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Post  Admin on Wed 28 Aug 2013, 8:30 pm

Take a Good Look!
James 1:23-24
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
J. B. Phillips was a British scholar who paraphrased the New Testament. Because of his nationality, he occasionally threw new light on a passage through his use of the British explanation of terms.
One example is found in his interpretation of Romans 3:20. In England, what Americans call a ruler was known as a straightedge; when Phillips paraphrased the passage "For through the Law comes the knowledge of sin," he wrote, "Indeed it is the straightedge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are."
I can show you crooked . . . have you ever tried to hang striped wallpaper? You know very well that it's only when you come to a corner, a door, or a window that you suddenly realize how crooked the wallpaper is. Stay away from stripes—they will wreck your marriage!
The straightedge for unbelievers is the Law, for by it, Paul says in Romans, they are condemned. But the straightedge for believers is the Word of God.
In His Word, God reveals to us how we should live and what He desires of us in our homes, our churches, our schools; on the ball field and golf course; at work and play. The Bible is the ruler by which a Christian measures his life, and the rule by which we should live.
This is what God's Word does for us. It not only shows us when we're doing things all wrong, but it also encourages us in knowing how to make the corrections.
In light of this, James describes God's Word as a mirror. While a mirror can, with absolute precision, reveal the dirt on your face, it can't wash it off. It can show that you need to shave your stubble, comb your hair, or brush your teeth, but it can't shave, comb, or brush anything. You have to do that.
As foolish as it would be for a man to look in the mirror and then forget what he looked like, so it would be for you and me to look into God's Word and forget what it says. The truth is, our response to the Bible is a good indication of the condition of our heart. Are you looking at yourself in the mirror of God's Word? Are you praying that God will change you into His image?
Don't be discouraged. We are all works in progress . . . just keep changing. Being a doer of the Word is evidence of true conformity; behaving in the manner of true believers is evidence of growth in Christ.  Look again . . . you can become the mirror-image of our Savior.
Prayer Point: Ask the Lord to help you respond immediately to whatever His Spirit has challenged you to be as you've read this page. What needs brushing up? What needs cleaning up? Don't walk away—don't wait another moment.
Extra Refreshment: Read several sections of Psalms 119 and notice how the Word of God impacts the way we think, feel, and respond.
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Post  Admin on Tue 27 Aug 2013, 5:21 pm

Grace from Heaven's Bank
Romans 2:4
Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Understanding grace doesn't mean that you can sin without penalty. Understanding grace means that you never want to sin again. It is the goodness of God that motivates us to repentance and holy living. 
I read of a rather unusual accountability partnership that demonstrated the power of grace over sin. Paul was trying to break his habit of using profanity. Swearing had become a second language to him and he desperately wanted to overcome it. He began meeting with another man from his church, and with Bill's help, set up an aggressive plan for purifying his speech.
Here's the plan: each Sunday Paul would report to Bill the number of times he had used profanity during the week and would put five dollars in the offering plate for each incident. The first week cost Paul one hundred dollars! Although the following weeks improved to some degree, he was not having the success that he desired, not to mention the fact that he was quickly running out of money!
After a few weeks, Bill had an idea that he thought might make the difference. He informed Paul that things were going to change the following Sunday, but he wouldn't tell him how they would change. Curiosity gnawed at Paul all week. A few times he tried to find out what the new plan was, but each time Bill simply responded, "Trust me, Paul. This new strategy will cost you less and challenge you even more."
Sunday finally arrived, and before the worship service began Paul looked more discouraged than ever. Bill knew his friend had failed again. This time Bill put a hand on his shoulder and said, "Paul, my new plan is called grace." Bill then took out his own checkbook, wrote in the church's name, dated it, signed it, and left only the amount blank. He handed the check to Paul and said, "Your sin still costs something, but you can go free on my account; just fill in the numbers—I'll take care of the cost. Oh, by the way, next week there will be more grace."
That first week of grace cost Bill fifty-five dollars, but the second week cost him only twenty. And there was no third week . . . Paul was so overwhelmed by the grace of Bill that his heart broke to think of his friend having to write another check to cover his sin.
It was only after the discovery of Bill's grace and love toward him that Paul was able to overcome his life-long, sinful habit of swearing.
If you are feeling overcome by sin today, look again to the cross. Counseling sessions, accountability, personal discipleship, and twelve-step programs won't be enough to ward off the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Only when you gaze upon the grace of God, realizing again that He paid the debt for your sin with the blood of His Son, will you find enough motivation to consciously quit your sin.
Christ handed you a blank check . . .  how much will it cost Him today?
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for His goodness—it leads to repentance. Thank Him for His grace—it is undeserved favor and love. Thank Him for His mercy—it withholds eternal punishment, which we so clearly deserve.
Extra Refreshment: Read Isaiah 53.
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Post  Admin on Tue 27 Aug 2013, 4:43 pm

Me, Myself, and I
Ephesians 4:27
Do not give the devil an opportunity.
All too often, the worst enemy of the church is . . . the church. New believers do not grow in Christ because "older" believers who have not matured become the primary stumbling blocks by their poor example. Selfishness and arrogance so often serve in the church's most visible and crucial positions of ministry. One of the church's favorite hymns, Holy, Holy, Holy,  has shifted its focus from "God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!" to "Me, Myself, and I!"
Warren Wiersbe wrote, "When the enemy fails in his attacks from the outside, he then begins to attack from within, and one of his favorite weapons is selfishness." Selfishness is defined as having the attitude that people exist merely to meet my agenda, my wishes, my needs, and the value of anything [people, church, God, etc.] is determined only in light of what it can do for me.
This attitude is revealed not only in outward behavior but also in secret thoughts. If left unchecked, it ultimately poisons the heart. Selfishness destroys friendships, marriages, ministries, and churches; it also destroys mission fields and all other sacred projects where God is clearly at work.
The Ephesian church was struggling with this problem, so Paul dedicated nearly an entire chapter to exhort the believers. He wrote, "Speak the truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger; and do not give the devil an opportunity."
These verses clearly warn us that the devil actually watches us. And he longs for opportunities birthed by selfish believers. No wonder he baits his hook with self-centered advice, whispering, "Don't think about others, think only of yourself: your desires, your life, your money, your plans, your career, your retirement, your position, your agenda, your ministry."
Frankly, we are all terminally infected with selfishness, and it lies at the core of every  act. That is why selfishness is such a productive and powerful weapon in the hands of Satan. He will use it against us whenever he can. It must never be excused; it must never be coddled; it must be cut away daily!  Sometimes . . . moment by moment.
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for His example of selflessness and servanthood, and ask Him for the discipline to imitate His spirit throughout this day.
Extra Refreshment: Read Ephesians 4:17-32.
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Post  Admin on Sat 24 Aug 2013, 6:25 pm

A Word to the Wise
Proverbs 2:2-6
Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Mankind has been seeking wisdom and knowledge since the beginning of time, but most people never find it. Why?  Because in their pride and arrogance, they have sought for it inside themselves, rejecting God and His Word.
In their minds, wisdom is easy to come by rather than being a treasure that must be sought. Just listen to the best-selling advice of Oprah Winfrey, whom thousands of people follow:
Our real power comes from knowing who we are . . . and that begins with looking inside ourselves in silence. I've always believed you really need no gurus, no leaders, no guides—just yourself. You have all your own best answers. What you're trying to find is already there. Be still and know it.
She could not be more spiritually deceived. Psalm 46:10 does not say "Be still and know yourself," but "Be still and know that I am God." The Bible doesn't teach that our real power comes from within ourselves, but quite the opposite. In John 15:5b, Christ says, ". . . apart from Me you can do nothing," and in Philippians 4:13, Paul states, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." In other words, our power and wisdom come from Christ, not from within ourselves.
So who's right—Oprah or the Bible? Are the answers to life deep within your own heart,  or deep within the heart of God? In Jeremiah 17:9, the prophet leaves no room for hesitation on this answer when he proclaims, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" Put differently, because of sin and our fallen nature, wisdom does not dwell within us. Instead, our hearts are sinful, evil, and prideful. Oprah is tragically mistaken . . . wisdom must come from outside ourselves.
James promised that ". . . if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him" ( James 1:5).  David wrote, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).
These passages leave no shadow of a doubt as to where true wisdom is found. We are in a world of darkness and in desperate need of light; how distressingly foolish to think that light can be found inside us. Not so! God is that light, and only by coming to know Him through His revealed Word will we be able to gain wisdom.
So, God  is the ultimate prize.  Seek after Him with all your heart, and  along the way, you will discover . . . wisdom.
Prayer Point: Think of ways in which God has given you wisdom in the past, whether it was in making an important decision, turning from a sinful habit, or encouraging a friend. Thank Him for the light you needed to make the right decision or to take the next step. Don't hesitate to pray for more wisdom—you will need it today!
Extra Refreshment: Read Proverbs 8 to discover the riches of true wisdom.
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Post  Admin on Thu 22 Aug 2013, 11:05 pm

A Father's Love . . . and Loss
John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Dr. Thomas Dooley, the late missionary doctor in Laos, in his book entitled The Night They Burned the Mountain, tells the story of Laotian friends giving him a tiny Himalayan moon bear as a pet.  Dr. Dooley loved the cuddly ball of brown fur, so full of interesting antics.  While he was working on a cage for the animal, an old Chinese man walked by him. The man stopped, stared, and then began to sob as he stood before the cage. Dr. Dooley walked toward him, hoping to discover the reason for his tears.
The Chinese man told him how he and his son had once worked together on a commune in Red China. He reminded the doctor that laborers on the communes during harvest time were not allowed to have even one grain of rice for themselves, for it all belonged to the Republic. But his wife had become very sick with beriberi and malnutrition, and one day his son concealed a few handfuls of rice in his clothing to feed his starving mother. His act was discovered and the authorities decided to make a public example of the young boy.
He was imprisoned in a cage, not unlike the one that Dr. Dooley had built for his pet bear, and the cage was placed in the center of the city. It was so small that the boy could not move or even sit up straight. The man went on to say:
His mother and I were forced to watch, she from one side of the square and I from the other. But the guards would not allow us to go near him. Day after day, as we looked on, my boy died slowly under the broiling sun, with nothing to eat or drink, covered with filth and flies. It was good when the guards pronounced him dead.
The prolonged tragedy in this story is that the father was not allowed to save his son. He was forced to sit helplessly by and watch the horror unfold, and the image would remain with him the rest of his life.
When I read this story, the crucifixion of Christ immediately came to mind.    What an amazing thought . . . God the Father could have stepped in at any moment to save His Son from the agony of the cross, but He chose to allow His death. Unlike the Chinese father in Dooley's story, our Heavenly Father could have sent a legion of angels to rescue His Son, bringing judgment upon those who sought His life; yet He willingly stood by and watched the abomination unfold.
Why? Because He loves you so much that He freely offered His Son . . . for your sins and mine.
Prayer Point: Take a moment to think upon the horror of Calvary. In humble contemplation, praise the Father for His amazing love that caused Him to choose to sacrifice His son on your behalf.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 17—Christ's incredible prayer to His Father before His own death on the cross, capturing only a fraction of the Father's love for you and me.
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Post  Admin on Wed 21 Aug 2013, 2:35 pm

Confession and Compassion
Matthew 9:13
"But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Do you want to sense the maximum attention of God? You must first give Him your maximum attention.
Do you want the Lord to be available to you? You must first be available to Him.
Do you want to touch the heart of God? You must first be available to His moving.
If you want to be part of God's effort to rebuild our broken world through the redeeming gospel of Christ, you must be willing to become part of God's solution—whatever it may be.
Isn't it easier just to pray, "Lord, do this. . . Lord, bless that . . . Lord, help him [or her] . . . Lord, provide in this way . . . Lord, minister in that way"? But what if you heard a voice from heaven that said, "Of the five requests you just prayed, four of them are up to you!"
God's work often requires your willingness. In the parable of the Good Samaritan it becomes clear that anyone who claims the name of Christ is not merely to pray for someone, but to pray for wisdom to know how to help.
Compassion for the lost and needy among us is what draws God's attention, for it comes from a heart modeled after His own.
With this in mind, is it any wonder that the average Christian really doesn't want the maximum attention of God? He or she really doesn't want to become part of His divine solution because it may cause a bit of discomfort or uneasiness.
It is one thing to get on your knees and pray for God to bless a person, but it is quite another to follow up that prayer with a letter, a phone call, a visit, an invitation, a gift.
If your compassion does not extend beyond your prayer time, it isn't genuine.
If we are to gain God's special attention as a co-laborer with Him, we must share in His anguish over the fallen world around us.
Aren't we rather self-centered to expect God to share our distress over what we care about if we don't share His distress over His concerns?
Let's not create a double standard in our thinking and living, but wholeheartedly imitate God's standard—following up with acts of sincere compassion after our prayers.
When we begin to pray and act in this way, we can be sure that God is not only hearing us . . . but He is pleased with us!
Prayer Point: Pray for someone you know who is in need, whether it is physical or spiritual, but start your prayer by asking what you can do to help meet that need. Don't just ask God for the solution—ask Him how you can become part of the solution.
Extra Refreshment: Read Luke 10:25-37
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Post  Admin on Tue 20 Aug 2013, 11:52 pm

It's Possible . . . Not Easy!
Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
God's will is not always easy but it is always possible. For with God all things are possible. Rest in the fact that God will never command you to do something you can't accomplish. He will never direct your steps without providing the strength to walk the path.
Jack Handey wrote in his book entitled Fuzzy Memories:
There used to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day at school. Since I was smaller than he was, I would give it to him. Then I decided to fight back. I started taking karate lessons. But then the karate instructor told me I owed him five dollars a lesson. Five dollars! So I just went back to paying the bully.
Truth be told, it's sometimes easier to pay the bully than it is to learn how to defeat him. However, God never commands you to live for His glory without helping you to overcome the obstacles you will face. Whether it is loving your spouse, witnessing to friends and family, or remaining pure on a college campus, Christ will enable you if you obey Him. Paul did not say, "I can do most things through Christ," but "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
While you're at it, stay alert to the fact that opposition usually means opportunity is close at hand. In fact, there is rarely opportunity without opposition, so you must be prepared for both opportunities and obstacles at the same time.
Paul intends to encourage us as we follow the leadership of Christ, which in real terms means never throw in the towel. He challenged the Corinthians and every Christian to be "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." What a great promise—your toil is not in vain.
Endurance that demands blood, sweat, and tears, will be rewarded one day. So get ready for today's obstacle course and run it with patient diligence.  The hurdles may be high, the track may be uneven, the distance may be great, but it's possible . . . not easy!
Prayer Point: Ask the Lord to help you to discern opportunities masked by obstacles. Ask Him to give you the ability to see possible advancements in your character development that are presently cloaked in those difficult obstacles.
Extra Refreshment: Read Philippians 1.
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Post  Admin on Tue 20 Aug 2013, 9:34 pm

It's Possible . . . Not Easy!
Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
God's will is not always easy but it is always possible. For with God all things are possible. Rest in the fact that God will never command you to do something you can't accomplish. He will never direct your steps without providing the strength to walk the path.
Jack Handey wrote in his book entitled Fuzzy Memories:
There used to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day at school. Since I was smaller than he was, I would give it to him. Then I decided to fight back. I started taking karate lessons. But then the karate instructor told me I owed him five dollars a lesson. Five dollars! So I just went back to paying the bully.
Truth be told, it's sometimes easier to pay the bully than it is to learn how to defeat him. However, God never commands you to live for His glory without helping you to overcome the obstacles you will face. Whether it is loving your spouse, witnessing to friends and family, or remaining pure on a college campus, Christ will enable you if you obey Him. Paul did not say, "I can do most things through Christ," but "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
While you're at it, stay alert to the fact that opposition usually means opportunity is close at hand. In fact, there is rarely opportunity without opposition, so you must be prepared for both opportunities and obstacles at the same time.
Paul intends to encourage us as we follow the leadership of Christ, which in real terms means never throw in the towel. He challenged the Corinthians and every Christian to be "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." What a great promise—your toil is not in vain.
Endurance that demands blood, sweat, and tears, will be rewarded one day. So get ready for today's obstacle course and run it with patient diligence.  The hurdles may be high, the track may be uneven, the distance may be great, but it's possible . . . not easy!
Prayer Point: Ask the Lord to help you to discern opportunities masked by obstacles. Ask Him to give you the ability to see possible advancements in your character development that are presently cloaked in those difficult obstacles.
Extra Refreshment: Read Philippians 1.
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Post  Admin on Mon 19 Aug 2013, 2:18 pm

Timeless Truths for a New Generation
2 Timothy 3:15
From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
One of the tragedies of our contemporary culture is that people are not convinced of the Bible's worth. I have often shared with our congregation the burden that people in the 21st century do not believe the Bible has anything to say to today's generation.
Six hundred Christians from a wide range of cultures were questioned, and it was discovered that 25% read their Bible more than once a week, and most of the remaining 75% don't read it at all. Did you catch that? Over half of so-called "Christians" today do not even read their Bible! The president of the research group  summarized the findings of the survey:
People aren't reading the Bible because they think it is irrelevant to everyday life. Many people, even those who read the Bible, do not see the Scriptures as containing instruction and answers that deal with the everyday problems they face. They think of the Bible as they would a cookbook. It is a wonderful thing for putting together thirty-person dinner parties, but it doesn't have any recipes in it for tonight's dinner for the family. It's great for special occasions but not for everyday situations.
Is the Bible relevant today? In the 21st century, is the Word of God still as powerful as it was in Hebrews
4:12, when it was described as "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword?" Is our Bible today the same divinely-inspired book that Paul spoke of to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, praising it as "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work"?
The answer is yes!
The Bible that we hold in our hands today, translated from the original languages and passed down to us over the centuries, is just as profitable for every aspect of our lives in the 21st century as it was for believers in the first century.
If you've paid attention to history, you'll understand that except for technological advances, the world hasn't changed much. People will always be people, and as Solomon wisely said in Ecclesiastes 1:9, "There is nothing new under the sun." As long as there are people to inhabit the world, there will always be a dire need for truth and direction for living.
Praise be to God who has given us both in His Word! Perhaps the reason Christianity has taken somewhat of a "new face" in the present century is because we have forgotten whose face we are supposed to reflect. The Bible is clear—if we want to know God and His Son, Jesus Christ, He has been revealed in Scripture. His Word is not just a to-do list of spiritual chores, or an informative historical document; it is the way we can know Him and show Him to an unbelieving world.
Scripture is God's Truth to mankind in every generation, and it never grows old . . . it's timeless!
Prayer Point: If you have been taking God's Word lightly, having fallen into the belief that it is no longer relevant, confess that to God and ask Him to show you your desperate need for it. Then, thank him for calling men throughout the centuries who were willing to face death and persecution, so that you and I could have copies of the Bible in our own language.
Extra Refreshment: 2 Timothy 3—a promise that mankind will forsake truth in "the last days."
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Post  Admin on Sat 17 Aug 2013, 12:33 am

Outside My Window
Luke 12:15
Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions."
G.W. Target wrote a short story in 1973 called "The Window." It illustrates powerfully the choice we all have of living for self or living for others:  
Two men were confined to a hospital room due to their illnesses. One man had to lie on his back at all times; the other had to sit up for one hour every day because of the accumulation of fluid in his lungs. His bed was next to the only window in the room.
Each day for one hour, he would describe to the man in the hospital bed what he saw out the window. The man in bed began to live for that hour; his roommate spoke of the beautiful lake down below, describing the fishermen and the results of their efforts. Another day he described the skyline of the city on the horizon and the busy lives of the people living there. Mountains in the distance, capped with snow were reported on other days.  And so the months and seasons passed with these two men.
Eventually, the man confined on his back began to resent the reports from the window. He was ashamed to admit it to himself, but it didn't seem fair that his roommate had a window by his bed. In time, this resentment turned to anger, and then bitterness. One night he was awakened by the coughing of the man next to him, desperately needing to clear his lungs. He looked over and saw him stretching to reach the call button for the nurse. It would have been easy to push his own call button, but he didn't. He chose to offer no help, and in a few moments the coughing ended. It was replaced with labored wheezing, and finally . . . silence.
A few hours later the nurse discovered that the patient by the window had died during the night. His body was removed from the room and the other man said quietly, "Since I am now alone in this room, may I have my bed moved where I can look out the window?"
The nurse agreed, and after the bed had been moved and he was alone in the room again, he summoned all his strength to pull himself up on his elbows. At last he would see all that awaited him outside his window.
It was then that he made the discovery—outside the window there was nothing except a brick wall.
Contentment is sometimes a difficult thing for a believer.  "Why does he have a better job . . . a nicer house . . . a closer family . . . ? "
Why does the other person always get the window seat?  Life just doesn't seem fair!
Romans 12:15 says to "rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep,"  meaning that contentment is not only being joyful in what you have been given—great or small—but being happy for others in what they have been given.
According to the words of Christ,  happiness is not found in our possessions . . . but in our perspective.
Prayer Point: Consider the needs God has met for you in the past week, and the ways He has blessed you beyond those needs. If you have been envious of others, confess it to Him; ask Him to give you the proper perspective on life to make you content in every circumstance.
Extra Refreshment: Read Luke 12:13-34
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Post  Admin on Thu 15 Aug 2013, 9:25 pm

More Than Letter- Reading
James 1:22
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
The president of his own company employing several hundred workers was preparing for an extended business trip. Before leaving he sat down and wrote a lengthy letter,  detailing projects he wanted accomplished in his absence, clients he wanted contacted, and the tasks he expected his employees to do while he was away. He finished it, put it in the company post office box, rode to the airport, and boarded his plane.
On his return several months later, he immediately noticed the grounds were unkempt: the grass obviously had not been cut in weeks, the lawn was littered, the shrubs and trees needed trimming, and the doors were marked with handprints. He parked his car and hurried inside. Employees were lounging in their chairs, drinking coffee and talking, feet propped on desks, and most weren't dressed in office attire. A ping-pong table had been set up, and an array of video games littered the flat surfaces.  His arrival went unnoticed. 
Angrily, the CEO called a meeting of the entire management staff. When all had assembled, he began his tirade: "I can't believe what I'm seeing!  Everything is completely different from what I expected it would be.  What's been going here?  Didn't you get my letter?" Their faces brightened, and someone replied, "Yes sir, we did. We love that letter. We read it almost every day."  "In fact," said one man, "I've even memorized several paragraphs from your letter." "It's terrific reading," others  chimed in.  Another spoke, saying, "Sir, we've organized some study groups. We gather at least once a week and re-read portions of your letter to make sure we understand it all."
Dumbfounded, the president asked, "But did you finish the projects? Did you call the clients? Did you do the things I asked you to do?" At that, everyone looked down.  One man finally spoke on behalf of the group, saying, "No sir . . . you see, we're still studying your letter."
Our problem is not in our failure to understand certain biblical truths, but to live the truths we understand. We have all been entrusted with a letter from God—an inspired letter from our great King. Are you content to merely read it, study it, and perhaps memorize it?  When are you going to put it into practice?
It is one thing for believers to say, "We believe the Bible!" It is quite another to behave as though we believe. May our belief and our behavior be one and the same—for the glory of God.  Then, indeed, there will be no shame . . .  should He return today!
Prayer Point: Search your heart before God right now. Ask Him to open your eyes to the ways in which you have not been obedient to His Word, and confess those shortcomings to Him. Then pray for the power to change those habits, and strength to flee from those besetting sins.
Extra Refreshment: Read James 1
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Post  Admin on Tue 13 Aug 2013, 9:26 pm

Piercing the Darkness
Psalm 77:6 
I will remember my song in the night . . . 
Darkness is actually more than the absence of light. It is also a place—a place of fear, emptiness, and loneliness.  
A Jewish man named Eliezer Wiesel experienced this darkness and wrote about it in his book, Night.  He describes one of the most horrible chapters ever recorded in the history of mankind: the Holocaust. 
As a teenager, Elie Wiesel was sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz during Hitler's maddening reign; later he was moved to the camps at Buna, Buchenwald, and Gleiwitz. According to Elie's testimony, he had seen all the Jews in his village banded together, stripped of their possessions, and loaded into cattle cars. 
He saw his mother, little sister, and all his family disappear into an oven fueled with human flesh.  He saw children hanged and weak men killed by fellow prisoners for a piece of bread.
Wiesel wrote of the night the train in which he was riding pulled up at the camp.  Coils of ominous black smoke billowed from the tower; beneath it lay the ovens.  For the first time in his life, Elie smelled the scent of burning human flesh.  He wrote:
Never shall I forget that night, seven times cursed.  Never shall I forget that smoke.  Never shall I forget the little faces of the children whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.  Never shall I forget that silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live.  Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust.
That night was dark for Elie Wiesel and many other Jews, but the greater tragedy is that the darkness found its way into Elie's heart. Not only did he watch friends and family die on that fateful night, but he claims that his God died as well.
But there was another person who entered that same dark night; she came forth as a shining light.  Her name was Corrie ten Boom. Although she herself was not a Jew, she and her family had been discovered aiding Jews and had been sent to one of the German death camps as well.  She, too, saw people murdered, watched her own sister Betsie die from illness in the camp, and felt the gnaw of hunger and the sting of the whip. 
But in her account of the terrible things which transpired all around her, there was a thread of hope. She wrote of the Bible study that some of the Jews held in secret, of the hymn singing, and of the many acts of compassion and sacrifice they offered to one another.  
Throughout her days of blackness, Corrie continued to trust in a God who was at work even in a cave as dark as hers!  She would later write, "I discovered that there is not a pit where God's love is not deeper still!"  
Corrie ten Boom could relate to the author of Psalm 77:6; he, too, found himself in a dark, empty place where God seemed distant.  But as the darkness deepened, the volume of his song increased.  He committed to singing in the middle of his long, dark night.
The same is true for us.  The darker the night grows, the more we see God's light shining around us—if we're willing to look with the eyes of faith and trust.
That is a choice we have to make. Either we can collapse in our discouragement and give up on God as Elie Wiesel did, or we can praise Him in the midst of it, as did Corrie ten Boom. 
Are you experiencing darkness right now in your own life?  Does God seem distant and the heavens made of brass? Let me encourage you to look farther ahead by faith . . . the faithful light of Christ is inviting you to take just one more step in His direction.
Every act of trust and every offering of praise are stubborn refusals to give in to the darkness; they are faith-filled decisions to walk in the light.
Stay the course . . . and don't forget to sing in the dark.
Prayer Point: Take time to ask God to help you remember that when the darkness comes, His light is ever present. Thank Him for the times when He led you out of the dark.
Extra Refreshment: Read again all of Psalms 23 to remember that the Good Shepherd is with us... even in the valley.
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Post  Admin on Mon 12 Aug 2013, 7:06 pm

Taking a Bath... Daily!
Psalm 85:6
Will You not Yourself revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?
The believer who wants true revival throws away his list of favorite excuses for sin. Confession replaces excuses. Commitment replaces compromise.
You might be tempted to say, "But I've confessed, tried, and failed so many times—revival just doesn't last." A skeptic once made a comment to evangelist Billy Sunday in the early 1900s. He tried to make the point that since personal revival wasn't a permanent end-all to temptation, sin, and failure, times of revival weren't really that important. "Revival just doesn't last," the man complained to Billy Sunday one evening. Sunday just smiled and replied, "Well, a bath doesn't last either, but it's good to take one occasionally!"
Has it ever occurred to you that a great word to describe Christianity is exposure? You become a Christian after being exposed as a sinner. You grow as a Christian after being exposed to your need of change in some area. You confess daily sin as it is exposed in your life. You flourish in your walk as a result of being exposed to the Scriptures.
No wonder every Christian is in need of daily revival. We so easily sugarcoat our selfishness and rationalize our rebellion. We manage our sin, but fail to confess it. We conveniently forget how heartbreaking sin is to our heavenly Father.
Revival, then, could be defined as a movement of God's Spirit in the believer's life, which produces both private confession of sin and public obedience to the Scriptures. The priority for our outward behavior is to please God—a priority that will undeniably impact  personal relationships, financial decisions, and lifestyle choices. Therefore, revival is not a once-and-done event . . . it is daily. And it should interrupt your life over and over again.
By the way, you can't plan for revival but you can pray for it. You can't orchestrate it or announce that it is going to happen in a series of meetings the third week of May. All you can do is beg God to give you a heart that confesses and a life that obeys.
So, take His Word daily; ask God to blow on the smoldering embers of your heart, making it burst into flaming affection for Him all over again. While you're at it, remember that revival is not so much about emotion as it is about action.
Don't wait for a week of revival meetings to pray, "Revive me, O Lord" . . . do it today!
Prayer Point: Pray the prayer of David, asking the Lord to create in you a longing for Him, for His Word, for His will, and for His work.
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalms 85 and Hebrews 4.
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Post  Admin on Fri 09 Aug 2013, 8:42 pm

The Search for the Sacred
John 1:14
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Newsweek ran an article entitled, "The Search for the Sacred." It was a typical article, speaking of the search and longing for spiritual truth, without ever mentioning Jesus Christ.
What I found most fascinating—and heartbreaking at the same time—is the way people responded to the article in the "Letters to the Editor" section of the following issue:
My parents had open minds and allowed me to explore different teachings and beliefs, rather than stifling me or limiting me to any one path. I'm grateful for that. As a youth, I studied Greek mythology and I read Frazier's The Golden Bow. I then read the Bible from cover to cover after a near-death experience. I have spent my life examining various philosophic and religious beliefs through independent study. And today, I have a deep and significant relationship with the god of my understanding.
This writer has obviously rejected the God of creation, having replaced Him with a god of her own creation.  Another wrote:
Although I didn't consciously seek the sacred in my travels during the last five years, I found it—at dawn in the Hong Kong botanical gardens, observing the Chinese practice Tai Chi. I found it on a drizzly morning in a London church listening to a rehearsal of a Mozart selection. I found it at midday in an outdoor Hindu temple in Bali, and at night in the Karnak temple in Luxor, Egypt. I found it in all of those places.
I wouldn't want this person's blended religion, but I'd sure like to have his frequent flyer miles!
Yet another respondent made this complaint:
Tell me, when are we atheists going to get equal time? We don't lack inner strength, peace, identity, self-esteem, or a purpose for living. What we do lack is the need to lean on a crutch of a fantasy figure who will make everything alright [sic], who will take care of us and forgive us, no matter what we do. We lack the desire to have our lives and loves defined by a two-thousand-year-old collection of documents. Atheists don't have all the answers, but at least we know that the place to start looking is within oneself, not into the ozone.
Wow! We certainly live in a world searching for spirituality. And how do we know which religion is right? Plato, a renowned Greek philosopher, provided an answer somewhat accidentally when he wrote, "It may be that someday there will come forth from God a logos  [Word], who will reveal all mysteries and make everything plain."
My friends, Plato's desire has been answered!  John 1 says that the logos or Word from God came and revealed Himself to  mankind. That same Word died on our behalf so we might be able to have a personal relationship with Him. Man's journey to search for God ends with... Jesus Christ.
Prayer Point: Ponder for a moment what an incredible privilege it is to know God and to be called His child. Then, thank Him for pursuing you, even to the point of death, and making it possible for you to know Him.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 1 and mark in your Bible the words that speak of God's revealing His truth to us through Christ (hint: came, dwelt, revealed).
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Post  Admin on Thu 08 Aug 2013, 7:21 pm

Pure Logic
John 14:6
Jesus said to him: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
Men have used the laws of logic in mathematics, science, and history, but when it comes to the spiritual world, they throw these laws away. Instead, they suggest: What is right for you to believe is correct, and what is right for me to believe is equally correct. 
I read about a man who was driving in the country. He passed a barn with painted targets on the side facing the road. Interestingly, in the center of each target was an arrow. The driver was amazed by this farmer's skill with the bow. He decided to drive up to the farmhouse and congratulate the farmer.
To his astonishment, the farmer laughed and said, "I didn't do that. It was done by a young guy in our town who shot a bunch of arrows into the side of my barn, and then painted bull's eyes around each arrow."   
What a perfect illustration of the shift that has taken place in today's society. The once-held conviction that everyone had a right to his own opinion has been replaced with the belief that every opinion is equally right. Thus, not only is our society living in complete rebellion to Scripture, it is also living in opposition to the very laws of logic to which it holds. It simply invites you to shoot your arrow and then assures you that wherever it strikes, it will be a bull's eye!
But think about it for a minute . . . you have a pot of water sitting on top of your stove; it's boiling and the burner is red hot. You say to your friend, "I believe the water is hot," but he says, "I believe it's cold." So you and he agree that the truth is the water is hot for you, and cold for him. How absurd would that be? The water is either hot or cold. One of you believes the truth,  the other believes a lie.
Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the brother of Satan and is one of many "sons of God." You, on the other hand, believe that Christ is God in the flesh and completely unrelated in essence or created matter to Satan. Although both of you could be wrong, both of you cannot be right.
The Western world now believes that you can shoot your arrow of faith in any direction and a benevolent supreme being will approve every shot. This is why you can tell someone that you believe Christ is a fine moral leader, and you will be viewed as a nice religious person. On the other hand, if you dare to say that you believe Jesus Christ is the only true and living Savior, you are labeled an intolerant zealot.
The truth remains:  there is a real target—God—and Romans 3:23 informs us that our arrows are continually falling short of Him. In fact, we're consistently shooting broken arrows that don't fly straight . . . they never even hit the target.    But we can get in range of it when we open our  heart to  the truth  in His Word . . . and maybe someday we'll hit the bull's eye!
Only by Christ's redeeming grace are we able to discover that He is the right Way, the correct Truth . . . and the only Life.
Prayer Point: Thank the Lord for opening your eyes to see the truth, and for the person or means through which it was revealed to you:  the Holy Spirit, a Sunday school teacher, parent, sibling, friend, pastor, etc. Thank Him for that time when He, in His mercy, brought you into the way of salvation.
Extra Refreshment: Read Romans 3—a portrait of man's senselessness, and of God's mercy toward him.
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Post  Admin on Wed 07 Aug 2013, 8:28 pm

The Aisle Seat
John 13:34-35
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Rebecca Pippert, in her fascinating book  entitled Out of the Salt Shaker and into the World, told the story of her arrival in Portland, Oregon, where she met Bill, one of the students on the campus  where she served. He was a brilliant young man with messy hair and, as she recalls, he was perpetually shoeless. From outward appearances he was a little strange, but inwardly he was inquisitive and incredibly bright.
One day Bill decided to attend a middle-class church that was across the street from the campus. He walked into this church of well-dressed people in his tattered jeans, tee shirt, and, of course, barefooted. In truth, this was the first time he'd ever been inside a church sanctuary.
People looked a bit uncomfortable, but no one said anything as Bill walked down the aisle looking for a seat. The church was quite crowded that Sunday, and as he came to the front pew he realized there were no seats left. So without any hesitation, he sat down on the carpet in the middle of the aisle, the same way he sat when his Christian friends invited him as they met for Bible study. He casually crossed his legs and waited for the service to begin.
The tension was palpable as people murmured, craning their necks to see the stranger in the aisle. Then one of the elderly deacons—a man who was well-respected in the church—began walking down the aisle toward the student. Rebecca's friends who witnessed this scene told her that they whispered to each other, "Well, you can't exactly blame him for scolding the guy . . . he is a disruption to the service!"
As the well-groomed deacon neared Bill, the church was deathly quiet. All eyes were glued front and center to see what would happen next. With some difficulty, the old man lowered himself to the floor and sat down next to Bill. He crossed his legs and shared his hymnal with the college-aged boy. The crowd was stunned.
That Sunday the deacon not only worshiped there on the floor, but he reminded the congregation how to worship.
Jesus Christ considers us His representatives on earth and we are to win the world for Him.  How?  Bribe them? . . .   threaten them? . . . scare them? . . . debate them?  No!  
We are to show them the love of Christ by showing them our love for each other; we are to reflect the character of Christ to those around us.
Unbelievers may rebuff your message, refute your argument, and reject your faith, but they can't deny your loving spirit toward them.
So, be on the lookout for aisle seats. You never know when you'll be in the perfect place to serve up a heaping helping of "loving spirit"   . . . for the glory of Christ.
Prayer Point: Pray for humility; think of others as you go through this day, and try to love those in the world as God loves them.
Extra Refreshment: Luke 10:30-37 tells the story of the good Samaritan, an illustration of the kind of love God wants us to practice.
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Post  Admin on Tue 06 Aug 2013, 10:46 pm

Sitting in the Sonlight
John 15:5
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."
James Montgomery Boice wrote about a dinner he had with a fellow pastor. During the meal, the pastor relayed to Boice the story of a man who had challenged him deeply in his walk with Christ. Bishop James Ussher, an old man who was once a notable Bible chronologist, suffered from many diseases, and was crippled by an inflammation in his joints. His condition forced him to stay home, unable to participate in normal activities.
A visitor hoped to encourage Dr. Ussher, and didn't know that he was the one who would be most encouraged. The experience that day gave him a life-changing perspective.
It seems that every day Dr. Ussher asked his nurse to seat him by the east window in the morning, where he could enjoy the warmth of the rising sun. At noon, his nurse moved him to a window with southern exposure, where the warm rays of the midday sun cheered and soothed him. As the afternoon wore on, he was moved again to a window facing westward, and he sat watching the sun slip below the horizon. As the pastor recalled to Boice during their meal, "Dr. Ussher spent his day literally abiding in the sun."
What an incredible reminder to us! How closely do we follow the Son? Are you abiding in Him as He commanded? If you focus your energy on abiding in Christ, He will reproduce His character in you, over time. That is His promise to us. All those who choose to abide in Him, to literally walk with a constant acknowledgment of His presence, will eventually bear the same qualities that distinguish Him.
Think of it this way: You never sat down with your child and said, "Okay, I'm going to teach you to talk just like me, and speak your words with my accent and inflection." Mom, you didn't give your little girl lessons on how to hold her hands like you do; Dad, you didn't give your son a lesson on how to walk like you do. They learned it over the years of abiding with you—you literally rubbed off on them.
And they are not the only ones who bear resemblances to their parents. Even now, things that you learned from your father and mother are manifested in a variety of situations. You can't fight it . . . this is an inevitable result of spending time with someone, observing and imitating both the desired and undesired characteristics.
Resemblance is the result of relationship.
That's why we must focus our eyes on Christ and give daily attention to our relationship with Him. He will teach us to talk like Him, walk like Him, view life like Him, and love like Him.
When you begin to abide in Christ, people will not see you only, but Christ in you. It will be His life, through you, responding to the daily environment and conditions that affect you.
Like Dr. Ussher, we are all crippled and in need of Sonlight. We need His warmth and soothing touch. So pull up your chair beside the window of God's Word, gaze upon the glory of the Son, and reflect the warmth of His light . . .  the true Sonlight.
Prayer Point: Ask the Lord to give your heart contentment in His presence; ask Him to cause you to long for His presence in your daily activities; take time to talk to Him throughout the most mundane activities you perform today.
Extra Refreshment: Read Ephesians 5:1, where Paul calls believers to imitate God just as a child imitates his parents.
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Post  Admin on Mon 05 Aug 2013, 8:38 pm

What a Friend We Have in Jesus
John 15:14-15
You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
Joseph Scriven was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1820. After graduating from Trinity College, he had great expectations and plans. He was engaged to marry his lovely Irish sweetheart, and together they had dreams for building their life and home together. Wedding plans were made, business ventures were decided upon, but the day before their wedding his fiancé drowned in a boating accident. His world fell apart.
Joseph moved to Canada, attempting to put all the memories and heartache behind him. Although he was very much alone, he served faithfully as a missionary bachelor, driven to share the gospel with those in need of salvation.
Years later tragedy struck again. His mother became seriously ill and he was unable to be with her. In his absence, he sat down and wrote a poem for her. He scribbled out a copy for himself, and it was later discovered by a visitor.
The powerful lyrics not only brought great encouragement to his mother on her deathbed, but they were put to music and sung in churches, even to this day. His lyrics read: 
 
What a friend we have in Jesus, 
All our sins and griefs to bear, 
What a privilege to carry 
Everything to God in prayer. 
O what peace we often forfeit, 
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry 
Everything to God in prayer.
 
Have we trials and temptations? 
Is there trouble anywhere? 
We should never be discouraged; 
Take it to the Lord in prayer. 
Can we find a friend so faithful 
Who will all our sorrows share? 
Jesus knows our every weakness 
Take it to the Lord in prayer. 
 
Are we weak and heavy laden, 
Cumbered with a load of care? 
Precious Savior, still our refuge; 
Take it to the Lord in prayer. 
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? 
Take it to the Lord in prayer, 
In His arms He'll take and shield thee; 
Thou wilt find a solace there. 
To onlookers Joseph Scriven would seem to have lived a lonely life marred by sorrow. But after his death [also by drowning], his poem that circulated through churches and penetrated the hearts of believers for nearly two centuries revealed his heart for all to see—he had been content with life, for his closest friend was Jesus.
What trials, temptations, and troubles are you facing today? What sins, grief, and pain are you bearing? Remember this—before Jesus died on the cross for you, He whispered into the ears of His frightened disciples, "I consider you my closest friends!" No matter that sorrows and cares may come—Christ, who knows your every weakness, will shield and comfort you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.
If you are His disciple, you are also His friend . . . forever.
Prayer Point: God's incredible humility is shown by stooping to call us friends when we deserve to be called slaves. Thank the Lord for restoring your relationship to Him, who walked that terrible path to the cross on your behalf.
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalms 23 and witness the faithfulness and the friendship of God in the life of David.
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Post  Admin on Sat 03 Aug 2013, 12:15 am

Hiding Our Sin
Romans 8:1
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
In Dr. Richard Hoefler's book, Will Daylight Come, he tells the story of a young boy who was visiting his grandparents. Johnny had just been given his first slingshot and had taken it into the woods. Unable to hit anything because of his poor aim, he was still having the time of his life.
On his way home for lunch, he cut through the back yard and saw his grandmother's pet duck. He took aim and let a stone fly. This time—for the first time—his aim was on the mark. To his shock and dismay, the duck dropped immediately. It was dead!
Johnny panicked and in frightened desperation, hid the duck in the woodpile, but not in time to escape the curiosity of his sister, who was standing by the corner of the house. She saw the whole thing! With a look of shame and fear, he followed his sister inside for lunch. But Sally said nothing.
Getting up after lunch, their grandmother said, "Okay, Sally, let's clear the table and wash the dishes." Sally responded with a smile, "Oh, Grandma, Johnny said he wanted to help you in the kitchen today. Didn't you, Johnny?" Then she whispered in his ear, "Remember the duck."
Needless to say, Johnny ended up doing the dishes after lunch. Later in the evening, Grandpa asked the children if they would like to go fishing, but Grandma interjected, "I'm sorry, but Sally can't go. She has to stay here and help me get supper ready." Sally just smiled and replied, "That's all been taken care of. Johnny said he wanted to help today, didn't you, Johnny?" The look she gave him delivered that same threat, "Remember the duck."            
This went on for several days, as Johnny did all the chores around the house, both his and Sally's, until he could stand it no longer. Trembling all over, he went to his grandmother and confessed everything.
To his surprise, Grandma took him up in her arms and said, "I know about the duck, Johnny. I was standing at the kitchen window and I saw the whole thing. But because I love you, I was already willing to forgive you. I've been waiting for you to tell me about it. And—I would never have mentioned the duck again."
Imagine the look on Johnny's face when he heard his grandmother's words, "I already forgave you"!
What a powerful reminder to us of what our own Father has said to us in His Word: "There is now no condemnation for those who believe!" It's as if He reached down from heaven and lifted our sorrowing, fearful bodies into His arms, and reminded us that He saw all our sin take place and has already forgiven us.
This is a beautiful truth for a Christian. No matter what you've done or where you've been, God has already forgiven you—He simply waits for us to tell Him about it so our fellowship with Him can be fully restored.
My good friend put it wonderfully when he said, "God will not love you better when you become better." This, after all, is the marvel of God's forgiveness. He died on the cross not only for your past sins, but also for your present and future sins.
So quit hiding your "ducks" in the woodpile—bury them! God has already seen them... and He has forgiven you.
Prayer Point: Confess any hidden sin to God, knowing that He has already seen it, and pray for His forgiveness. Wash yourself in the reviving, overflowing stream of God's mercy.
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalms 139, where David reminds us that although nothing is hidden from God's eyes, He continues to love us intensely.
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Post  Admin on Thu 01 Aug 2013, 11:13 pm

Sorrow Is Fleeting, Salvation Is Forever
Romans 8:18
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Philip Yancey tells the story of the Woodson family in his book, Disappointment with God. The Woodsons had two children, Peggie and Joey, both born with cystic fibrosis. They were thin, no matter how much food they ate, and coughed constantly, breathing laboriously. Twice a day Meg pounded their chests to clear out mucus. The children spent several weeks each year in the local hospital, and both grew up knowing they would probably die before reaching adulthood. 
Joey, a bright, happy, all-American boy, died at the age of twelve. Peggie defied the odds by surviving several health crises in high school and even lived to experience her college years. To the Woodsons delight, she seemed to grow stronger as the days passed—days filled with desperate prayers from Meg and her husband, but there was no miracle. Peggie died at the age of twenty-three. 
One night, sometime later, Philip Yancey came across a letter Meg had written to him after Peggie's death. Part of that letter read: 
I find myself wanting to tell you something of how Peggie died. I don't know why except that I need to talk about it and I have run out of people to tell. I was sitting beside her bed a few days before her death, when suddenly she began screaming. I will never forget those shrill, piercing screams. Nurses raced into the room from every direction and surrounded her with their love. Eventually, their words and touches soothed her, though as time went on and the screaming continued, they could not comfort her. Nurses can only stay on that floor so long—God, who could have helped, looked down on a young woman devoted to Him, quite willing to die for Him to give Him glory, and it seemed He decided to sit on His hands and let her death top the horror charts.
One of the greatest frustrations we face during a trial is knowing that: God could rescue us; He could restore us; He could heal us; He could give us that much-longed-for baby; He could provide that much-needed job—all with one stroke of His omnipotent finger. Yet sometimes, He chooses not to. Why? 
Is He, like Mrs. Woodson wrote, "sitting on His divine hands?" Absolutely not! 
Paul reminds the suffering believers in Philippians 3:20-21, that "our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself." This is a powerful thought for a Christian who is suffering through any trial, great or small. It is as if Paul is shouting, "Remember believer! This is not the end, but merely the rugged path which leads us to the beginning!" 
What a powerful hope we have in Christ. He may not promise freedom from our sorrows here on earth, but His hands are at work. He has promised us that hardships and sorrow are temporary . . . the prize that awaits us is eternal. 
Prayer Point: Meditate on the fact that God is in complete control of your life, even though you may not understand what He's doing. Then pray for the willingness to accept whatever trial He brings you, whether or not you ever receive an explanation for it. 
Extra Refreshment: Read James 4.
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Post  Admin on Wed 31 Jul 2013, 2:22 pm

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

A Word to the Wise
Proverbs 2:2-6
Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Mankind has been seeking wisdom and knowledge since the beginning of time, but most people never find it. Why?  Because in their pride and arrogance, they have sought for it inside themselves, rejecting God and His Word.
In their minds, wisdom is easy to come by rather than being a treasure that must be sought. Just listen to the best-selling advice of Oprah Winfrey, whom thousands of people follow: 
Our real power comes from knowing who we are . . . and that begins with looking inside ourselves in silence. I've always believed you really need no gurus, no leaders, no guides—just yourself. You have all your own best answers. What you're trying to find is already there. Be still and know it.
She could not be more spiritually deceived. Psalm 46:10 does not say "Be still and know yourself," but "Be still and know that I am God." The Bible doesn't teach that our real power comes from within ourselves, but quite the opposite. In John 15:5b, Christ says, ". . . apart from Me you can do nothing," and in Philippians 4:13, Paul states, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." In other words, our power and wisdom come from Christ, not from within ourselves.
So who's right—Oprah or the Bible? Are the answers to life deep within your own heart,  or deep within the heart of God? In Jeremiah 17:9, the prophet leaves no room for hesitation on this answer when he proclaims, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" Put differently, because of sin and our fallen nature, wisdom does not dwell within us. Instead, our hearts are sinful, evil, and prideful. Oprah is tragically mistaken . . . wisdom must come from outside ourselves.
James promised that ". . . if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him" ( James 1:5).  David wrote, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).
These passages leave no shadow of a doubt as to where true wisdom is found. We are in a world of darkness and in desperate need of light; how distressingly foolish to think that light can be found inside us. Not so! God is that light, and only by coming to know Him through His revealed Word will we be able to gain wisdom.
So, God  is the ultimate prize.  Seek after Him with all your heart, and  along the way, you will discover . . . wisdom.
Prayer Point: Think of ways in which God has given you wisdom in the past, whether it was in making an important decision, turning from a sinful habit, or encouraging a friend. Thank Him for the light you needed to make the right decision or to take the next step. Don't hesitate to pray for more wisdom—you will need it today!
Extra Refreshment: Read Proverbs 8 to discover the riches of true wisdom.
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Post  Admin on Mon 29 Jul 2013, 3:05 pm

Confession and Compassion
Matthew 9:13
"But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Do you want to sense the maximum attention of God? You must first give Him your maximum attention. 
Do you want the Lord to be available to you? You must first be available to Him. 
Do you want to touch the heart of God? You must first be available to His moving. 
If you want to be part of God's effort to rebuild our broken world through the redeeming gospel of Christ, you must be willing to become part of God's solution—whatever it may be. 
Isn't it easier just to pray, "Lord, do this. . . Lord, bless that . . . Lord, help him [or her] . . . Lord, provide in this way . . . Lord, minister in that way"? But what if you heard a voice from heaven that said, "Of the five requests you just prayed, four of them are up to you!" 
God's work often requires your willingness. In the parable of the Good Samaritan it becomes clear that anyone who claims the name of Christ is not merely to pray for someone, but to pray for wisdom to know how to help. 
Compassion for the lost and needy among us is what draws God's attention, for it comes from a heart modeled after His own. 
With this in mind, is it any wonder that the average Christian really doesn't want the maximum attention of God? He or she really doesn't want to become part of His divine solution because it may cause a bit of discomfort or uneasiness. 
It is one thing to get on your knees and pray for God to bless a person, but it is quite another to follow up that prayer with a letter, a phone call, a visit, an invitation, a gift. 
If your compassion does not extend beyond your prayer time, it isn't genuine. 
If we are to gain God's special attention as a co-laborer with Him, we must share in His anguish over the fallen world around us. 
Aren't we rather self-centered to expect God to share our distress over what we care about if we don't share His distress over His concerns? 
Let's not create a double standard in our thinking and living, but wholeheartedly imitate God's standard—following up with acts of sincere compassion after our prayers. 
When we begin to pray and act in this way, we can be sure that God is not only hearing us . . . but He is pleased with us! 
Prayer Point: Pray for someone you know who is in need, whether it is physical or spiritual, but start your prayer by asking what you can do to help meet that need. Don't just ask God for the solution—ask Him how you can become part of the solution. 
Extra Refreshment: Read Luke 10:25-37.
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Post  Admin on Sun 28 Jul 2013, 12:24 am

The Fountain of Life
Matthew 26:27-28
And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins."
Imagine digging in your back yard while planting some flowers. You overturn a slab of sod and a thin spurt of water shoots upward. You watch as the water trickles onto a patch of brown, dry grass and to your amazement, the grass slowly turns green. The water then flows toward your tomato plants and immediately the wilted leaves stand upright and the tomatoes blush red. You run into your house, grab a cup, and run back out to this tiny fountain. You fill your cup, then drink it in one long gulp. Suddenly, you feel invigorated.
You run back into the house, look in the mirror, and notice that some of your wrinkles are ironed out, leaving a youthful complexion that you haven't seen in years. Your jaw drops in amazement as the realization hits you: you have discovered the Fountain of Youth! 
What would you do with this fantastic discovery? Would you share it with your spouse, your children, your older sister or brother? Would you tell your mother who is dying of cancer? Would you invite all of the families in your neighborhood to a barbecue and give them all they wanted to drink? Of course you would! Who would be selfish enough to keep so great a discovery to himself? 
Yet we, who have been partakers of the greatest discovery the world has ever known—namely, eternal life through faith in Christ—keep it to ourselves most of the time. 
Has it ever occurred to you that the more you value Christ's sacrifice, the higher your priority will be in sharing Him with others? If you do not consider His mercy to be the most significant thing that has ever been given to you, then you will not consider it worth sharing. This would be the most terrible of all tragedies. For if there is one discovery that should never be hidden nor taken for granted, it is the fountain of living water which Christ has offered through His gift of salvation; a fountain wide enough for all to drink and deep enough for all to bathe. 
Romans 10:14 says, "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?" 
How well are you doing at sharing your faith with others? Are you taking Christ's sacrifice for granted, covering it over with dirt and hoping no one will ever know that you are a Christian?  Let me urge you to fervently tell the world about this miraculous, incredible discovery . . . the Fountain of Living Water. 
Prayer Point: Take time to thank God for His sacrifice on the cross and for sending that person who first shared the news with you. Pray that you will cease from taking Christ's sacrifice for granted, but rather, that God will bring you to people who need the living water.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 4.
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Post  Admin on Thu 25 Jul 2013, 12:59 pm

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

It's Possible . . . Not Easy!
Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
God's will is not always easy but it is always possible. For with God all things are possible. Rest in the fact that God will never command you to do something you can't accomplish. He will never direct your steps without providing the strength to walk the path.
Jack Handey wrote in his book entitled Fuzzy Memories:  
There used to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day at school. Since I was smaller than he was, I would give it to him. Then I decided to fight back. I started taking karate lessons. But then the karate instructor told me I owed him five dollars a lesson. Five dollars! So I just went back to paying the bully.
Truth be told, it's sometimes easier to pay the bully than it is to learn how to defeat him. However, God never commands you to live for His glory without helping you to overcome the obstacles you will face. Whether it is loving your spouse, witnessing to friends and family, or remaining pure on a college campus, Christ will enable you if you obey Him. Paul did not say, "I can do most things through Christ," but "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
While you're at it, stay alert to the fact that opposition usually means opportunity is close at hand. In fact, there is rarely opportunity without opposition, so you must be prepared for both opportunities and obstacles at the same time.
Paul intends to encourage us as we follow the leadership of Christ, which in real terms means never throw in the towel. He challenged the Corinthians and every Christian to be "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." What a great promise—your toil is not in vain.
Endurance that demands blood, sweat, and tears, will be rewarded one day. So get ready for today's obstacle course and run it with patient diligence.  The hurdles may be high, the track may be uneven, the distance may be great, but it's possible . . . not easy!
Prayer Point: Ask the Lord to help you to discern opportunities masked by obstacles. Ask Him to give you the ability to see possible advancements in your character development that are presently cloaked in those difficult obstacles.
Extra Refreshment: Read Philippians, Philippians 1 & Philippians 4.
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Post  Admin on Mon 22 Jul 2013, 4:51 pm

Prayer Changes Nothing
Nehemiah 1:5-6
I said, "I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant . . . we have sinned against You."
Prayer that gets past the living room ceiling is prayer that recognizes, first and foremost, that God is sovereign and man is nothing more than a servant. Proper praying places God on His throne and mankind at His feet. 
Prayer is not having our way with God—it is God having His way with us. Prayer is not our manipulating and controlling God—it is God influencing and controlling us. It is not our putting pressure on God—it is God putting the pressure on us! 
If you are not willing to change, to submit, to work, then whatever you do—do not pray!
The great preacher, Donald Grey Barnhouse, once shocked his congregation by beginning a sermon with these words, "Prayer changes nothing." You could have heard a pin drop. His comment was designed to make Christians think about the sovereignty of God—that God is seated in the heavens and nothing ever surprises Him or falls outside His control. 
We're due a good reminder as well. Prayer isn't our attempt to bribe, cajole, or convince God to change. In the scriptural accounts that seem to indicate that God changed His mind, the broader context reveals that it was actually part of His sovereign plan. He is unchangeable. 
I think Barnhouse's statement is correct but incomplete. When Nehemiah fell on his knees before God, begging God to show grace to His people, something did change. Was it God's will? No!  It was Nehemiah's heart. To Barnhouse's statement I would add that prayer changes nothing about God . . . but everything about us.
Powerful prayer does not change God's heart . . . it radically changes ours. 
Prayer Point: Pray and commit your plans to the authority and will of God, rather than asking Him to make certain things happen. Thank Him for His unchangeable character and faithfulness. 
Extra Refreshment: Read Psalms 51 and Nehemiah 1.
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