerned...even those we may never know.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest...I 
will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you...I am with you always,
to the very end of the age. Matthew 11:28, John 14:18, Matthew 28:20
Jesus is alive. And He is always with us.

Terry

Terry L. Coleridge is a Nurse Assistant/Facilitator and has cared for 
individuals with Downs Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Epilepsy, Bipolar 
Disorder,
Autism, and various behavioral disorders. Terry and her husband live in 
Washington State, USA.
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Spiritual Fruit  Love

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, 
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and 
self-control. There is no law against these things!" (Galatians 5:22-23, 
NLT)

There is only one fruit of the Spirit but it has nine parts. In 1 
Corinthians 13 we find that the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit is love. As 
we see in the Scripture from the book of Galatians above this is the first 
part of the fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit. If we don’t have love 
then we cannot grow the other fruits of the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 13 we 
find that love is patient, love is kind, etc. so if you don’t have love then 
the other parts of the fruit won’t grow.

In the Greek language there were three different words for love. One was 
eros which was the love between a man and a woman. Phileo is the tender love 
between friends. The Greek word used in the Scripture above is Agape. This 
is the deep love for God. It is never used to mean love for someone or 
something other than God.

Someone may have a lot of phileo love for others but could be creating his 
own fruit. So it seems like he has agape love also but this may not be the 
case. As we see below the only place we can get the agape love is from God. 
It is not something we can create:

" Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from 
God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does 
not love does not know God, for God is love." (
1 John 4:7-8, NLT)

So if you have been creating your own fruit of love, accept Jesus Christ as 
your Savior and accept the agape love of God so that you can show His true 
love to all around you.

by Dean W. Masters

How to Understand the Bible

How Should We Read the Epistles of the New Testament?

I was just eight years old at the time, but I still remember the day an 
irritated elderly lady came storming out of her house to yell at me. I was 
walking
home from our three-room rural elementary school, goofing off with a couple 
of friends, when I opened the street-side mailbox at a random house and 
pretended
to rifle through my mail—except it wasn’t my mail. It was the elderly lady’s 
mail. And she did not think my antics were one bit amusing.

Has it ever occurred to you while reading one of the epistles (letters) in 
the New Testament that you’re reading someone else’s mail? In a way we are,
and in a way we aren’t. For two millennia Christians have read the 20 New 
Testament epistles as Holy Scripture, as the word of God for us. At the same
time, the epistles were personal writings produced for specific people or 
groups of people, often responding to their particular needs. So we cannot 
understand
the epistles unless we take the effort to discover what lies behind the 
words.

Paul-the-Apostle

Some letters read like highly crafted treatises, like the magisterial 
epistle to the Romans. Others, like 1 and 2 Corinthians, are intricately 
connected
with the needs of a particular group, the believers in the church in 
Corinth. They had evidently written the apostle Paul and asked specific 
questions,
because he says in 1 Corinthians 7:1, “Now for the matters you wrote 
about… †and then goes on at some length, responding point by point. Earlier 
in that
same letter, Paul was responding to certain oral reports he’d gotten about 
what was going on in that complicated and troubled church.

A wide range of circumstances prompted the writing of the epistles. Disorder 
in a church, the threat of false teaching, trepidation about the end of the
world, confusion about death, controversy over religious practices, 
ambiguity about ethics, weakness in leadership. Some epistles were meant as 
a word
of encouragement or just a way of reconnecting. The books of Hebrews and 
Romans offer an expansive theological perspective. Some letters focus on a 
particular
theological point: grace in the case of Galatians, Christ in the case of 
Colossians, the church in the case of Ephesians. Taken as a whole, these 20 
letters
add to the Canon of Holy Scripture a multifaceted, real-life description of 
both faith and behavior.

If you’re going to linger in a particular epistle, you will benefit from 
reading the article about that particular New Testament book in a good Bible 
dictionary
or in the introduction of a commentary. You will get the essential features: 
who wrote it, to whom it was written, the occasion of its writing, the date,
etc. If you are reading an epistle more quickly, the notes in a good study 
Bible will give you the important facts in brief.

It’s best to mediate on some parts of the epistles. For instance, the 
amazing songs and creeds and prayers embedded in some of them. Other parts 
of the
epistles have complicated details that require the help of Bible linguists, 
historians, archaeologists, and the like, which we will find in Bible 
commentaries.
If we get the help to understand what “food sacrificed to idols†means in 1 
Corinthians 8, we’ll be able to learn the lesson there about Christian 
conscience
and freedom. And we cannot understand the epistle of Philemon unless we 
learn something about slavery in the first century.

Epistles are one genre of Scripture that are best read in long form. Ignore 
the chapter and verse numbers, which were added to the biblical text in the
thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. Reading an epistle straight through is 
an entirely different experience from reading a few verses at a time. Think
of it this way: If you went to your mailbox today and received a 
multiple-page letter from a beloved relative, you’d read it straight 
through. You wouldn’t
read one paragraph today, another tomorrow, and so on. When someone asks 
you, “Did you get my email yesterday?†try saying, “Yes, and I’m savoring it 
by
reading one sentence a day,†and see what response you get. No, we read 
letters well when we read them naturally.

Reading Scripture in context is a sign of respect for God as much as reading 
a letter from your mother straight through is a sign of love. The reason,
of course, is comprehension. Details at the conclusion of the epistle of 
Hebrews make the most sense if the start of the epistle is still rattling 
around
in your mind.

The epistles of the New Testament may not have been addressed to us, but 
they are for us. And we will cherish them as much as—and more than—any 
letter
of love or encouragement a friend ever sent to us.

_______________________________________

Engaging with the Word of God is one of the most important things we can do 
for our spiritual heath.
by Mel Lawrenz
About The Author - Mel Lawrenz serves as minister at large for Elmbrook 
Church and leads The Brook Network. Having been in pastoral ministry for 
thirty
years, the last decade as senior pastor of Elmbrook, Mel seeks to help 
Christian leaders engage with each other. Mel is the author of eleven books, 
the
most recent for church leaders, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to 
Engagement.
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Post  Admin on Sun 14 Jun 2015, 10:29 pm

Oh Come On……. There’s Manure Everywhere!
by Dean Masters

Luke 13:6-9
And Jesus told this parable: A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, 
and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the 
vinedresser,
‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I 
find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered
him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on 
manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, 
you
can cut it down.’”

The vinedresser in this story is Jesus and He is pleading the case of 
someone who isn’t walking with God to the degree that there is no “fruit” in 
their
lives to even show that they have a relationship with Him at all. Does your 
life feel a little like the fig tree, everywhere you turn things have been
churned or dug up and there seems to be manure everywhere you look? Maybe 
God is trying to grow you up to be fruitful and effective for Him.

There are times when we are going through tough times because we are not 
walking with God and then there are times we are seeming to just glide along 
in
our walk with Him complacent, not looking for ways to grow. God allows 
situations and people in our lives at times to help us to grow up in Him. 
Some of
those annoying, crazy people in your life are there for you and until you 
stop praying for them to go away and ask God what you maybe need to learn 
from
the situation, they are there! Now, understand as well that just because you 
see someone going through a tough time or maybe you are doesn’t always mean
there is something wrong with you or them, it can also be because we live in 
an imperfect world and life happens, you know in your heart if it is you 
which
it is.

I would encourage you to take whatever you are facing today to God and ask 
Him to show you if there is something you can learn from it, no matter why 
it
is there and ask Him to guide you. His desire is for you to be all you can 
be for Him so trust Him to guide you to that!

Quote:
“Even if you are on the right track you will get run over if you just sit 
there.” Will Rogers

But I'd Rather Sleep Than Pray
KAREN EHMAN

"Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter, ‘So, 
couldn’t you stay awake with Me one hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you
won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’"
Matthew 26:40-41
(HCSB)

When I was a new Christian, I discovered a pamphlet entitled, How to Spend 
an Hour in Prayer. I was intrigued. I’d heard about people called prayer 
warriors
who placed great emphasis on conversing with God. Prayer seemed to come to 
them naturally. For them, spending an hour in prayer must surely be a 
breeze.

But honestly, back then I found it difficult to keep my thoughts from 
wandering when I prayed. Oftentimes today I still do! Instead they ricochet 
all over
the place as I try to focus.

However, one day, I decided that things were going to change. So I headed to 
a park with Bible in hand and a resolve in my heart to follow the 
step-by-step
guide. I felt like a spiritual giant.

I settled myself on a park bench, opened my Bible, looked down at my 
pamphlet and began to do what it suggested: "Spend five minutes thanking God 
for the
blessings in your life. Spend five minutes praising God for His character 
qualities," and so on. Apparently, breaking down the various categories into
five-minute increments was supposed to help. But it didn’t help me. Five 
minutes seemed like an eternity.

Pretty soon a jogger happened by. He was carrying a small portable radio — 
without headphones — and the blaring music distracted me.

Two hyper squirrels decided to chase each other up and down a tree, and 
around and around my bench. I laughed at their antics, but again lost my 
place.
Even when the animals and humans quieted down, I still had trouble 
concentrating.

I couldn’t focus; I kept thinking of all the things on my to-do list. And I 
was tired! The thought of just chucking my plans and heading home to take a
nap seemed like a better idea. So, after about 23 minutes, I gave up, packed 
up and headed home. My conclusion? I just wasn’t cut out to be a prayer 
warrior.
I’d rather sleep.

It seems I am not alone. Today’s key verse tells us that even Jesus’ own 
disciples had a hard time with prayer. They fell asleep on the very day 
before
Jesus was crucified. If ever someone needed the prayers of friends, it 
surely was then!

Jesus verbalized the trouble with our best-intentions-turned-sour when He 
told His disciples this: "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
(Matthew 26:41b).
How true! My spirit wants to connect and converse with God. But my flesh 
would rather be off getting things done. Or mentally making my grocery list. 
Or
— worst yet — even copping some zzzzzs!

In order to see progress in our prayer life, we need to make prayer a matter 
of prayer! No. That isn’t a typo. We must pray first — before anything else
— that God would help us rein in our wandering thoughts. That’s our only 
hope to battle against the urge to doze off and win the struggle over how we 
spend
our time.

This doesn’t mean we’ll turn into prayer warriors overnight. But it does 
mean we’ll want desperately for Jesus to meet us in our weakness and teach 
us
to do the hard work of making prayer a priority. He is faithful. We must be, 
too.

Today is Good Friday. The day we remember Christ’s death on the cross for 
our sins. As you go about your day today, could you sacrifice some time in 
prayer?

Remember that God sees our hearts and knows our struggles. He doesn’t expect 
perfection. But He does want us to keep striving for improvement in the 
crucial
area of daily communication with Him.

Father, forgive me for the times that I have let my flesh win when my spirit 
wanted to pray. May I never cease trying to develop the important habit of
spending intimate time with You in prayer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 12:12,
"Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer." (HCSB)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18,
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for 
this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
For a fun activity with children that not only teaches the importance of 
prayer but also provides a delicious recipe for homemade pretzels, visit
Karen Ehman’s blog.
There she’s also giving away a copy of her book,
Everyday Confetti: Your Year-round Guide to Celebrating Holidays and Special 
Occasions,
where this idea first appeared.

For more on learning to trust God through prayer, check out Karen’s book and 
corresponding DVD Bible study
LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
How often do you find it easy to become distracted — or even sleepy — when 
you pray? When this happens, what can you do to fight against the flesh and
keep on praying?

© 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

The Books at the Judgment

All who dwell on earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not 
been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the
Lamb who was slain.
(Revelation 13:8)

Salvation is secured for all who are written in the book of life.

The reason that being written in the book of life secures our salvation is 
that the book is called “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (
Revelation 13:8).
The names in this book are not saved on the basis of their deeds. They are 
saved on the basis of Christ’s being slain.

So how then does the record of our lives contained in “the books” have a 
part in our judgment? The answer is that the books contain enough evidence 
of
our belonging to Christ that they function as a public confirmation of our 
faith and our union with him.

Consider
Revelation 21:27:
“Nothing unclean will ever enter [the New Jerusalem], nor anyone who does 
what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s 
book
of life.” Here the result of “being written in the book of life” is not only 
not perishing, but not practicing detestable, sinful behaviors.

For example, consider the thief on the cross. Jesus said that he would enter 
paradise (
Luke 23:43).
But what will judgment be like for him when the books are opened? More than 
99.9% of his life will be sin. His salvation will be secured by the blood of
Christ.

Then God will open the books and will use the record of sin to glorify his 
Son’s supreme sacrifice, and he use the last page to show the change that 
was
wrought in the thief’s attitudes and words. That last page — the last hours 
on the cross — will be the public confirmation of the thief’s faith and 
union
with Christ.

Therefore, when I say that what is written in the books is a public 
confirmation of our faith and of union with Christ, I do not mean that the 
record will
contain more good works than bad works.

I mean that there will be recorded there the kind of change that shows the 
reality of faith — the reality of regeneration and union with Christ. That 
is
how I enter the day, confident that my condemnation is past (
Romans 8:3),
and that my name is in the book of life, and that the one who began a good 
work in me will bring it to completion at the day of Christ.

For more about John Piper's ministry and writing, see
DesiringGod.org.
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Post  Admin on Sat 13 Jun 2015, 9:36 pm

challies.com - Informing the Reforming
----------------------------------------------------------
Get to Know Yourself
external link

The very heart of the human condition is a faulty assessment of self. We 
think too much of ourselves, and think of ourselves too much. We overrate 
our
importance and underestimate our depravity. Ultimately, we elevate ourselves 
to the place reserved for God.

In the face of such insanity, we need to know who we really are. We need to 
have a right assessment of self.

Who am I? It is a question we have all asked at one time or another, at 
least in one of its variations. And every man has his own answer. Every 
philosophy
and every religion has its own response.

Most of them tell me to look inside. I am told to look within, to search 
myself for the truth, to search myself for my own identity. But I never seem 
to
find it. I can’t quite seem to pin it down. The mere conviction that I can 
find answers within stands as proof of my faulty self-assessment. The simple
fact is that I cannot know myself as I really am. I am too blind to see 
myself, too far gone to find myself.

Here is what I have learned: To know myself, I need to look outside of 
myself. My best assessment of self does not come from within but from 
without. It
does not originate with me but with God.

The Bible is an inestimable treasure because of what it teaches me about 
God, but it is equally valuable for what it teaches me about me. It does not 
reveal
only the truth about deity, but also about humanity.

If I want to know who I am, if I want to know why I exist, if I want to know 
where I’ve gone wrong, if I want to know my deepest meaning and purpose, if
I want to properly assess myself, I need to look outside myself. I cannot 
know these things apart from God speaking through his Word. The Bible is 
different
from every other book in this way: Where I read all those other books, the 
Bible reads me.*

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)

The Bible searches me and tells me where I have erred. It examines me and 
tells me what I need. It tries me and evaluates my every thought and 
attitude.
Ultimately, it reads me and tells me who I am.

Who am I? I will never know until I open the Bible and ask.

*I think I have heard that phrase, or a similar one, attributed to R.C. 
Sproul, but I wasn’t able to track it down.


Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I 
reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood 
behind me.For
now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. 
(1Cor 13:11-12a)

By Answers2Prayer

If I Knew

Then My daughter was leafing through some old photo albums the other day 
when she laughed and pulled out an old picture to show me. There I was a 
skinny
12 year old with thick, bushy, brown hair. I looked down at the picture and 
smiled. Only one thought was on my mind: "If only I knew then what I know 
now."

If I knew then what I know now: I would have slept in less and watched the 
sunrise more. I would have went barefoot in the grass earlier in the Spring
and later in the Fall. I would have eaten Nana's Sunday dinners more slowly, 
savoring every bite. I would have read more books and watched less TV. I 
would
have played fetch with my dog every time he wanted to. I would have paid 
less attention to how I looked and more attention to how I treated those 
around
me.

If I knew then what I know now: I would have hugged my Mom and Nana everyday 
and told them how much I loved them. I would have listened better when my
Dad told me stories of his youth. I would have argued less with my brothers. 
I would have been kinder to that little girl in school who liked me so much.
I would have rejoiced in the joys of each new day and not worried about the 
problems of tomorrow.

If I knew then what I know now: I would have danced more, laughed more, and 
sang more no matter who was watching. I would have not cared a bit what 
other
people thought of me. I would have cared a whole lot more, however, about 
what God thought of me. I would have been fearless in showing my love, 
sharing
my joy, and living my life.

Sadly, I didn't know then what I know now. None of us do. All we can do is 
continue to learn, to grow, and to love. All we can do is make our future 
better
than our past. All we can do is our best and hope it makes God and the 
angels smile.

Joseph J. Mazzella

Announcement:

©Copyright 2011 Answers2Prayer | Matt 10:8 "Freely you have received, freely 
give."

Bring Your Friends to Jesus

You may have made sacrifices in your life to help others have life’s 
necessities, an education, or better opportunities. They are all worthy 
sacrifices,
but the ultimate sacrifice is made when we step out in faith to bring 
another to Jesus. Mark tells us of four friends who did not allow seemingly 
insurmountable
obstacles to prevent them from bringing their friend to Jesus.
Mark 2:1-12.

Four men watched as their quadriplegic friend lay immobile, destined to a 
life of physical infirmity. The men developed an irrepressible commitment to
their friend. They purposed to bring him to Jesus on a stretcher. The day 
they did, the crowds were alarmingly large and aggressive. No one would give
up his place near Jesus so the men could bring their friend to the front to 
be healed. This did not dissuade these men. They did not stop in the face
of impossible circumstances.

Because the stakes were so great, the four persisted. They had committed to 
bringing their friend to the Lord, and they did not waver in that 
commitment.
They climbed onto the roof of the building where Jesus spoke, dug a hole, 
and lowered their friend down to Jesus.

What struck Jesus first was not the man’s paralysis but rather his friends’ 
faith. They could not heal the man physically or convert him spiritually,
but they had an undaunted faith that Jesus could. The men believed that if 
they could just bring him into the presence of Jesus that He would do the 
rest—and
Jesus honored that faith.

Jesus’ first move was not to heal the man’s paralysis. Instead, He 
addressed the man’s spiritual condition by forgiving his sins—a far greater 
need. Not
only did the man walk out of the house healed physically, Jesus saved him 
from eternal death and gave him eternal life. His friends could not have 
given
him a greater gift.

Often, we are satisfied if our families and closest friends are saved. It 
should not stop there. The paralytic may have been a neighbor, a former 
co-worker,
or a family friend. Like these men, when God brings people into our lives 
and places their unsaved condition on our hearts, we can trust Him to honor 
our
faith. Our only task is to bring them to Him. They may have no faith at all, 
but God will honor our faith.

Is there someone in your life who is unsaved? Are you committed to bringing 
that person to Jesus? You may have tried in the past with no results. George
Mueller prayed for some people for 23 years before they were saved. Will you 
commit to praying with renewed commitment for them? Do you need to invite
them to church or a small group?

Pray today that God will give you undaunted faith that your friend will 
surely come to know the Lord. Then be obedient to do your part to bring them 
before Jesus.
Enjoy 365 Biblical daily devotional emails from Michael Youssef by
registering for My Devotional today.

We are Leading The Way for people living in spiritual darkness, at home and 
around the world, to discover the light of Christ as we passionately 
proclaim
uncompromising Truth. Visit us today at
www.leadingtheway.org
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Post  Admin on Fri 12 Jun 2015, 8:29 pm

Today's Daily Encounter

Taking Time to Listen

"Behold, I [Jesus] stand at the door and knock. If
anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come
in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."1

In response to a Daily Encounter about the famed
violinist, Fritz Kreisler, Martha Nixon, a good friend,
who some years ago was the well-known soloist with the
famed Neil Macaulay musical team, wrote to tell me
about a fascinating experience Neil had some years ago.

On one occasion when Neil was in New York, "he paid a
'small fortune' to buy two tickets to hear the world
famous violinist Fritz Kreisler play at New
York's Carnegie Hall. Macaulay was himself a concert
musician who had been heard around the world and highly
valued the greater skill of the famous Fritz Kreisler.
The performance was brilliant and worth the money spent
on the tickets. Mid-concert, however, Kreisler made an
amazing comment. 'The reason I'm a bit weary tonight,'
he said, 'is because I played on the streets of New
York all day today dressed as a busker (street
musician) with my violin case opened for donations. It
does me good to play for the people. But not one person
stopped to listen, or gave me a cent!'"

Interesting that this famous musician was totally
ignored amidst the rush and bustle of New York City
life. People passing by didn't take the time to stop
and listen. Instead, they turned a deaf ear to him. And
yet, at night, people paid a high price to hear him.
How sad.

But how much sadder when God "speaks" to us in
innumerable ways and we turn a deaf ear to him because
he doesn't appear to us in the way or manner which we
expect. Even the religious people in Jesus's day who
were actually looking for and expecting the Promised
Messiah (Savior) totally missed him because he didn't
appear in the way or manner that they expected.

So dear reader, whatever you do, don’t turn a deaf ear
to God who, in his still small voice may be whispering
to you while he is knocking on the door of your heart
and life today.*

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to slow
down enough to stop, look, and listen when You are
trying to reach my heart. Give me the good sense to
recognize Your call and always respond in a positive
manner. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer.
Gratefully in Jesus's name, amen."

*NOTE: For help to respond to God's call go to
http://tinyurl.com/8glq9.

1. Revelation 3:20 (NKJV).

<Smile)))><

NOTE: If you would like to accept God's forgiveness
for all your sins and His invitation for a full pardon
Click on:
http://www.actsweb.org/invitation.php.
Or
if you would like to re-commit your life to Jesus Christ,
please click on
http://www.actsweb.org/decision.php
to note this.

* * * * * * *

Daily Encounter is published at no charge by
ACTS International, a non-profit organization,
and made possible through the donations of
interested friends. Donations can be sent at:

http://www.actscom.com

ACTS International
P.O. Box 73545
San Clemente, California 92673-0119
U.S.A.

Phone: 949-940-9050

http://www.actsweb.org

Copyright (c) 2015 by ACTS International.

When copying or forwarding include the following:
"Daily Encounter by Richard (Dick) Innes (c) 2015
ACTS International.

* * * * * * *

Dean Masters, owner of the Masters List
Seasoned With Snark or Laced With Grace?
KAREN EHMAN

"Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the 
bones."
Proverbs 16:24
(NIV)

I am kind of a Bible nerd. I not only love to learn the meaning behind the 
Hebrew or Greek words in Scripture, I also like to study certain English 
words
that catch my attention, drilling down deep to understand why a particular 
word or phrase is used.

And so when I read today’s key verse,
Proverbs 16:24,
I grew curious: Why did God use a honeycomb to describe gracious, sweet and 
healing speech? I needed only to look in my own neighborhood for my answer.

Down the street lives a teenager named Jake. He is a terrific football 
player and an avid wrestler. However, Jake is also a beekeeper who peddles 
his amber
jars of honey at local festivals and fairs. I decided to interview this high 
school entrepreneur to discover all I could about the honey-making biz. He
was very patient with all of my "whys," and his detailed answers fascinated 
me.

Jake told me that the flavor and intensity of honey depends on what kind of 
nectar the bees drink. Clover nectar produces honey that is refreshingly 
light
and sweet. However, another flower’s nectar might create a murky, bitter 
product, with a lingering, unpleasant aftertaste. Wise beekeepers will be 
sure
their beehive is strategically placed near a large patch of clover if they 
want the sweetest, most delectable honey there is.

He also emphasized the importance of situating the beehive where the sun 
will hit it early in the morning, warming up the bees and triggering them to 
get
busy churning out the utmost amount of sweet syrup possible.

"So," I questioned my young friend, "is it safe to say that the sweetness or 
bitterness of honey is determined by what the bee drinks and the amount of
time it spends in the sun — especially early in the morning?"

"Exactly!" he replied.

DING! DING! DING! We have a winner.

Perhaps it’s also true that the sweetness or bitterness of our words will be 
determined by what our hearts drink in each day, and the amount of time we
spend early with the Son.

Today’s key verse states, "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul 
and healing to the bones." If we long for our words to be laced with grace,
rather than seasoned with snark, we need to think like a beekeeper: Watch 
what we drink and spend time in the Son.

By tucking God’s Word into our hearts — drinking in its life-changing truths 
daily as we spend time with Him — we can learn to speak gracious words that
are sweetly soothing to the soul and bring healing and hope. Scripture read 
daily, studied often and memorized intentionally can teach us to speak 
strategically
— yes, with words that are honest — but that are also lovingly tucked inside 
an envelope of grace.

When we lace our speech with grace, healing takes place.

So when someone else’s behavior threatens to knock the nice right out of us, 
we can pause before we pounce, taking the advice I sometimes have to give
to myself: Don’t say something permanently painful just because you are 
temporarily ticked off. Instead, impart grace: sweet, healing, life-giving 
grace.

All the humans you encounter throughout the course of the day are 
"on-purpose" people. God placed them into your life for a reason. These 
souls — whether
they are the easy-to-love variety or the scratchy sandpaper kind — can be 
used by God to mold, reshape and sometimes stretch our souls as He 
perpetually
crafts us into creations that look more and more like his Son — especially 
in the way we speak.

Others are watching, sizing up what we say and how we say it. What will they 
see? Words that incite spats and squabbles? Or honey-sweet speech that 
soothes
and heals?

You choose.

Father, I pray I may carve out time to soak in Your presence, spending time 
in Your Word each day so I might speak and act more like Your Son. In Jesus’
Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Ecclesiastes 10:12,
"Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by 
their own lips." (NIV)

Proverbs 10:32,
"The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the 
wicked, what is perverse." (ESV)

Is There Someone In Your Life That Needs To Change
by Dean Masters

James 3:17-18
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then 
peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, 
impartial and sincere.
Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”-

Those are some of the characteristics I would most often prefer the people 
close to me would possess and for the longest time I poured my heart out to
God begging Him to change them. After all those are Godly characteristics so 
how could it not be the will of God to change the people I had to deal with
on a regular basis so they could be more “godly”, it seemed to make a lot of 
sense to me that I was praying for their good, well, and mine if they would
just change. Then one day when I was pouring my heart out to God and 
pleading my case, in that moment where I paused for a breath He asked, “what 
about
you”? What? ME? So I tried to explain that if these other people would 
change and this circumstance would change then well, I probably wouldn’t 
need to
because it would all be fixed.

Somehow God wasn’t buying all of that and He just really impressed on me 
that I can’t wait for everyone and everything else to change, That isn’t my 
problem!
I AM!!! Once I started praying that God would change me instead of everyone 
else, and mind you I still have to do it everyday to this day, things 
started
falling into place and some of the key people in my life were moving forward 
as well. No, not everyone around me has changed but my attitude toward them
and the circumstances is changing! The key wasn’t in “fixing” everyone else, 
the key was asking God to create a clean heart and a right spirit within me.

I have to admit that it isn’t always easy because the human spirit in me 
just wants to feel justified and vindicated for wrongs said or done to me, 
but
when I have that attitude it holds onto the anger and frustration of the 
situation. When I allow God to change ME on the inside instead I have peace 
and
the situation doesn’t rule my day! If you have a situation or a person in 
your life that you just know needs to change I would encourage you to pray 
for
that situation or person, not what needs to be changed in your eyes but in 
God’s eyes but at the same time pray that He will heal your heart and mind 
about
it all and create a clean heart and a right spirit within you and then rest 
in His peace that He WILL take care of it all in His time! He truly does 
have
your best interest at heart!

Quote: “Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or 
happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.” ~Francesca Reigler
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How Should We Understand the Acts of the Apostles?

How shall we describe the amazing narrative we know as The Acts of the 
Apostles? Fast-paced, expansive, sweeping, intense, surprising, gripping, 
poignant,
compelling, epic? All such descriptions would apply, and more. We have not 
read Acts rightly if we’ve just noted a string of historical details. Acts 
is
unique in Scripture, yet it is a continuation of what its Gentile author, 
Luke, started in his Gospel when he set out to write “an orderly account” 
for
someone named Theophilus so that he “may know the certainty of the things 
[he had] been taught” (
Luke 1:3-4).
Acts opens with:

“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and 
to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions
through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.” (
Acts 1:1-2)

Right away Luke tells us the main characters of this narrative are the 
apostles (including Paul) and the Holy Spirit. From beginning to end, Acts 
is the
story of the Holy Spirit inspiring, empowering, and guiding the followers of 
Jesus on a world-changing mission.

ElGrecoPentecost

El Greco, “Pentecost” 1610

To read Acts rightly, we need to keep in mind Luke’s purpose: to tell the 
story of how the gospel of Jesus the Christ broke out of the limitations of 
Judea
and Galilee and spread across the Mediterranean world, crossing the barrier 
between Jew and Gentile and becoming a truly universal spiritual movement.
Acts is about gospel and mission and Spirit. It is not a biography about the 
lives of Peter or John or even the apostle Paul. The focus is on the spread
of the message about Jesus, and the dramatic ways people either accepted it 
or rejected it.

Acts has frequently been read in the past as a description of how the 
Christian church is supposed to operate. This is understandable, as 
Christian leaders
desire to base today’s forms of ministry on a scriptural foundation. Only 
some of this is possible, however, because Luke clearly did not set out to 
write
a manual on church life or church policy. Yes, it is true that Acts 2 gives 
a picture of healthy spiritual devotion: “They devoted themselves to the 
apostles’
teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (v. 42). 
But a couple of verses later, it says that the believers were selling their
property and possessions in order to give to others, that they met in the 
temple courts every day, and that they ate together in each other’s homes 
(vv.
45-46). Churches today do not follow this pattern detail by detail. We don’t 
sell our cars, there is no temple to meet in every single day, and we don’t
ring the doorbells of each other’s houses every night to share supper. Nor 
does Acts say these practices were then followed in the churches founded in
Asia Minor or Greece or Rome.

Acts tells us what happened, which is not the same thing as telling us what 
should happen today. There were no church buildings in Acts; no pianos, 
guitars,
or drums for worship. We have descriptions of the baptisms of only 
first-generation believers, and the method of baptism varied: in the name of 
Jesus;
in the name of Father, Son and Spirit; in bodies of water; in a jail in 
Philippi; and in the desert along the Gaza road. The leadership structure of 
the
early churches evolved over time, and we are not given a definition of how 
often the Lord’s Supper should take place in our churches today.

Acts is not a list of policies and formulae—it is something more 
wonderful—an account of the dynamic and oftentimes unpredictable movement of 
the Spirit
of God in the era of the apostles, which puts us in the posture of expecting 
the unexpected today.

Perhaps there is a lesson in this for us. The vitality of the church will 
always come from the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit as believers 
become
part of a dynamic movement. This is not to downplay the importance of church 
structure, but perhaps keep it in perspective.

There are a dizzying number of incidents reported in Acts, each of which is 
worthy of our contemplation. We ought to put ourselves in Paul’s place as he
is chased out of a town, or shipwrecked, or plodding through two years of 
teaching in Ephesus. We need to imagine what it would have been like for 
Peter,
commanded in a dream to enter the home of Cornelius, a Gentile, and witness 
the unthinkable: the gospel spreading beyond the Jews. We need the maps at
the back of our Bibles to have a sense of the geography of this movement.

The structure of Acts can be summed up this way: ever outward. First, there 
is Jerusalem and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the 
empowering
of the apostles. The gospel crosses the line into the Gentile world with 
Cornelius. Peter is front and center in these early chapters. Then comes the 
conversion
of the hostile Pharisee Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the apostle. The 
story proceeds with three great missionary journeys crossing one barrier 
after
another until it eventually comes to the seat of the Roman Empire.

The Gospels give the gospel, and Acts, the mission of the gospel. And today 
in the 21st century, we see the cycle of proclamation, persecution, and 
expansion
repeating. It is important for believers to understand that we have been 
here before and what it all means.
Engaging with the Word of God is one of the most important things we can do 
for our spiritual heath.
About The Author - Mel Lawrenz serves as minister at large for Elmbrook 
Church and leads The Brook Network. Having been in pastoral ministry for 
thirty
years, the last decade as senior pastor of Elmbrook, Mel seeks to help 
Christian leaders engage with each other. Mel is the author of eleven books, 
the
most recent for church leaders, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to 
Engagement.


Fruit – Singular or Plural?

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, 
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and 
self-control. There is no law against these things!" (
Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)

“Fruit of the Spirit” is a biblical term that sums up the nine visual 
attributes of the Christian life. These are not individual “fruits” from 
which we pick and choose. The “fruit of the Spirit” is one nine-fold fruit 
that characterizes all who truly walk in Christ. When we become Christians 
the seed of this fruit is planted in our lives.

Just as some fruit grows better in certain climates so do some attributes 
grow better in some Christians than in others. Some may find it easier to be 
more joyful than patient or more loving than peaceful because of the climate 
they live in. It could be because of the home they live in or where they 
work they find it harder to grow some attributes more than others but all 
the fruit is there in some form.

The devil does not want our fruit to grow. The Song of Solomon calls these 
deterrents foxes that need to be stopped before they destroy the fruit:

15 Catch the foxes for us.
Catch the little foxes.
They destroy our vineyards.
The vineyards are in bloom.”
The woman says, Song of Solomon 2:15 (NIrV)

We will never have perfect fruit with all the attributes until we get to 
heaven. That does not give us an excuse to let some slip by. We all need to 
let the Holy Spirit work in us to grow more of the attributes that have not 
grown much. But be warned, god may use some circumstances as fertilizer 
which one may not particularly like to be in. An example is when one prays 
for patience then they will be put in situations which will try their 
patience. So pray for the Lord to grow His fruit in your life.
by Dean W. Masters
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Inspiration Ministries
Blessed Assurance
Tuesday, March 24, 2015

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” – 
Hebrews 10:21-22 KJV
Although blinded by an illness when she was just a baby, Fanny Crosby never 
became bitter. In fact, she believed that her blindness was a blessing.

Born on this day in 1820, she once wrote how it seemed that God had 
“intended . . .that I should be blind all my life.” Rather than complaining, 
she thanked
Him, to the point that she said she would not accept sight if it were 
“offered me tomorrow.”

She realized that her blindness had become a gateway to praising God. She 
said, “I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been 
distracted
by the beautiful and interesting things about me.” She went on to write more 
than 8,000 hymns.

When she died at the age of 95, her tombstone was inscribed with words from 
perhaps her most beloved hymn: “Blessed assurance.” For her, knowing Jesus
was “a foretaste of glory divine.”

She had incredible peace and rich spiritual insights. She could write, 
“Perfect submission, perfect delight, visions of rapture now burst on my 
sight;
angels descending bring from above, echoes of mercy, whispers of love.”

Praise was so important to her that this is how she summarized her life: 
“This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior, all the day long.”

You may feel that you face overwhelming problems, but God does not want you 
to complain, worry, or be bitter. Learn from Fanny Crosby’s example and fill
your heart with God’s praises. Know that God loves you, and He has a plan 
for your life. You can be confident in Him, knowing that He wants you to 
have
His peace, assurance, and blessing.

No matter what you are going through, fill your life with praises for your 
Savior. Make this your story and your song.

Today's Inspiration Prayer

Father, thank You for my salvation. Thank You for giving me a foretaste of 
glory divine. I know that Jesus is mine. I trust in You, and praise You. In
Jesus’ name. Amen.

Further Reading: Hebrews 10

Inspiration Ministries
PO Box 7750
Charlotte, NC 28241
Inspiration Ministries UK
Admail 3905, London W1A 1ZT
UK Charity No 1119076

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You
Daily Devotional
How Your Blind Spot Makes You Crash - #7359

When you drive in the New York area, hold on tight. Take changing lanes for 
example. That's a well developed art form; three or four lanes at a pop. 
There
it goes! Now, the danger zone in changing lanes is what they call your blind 
spot; that one area in your rear vision that you can't see in any of your
mirrors. It's pretty critical. Actually the words "blind spot" took on new 
meaning for my wife and me a few years ago. See, she had a blind spot. It 
finally
cleared up, but she had vision problems. The doctor believed it was a 
temporary blind spot. He injected some dye to see how much of her vision was 
blocked.
And I was surprised as he showed us the results. He said, "Now, here's the 
blind spot that we all have." And I said, "I do?" Right around the optic 
nerve
there are more rods and cones to produce a visual image. So guess what? We 
all have a blind spot.

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "How Your 
Blind Spot Makes You Crash."

Our word for today from the Word of God comes from the wise book of Proverbs 
15:12. It's pretty practical stuff. It says, "A mocker resents correction.
He will not consult the wise." Verse 5 of that same chapter says, "Whoever 
heeds correction shows prudence."

This is mentioned three times in the same chapter, so it's got to be 
important. Verse 32 says, "He who ignores discipline despises himself, but 
whoever
heeds correction gains understanding." It's pretty clear what God is saying 
here, "Wise people know how to accept correction." They know how to respond
to criticism.

You need people around you who confront you, who challenge you, even the 
ones who criticize you. Why? Because you have a blind spot. Everybody's got 
a
blind spot. We all have weaknesses we can't see. There are hurtful ways we 
treat people, things we say, ways we act when we're busy or when we're 
tired.
Maybe we're changing lanes and we don't see anything behind us, or maybe 
even ahead of us.

Often some or our most entrenched sins are often sins we can't see very 
well. We're so used to doing things a certain way we'll never see some sin 
without
the help of someone else. I'm going to tell you, I've not always welcomed 
how they tried to help me sometimes. See, God doesn't want our blind spot to
remain there. He knows well that the blind spot could make you crash, so he 
puts two- legged mirrors in our life. You might have some of those.

Those are the people who love us enough, or maybe even dislike us enough to 
tell us the hard truth about ourselves. If you're mirroring, are you living
like a mirror? Sometimes a parent is your mirror, your child might be your 
mirror. Even your grandchild could be God's mirror in your life. Or maybe 
your
mirror is a friend.

Proverbs 27:17 says, "Iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens the 
countenance of his friend." Sometimes, though, that sharpening of our 
countenance doesn't
come from somebody we perceive as a friend. It might be somebody who is one 
of those aggravating maybe even highly critical people in our life. But what
they speak may be the truth. The measure of truth is in the words, not the 
one who said it, the truth that is there. And it may be that they're 10% 
right
and 90% wrong. Take that 10% as a gift from God to help you stay on course.

If you're going to be a good mirror for other people by showing them their 
blind spots, then would you be sure you show them their strong points too. 
Tell
them what's right with them first. People need to know their strengths. 
People need to know what's good about them as well as what's bad. Make sure 
there's
praise as well as constructive criticism that says, "I love you enough to 
tell you the truth."

If our physical vision is faulty, there might be a blind spot that could 
make you crash. Because God loves you so much, He's not going to leave that 
blind
spot there; sometimes coming from someone who loves us, sometimes coming 
from a very unwelcome source. But consider, "Where is the truth in what 
they're
saying?" And take it for what it is...a gift from God to help you avoid the 
crash.

God's Unseen Glory
by Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com Culture Editor

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory 
as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. –
John 1:14

If I had to choose a favorite moment in the life of Christ, it would 
probably be the story of the blind man in
John 9.
Most Christians are familiar with the passage, it begins with Jesus walking 
through the temple with his disciples when they come across a man born 
blind.

“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked 
Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born 
blind?’
Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but 
it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” – John 9:1-3

For a long time I believed the “works” Jesus talked about meant healing the 
man’s blindness. That’s what the story was all about, wasn’t it? Jesus 
performing
a miracle to prove he was the Son of God? Actually, no. In fact, the real 
message of John 9 turned out to be something much different.

After receiving his sight, the man is brought before the Pharisees to be 
questioned. The religious leaders are torn: this Jesus performed a miracle, 
so
he must be some kind of prophet, but he did so on the Sabbath, a true man of 
God wouldn’t break the Sabbath. Eventually they just decide to pull rank (We 
are
the Pharisees, We decide who gets credit for this miracle!) Listen to how 
the once-blind man responds,

“The man answered and said to them, ‘Well, here is an amazing thing, that 
you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that 
God
does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He 
hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone 
opened
the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do 
nothing.’ They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you 
teaching
us?’ So they put him out.”

If Jesus had wanted to be recognized for his power he would have ridden into 
Jerusalem as the conquering hero the Jews expected him to be. Instead he 
came
quietly, touching the lives of the lost and overlooked. His “works” were the 
restoring of hearts and souls, not just physical bodies. By doing so, he 
gave
a blind man the ability to see truth, where the Pharisees became blind to 
it. Let us make sure the Church doesn’t become blind as well.

Intersecting
Faith
and Life: Ask questions. Don’t be like the Pharisees, who were so wrapped up 
in their legalism they failed to recognize God. Seek to grow your faith at
every opportunity.

Further Reading

John 10
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Experiencing LIFE Today

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. — C.S. Lewis

“We have an issue with the blood test. We are sending it to the lab,” he 
said.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Either mono or leukemia,” he said.

For twelve days, my prayer life went through the roof, as I struggled to 
find stability in a situation where I had no control, no certainty, and 
nothing
on earth that could contain my fear. There was nowhere I could put my trust 
and expect return. Over and over I begged Jesus to do something, that He 
would
be enough for me, that He would heal my heart as it was constantly being 
crushed with worry.

It was my son’s blood that was in question, after all. Our elementary-aged 
Cameron. His life was teetering on the brink of the unknown and there was 
nothing
I could do about it.

Well, maybe one thing:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your 
lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you 
were
taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. — Colossians 2:6-7

God has given us a shield of faith, a defense against the flaming arrows of 
fear and doubt. Again and again we must lift it up to protect our hearts and
minds. During those two weeks I was suspended in the fog of uncertainty and 
fear. During those days I learned to pray, “Jesus, I trust You with the next
30 minutes. I know a whole bunch of stuff is going to happen, and I give it 
to you.” 31 minutes later I’d add, “Jesus I give you the next 30 minutes 
...”

It’s not always easy to do. Sometimes, big problems affect my concentration. 
Sometimes I can’t even focus on the words I’m reading in my Bible. Instead
of just fighting through it, I’ll take out my journal and I’ll write my 
thoughts down so I can capture them on the page and take them to Christ. 
“All right,
Jesus, here’s what I’m scared of, worried about, concerned about, what needs 
to be fixed.” At the end I say, “Jesus, I’m officially giving this stuff to
You. Be enough for me and take away my worry.

Your will be done.”

After twelve days, Cameron’s blood showed that he had mono instead of 
leukemia. While we were hugely relieved, I learned again what it means to be 
fully
honest with God, emotional with God, surrendered to God, resting in God.

Satan’s arrows will come. He HAS given you the shield of faith. Will you 
raise it over your heart and mind today?

Lord, many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.” 
But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my
head. I am crying to You, the LORD, with my voice. You have answered me from 
Your holy mountain. Selah. (from Psalm 3:3-4)
Listen to Pete, Jill & Stuart Briscoe on the
Telling the Truth broadcast
at OnePlace.com

The Connection with Skip Heitzig

March 27, 2015
A Changed Life

By Skip Heitzig

There was an agnostic professor who visited a primitive tribe that had been 
impacted by missionaries who brought them the gospel. Their value system was
very New Testament. The professor told the tribal leader, "It's just a shame 
that you were duped by those missionaries. Nobody really believes the Bible
literally anymore. We're more enlightened than that."

The old chief pointed to the stone where they used to bash in the heads of 
the people they were going to eat and the oven that was used to roast them.
Then he said, "If it were not for the gospel message of the love of Jesus 
Christ, which could convert a cannibal into a Christian, you'd be our supper
by now."

At that moment, that professor was glad someone believed in the Bible, 
probably for the first and only time in his life!

Every time I see a changed life, I see the power of God. The gospel works. 
It satisfies the mind, and it also changes your life if you let it.

The Bible is full of examples of changed lives. The disciples of Jesus 
Christ are a prime example. All throughout the Gospels, these were men who 
were
timid, fearful, and wavering in their faith. But in the book of Acts, it's a 
different story: "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and 
perceived
that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they 
realized that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13).

Of course, all lives touched by Jesus Christ were changed. In John 9, Jesus 
healed a man who was blind from birth. The Pharisees tried to defame Jesus
and said, "You know, the guy that healed you was a sinner." I love the man's 
response: "Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know:
that though I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25). That is indisputable fact: 
"I'm changed."

A changed life is always the greatest argument for the
Christian faith.
You can come up with all the apologetics you want, but when you have a 
changed life and people know what it used to be like, there's not much they 
can
say. "Boy, you're different now! You don't do the things you used to do. 
You've got real purpose and direction. What happened to you?" That's why we 
insist—as
the Bible does—that everyone who comes into contact with Jesus Christ 
changes. If you say you're a Christian but there's no real change in your 
life, I
doubt you've had a real, true encounter with Jesus Christ.

Lives are changed by the message of the cross. A changed life is the 
demonstration of the Spirit of power; that's always the ultimate proof. So 
often we
spend our time trying to prove the gospel when we should be showing the 
gospel. When you live the gospel, when you live a changed life, it will go 
very
far—farther than any other proof.

The Bible is a great treasure and gift, different from any other book or 
document ever written. And it only stands to reason that a God who is 
powerful
enough to cause everything to exist and order it with such meticulous, 
intricate, beautiful design can bring about the changes He desires in us 
through
His Word. And we are eternally thankful to Him for that!

Copyright © 2015 by Connection Communications. All rights reserved.

Love Worth Finding Ministries
In The Shelter of His Wings

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“For Thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I 
will abide in Thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of Thy 
wings.”

Psalm 61:3-4

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Of the 6500 hymns written by Charles Wesley, surely none is considered finer 
than the one titled “Jesus, Lover Of My Soul.” Many accounts have been 
shared
as to the inspiration behind this song, but whether any are true, indeed the 
song’s lyrics are a poignant picture of a young man’s journey into 
discovering
the love of his life—Jesus.

The third verse of this great hymn begins, “Thou, O Christ, art all I want, 
more than all in Thee I find.”

ACTION POINT:
Where is your heart today? Are you suffering from a broken relationship or 
the loss of a loved one? Run, don’t walk, into His waiting arms of love. He
wants to bind up your hurt and bring hope to your heart.
© 2014 Love Worth Finding Ministries | PO Box 38300 - Memphis, TN 38183-0300
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I am resending this message since I have moved the Masters list to another 
server since some didn't get this message the first time I sent it.

Dean

Spiritual Fruit

Today is Pentecost Sunday so I thought that we would start a study on the
fruit of the Spirit.

If one studies the gifts of the Spirit we learned that the gifts were given
for us to educate, edify and exhort others. We also learned that there is no
single gift that all Christians have been given. And there may or may not be
a gift that is given for a Christian to use for the rest of his or her life.

But we all grow spiritual fruit. Some grow good fruit while others grow bad
fruit as seen in this Scripture from the Sermon on the Mount:

" “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but
inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise
every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good
tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every
tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Matthew 7:15-20, NIV)

We need to grow good fruit but how do we do this? This is what Jesus tells
us:

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself;
it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in
me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in
him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (
John 15:4-5, NIV)

So we, the branches, must stay connected to Jesus, the Vine. And if we are
connected to the Vine the Holy Spirit will flow from Him through us so that
fruit will grow.

Just as the gifts were given by the Holy Spirit the only way we can have
good fruit is by the Holy Spirit. We can do nothing to help the fruit grow
except to stay connected to the Vine. There are no deeds that we can do to
help the fruit to grow. We can do deeds that look like fruit but will not be
fruit of the Spirit.

What are the fruits of the Spirit? Hang on until next time and we will start
looking at them.

by Dean W. Masters

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You
Daily Devotional
Prayer - Compartment or Lifestyle? - #7358

Jenny's only two years old, but she's already teaching her parents. She 
often announces, "Let's pray." She doesn't always pick her times real well. 
Dad
might be studying or Mom might be involved in her housework or trying to get 
ready for something. That doesn't stop Jenny from saying, "Let's pray." She
grabs your hand, closes her eyes and she expects you to do the same. She's 
fully expecting Mom or Dad to drop whatever they're doing. Mom told me, "I 
don't
dare tell Jenny, 'Oh, later honey, I'm too busy now.'" Jenny's only two, but 
you know what? I think she's got the right idea.

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Prayer - 
Compartment or Lifestyle?"

Our word for today from the Word of God comes from Ephesians 6:18. At the 
end of a passage on spiritual warfare and defeating our enemy, it says, 
"Pray
in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." I 
would call this like prayer unleashed. It's prayer all day. It's where 1 
Thessalonians
5 talks about "praying without ceasing." It's staying in contact with the 
Lord; "All occasions, all kinds of prayers, and all kinds of requests."

See, we tend to have a prayer compartment in our life. We pray in the 
morning, or maybe in the evening, or over meals. We have prayer meetings. 
But I think
God wants us to take prayer out of that compartment and learn prayer as a 
lifestyle, not just as an occasional binge. Little Jenny understands that. 
She's
all day long going, "Let's pray. Let's talk to God."

The Spirit may be trying to prompt you in that way many times. It's not a 
little child. It's the Holy Spirit that's saying, "Let's pray. Let's pray." 
He's
trying to initiate it. Pray in the Spirit. But we're so busy! We're running 
on our list, our schedule, our program, our agenda. We can't hear His 
promptings.

In the Old Testament, Nehemiah, one of the great spiritual leaders 
accomplished so much for the Lord. He was sort of a grownup Jenny. It talks 
about it
in chapter 2, verse 4 when he was in a very important meeting. He says, "I 
prayed to the God of heaven and I answered the king." Right there he's in 
that
meeting with the King. He's under heavy pressure. He says, "I prayed to the 
God of heaven."

In chapter 4, verse 9, he says, "I prayed to the God of heaven and I posted 
a guard." Chapter 5, verse 19, Nehemiah's thinking about his income and what
he ought to be getting. He says, "Remember me with favor O my God." He prays 
again. He gets discouraging news in chapter 6, verse 9. He says, "I prayed.
Now strengthen my hands." All through his life; it's just part of the weave 
of a day. It's a lifestyle; checking in with God-talking to God about it.

God doesn't hear from me nearly enough, maybe you, too. It doesn't mean you 
have to stop everything, bow your head, close your eyes, drop to your knees.
It could be prayer on the run. But it's consciously going into the throne 
room of God to say, "I love you." Just fire that up to Him. "Nice work, 
Lord.
I love what you just did there." "Help!" "What should I say right now?" 
"Give me strength, Lord." See that's what the Bible calls "abiding in 
Christ."
I haven't got this mastered, but I'm getting it more and more. And it's 
awesome! "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and 
requests."

Jesus might call this faith as a little child. Remember? Maybe like Jenny; a 
faith that lets prayer get out of its compartment and into your all day 
every
day. There's that voice. It's the voice of God inside saying, "Let's pray." 
I hope you'll hear it often and respond...and never get enough of it.
Ron Hutchcraft Ministries, Inc. · P.O. Box 400 · Harrison, Arkansas 72602 · 
USA
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Who Can Accuse You?
by Max Lucado
Romans 8:33 and 34 asks, “Who can accuse the people God has chosen? Who can 
say God’s people are guilty?”

The answer is no one, because Christ Jesus died, he was raised from the 
dead, and now is on God’s right side, appealing to God for us. The 
accusations
of Satan sputter and fall like a deflated balloon.

Then why, pray tell, do we, as
Christians,
still feel guilt? God uses appropriate doses of guilt to awaken us to sin. 
His guilt brings enough regret to change us. Satan’s guilt, on the other 
hand,
brings enough regret to enslave us. Don’t let him lock his shackles on you.

Remember, your life is hidden with Christ in God. Whenever God looks at you, 
he sees Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God covering you. So, whom do you 
trust…your
Advocate or your Accuser?


How to Understand the Bible

What Was Jesus Teaching in the Parables?

For most of us, the parables of Jesus naturally lodge themselves in our 
memories. The parable of the good Samaritan, for instance, is not only a 
memorable
parable, but it has become embedded in our culture—as in “Good Samaritan 
laws” that protect people who come to the assistance of others. The parable 
of
the prodigal son—where a foolish young man squanders his inheritance, only 
to find that his loving father welcomes him back with mercy and grace—is the
gospel in a single picture and a simple message: You can come home to God. 
The lost sheep. The hidden treasure. The wise and foolish virgins. The 
talents.
They are all like pictures on the walls in our homes, memorable scenes that 
are windows into reality.

Jesus_Teaches_the_People_by_the_Sea_(Jésus_enseigne_le_peuple_près_de_la_mer)_-_James_Tissot_-_overall

Jesus sometimes taught in parables because these vivid stories engage us in 
thought, emotion, and sensation. They impact us. They force us to go away 
and
ponder, struggling with the meaning perhaps, feeling struck by the truthful 
and accurate perspective on life they offer. You could say the parables are
subversive because they embed themselves in our minds. We cannot escape 
their message. Jesus said parables unlock mysteries for those who believe, 
but
they remain enigmatic riddles to those who do not have “ears to hear” (
Luke 8:8-10).
This is one more indication for us that reading Scripture with faith is 
entirely different from reading it like we read any other book.

We will avoid much frustration and confusion if we remember this: Most 
parables have one main point. Most of the time the details in the story do 
not have
specific symbolic meaning. In the parable of the good Samaritan (
Luke 10),
for instance, Jesus did not assign a symbolic meaning to the robbers, the 
man’s wounds, the donkey, the innkeeper, the two silver coins, Jerusalem, or
Jericho. Yet that has not prevented Christian thinkers over the centuries 
from assigning meanings to the details. The problem is, if the meanings are 
not
indicated in the text, such allegorical interpretations are purely 
arbitrary.

Over the years different people have assigned entirely different meanings to 
the two coins given to the innkeeper, for instance: they are God the Father
and the Son, or they are the Old and New Testaments, or they are the promise 
of this life and the life to come, etc. But why?

Here again, the simplest and most natural explanation of a biblical text is 
always the best. The parable of the good Samaritan is Jesus’ answer to the
question: “Who is my neighbor?” At the end Jesus makes it obvious what his 
point was:

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into 
the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (
Luke 10:36-37)

Parables are not abstract teachings. They almost always call people to a 
certain response.

Now, if Jesus did assign specific meanings to the details in a parable, then 
of course we must include these in our understanding. In the parable of the
sower, for instance, the four landing places of the seed—the path, the rocky 
ground, the thorns, and the good soil—have specific meanings which Jesus 
himself
indicated (
Matt. 13:18-23).
The same thing is true of the parable of the weeds (
Matt. 13:24-30; 36-43).
Nevertheless, even in parables with detailed meaning, we should not lose 
sight of the forest for the trees. The parable will impact us best if we 
look
for the main point.

As we read the parables, it is also important that we take the time to 
understand the cultural and geographical settings of the stories. A good 
commentary,
for instance, will describe the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, which is the 
setting for the good Samaritan story. The “road” is a dusty path winding 
upwards
into the Judean hills through an arid wilderness. It is a lonely and 
desolate place, where thieves would take advantage of someone. All the 
parables with
agricultural settings are best understood if we understand the life of the 
farmer in the first century. And shepherding in Jesus’ day (as in David’s 
day)
is utterly different from ranching today.

The ending is very important. The takeaway from any given parable typically 
comes in the punch line at the end. The extended parable of the wheat and 
the
weeds, for instance, ends with the day of judgment where truth and falsehood 
are finally distinguished. In the meantime, we live in the mixture.

The parables of Jesus are God’s gift to us who are mere mortals, unable to 
find truth on our own, and quite lost in interpreting the meaning of life.

“I will open my mouth in parables,

I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” (
Matt. 13:35)

____________________________________

“If you are in a position of positive influence, if you exercise leadership 
in any way, your faith in God gives you a power—a hidden power—that will 
allow
you to make an enduring difference in the lives of other people and 
organizations. But how does that power work?”
Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership,
by Mel Lawrenz

A NORVELL NOTE by Tom Norvell
- http://www.anorvellnote.com

----------------------------------------------------------

A Norvell Note
Vol. 17 No. 12 March 23, 2015
A Clean Heart

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
(Psalm 51:10, NIV)
Create in me a pure heart, O God. You must do it. I cannot do it on my own. 
I have tried, O God. Perfect church attendance has not accomplished it. 
Reading
and memorizing Scripture has not accomplished it. Recounting all my years of 
preaching and teaching has not accomplished it. Keeping a record of all the
good things I have done to help other people has not accomplished it. Living 
with guilt and shame over all the bad things I have done has not 
accomplished
it. I have done all I know to do to create a pure heart and my heart is not 
yet pure. Father, will You please create in me a pure heart.
Create in me a pure heart, O God. I have tried to clean my heart and make it 
pure. I do okay for a while, then I find I am right back where I started.
It seems as if I never really did much cleaning or purifying. A pure heart? 
That sounds almost too good to be true. Or, as someone has said about Your
grace and mercy, “Maybe it’s too good not to be true.†Lord, I want a 
pure heart. I want a clean heart. I want a heart that is filled with things
that are pure, not the impurities of the day.
And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Lord, my spirit is weary. It needs 
renewing. I need a new start. A clean start. Again, I have tried to renew my
spirit by doing all the right things. That helps some. I see the value in 
praying, reading Your Word, fasting, and spending time in with Christian 
people,
but my spirit still seems dry.
And renew a steadfast spirit within me. My spirit is not very strong. My 
spirit is not very solid. My spirit is not very steady. Flimsy would be a 
better
description. I tend to drift along with the wind. If I am not very, very 
careful I can be swayed and persuaded and distracted from where and who I 
should
be pretty easily. Father, steady my spirit.
And renew a steadfast spirit within me. I know that it is within me to live 
as You would have me to live. It is within me because You are in me. You 
live
in me. Because You are within me, know I can be strong, I can be steady, and 
I will experience renewal. So, Father, please renew my spirit from deep 
within
me.
I am with You, Father. I belong to You. I am weak and weary and I am a 
wanderer. But, if You create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit 
within
me, I will praise You and tell of Your wonderful ways.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Tom
A Norvell Note © Copyright 2015. Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved.
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A Note of Encouragement
from Ciloa
Children waiting for their flight
Be strong. Take courage.
Wait for the Lord!
Waiting
Volume XV, Issue 12
March 23, 2015
Waiting (or I'm drumming my fingers!)...by Lisa Brittain

I'm good at waiting, and then I'm not. Waiting is ok with me when: I'm 
standing in line...Christmas is coming...A wonderful book is coming out in a 
movie...A
fine dining experience will be my reward.

Oh, but these are waiting moments in which I am confident of the end result. 
Overall, in everyday life, I'm a patient soul.

But then again, there are those moments of waiting which seem to last 
forever, and the outcome is anything but certain. Waiting in the dark. Now 
that's
a challenge! It has nothing to do with patience, and everything to do with 
fear.

Just these brief thoughts of waiting anxiously are enough to immediately 
transport me back to my youth. My brother and I frequently traveled by 
airplane,
on a stand-by pass, to visit our grandparents out of town. Dad was an 
airline mechanic.

Each trip was marked by the anxiety of waiting for our names to be called. 
Our bags were packed. We were dressed in our Sunday best. And we were 
set...but
would we get to go? We waited and waited, and most of the time our names 
were called; off we went.

One particular February, we were excited to spend a long weekend playing in 
the deep snow of Buffalo, New York. At the end of the weekend, our 
grandparents
packed us up and took us to the airport to wait for our flight home to sunny 
Florida.

Our names were not called. In fact, most of the flights out of Buffalo had 
been cancelled. We stayed with our grandparents another night, and then 
spent
the next day...waiting...on each available flight...for just two seats. 
Again, our names were not called and we were to wait yet another night.

Looking back now it seems kind of silly. At the time, though, I was just a 
child and I only wanted to go home. The waiting seemed endless. I remember 
feeling
despair, wondering if we would ever make it back home to our parents.

It was the third day before we finally heard our names called. No more 
waiting. We hugged our grandparents, waved goodbye, and secured ourselves in 
our
seats -- excited. We were going home...the waiting was over...at last!

Sitting in the airport, with bags packed and heart pounding, I fervently 
prayed. They were immature prayers of a fearful child. Yet, I believe in 
those
anxious moments I learned to turn to Jesus for help. He met me there and 
began the process of teaching me to trust...His timing and not my own.

I think even now, all these years later, in times of waiting in the shadowy 
uncertain, I pray immature prayers of a fearful child. And Jesus is there.
He continues to teach me to trust, reach for His Hand, and believe He is 
good. Still I am learning -- He is there for me and will never leave me.

Sometimes waiting is no big deal. And then sometimes it is.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid? ...

Wait for the Lord;

be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:1,14 ESV)

Fix your eyes on Jesus and SHINE!

Lisa

Lisa lives in Lilburn, Georgia, with her fun husband, Randy, and their two 
lively terriers, Liberty and Nole. She frequently writes in Fix My Eyes on 
Jesus
and Shine, her inspirational blog site at
www.eyesonjesusandshine.blogspot.com.
Ciloa is a registered trademark of Ciloa, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) 
organization.

A Note of Encouragement is a copyright interest held by Ciloa, Inc.
Christ Is Lord Of All ... Ciloa
Ciloa, Inc. Lawrenceville, Georgia, U.S.A.
www.Ciloa.org

You Don’t Have To Go It Alone ~ Keep Your Eyes On Him
by Dean Masters

Hosea 5:15
I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offense, and 
seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.

Don’t wait until you are “in affliction” to seek God’s face. Keep your eyes 
fixed on Him, seek His face daily and ask Him for His guidance. If you are
feeling “afflicted” today I would encourage you to seek His face this 
morning.

A few years ago Bill and I were on a cruise and one of our excursions was 
scuba diving. Now, the only real set back is that I have asthma and it is 
really
not something they suggest you do with asthma but I really wanted to give it 
a try. If you have never been scuba diving it doesn’t really seem as though
it should be a big deal to put a tank on, pop the mouth piece in and dive in 
and breathe! What’s the big deal, right? Well, the “big deal” is that 
everything
in your brain says, “you are under water - don’t breathe!” And when you have 
asthma (thus the reason they tell you not to scuba dive) your brain doesn’t
say anything it screams: “Don’t try to breathe you are under water and you 
are going to die!” Well, our instructor was amazing and there were a few of
us trying to get acclimated to going under water and breathing, one lady 
just couldn’t get passed the panic so he came over to work with me: he 
grabbed
both of my hands and motioned for me to go under water, once under the water 
he motioned for me to keep my eyes on him and then he started making motions
for me to slowly breathe in and out, breathe in and breathe out until I 
could relax, after a few minutes I was fine.

Life is like that even though it isn’t just a few minutes under water. There 
are times that I know my eyes need to be so fixed on God that He can tell
me to “breathe in, breathe out.” Life can be so overwhelming, trust me I 
know, and that is when your full focus needs to be on Him, don’t look to the 
right
or to the left of Him, just seek His face. We need to ask God daily for His 
guidance for our lives. Our peace comes from Him, our Hope is found in His
face, and the great thing is you know He already has a plan for you, 
(Jeremiah 29:11 - “plans to give you a hope and a future”) Don’t put your 
trust in
other people or your job, put all your trust in Him and know that He will 
bring it to pass. People are people and they can let you down and jobs are 
not
your security because any job can be gone tomorrow. He’s got your back and 
He holds the keys to your future, seek Him!

God’s desire is to guide you and keep you through all that you face on a 
daily basis. Nothing is too big for Him and nothing catches Him by surprise. 
The
peace, comfort and hope you will find in His face will give you the strength 
to make it through another day and it will also guide you into all that you
can be. It isn’t just all about when we are struggling, it is also the only 
way to handle the mountain top experience, in fact we may even need more 
guidance
when things are great so our faith remains in Him and Him alone! We can 
learn a lot from the old testament characters like Daniel and Joseph; they 
trusted
God and sought Him no matter what their circumstances were. Life is a 
journey and you don’t have to face anything alone, God’s desire is to walk 
with you
every step of the way if you will just seek Him.

Quote: “You become what you think about.” Earl Nightingale


Being Normal
by Charles R. Swindoll

Ephesians 4:1-7

Ever felt weird because you were "normal"? I remember the first time I had 
that feeling. I was a teenager surrounded by other teenagers in a testimony
meeting. One girl, with tears running down her face, told of an alcoholic 
father who beat her mother almost every weekend. She described how she would
hide in the closet lest she become a target of his drunken rage. Then she 
told how her friend at school had led her to Christ.

I sat very still. My dad didn't drink, nor had I ever hidden from him or 
seen him hit my mother. And the only time I'd ever heard him swear was when 
we
had a flat on the way to our two-week vacation at my granddad's cottage.

After the girl sat down, a guy stood up and talked about how he had spent a 
couple days in jail the past summer for shoplifting.

And then another girl stood up. She looked "fast" (my mother's term)---too 
much makeup, teased hair, big earrings. In between two dozen "uhs" she 
struggled
to admit that she had gotten pregnant and her folks had kicked her out.

Me? Peace was my everyday partner. I thought everyone had good meals, a 
comfortable bed, and a happy, harmonious family. Not until I joined the 
marines
several years later did I realize my life was the exception rather than the 
rule.

Today, however, the "abnormal" is considered the norm. You're a freak unless 
you've got a ton of trash to unload. If you are not recovering from 
something,
addicted to something, or a victim of something, you feel like I felt 
sitting in that testimony meeting.

Question: Is there a place where you can feel normal being "normal"? Or, if 
you're still struggling with something, still trying to come to terms with
some heartrending problem, is there a place where you won't feel "weird"?

Well, there should be, and it should be the local church---the Body of 
Christ. The church is a place for young and old, single and married, broken 
or healing,
happy or sad, truck driver or brain surgeon, student or retiree, saint or 
seeker, you name it.

Whether we are normal or nearly normal or hoping someday to be normal, we 
belong. Whatever our situation, our status, our struggle, or our style, we 
are
all looking for the magnificent truths of God, for genuine Christian 
fellowship and togetherness.

In the Body of Christ we are all the same: forgiven, but not perfect. Except 
for One.

Excerpted from
Day by Day with Charles Swindoll,
Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). 
All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.
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When Jesus Seemed to Pass By
Friday, March 20, 2015

“He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about 
the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would
have passed them by.” – Mark 6:48 NKJV
The disciples were in trouble. The seas were rough and they were being 
buffeted by strong winds. Jesus knew they needed help, and went straight to 
them,
“walking [directly] on the sea.” But then something surprising happened. 
Instead of continuing to “come to them,” He “acted as if He meant to pass by 
them”
(Amplified Bible).

This must have been a real shock to the disciples! Why would Jesus seem to 
walk by them, at a time when they really needed His help?

We know that He cared about these men. And He knew their need. It seems 
clear that His actions were intentional. That He was acting in a specific 
way with
actions designed to inspire their response. Yet the Bible makes clear that 
He “would have passed them by.”

But then they “cried out” to Him. The Greek word here, rarely used in the 
Bible, indicates a very loud cry. They did not use a normal voice, but spoke
more intensely. In other words, Jesus responded only after they had cried 
loudly and vehemently, from the depths of their being.

We should not be surprised if Jesus acts this way toward us. As we face 
trials and difficulties, it can seem that He does not hear us, that He is 
passing
us by. But, as He did with the disciples, He may want to see how we react. 
Do we really want His help? Are we willing to cry out with intensity? 
Loudly?
With determination?

How are you reacting to the storms of life? Don’t be silent. And don’t be 
discouraged or give up. Just as He did with the disciples, Jesus urges you 
to
cry out loudly, intensely, and vehemently. And to be persistent.

Today's Inspiration Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, I commit these situations to You: _______. I cry out for 
the help I need. I believe You for the answer! Thank You. In Your name. 
Amen.

Further Reading: Mark 6
Inspiration Ministries
PO Box 7750
Charlotte, NC 28241

Inspiration Ministries UK
Admail 3905, London W1A 1ZT
UK Charity No 1119076


Today's Turning Point with David Jeremiah
Turning Point
Friday, March 20

Praise Him in the Morning

I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my 
mouth.
Psalm 34:1

Recommended Reading
Psalm 34
Don’t just praise the Lord for an hour on Sunday. Keep a song in your heart 
all the time. Start first thing each day. Scottish preacher Duncan Campbell
resolved to bless the Lord at all times, starting with his morning 
devotions. According to his biographer, Campbell rose each morning as the 
farmers harnessed
their horses to the plows. He was convicted by their work ethic and 
determined to be as diligent with his spiritual harvest as they were with 
their crops.

Listen to Today's Radio Broadcast
Campbell’s biography explained, “During these hours of communion with God, 
the fresh dew of heaven bathed his soul, refreshing and equipping him for 
daily
service. He carried the fragrance of the presence of God with him from the 
secret place into his public ministry.”1

When we start the day praising the Lord, it keeps a song in our hearts 
throughout our waking hours. When we offer our praise and worship to the 
Lord, He
can dry our tears and banish our fears. His praise shall continually be in 
our mouths.

If you’re going through a time of fear, ask God to give you a song. Let that 
song play on the CD of your heart, and God will begin to wipe away the fear
and anxiety from your life.
David Jeremiah
Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah
Copyright © 2015 Turning Point for God. All rights reserved.
Turning Point, P. O. Box 3838, San Diego, CA 92163

How To Embrace His Never-Ending Love
Kelly Balarie

Every time my son does something bad, he looks up at me with fear-filled 
eyes and asks, "Do you still love me?" He asks it over and over again - as 
if
every bit of who he is depends the response.

In those little fear-filled, tear-filled eyes, I know he's asking:

Am I am enough?

Do you still want me? Care about me?

Have I pushed you over the edge? Over the point of no return?

In his pleading, he's asking if everything has changed.
Wondering if he has finally crossed the threshold of abandonment.
Pondering if he is worthy of my love. My care. My heart.
Deciding if he is good enough as he is.

He is begging to be accepted.

And, how often am I am just like my little son?

How often do I look up at God with pleading puppy dog eyes and ask, "God, do 
you still love me?"

It's on days when I mess up. When I fall down. When I scrape a knee. It's on 
these days where I wonder if God still sees me, still loves me and still 
wants
me.

It's on these days where I feel unworthy, unlovable and undeserving. It's on 
these days where I think God is disappointed.

Because, really, who wants to be around someone who is always offending? 
Always a mess up? A consistent failure?

People tend to run from these type of people.

I understand my son - and his questions.
We can't get things right.
We drop the ball.

But, is God really a "Love me, love me not" type of God? And, can he really 
ever stop loving us?

Because it is by grace that we have been saved. It's through
faith
and not by our own works. It is a gift. An undeserved, non-reciprocal and 
free gift. (Eph. 2:8).

So if it really is a gift - from him -
then why am I always trying to wrap up my own gifts - for him?

Why am I so often the powered gifter, instead of the humbled receiver?

In this, I miss the gift. I miss the heart. I miss the grace. I miss his 
power.

I miss the point - and, as a result, I feel distanced from God. Apart from 
his love. Deprived of his grace. I look up at him and plead, because I know
I am not good enough and never can be.

I have made it all about me.

If I do well, like a balloon, I inflate with pride. If I don't, I deflate 
with self-condemnation. Either way, I stand ready to lose all my air, all 
my
reliance on him and all my ability to fly to new heights. It's a no win. 
And, perhaps this is why God did not base faith on works.

Yes, God calls us to love him and obey him. But, even more, he calls us to 
live covered by his blood and by his free gift of grace. Because, it's here
that we can truly love God and love others.

The wages of our sin is death; but the wages of his death is freedom.

Freedom in a love that is permanent.
Freedom in a death that secures.
Freedom in a life that makes us worthy.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still 
sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

So, the next time I look up to God, ready to ask, do you still love me, I 
will remember:
Christ's love never ends.
His love never failed - or will fail.
His love makes me worthy.
His grace makes me whole.
The Spirit comforts me.
Not based on my output, but based on his indwelling.
I am secure.
Safe.
Worthy.
Significant.
Clean.
Renewed.
Saved.
Free.

It's all given to me, by the one who can never stop loving me. He gives it 
to you too. Like a locket that holds an image of a loved one, will you 
choose
to receive - and lock his image? Will you choose to remember that this 
necklace is engraved around your heart? Locked in your soul? It's love is 
always
held within. Will you choose remember this image of unchanging love, 
unmerited grace and unbelievable power?

No matter how you may feel, Christ is right there, with you in your moment, 
loving your soul beyond any embrace you could ever fathom.

Join Kelly on her blog,
Purposeful Faith,
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Where You Can Find Peace in the Midst of Pain

March 19, 2015

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18

There was a father and his little girl who lost their wife and mother 
suddenly one night in a car accident. As the daddy was putting his daughter 
to bed
that night, they both sat there in darkness when the little girl broke the 
silence, “Daddy, this is a dark night. I think it’s the darkest night we’ve
ever had.”

“Yes, baby,” the dad responded, “I think it is.”

Then the little girl reached out in the darkness, touched her Daddy’s face, 
and said, “Good. Your face is toward me.” And with that, the little girl 
laid
her head down, closed her eyes, and slept.

In the deepest imaginable pain, that little girl was comforted by knowing 
her daddy was there and his face was toward her. And in our own deep pain, 
we
can take comfort knowing that our heavenly Daddy keeps His face toward us 
even in the darkest of nights. We may not be able to see it, but we can be 
sure
it’s there.

Real and lasting comfort from pain isn’t found by just numbing what hurts. 
Real comfort is found in knowing that in the depths of sorrow, you are 
deeply
and truly loved by a Father who knows exactly how you feel. Find your true 
peace and rest in the Father who loves you.

FIND PEACE IN THE MIDST OF PAIN BY TRUSTING IN THE FATHER WHO LOVES YOU AND 
WILL NEVER LEAVE YOUR SIDE

----------------------------------------------------------
For more from PowerPoint Ministries and Dr. Jack Graham, please visit
www.jackgraham.org

Today's Topical Bible Study

The Most Important Passage in the Whole of Scripture
by Michael J. Kruger

I have been teaching a weekly
Bible study
on the book of Romans to women in the Charlotte community. For the last 
several months, we have been plodding our way through the first three 
chapters
as Paul has laid out his case that all mankind—Jew and Gentile—are sinful 
and rightly under the judgment of God. Paul finishes this section of his 
letter
with this monumental statement: “For by works of the Law no human being will 
be justified in his sight” (
Rom 3:20).

You can almost hear the gavel fall with a boom.

Thankfully, Paul does not end his letter here. This morning, in the last 
installment of the women’s study for the Fall term (we will resume in the 
new
year), we will move onto to
3:21
and following. There Paul utters two of the most beautiful words in all of 
Scripture, “But now….” These two little words provide a great sigh of relief
for any sin-wracked soul wondering about his fate.

“But now” tells us that something has been done to solve the problem of our 
sins.

What is it that solves the problem of our sins? “A righteousness of (from) 
God has been manifested apart from the law… through faith in Jesus Christ” (
3:21–22).
Luther referred to these
verses
as “the center of the whole Bible.” Martin Lloyd Jones called it “the most 
important and crucial passage in the whole of Scripture.” Leon Morris said
it is “possibly the most important single paragraph ever written.”

This passage is the basis for the great Reformation doctrine of sola 
fide—the idea that we are saved by faith alone and not by the works of the 
law.

But Paul makes a critical clarification here. He makes it clear that the 
righteous status we so desperately need comes through faith (
v.22),
but it is not the faith itself that is the grounds of our justification. The 
grounds of our justification—the reason God can declare us sinners to be 
righteous—is
because of the righteousness of Christ given to us. He can regard us as 
righteous because a righteous status has been granted to us.

Thus, faith is merely the instrument or the means by which that righteous 
status is attained.

This is a critical reminder for Christians today. Whenever our world 
discusses religion, they will praise the merits of “faith” and laud people 
who possess
it (think Oprah Winfrey). But notice the world never praises the merits of 
the object of that faith. It doesn’t matter what you believe in (after all,
all religions are the same), what matters is that you are sincerely 
committed.

For our world, then, faith is its own object.

Contrast that to what Paul is saying in
Rom 3:21–22.
Paul is saying that you are not saved because of faith (as if it were 
meritorious in itself), but you are saved through and by faith in Christ. 
The object
of the faith is what is definitive.

So, the Reformed doctrine of sola fide does not mean what the world might 
think it means. For the world, it simply means that all you need is faith. 
For
the Reformers, it meant faith is the sole instrument by which you acquire a 
righteous status in Christ (and thus not by works).

For those who doubt their faith and find their faith to be weak, this is a 
great encouragement. Our hope is not in how strong our faith is, but in how
strong and righteous our Savior is.
----------------------------------------------------------
For more, visit Dr. Kruger's website:
Canon Fodder.

Hearing the truth carries responsibility. Listen to the words of Jesus:

"'If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.' Then He said to them, 'Take 
heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to 
you;
and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will 
be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away 
from
him'"
(Mark 4:23-25).

If you learn spiritual truth and you apply that truth, more truth will be 
given to you for you to apply to your heart. This is why some people get 
bored
with Bible study, because they never apply the truth to their hearts or 
their lives. It never penetrates. They just think, Yes, I kind of understand 
it.
That's sort of an interesting fact.

They never ask God for that truth to transform the way they do business, 
treat their wives, love their husbands, or speak to the world at large. And 
eventually,
if you're exposed to Bible truth without really making that kind of 
application, you'll get bored with it. You'll lose what you have. It won't 
make sense
to you. God won't reveal anything to you unless you put into practice what 
He has already revealed to you. Why should He tell you any more of His 
secrets?

In Mark 4:26-29, Jesus gave a parable about a man who scatters seed; it 
grows, but "he himself does not know how" (v. 27). That's how the gospel 
works.
You share the truth of the gospel with somebody, and they listen to it.

You can't see what's going on inside that person's mental processes or 
inside their heart, but God may be working in their life, and pretty soon 
there
are signs of life. A little leaf starts sticking out of ground, so to speak. 
You say, "Oh, look; he's interested in spiritual things." Soon, more of the
plant comes out, then the full head of grain, and eventually "he puts in the 
sickle, because the harvest has come" (v. 29). That is, at the right time
God reaps that individual into His kingdom. That person eventually comes to 
know Christ.

A farmer can't make a seed grow. He plants the seed, but he doesn't know 
what stage of growth it's in until he sees it come up out of the ground. So 
when
we share, we don't know what effect it's going to have, but life may be 
happening all around us.

You might have some wonderful surprises like I've had with some of the 
people that I've shared with: they get saved, and you don't know how it 
happened.
Someone may come up to you and tell you, "I got saved because of your 
testimony to me!" Or maybe you won't know until after you get to heaven. 
It's okay
either way.

But there are two things I want you to take away here: Keep on applying to 
your life what God tells you when He speaks to you in His Word. Then He will
reveal more to you. And keep on sharing with the people in your life, even 
if they seem hard-hearted. You don't know what God is doing inside them.

Copyright © 2015 by Connection Communications. All rights reserved.
For more from Skip Heitzig, visit
ConnectionRadio.org,
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Experiencing LIFE Today

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything. — Mark Twain

Satan’s arsenal against
Christians
is immense. His attacks from the outside are pretty obvious, but did you 
know that one of his favorite and most effective weapons comes from inside 
the
Church?

There are hundreds of deceptive philosophies and false doctrines competing 
for our attention, and many of them can come from within the Church.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive 
philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual 
forces of
this world rather than on Christ. — Colossians 2:8

With very little exception, these philosophies and deceptions will distract 
you from the grace of God and lure you into religious self-effort based on
human tradition. It’s Satan’s favorite ploy, particularly when he can mix in 
some
religion!
This subtle attack from within the Church is nothing more than a set of 
rules handed down from a purely human perspective. Jesus warned about this 
in a
big way:

“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: 
‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have 
let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” — 
Mark
7:5-8

We are taken captive the moment we grasp onto tradition or works. People who 
buy the evil one’s tactics have been diverted from putting their trust in
Christ, and put their faith in works rather than grace.

• Do you feel you need to behave a certain way to be accepted by the Body of 
Christ?
• Do you feel God’s acceptance is based on what you do?
Inevitably, we need to know where to turn for truth and direction instead of 
these traditions. The solution isn’t difficult: God has called His Word and
His teaching the only completely true philosophy in existence. If you put 
your trust in Christ and structure your life and thoughts around His 
instruction
in the Bible, you’ll head down the right path.

God, I know Your Word is the truth. If there is something in my life based 
on human tradition that takes away from my devotion to Christ, make it 
apparent
so I can ask for forgiveness and reroute my attentions. Amen.

Listen to Pete, Jill & Stuart Briscoe on the
Telling the Truth broadcast
at OnePlace.com

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You
Daily Devotional
How Your Rough Times Can Help You Help Others - #7354

I was in Georgia when a friend said to me, "Do you know which team is one of 
the best football teams in our state?" When I said I didn't know, he said,
"The Georgia School for the Deaf." I've got to tell you that kind of caught 
me by surprise. I wasn't expecting a school for the deaf to be like football
champions. He said, "Man, we played them when I was in high school and you 
always had to get up for that game. They were always the toughest."

I began to think, how could you play football if you can't hear the signals 
being called? You can't hear the plays being called. How would you play 
football?
He said, "Well, they bring their band to every game and the signals are 
called through the drum beats, and they feel the signals through their 
face." Well,
I couldn't do that. But they can. They've got radar I don't have because 
they face a challenge I haven't faced.

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "How Your 
Rough Times Can Help You Help Others."

Our word for today from the Word of God is in 2 Corinthians 1, beginning in 
verse 3. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The 
Father
of compassion, the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles 
so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves 
have
received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow into our lives, 
so also should the comfort of Christ overflow."

Verse 3 here talks about this beautiful side of God. He's the God of all 
comfort. He's the God of compassion; the healing hugs of God, who brings 
what
only He can bring us; a supernatural comfort deep inside of us where no 
human being can go. I hope you've experienced that.

There's a comfort cycle here. It says that we're supposed to comfort with 
the comfort we got from Him. This word comforting is really the Greek word 
that
means "called alongside of to help." It's saying God comes alongside to 
encourage us so that we then can do that for others. The comfort isn't just 
for
us to get comfortable. It's to fill us up with love and support that we pass 
on to others.

How does this happen? Well, you go through a deep valley. Maybe you lose 
someone, you have a season alone, some lingering illness, maybe a financial 
disaster,
or you're abandoned, you're betrayed, and it hurts. But God does something 
beautiful with that hurt. He turns it into sensitivity; into radar for 
people
who are hurting in that same area.

Joni Eareckson Toda was paralyzed as a teenager in a dive that day, and it 
was a terrible tragedy. But the worst thing that ever happened to her has 
given
her a worldwide ministry. She knows how disabled and wounded people feel.

My friend, Jean, was abused as a girl. She's got a wonderful ministry to 
abused girls. My friend, Don, was raised in a broken home. He has an 
incredible
ability to work with kids from troubled backgrounds. When you open up your 
hurt and your wounds to the God of all comfort, He can use you in ways you 
never
dreamed.

When life's trouble hits you, it can be a tool either for Satan or for God. 
You dwell on the pain, you dwell on the people who hurt you or on yourself,
and you're going to start a downward cycle of depression. That might be 
where you are right now.

But if you surrender to Jesus all the pain, all those people who hurt you, 
all the questions, you're on your way to turning a loss into a victory like
those football players at the Georgia School for the Deaf. They have special 
sensitivity because of their loss, because of their handicap. You can too.

It might be that you're going through so many of life's troubles, so much of 
life's pain without the Great Comforter, without the God of all compassion
because you don't have a relationship with Him. You might have a religion, 
but you don't know Him personally.

I tell you that Jesus came here to walk the most painful road anyone has 
ever walked, to die on a brutal cross to pay for the sin that keeps us from 
God,
so the wall could come down between you and Him this very day. And all His 
resources are yours to walk through the pain and the storm. Our website will
show you how to get started with Him - AnewStory.com.

God can give you radar from your rough times; radar that will make you the 
one who can be Jesus' person for another hurting person.

Inspiration Ministries
All Things Are Possible
Thursday, March 19, 2015

“Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue,‘ Do not be seized with alarm and 
struck with fear; only keep on believing.’” – Mark 5:36 Amplified Bible
As a child in nineteenth-century Sweden, Lina Sandell had an illness that 
left her paralyzed and confined in bed. The doctors considered her situation
hopeless, but Lina and her parents continued to pray and believe that God 
could heal her.

One Sunday morning when she was twelve years old, she remained home while 
her family went to church. Staying in tune with the message to be heard by 
her
family, she picked up her Bible and read the text for the day, which told 
how Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. People said that nothing 
could
be done to help this girl. But Jesus knew that anything was possible to 
those who believe, and raised her to life.

Lina saw herself in this story and thought that if Jesus could raise this 
dead girl, He could heal her paralysis. So she prayed with all the fervor 
she
had. Suddenly, she was filled with unspeakable joy. She got up and walked! 
It was a miracle!

Lina went through many difficulties in her life, but always remembered that 
God was with her, and that all things were possible with Him. She expressed
this faith through the many hymns she wrote.

Today, you may face situations that seem hopeless. But the Bible tells us 
that, with God, nothing is impossible. He looks for people with faith, who 
are
willing to believe and trust Him, even when circumstances seem unlikely.

When Lina Sandell believed that all things were possible, her life was 
changed. This kind of faith can change your life, too. Declare God’s 
promises to
be true for you. Dare to believe that His power is available to you and that 
all things are possible. Be bold. Keep believing and do not doubt. With God,
there are no limits.

Today's Inspiration Prayer

Lord, I commit these problems to You: _______. I believe that You can solve 
these problems. Free me from fear. I believe that all things are possible
with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Further Reading: Mark 5
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Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:

Luke 2:49 "Why were you searching for me?" asked. "Didn't you know I had to 
be in my Father's house?"

By Answers2Prayer


Chastened By A 12-Year-Old (1)

These two probing questions, spoken by Jesus to His fretful parents, are 
found in the one and only account of Jesus' youth. I admit, for years, it 
seemed
to me that Jesus was rather sharp toward His parents. Now, I find myself 
appropriately chastened by Jesus' words. Let me explain:

After a frantic, three-day search, Mary and Joseph find their missing son 
back in Jerusalem, chatting with the temple teachers. As any worried mother 
would
do, Mary confronts Jesus: "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your 
father and I have been anxiously searching for you." (Luke 2:48b NIV)

Shouldn't Jesus feel badly for making His parents suffer anxiety, never mind 
the exhaustion and the frustration from wasting three days on the road? 
Shouldn't
He at least apologize? But Jesus assumes no responsibility for their 
anxiety. He won't let Mary shift the blame to Him. Being anxious instead of 
trusting
God is their problem - not His. Through His question, "Why were you 
searching for me?" Jesus helps them to discover the driving motive behind 
their decision
to search -- which, as He would have seen, was their anxiety. Jesus doesn't 
provide the answer. He encourages them to think for themselves. It is a wise
and gracious way of stirring them on toward deepening faith.

Unlike Jesus, I've often reacted to anxious people by feeling overly 
responsible to fix their woes. I've done too much of the thinking for them; 
I've even
assumed blame. To me, this felt like the loving thing to do. No wonder 
Jesus' response to His mother has seemed insensitive to me.

As we see, Jesus does not pamper anxiety - for a good reason: Anxiety is 
like a vise grip that inhibits our ability to think and choose well. We 
assume
that our distress is caused by factors outside of ourselves. But really, no 
person or situation has the power to make us anxious -- unless we allow it.
I've discovered this through hard knocks -- and my own frantic "three-day" 
strategizings. Thankfully, no rescuer intercepted those learning experiences
by offering quick escapes.

As long as we depend on others to dull our anxieties, we are never fully 
free to enjoy a vibrant faith. Likewise, as long as we feel responsible to 
appease
other people's anxiety, we cannot be who we were meant to be. That's a 
dead-end mission which deprives everyone of opportunities to grow in 
trustful faith.
This is not the path of love for others, for ourselves, nor ultimately for 
God.

In the one story of Jesus' youth, we can see that He had a firm grasp of the 
great commandment, the royal law of love. What a powerful example for us!
We, too, can respond to fretfulness by shifting the focus from self-absorbed 
anxiety to careful thoughtfulness. In this way, we offer a refreshing "cup
of water". We open the way to restful trust.

Prayer: Lord, train us to be effective managers of anxiety. May we develop 
the habit of casting all our anxieties on You - be they our own anxieties or
those of others - so that Your kingdom may grow in and among us and Your 
will may be done on earth. Amen.

Diane Eaton
Kincardine, Ontario, Canada
©Copyright 2011 Answers2Prayer | Matt 10:8 "Freely you have received, freely 
give."

9 Steps to Overcome Anxiety and Depression
Laurie Coombs

Never once did it occur to me that my thoughts may not be true. According to 
my line of thinking, every thought I had was a reflection of who I was. We
are what we think, I thought. Good thoughts are thought by good people, and 
bad or even evil thoughts are thought by bad.

I had considered myself to be in the good category, but then my thought life 
took a turn, and as my thoughts became increasingly dark, I became deeply
disturbed.

What is wrong with me?I wondered each time the thoughts came. How could I 
have thought that?

I was afraid. Afraid of what others would think or do if they knew what I 
was thinking. Afraid of who I was becoming. Afraid I was going insane. 
Afraid
of myself, really. My thoughts had become so dark that I didn’t trust myself 
any longer. All I wanted was to turn my thoughts off, but the more I tried,
the more they reverberated in my head.

I had become my own worst enemy as I fell to anxiety and depression. It was 
awful. Words cannot even begin to explain what it was like in that 
place––surrounded
by darkness, paralyzed by fear.

But if there’s one thing I know it is that light shines brightest in the 
darkest of dark. When we let the light of Christ shine into our hearts and 
minds,
we will most definitely see darkness flee. It begins with our thoughts––and 
not just for those of us who have experienced mental illness, but for every
one of us.

After coming to Christ, I learned––over time, by the power of the Holy 
Spirit––to be more intentional with my thoughts. In fact, there are 9 steps 
I’ve
taken in order to come to a place of restored mind and heart.

1. We must fill our minds with truth.

Truth is found in the Word of God, and all other things must be measured by 
it. Proverbs 16:20 says, “Whoever gives thought to the Word will discover 
good,
and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.†When we inundate our minds with 
scripture, we allow truth to reign in us, and we will be most assuredly be 
blessed.

2. We must set our minds on the things of God, not the things of this earth.

Something incredible happens when we align our thoughts with God’s. 
Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things 
that are
on earth.†We are called to set our minds. To choose where we place our 
focus. That coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit allows us the ability 
to
think the things God would have us think.

3. We must understand that not all thoughts are true.

Yes, scripture tells us “out of the heart come evil thoughts,†but we have 
an enemy. One who seeks to “steal and kill and destroy†(John 10:10). It is
our enemy’s primary goal to get us thinking wrong thoughts.

Our thoughts affect our emotions and our emotions affect our actions. Our 
enemy knows there’s a good chance that, if he can get inside our heads, we 
will
fall to temptation. Just look at the tactics he used with Jesus while Jesus 
was being tempted in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. Satan
used truth, quoted scripture, to tempt Jesus to sway from the path the 
Father willed for Him. Satan twisted the truth, in an attempt to get Jesus 
to think
wrong thoughts. Obviously, his tactics did not work on Jesus, but even now, 
he tries the same schemes with us, and so we must remember that not every 
thought
we think is truth.

4. We must consciously choose which thoughts to embrace and which to cast 
out.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion 
raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey 
Christ.â€
Every thought. Using scripture as our guide, we must learn to examine our 
thoughts to determine whether or not they are true. Whether or not they are 
beneficial.
Whether or not they build us, and others, up or tear us down. We must learn 
to embrace only thoughts that are true, good, and beneficial. All others 
must
be cast out and replaced with the good.

But telling ourselves, “Don’t think that…don’t think that…don’t think that,†
will only make us think that thought all the more. Trying to rid ourselves
of a lie or a bad thought only focuses our attention on the very thing we’re 
trying to get rid of. And so instead, we must learn to reframe how we think
about that thought. If you identify a lie, you replace it with the truth. 
You may still think the lie, but every time that lie crosses your mind, you 
choose
to tell yourself the truth. When you think a thought that is true, but not 
beneficial, you’ll need to learn to reframe your thinking. You’ll need to 
choose
to think about that thought in a more positive light. This, however, is not 
“the power of positive thinking.†This is aligning your thoughts with God’s.

All of this definitely takes practice. Training your mind, by the power of 
the Spirit, to be a more active participant in your thought life takes time,
but it is incredibly rewarding.

5. We must inundate our minds with good.

Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is 
honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever 
is
commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of 
praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and 
heard
and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with 
you.â€

Paul was onto something here. He had learned to train his mind to think of 
all things good, even when faced with trials. This scripture was penned 
while
sitting in a jail cell, and yet Paul was able to experience joy. God gave 
him that joy, but his joy came through his commitment to the instructions in
the verses above. And so, like Paul, we too must practice these things.

6. We must fight fear with
faith.

We all experience fear, at one time or another, and in these moments, our 
thoughts can most certainly get the best of us. We can learn a lot, however,
about how to handle fear from an Old Testament story about King Jehoshaphat.

“Jehoshaphat was afraid,†2 Chronicles 20:3 says, when told of an army 
coming against him. But the very first thing this man did was he “set his 
face to
seek the Lord…†(20:3). Instead of getting all up in his own head when 
presented with fear, Jehoshaphat sought the Lord. Later on, we see 
Jehoshaphat pray,
saying “For we are powerless… We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on 
You†(20:12).

We must fight fear with faith, believing that God will work all things 
according to His good purposes. Following Jehoshaphat’s example, we set our 
eyes
and our thoughts on God, not our circumstances as we seek the Lord, pray, 
and worship.

7. We must fight anxiety with
prayer,
thanksgiving, and worship.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything 
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known
to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard 
your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.†This was the first verse the 
Lord
gave me when the anxiety raged within my heart. I printed it out, pasted it 
on my bathroom mirror, and tried my best to do what God was calling me to do
through it.

It’s next to impossible to be thankful and negative at the same time. All 
those negative, self-defeating thoughts will fall to the wayside the more we
begin to realize just how blessed we really are. I’ve taken to numbering my 
blessings, with pen and paper.

8. We must learn contentment.

During Paul’s imprisonment, he wrote, “I have learned in whatever situation 
I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.
In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty 
and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who 
strengthens
me†(Philippians 4:12-13).

Contentment is an incredible thing. It’s ceasing to seek after more, knowing 
we have already been given all we need. It’s allowing our thoughts to be at
peace, knowing we will be okay regardless of what life throws at us.

9. We must think less of ourselves and more of others.

I don’t know about you, but my thoughts tend to be more about myself than 
others. It’s sickening to even write that, but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone
in this. I’ve learned that the more I allow myself to think about myself, 
the more I am discontented and self-serving. Philippians 2:3b-5a says, “In 
humility
count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only 
to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind
among yourselves…†Remember, we must set our minds. There is much joy to be 
had when we lay ourselves aside to love others. When we selflessly consider
others more important than ourselves.…

I understand that mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, have a 
chemical component to them, but I also know that our God is creator of 
all––creator
of our bodies, minds, and souls. He is the One who constructed our chemical 
composition and is fully able to bring it back into balance.

We cannot think ourselves well, only God can heal, but our thought life is 
the greatest contributor to mental health, not only for those who have 
experienced
mental illness, but for every one of us. We all need right thinking. And so 
I encourage you today to commit yourself to learning and practicing the 
discipline
of managing your thought life, by the power of the Spirit. And I am fully 
convinced that, if you do so, your life will never be the same.

Laurie's Headshot
Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of 
forgiveness, redemption, and the blessings associated with following Jesus. 
Her story
will be featured in Billy Graham's new film, "
Heaven,"
(November 2014) part of the "My Hope with Billy Graham" series broadcast 
nationally in an effort to reach people with the message of the gospel. She 
is
a featured writer and blogger for
iBelieve.com
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Life's Arrows
by Charles R. Swindoll

2 Samuel 16:10-12

Having just held a memorial service for a friend several years younger than 
I who had died with liver cancer, I have been thinking about how to respond
when struck by an arrow of affliction. Not a little irritating dart, but an 
arrow plunged deeply.

My friend chose not to curl up in a corner with a calendar and put Xs on 
days. On the contrary, the news of his malignancy only spurred him on to 
drain
every ounce out of every day. His physician had told him he would probably 
be gone before last Thanksgiving. "Says who?" he mused. Not only did he live
through Thanksgiving, at Christmas he threw a party, the following Easter 
was delightful, a fun picnic on the Fourth of July was a gas. . . and he had
a special celebration in the planning stage for this Thanksgiving! A close 
friend of his told me that the last time they talked he had made an 
appointment
to have his teeth fixed.

I love that kind of spunk! It underscores one of my unspoken philosophies of 
life: When struck by an arrow, don't seek more days in your life but more
life in your days. Forget quantity; pursue quality. Look beyond the pain and 
you'll find incredible perspective.

When the thorn punctured Paul's balloon, he refused to wallow in self-pity 
and whine away the balance of his days. He learned to glory in his 
weaknesses.
He discovered a contentment, even a joy, in the midst of "distresses . . . 
persecutions . . . difficulties" (2 Cor. 12:10). In weakness he found inner
strength.

In spite of his brothers' cruel mistreatment, subsequent slavery in Egypt, 
false accusations from Mrs. Potiphar (resulting in being dumped into a 
dungeon
for years), Joseph steered clear of bitterness. As a matter of fact, he 
ultimately told his brothers, "God turned into good what you meant for evil" 
(Gen.
50:20 TLB). Talk about incredible perspective regarding life's arrows!

Arrows don't change a person's direction. They merely deepen his or her 
character; they help the afflicted rediscover certain values before 
achieving even
greater things---if we let them.

So, which arrow has struck you recently? News of an alleged "terminal" 
illness? Physical pain? Unfair treatment? False accusations? Struggles at 
home?
Somebody throwing rocks? An accident that's left you scarred? Don't waste 
time licking your wounds or wondering why. Make a decision to do what you 
were
doing even better than ever. Life's arrows are nothing more than momentary 
setbacks that help us regroup, renew, and reload---so, what are you waiting
for?

Don't seek more days in your life but more life in your days.
Excerpted from
Day by Day with Charles Swindoll,
Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). 
All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

God is Faithful

One of the greatest blessings of life is to know God.

Knowing God means that He also knows us.

God knowing us means He knows life hurts at times. When ever I go through 
hard times, sad times, dark times, and discouraging times  I can testify 
with many of you that the greatest cure comes from looking at Jesus.

Remember how Isaiah 53:3 calls Jesus “A Man of sorrows and acquainted with 
grief. Sounds to me like just the One to get to know when troubles, pains,
and afflictions come rolling through like an unexpected summer storm on the 
picnic of our life.

So where do I look when life hurts? I start in

Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with 
our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain 
mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Did you catch that? Jesus can ˜feel the pain with us of our weaknesses. Now 
what would you call depression, discouragement, frustration, sadness, and
so on “ weaknesses. And what does Jesus do? He feels the pain with us. The 
word is sum-pascho with pain. In fact the pain of the cross is called the
paschal time or pain time. And that is what Jesus feels for us.

Great so how does that help us? Well to bridge the chasm between the High 
and Mighty Sinless Jesus Christ the Lord of Glory  and you and me, God gave
us the cast of this Book. Today look with me at an Old Testament figure 
whose life reflects the feelings of Jesus for our weaknesses we painfully 
live
with. His name Jeremiah. His testimony is the 25th book of God's Word, and 
it is called Lamentations. Does that title suggest anything to you? It is
the cry of a troubles soul. It is the testimony of a man who knew pain, 
weakness, and much sorrow.

When Life Hurts

So as we turn to Lamentations 3, what are the Biblical afflictions God uses, 
manages, allows and most of all “ hurts that HE can handle:

1. THE HURTS OF BROKEN PHYSICAL HEALTH: Lamentations 3:4 He has aged my 
flesh and my skin, And broken my bones.

2. THE HURTS OF DEEP EMOTIONAL STRAIN: Lamentations 3:5 He has besieged me 
And surrounded me with bitterness and woe.

3. THE HURTS OF PERIODS OF DARK DEPRESSION: Lamentations 3:6 He has set me 
in dark places Like the dead of long ago.

4. THE HURTS OF DESPERATION AND BURDEN OF BEING TRAPPED:Lamentations 3:7 He 
has hedged me in so that I cannot get out; He has made my chain heavy.

5. THE HURTS OF FEELING OUT OF TOUCH, DISTANT FROM GOD AND LEFT BEHIND IN 
LIFE: Lamentations 3:8 Even when I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayer.

6. THE HURTS OF FRUSTRATION AND CONFUSION: Lamentations 3:9 He has blocked 
my ways with hewn stone; He has made my paths crooked.

7. THE HURTS OF ANXIETY AND SADNESS: Lamentations 3:17 You have moved my 
soul far from peace; I have forgotten prosperity.

8. THE HURTS OF PHYSICAL WEAKNESS AND HOPELESSNESS: Lamentations 3:18 And I 
said, “My strength and my hope Have perished from the Lord.â€

9. THE HURTS OF BITTER AFFLICTION AND AIMLESSNESS: Lamentations 3:19 
Remember my affliction and roaming, The wormwood and the gall.

For more from Discover the Book Ministries, please visit
discoverthebook.org.

How to Understand the Bible

How Should We Understand the Teachings of Jesus?

If someone asked you who your favorite teacher was when you were growing up, 
chances are someone specific would come to mind. And chances are you still
respect that person today not because he or she was a fantastic lecturer, or 
had a superior knowledge of the subject matter, or had a memorable voice.
Our favorite teachers”the ones who influenced not just our thinking, but our 
lives”are usually those people who taught us about life. And it wasn't just
with their words. Their own lives were distinctive.

Jesus is widely considered the greatest teacher of all time. But we will 
only understand him in this capacity if we consider setting and context. 
Jesus
was not a college lecturer or a mystical philosopher. Those who were under 
the teaching of Jesus were following him on foot, from one village to the 
next.
They heard a parable when he walked into a field of grain, a discourse on 
being the bread sent from heaven after he fed a multitude, and debriefings 
with
his disciples after many argumentative flareups with the Pharisees and 
teachers of the law. At a Jewish festival where water was used, he stood and 
said
in a loud voice: Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink (John 7:37).
Jesus teaching was dynamic and interactive. It spoke into both the 
practicalities of everyday life, and into cosmic, eternal issues.

JesusTeaching

No wonder people were amazed.

We'll best appreciate the Gospels if we understand the forms of Jesus 
teaching and the main themes of his teaching. One form was exaggeration or 
hyperbole.
Few believers have ripped out their eyes or cut off their hands because 
Jesus said in
Matthew 5:29-30
that it would be better to do that then end up in eternal condemnation. We 
understand Jesus’ point, made through a shocking statement.

When Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle 
than it is for a rich person to enter God's kingdom, his point was that it 
is
extremely difficult for a self-sufficient person to admit their 
insufficiency. There is an often-repeated interpretation that in Jerusalem 
there was a
small gate in the wall that necessitated a camel to go to its knees to 
enter. The problem is, there is no archaeological or epigraphical evidence 
that
any such gate ever existed. Unfortunately, there are many interpretations of 
Scripture that have been repeated countless times but were never based in
fact.

Jesus used similes and metaphors. I am the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5).
I am the true vine (John 15:1).
You are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14).
These have immediate impact, and they are memorable. Some of his most 
powerful metaphors explained the kingdom of God. The kingdom is like a 
mustard seed,
leaven, a net, a man who finds a treasure, the sprouting of seed from the 
soil. These require careful reading. For instance, Jesus did not say the 
kingdom
is like treasure, but it's like what happens when a man finds a treasure and 
does everything to get it.

Jesus also spoke in short, memorable aphorisms or proverbs. Do to others as 
you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31).
Do not judge, and you will not be judged (Luke 6:37).
Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and 
mother (Matt. 12:50).
Jesus acknowledged that he spoke figuratively for effect: Though I have 
been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this 
kind
of language but will tell you plainly about my Father (John 16:25).

Jesus spoke in riddles and he used irony. He used almost every kind of 
verbal method you could imagine, including parables (which we'll come to in 
the
next chapter). But the power of Jesus teaching for his original hearers and 
for us is not in the method. There was a ring of truth, a veracity, and a
power in his teaching. For example, Matthew tells us, “When Jesus had 
finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 
because he
taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law†(
Matt. 7:28-29).
We would have been amazed too.

As with every other kind of text in Scripture, we need to take time to study 
the context of any given teaching of Jesus. To whom was he speaking? What
were the circumstances? Were there any special cultural details? Even in the 
teaching of Jesus, Scripture means something specific to us that is based
in what it meant to Jesus' original audience. That is where we'll find the 
true meaning, and thus, the authority.
About The Author - Mel Lawrenz serves as minister at large for Elmbrook 
Church and leads The Brook Network. Having been in pastoral ministry for 
thirty
years, the last decade as senior pastor of Elmbrook, Mel seeks to help 
Christian leaders engage with each other. Mel is the author of eleven books, 
the
most recent for church leaders, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to 
Engagement.
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The Four F's of Being a Christian

By Gordon Bailey, Special to ASSIST News Service (Writer’s Opinion)

BROMYARD, UNITED KINGDOM (ANS – March 13, 2015) -- What I mean by ‘being a 
Christian’ is the ways in which I express my personal relationship with 
Jesus
Christ.

In the word Christian Christ’s name comes first and comprises most of that 
word and, therefore, the word’s meaning.

I am not a Churchian, nor a Sectian, nor a Creedian, and nor do I put first 
and give most meaning of my faith to any religion. I am not even a 
Christianityian.

My faith is in and my relationship is with the living person of Jesus Christ 
and not with the religion called Christianity, many of the aspects of which
I am deeply embarrassed and ashamed.

How ought I then to express this relationship?

Father love

That is: love for the Father; an attitude and acts that are often summed up 
in the single word worship. Attributing worth to God the Father, through 
Jesus
Christ. I could not worship the Father if it were not for the fact that 
Jesus tells me that he lives in me, and that I exist in him. (John 14.20.) 
It is
only because the Father sees me in Christ that I am given the privilege of 
loving him and finding ways of expressing that love. I cannot approach 
anywhere
near the Father because of his holiness and my sinfulness. However, because 
I am in Christ and am therefore present within his righteousness, I can 
express
my love for the Father through Christ in adoration, praise, honour, respect, 
reverence, appreciation, celebration, as well as my submission to his will
in obedience.

Fellowship

That is: love expressed towards my fellow Christians.

Sadly, sitting in rows, perhaps not speaking with those alongside, and 
looking at the distant platform or pulpit, is too often called ‘fellowship’ 
and
left at that; when what happens is a ‘church service’ when many synonyms of 
the word ‘service’ cannot be said to apply: provision, benefit, kindness, 
aid,
restoration and
usefulness.

The love of the Christ who dwells within his disciples can be expressed to 
other disciples in so many ways: acceptance, forgiveness, honesty, 
hospitality,
welcome, joy at seeing him or her, faithfulness, goodness, kindness, 
gentleness, friendship, peacefulness and, no doubt, you may be able to add 
other forms
of love
expressed to one’s brothers and sisters in Christ.

Friendship

That is: love expressed towards not-yet-Christians.

In Matthew 11.19. Jesus, who was eating and drinking with publicans and 
sinners, is accused of being a 'friend of sinners’. There are two words in 
the
Greek New Testament that can be translated into the English word ‘friend’: 
hetairos and philos. The first means a colleague, a companion, a co-worker,
someone I may call a friend simply because we sit next to one another at 
work, or happen to in the same class at school, or we travel on the same bus 
to
the same destination every day. This was not the word the accusers used, 
even Though Jesus was being a companion to those alongside him. They wanted 
a
stronger accusation. Philos is derived from the Greek verb ‘to love’.

They accused Jesus of being ‘a sinner lover’, their words intended as a 
powerful insult. I am delighted that Jesus remains a sinner lover because it 
was
his love for me that drew me to him. It was just ten verses later (Matthew 
11.29.) that Jesus said to his disciples “learn from me".

Just as there are many ways that the love of Jesus, through me, can be 
expressed towards my fellow Christians, so there are lots of ways Christ can 
love
not-yet-Christians through me: friendship, care, compassion, acceptance, 
trust, forgiveness, comradeship, support, courtesy, warmth, hospitality, 
cordiality,
sympathy, empathy, goodwill, giving, provision of needs, positivity, 
encouragement, and on and on. . .

A significant percentage of Christians initially experienced the love of 
Christ through a friend, being drawn into a personal relationship with Jesus 
as a result.

Faith

Faith is the ground, the foundation for all I have written above. All those 
expressions of love towards God, one’s fellow Christians, and 
not-yet-Christians
are impossible without the faith in Christ that makes the impossible 
possible. Not the belief that many refer to as faith that is nothing more 
than a mental
acceptance of the historical Christ and his value and importance in history 
and the Church. Many believe this type of belief makes them to be 
Christians,
without any of the believing that is included in the word’s meaning in the
Bible’s original language. Let me pick a quote from the Amplified Bible 
where words that have a deeper meaning than the single word have those 
deeper meanings
included in the text: ‘For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world 
that he [even] gave up his only-begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever 
believes in (trusts, clings to, relies upon) Him shall not perish—come to 
destruction, be lost—but have eternal (everlasting) life.’ John 3.16.

Did you notice the amplification of the word ‘believe’? ‘Trusts, clings to, 
relies on’. That is far, far more than a mental acceptance that someone 
lived
and died and is important to many people today. That amplification of the 
word believe it what faith really is. So, do I believe in, trust (depend 
upon),
cling to, rely upon the Lord Jesus Christ? If I do not, am I really a 
Christian? It is my faith in Christ that releases him to be active in me and 
through me in many of the expressions of love detailed above. For ‘without faith it 
is impossible to please God’. (Hebrews 11.6.)

Note: Please feel free to use this and any of our ANS stories with 
attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)

Our mailing address is:
ASSIST News Service PO Box 609 Lake Forest, Ca 92609 USA

Copyright (C) 2015 ASSIST News Service All rights reserved.

What Would You Give
by Dean Masters

1 Corinthians 9:9
As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his 
righteousness endures for ever.”

Paul is quoting Psalm 112: 9 here as he was explaining giving to the church 
of Corinth. Here is what the whole chapter says in Psalms:
“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his 
commandments. His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of 
the upright
will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness 
endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is 
gracious,
merciful and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and 
lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never 
be
moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his 
heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be 
afraid
until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. He has distributed freely; he 
has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is 
exalted
in honor. The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and 
melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish!

When our walk with God is right our giving is right! Everything in life is 
taken to a whole new level when we focus on God and walk in His ways. 
Sometimes
we get so consumed with what we want and need we ignore the needs of others. 
There are great ministries that die out because those who are running them
cannot afford to give any more of their own money to keep it alive, there 
are single parents who are struggling even though they are working hard to 
take
care of their children. We all need to do our part and maybe you can’t give 
somewhere financially but maybe you could volunteer to help at the food bank
or maybe go to a soup kitchen and volunteer. Maybe your church needs more 
women to help in Jr. Church or the Nursery.

I have had the privilege of meeting a lot of great people over the years 
traveling with Bill and I met one of Bill’s friends the other day that just 
amazes
me! He has a business that has grown to a point that no one understands 
quite how he has done it and his accountant tells him all the time that he 
gives
way too much money away. His answer is always “I give what God tells me to 
give!” I have never really been able to look at someone and relate an entire
chapter of the Bible to them but chapter 112 is him, he is doing things 
right ~ his whole focus is God, he works hard, he gives as God tells him to 
give and God has blessed him.

Where are you today on your giving scale? Do you have maybe extra time 
instead of money? Is there someone you could bless by just spending a little 
time
with them loving on them? Do you have money that you could give? I would 
encourage you to ask God today if there is something you can do and for Him 
to
open your eyes to opportunities to give in His honor, to love on others to 
show the love of Christ. Ask Him as Jabez did to expand your abilities to 
bless
others. If you ask Him what you can do, trust me He will show you!

Quote: “I bring you the gift of these four words: I believe in your.” Blaise 
Pascal

Today's Turning Point with David Jeremiah
Wednesday, March 18

What a Friend!

No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his 
master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard 
from
My Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15

Recommended Reading
John 6:68-69
No wonder a dog is called man’s best friend. Dogs always forgive, they never 
judge, they patiently listen, they are always willing to go places with us,
they aren’t demanding, jealous, or possessive, they like to be around us . . 
. and more. Those aren’t perfect definitions of a good friend, but they’re
close. And they explain why dogs are such popular pets.

Listen to Today's Radio Broadcast
That said, dogs can’t do what we often need the most when we’re in trouble. 
They can’t pray with us, give us words of encouragement, or provide wisdom
or correction when we’re on the wrong path. Sometimes even our best human 
friends can’t do all that we need when we are hurting. But there is one 
friend
who can, and His name is Jesus. He exemplifies the friend described in 
Proverbs 18:24—a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Jesus told His 
disciples
that He considered them His friends, not His servants, because of what He 
had revealed to them. Friendship implies the deepest level of intimacy and 
trust.

If you need a friend who is completely trustworthy and loyal, Jesus is His 
name.

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
Joseph M. Scriven

TURNING POINT WITH DR. DAVID JEREMIAH
Copyright © 2015 Turning Point for God. All rights reserved.
Turning Point, P. O. Box 3838, San Diego, CA 92163
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