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Post  Admin on Sun 22 Mar 2015, 10:07 pm

Laying Bricks
by Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com Culture Editor

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,and whoever 
wants to be first must be slave of all.For even the Son of Man did not come 
to
be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Mark 10: 43 – 45

Sometimes, I get restless. I went to college at Taylor University, a small 
Christian school in the middle of Cornfield, Indiana. Though Taylor wasn’t 
very
big, it strove to serve Christ, and encouraged its students to impact the 
world for God. During the January term, when you could sleep all day and 
goof-off
all night, Taylor offered something called Lighthouse Missions. Instead of 
wasting their brief vacation, students became a part of service-learning 
projects
that allowed them to share Christ with a world in need.

When Spring Break came around, and the beaches of Florida were calling, it 
sent students everywhere from Russia to the neighboring town of Grant 
County,
where they engaged in housing projects, orphan care, and outreach. It was 
tough giving up those precious vacation days, but it felt good to know you 
were
serving Christ. Unfortunately, after graduation opportunities like these are 
harder to come by. With a forty to fifty-hour work week, not to mention 
budgeted
money and vacation time, jetting off to some foreign location isn’t 
something you can just do.

I can remember sitting in church, boiling with frustration because I 
couldn't just go do something like I had in college. God clearly has a sense 
of irony,
because at that moment the pastor stood up and asked for volunteers to help 
pack up after the service. My problem? I had become the “wealthy giver.” Not
sure what I mean? Read this story in Mark 12:

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched 
the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people 
threw
in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper 
coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus 
said,
"I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than 
all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her 
poverty,
put in everything--all she had to live on." – Mark 12: 41-44

It’s amazing how serving Christ can easily become something selfish. I was 
only interested in serving if it was on my terms, and because of that I let
a lot of opportunities pass me by. The truth is that volunteering for a 
church nursery could be just as important in God’s eyes as building houses 
in another
country.

An old professor once told my class that the kingdom of God is built on 
willing hearts. When we choose to follow God, we are laying the bricks of 
his kingdom,
and creating a sturdy foundation for others to stand on. So get involved, 
and if you feel God leading you toward a big opportunity, take it. But don’t
be too proud to serve in the small places. Sometimes it’s the little things 
that make all the difference.

Intersecting
Faith
and Life: What opportunities does your church offer for serving? Take a 
moment to look them over and see if one is good for you. Churches are always 
looking
for volunteers to help with children and young adults.

Further Reading

Philippians 2:1-4


KenBible.com - Live as Seeing the Unseen
Live as Seeing the Unseen
We tend to react only to what seems real to us. And as humans, we interpret 
reality primarily by what we can see. If it happens to be visible, it’s 
real.
If not, it can’t be fully trusted.

But even science tells us that our sight perceives only a fraction of 
reality. Many “lower” animals perceive the world very adequately without 
the sight
we experience. In fact, many of them sense vast portions of reality we never 
notice in our heavy dependence on sight.

For example, many animals live in a world of smell. They rely on it to find 
food, to find mates, and to protect themselves. Pigeons and salmon can 
apparently
use scent to navigate great distances.

Other migrating animals, including certain butterflies and birds, seem to 
find their way across vast distances of unfamiliar territory simply by 
sensing
the earth’s gravitational field.

Sharks, the platypus, and other species can sense electrical impulses in the 
bodies of their prey. Rattlesnakes and their fellow pit vipers find their
prey through an organ that detects body heat. Bats can fly with incredible 
agility and accuracy, even picking insects out of midair in the dark, using
their built-in ultrasonic radar.

Some animals and plants can predict the weather as well as we can, or even 
better. They know of coming thunderstorms, earthquakes, or volcanic 
eruptions
because they can perceive electrical charges in the air, hear low-frequency 
vibrations, or feel tiny tremors to which we are oblivious.

Even in the area of sight, we are sometimes left in the dust. Birds of prey 
can clearly see what is almost invisible to us, even with our high-powered
binoculars. And some insects see colors the human eye can’t distinguish.

All this reminds us that as physical beings, we humans operate on a heavily 
filtered version of reality. Sight alone leaves us in the dark in many, many
respects. And if we perceive so little of what is real in a physical sense, 
imagine how little we perceive of the realities that are not dependent on 
matter.

That brings us to Hebrews 11. It talks about people who pleased God by 
trusting Him, despite the way things looked around them. Noah spent many 
years building
an ark, based purely on God’s warnings about things not yet seen (v.7, 
NASB). Moses overcame all the trials and difficulties of leading Israel out 
of Egypt
because he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen (v.27, NASB).

All these saints lived wisely and fruitfully by focusing on the reality of 
God’s presence. Almighty God was always with them. They knew it was true, 
and
they acted like it, even though their eyes could not see Him.

I long to live that way, knowing and trusting that reality, living in full 
response to His personal presence with me. What a joy it would be to 
consistently
act and react as seeing Him who is unseen (v.27, NASB).

I want to live and serve that way, to pray and worship, to think and talk as 
being immediately with Him always and forever.

We walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7, NASB)

Live in response to Sovereign God,
not in response to your childish fears.
Walk in the light of all He is,
not in the shadow of your own smallness.
KenBible.com

12 Suggestions for Sharing Your Faith without Being a Jerk
by Philip Nation

Christianity by its very nature is a
faith
to be shared. God has shared his grace with us that we might be saved. Jesus 
gave His life so that we might receive that grace. Believers share the hope
that we have in Christ so others can know what God has done on our behalf. 
It is the natural order of things in Christianity.

So why do we sometimes come off like insensitive jerks when telling others 
about Jesus? I think it comes down to the too-often “forced” nature of our 
presentations
of the gospel. No one needs the way we present the gospel to be a sharp 
stick that is poked in their eye. The Bible is clear that the message of the 
gospel
will confront them and will seem as foolishness to many. For some, it will 
be a stumbling block because they choose not to believe. So, believers 
should
not intentionally or unintentionally put more hurdles to jump over or hoops 
to jump through for people to get the gospel.

Here are twelve suggestions about how to share your faith without being a 
jerk about it.

1. Make your faith a part of your normal conversations.

2. Speak well of others who do not agree with you.

3. Do not misrepresent the positions of those who disagree with our beliefs.

4. Your life should be an example of the power of gospel transformation.

5. Be transparent in how Jesus has changed your own rebellious attitudes.

6. Don’t use people for evangelistic target practice but truly invite them 
to be your friend.

7. Answer the questions that are actually being asked by those who disagree 
with us.

8. Learn multiple ways to explain the gospel from scripture and know how to 
make them mesh together.

9. Share your faith in person and do not hide behind Facebook posts, Twitter 
tweets, and a long string of emails.

10. In discussing sin, talk its destructive nature in your own life and why 
you don’t want the same effects to happen in your friend’s life.

11. Use the language of our beliefs where it is natural in conversations and 
always explain your terms.

12. Tell the compelling story of God’s initiative to connect us to Him.


Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for
LifeWay Christian Resources.

Shouts of the Crowd
“Let Him be crucified!” These are the shouted words from the crowd when 
Pilate asked, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 
According
to Matthew’s gospel, “All of them said, ‘Let Him be crucified!’”

In Day 27 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the focus is on 
the shouts of the crowd. Even when Pilate asked, “Why, what evil has He 
done?”
they shouted all the more, “Let Him be crucified!”

I don’t know about you, but those words send shivers up and down my spine. 
This fickle crowd—many of whom had welcomed Him just the Sunday before—with
palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the 
name of the Lord— the King of Israel!” now called for His death.

Hamilton also focuses on Pilate. He says, “Pilate is portrayed in almost 
sympathetic terms in the Gospels as he tried to convince the crowd gathered 
outside
the praetorium that Jesus was innocent. Likewise, the crowd gathered there 
is portrayed as bloodthirsty and on the verge of riot.”

Hamilton adds, “When we read the story of the crowd shouting ‘Crucify Him!’ 
we are meant to remember several things:

1. Jesus and nearly everyone in the earliest church were Jews.
2. Some of the crowd members were most likely merchants whose tables Jesus 
had overturned earlier in the week, and certainly not all the Jews in 
Jerusalem
were present
3. And, if we look, we can see ourselves in the crowd.”
What? See ourselves? Hamilton says, “There is an evil that lurks within all 
of us, a capacity to hate and an ability to participate in hateful 
activities.”

Hamilton asks us to examine ourselves. “Do you see any darkness in your own 
soul? Bigotry? Hatred? Anger when your sin is exposed? Frustration when 
others
do not see eye to eye with you? Can you see yourself in the crowd?”

Ask the Lord to help us see the darkness lurking in our souls and by His 
spirit change us to overcome our fears and hate with faith and love.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent 
journey: Matthew 27:22-25.

For more inspiration, visit my blog at
carolaround.com
Copyright © 2015 Carol Round, All rights reserved.


New Covenant Living
Experiencing LIFE Today

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to 
be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. – Marcus Aurelius

You got the message: God loves me and I don’t have to do X anymore.

You left Old Covenant living behind. You abandoned legalism. You stopped 
marching because New Covenant living looks a lot different – more like a 
dance.

But you aren’t dancing yet. Instead, you’re stuck between “I don’t have to!” 
and “I get to!” And it feels a little like wilderness, like the Israelites
felt after they left the bondage of Egypt. They had seen “gods” humbled, 
death reign, seas parted, and rocks gush water. Yet, as they stood at the 
edge
of the Promised Land and took a vote on whether or not they should enter, 
the Israelites lamented their lost days of slavery! They wished for bondage.

And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to 
Egypt.” - (Numbers 14:4)

In His grace, God allowed them to refuse entrance to all He had promised. 
Instead, He had them wander the wilderness between bondage and blessing.

Wilderness wandering is exactly what the Israelites did until death. That 
generation missed the adventure.

I’m so grateful you’ve stopped marching. I don’t want you in Egypt – under 
the bondage of the law. But neither do I want you wandering in the 
wilderness.

So, yes, God loves you and you don’t have to do X anymore. But what do you 
get to do with Him?

To whom do you get to give generously?

Whom do you get to serve?

What conversation do you get to have with Him today?

Holy Spirit, I realize the magnificent role You fill in my everyday life 
with Christ. Lead this dance. I get to follow You – what an adventure! Open 
my
eyes to the things we get to do together today, then do those things through 
me in Your joy and strength. Amen.

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

Daily Devotional by John Piper

Gain What You Cannot Lose

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. 
For all things are possible with God.”
(Mark 10:27)

Here are two great incentives from Jesus to become a World Christian and to 
dedicate yourself to the cause of Frontier Missions.

1. Every impossibility with men is possible with God (
Mark 10:27).
The conversion of hardened sinners will be the work of God and will accord 
with his sovereign plan. We need not fear or fret over our weakness. The 
battle
is the Lord’s, and he will give the victory.
2. Christ promises to work for us and to be for us so much that when our 
missionary life is over, we will not be able to say we’ve sacrificed 
anything
(
Mark 10:29–30).

When we follow his missionary prescription, we discover that even the 
painful side effects work to improve our condition. Our spiritual health, 
our joy,
improves a hundredfold. And when we die, we do not die. We gain eternal 
life.

I do not appeal to you to screw up your courage and sacrifice for Christ. I 
appeal to you to renounce all you have to obtain life that satisfies your 
deepest
longings. I appeal to you to count all things as rubbish for the surpassing 
value of standing in service of the King of kings. I appeal to you to take
off your store bought rags and put on the garments of God’s ambassadors.

I promise you persecutions and privations — but “remember the joy”! “Blessed 
are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the 
kingdom
of heaven” (
Matthew 5:10).

On January 8, 1956, five Auca Indians of Ecuador killed Jim Elliot and his 
four missionary companions as they were trying to bring the gospel to the 
Auca
tribe of sixty people.

Four young wives lost husbands and nine children lost their fathers. 
Elisabeth Elliot wrote that the world called it a nightmare of tragedy. Then 
she added,
“The world did not recognize the truth of the second clause in Jim Elliot’s 
credo: ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot
lose.’”

For more about John Piper's ministry and writing, see
DesiringGod.org.
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Post  Admin on Sat 21 Mar 2015, 12:57 am

Responsibility
He knew it was unjust. So why did Pilate go along with the crowd’s choice to 
execute Jesus? Some say politics and religion make strange bedfellows.

In Day 25 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, the focus takes us 
to an encounter between Herod Antipas and Jesus. Because Pilate knew the 
execution
of Jesus was unjust, he sends Jesus to Herod, who was visiting Jerusalem at 
the time. Since Herod ruled over the Galilee, Pilate reasoned it was Herod’s
ultimate responsibility to hear the case since Jesus was a Galilean.

In addition to his part in the trial of Jesus, Herod Antipas is known in the 
Gospels for ordering the execution of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. Herod
didn’t want to kill John the Baptist. But at the prompting of his wife, who 
requested the head of John, Herod was unwilling to say no.

Now, Jesus stood before Herod. The Sanhedrin wanted him dead. Once again, 
Herod was faced with a choice. He didn’t want to say no, but this time he 
avoided
saying yes by simply refusing to accept jurisdiction. He returned Jesus to 
Pilate.

Hamilton says, “Neither of these rulers wanted to take responsibility, yet 
each ultimately was responsible; for Pilate and Herod each had the power to
stop the Crucifixion, but they refused. Failing to stop a wrong in itself is 
morally wrong.”

Have you ever refused to speak up in the face of injustice? Ask God to 
forgive you for the times you have remained silent and passed the blame to 
another.
Ask Him to help you act when the occasion arises to help prevent a wrong 
before it happens.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent 
journey: Luke 23:7-11.

For more inspiration, visit my blog at
carolaround.com
Copyright © 2015 Carol Round, All rights reserved.

Your Dead Will Live
by Debbie Holloway, Crosswalk.com
Family
Editor

“Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, 
awake and shout for joy”
(Isaiah 26:19).

In Luke’s account of Christ’s resurrection, angels proclaimed to the women: 
"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has 
risen!”
(24:5-6). This joyous news must have taken them off guard. After all, they 
came to Jesus’ tomb bearing burial spices with which to anoint the lifeless
body of their Lord. Instead, they find dazzling angels standing watch next 
to an empty tomb, and hear news that they will never find Christ in a place
of death and darkness.

As Easter draws closer, have you considered which aspects of your life God 
wants to breathe life into?

Family

Many of us have strained familial relationships that seem only to worsen 
when we get together for meals and services around the holidays. Do you pray 
for
the members of your family regularly? Are you willing to open up your heart 
to start loving them the way God loves each and every one of them? Remember,

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all 
things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Friendships

If Christ’s work on the cross teaches us anything about friendships, it’s 
that forgiveness and grace trumps all. After all, mere hours before his 
gruesome
death, Jesus was ignored, abandoned, denied, and betrayed by his closest 
friends. He could have equally been speaking of Peter, a man in his inner 
circle,
when he begged on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what 
they do” (Luke 23:34). Yet, even after being left alone and misunderstood, 
Christ
still made the ultimate act of love for his friends (and the world).

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” 
(Romans 12:10).

Work

Often our “good” side is saved for our friends and loved ones, while our 
places of work get the short (or grumpy) end of the stick. As you ponder the 
work
Christ did on the cross, and the glory of his resurrection, remember that 
our work can be a beautiful echo of his perfect work, holy and pleasing to 
God.

“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the 
living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who 
believe.
Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but 
set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in
faith,
in purity” (1 Timothy 4:10-12).

Intersecting Faith and Life: What area of your life needs to come alive in 
honor of Easter? How can you seek Christ daily in your relationships and 
duties?

Further Reading

Book of Titus



Good Doctrine Wins People, Not Arguments

By Tony Merida

Ordinary
Social causes come and go like bad fashion trends, sometimes quite 
literally: what color bracelet are you wearing this month?

Surely our consumer-conditioned attention spans have something to do with 
this, but let’s be real: when you care about something enough to devote 
serious
time and energy, it can be discouraging when the anticipated results never 
materialize.

Many people know they should care for the poor, the marginalized, and the 
oppressed, but few are motivated to do this over the course of a lifetime. 
Jesus
reminds his followers, “You always have the poor with you” (Mark 14:7). In 
other words, we ain’t gonna solve poverty anytime soon.

How in the world can we
keep up the good work when it feels like a lost cause?
Good theology.

Theological types often get stereotyped as all head and no heart. This is 
unfortunate because a few key doctrines of the faith provide the sustainable
inspiration we need for a lifetime of good works.

Love everybody, because imago Dei

If we believe that everyone is made in the image of God—imago Dei—then 
everyone is worthy of dignity, love, basic human rights, and hearing 
biblical truth.

Those who abuse people made in God’s image through enslavement, torture, 
rape, and grinding poverty, are dehumanizing people and insulting God 
Himself.
Many victims of human trafficking and abuse report how they felt inhumane 
after being oppressed.

Those who believe in the imago Dei should live out their theology through 
practical acts of love for the oppressed and vulnerable.

Show mercy, because redemption

The Bible records for us the story of God coming to save people. When we 
were enslaved, He freed us. When we were orphans, He adopted us. When we 
were
sojourners, He welcomed us. When we were widows, Christ became our groom.

The mercy and justice of God meet at the cross, where our redemption comes 
from. We needed His redemption because we cannot live up to the standard God
has set. But One did. Jesus Christ is the ultimate display of a life of 
righteousness and justice. Through repentance and faith in Christ, we are 
clothed
in His righteousness.

Now, as believers, we have power to live just lives, and when we fail, we 
know God won’t crush us, for He has already crushed Christ in our place. Now
we pursue justice because we love God, and have already been accepted in 
Him.

We want to show mercy. That’s what God’s redemption has done for us.

Stay hopeful, because restoration

The good news about injustice isn’t only that we’re making some progress 
today, though we are. We take heart knowing that the King of kings will 
return
to restore this broken world, bringing perfect peace—shalom.

In the coming Kingdom, will be no more orphans; no more trafficking; no more 
abuse. This fallen world will give way to glory. Doing justice and mercy is
about showing the world what our King is like. It involves bringing the 
future into the present, that is, giving people a taste now of what the 
future
will be like then.

When you welcome the stranger, share the good news among the nations, 
cultivate diverse friendships, adopt children, or defend the defenseless, 
you are
simply living as the King’s people before a watching world. We don’t fight 
the problems of this fallen world as victims, but as victors.

Work for good not grace, because justification

We can’t keep God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves perfectly. But 
Jesus has kept the Great Commandments perfectly for us. And only Christ can
justify us. Only Jesus can make us ordinary citizens of the kingdom of God.

Justification means “just as if I’ve never sinned” and “just as if I’ve 
always obeyed perfectly,” as my friend Daniel Akin has said. Jesus Christ 
can forgive
you entirely, and give you His perfect righteousness.

Justified people stand accepted in Christ. So, don’t look to yourself or 
your good deeds for salvation, but trust in Christ alone. From this 
acceptance
and justified position, we can live in the power of the Holy Spirit to do 
good to all your neighbors. Tim Keller explains how receiving the good news 
leads
to a life of good deeds:

Before you can give neighbor love, you need to receive it. Only if you see 
that you have been saved graciously by someone who owes you the opposite 
will
you go out into the world looking to help absolutely anyone in need 
(Generous Justice, 77).

In other words, justification leads to justice for others. Receive— and 
give—the neighbor love of the Great Samaritan, and give Him thanks.

Always remember the people

My focus flowing from these theological motivations is on people.

You may do justice and mercy through large-scale, political and social 
transformation like William Wilberforce, who worked to abolish slavery. Or 
you may
do mercy and justice through simple acts like welcoming a foster child.

In whatever case, let’s do it all in effort to bless people. Because people 
are made in God’s image, because people need redemption, and because people
will one day dwell with God in the new heavens and the new earth where 
everything will be finally transformed, we should be seriously interested in 
how
to love our neighbors as ourselves—our orphaned neighbors, our lonely 
neighbors, our impoverished neighbors, our enslaved neighbors, our racially 
different
neighbors, and our lost neighbors.

That’s how God loves us, as good theology helps us understand.

For more on this topic, see Tony Merida’s new book
Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down.

Tony Merida is the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. Tony 
is the author of
Ordinary,
Faithful Preaching, co-author of Orphanology, and serves as a general editor 
and as contributor to the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series along
with David Platt and Danny Akin. He is married to Kimberly, with whom he has 
five adopted children.
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Post  Admin on Fri 20 Mar 2015, 12:18 am

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You
Daily Devotional
Slowing Down for Construction - #7301

If you're in a hurry, there are words you really don't want to see on the 
highway like, "Reduce Speed", or "Construction Ahead." Often that slow-down 
occurs
long before you even see the sign. You wonder, "What's going on here? Why am 
I in a two-mile traffic jam?

I was on a main road; actually I was in a cab coming from the airport in a 
large city not too long ago, and we had to slow down for a major 
construction
area. And that meant the expressway was going to be very slow for a very 
long time. I began to wonder how long we'd be there, I was starting to get 
impatient.
But the cab driver, he had a great attitude about it. He's been in plenty of 
those probably. He said, "Hey, it's an inconvenience, but it will be so much
better when they're done."

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Slowing 
Down for Construction".

Yeah they're right, it'll be a better road when they're done. I guess that 
makes it worth the wait huh? Well our word for today from the Word of God 
comes
from Psalm 23 beginning with verse 1. Now these words of course have 
comforted and challenged and encouraged so many people for centuries. "The 
Lord is
my Shepherd. I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. 
He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul." It's a beautiful 
scene.
But there are some potentially troubling words here. "He makes me lie down." 
We do slow down, but, usually unwillingly. It's not easy to get us to put
on the brakes.

And that might be exactly what God's doing right now. He's slowed you down. 
You are in a Divine Construction Zone. He's slowed your speed so He can work
on you. See, when things are moving at full speed, He can't do the 
construction work. It's possible that you've been traveling at a very high 
rate of speed.
And there's been stress and there have been deadlines. You've been trying to 
manage growth, or manage a crisis, or build something new. Maybe you're even
packing more and more into your life. You're trying to balance demands that 
are coming from every direction. You're trying to make things happen.

And suddenly - boom! God hits the brakes. He's got a lot of ways to make us 
lie down. One visit to the doctor can stop us, a child who's in crisis, a 
marriage
that's in crisis, an emergency in the life of someone you love. Maybe God 
has used some bad financial moves in your life as the brakes. It could be a 
dramatic
change you could never have anticipated. God's brakes are different, but the 
results are the same. You get slowed down.

Now you could sit there, you could mutter, you could bang on the steering 
wheel. Or you could realize why God is doing this. He knows you need quiet 
waters
right now. You need green pastures. Your soul needs some restoring. You're 
tired inside, outside. Don't fight this. This is God's love in action. He 
knows
you couldn't keep running at that pace.

Maybe you've been running over people, or running past them, or neglecting 
the people closest to you. Maybe you've begun to think that your work is 
your
worth, and you've crowded you to the edge of your life. Whatever kind of 
construction He wants to do, it's probably overdue. God could never refocus 
you
while you're running at full speed.

So, if God has slowed you down or even shut you down, I hope you'll relax in 
the knowledge that this is His plan. This is His love. This is His 
assignment
for you right now. And it's His way to give you what you need most. Sure the 
traffic has braked to a halt. You can't do all you usually do, but take 
heart,
you are in God's Construction Zone.

Like that cab driver said, "It will be worth the inconvenience. You will be 
so much better when the construction is finished." So be still and know that
He is God.

Are You Hiding Behind a Mask?
"But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, 
for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look
at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” 
(1 Samuel 16:7 NIV).

During Lent, many Christians choose to give up something. Chocolate, soft 
drinks, junk food, bread and red meat are just a few of the things given up 
during
this time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter.

Recently, I learned a 13-year-old girl at our church has given up wearing 
make-up for Lent. Men, you may not be able to relate, but for women, 
especially
a young teenager, this is a sacrifice.

Addie’s mother shared the following on the second day of Lent: “Feeling very 
blessed! Last night at our Ash Wednesday service, the girls were talking 
about
what they were giving up for Lent. Addie said she was giving up make-up. 
‘Wow,’ I said, ‘that is a big one.’ I then realized today they are taking 
wrestling
pictures. (Note: Addie is a wrestling cheerleader) I told her it would be 
okay to wear make-up for the pictures. She looked at me and said, ‘Mom, if 
it
is in God’s plan that I not have make-up on, then that is what I will do.’”

When I read this post on Facebook, I was not surprised. I know this family 
and their dedication to living a Godly life. However, I was amazed and 
touched
by this 13-year-old girl’s willingness to give up wearing make-up, even for 
a yearbook photo, to honor her commitment to God.

The next day, as I was getting ready for an appointment, I was watching a 
medical show. I was stunned when the doctors shared the story of a woman in 
her
forties who had sought their help for her addiction to make-up. The woman 
admitted she had lost jobs and friendships because it takes her three to 
four
hours to apply her make-up each morning.

After what the doctor’s called an intervention, the woman learned from a 
make-up specialist to apply her make-up in 20 minutes or less. My initial 
reaction
to this women’s confession was one of disbelief and pride. Then, I realized 
something. I was judging this woman instead of having compassion. I don’t 
know
her heart but God does.

People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. God 
does not look at the outward appearance or even the mask people wear. He 
looks
at what matters.

Each of us, if we think about it, often hides behind a mask. In a society 
hung up on appearances, the media portrays an image many think they need to 
attain
to fit a certain mold, including extreme diets to fit into a size two jeans. 
In the process, however, we lose sight of our true identity.

Our true identity is found in a relationship with our Heavenly Father. He 
doesn’t see our mask. He sees our heart.

For more inspiration, visit my blog at
carolaround.com
Copyright © 2015 Carol Round, All rights reserved.
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A Note of Encouragement

from Ciloa

Send this Note of Encouragement to a Friend

Two young women, longtime friends
Friendship...God's loving, gentle breeze
Joy on sunny days, strength in raging seas

The Friendship Road

Volume XV, Issue 11

March 16, 2015

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

No two lives are the same. We each have our own wants, thoughts, intellect, 
abilities, and traits. But despite the differences, we all share something
special - the need for friendship.

Notice I did not say, friends. There's a difference. A friend is often 
defined as one who has affection or respect for, helps, supports, or enjoys 
being
with another. The focus is someone else.

But - and this is a big but - being a friend doesn't mean those same 
feelings, attitudes, or efforts are returned. Each of us has felt the sting 
of rejection.
We reach out, share experiences, and enjoy being with someone, then discover 
there's no true bond. We are little more than an acquaintance.

That can happen the other way around, too. Someone invests time and effort 
in us. They may even call us friend. Yet for some reason, we don't open up 
and
share our lives. We may be friendly - loving others as Jesus taught - but 
never see ourselves as that person's friend.

Uncomfortable? Let's see if I can help. Maybe you've been told you're 
supposed to be a friend of everyone. Not possible. Too many people. Not 
enough time.
Besides, personalities often collide. I can love you, but if you're a 
loud-mouth loon, I may not like you. And that's OK.

Our need is not so much for friends as for friendship - that relationship 
created by the special bond between and among friends. As you've likely 
experienced,
a one-sided relationship is no relationship at all. If we have friendship, 
it's because you are my friend and I am yours.

Moses had that kind of relationship with God. He set up a special tent where 
God came to meet with him. The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as
a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11a). Moses made the effort. God 
made the effort. They came together and had a real relationship, a true 
friendship.
Jesus spoke of friendship, too.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my 
love...Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his 
friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command...I have called you friends, for 
everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did
not choose me, but I chose you... John 15:9-16

A deep, long-lasting friendship with someone flows from a deep, long-lasting 
friendship with God. Everything begins with Him. He chose us to become His
friends and that relationship requires effort on our part. We must remain in 
His love and follow Him. We must honor, respect, speak with, and share our
lives with Him...just as He has done with us!

Jesus described great love as laying down our lives for our friends. We 
immediately think of His death on the cross, but Jesus laid down His life 
for us
long before the crucifixion. He worked hard to show us the way to eternal 
love and peace. He told us the truth about ourselves and how much He loves 
us.
And He shared His life with us so that we would never be alone again.

Friendships follow a similar course. There's commitment in following the way 
to a lasting relationship, being honest with each other, and sharing life.
Choose your friends wisely, and remember...

Friendships last not because there are no difficulties along the road, but 
in spite of them. Value your friends. Treasure your friendships. They are 
God's blessings in your life.
Chuck


JUDAS

Lent: A Time of Reflection
March 12, 2015
Suicide is never the answer. How do I know? Because in my early 40s, I was 
so overcome with desperation concerning the state of my marriage—which later
ended—I tried to take my own life. But, God had a better plan. I lived and I 
am so grateful He is using me for His kingdom work.

In Day 20 of Adam Hamilton’s book, 40 Days of Reflection, he asks the 
question, “What would have happened if Judas had waited just three days 
before taking
his own life?”

Let’s revisit this part of the story. As we recall, Judas had accepted 30 
pieces of silver to lead the priests to Jesus. It was this betrayal by Judas
that Christ had predicted at the Last Supper. I wondered what Judas was 
thinking when Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl 
with
me will betray me.” Did Judas squirm in his seat when he said, “Surely you 
don't mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

After Jesus was found guilty and sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin, Judas 
Iscariot was overcome with remorse. He tried to return the money to the 
priests
who had paid him to betray Jesus. Hamilton says, “In observing Judas, we can 
see what repentance looks like: an intense grief over one’s sin and a desire
to make things right.”

Judas, however, believed he could not make things right. He saw only one way 
out: suicide. Hamilton says, “Had he waited three days, he would have seen
the other side of his betrayal. He would have seen Jesus raised from the 
dead. Had he seen the risen Christ and fallen on his knees at Jesus’ feet, 
asking
for mercy, what do you think Jesus would have said?”

We know, without a doubt, Jesus would have forgiven Judas. Hamilton adds, 
“Now imagine the witness Judas would have had if he had just waited three 
days.”

If he’d only waited three days, wouldn’t Judas have become one of the most 
powerful witnesses for Christ?

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, Christ is able to 
forgive and to give you a new future filled with hope.

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent 
journey: Matthew 27:3-5

For more inspiration, visit my blog at
carolaround.com
Copyright © 2015 Carol Round, All rights reserved.

Our Greatest Call

The church in Ephesus had many good qualities, yet they were lacking in one 
significant area: their love for Jesus Christ. They actively served Him. 
They
taught biblical Truth. They refused to give in to the permissive culture 
around them. They endured hardships in the name of Christ. They were busy, 
committed
workers for the kingdom.

Jesus commends them for their hard labor and endurance: "I know your deeds, 
your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked
men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and 
have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my
name, and have not grown weary" (Revelation 2:2, 3).

Yet, in their sincere efforts to serve Christ, they forgot to spend time 
loving and adoring Him. They overlooked their prayer time with Him. They no 
longer
worshiped God wholeheartedly. They were so distracted and bogged down by the 
work of God, they neglected their relationship with Him. Jesus warns them:
"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love" (Revelation 
2:4).

Yes, Jesus wants our obedience. He wants to see us actively serving Him. He 
wants us to follow the Truth and shun false teachings. He wants us to remain
dedicated to Him even in the face of persecution. However, upholding the 
Truth cannot replace our love for Him.

Throughout the Bible we read of God's love for us—and He wants us to return 
that love with the same fervor and intensity. When the Pharisees asked Jesus
what was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, "‘Love the Lord your God 
with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is
the first and greatest commandment" (Matthew 22:37, 38).

Believing the right things and doing the right things are vital components 
of our
Christian faith
—we must continue walking in the Truth. But loving God must be at the root 
of everything.

How often do you stop to adore Jesus? Do you wait for Sunday worship service 
because you're just too busy during the week? Do you neglect spending time
reading His love letter to humanity because you're consumed with projects 
and commitments? Are you allowing the busyness of the work of God to 
supplant
your relationship with Him?

If you have let your relationship with Christ fade, follow His words to the 
Ephesians: "Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do 
the
things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove 
your lampstand from its place. He who has an ear, let him hear what the 
Spirit
says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat 
from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:5, 7).

If you have ceased to love Him like you did when you first accepted Him as 
Savior, recalling the time when you were overwhelmed by the love of Christ 
for
you. Recall the time when you were joyous over the forgiveness you received 
for your sins. Recall how you wanted to spend all of your time adoring and
worshiping and thanking Him.

Then identify whatever is robbing you of your ability to love Jesus with all 
your heart. Reverse your course and return to that time when loving God was
your primary focus. Recapture the time when you loved being in the presence 
of the Lord Jesus. Recapture the time when your love for Jesus occupied your
thoughts, your desires, and your decisions.

Pray for the Lord's help to remain in a state of love and adoration for Him. 
Pray that others will see your continuous love for Christ and they will turn
their attention to Him.

"To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all 
your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than
all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
Mark 12:33
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

8 Practical Ways to Use Facebook for Evangelism
Chris Russell

Paul tells us in
Hebrews 3:13,

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that 
none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

I believe our generation has better tools for “encouraging one another 
daily” than any other time in history. Take Facebook, for instance. Through 
this
powerful website, we now have the ability to stay in touch with people like 
never before!

While Facebook is a great place to stay closely connected with your best 
friends and family members, I would encourage you to add in a ministry 
component
to what you do online. Become purposeful in using Facebook as a subtle way 
of nudging your friends toward God. Use it as a vehicle for advancing God’s
purposes on this planet. This all comes down to mindset. What is your 
purpose for engaging people on Facebook? Hopefully, you will see what a 
great platform
Facebook can be for your ministry.

With this in mind, here are eight simple ways that you can use Facebook to 
advance God’s Kingdom and to help others in their walk with the Lord:

1. Use your status updates as a subtle way of identifying yourself with God 
in front of your friends.

I don’t like to use Facebook for rants or soapbox preaching. However, I do 
like posting verses that have spoken to me during my devotional times, 
quotes
from other godly people, and other spiritual insights that the Lord gives me 
from time to time. Regular, subtle status updates can go a long way in 
drawing
your friends toward God.

2. Create a group page for your church or ministry.

Creating a Facebook page for your church is almost as important now as 
having a website for your church. Your church website can easily create an 
online
brochure for people to learn about you. However, a Facebook page creates 
more of an opportunity to develop community for your church online. Once you 
have
that page in place on Facebook, it can also become a fantastic opportunity 
for outreach. When page members like updates and pictures from that Facebook
page, those likes will show up in their own newsfeeds. This becomes a subtle 
way for their friends to begin learning about your amazing church. We have
discovered that any time we post pictures on our Facebook page, those turn 
into thousands of impressions to people who do not currently attend our 
church.
And this outreach is FREE!

Many churches today seem to be going to a lot of expense and effort to 
create their own, private online community through their church website (a 
member-only
section). I tend to discourage this approach. I believe it’s better to keep 
your online community right out there in the open on Facebook where 
unchurched
people already have their accounts and can connect easily.

3. Train your church members to “check-in” on Facebook when they arrive at 
your church (via their mobile devices).

Each Sunday we quickly flash a reminder slide up on the screen which reminds 
people to check in on Facebook. We also run this slide in a loop prior to
the service, and we often have that announcement in the bulletin. Since 
those check-ins appear in each person’s time line, that then gives us 
thousands
of impressions on Facebook each week. When Facebook friends see that they 
have two or three friends who already attend your church, that will give 
them
a reason to consider visiting. Friends on Facebook will also begin to 
realize that “something’s up” at your church!

4. Regularly create events for your church or ministry for which you can 
invite friends.

When you create an event on Facebook for your church or ministry, this 
creates momentum to help boost attendance and involvement. It also provides 
a free
tool for your church members to use to invite their friends to your event. 
The event does not need to be elaborate. It could merely be the title of 
your
pastor’s sermon for that week. But creating an “event” around that topic can 
go a long way in attracting new people.

By the way, keep in mind that the pastor is not the only one who can/should 
set up these events. Anyone in the church who is outreach minded can do 
these
things to advance the ministry. As a matter of fact, it is probably even 
more effective if these events are set up by non-pastors.

5. Send friend requests to guests who have connected with your church.

When guests visit a church, they often feel like they are invading somebody 
else’s family reunion. A great way to help break down those barriers is to
send them a friend request once you have gotten to know them a bit at 
church. Sending them a friend request shows them that you want to think of 
them as
more than a church visitor; you actually want to become a friend. Facebook 
creates a terrific opportunity to begin planting the seeds of friendship.

6. Connect with the greatest ministries that are represented on Facebook and 
then like and share their status updates on your own Facebook wall.

Most of the greatest ministries in the country are already positioned on 
Facebook. Take some time to find those amazing ministries, and then like 
them.
I have personally grown greatly in my journey with the Lord by receiving a 
steady stream of status updates from these great and powerful ministries. 
Those
updates also give me valuable material to share with others on my own time 
line.

7. Create light touches by liking or commenting on your friends’ pictures 
and status updates.

When you like a picture or status update of one of your friends on Facebook, 
it communicates a subtle message that you care about them. These work well
because they are light touches. By the way, for acquaintances, you will 
likely want to use these sparingly. You don’t want to “weird-out” people you 
barely
know by liking every photo and status update they post. But occasionally 
noticing their updates can help you to begin connecting at a deeper level.

8. Maintain balance with your profile by continuing the personal side of 
Facebook along with your ministry focus.

Facebook is powerful because it is relational. If you use it merely as a 
soapbox or for self-promotion, you will actually begin to alienate your 
friends.
So work to maintain a balance here. Go ahead and post a picture of that 
incredible hamburger or the video of that cat falling into the toilet. But 
then
be sure to sprinkle some occasional seasonings of truth onto your timeline 
from time to time.

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

Chris Russell has spent the past 25 years actively involved in ministry 
through pastoring, church planting, writing, Christian radio, and special 
speaking
around the country and in seven different countries. He is passionate about 
communicating the truths of God's Word in a creative, highly-relevant way.

Chris has three kids and happens to be married to his best friend, Leigh. He 
currently pastors a church on the north side of Cincinnati. For more, visit
Sensible Faith.

Desiring God

March 16

Being Mocked: The Essence of Christ's Work, Not Mohammed's

by John Piper

What we saw in the Islamic demonstrations over the Danish cartoons of 
Muhammad was another vivid depiction of the difference between Muhammad and 
Christ,
and what it means to follow each. Not all Muslims approve the violence. But 
a deep lesson remains: The work of Muhammad is based on being honored and 
the
work of Christ is based on being insulted. This produces two very different 
reactions to mockery.

If Christ had not been insulted, there would be no salvation. This was his 
saving work: to be insulted and die to rescue sinners from the wrath of God.
Already in the Psalms the path of mockery was promised: "All who see me mock 
me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads" (Psalm 22:7). "He was 
despised
and rejected by men . . . as one from whom men hide their faces . . . and we 
esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3).

When it actually happened it was worse than expected. "They stripped him and 
put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put
it on his head. . . . And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, 
'Hail, King of the Jews!' And they spit on him" (Matthew 27:28-30). His 
response
to all this was patient endurance. This was the work he came to do. "Like a 
lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers
is silent, so he opened not his mouth" (Isaiah 53:7).

This was not true of Muhammad. And Muslims do not believe it is true of 
Jesus. Most Muslims have been taught that Jesus was not crucified. One Sunni 
Muslim
writes, "Muslims believe that Allah saved the Messiah from the ignominy of 
crucifixion."1 Another adds, "We honor [Jesus] more than you [
Christians]
do... We refuse to believe that God would permit him to suffer death on the 
cross."2 An essential Muslim impulse is to avoid the "ignominy" of the 
cross.

That's the most basic difference between Christ and Muhammad and between a 
Muslim and a follower of Christ. For Christ, enduring the mockery of the 
cross
was the essence of his mission. And for a true follower of Christ enduring 
suffering patiently for the glory of Christ is the essence of obedience. 
"Blessed
are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil 
against you falsely on my account" (Matthew 5:11). During his life on earth
Jesus was called a bastard (John 8:41), a drunkard (Matthew 11:19), a 
blasphemer (Matthew 26:65), a devil (Matthew 10:25); and he promised his 
followers
the same: "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much 
more will they malign those of his household" (Matthew 10:25).

The caricature and mockery of Christ has continued to this day. Martin 
Scorsese portrayed Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ as wracked with 
doubt
and beset with sexual lust. Andres Serrano was funded by the National 
Endowment for the Arts to portray Jesus on a cross sunk in a bottle of 
urine. The
Da Vinci Code portrays Jesus as a mere mortal who married and fathered 
children.

How should his followers respond? On the one hand, we are grieved and 
angered. On the other hand, we identify with Christ, and embrace his 
suffering, and
rejoice in our afflictions, and say with the apostle Paul that vengeance 
belongs to the Lord, let us love our enemies and win them with the gospel. 
If
Christ did his work by being insulted, we must do ours likewise.

When Muhammad was portrayed in twelve cartoons in the Danish newspaper 
Jyllands-Posten, the uproar across the Muslim world was intense and 
sometimes violent.
Flags were burned, embassies were torched, and at least one Christian church 
was stoned. The cartoonists went into hiding in fear for their lives, like
Salman Rushdie before them. What does this mean?

It means that a religion with no insulted Savior will not endure insults to 
win the scoffers. It means that this religion is destined to bear the 
impossible
load of upholding the honor of one who did not die and rise again to make 
that possible. It means that Jesus Christ is still the only hope of peace 
with
God and peace with man. And it means that his followers must be willing to 
"share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death" (Philippians 3:10).

1 Badru D. Kateregga and David W. Shenk, Islam and
Christianity:
A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue (Nairobi: Usima Press, 1980), p. 141.

2 Quoted from The Muslim World in J. Dudley Woodberry, editor, Muslims and 
Christians on the Emmaus Road (Monrovia, CA: MARC, 1989), p.164.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:
www.desiringGod.org.

KenBible.com - Washing Feet
----------------------------------------------------------

Washing Feet

Posted: 15 Mar 2015 09:55 PM PDT

Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel 
around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash
his disciples’ feet . . .”Do you understand what I have done for you?” he 
asked them. . . .”Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, 
you
also should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example that you should 
do as I have done for you.” (John 13:4-5, 12, 14-15, NIV)

Imagine it: some awesome dignitary shows up unexpectedly at your door. With 
excitement and great humility you receive him as an honored guest. You spare
no efforts to make him feel comfortable. Then he insists on cleaning your 
bathrooms.

You’d probably react like Peter did: “No! You’ll never clean my bathrooms!”

But Jesus’ demonstration was powerful. As a people, we’re more inclined to 
serve ourselves than others.

“Lord, I’m too busy to wash feet. I have more important things to do.”

But Jesus wasn’t too busy. In the final hours of His ministry, with so much 
yet for His disciples to learn, He taught them this. He changed His clothes,
got down on His hands and knees, and washed feet.

Lord, teach me to wash feet. I’m not too old to learn. Help me put my 
priorities where You put them. Help me focus my days on humble service to my 
family,
my coworkers, and to the least ones around me. Give me Your Spirit and Your 
heart, Jesus. Teach me to wash feet.
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Zealous and Consumed
by Gary Wilkerson | February 23, 2015

In John 2, Jesus enters the temple for an act that would
signal the beginning of his public ministry. (His earlier
miracle at Cana, turning water into wine, wasn't a public
declaration.) What takes place next is quite dramatic:

"The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to
Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling
oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting
there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of
the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the
coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And
he told those who sold the pigeons, 'Take these things away;
do not make my Father's house a house of trade.' His
disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for your
house will consume me'" (John 2:13-17).

What Jesus does here is more than radical. Tell me, if you
wanted to announce your ministry, would you go into a
megachurch and start turning over tables and driving people
away? Jesus was up to more here than just showing his
authority. He was demonstrating that he was about to turn
things upside down in every way.

This all happened during the Passover season. At the first
Passover, Jewish families had to slay a lamb as a ritual
sacrifice, draining the blood and applying it on the door
frame of their house. The idea was that when the angel of
death arrived and saw the blood marking the door, he would
pass over that home. It was a symbolic ritual that reenacted
God's saving deliverance of Israel from Egypt, when he set
his people free from all bondage and slavery.

Now Jesus came on the scene as the Lamb of God whose
sacrifice would provide our deliverance from the curse of
sin. John the Baptist was aware of this, having already
declared of him, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the
sin of the world" (John 1:29). In less than three years'
time, the world would behold Christ's finished work as the
sin of all humankind was laid upon him.

Throughout the New Testament Christ's saving work is
referred to as having been finished.

Jesus' sacrifice on the cross would be sufficient for all
time. His saving, forgiving, cleansing power and victory are
available to every person in every era, from the most devout
believer to the most hardened sinner.

Even as a young boy, I understood my need for Christ's gift
of salvation. I also knew that when I accepted Jesus, his
saving work on my behalf had been achieved once and for all.
It was a momentous event for me. But it didn't take long
after that for my anger to erupt at one of my siblings as
happens so often among kids. Suddenly, I was aware that I
needed Jesus' cleansing blood in my life all over again. I
felt utterly lost, wondering whether my salvation was real.

Eventually I learned that I needed not only Christ's
salvation but his cleansing power in my life daily. Jesus
demonstrated our need at the Last Supper, when he took a
towel and basin and began washing his disciples' feet. Peter
puzzled over this symbolic act, saying, "Lord, if you're
going to wash my feet, why not clean my head too?" Jesus
answered in essence, "Peter, you're going to be saved by my
blood. But you still live in a dirty world, and as you walk
through it you'll get dust on your feet. You're going to
need me to wash your feet just as much as your heart."

It's true Jesus has made us new creatures, having justified
us once and for all. But as we walk through the mire of a
dark and evil world, we can't help picking up flecks of its
anger, lust and hardness. Jesus says to us, just as he told
Peter, "If your life is going to be pleasing to me, I have
to rid you of these things daily."

To walk in his holiness, we have to realize there are things
in our lives Jesus wants to drive out. When he ran the
moneychangers out of the temple, he was ridding the church
of a certain callousness that had overcome them. It wasn't
so much the exchange of money that upset Jesus; that
practice had existed for years, as a convenience to faithful
believers who traveled great distances to Jerusalem. What
upset Jesus more was the focus on commerce, which had
overtaken people's passion for God. In their hearts, a house
of prayer had been turned into a house of trade.

The church today can easily lose its focus in the same way.
We are God's temple on earth, our bodies the dwelling place
of his Holy Spirit. And there are certain things that don't
belong in our temple, things that can overtake our passion
for him.

Yet when Jesus began this upheaval, he was overturning more
than the moneychangers' trade. He was overturning a
religious system that for millennia had relied on animal
sacrifices to please God. Christ was stating in essence,
"Your relationship to the Father will no longer be based on
sacrifices of sheep and goats and doves. It's going to be
based on my once-for-all-time sacrifice for you."

That scene in the temple offers an analogy for our time. A
lot of congregations today are filled with noise and
activity. They have many programs in place, from overseas
mission trips to local outreaches to dozens of small
fellowship groups. The worship services can be full of
bright lights, powerful sound and amazing energy. Yet
sometimes amid all this lively activity something is missing
at the center: Jesus himself.

I'm not suggesting we start turning over book tables in
church foyers. But without Christ as the focus of our
activities, our church is dead. No matter how hard we work
to do things that serve and honor his name, none of our
"sacrifices" in themselves can achieve true kingdom results.
From the outside our fellowship may look righteous, but if
we don't maintain a focus on Jesus we'll be a church full of
dead men's bones.

From Israel's very beginnings, the sacrificial system was
meant to be symbolic and secondary.

According to the prophets, God never needed the blood of
animals. "I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of
lambs, or of goats... Bring no more vain offerings (Isaiah
1:11, 13). "They sacrifice the flesh and eat it, but the
Lord has...no delight in them" (Hosea 8:13, NAS). "For in
the day that I brought them out of...Egypt, I did not speak
to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings
and sacrifices" (Jeremiah 7:22).

The system of animal sacrifice was never God's fullest
intention to represent his reconciliation with sinful
humankind. Like the institution of kings in Israel, it was
an imperfect system, yet God allowed it, using it
symbolically to point to something higher and better.

He demonstrated this with Abraham. In that ancient time,
eastern cultures sacrificed animals and even children to
appease their angry gods. When the Lord instructed Abraham
to take his son to the mountain to sacrifice him on an
altar, Abraham obeyed unquestioningly. That reaction may
seem strange to us today, but it suggests a trembling fear
that ancient people had toward their gods. When your god
spoke, you jumped - otherwise, you might face famine or
pestilence. It was fear-based obedience.

But Abraham sensed his God was different. And in truth God
was about to show Abraham he wasn't like Moloch, to whom
people sacrificed children. When Abraham raised the knife
over Isaac, God stopped him. God then provided a ram to be
sacrificed. He declared to his servant - and to every
believer in every age - "I don't need you to sacrifice for
me. I'm going to sacrifice for you." God turned the tables
completely, just as Jesus did when he entered the temple.

A "house of trade" mentality infiltrating the church today
is the American spirit of consumerism.

There are many voices in our culture urging us to have the
best life we possibly could. This concept has translated
into the way many Christians approach church. Their idea is
for God to bless them with all that they desire in life. But
that's not the way God blesses us. Yes, he seeks to serve us
for our good - but the name to be lifted up as our central
focus is his, not ours.

As Jesus overturned all those tables he cried out, "Take
these things away!" (John 2:16). Likewise today, our temples
are to be cleansed of anything that takes the place of his
rightful lordship. God sends Jesus to rid us of those
things, to prepare room for the things he wants to fill us
with. He wants our temple to be once again a house of
prayer, faith and kingdom victory.

"His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for
your house will consume me'" (John 2:17). When Jesus drove
out the moneychangers, his disciples got a picture of what
passion for God really looked like. Jesus' actions appeared
harsh, but in reality they demonstrated God's loving grace.

A lot of Christians today think of God's grace as excusing
passion rather than igniting it. But grace was never meant
to leave us in a place of apathy. The opposite is true: When
God's grace is applied to our lives, it impassions us with
zeal. It makes us more circumspect of heart, more desirous
of a clean life, more zealous for the Holy Spirit to work in
us and through us.

In fact, grace evokes strong emotions. Scripture says that
when Jesus' disciples saw their master in action, they
"remembered." These devout men had forgotten what zeal for
God looked like. Now, as Jesus drove out the moneychangers,
their hearts were stirred by the realization, "This is what
it means to be consumed with love for God!"

Have you been robbed of your zeal? Has casual Christianity
or consumerism overtaken your passion for Jesus? Invite him
today to overturn the tables in your heart. May his name
rule supreme in your worship, evoking strong emotions. And
may he bring to your remembrance the zeal that consumes your
heart to serve your great and holy God. Amen!

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Today's Daily Encounter

Making Beautiful Music

"But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know
that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance,
character; and character, hope."1

"A piece of black ebony wood was being cut and broken
by a woodmaker. The wood complained but the woodmaker
desisted from bowing to the complaints. He was carving
a flute. The woodmaker seemed to be saying, 'Little
piece of wood. You think that I am hurting and abusing
you but without these holes and cutting, you would not
be able to bring others beautiful music to soothe their
souls and calm their hurts and fears for a time.'"

Pain is the great motivator. It can be and often is
God's wake-up call to help us change and grow. So who
wants to change and grow when everything is going
great? Not me. I only grow when I am uncomfortable with
the way things are or the way I am. And that's the way
it's meant to be. God wants to make "beautiful music"
out of your life and mine. It's up to us to allow him
to do so. The process at times can be painful, but the
end result can be something beautiful.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, I surrender my heart and
life to You. Please help me to become the person You
want me to be so that my life will be an instrument of
peace and harmony in Your hands to touch the lives of
all with whom I come into contact. Thank You for
hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus’s
name, amen."

1. The Apostle Paul (Romans 5:3-4, NIV).

<Smile)))><

NOTE: If you would like to accept God's forgiveness
for all your sins and His invitation for a full pardon
Click on:
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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:

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U.S.A.

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Copyright (c) 2014 by ACTS International
When copying or forwarding include the following:
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The Lord Ever-Present

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is 
He that is in you, than he that is in the world.”
1 John 4:4

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
The One who created the valley is there with you! He has prepared the way 
through the valley. It is not a place of permanence, but a place of passage.
He knows every twist and turn, every changing shadow, every den where danger 
lurks—that One is with you!

Focus on the light and not the darkness. God has made you to walk through 
shadows. When the shadow approaches, you must walk through. The One greater 
than
death is in you! He is your Jehovah-Shammah—the Lord ever-present. His grace 
is greater. His peace is purer. His devotion is dearer. Where Satan casts
a shadow, our Sovereign Lord reigns supreme.

ACTION POINT:
This is a day of hope. Meditate on 1 John 4:4 throughout the day and ask God 
to give you a divine appointment to share this beloved truth with someone
today
Please direct all comments, inquiries, prayer requests, paper
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Post  Admin on Fri 13 Mar 2015, 2:01 am

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You
Daily Devotional
The Rebuilder's Dream - #7287

The sign said Antique Auto Show, so my wife and I decided that we'd take 
fifteen minutes and stop at this car dealership and look at the antique 
autos.
Really we were interested in seeing the ones that, you know, like went back 
to the 50s and 60s. There was this one, sleek, black '66 Mustang that had a
flawless exterior, a rich interior, the hood was open so you could look at 
the horsepower underneath.

There, sitting on the engine block, was a thick book of photos. Now, it 
wasn't the guy's children or grandchildren. It was his car. And at the 
beginning
of this photo album there were before pictures of the car. Let me tell you, 
it was trash when he started. The first pictures were of this rusted, 
wrecked,
banged-up Mustang. It must have been what he bought. And as you looked 
through the book, step by step you could see the car was slowly being 
transformed.
It took months, maybe years for the owner to give patient attention to get 
this beautiful classic. When the owner saw that wreck, he saw more than a 
wreck.
He saw something that others didn't see.

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The 
Rebuilder's Dream."

Well, let's go to our word for today from the Word of God in Judges 6. God 
is looking for a general for His troops, someone who will be a mighty 
commander
and beat the Midianites who have intimidated and terrorized the Israelites 
for years. And He speaks to Gideon in verse 11, "The angel of the Lord came
and sat down under the oak where Gideon was threshing wheat in a wine press 
to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to 
Gideon,
He said, 'The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.'"

Verse 14 says, "The Lord turned to him and said, 'Go in the strength you 
have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?' 'But 
Lord,'
Gideon asked, 'how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, 
and I am the least in my family.' The Lord answered, 'I will be with you, 
and
you will strike down all the Midianites together.'"

Okay, here is Gideon. He's hiding in a pit. He doesn't look like a mighty 
warrior at all. And God comes along and says, "Mighty warrior!" This is no 
mighty
warrior. But God didn't see what Gideon was. He saw what he could be and 
what He intended to make him. Same thing happened with Peter. Jesus said, 
"Peter,
you're going to be a rock when I'm done with you." I imagine when people 
heard this they said, "Peter? He's a flake! Not a rock." But, see, when he 
came
to Jesus he was sort of a flake. He was always up and down and inconsistent. 
But Jesus saw the rock He was going to make him.

He looks at you the way that Mustang owner saw that banged-up car. He sees 
the value in you more than you do. He knows the person He created you to be.
In God's words, "His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works He 
prepared in advance for you to do." And His photo album shows where you were
and His step-by-step rebuilding.

See, if you believe how God sees you, then there are some important changes 
in how life should look to you. First, when you're down about who you are,
look back at the old pictures. Look what you used to be. You're becoming 
something aren't you?

Second, when you're down on yourself, realize you're not finished yet. The 
rebuilder is in the process. The Bible says in Philippians 1:6, "He who has
begun a good work in you, will carry it on to completion until the day of 
Christ Jesus." And third, when you're dealing with other people, look for 
and
encourage the person God is building in them. Be part of His rebuilding 
project in their life. Tell people what they could be. Tell them the good 
you see
in them - the potential.

And fourth, if you're a parent, don't get hung up on what your child is now. 
Look at what he or she could be and tell them what they could be. You, your
friends, your mate, your children, they're all in the rebuilding program of 
Jesus Christ. Life looks different when we see our self and others through
His eyes. He sees what we can be. Patiently and step-by-step, the Master is 
building you into a classic.

The Real Thing
by Charles R. Swindoll

Galatians 2:20
Back in 1958 when I was a young marine stationed on the island of Okinawa, I 
became closely associated with a man I deeply admired. His name was Bob 
Newkirk.

I didn't know what it was exactly that first drew me to Bob. More than 
anything else, I guess, there was something refreshingly unpretentious about 
him.
He was devoted to the things of the Lord, no question, but it was never on 
parade, never for the purpose of public display. And I loved that.

I never got the idea that Bob was interested in making big impressions on me 
or other people. He was what he was, plain and simple---far from perfect,
but authentic. Real.

I remember dropping by his home late one rainy afternoon to pay an 
unexpected visit. His wife met me at the door and informed me that he was 
not home.
She added, "You've probably noticed lately that he has been under some 
stress. I think he may be down at his office. I'm not really sure. But he 
told me
he just wanted to get alone."

I decided to try Bob's office, a little spot down in Naha. I caught the 
three-wheel jitney that took me from the village where the Newkirks lived 
down
to the capital city of the island. It was still raining lightly, so I 
stepped around and over the puddles as I made my way down a street, across 
an alley,
then another alley until I came upon his unassuming, modest office.

Before I arrived, however, I could hear singing in the distance . . . "Come, 
Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace." It was Bob's
voice! I'd know it anywhere.

I stood outside in the rain for a few moments, listening, as my friend 
continued singing the simple hymn. Then, I confess, I peeked in the window 
and saw
a candle on a table, my friend on his knees, and not another soul around. He 
was spending time with the Lord . . . all alone.

As I stood outside, the soft-falling rain dripping off my nose and ears, my 
eyes filled with tears of gratitude. Bob never knew I came by that evening,
but without his knowing it, I got a glimpse of authentic Christianity that 
night. Not piety on parade . . . not spiritual showtime, but a man "in the 
shelter
of the Most High."

In the back streets of Naha I learned more about simple faith than I would 
later learn in four years of seminary.

When it comes to faith, there is no substitute for the real thing.
Excerpted from
Day by Day with Charles Swindoll,
Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). 
All rights reserved worldwi
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Post  Admin on Wed 11 Mar 2015, 10:20 pm

Your Spiritual Instruction Manual

What happens when we do not follow instruction manuals? Typically we become 
lost and confused. But this disorder is only temporary. When we choose to 
ignore
the greatest instruction manual—the Bible—we are lost for eternity. The 
Bible contains God's plan of
salvation,
and without it we have no hope of reconciliation.

This instruction manual also contains directions for daily living. It shows 
us how to love God, how to treat other people, and how to become testimonies
for Christ. Yet we cannot haphazardly read the Bible and expect to gain its 
full wisdom. There are some basic guidelines to properly studying God's 
Word:

We must be careful to study the Bible in the context of the whole passage so 
we will not misinterpret God's purpose and meaning. We cannot randomly pull
out verses that seem to fit what we're searching for.

While the truths and histories of the Bible are to be taken literally, we 
must also recognize its usage of metaphors. When Jesus said, "If your eye 
causes
you to sin, pluck it out" (Mark 9:47), He was not instructing us to 
physically blind ourselves.

We also need to understand the historical and cultural settings of the 
Bible. We need to discern what is mandated for all believers and what was 
unique
for certain individuals. When Elijah confronted Ahab and Jezebel, he did not 
set a precedent for all of us to literally call for fire from heaven when
standing up for righteousness.

When purchasing a Bible, look for a version that is both true to the 
original meaning, yet also easy enough to understand so that it encourages 
study.
Perhaps also acquire a concordance, Bible dictionary, a chronological Bible, 
or a commentary series for a fuller understanding.

We must be on guard against reading what we want into Scripture. We cannot 
randomly flip through the Bible and declare that whatever page we land on 
will
provide us our answers. We cannot pull verses out of context to support our 
false ideas. The Bible is the infallible Word of God, not a tool to twist 
for
our own purposes.

We will gain the most benefit from the Bible when we read it with the Holy 
Spirit's guidance. Without His help, we may overlook key insights, 
misunderstand
meanings, or ignore the rebukes in a passage.

We must also apply what we read in our daily lives. When we simply read the 
words but do not follow them, then we are missing out on the transforming 
power
of God's Word. "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. 
Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says
is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at 
himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man 
who looks
intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, 
not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he
does" (James 1:22-25).

As you begin studying God's Word today, ask yourself three questions 
regarding the passage: What does the Bible say to the original reader? What 
does the
Bible mean by what it says? How can this apply to me today?

Pray for a hunger to study God's Word and for the Holy Spirit's discernment 
as you read the words. Pray for a desire to share what you learn with others
and to use the Bible's transforming power to be a light in this darkened 
world.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."
Psalm 119:105

****

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Light of Hope in a Dark World

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell 
in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
Isaiah 9:2

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Imagine being in a cave without a flashlight. Can you see any shadows? You 
cannot even see your hand! Shadows are only visible in the presence of 
light.

Regardless of how dark, how large, how absolutely ominous a shadow appears, 
it is only there because there is light. David says, “Yea, though I walk 
through
the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Why? Because “Thou 
art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

Jesus has taken the sting out of sin and the fear out of the grave. He has 
empowered us with the Holy Spirit to give us confidence that He will always
be with us and watch over us.

ACTION POINT:
There are many today who are grieving because of a loss—the loss of a loved 
one, a job, a wayward child. Pray for them. Send them a note of hope and 
include
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.

Post-Sunday Encouragement for Church Leaders

One of our goals at Moody Publishers is to serve you, the church leader. So 
we’ve asked our author Jonathan Morrow to write 350 words on Addressing 
Contradictions.

’Tis the season for skepticism about the life and teachings of Jesus of 
Nazareth. Are you ready?

Imagine that you are at your local coffee shop meeting with a couple who is 
exploring Christianity when they raise the objection, “How can you trust the
Gospels when they are full of contradictions?” What would you say? Here’s a 
simple game plan for navigating this opportunity.

First, ask them to give you a specific example of a contradiction. If they 
list one, ask them why they think it is a real contradiction. Most people 
have
just heard this slogan and repeat it; make them do some work here.

Next, respond to their objection. As you do, share that we must be careful 
not to impose 21st-century historical standards on a first-century text. 
Explain
the important distinction between accuracy and precision. We live in the age 
of scientific precision and digital everything. The practice of 
first-century
biographers was to record an accurate summary based on eyewitness testimony. 
In fact, there were no quotation marks in the Greek language. Capturing the
‘gist’ of something was completely acceptable. The bottom line is that the 
earliest biographers of Jesus could be historically accurate without being 
as
precise as we might like them to be. It’s also important to point out that 
differences don’t necessarily equal errors because of various perspectives 
at
work.

Finally, ask them if (1) they have understood your answer and (2) if they 
are satisfied with your explanation. Again, wait for a response here. If so,
great. If not, why not?

It might seem at some point that they’re not really interested in an answer; 
it may be worth asking them what would satisfy them in this case. It could
be that they have an unrealistic standard they are applying to the 
biographical writings contained in the Bible, especially the Gospels.

If you have offered a reasonable or plausible solution to the apparent 
contradiction, then it’s up to them at that point. Remember, just because 
they may
not be convinced on the spot doesn’t mean your conclusions are not 
reasonable.

Sometimes we get nervous when people raise objections to our faith. But 
having a game plan gives us confidence to engage. After all, we don’t need 
to worry,
because we have the truth on our side. We just need to be ready.

Jonathan Morrow

JONATHAN MORROW (D.Min., M.Div., M.A.) is the author of several books, 
including his latest, Questioning the Bible. He is director of creative 
strategies
for Impact 360 Institute and the founder of Think Christianly. Jonathan 
speaks nationally on worldview, apologetics, and culture. He and his wife 
have
been married for 13 years and have three children. Connect with him at
thinkchristianly.org.
Are the Gospels Full of Contradictions?

Jonathan has written an entire book addressing 11 challenges to the Bible. 
Check out one of the major challenges in the short eBook for only $0.99.
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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Mar 2015, 10:55 pm

Lent '15

"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away 
from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, 
forgiving
one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:31-32.
I love a true account from the life of Leonardo DaVinci.
Not only was he a great painter, but DaVinci had a great faith in God.

On the day he was to begin to paint the masterpiece, The Last Supper-
- he had a blow-out argument with one of his friends.

As he was painting the disciples seated around the table-
DaVinci was still sour toward his friend.
So when it came time to paint Judas - you guessed it - he painted his 
friend's face.

Then he moved on to paint Jesus.

Of course Leonardo loved Christ but try as he might-
- he couldn't paint His likeness in any way that he thought represented His 
beauty.
He painted, erased, painted, erased...
Convicted by his own unforgiveness-
- he repainted the face of Judas with some other, random likeness and went 
to get right with his friend.

Only then could he return to finish his portrait of Christ.

It's been said that DaVinci's face of Christ in this work is one of the most 
beautiful ones ever painted.

What a great picture of the mercy in forgiveness.
It will bear itself out in your life and mine.

We will not see the likeness of Christ reproduced in our lives until we 
forgive.

Has the Lord brought a relationship to mind that needs your long-overdue 
forgiveness?
By faith say-
"Because of Christ, you owe me nothing.”
Take to heart God's call on your life:
"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away 
from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, 
forgiving
one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

How Not to Avoid Comfortable Conversations about Religion
Dr. James Emery White

There was an intriguing, but not unexpected, article on WikiHow titled “How 
to Avoid Uncomfortable Conversations about Religion.”

The eight pointers, just in time for the holidays, went as follows:

1. Resist the urge to argue. Instead, just smile and say, 
“Interesting.”

2. Meet it head on with honesty. Say, “I’m not comfortable talking 
about that and I’m just not willing to have this conversation.”

3. Ask them why they brought it up. If it seems trivial, or even 
trolling, it gets exposed and often ends.

4. Redirect the conversation. Ask about their job, children or 
health. Or go for the joke and say, “No thanks. I haven’t been able to talk 
about
religion since the last time the Cubs won the World Series.”

5. Suggest a better time. This will allow you to control the 
environment, length of time, involved parties and other factors.

6. Excuse yourself. Go to the bathroom or greet someone else nearby.

7. Bring in another conversationalist. Ideally, one that would like 
to engage the conversation – then excuse yourself as they delve in.

8. Be straightforward. Tell them this is neither the time nor place 
for such a dialogue. Or, if you would prefer, say “I have a strict policy 
never
to discuss religion.”

Such guidelines would no doubt be welcomed by most people including, sadly, 
those who follow Christ. But it is precisely having such a conversation that
lies at the heart of our mission.

So what if we turned this around a bit?

As in, “How Not to Avoid Comfortable Conversations about Religion.”

Perhaps the list would run like this:

1. Don’t argue, just contend. There is a difference between debating 
and contending. Debating can quickly become a game of winning; contending is
trying to make points and plant seeds in a winsome and compelling way.

2. Be honest about the role of faith in your life. If you are a 
Christian, then be one, and let them deal with the weight of it. It’s 
actually the
most attractive and intriguing thing about you.

3. Ask them why they have rejected it. If someone dismisses something 
like
Christianity,
simply ask them “why?” Let them share, and let the conversation take the 
natural route their sharing leads.

4. Redirect the conversation away from trite, flippant, dismissals of 
Christianity. For example, if they bring up hypocrisy, simply say you agree
with the repugnant nature of it, and so did Jesus – and that the heart of 
the
Christian faith
is Jesus, not those who pretend to follow Him.

5. Suggest a time to talk more about it. It’s so easy to say, “I’d 
love to hear more about your thinking. Would you be game for a coffee so 
that
I could hear more about your beliefs?”

6. Excuse yourself from fringe and inflammatory expressions of 
Christianity. Many will want to try and tie you to one or another 
“pop-culture” denigrations
of faith (think Westboro Baptist “God Hates Fags” signs at funerals). Don’t 
let them.

7. Bring in someone with the spiritual gift of evangelism. There is 
nothing more strategic than tag-teaming with someone at a party who has the
gift of evangelism and can carry forward a strategic conversation. It’s 
called a “Matthew Party” (based on Matthew throwing a party, inviting all 
his very
lost friends, but also inviting Jesus).

8. Be straightforward. If the WikiHow list suggests you tell them 
this is neither the time nor place for such a dialogue, or “I have a strict 
policy
never to discuss religion,” consider being equally straightforward. Such as, 
“If you know anything about the Christian faith, and our belief in not only
heaven but hell, how much would I have to hate you not to proselytize?”

The point is that conversations about Jesus lie at the heart of everything 
we are trying to do on this planet. Yes, we pursue social justice, 
compassion
for the poor, care for the widow and the orphan, and more.

But where someone spends eternity is everything. Which means it’s worth a 
conversation or two.

Comfortable or not.

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community 
Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and
culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as 
their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: 
Understanding and
Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is now
available on Amazon.
To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit
www.churchandculture.org,
where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and 
culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter
@JamesEmeryWhite.

Suffering for God’s Glory
Ryan Duncan

As a Christian, I don’t like to write about suffering. I find it’s too easy 
to become like the companions of Job in
chapters 4 through 37,
offering excuses and justifications for why bad things happen to good 
people. The reality is we often don’t know why someone gets cancer, or loses 
a child,
or endures hardship they didn’t deserve.
Matthew 5:45
sums it up rather well when it states, “God makes His sun rise on the evil 
and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Suffering is
inevitable, and Christians are not exempt.

The real question is how will we respond when that day of suffering arrives? 
Chelsea Patterson of The Gospel Coalition believes our response to suffering
can be the purest expression of we ever experience. In a
recent article she writes,

“When we respond to suffering well, we practically demonstrate to the 
unbelieving world that Christ is more glorious and precious to us than any 
pain and
difficulty we might endure. We have the opportunity to show where and in 
whom we find our true treasure. By placing our ultimate hope in Christ 
rather
than in the temporary things of this world, God receives the glory.”

Patterson continues by saying,

“Suffering sanctifies and purifies us. When earthly pleasures, things, and 
people are stripped out of our lives, it reveals where we have mistakenly 
placed
our hope. Suffering draws us closer to Christ, because we don’t have the 
worldly comforts to rely on. The Lord knows that we have no greater good 
than
to gaze firmly upon him and not the things of the world. So do not waste 
your suffering! Instead of throwing yourself a pity party (although I have 
thrown
and attended several grand ones for myself), seek the Lord’s glory for your 
good in seasons of trials.”

For many, these words are a cold comfort. Yes, God is good, but He won’t pay 
the rent or the medical bills. Our trials can feel so lonely and 
overwhelming,
how do we know God even cares about us? There are a couple of good Bible 
stories I could site to answer this, but ironically enough, I believe the 
story
of
Luke 2
works best,

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch 
over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the 
glory
of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said 
to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be
for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to 
you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby 
wrapped
in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly 
host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’" – Luke 2:8-14

Take a moment to read God’s response to Job in
chapter 38,
then re-read the story of Christ’s birth in Luke 2. Can we even begin to 
fathom how the God of all things became something so mild as a baby, all 
just
to save us? In this world we will have suffering, but take heart, for God 
loves us more than we can ever know.

What about you, what are your thoughts on suffering? Let us know by leaving 
your comments below.
*Published 12/8/14
*Ryan Duncan is the Entertainment Editor for Crosswalk.com
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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Mar 2015, 1:12 am

The Broad Way

Matthew 7:13-14, 21-23 (NASB95)
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is 
broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.
14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and 
there are few who find it…
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of 
heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not 
prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name 
perform many miracles?’
23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from 
Me, you who practice lawlessness.

These words come from the Sermon on the Mount which were given by Jesus 
himself. He said that many people are on the broad way which leads to 
destruction. He is talking here about eternal things and not physical. There 
is a narrow way which He calls people to but there are few that truly follow 
it. This means that few will end up in heaven. Jesus even said that some of 
those that look like some of his greatest servants won’t be in heaven. They 
might say the right words and do many great things but they are not truly 
following Jesus Christ. This does not mean that what you do can save you but 
that if you have an intimate relationship with and in Jesus Christ you will 
obey him. As Jesus said,

John 14:15 (NASB95)
15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

So those who do not belong to Jesus Christ and follow the narrow way end up 
in hell. Is there any way for them to get out of hell? Let’s see what Jesus 
said in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:

Luke 16:24-26 (NASB95)
24 “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and 
send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off 
my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’
25 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you 
received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is 
being comforted here, and you are in agony.
26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm 
fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be 
able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’

So we see that hell is a place of agony. Jesus says that it is like a thirst 
that cannot be quenched. He also says that no one that is in hell can get to 
heaven. They had their chance to give their lives to Jesus Christ while they 
were on earth.

I heard someone say that if we could see all the souls that were going to 
hell it would look like a rainstorm where each drop was a soul. There is no 
chance for anyone to change their eternal destiny after death so we must 
tell others about Jesus Christ while they are living. We must follow the 
leading of the Holy Spirit to reach others to bring them to follow the 
narrow way and to go to heaven with us.

by Dean W. Masters

Healing Rather Than Hiding: 8 Ways To Open Up In Community
Bonnie Gray

"The parts of me I usually like to hide are the very parts where God is 
working through my life and my story."

That's what I said earlier this year, when I was asked to look into a camera 
for
DaySpring
and answer how community has hurt me and how it's healed me. I took a deep 
breath and started talking about how I'd been afraid to open up about bad 
things
that happened to me out in the mission field when I was in my twenties.

I was afraid because when I returned to confide in people -- people who were 
used to the bubbly Bonnie didn't know what to do with the broken Bonnie --
the Bonnie who was hurt and confused.

Silence only meant one thing to me. Rejection. I resolved to let time do its 
healing work. So, I went into hiding. For nearly a decade.

Parts of Me

I returned to doing the normal things I'd always done -- routine and 
predictability. I started getting busy again, exploring next steps, to 
prove to myself
that I had moved on.

Slowly, it seemed everyone seemed comfortable with me again. No 
awkwardness, no hard questions. Just smiles set out like a welcome sign to 
tell everyone,
"Hey, I'm back."

But, inside, not all of me was back. Parts of me had gone into hiding -- the 
ones most in need of community. Inside, I struggled with fears, insecurities
and disappointment. I felt tired and alone.

God eventually led me to a new community of believers who loved me as an 
everyday person. Because I felt accepted and valued for my everyday 
struggles,
I began feeling hopeful. As people shared their everyday struggles with me, 
I began to feel safe.

Maybe they'll love me for my broken parts too? I wondered.

Many years of isolating myself in pain, brought me to a place where I no 
longer wanted to suffer alone. I'd rather risk hurting, than living more 
years
feeling trapped by hurtful memories. I encouraged the friends who were 
watching the video that it's worth coming out of hiding.

Because for all the people who had hurt me, God brought a new set of friends 
who met me on my journey -- to bring healing to my soul.

I Would Not Allow Myself

Little did I know while filming that video clip -- I would personally face 
the challenge to stop hiding and open myself into community in a big way 
again.
Less than one year later.

Hide. That was my default reaction to
experiencing panic attacks
for the first time in my life. But, after a month of continuous panic 
attacks and growing anxiety, I knew -- without a shadow of a doubt -- that I 
would
not allow myself to hide for another ten years. I

told myself, even if I were to get rejected again -- utterly rejected -- I'd 
have to fall back on my training. My
faith
community training.

Do not hide.

Whatever you do, Bonnie.

Do not hide.

I wasn't going to lose ten more years of being alone. I knew community 
healed me before -- and I knew community would be key to my healing again. 
I don't
say this lightly, because there is great risk in being hurt.

But, then I think: Jesus Himself needed community. Jesus confided in three 
confidantes (Peter, James, and John)
as He broke down
in His darkest night in Gethsemane. The need to relate is part of our 
humanity and spirituality.

8 Ways

I'm still learning this come-out-of-hiding journey, but I'd like to share 8 
ways I encouraged myself to come out of hiding and open myself up to 
community.
I hope it gives you comfort knowing you are not alone and encourage you to 
know you can do it, too.

1. Don't wait until you're all better before you reach out to find a 
friend.

Reach out now, while you're broken -- and find the people who can truly be 
your friend. Now is the time to get the support you need. In some cases, I
asked for specific help or advice. For others, I just wanted the support. 
This is the jist of what I've said, "I'm going through a hard time right 
now.
I'd like to confide in you about it, so I'm not alone in it. It's not 
something I need solved. But, to make this journey, I need to know someone 
knows
and someone cares. " This helps communicate to the other person I needed the 
safety rather than advice or problem solving (unless that is what you need).
Because when you are overwhelmed, it's important to have the safety to feel 
and talk things through.

2. Assume there will be "sunk costs" in this investment in community.

I'm just keeping it real friends. There are people who have not walked this 
journey of transparency. Difficult emotions make them feel uncomfortable
with their own anxieties and it can stress them out. So, don't take it 
personally if you try to make a connection and the conversation doesn't work 
out. Understand
this person isn't the right match for this season of your journey. Early on, 
I had confided to someone who said my anxieties were caused by my failure
to trust God -- which then plummeted me into a tailspin of discouragement. 
But, I kept reaching out until I found someone who could encourage me. It
turns out I found great comfort in a friend I'd known for a decade, who I 
never knew she experienced panic attacks -- until after I confided in her.

3. View opening up as an act of trust in God rather than a test of 
someone's acceptance of you.

Finding a friend is another way of trusting God in the journey. You're 
going to need someone to walk this path with you. When Jesus sent out the 
disciples
out in ministry, He sent them two by two. The new commandment Jesus gives 
us is to, "Love one another, as I have loved you." This love commandment is
reciprocal, too. Jesus wants you to receive love and He will send someone 
to love you on His behalf. Seek and we shall find.

4. Create a list of people to confide in. Start with the most 
compassionate person you know and slowly challenge yourself to move down 
your list -- as
you progress further along your journey -- adjusting how much you share with 
your comfort level.

Many of you belong to a lot of wonderful support communities (like Celebrate 
Recovery, AA, ...), so please share them with us in the comments. For me,
here is the list I moved down. Your list will vary, so custom-fit per your 
need and circumstance:

1. My best friend. My husband.

2. The most compassionate person who has known me the longest.

3. The most compassionate person who I confided in during the last crisis.

4. The pastor who mentored me.

5. The pastor who married me and Eric.

6. The pastor of my new church. (I was definitely stepping out on a limb at 
this point (how would he view me?). But, our conversation helped confirm
that authenticity was valued in this faith community.)

7. A few closest girlfriends.

8. A Christian counselor/therapist (This was the first time I tried this. 
It's hard to find the right one! Another post for another day...)

9. A few colleagues.

10. A new friend I met at my new church.

11.
Readers on my blog.

5. Say no -- and share honestly why you can't.

This one is hard for me, especially if I feel like I should do something or 
be somewhere. I feel if I don't say yes, I've let other people down or I 
feel
guilty because I've failed in some way. One way of being open in community 
is honestly letting others into our world: our needs, our limitations -- as
well as our passion, what we value and what our current priorities are, even 
if they differ from others.

6. Say yes -- and share honestly where you're at.

There are times God plops a wonderful opportunity in our laps -- to invite 
us to try something new, something we really want to attempt -- but are 
lacking
confidence to commit. Give yourself permission to say yes -- and share 
honestly the questions or hesitations you have. You will be able to find 
others
who identify with you -- gain a friend and encourage each other through 
these conversations.

7. Ask others about their stories. Really listen and be present.

This is a beautiful part of community that never fails to melt my heart when 
I'm frozen in isolation. When we take interest in others' stories, we give
them permission to invite us to the tender places. We offer others 
acceptance -- and we receive the gift of transparency. We gain courage to 
be present
with others and open up about our own journey in return.

8. Choose to believe God is at work in your story. He's living in you to 
come alongside others to live theirs.

Last, but not least, coming out of hiding is really a question of faith. If 
Jesus was working in me when life was good, was He still at work in me when
life feels bad? Opening up to others when we are in the middle of our 
stories invites others to join us on the journey. Because the truth is, 
there will
always be parts of us God is loving us back to life. We are all living 
stories being written. We can help encourage each other while the ink is 
still drying.
We don't have to reject ourselves or each other. We can step out in the open 
and speak fully. We can embrace the beautiful real stories we are living,
instead of hiding behind the lonely stories we wish we were living.

"Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all 
the more evident in us.

While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!" 2 Cor. 
4:7-12 (The Message)
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Post  Admin on Sun 08 Mar 2015, 4:29 pm

Daily Devotional by John Piper

Where Our Comfort Comes From

They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to 
them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no
king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.
(John 19:15–16)

Pilate’s authority to crucify Jesus did not intimidate Jesus. Why not?

Not because Pilate was lying. Not because he didn’t have authority to 
crucify Jesus. He did.

Rather, this authority did not intimidate Jesus because it was derivative. 
Jesus said, “It was given to you from above.” Which means it is really 
authoritative.
Not less. But more.

So how is this not intimidating? Pilate not only has authority to kill 
Jesus. But he has God-given authority to kill him.

This does not intimidate Jesus because Pilate’s authority over Jesus is 
subordinate to God’s authority over Pilate. Jesus gets his comfort at this 
moment
not because Pilate’s will is powerless, but because Pilate’s will is guided. 
Not because Jesus isn’t in the hands of Pilate’s fear, but because Pilate
is in the hands of Jesus’s Father.

Which means that our comfort comes not from the powerlessness of our 
enemies, but from our Father’s sovereign rule over their power.

This is the point of
Romans 8:25–37.
Tribulation and distress and persecution and famine and nakedness and danger 
and sword cannot separate us from Christ because “in all these things we are
more than conquerors through him who loved us” (
Romans 8:35–37).

Pilate (and all Jesus’s adversaries — and ours) meant it for evil. But God 
meant it for good (
Genesis 50:20).
All Jesus’s enemies gathered together with their God-given authority “to do 
whatever God’s hand and God’s plan had predestined to take place” (
Acts 4:28).
They sinned. But through their sinning God saved.

Therefore, do not be intimidated by your adversaries who can only kill the 
body. Not only because this is all they can do (
Luke 12:4),
but also because it is done under the watchful hand of your Father.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten 
before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you
are of more value than many sparrows. (
Luke 12:6–7)

Pilate has authority. Herod has authority. Soldiers have authority. Satan 
has authority. But none is independent. All their authority is derivative. 
All
of it is subordinate to God’s will. Fear not. You are precious to your 
sovereign Father. Far more precious than the unforgotten birds.

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

Today's Daily Encounter

Leonardo De Vinci's Cup “Sir, we would see Jesus."1

I have read that when Leonardo de Vinci was forty-three years old, the Duke
Ludovinco of Milan asked him to paint the dramatic
scene of Jesus' last supper with his disciples. Working
slowly and giving meticulous care to details, he spent
three years on the assignment. He grouped the disciples
into threes, two groups on either side of the central
figure of Christ.Christ's arms are outstretched. In his
right hand, he holds a cup that was painted beautifully
with marvelous realism.When the masterpiece was
finished, the artist said to a friend, "Observe it and
give me your opinion of it.""It's wonderful!" exclaimed
the friend, “the cup is so real I cannot divert my eyes
from it."Immediately Leonardo took a brush and drew it
across the sparkling cup! As he did he exclaimed,
"Nothing shall detract from the figure of
Christ!"Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please grant that
nothing I ever do or say will ever detract from the
beauty of Christ being seen in me. This I can only ever
do with your help. Thank you for hearing and answering
my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus’ name, amen."1. John
12:21.<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

Copyright (c) 2014 by ACTS International.
When copying or forwarding include the following:
"Daily Encounter by Richard (Dick) Innes (c) 2014
ACTS International.


New Post on KenBible.com - What Kind of Father
----------------------------------------------------------
What Kind of Father

Posted: 01 Mar 2015 09:55 PM PST

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to 
him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your
only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him 
there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of 
his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt
offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the 
third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham
said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go 
over there; and we will worship and return to you.”

Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, 
and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on
together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he 
said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but 
where
is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for 
Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked 
on
together.

Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the 
altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on
the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the 
knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven 
and
said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch 
out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that
you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught 
in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered
him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name 
of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the 
mount
of the Lord it will be provided.”

Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and 
said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this
thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly 
bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens
and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the 
gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be 
blessed,
because you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22:1-18, NASB)

To be honest, this story makes me angry. Think about it: What kind of God 
could even imagine a father having to sacrifice his own son? Does such a God
know anything about the love of a parent? Does He have any idea how dear 
that one is? A man’s son is his own life, his own being. He has flowed out 
of
his deepest, most personal, most passionate love. A man’s son is more 
precious than his own life. He would rather rip out his own heart with his 
bare hands
than kill him! Honestly, what kind of a God could even entertain such a 
thought?

And what kind of a father could actually do such a thing…for anyone, under 
any circumstances? How could a father thoughtfully plan his son’s killing? 
How
could he think it all through and calmly calculate exactly what it would 
take to make it all happen? How could he patiently pull together the 
materials,
like he was planning a picnic, then pack it all up, take his son, and travel 
that long journey with his son right there with him. How could smile at him
and talk with him along the way, knowing where they were headed and what he 
would do to him when they got there?

How could he lay all that heavy wood on him and send him trudging up that 
hill? How could he watch him struggle to carry the instrument of his own 
death?
How could he tie him up, lay him on the wood, look down into his innocent, 
trusting eyes, and then, ignoring every impulse of his soul, drive that 
cold,
sharp iron into his sensitive, living flesh?

The whole idea of such a sacrifice is absurd anyway! A sacrifice is a life 
for a life, right? What, in all this wide universe, could ever merit such a
sacrifice? Who is important enough or worthy enough that any father should 
consider, even for a moment, having to murder his own son to save them? It 
spits
in the face of all that is good and right! Tell me, who could possibly be 
that worth saving? Who?

What kind of God is that?
What kind of father?
What kind of love would ever do such a thing?

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Genesis 22
Recording
http://www.lnwhymns.com/data/mp3/447.mp3
Printed Music & Lyrics
http://www.lnwhymns.com/Hymn.aspx?ID=447
Lyrics

A father loves his treasured son,
His precious child, his only one.
He hears a call from God above,
The summons to a higher love.
O glimpse the drama here begun,
When God will give His Greater Son.

The father takes the fire and blade.
His trusting son is unafraid.
He carries, from his father’s hand,
The wood on which his death is planned.
What suffering floods the father’s eye?
His will is fixed, his weapon high.

Today’s rehearsal now is done,
But see the drama just begun.
Another day the knife will fall,
And life will spill to bathe us all.
See every heart below, above
Aflame with all the Father’s love!

Even the Smallest Details

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with 
thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. - (
Philippians 4:6)

When I was growing up, pet stores would sell little bunnies and blue- and 
pink-dyed chicks during the Easter season. People would buy these cute 
little
bunnies and chicks and take them home, but the problem of course is that 
little chicks turn into chickens, and little bunnies become full-grown 
rabbits.
They grow up. Little things turn into big things.

When it comes to prayer, we sometimes only think about the big things. But 
nothing is too small to bring to God in prayer. He is interested in even the
smallest details.

The apostle Paul said in Philippians 4, “Be anxious for nothing, but in 
everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests 
be
made known to God” (verse 6). Notice he didn’t say, “In only the big, hairy, 
scary things of life, pray. Only pull out the prayers when things get really
bad. Otherwise, just sort it out yourself.”

Rather, Paul said, “In everything by prayer and supplication, with 
thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Little things turn 
into big things.
And little problems turn into big problems.

Nothing is too small or too big to bring to God. “In everything by prayer 
and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to 
God.”
Do I give thanks to God before the prayer is answered? Absolutely. Do I 
offer thanksgiving to God even if He doesn’t answer the prayer the way that 
I prayed
it? Absolutely. Because God is in control, and He has a purpose.

If we see God in all of His glory, we will see our problems in their proper 
perspective. It is not that your problem isn’t serious; it is just that your
God is greater. And if you see that, it will change the way that you pray.

Copyright ©️ 2015 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. 
Copyright ©️ 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

How Should We Understand the Stories of the Old Testament?

For the next 10 weeks we will focus on how to understand the Old Testament. 
Many people find parts of the Old Testament daunting and challenging to 
understand.
In the weeks to come we’ll break it all down, bit by bit, looking at the 
land of the Bible, the book of Genesis, the Law, the books of the prophets, 
the
eras of the kings, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and more. We begin today with how 
to read the narrative stories of the Old Testament.

Perhaps you know someone or a group who would like to follow along with “How 
to Understand the Bible.” They can get more info and sign up at Bible 
Gateway

HERE.
http://links.biblegateway.mkt4731.com/ctt?kn=3&ms=NDc1ODM0OTYS1&r=MjcyMTE4NzE1MDUS1&b=0&j=NTgxNzg0NDU5S0&mt=1&rt=0

_____________________________

When I was a boy, I was given a set of recordings of dramatized Bible 
stories, and they captivated my attention. They were well-produced audio 
narrations
complete with sound effects like the clanking of swords, rushing waters, 
roaring lions, chariots, and nails being driven through Jesus’ hands. The 
stories
lodged in my head as I listened to the recordings over and over.

It is common in Christian churches for children to be taught the Bible story 
by story. Then, somehow, we get the idea that as adults we can handle the
higher truths we find in places like the epistles of the New Testament. But 
this is to miss the grand scheme of the Bible. The backbone of the Bible is
story or narrative. If we look at the whole sweep of Scripture from Genesis 
to Revelation, there is one grand story: the creation, the fall of humanity
into sin and corruption, God’s efforts at redeeming humanity, and the final 
remaking of all things. This is the metanarrative of the Bible.

That big story is divided into two large narratives: God working through a 
chosen people (the old covenant), and then, with the coming of Jesus, how 
God
forged a new covenant open to people from every part of the world. Break 
that down further, and we get to the individual stories of Joseph, of the 
exodus,
of Ruth, of Joshua, of the destruction of Jerusalem, of Daniel in 
Babylon—and hundreds of others. So how should we understand the narratives 
of the Old
Testament, which constitute almost half of the Old Testament text?

1. We should read individual narratives in their specific contexts, but with 
the wider narratives in mind. The story of Ruth, for instance, is a rich and
poignant story within itself, about struggle, commitment, faith, and 
redemption. But then we learn that Ruth was the great-grandmother of King 
David, so
she fits into the wider Old Testament picture. More amazing, this woman from 
Moab is listed in the genealogy of Jesus because of her lineage with David
(
Matt. 1:5).
So the significance of the story of Ruth goes beyond her relatives and the 
harvesting of grain.

2. We should take Old Testament narratives at face value, reading for the 
natural sense. The purpose of narrative is to tell us what happened and to 
help
us understand the broad significance of what happened. Not every story has a 
moral. The account of Joshua leading the Hebrews across the Jordan River 
means
exactly that. We should not assume there is some symbolic meaning to the 
river, or to Joshua, or to the place where they crossed. It is wrong-headed 
to
impose a symbolic or allegorical meaning on a biblical story. It is 
misleading and it is arbitrary. It assumes there is a hidden meaning to 
biblical stories,
which leaves the normal Bible reader to ask: “I wonder what I’m missing 
here?” No, we should assume the biblical writer meant something specific, 
coherent,
and intelligible story by story. This is to read Scripture on its own terms, 
respecting the intentionality of the biblical authors. Taking Old Testament
narratives at face value removes much of the anxiety we might have if we are 
always looking for some supposed hidden meaning.

3. We should also avoid moralizing or spiritualizing every Old Testament 
story we read. What, for instance, might be the moral to the story of Jacob 
deceiving
his brother Esau and later his uncle Laban, cheating each of them out of a 
fortune? The text does not condemn what Jacob did, nor does it endorse his 
actions.
The narrative simply tells us what happened. The story of Joshua’s battle 
for the city of Ai does not mean we ought to obliterate our enemies in life.
The story of Isaac finding a wife (
Gen. 24)
does not give us a method of dating. And Moses going into the tabernacle 
under the cloud of God’s glory is not a guideline for how we should pray or 
worship.
These stories have great significance in the wider narrative of Scripture, 
but we reduce that significance when we go looking for a “moral to the 
story.”
However, these stories do illustrate truths or morals that are taught 
elsewhere in Scripture. That is the best way to read them.

4. We should learn from the complex lives of the characters of biblical 
stories. We could feel a lot of tension over the fact that even the great 
heroes
of faith in the Old Testament had faults and overt transgressions. The 
narrative usually doesn’t come right out and flag what was honorable or 
despicable
behavior. It is assumed we will figure that out based on the parts of 
Scripture that do teach morality. The Bible is wonderfully honest. The 
characters
in the narratives are all sinners, yet they are part of the historic 
unfolding of the greatest story of Scripture: the story of God.

5. We should read through biblical narrative seeing it as the great story of 
God who is its central character. The narrative of the Old Testament reveals
the Creator of all things as the God of holiness and of love. In the stories 
we witness the God of holiness for whom right and wrong, good and evil, 
really
do matter. And his love is seen in his patience, forgiveness, guidance, 
protection, and mercy.

What is true of all great narratives, and especially the narratives of Holy 
Scripture, is that every time we go through them, we will see something new.
A detail here and there. An attitude in one of the characters. A sight, 
smell, or sound. A silhouette of an attribute of God. And we will see 
ourselves,
not by imposing ourselves on the narrative, but when we recognize a hope we’ve 
had or devastation we’ve experienced. We see our sins, not just the sins
of the characters in the story. And we see hope for all of us who would be 
without hope if not for the mercy of God.

Care too ffer feedback this week?

Next time: “What is the Big Picture of the Book of Beginnings?”
Resources
Visit
Bible Gateway Visit The Brook Network
View books by Mel Lawrenz
Follow The Brook Network on
Facebook
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.

Rejoicing in All Seasons
by Debbie Holloway, Crosswalk.com
Family
Editor

“The hope of the righteous brings joy”
(Proverbs 10:28).

I’m currently in the process of moving – but only a few miles away. During 
the intense first weekend of driving back and forth constantly from the old
house to the new apartment, I was always amused when I passed by one curious 
little house. We began moving in on Valentine’s Day weekend, and this little
brick house by the roadside was decked in red and white lights and glowing 
hearts dotting their lawn. During the daylight it was easy to miss the 
house,
but come nightfall it stood out like a beacon of Valentine’s Day glory.

A few days after Valentine’s Day passed, however, the hue emanating from the 
house transformed from red to chipper Irish green as the occupants geared
up for St. Patrick’s day – complete with shamrocks instead of hearts. My 
initial reaction to this was something like, Wow. These folks really love 
their
holidays.

As I would drive past the house over the following days and weeks, it got me 
thinking something else, though. Very few of us embrace change so 
exuberantly
as these (I imagine) quaint little homeowners. Very few of us throw 
ourselves wholeheartedly into the season of right now. It’s tempting for 
many of us
to leave the Christmas lights up past New Years, simply because it’s hard to 
let go of the nostalgia of that warm, fuzzy time. Many of us are picky about
what we celebrate. Not these folks, though! They seem delighted just to be 
able to revel in the fact that we have holidays.

That’s an attitude I could probably learn from. I think of Jesus turning 
water to wine, of all the celebrations, holidays and jubilees that God 
instituted
for the Jews, and I think – God loves an excuse to have joy and celebration! 
If I can smile, rejoice, and bring attention to a thing of beauty and 
excitement,
I think I should. Just like the people who use every holiday as an excuse to 
dress up their little house and share a little light with the neighbors.

Intersecting
Faith
and Life: Do you roll your eyes at the exuberance of others? Or do you take 
every opportunity to rejoice in the beauty of the world around us? Take a
moment to celebrate something small.

Further Reading

Leviticus 25:8
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Post  Admin on Fri 06 Mar 2015, 7:27 pm

Dorcas

Her name means: "Gazelle"; "Tabitha" Is Its Hebrew Equivalent

Her character: An inhabitant of Joppa, a town on the Mediterranean coast, 
thirty-five miles northwest of Jerusalem, she belonged to one of the 
earliest
Christian congregations. She was a disciple known for her practical works of 
mercy.
Her sorrow: To have suffered a grave illness.
Her joy: To serve Jesus by serving the poor.
Key Scriptures:
Acts 9:36-43

Her Story

The winds roared over the coast, piling water in noisy heaps along the rocky 
shoreline. But though she lay quietly in the upper room of her house near
the sea, Dorcas did not hear them. Nor did she notice the waves of grief 
that spilled into the room from the heart of every woman present. For once 
she
had nothing to offer, no word of comfort, no act of kindness to soften their 
suffering. Instead, she lay still as other women ministered to her, tenderly
sponging her body clean to prepare it for burial.

As Peter approached the house, he could hear the noise of mourning, a sound 
more desolate than the tearing wind. Two men had summoned him from Lydda, 
where
he had just healed a paralytic. They urged him to come quickly because one 
of the Lord's disciples in Joppa had died. He had come in haste, hoping to 
reach
Dorcas before she had to be buried.

As soon as he entered the room where her body lay, the widows surrounded him 
with tangible evidence of the woman they had loved, weeping as they held up
robes and other items Dorcas had sewn to clothe the poor. Quickly, Peter 
shooed them from the room, as though to clear the atmosphere of despair. 
Then
he knelt beside her body.

As Peter prayed, he remembered a promise Jesus had made: "I tell you the 
truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do 
even
greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." His faith 
rising like the wind outside, Peter addressed the dead woman, saying, 
"Tabitha,
get up." Taking her by the hand, he actually helped her to her feet.

The next day, Dorcas stood alone on the roof of her house. The shore was 
littered with driftwood, trinkets from yesterday's storm. She breathed 
deeply,
inhaling the sea's salty tang, soothed by the sound of waves lapping the 
rocks below. Strangely, the view looked somehow transparent, as though 
another
world waited just behind the curtain of this one. Dorcas shaded her eyes 
with her hand, peering out at the sea. But she saw nothing other than the 
usual
collection of fishing boats bobbing in the waves.

Sighing, she turned and went inside. She had things to do—clothes to sew, 
bread to bake, the poor to feed and clothe. But even in the midst of her 
busy
preparations, her longing for that other world increased, like hunger pangs 
before a feast. She fed that longing with her many practical acts of love.

...

Though we don't know what went through Peter's mind as he knelt and prayed 
at Dorcas's bedside, we do know that God worked through him in an 
extraordinary
way. And though Scripture doesn't tell us how Dorcas responded to her 
incredible experience, it doesn't take much to imagine her joy. The story of 
her
miracle spread throughout Joppa, leading many to believe.

Her Promise

God is glorified in the story of Dorcas, not only in her being raised from 
the dead, but through her acts of kindness, her generosity, and her 
willingness
to go out of her way to offer help to others. Don't think you must do great 
and noble and noticeable acts for your life to glorify God. He will be 
glorified
through your simple acts of love and obedience, whatever they are, wherever 
you are.

Today's devotional is drawn from
Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture
by Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda. Visit
AnnSpangler.com
to learn more about Ann's writing and ministry.


Global Prayer Digest People of the Day
Sorani Kurds
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Sorani Kurds
Dec 09, 2014 12:00 am

Today's Devotional

Ephesians 4:19, ESV "They have become callous and have given themselves up 
to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity."

When someone loses sensibility regarding God’s will, they often continue in 
a continual quest for more of what takes them further from Him. The downward
cycle leads to spiritual death.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to bring sensibility to those in the Arab World who 
are lost in the darkness of their thinking. Pray for members of ISIS to 
recognize
that they are acting as Satan’s tools, and that they must turn or face 
eternal consequences.

Today's People Group

Crucifixions. Beheadings. Ethnic cleansing. Tens of thousands of people 
trapped atop a mountain with bloodthirsty militants surrounding them. This 
is what
the Sorani Kurds, as well as Iraqi Christians, faced in August 2014 as the 
Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants advanced through northern
Iraq and up Mount Sinjar.
Many times throughout their history Sorani Kurds have fled to the mountains 
from oppressors. Until last summer, 10-12 million Sorani Kurds lived in 
northern
Iraq and western Iran. Meanwhile, 35-40 million Kurds live in Turkey, Syria, 
Iran, and other areas of Iraq.
The Kurds are the largest people group in the world that does not have a 
land of their own. Though landless, their mark is made through language. 
Sorani
Kurdish is the most developed and universally understood Kurdish dialect in 
Iran and Iraq.
Nearly all Sorani speaking Kurds are Muslim; less than .05 percent are 
Christian. However, Christian workers have established schools, medical 
clinics,
media centers and churches, all with the blessing of the regional, 
Kurdish-based government. A final revision of the Bible in the Sorani 
Kurdish language
is expected to be completed this month.

Pray for this Bible translation to be read, embraced, and obeyed by Sorani 
speakers. Pray for the development of leaders to plant Sorani speaking house
churches throughout the Middle East. Pray that the Kurds would replace their 
pursuit of establishing their own nation with the goal of establishing the
kingdom of God in their hearts.

Learn more at
Joshua Project.

Lent: A Time for Reflection
Saturday, February 28, 2015

Distressed? Agitated? Afraid? Would you use these words to describe Jesus?

In the gospel of Mark, we read the following: They went to a place called 
Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, Sit here while I pray He took 
with
Him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And 
He said to them, I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep
awake(Mark 14:32-34).

In Day 10 of Adam Hamiltons 40 Days of Reflection, he reminds us that Jesus 
was feeling what any human should feel when facing what He was going to 
face.
In Jesus Christ, God experienced anguish, sorrow, and suffering as human 
beings do.

In Hebrews 4:15-16, Paul wrote, For we do not have a high priest unable to 
sympathize with our weaknesses, but, we have one who in every respect has 
been
tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of 
grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in
time of need.

Have you ever been distressed, agitated or afraid? I have. I recall a time 
in February 2007 when I received a phone call from the wife of my oldest 
son.
My son was being Lifeflighted to a Tulsa hospital for an injury he'd 
sustained in an accident.

My son, who is what you would describe as a horse whisperer, had been 
picking up a horse from a client when the horse was spooked. Whirling 
around, the
horse kicked, striking my son in the side of the face and knocking him 
unconscious. Thank the Lord, my son was not alone. A friend called 911.

Arriving at the hospital, our family learned a CAT Scan had revealed a crack 
in the base of my sons skull. Spinal fluid was also leaking from his nose.
It didn't look good. As the doctor returned to tend to my son, I paced the 
halls of the hospital, praying like I'd never prayed before. I said, God, I
know it must have distressed you to see your Son go to the cross. I can't 
imagine what you were feeling but Father God, please don't take my son. I'd 
rather
give up my life instead

It was in that moment that I understood, really understood, how much God 
loves us.

By the way, God heard this mothers prayers. When the doctor returned, a 
second CAT Scan revealed there was no crack in my sons skull and no 
evidence
of spinal fluid leaking from his nose. When the doctor said, I can't 
explain it,I replied, I can. With a smile of gratitude, I said, It was 
the greatest
physician of all

When we are agitated, sorrowful, overwhelmed and afraid, we can find comfort 
that Jesus understands. Doesn't that bring you comfort?

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent 
journey: Mark 14:32-34

Carol Round
Columnist/Author/Speaker
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Post  Admin on Thu 05 Mar 2015, 8:33 pm

Lent '15 FORGIVENESS

"In whom we have ... the forgiveness of sins."Ephesians 1:7.

Beware of the pleasant view of the Fatherhood of God-
God is so kind and loving that of course He will forgive us.

That sentiment has no place whatever in the New Testament.

The only ground on which God can forgive us is-
- the tremendous tragedy of the Cross of Christ;
- to put forgiveness on any other ground is unconscious blasphemy.

The only ground on which God can forgive sin and reinstate us in His favour 
is-
- through the Cross of Christ, and in no other way.

Forgiveness, which is so easy for us to accept, cost the agony of Calvary.
It is possible to take the forgiveness of sin, the gift of the Holy Spirit, 
and our sanctification with the simplicity of faith, and to forget at what
enormous cost to God it was all made ours.

Forgiveness is the divine miracle of grace!
It cost God the Cross of Jesus Christ before He could forgive sin and remain 
a holy God.

Never accept a view of the Fatherhood of God if it blots out the Atonement.
The revelation of God is that He cannot forgive; He would contradict His 
nature if He did.

The only way we can be forgiven is by being brought back to God by the 
Atonement.
God's forgiveness is only natural in the supernatural domain.
Compared with the miracle of the forgiveness of sin, the experience of 
sanctification is slight.
Sanctification is simply the marvellous expression of the forgiveness of 
sins in a human life-
- but the thing that awakens the deepest well of gratitude in a human being 
is that God has forgiven sin.

When once you realize all that it cost God to forgive you-
- you will be constrained by the love of God.

Posted by: Lenten Lessons

Rebecca Barlow Jordan

Five Signs of a Spiritual Freeze-Up

Can you detect the five signs of a spiritual freeze-up?

We can’t prevent the snow blanketing much of our country. Will winter never 
end? But a more serious condition can paralyze us. Can you recognize the 
five
signs of a spiritual freeze-up?

1. Life Becomes Boring

Just like endless days of winter, we may choose to soothe our spirits with 
meaningless pursuits. We may feel boxed in by uncontrollable circumstances 
and
try unsuccessfully to curb the new chill of boredom. Instead of tuning our 
spirits, we often turn to things that won’t last–even harmful habits that 
set
us up for failure. Our spiritual growth begins to suffer.

2. We Question Our Purpose

Can one person really make a difference in this world? Reasons can turn to 
excuses, and doubts plague us constantly. We’re too tired or busy to pray, 
or
God’s too busy to listen, right? Five years from now? We can’t even see 
beyond today. We no longer see others’ needs. The forecast predicts another 
Arctic
cold wave, and our spiritual growth takes a nosedive.

3. We Listen to the Wrong Voices

“Why bother trying? Nothing seems to work. No one cares what we do, anyway. 
And others are far more talented than us. We’re not qualified. This pattern
will never end. Why don’t we hang it up? Just quit.” Dust gathers on the 
shelf along with our Bibles. The temperature is dropping, but we can’t feel 
it.
Spiritual growth is stagnant.

4. God Turns Up the Heat

God turns up the heat, but frost has formed on the edges of our hearts, and 
the thermostat drops lower. We grab a sweater, but it does no good. Our 
spiritual
wardrobe is threadbare. The warmth of His Spirit hovers close, but we can no 
longer feel it. If we don’t act soon, the pipes may freeze. No spiritual 
growth.

5. We Ignore Help

God’s gentle nudges go unheeded. He calls, but we can no longer hear His 
voice. His pressure ramps up, but our hearts are numb. We’re too scared–or 
proud–to
ask for help. Our spiritual growth has frozen, and only a miracle can thaw 
our spirits. We are iced in by a spiritual freeze-up. And we don’t know what
to do. Sounds like a pretty bleak picture, doesn’t it? But the good news is, 
God still waits on the other side of that door:

Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If 
anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and 
fellowship
with him and he with me” (Revelations 3:20, TLB).

Spring Will Come Again! Only
Jesus
can keep life exciting and purposeful, even in the dead of winter doldrums. 
Give thanks daily that He hasn’t abandoned you (Psalm37:28) 
and that He has a wonderful plan for your life (Jeremiah 29:11). Take 
time to listen to Jesus. He will always speak truth to you from His Word
(John 17:17). Recognize the discipline and warnings Jesus gives you. Run to 
His open arms of love (Psalm 31:7).

Love Worth Finding Ministries

Let Jesus Lead the Way

BIBLE MEDITATION:
“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in 
the Lord.”
Psalm 31:24

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Who knows you better than the One who created you? Who cares more for you 
than the One Who died for you? Who leads you more carefully than the One Who
knows the end from the beginning? There is no greater picture of courage 
than the picture of Jesus Christ—the Savior Who lays down His life. You can 
know
security because the One Who loves you is compassionate, caring, and 
courageous. Jesus knows you. He cares for you. He wants to lead you into the 
abundant
life.
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The Jesus Code

Is There Still Anyone... That I May Show Him Kindness? -
2 Samuel 9:1

Is there anyone in your sphere of relationships to whom you could show some 
kindness?

It was King David’s greatest hour when he asked this question. At this point 
in his pilgrimage, there was no blemish on his character or integrity. In
fulfillment of the longstanding prophecy, David was finally sitting on top 
of his world—he was on the throne of Israel. King Saul, his predecessor and
nemesis, had been slain by the Philistines on the battlefield of Mount 
Gilboa. Tragically, Jonathan—Saul’s son and David’s best friend—was also 
killed
alongside his father. David grieved and lamented over their deaths, but 
sometime later, overwhelmed by God’s goodness to him, the new king asked, 
“Is there
still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness 
for Jonathan’s sake?” (
2 Samuel 9:1).

That’s when David heard of Jonathan’s son named Mephibosheth. 
Poverty-stricken, unshaven, crippled since a childhood accident, and living 
in hiding at
a place called Lodebar, this man was totally unaware that he was in a 
covenant relationship with the new king.

There is no clearer picture of integrity in action than in this personal 
drama. David, of whom the psalmist Asaph would later say, led his people 
with
“the integrity of his heart, and . . . the skillfulness of his hand” (
Psalm 78:72).
David now acted on his longstanding promise to his beloved Jonathan. This 
story reveals that a person of integrity is not only one who remembers his 
promises
but one who keeps them as well.

A Person of Integrity Remembers His Promises

This friendship between David and Jonathan begins in
1 Samuel 20.
David, the young shepherd boy, had burst from obscurity and slain the giant, 
Goliath. Immediately, this handsome young man became the rage of 
Jerusalem—and
burning with jealousy, King Saul set out to bring him down. Jonathan, 
however, knew that the Lord was with David, and these friends entered into a 
covenant
relationship, each promising to care for the other’s descendants. Later, 
Jonathan died in battle and David was crowned king. In the aftermath, he 
learned
about a forgotten son of Jonathan who was still living.

In his boyhood, Mephibosheth had lived in King Saul’s palace and enjoyed all 
the king’s provision. Upon hearing of the death of both Saul and Jonathan,
all of the palace servants fled for their lives. As they fled, a nurse 
picked up young Mephibosheth and, in her haste to exit, dropped him and 
crushed
his legs, and he became “lame in both his feet” (
2 Samuel 9:13).
Mephibosheth hid in a filthy refugee camp plagued by poverty. The years 
passed, and he assumed he was at least safe there. Poverty-stricken and 
forgotten,
but safe.

Meanwhile, David remembered the promise he had made to Jonathan and began to 
take care of this unfinished business. After all, Jonathan had saved David
from death, and now he was determined to find out if he could help anyone 
left in the house of Saul who might still be alive. A man of integrity, 
David
remembered his promise to Jonathan.

Tragically, in our modern culture, broken promises seem more the norm than 
the exception. Promises made at wed-ding altars are often forgotten. 
Campaign
promises on both sides of the political aisle—like “no new taxes” or “if you 
like your doctor, you can keep him”—are too often conveniently ignored. But
David’s example from centuries ago illustrates that a person of integrity 
remembers his promises.

A Person of Integrity Keeps His Promises

It is, however, one thing to remember a promise and quite another to keep 
it. David did both.

King David sent for Mephibosheth—and can you imagine how this man felt when 
the royal chariots circled in a cloud of dust and stopped at his little 
shack
in Lodebar? Undoubtedly his heart pounded as he grabbed his crutches and 
headed out his door to what he must have assumed was a certain death under 
the
new regime. He probably thought he had been found and “wanted dead or 
alive.”

Now picture Mephibosheth after he arrives at the palace and shuffles into 
the throne room of the king. He falls prostrate in fear before David. And 
then
he can’t believe the tender words he hears David speak: “Do not fear, for I 
will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will 
restore
to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my 
table continually . . . like one of the king’s sons” (
2 Samuel 9:7, 11).
David did not simply remember his promise to Jonathan; he kept it.

Now try to imagine dinner at King David’s table with all his sons in 
attendance. The room is ornate and elegant, graced with oriental rugs and 
high-back
royal dining chairs. A linen tablecloth covers the table and drapes into the 
laps of the king and his sons seated around. There is handsome Absalom with
his flowing black hair resting on his shoulders . . . and there sits Amnon, 
the clever and crafty one. Later they are joined by Solomon. And then comes
the sound. It is the sound of shuffling feet accompanied by the clump, 
clump, clump of crutches. Mephibosheth is taking his place among all the 
king’s
sons at the king’s table.

Continue to use your imagination for a moment. Suppose no one is looking, so 
you quickly climb under the table. What do you see? Legs! You follow them
around . . . one pair of muscular legs after another. And then you see two 
crooked legs dangling, not quite reaching the floor. That is the exact view
Mephibosheth had of himself during those years in exile: he was nothing more 
than a pair of useless legs.

Now climb out from under the table and take a seat near David’s at the head 
of the table. What do you see? Note how the tablecloth falls into each son’s
lap, covering their legs. From the king’s view, Mephibosheth looks just like 
all the others at the table. And this, friend, is the view the Lord Jesus
has of each of His own children, of you and of me. Let me explain.

The reality is, I was once like Mephibosheth. I too was crippled by a fall. 
I too lived in exile, in spiritual poverty. Then the King’s chariots came to
my Lodebar, and I was arrested, but not to be imprisoned. I was arrested by 
God’s forgiving and freeing love. The Holy Spirit who came to me took me to
King Jesus. At first I was uncomfortable and wanted to go back to Lodebar 
where I felt at home. But then I heard the good news, the gospel. I heard 
the
King say, “I want to make you My own child!” if you think Mephibosheth had a 
good deal, it pales next to the new covenant Jesus offers you and me! And
the really good news is, there is a place for each of us at the King’s 
table.

People of integrity remember their promises and keep them, whatever the 
cost. Perhaps you made a promise recently, or even long ago, that you need 
to remember
. . . and keep.

Q & A: “Is there anyone to whom I can show kindness?” People we encounter at 
the office and in the grocery story, people we live with at home and worship
with on Sundays, are in desperate need of kind words and deeds. Divine 
opportunities are all around you every day. Make a conscious effort today to 
show
kindness to someone . . . not for “Jonathan’s sake,” but for Jesus’ sake. 
Remember promises you have made . . . and do what you need to do to keep 
them.

This devotional is drawn from
The Jesus Code: 52 Scripture Questions Every Believer Should Answer
by O.S. Hawkins. If you enjoyed these devotional excerpts, you'll find many 
more in the complete book, available at the
Bible Gateway Store.    

Lent: A Time for Reflection

Friday, February 27, 2015

In Day 9 of Adam Hamilton’s 40 Days of Reflection, the focus is on the 
connection between the Mount of Olives and its importance in the Bible, 
specifically why Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives to pray and await his 
arrest?

My research turned up the following information in relation to Jesus’ life 
and His connection to the Mount of Olives:
It’s where Jesus taught His Disciples the Lord's Prayer
It’s where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. In Luke 19:41: “As He approached 
Jerusalem, he wept over it because ‘the days will come upon you when your 
enemies will ...dash you to the ground.’”
On the first Palm Sunday, He approached the city from the east, from the 
Mount of Olives, where the Jewish people expected the Messiah to appear - 
and where the sun rises.
He prayed the night before His crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane, 
located on the Mount of Olives.
His Ascension into Heaven occurred at the summit of the mount.
In Luke 22:39, the evangelist Luke stressed Jesus’ frequent visits to the 
Mount of Olives: “He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of 
Olives; and the disciples followed him.”

This tells us it was His custom to visit—and frequently—the Mount of Olives. 
According to Hamilton, “the Last Supper was just a stone’s throw from the 
high priest’s home where Jesus would be brought after His arrest to stand 
trial before the Sanhedrin.”

However, the garden of Gethsemane was a twenty- to twenty-five-minute walk 
from the high priest’s home. Following His arrest in the garden, Jesus was 
led in chains back down into the valley and then up Mount Zion to stand 
trial.

Hamilton says, “I recently walked that path, and I can tell you that the 
journey is strenuous and left me winded. I cannot imagine doing it in 
chains.”

But Jesus did just that. Hamilton adds, “Jesus had come to the Mount of 
Olives in part because there He felt closely connected to the mission His 
Father had sent Him to fulfill.”

In the garden, He prayed, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from 
Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

Have you yielded your heart and life to God? Have you sought His will for 
your life?

Read the following scripture today as you continue on this 40-day lent 
journey: Luke 22:39.

Carol Round
Columnist/Author/Speaker


Coping with Consequences
by Charles R. Swindoll

2 Corinthians 4:10-11, 16-18

I have found great help from two truths God gave me at a time in my life 
when I was bombarded with a series of unexpected and unfair blows (from my 
perspective).
In my darkest hours these principles still become my anchor of stability, my 
only means of survival.

Because they work for me, I pass them on to you. Memorize them. Write them 
on a card and carry it at all times.

• Nothing touches me that has not passed through the hands of my heavenly 
Father. Nothing. Whatever occurs, God has sovereignly surveyed and approved.
We may not know why, but we do know our pain is no accident to Him who 
guides our lives.
• Everything I endure is designed to prepare me for serving others more 
effectively. Everything. Since my Heavenly Father is committed to shaping me 
into
the image of His Son, He knows the ultimate value of this painful 
experience. It is being used to empty our hands of our own resources, our 
own sufficiency,
and turn us back to Him---the faithful Provider. And God knows what will get 
through to us.

Things may not be logical or fair, but when God is directing the events of 
our lives, they are right.

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.
© 2014 Insight for Living. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Afflicted

Some people paint a picture of the Christian life as a bed of roses with no 
problems or troubles. Once you become a Christian you probably find out soon 
that whoever told you that is wrong. Jesus Christ does give you peace, joy 
and love but never promises a carefree life. You may not understand why the 
things are happening to you. The afflictions may have come to test you like 
Job was tested. The Lord may be disciplining you. Here are some verses 
dealing with this:

Psalm 118:17-18 (NASB95)
17 I will not die, but live,
And tell of the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has disciplined me severely,
But He has not given me over to death.

Psalm 119:67, 71, 75, 107 (NASB95)
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word …
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes …
75 I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous,
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me…
107 I am exceedingly afflicted;
Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.

Job 5:17-18 (NASB95)
17 “Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves,
So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
He wounds, and His hands also heal.

Proverbs 3:11-12 (NASB95)
11 My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord
Or loathe His reproof,
Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

Hosea 6:1 (NASB95)
1 “Come, let us return to the Lord.
For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will dbandage us.

This Scripture tells us that if the Lord has afflicted us, He loves us and 
will heal us. This should give us hope. As Jeremiah wrote:

Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB95)
11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord , ‘ 
plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope .

In Sunday school one day we were studying in the book of James. The subject 
of healing came up. A chiropractor said that some of his patients ask if God 
will ever heal them. He answers, “Yes, but you may not know it in this 
life.” WE may not understand our afflictions but we know that Jesus Christ 
will take them away but it may not be until we see him face to face. Keep 
trusting in him until he does take the affliction away.

by Dean W. Masters

Owner of the Master's List
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Daily Devotional by John Piper

Amazed at the Resurrection

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of 
them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder.
(2 Peter 3:1)

As Easter approaches, let’s stir up our thankfulness and joy and admiration 
and amazement at what the resurrection of Jesus means for us. The curse of
our fallen nature is that what once thrilled us becomes ordinary. The 
reality hasn’t changed. We have changed.

This is why the Bible exists. Peter says of his two letters that they are 
written to “stir up” or “arouse” by means of “reminder.”

So let’s stir up our sincere minds by way of reminder.

What has God done in raising Jesus from the dead? Here are a few biblical 
answers.

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we are born again to a living hope.

1 Peter 1:3:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his 
great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the 
resurrection
of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Because of Jesus’s resurrection, he now has the glory for which we were 
made. Our ultimate destiny is to see him as he is.

1 Peter 1:21:
“God . . . raised him from the dead and gave him glory.”

John 17:5,
24:
“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had 
with you before the world existed. . . . Father, I desire that they also, 
whom
you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have 
given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

May the risen Lord Jesus himself arouse your sincere mind to new depths of 
worship and allegiance and joy.

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

Four Curtains, Three Doors, but One Christ

Exodus 26:1 "Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of 
fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs 
of
cherubim you shall weave them. This is the 1st Curtain - - The first of the 
four layers coving the Tabernacle frame was WHITE linen. This pure white 
linen
was carefully woven through with three other colors (blue, purple, and 
scarlet) to make a total of FOUR COLORS. This first or inner curtain was the 
only
curtain visible from the inside of the Tabernacle. Carefully designed into 
this curtain, were the Cherubim. Our Father in Heaven, the Great Designer of
the Tabernacle, has given to us a beautiful picture of our Lord.

· PERFECT RIGHTEOUSNESS: This curtain we can say REPRESENTS CHRIST'S PERFECT 
RESURRECTION GLORY. His perfect righteousness in the "fine-twined linen" 
which
was a pure white Egyptian linen of which it has been said the world is not 
capable of producing today.

· PERFECT REPRESENTATION OF GOD: His Four-fold presentation in the Gospels 
are anticipated in the four colors representing Christ as the Son of God 
(blue
or Deity - Eagle), as King (purple or royalty - Lion), and as the 
Sacrificial Servant of God (scarlet or sacrificial - Ox) and Perfect Son of 
Man (white
or perfection - man). These colors are the same as God instructed for the 
fabricating of the Outer Court gate.

· NO SIN ALLOWED: There is one special difference. There are Cherubim woven 
into this entrance curtain to the Holy Place. No Cherubim appear in the 
Outer
Court gate curtain because that Door was open to all sinners. But this was 
the doorway to intimacy with God and sin excludes us. Cherubim are the 
guardians
of His holiness. God established this truth when He placed Cherubim at the 
east entrance to the Garden of Eden to guard the Tree of Life after Adam had
sinned (Gen. 3:24).

Exodus 26:7 "You shall also make curtains of goats' hair, to be a tent over 
the tabernacle. You shall make eleven curtains." This is the 2nd Curtain - 
The
second curtain was one of goat's hair. We find it completely hidden from 
view to the priest inside the Tabernacle. It was not hidden from view of 
those
outside. It was sandwiched between the pure white (Christ's Righteousness) 
and the red (Christ's Substitutionary Death). This black curtain is Christ's
becoming sin for us. This is Christ's IMPUTATION. This is starting to sound 
like a CEF "wordless book", and that is exactly what the Lord is doing.

· BLACK FOR SIN: Black Goat's Hair. The goat's hair depicts for us the 
blackness of sin-the sin of fallen mankind. The Palestinian goat was black, 
and
still is today. The goat is invariably used in a bad sense throughout 
Scripture. We read concerning the separation of the sheep from the goats in 
respect
to the good and bad nations (Matt. 25:32). Goats were used as a sin offering 
to God; this we find in Leviticus 16:5. This, therefore, pictures for us the
blackness of sin. Leviticus 16:5 And he shall take from the congregation of 
the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a sin offering, and one ram
as a burnt offering.

To continue reading about the 2nd curtain & the final 2 curtains please copy 
and paste this URL into your browser bar:
http://www.dtbm.org/sermon/four-curtains-three-doors-but-one-christ/

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

Relaxing
by Charles R. Swindoll

Psalm 27

I love memories. Today I've been remembering a perfect Monday evening from 
years back. . . .

The smell of homemade clam chowder greeted me as I walked through the front 
door. After kissing the kids and hugging the cook, I settled into my 
favorite
chair, loosened my tie, and kicked off my shoes---just in time to watch the 
beginning of the game.

Our two youngest were upstairs fiddling around with a rabbit, two hamsters, 
and a guinea pig. Our older daughter was on the phone with her best friend,
whom she hadn't seen for at least two hours. Curt was sitting on the floor 
in his room strumming his guitar and singing "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My 
Head."
In between chopped onions and diced potatoes, Cynthia was doubled over with 
laughter in the kitchen as she tried to finish a chapter of Erma Bombeck's
latest book.

No amount of money can buy that feeling of incredible contentment, that 
inner sense of fulfillment, that surge of release and relief as the noise 
and pace
of the world are muffled by the sounds and smells and sights of a happy, 
relaxed evening at home.

What therapy! How essential! And yet how seldom we really relax. It's almost 
as though we are afraid to slow down, shift into neutral, and let the motor
idle.

We place such a high priority on achievement that we actually feel guilty 
when we accomplish nothing over a period of several hours. This is 
underscored
by the number of churches who literally brag about "something for everybody 
every night of the week"!

Relaxing isn't automatic, is it? It's a skill that must be learned. Here are 
a couple of suggestions to help you cultivate that skill:

Block out several evenings each month on your calendar. Make special plans 
to do nothing except something you (or your family) would enjoy.

Each day, look for times when something humorous or unusual makes laughter 
appropriate . . . then laugh out loud! That helps flush out the nervous 
system.

And when you relax, really relax.

A relaxed, easy-going Christian is far more attractive and effective than 
the rigid,
uptight brother who squeaks when he walks and whines when he talks.

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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Welcome to the Illustrator
Today's Bible Verse:

"Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the 
hand." (Psalm 37:24)

By Answers2Prayer
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Holding God's Hand

The first time was like a warm rush I'd never experienced before.

Holding hands normally accompanies the first date or even the puppy love 
stage before dating is allowed. The object of affection is all that runs 
through
one's mind. I remember mine. She haunted me during the night and occupied my 
mind throughout the day. I couldn't focus. On our first date, my palms ached
with sweat until her hand was finally entwined in mine.

Almost forty years later, I still enjoy holding hands, but now I do it with 
my true love--my wife. But the comfort I receive from holding her hand can't
compare to holding God's hand. "Though they stumble, they will never fall, 
for the LORD holds them by the hand" (Psalm 37:24 NLT).

In order to hold God's hand and have him grasp mine, we must be in a 
relationship. Not physical as I am with my wife but spiritual. Because I've 
accepted
the meaning of his Son's sacrifice on Calvary, God has accepted me and all 
my warts. He now observes me as holding Christ's hand. I'm his child and no
longer a sinner without hope.

Holding God's hand is more enjoyable when there's no friction between us. 
And what produces tension is willful and unconfessed sin. Sinning doesn't 
remove
me from his family, but it hinders my ability to hear him clearly. It's 
similar to having a tiff with my wife. Things won't be the same until the 
air is
cleared.

I still enjoy holding my wife's hand even though we've been married a number 
of years. And I still relish holding God's also. When I'm nurturing the 
relationship,
having his hand in mine grows sweeter every day. I'll never tire of him nor 
will he of me.

Are you holding tightly to God's hand?

Prayer: Thank You Father that Your hand of protection, comfort, guidance, 
and love always holds me tightly.

Martin Wiles
Hodges, South Carolina, USA

Announcement:

Do you need to be prayed for or do you know someone in need? Don't hesitate 
to
contact us.
We are here to pray for you and to offer you encouragements.

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

Lent: A Time for Reflection

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What is your favorite hymn? For me, it would be difficult to choose just 
one. There are so many hymns I love, like Amazing Grace and The Old Rugged 
Cross, but I could also name others I enjoy singing too.

In Day 8 of Adam Hamilton’s 40 Days of Reflection, I learned something new. 
Did you know Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn before they left for the 
Mount of Olives? I’ve read the accounts of the Last Supper in the gospels 
but I must have skimmed over this part. At least it didn’t stick in my 
memory bank.

As Jesus was preparing to lead them across the Kidron Valley to the garden 
of Gethsemane, He and His disciples chose to do this one last thing: sing a 
hymn. But not just any hymn. Traditionally, the hymn chosen to close the 
Passover Seder, which Mark is probably referring to in his gospel, comes 
from Psalm 118, which begins and ends with these words:
“O Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
His steadfast love endures forever!”

What’s so special about this hymn? It’s an invitation to trust in God even 
when we are facing our enemies. It’s also a song of praise to God even when 
we’re facing adversity.

Hamilton also tells the reader that “it is an act of trust in God, one that 
gives strength, peace and hope.”

Where does your hope come from? Are you giving praise to the Creator of all 
things for giving you the strength, peace and hope you need at just the 
right time?

Read the following scriptures today as you continue on this 40-day lent 
journey: Mark 14:26

Carol Round
Columnist/Author/Speaker

What Does It Mean to "Seek the Lord"?
by John Piper

Seeking the Lord means seeking his presence. “Presence” is a common 
translation of the Hebrew word “face.” Literally, we are to seek his “face.” 
But this
is the Hebraic way of having access to God. To be before his face is to be 
in his presence.

But aren't his children always in his presence? Yes and no. Yes in two 
senses: First, in the sense that God is omnipresent and therefore always 
near everything
and everyone. He holds everything in being. His power is ever-present in 
sustaining and governing all things.

And second, yes, he is always present with his children in the sense of his 
covenant commitment to always stand by us and work for us and turn 
everything
for our good. “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (
Matthew 28:20).

But there is a sense in which God’s presence is not with us always. For this 
reason, the Bible repeatedly calls us to “seek the Lord... seek his presence
continually.” God’s manifest, conscious, trusted presence is not our 
constant experience. There are seasons when we become neglectful of the Lord 
and give
him no thought and do not put trust in him and we find him 
“unmanifested”—that is, unperceived as great and beautiful and valuable by 
the eyes of our hearts.

His face—the brightness of his personal character—is hidden behind the 
curtain of our carnal desires. This condition is always ready to overtake 
us. That
is why we are told to “seek his presence continually.” God calls us to enjoy 
continual consciousness of his supreme greatness and beauty and worth.

This happens through “seeking.” Continual seeking. But what does that mean 
practically? Both the Old and New Testaments say it is a “setting of the 
mind
and heart” on God. It is the conscious fixing or focusing of our mind’s 
attention and our heart’s affection on God.

“Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God.” (
1 Chronicles 22:19)

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, 
where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things 
that
are above, not on things that are on earth.” (
Colossians 3:1-2)

This setting of the mind is the opposite of mental coasting. It is a 
conscious choice to direct the heart toward God. This is what Paul prays for 
the church:
“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness 
of Christ” (
2 Thessalonians 3:5).
It is a conscious effort on our part. But that effort to seek God is a gift 
from God.

We do not make this mental and emotional effort to seek God because he is 
lost. That’s why we would seek a coin or a sheep. But God is not lost. 
Nevertheless,
there is always something through which or around which we must go to meet 
him consciously. This going through or around is what seeking is. He is 
often
hidden. Veiled. We must go through mediators and around obstacles.

The heavens are telling the glory of God. So we can seek him through that. 
He reveals himself in his word. So we can seek him through that. He shows 
himself
to us in the evidences of grace in other people. So we can seek him through 
that. The seeking is the conscious effort to get through the natural means
to God himself—to constantly set our minds toward God in all our 
experiences, to direct our minds and hearts toward him through the means of 
his revelation.
This is what seeking God means.

And there are endless obstacles that we must get around in order to see him 
clearly, and so that we can be in the light of his presence. We must flee 
every
spiritually dulling activity. We must run from it and get around it. It is 
blocking our way.

We know what makes us vitally sensitive to God’s appearances in the world 
and in the word. And we know what dulls us and blinds us and makes us not 
even
want to seek him. These things we must move away from and go around if we 
would see God. That is what seeking God involves.

And as we direct our minds and hearts Godward in all our experiences, we cry 
out to him. This too is what seeking him means.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” (
Isaiah 55:6)

“If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy...” (
Job 8:5)

Seeking involves calling and pleading. O Lord, open my eyes. O Lord, pull 
back the curtain of my own blindness. Lord, have mercy and reveal yourself. 
I
long to see your face.

The great obstacle to seeking the Lord is pride. “In the pride of his face 
the wicked does not seek him” (
Psalms 10:4).
Therefore, humility is essential to seeking the Lord.

The great promise to those who seek the Lord is that he will be found. “If 
you seek him, he will be found by you” (
1 Chronicles 28:9).
And when he is found, there is great reward. “Whoever would draw near to God 
must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (
Hebrews 11:6).
God himself is our greatest reward. And when we have him, we have 
everything. Therefore, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence 
continually!”

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

By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website:
desiringGod.org
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DEAN MASTERS LIST
Mary Magdalene

Her name means: "Bitterness"

Her character: Though mistakenly characterized as a prostitute in many 
popular writings, the Bible says only that Mary was possessed by seven 
demons. She
probably suffered a serious mental or physical illness from which Jesus 
delivered her. She is a beautiful example of a woman whose life was poured 
out
in response to God's extravagant grace.
Her sorrow: To watch Jesus' agony at Calvary.
Her joy: To have been the first witness to Jesus' resurrection.
Key Scriptures:
Matthew 27:56,
61
;
28:1
;
Mark 15:40,
47; 16:1-19
;
Luke 8:2
;
24:10
;
John 19:25
;
20:1-18

Her Story

She made her way through the shadows to the garden tomb, grateful for the 
darkness that shrouded her tears. How, she wondered, could the world go on 
as
though nothing at all had happened? How could the mountains keep from 
crashing down, the sky resist falling? Had everyone but her lost their 
minds? Had
no one noticed that the world had collapsed two days ago?

For the past three years she had followed the rabbi across Galilee and 
Judea, providing for him out of her own small purse. She had loved his 
hearty laughter
and the smile that flashed across his face whenever he saw her. Wherever 
they went, she felt privileged to tell her story, grateful to be among his 
growing
band of followers.

She had grown up in Magdala, a prosperous town on the west bank of the Sea 
of Galilee. But she had not prospered. How could a woman thrive when she was
filled with demons who controlled her mind? Though she had begged for mercy, 
no mercy had been given. Instead, her delusions locked her in a nightmare
world, isolating her even from small pleasures and simple kindnesses.

But then Jesus had come. Like no rabbi she had ever encountered, he seemed 
neither afraid nor repulsed by her illness. "Mary," he had called to her, as
though he had known her all her life. Despite the heat, she shivered as he 
drew near, her stomach suddenly queasy. Though she backed away, she could 
feel
a great light advancing toward her, forcing the darkness away. Suddenly her 
familiar companions were themselves begging mercy, but no mercy was given.

Mary Magdalene, a woman possessed by seven demons, was restored to her right 
mind, her bondage a thing of the past. Eyes that had once been holes 
swallowing
the light now shone like pools reflecting the sun.

Since then, everyone in Magdala had marveled at the change in her. How could 
Mary not love such a man? How could she not want to do everything for him?
She thought she was living in heaven—to be close to Jesus; to witness 
healing after healing; to be stirred, surprised, and refreshed by his 
teaching. This,
indeed, was joy to a woman unaccustomed to joy.

But Jesus had his share of enemies, she knew. Religious leaders in Jerusalem 
had been stung by his truth-telling, offended by his galling lack of 
diplomacy.
Still, every trap they laid for him had failed … until now.

How suddenly they had struck, even though Jerusalem was crowded with 
pilgrims for Passover. The temple guard had arrested him at night and then 
turned
him over to Roman authorities, who mocked and whipped him nearly to death. 
The rabbi from Galilee, who had promised the poor in spirit they would 
surely
inherit the kingdom of heaven, was now in chains. His hunger and thirst for 
righteousness had left him not full, but empty and broken. Unblessed, he had
become a curse, his body hanging naked on a Roman cross.

Mary had done her best to fight off the shadows that crowded near again as 
she waited through the awful hours of his agony, unable to look at the 
spectacle
before her, yet unable to turn away. Whatever his suffering, she needed to 
be near him.

When it was over, she had watched Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea unfasten 
his body from the cross. Gently they had wrapped him in myrrh and aloe, 
enough
for a king's burial. Finally, as the stone rolled across the tomb, sealing 
it shut, she had turned away.

After the Sabbath was over, on the next day, Mary purchased yet more spices. 
Before the sun came up on Sunday, she approached the tomb. How on earth, she
wondered, could she roll away the massive stone? But, to her surprise, the 
mouth of tomb lay wide open. Strips of linen were lying on the floor and the
burial cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus' head was folded up by 
itself. What had they done with his body? she wondered. To be cheated of 
this last
chance of touching him and caring for him was more than she could bear.

She stood outside the tomb weeping. Then, bending over, she looked inside. 
Two creatures in white sat on the stony shelf where the body had been laid.
"Woman, why are you crying?" they asked.

"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have 
put him." Then she turned and saw a man studying her.

"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"

Mistaking him for the gardener, she pleaded, "Sir, if you have carried him 
away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

"Mary," he said.

Startled, she cried out, "Rabboni" (meaning Teacher).

By now the sun had risen. With it fled the darkness that had pursued her 
ever since she had heard the news of his arrest. Jesus, the one who had 
raised
her from a living death, had himself risen from the dead.

Mary fell to the ground in awe, remembering the words of the prophet Isaiah: 
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in
the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." The garden that had so 
recently been a place of shadows and gloom now seemed green and bright, as
though paradise itself had broken through.

The risen Jesus had appeared, not to rulers and kings, nor even first of all 
to his male disciples, but to a woman whose love had held her at the cross
and led her to the grave. Mary Magdalene, a person who had been afflicted by 
demons, whose testimony would not have held up in court because she was a
woman, was the first witness of the resurrection. Once again, God had 
revealed himself to the lowly, and it would only be the humble whose hearing 
was
sharp enough to perceive the message of his love.

Her Promise

Jesus not only knew Mary's name, he knew everything about her. He remembered 
the day he had cast the demons out of her. He remembered her many practical
kindnesses. He saw how she suffered with him as she watched him die on the 
cross.

Just as Jesus knew the intimate details of Mary's life, he knows about you. 
When you are tempted to lose hope, when life seems too empty to go on, when
grief overwhelms you—Jesus cares. When those you love have let you down, 
when you think you can't go on for another minute, when your problems crush 
you—Jesus
cares. He calls your name, just as he called Mary's. And you, too, can go on 
like the women who went from the tomb, perhaps still a bit afraid yet 
"filled
with joy" (
Matthew 28:8).

Today's devotional is drawn from
Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture
by Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda. Visit
AnnSpangler.com

O for a thankful heart!

(James Smith,
"The Pastor's Morning Visit")

"Be thankful!" Colossians 3:15

What tremendous cause we have to be thankful--what marvelous reasons we have 
to be grateful!

We are surrounded by mercies, both temporal and spiritual. If we look back, 
we ought to rejoice that . . .
God has chosen us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world;
He sent His only-begotten Son into the world, to be an atoning sacrifice for 
our sins;
He sent His Holy Spirit into our hearts, to convince us of sin, lead us to 
Jesus, and make us fit for Heaven!

We have . . .
His Word in our hands,
His grace in our hearts,
His mercies in our houses,
His Heaven before our eyes!

O for a thankful heart!

Let us take our poor, hard, ungrateful hearts to Jesus--He can soften them 
and fill them with gratitude!

Let us confess our ingratitude before Him, and mourn over our unthankfulness 
at His feet.

O Jesus, grant us a deep sense of our utter unworthiness, and of Your 
unmerited goodness--that our souls may daily praise You with joyful lips! 
May we
live . . .
as thankful dependents on Your gracious bounty;
as grateful, loving children, before our Father and our God
--and daily be thankful.

Through all eternity, to You,
A joyful song I'll raise;
But O eternity's too short,
To utter all Your praise!

Daily Devotional by John Piper

The Kind of Cold That Kills

He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
(Psalm 147:15)

Tonight it will be 40 degrees warmer in our kitchen freezer than it is 
outside here in Minneapolis. The high temperature tomorrow will be five 
degrees
below zero (Fahrenheit). We receive this from the Lord’s hand.

He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
(Psalm 147:15–18)

This is the kind of cold you do not play with. It kills.

When I came to Minnesota from South Carolina, I dressed for it. But I did 
not prepare life-saving support in my car in case of a break down.

One Sunday night on the way home from church, in this kind of cold, my car 
died. This was before cell phones. I had two small children in the car.

There was no one on this road. I suddenly realized, this is dangerous.

Soon it was very dangerous. No one came.

I saw in the distance through a fence a house. I am the father. This is my 
job. I climbed the fence and ran to the house and knocked on the door. They
were home. I explained that I had a wife and two small children in the car, 
and asked if they would let us in. They did.

This is a kind of cold you do not play with.

It is one more way God says, “Whether hot or cold, high or deep, sharp or 
blunt, loud or quiet, bright or dark . . . don’t toy with me. I am God. I 
made
all these things. They speak of me, just like the warm summer breezes do, 
and the gentle rains, and the soft moonlit nights, and the lapping of the 
lakeside,
and lilies of the field and the birds of the air.”

There is a word for us in this cold. May the Lord give us skin to feel and 
ears to hear.

For more about John Piper's ministry and writing, see
DesiringGod.org.
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Post  Admin on Thu 26 Feb 2015, 11:45 pm

Lent: A Time for Reflection
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Have you ever been betrayed, abandoned or disappointed by a friend, or even 
a family member? I have.

In Adam Hamilton’s 40 Days of Reflection, he reminds the reader of the 
betrayal and abandonment of Jesus’ disciples on the night before His death. 
Jesus
predicted His betrayal at the hands of one of His disciples. He even knew 
that disciple, Judas, would trade 30 pieces of silver in exchange for his 
identifying
Jesus to the authorities. Yet, He had Judas sitting on His left at the 
supper table.

Jesus also predicted that Peter would deny knowing Him—not once, but three 
times. Then, Jesus also went on to predict that His remaining disciples 
would
abandon Him. Yet, He displayed EXTRAORDINARY grace toward all 12 over their 
last meal before His crucifixion.

When we are offended, betrayed, abandoned or disappointed by a friend or 
relative, do we offer that same grace? What about when we’re the one doing 
one
of the above? Do we seek forgiveness, not only from our Heavenly Father, but 
from the one we have hurt?
Read the following scripture today as you continue your 40-day journey: Mark 
14:18

Carol Round
Columnist/Author/Speaker

Following God is Not an Easy Road

One of Satan's greatest tools is to isolate believers in their minds from 
other believers around them. He makes us think we are the only ones facing 
such
struggles.

Beware of Self-Isolationism

When Satan keeps us from sharing our struggles, bearing each other's 
burdens, and encouraging one another—he has pushed our spiritual lives into 
a potential
cycle for constant defeat. He plants thoughts like: "no one else has ever 
faced what I am facing", or "I am so bad and no other Christian has ever 
done
what I have done", or "no believer has ever failed as I have failed".

As we read I Corinthians 10:11-13, it is our introduction to how much we 
need to realize we are all weak, frail, and in need of God's grace.

What David faced, we all face; how David struggled, we all struggle. In 
varying degrees an in various flavors of sin, but we are all made of the 
same stuff.
There are no super-saints.

"Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written 
for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore 
let
him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has 
overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will 
not
allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation 
will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."

Most of us who grew up in the twentieth century remember the comic books, 
cartoons, and TV shows portraying the exploits of super-heroes. Those 
superheroes
had extraordinary abilities to fight a never-ending battle for truth and 
justice. Fans all over the world therefore idolized them—and loved hearing 
stories
of their great feats!

In the 21st century many of these superheroes are coming back in the movies. 
As usual, movies often reflect deeper issues that can lurk in the back of
our minds. It is easy to slip into a Bible-characters-were-superheroes 
mentality.

Those thoughts can lead to many
Christians
viewing God's choicest servants like David, or Elijah, or Paul as Super 
Saints. These servants actually fought for—God's Truth and His justice. And 
Christians
all over the world love to hear stories about their great feats—like when 
David the shepherd boy slew the evil giant, Goliath; or when Elijah called 
down
God's miraculous fire in front of the 850 prophets of Baal; or how the 
Apostle Paul was so instrumental in the spread of
Christianity
throughout the Roman Empire.

Yet, when believers face the same "good fight" (I Timothy 4:6-8) of faith in 
hard times, Satan tries to rob them of encouragement and strength through
the testimonies of these great saints. "Surely," he whispers, "their 
strength and ability to minister is way beyond what you as an average 
Christian can
expect in your own life."

The devil has deceived many into thinking that these giants of faith were 
made of a different substance—as if the Lord gave them something extra that 
we
didn't get. Or, that some were so special because they had been with Jesus 
in person, or were at Pentecost. But the truth is: We All Face Similar 
Struggles

To continue reading this message please copy and paste this URL into your 
browser bar:
http://www.dtbm.org/resource-library/sermons/?sortby=series&seriesslug=the-life-of-david-in-the-psalms

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

Ron Hutchcraft Ministries - A Word With You
A Word With You
Daily Devotional
Your Stretch of the Road - #7278

It's a huge job trying to keep the roadsides of interstates and major 
highways from looking like garbage dumps. That's why someone came up with 
this great
idea: have clubs, and churches, and schools, and civic organizations 
volunteer to maintain just one mile of the road near them. You've probably 
seen the
signs: "This mile maintained by the Forest Grove Garden Club, or a Boy Scout 
troop, or the Busy Hands Presby-Baptist Church, whatever. Maybe it's a 
family.
Separately, none of those groups could ever maintain the entire roadside in 
their county, but they could do a mile. And if each group makes sure their
mile is covered, the whole area will end up looking a whole lot better.

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Your 
Stretch Of The Road."

Someone could look at the miles and miles of highway running through their 
area and say, "How in the world are we going to take care of all this?" But
it's getting done because many people say, "I'll take care of the area 
around me."

Now the job of highway cleanup is nothing compared to the assignment left to 
us by the Lord Jesus, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all
creation" (Mark 16:15). Now each generation of believers is responsible for 
their generation of lost people. How in the world are we going to reach the
lost people of our generation? The same way you clean up a long highway; we 
each take the responsibility for our stretch of the road.

In our word for today from the Word of God, the Old Testament leader, 
Nehemiah, has called the people of Judah to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem - 
a massive
job - like telling our town about Jesus. Yes, it is a massive job! They were 
surrounded by people who were hostile to them accomplishing that mission,
like our world today. But here's how it got done; Nehemiah 3:23 and 
following. Now, here's some names you haven't heard, but let's go with it. 
"Beyond
them, Benjamin, and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house, and next 
to them, Azariah made repairs beside his house The priests made repairs, 
each
in front of his house. Zadok made repairs opposite his house." You think, 
"What are we doing here?" Well, here's the idea. The entire city wall got 
rebuilt
by each person taking care of the area around them.

Which brings us to your piece of the eternal rescue work Jesus gave to all 
of us. There's a reason you live where you live. Jesus assigned you to that
block, that neighborhood, that apartment complex to be His personal 
representative among the people who live there. The reason you work where 
you work,
or go to school where you go to school, or belong to the organizations and 
clubs you belong to is because Jesus wanted you to be those people's 
personal
link to Him. In Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 5:20, "We are Christ's 
ambassadors."

So how are you doing with your stretch of the road? Jesus gave His life on 
the cross for the people on your stretch. He's left you responsible for them
finding that out. And while you may think He should get someone better, He 
decided you're the one for those people. And they're a lot more likely to 
listen
to someone who walks their road and lives their lives and their issues - a 
peer like you - than to some skilled evangelist they've never met.

So let me challenge you to begin to claim the people on your block for 
Jesus, on your team, in your building, in your office, your workplace, in 
your circle
at school. Begin by praying every day for them. On more and more blocks 
across the country, believers are picking up the challenge of going on a 
Prayer
Walk to pray for the residents of each home to hear about Christ there. 
overwhelm

Also, band together with any other believers you can find on your "stretch 
of the road." Pray with them. Plan outreach dinner parties or block parties
or video outreaches, and find ways to love and serve the lost people around 
you in ways that would really mean something to them. Ask them to let you 
know
if there's ever anything they would like you to pray for. And pray for 
natural opportunities to tell them about life's most important relationship.

Imagine what would happen if every believer said, "Lord, I will step up to 
praying for and sharing Christ with the lost people on my stretch of the 
road."
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Post  Admin on Wed 25 Feb 2015, 4:31 pm

New Post on KenBible.com - The Christ of Lent

The Christ of Lent

Posted: 03 Feb 2015 09:55 PM PST

from
A Christ-centered Year

During Lent, Jesus is the Father’s Servant,
leading us on the path of obedience and trust.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his 
cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24, NASB)

When we take the truth to a dark and rebellious world,
we meet fierce opposition from the Evil One.
We are going against the strong current of our culture.
As we do, we are called to disregard all personal costs,
to let our entire life fall to the ground like a seed and die,
in order that eternal fruit will grow.

But Jesus does not drive us out into such self-sacrifice.
He leads us.
He goes with us.
He goes before us.
He demonstrates that such a life is
abundantly joyful,
permeated with
peace,
love, and
constant sufficiency.

During Lent, Jesus is the Father’s Servant,
leading us on the beautiful path of obedience and trust.
Let all who are looking for the very best of life
respond to His personal call, “Follow Me”.

Dean Masters, owner of the Masters List
Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand in
the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our
Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and
authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25

Oral Evangelism
Nov 29, 2014 12:20 am

Today's Devotional

Psalms 145:9 "The LORD is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has 
made."

The Lord gives us life! That alone tells us that He is good to all. No 
matter what circumstance someone is in, they can find something to thank Him 
for.
All that we have ultimately comes from Him.

Today, meditate on the things the Lord has given to you. Thank Him! Pray 
that His bountiful blessings will be known to the peoples of Afghanistan 
through
the many oral means available.

Today's People Group

“The tongue is a fortress and a calamity,” Shameem confided to her neighbor, 
Tanya. After talking with her for some time, she had made a slip of the 
tongue.
She now wished she could take back her words. Smiling Tanya replied, “In the 
mouth is the creed, but in the heart is wickedness.” She then shared with
Shameem how we all need to have God’s help in order to have kind thoughts in 
our hearts and not just nice words in our mouths.
Pashtun people like these two women love proverbs, poetry, and other oral 
forms of communication. Many are able to read, but may have trouble 
comprehending
and using the information they do read. They love very much to hear 
important knowledge in oral forms such as a story, song or proverb in order 
to remember
it.
The challenge for workers among the Pashtuns is to package and deliver 
important truths in forms that they can appreciate and remember. Twenty 
years ago
Pashtuns listened to short wave radio for news and information, but now they 
have radio, TV, the Internet, and other information sources to choose from.
There are many opportunities for delivering the gospel. One possibility that 
offers privacy is the Internet which reaches even into small villages.

Pray that God will provide creative and anointed people to develop new radio 
programs and new media strategies for reaching Pashtuns for Christ. Pray 
that
believers will produce and oversee interesting Web sites for Pashtuns at the 
curious, seeker, and believer levels.
Learn more at
Joshua Project.

Daily Devotional by John Piper

Every Calvary Step Was Love

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.
(1 John 3:16)

The love of Christ for us in his dying was as conscious as his suffering was 
intentional. If he was intentional in laying down his life, it was for us.
It was love.

“When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the 
Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the 
end”
(
John 13:1).

Every step on the Calvary road meant, “I love you.”

Therefore, to feel the love of Christ in the laying down of his life, it 
helps to see how utterly intentional it was.

Look at what Jesus said just after that violent moment when Peter tried to 
cleave the skull of the servant, but only cut off his ear.

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who 
take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal 
to
my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 
But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (
Matthew 26:52–54)

It is one thing to say that the details of Jesus’s death were predicted in 
the Old Testament. But it is much more to say that Jesus himself was making
his choices precisely to see to it that the Scriptures would be fulfilled.

That is what Jesus said he was doing in
Matthew 26:54.
“I could escape this misery, but how then should the Scriptures be 
fulfilled, that it must be so?”

I am not choosing to take the way out that I could take because I know the 
Scriptures. I know what must take place. It is my choice to fulfill all that
is predicted of me in the Word of God.

For more about John Piper's ministry and writing, see
DesiringGod.org.
Copyright Information
This devotional is written by John Piper. For more information about Piper's 
ministry, writing, and latest books, visit
DesiringGod.org.
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Post  Admin on Tue 24 Feb 2015, 6:16 pm

Holy, Holy, Holy!

Nowadays it seems that too many people are getting too familiar with God. 
They think of him as their best friend, who He is, but they treat Him that 
way most of the time. They might come to Him saying, “Old buddy, old pal, 
you say in your Word that you will do thus and so. I want that and I want it 
now.” They don’t think it matters how they live since God is in the 
forgiving business. They just go on living their lives just as they want and 
only come to Him when they need something. They treat God like a sugar daddy 
who can provide all their wants with no strings attached. Is this the real 
picture of God? Is this the way we should think of God? How did Isaiah see 
God?

Isaiah 6:1-8 (GNB)
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was sitting on his 
throne, high and exalted, and his robe filled the whole Temple. 2 Round him 
flaming creatures were standing, each of which had six wings. Each creature 
covered its face with two wings, and its body with two, and used the other 
two for flying. 3 They were calling out to each other: “Holy, holy, holy! 
The Lord Almighty is holy! His glory fills the world.” 4 The sound of their 
voices made the foundation of the Temple shake, and the Temple itself was 
filled with smoke. 5 I said, “There is no hope for me! I am doomed because 
every word that passes my lips is sinful, and I live among a people whose 
every word is sinful. And yet, with my own eyes, I have seen the King, the 
Lord Almighty!” 6 Then one of the creatures flew down to me, carrying a 
burning coal that he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 He 
touched my lips with the burning coal and said, “This has touched your lips, 
and now your guilt is gone, and your sins are forgiven.” 8 Then I heard the 
Lord say, “Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?” I answered, “I 
will go! Send me!”

Isaiah saw God high and lifted up. It was an awesome sight! There were these 
creatures that were praising God continually. They didn’t just say God is 
holy. In the Hebrew language, they didn’t have punctuation so to stress a 
word or phrase, they would repeat it. That is why it was printed that God 
was holy, holy, holy. He is completely holy, completely without sin. He has 
always been, is living now and will always live and will always be holy.

When Isaiah heard and saw this he said he was a man of unclean lips. Was 
that his main sin or was there some other reason he said this? That may have 
been his main sin but here is what Jesus had to say:

Matthew 12:34 (GNB)
34 You snakes—how can you say good things when you are evil? For the mouth 
speaks what the heart is full of.

Whatever is in your heart is what will come out of your mouth. Sin starts in 
the heart then comes out in the actions that we take. When we see how 
completely sinless God is, we can see how sinful we are. Isaiah saw this and 
confessed this. The angel touched the hot coal to Isaiah’s lips which 
symbolized the cleansing of his lips or heart. Isaiah’s sins had been 
forgiven because he saw he was sinful and confessed that he was a sinful man 
and all the people he lived with were sinful. He realized that no person is 
sinless.

God then didn’t ask Isaiah to go for Him but asked who would go for Him. 
Isaiah was filled with awe and had just been cleansed. He wanted to go do 
whatever God wanted him to do.

WE do need to see God as a friend who will provide what we need but we also 
need to see God as the Holy, Almighty God. WE need to see our sinfulness so 
that we can confess it and be forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. 
Then we need to be ready to do what God wants us to do, go and make 
disciples, take care of the poor, whatever He puts on our hearts.

by Dean W. Masters

Doing the Unexpected
by Charles R. Swindoll

John 1

There are various ways to describe it: turning the other cheek . . . going 
the extra mile . . . doing good to those who hate us . . . loving our 
enemies.
We may say it in different ways, but the action amounts to the same thing. 
By doing the unexpected, we accomplish a twofold objective: (1) we put an 
end
to bitterness, and (2) we prove the truth of the age-old axiom, love 
conquers all. I've seen it happen over and over again.

Why are we so hesitant? What keeps us from doing the unexpected for the 
undeserving so that we might watch God accomplish the unbelievable? Because 
it
goes against our human nature. Furthermore, it's a major risk. Of course, 
that is where faith comes in: to believe the Lord against all odds and to 
obey
Him even if the action backfires. But some of you are frowning, thinking, 
Yeah, that sounds good, but nobody could pull it off.

Rabbi Michael Weisser did. It happened in Lincoln, Nebraska, where for more 
than three years, Larry Trapp, a self-proclaimed Nazi and Ku Klux Klansman,
spread hatred through mailings and ugly phone calls. Weisser became one of 
Trapp's targets, receiving numerous pieces of hate mail and offensive phone
calls. At first, the Weissers were so afraid they locked their doors and 
worried themselves sick over the safety of their family.

Then one day Rabbi Weisser decided to do the unexpected. He left a message 
on Trapp's answering machine, telling the man of another side of life . . .
a life free of hatred and racism.

Trapp was stunned. He later admitted, through tears, that he heard in the 
rabbi's voice "something I hadn't experienced. It was love."

Slowly the bitter man began to soften. One night he called the Weissers and 
said he wanted out but didn't know how. They grabbed a bucket of fried 
chicken
and took him dinner. Before long they made a trade: In return for their love 
he gave them his swastika rings, hate tracts, and Klan robes. That same day
Trapp gave up his recruiting job and dumped the rest of his propaganda in 
the trash. "They showed me so much love that I couldn't help but love them 
back,"
he finally confessed.

Christmas is right around the corner. How about giving the gift of 
forgiveness, a cup full of kindness, a sincere phone call of grace to 
someone who would
never expect it and might not deserve it . . . with no strings attached? 
It's risky . . . but you wouldn't be the first to try it.

God's gift to us came wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
Talk about doing the unexpected for the undeserving!

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.

Lent '15

"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his 
disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, 
Some say
that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of 
the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter
answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Matthew 
16:13-16.
This groundbreaking conversation took place at Caesarea Phillipi, which lies 
today in the modern day reserve of the Banias in the Golan Heights region
of Israel.
The city was established by Ptolemaic Greeks, a Hellenistic community where 
the worship of the god Pan was centered.

Reviled by the Jews of Yeshua's time and considered by them the most 
idolatrous place in the entire Galilee, to this day it remains a place of 
nature worship
and deep paganism.

Why did Jesus deliberately take his disciples to the most sinful, pagan 
place to reveal who He was?
Why not in the temple courts, or the tomb of Jeremiah or one of the 
prophets, where He might feel more at home and welcomed?

Jesus revealed who He really was... in the darkest corner of Israel.

Now that tells me that the Lord is not shy about shining His light in dark 
places, and that includes the ones inside me.
Psalm 139 tells me that He is intimately acquainted with all of them –that I 
can forget about keeping secrets from Him.

It seems He rather delights in walking into enemy territory and taking 
ground.
Those areas of my life that I don’t want anyone else to see, (and usually 
can hide from them)-
- He wants to visit, speak His word, illuminate and cleanse the place!

The places where I'm darkest and weakest are-
His greatest opportunities to be glorified through repentance, 
transformation, and healing.

Take time to open before God the dark areas of your life-
- trusting in His perfect and patient love for you.

He wants to reveal His forgiveness and beauty right where you are most 
ashamed and miserable.
The gates of Hell shall not prevail against a saint-
- whose faith and courage invite Jesus deep into the hidden areas of his 
soul,
- to be cleansed and given over to Him.
Posted by: Lenten Lessons

Dean Masters, owner of the Masters List

Lent: A Time for Reflection
Friday, February 20, 2015
On day three of Adam Hamilton’s 40 Days of Reflection, he talks about the 
measure of greatness. At the Last Supper, Jesus’ disciples were arguing over
who would be considered the greatest when Jesus became King. You see, they 
still didn’t get it. Even after three years with Jesus, they—Just. Didn’t. 
Get.
It.
Jesus embodied a humble servant’s heart. Remember what He did at that last 
meal? He removed His outer robe, placed a towel around His waist, kneeled 
and
began to wash the feet of His disciples. As Hamilton says, “To make sure 
they understood the meaning of His gesture, he said in essence, ‘This is 
what
true greatness looks like.’”
When Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, He took on the most humble of roles. 
Today, He still calls His followers to strive for this kind of greatness. 
Ask
Jesus to grant you a servant’s heart so you may discover the true greatness 
which is only found in humility and service.
Read the following scriptures today as you continue your 40-day journey: 
Luke 22:24-26 and John 13:2b-5

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The Jesus Code

Who Am I? -
Exodus 3:11

Who am I…?” The stuttered question was spoken through dry lips.

It had been business as usual on the backside of the desert. Moses had been 
leading the nomadic life of a lonely shepherd for forty years now. This 
morning
was no different from the thousands of others in his experience—or so he 
thought. Had the late Walter Cronkite been reporting this event we would 
have
heard those oft repeated words, “And this has been a day like any other has 
been…except …you were there!”

Try to imagine Moses’ absolute amazement as he witnessed a nondescript 
little bush on fire, yet not being consumed. Then the voice of God came from 
the
bush and commanded Moses to return to Egypt, stand before Pharaoh, and 
demand the release of the Israelites from slavery. No small task! And Moses’ 
immediate
response was “Who me? Who am I? I can’t speak well. You must have me 
confused with someone else!”

This is a completely opposite response to Isaiah’s response to God’s call 
which we will see later in chapter twenty-one. Isaiah said, “Here am I! Send
me” (Isaiah 6:8).
Listen to Moses as he responds to his call, saying: “Who am I to do that 
job? You need to send someone else!” Even though Moses had been educated in 
the finest private schools of the most progressive nation of the world, forty 
years of isolation had taken their toll on his self-confidence. Forty years 
alone
will lead anyone to ask, “Who am I?” Yet Who am I? is an appropriate 
question for each of us to ask ourselves.

Moses epitomizes one who is suffering from a poor self- image and little 
self-confidence. Unfortunately, many believers today spend their lives 
posturing from a low self-image.
Proverbs 23:7
reminds us that as a man “thinks in his heart, so is he.” I am not so 
idealistic as to think that in reading this brief chapter a lifetime of low 
self-image
can be translated into one that is healthy and positive. However, I am 
emboldened enough by my faith to believe that new thought patterns can begin 
to
replace the lies and enable you to find your self-worth in your position in 
Christ. So who are you really? Let’s find out.

An Explanation
Who am I? The Bible reveals that we are a composite of “spirit, soul, and 
body” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
However, note that we don’t phrase it in this order. We generally say “body, 
soul, and spirit.” This, subconsciously, is because we are so body 
conscious,
and that painful awareness too often determines our evaluation of who we 
really are. After all, the body is visible. We pet it and pamper it. We tan 
it and tone it. We measure it and weigh it regularly. But one day it will go 
right back to the dust from which God created it.

We are not just bodies, though. Our soul is the seat of our emotions. It is 
our feelings about ourselves that too often dictate our own self-worth, or
lack thereof. Our spirit is that part of us that will live as long as God 
lives. It is our spirit that connects with God’s Spirit—spirit bearing 
witness
with Spirit that we are His children. So who am I? I am a spirit-soul… I am 
just living for a few short years in a body.

The marketplace is loaded with books and videos on self- image, and most of 
these deal only with the physical side of our being. They tell us how to 
dress
for success. They have clever formulas for obtaining the upper hand in 
relationships. They focus on weight loss and other aspects of our physical 
appearance.
Then there are those that focus on the soul, on the realm of emotions. These 
resources tell us things like how to win friends and how to keep hold of our
emotions so that we can obtain influence and advantage over others.

But I am not my body, and I only have a soul. I am a spirit. Therefore, the 
Bible is the best self-help, self-awareness, self-image, self-confidence 
book
ever written because it explains who I really am. Again, who am I? I am a 
spirit made in the very image of God.

An Illustration

Jesus illustrated this very point for us in Luke 16 with the story of a 
beggar and a rich man who both die. Lazarus, the beggar, died and was 
carried into
“Abraham’s bosom,” the Hebrew representation of heaven (v. 22). His body was 
in the grave, but he was in the bosom of Abraham. Why? Because Lazarus was
a spirit, not a body.

And the rich man? Jesus said he ended up in hell. So his body was in the 
grave, but his soul and spirit were still alive. He could still remember. He 
still
had emotions. He was tormented. And he was troubled about his brothers’ 
destiny. This rich man’s five brothers did not know God, and now banished in 
hell,
this rich man knew that an eternity of punishment for their sinfulness 
awaited them.

Our only means of truly knowing God is by our spirit. It is impossible to 
have a spiritual relationship with Him based on mere human knowledge. As 
Jesus
said to the woman at a well, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must 
worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
Without a relationship of spirit to Spirit, you can never know God because 
“the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they
are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually 
discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

So when you ask, “Who am I?” know that you are spirit. That is your real 
identity and the seat of your self-worth.

An Application

Since we human beings are in essence spirit, we cannot depend on the 
physical for a proper self-image. The clothes we wear and how we look should 
not determine
our self-worth. Neither should our emotions—the soul part of us—determine 
our self-worth. All the positive thinking and pumping ourselves up, all our 
taking hold of our emotions will never provide a healthy or accurate sense of 
worth. Each of us must discover for ourselves who we really are: a spirit 
being led by God’s own Spirit (
Romans 8:14).
Only in the Person of Christ in us will we find true self-worth.

Finally, back to Moses. This timid, stammering, reluctant Moses went away 
from that burning bush to become the great emancipator of God’s people and 
the leader of a great nation. This same man who began by asking, “Who am I?” is 
last seen in Scripture on the Mount of Transfiguration amidst the glory of
Jesus Himself.

Understanding who he was because of God’s power and grace gave Moses 
confidence and strength for the task he was called to do. Similarly, when 
our spirit
connects with the Holy Spirit, then we will have an accurate and healthy 
self-image, for “Christ in you [is] the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

Q & A: “Who am I?” No one on the planet ever has or ever will have DNA 
exactly like yours, and you, in all your uniqueness, are indescribably 
valuable
to God. So remember that you are a spirit . . . simply living in a body for 
a short time. And I am convinced that if we fed our spirit as much as we 
feed our bodies, we would realize who we really are, and a God-given positive and 
powerful self-image would be ours. “Christ in you [is] the hope of glory!”
(Colossians 1:27).
This devotional is drawn from
The Jesus Code: 52 Scripture Questions Every Believer Should Answer
by O.S. Hawkins

Global Prayer Digest People of the Day
Dancing Boys of Afghanistan
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Dancing Boys of Afghanistan
Nov 24, 2014 12:01 am

Today's Devotional

Proverbs 30:20 "This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her 
mouth and says, “I have done no wrong.”"

This is how all mankind acts: we naturally claim that we have done no wrong. 
In our fallen ways we are very adept at making excuses for ourselves. What
will it take to change that? Only a work of the Holy Spirit can change our 
stubborn hearts!

Pray for the Holy Spirit to soften Pashtun hearts so that they will become 
pliable in the Lord’s hands.

Today's People Group

“Shara!” Shara’s neighbor ran toward her in the marketplace. “I just saw 
your son with other dancing boys! He was going off with a wealthy older 
man.”
Shara’s eyes filled with tears. Her son was only 12. “Yes, I know, but there 
are thousands of shoe-shine boys, fruit-selling boys, and water boys. He 
could
get no work, and we have no food since my husband died. What else are we to 
do?”
The evil practice of Bacha Bazi, literally “playing with boys” is the 
practice of older, rich men paying a boy a monthly sum; in return the boy 
must satisfy
any wishes of the older man whenever he asks. Since Afghan women are not 
allowed to dance, the boys are forced to dress as women and dance before 
groups
of leering men for hours. At the end of the party they are taken away and 
sexually abused for two dollars. The main voice against this practice comes 
from
the Taliban.

Pray for a hedge of protection around these boys. Pray that compassionate 
followers of Christ will come forward to introduce them to the Savior who 
promises
abundant life in Him. Pray that Jesus will reveal himself to the Afghan 
people and awaken their hearts and minds to the goodness of the One True God 
who
loves them and wants to save them from oppressive sin.

Learn more at Joshua Project.

Discover the Book
He Must Increase

The supreme lesson of John the Baptist's life is humility. And there can be 
no more vital message that we all need to hear than that God HATES pride. 
God
uses John because he was willing to obey the Lord and by the power of the 
Holy Spirit in his life cultivate humility.

Why not do a spelling lesson with me?

Let's notice together that I is right in the middle of some very big things 
in life.

First spell "sin" with me: s-I-n.

Now spell "pride" with me: pr-I-de.

Now how about "anxiety": anx-I-ety.

Here is the best one, spell Satan's original name with me, it was "Lucifer", 
spell that with me: luc-I-fer.

So that I is in the middle of all my sins, all my pride, all my anxieties, 
and all the time doing the will of the Devil!

No matter what else you do in your life, if humility is not yours then God 
will resist everything else you and I do. God is moment-by-moment in a 
personal
warfare against pride in the life of believers. It is the sin He hates most, 
sees first, and wants us to likewise hate.

No saint more fully or greatly pointed to God then when a simple man dressed 
like a peasant, after a lifetime of discipline and self denial thundered 
from
the wilderness, "Its time to look at Jesus!"

By using John, God Demonstrates the essence of true humility in John the 
Baptist--because the key to God's blessing is humility.

He Must Increase

Please turn with me to John 1 and trace those events God's Word records that 
reveal John's character as he sought to serve the Lord as His humble 
servant.

The key to being constantly showered with grace is humility. Christ must 
increase and I must decrease. That is the essence of humility.

Humility produces spiritual blessing. Just as every sin starts in pride, 
every virtue begins in humility. Humility allows us to see ourselves as we 
are,
because it shows us before God as He is.

The life of John the Baptist gives seven principles we may apply in 
determining humility.

1. John the Baptist was humble because he used his life as a ministry to 
others.

2. John the Baptist was humble because he closed his mouth to complaining.

3. John the Baptist was humble because he opened his will to God's.

4. John the Baptist was humble because he opened his eyes to Christ.

5. John the Baptist was humble because he closed his heart to self-seeking.

6. John the Baptist was humble because he opened his heart to spend much 
time in prayer.

7. John the Baptist was humble because he opened his mouth to praise.

Worship flows from a humble heart. This is Paul enlarging upon this worship 
filled life of the humble. Paul is saying that worship flows from the life
emptied of selfishness and pride. When we are liberated from the tyranny of 
our own self-driven agenda and onto Christ's we find worship rising from our
lives.

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TAKE CAPTIVE
Experiencing LIFE Today

Nourish the mind as you would your body. The mind can't survive on junk 
food.Jim Rohn

Imagine Eve back in the garden. Shes sitting there talking to the snake and 
shes a little confused. The Father of Lies is creating doubt, he's 
contradicted
what the Father said to her, and yet, she reaches for the apple. Now, 
imagine what would have happened if she had pulled back her hand and said, 
OK, you
stay right there. I'll be right back. What if she had called out, Daddy! 
Abba! Heavenly Father! and sat down with Him to have a chat about what the
snake had said. You see that little snake over there? Here's what he told 
me. What is truth and what is a lie? If she had done that, do you think the
story would have looked differently?

If we're going to recognize the lure of temptation and avoid the three hooks 
of sin, we have to know the truth so that the truth can set us free. This
takes place through a dynamic relationship with Jesus, by His Spirit living 
in us, and knowing the Truth. Paul said it this way:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The 
weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, 
they
have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every 
pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take 
captive
every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5,
emphasis mine)

What does that mean? It means that we grab a suspicious thought and we say, 
You're coming with me. We take it captive and we present it in front of 
Jesus
and we say, Jesus, I just had this thought. Is this a lie or is this Your 
truth?And we pray, Lord Jesus, open my eyes to Your Truth. By His 
Spirit,
He will start to reveal His truth to us as we also compare the thought to 
what we know from the written Truth of God in the Bible.

Today, when a thought enters your mind, and as soon as you recognize that it 
might be a lie, take it captive to Jesus and say, Jesus, what do You think
about this? and then test it with what the Bible says is Truth.

Consider a thought you are wrestling with right now. Take it to Jesus now.

Jesus, You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. You know all things and Your 
Word is the test for all things. Search this thought I am bringing to You.
Test it and show me if there is evil and lies within it. And then lead me in 
Your eternal, truthful way. I trust only in Your presence within me and Your
Word to live out the truth and reject the lies today. Amen.

Listen to Pete, Jill & Stuart Briscoe on the
Telling the Truth broadcast


ASH WEDNESDAY
The dried palms from the previous Palm Sunday are burned to make the ashes 
used for Ash Wednesday.

In a Ash Wednesday worship service in main line churches two suggestions of 
what worship leaders may say as they make the sign of the cross on anothers
forehead are offered:
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,and Repent, and 
believe the gospel

Remember!
You are dust.

Ashes were an ancient symbol of our humanity.
In Genesis, we read that God formed human beings out of the dust of the 
earth.Genesis 2:7.

The Hebrew word translated dust, is occasionally translated ashes elsewhere.

When Abraham felt the need to acknowledge the difference between him, a 
human being, and the infinite God, he referred to himself as dust and ashes.
Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord he said, who am but 
dust and ashes. Genesis 18:27.

For example,Modecai puts on sackcloth and ashes to grieve the many deaths he 
sees coming from an order King Ahasuerus gives to kill all Jewish people.
Esther 4:1-3.

The prophet Jeremiah later calls the people of God to “roll in ashes†as a 
way of mourning the coming devastation from an opposing army. Jeremiah 6:26.

Receiving the imposition of ashes is a powerful to confront our humanity and 
mortality.
They remind us that we are not God, but God’s good creation.

In them we recognize that our bodies will not last forever, and come 
face-to-face with the reality of our
eventual death.

Our humanity also calls to mind our mortality.

After expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the first human beings are told by 
God, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.Genesis 3:19.

We know the day is coming for each of us when we will return to dust.

Repent!

The palms waved the previous Palm Sunday to welcome Jesus as our King, have 
been burned to form the ashes.
In some sense, they serve as a reminder of how far we fall short of living 
up to the glory of Christ.

Ashes also signify our sorrow for the mistakes we have made.
People in ancient times wore sackcloth and ashes as a way of expressing 
their repentance of their sins.

When Jonah reluctantly preached to the people of Nineveh after the giant 
fish spit him up on the beach, the King and his people put on sackcloth and 
sat
in ashes.
God saw this act of repentance and spared the people. Jonah 3:1-10.

In the New Testament Jesus mentions this practice.
Warning the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida Jesus said, “if the miracles 
done among you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have changed 
their
hearts and lives and put on funeral clothes and ashes a long time ago.†
Matthew 11:21.

When we participate in the service of ashes, we confront our sin.
We recognize our inability to live up to all God has created us to be, and 
our need to be forgiven.

No matter how often we go to church, how far we have come in our spiritual 
journeys, how accomplished we may feel, each of us has sinned and fallen 
short
of the glory of God. Romans 3:23.

Rejoice!

On the first day of Lent-
- we come before God recognizing our humanity and repenting of our sin and 
believing the gospel.

While this may sound fatalistic-
- it is not the end of the story.

Lent leads to Easter-
- the day we celebrate that though our bodies are temporary and our lives 
are flawed,
- a day of resurrection will come when we will live in the presence of God 
forever.

One Wednesday every year we go to church remembering who we are, and hopeful 
of who we can be.
Posted by: Lenten Lessons lentenlessons@yahoo.com

Peter Do You Love Me?
"Do you love Me?"

Those are the words of Christ we need to examine today. They are found in
John 21:16.

Jesus focused on just one point in His meeting with Peter—Peter do you love 
Me? That was the point about which Jesus wanted a response from his special
servant that morning.

Jesus had simplified the life of His disciples seven chapters earlier, on 
the way to Gethsemane. He had uttered those priceless words where He said 
that
if they loved Him they would obey Him. Do you remember His final words about 
love in John 14?

John 14:21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves 
Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and 
manifest
Myself to him."

That is why Jesus asks, "Peter do you love Me?" In fact, if you think about 
it carefully, Jesus is asking all of us the same question each day. He 
watches
us toiling through life and reaches down and whispers in our ears, "Do you 
LOVE ME?"

Jesus says if you have and keep my words (commands) then you love Me and you 
will get the full access to all that God wants to be in your life.

After Christ's ascension to Heaven, He sends a letter through John the last 
Apostle as recorded in Revelation 2-3. It is in that first letter to the 
Church
at Ephesus then (and us today) Jesus asked the believers why they had cooled 
in their love for Him.

Jesus is asking, why have you stepped back, let up, and drifted away from 
loving me supremely? Why am I second-rate?

Our whole responsibility to God was once reduced by Jesus to love! Remember 
the greatest commandment question and Christ's answer (loving God and our 
neighbor)?

Further, God's Word says that without love all we do is nothingness God says 
(John 15 and I Corinthians 13). Love for God focuses our lives. Love 
prompted
obedience enriches us immeasurably for eternity. So Peter then, and each of 
us today need to hear and respond to Christ's question, "Do you LOVE ME?"

The question for Peter is also for all of us, do we really love Jesus. We 
may serve, we may speak, and we may study—but without love, it amounts to 
nothing.

Each one of us at some point in our lives, will miserably fail the Lord by 
yielding to some temptation and sin. Soon after that sin we will hear (in 
one
way or another) "the crowing of the cock."

At that instant the accusing voice of Satan will ring in our minds, telling 
us that we are finished, we are useless, pleasing God is hopeless, and our
future has been destroyed.

But that is never God's message to us. As Peter learned, so we need to know. 
Our God is a forgiving God, a compassionate God, a God who loves us no 
matter
what we have done.

Every time we open to the Gospel by Mark we remember that in one way or 
another, all of us too have stumbled. And for each of us, Peter's triumph by 
God's
grace is an incredible source of encouragement to trust in our God of the 
new beginning”and offer to Him our obedience prompted by love!

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Just Throw the Net

He brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
 (Acts 16:30)

Many of us are afraid, for one simple reason, to ask someone if they would 
like to give their life to Jesus Christ. We're afraid the answer will be no.
And it just may be. But there are those wonderful times when someone will 
surprise you and say, Tell me more or maybe even, I want to give my life 
to
Jesus Christ.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to be reunited with my father, Oscar 
Laurie, the man who adopted me. My mother had divorced him when I was a 
young
boy, and that was the last time I had seen him. Years later, when I had an 
opportunity to preach on the East Coast, he invited our family to stay at 
his
house for the weekend.

After dinner one night, his wife said, Greg, tell me about how you came to 
put your faith in Jesus Christ.As I shared my testimony and what Christ 
had
done for me, my dad sat there listening with his hands folded. I thought, He's 
not buying this at all. But later that night, he asked me to go walking
with him the next morning.

As we walked out into the cold morning air, he said, I was listening to 
what you said last night. I want to know what I need to do to give my life 
to
Jesus Christ.He made a commitment to Christ that day, and he faithfully 
served the Lord for the remaining fifteen years of his life.

Sometimes when you share your faith, you don't think you're getting through. 
But you never know. That is why we need to simply throw out the net, so to
speak. We need to give people the opportunity.

For more relevant and biblical teaching from Pastor Greg Laurie, go to
www.harvest.org
and
Listen to
Greg Laurie's daily broadcast on OnePlace.com.
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Salome, Mother of the Zebedees

Her name means: "Peace"

Her character: A devoted follower of Jesus, whose husband ran a fishing 
business, she shared the common misconception that the Messiah would drive 
out
the Romans and establish a literal kingdom in Palestine. Her name was 
probably Salome.
Her sorrow: To have stood with other women at the cross, witnessing the 
death of Jesus of Nazareth.
Her joy: To have seen an angel at Christ's tomb, who proclaimed the 
resurrection.
Key Scriptures:
Matthew 20:20-24
;
27:56
;
Mark 15:40-41
;
16:1-2

Her Story

Salome loved Jesus nearly as much as she loved her own two sons, James and 
John. She would never forget the day they left their father and their 
fishing
nets to follow him. Lately, she, too. had come to believe that Jesus was the 
Messiah of God.

She had smiled when she heard Jesus had nicknamed her boys "the Sons of 
Thunder." Surely he had recognized the seeds of greatness in the two feisty 
brothers
from Capernaum. Why else would he have invited them into his inner circle, 
along with Simon Peter? She had heard how Jesus had led the three up a high
mountain. When they came down, her garrulous sons could hardly speak. But 
then the story came out.

"Jesus' face was blindingly bright like the sun….

"Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with him….

"Suddenly a cloud surrounded us and a voice from heaven said, 'This is my 
Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!' "

Salome had listened. She had seen the glory and the power that radiated from 
the man. Though she had heard ominous rumors that Jerusalem's men of power
hated Jesus, she also knew that the great King David had faced his own share 
of enemies before establishing his kingdom. And hadn't Jesus promised his
disciples that they would sit on twelve thrones in his kingdom? "Everyone 
who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children 
or
fields for my sake," he had said, "will receive a hundred times as much and 
will inherit eternal life." How could she doubt him? Even with faith as 
small
as a mustard seed, mountains could be moved.

Salome had left behind her comfortable home on the northwest shore of 
Galilee to join her sons. Now, as they journeyed up to Jerusalem, she 
remembered
other words Jesus had spoken: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you 
will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." She would no longer
deny herself the one favor her heart desired. Prostrating herself before 
him, she begged, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your 
right
and the other at your left in your kingdom."

But instead of replying to her, Jesus turned to James and John and said, 
"You don't know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I am going to 
drink?"

"We can," they answered.

Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my 
right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom 
they
have been prepared by my Father."

Jesus, who knew Zebedee's sons better than anyone, realized that Salome was 
only voicing their rising ambitions. Like any loving mother, she had simply
asked for what she thought would make her children happy. But as Jesus' 
reply and subsequent events proved, this mother didn't begin to comprehend 
what
she was asking. Soon, the man she had approached as a king would himself die 
on a cross, and she would be one of the women witnessing his death.

After it was over, Salome may have remembered the anguished faces of the men 
who had been crucified with Jesus, one on his right hand and the other on
his left—an ironic reminder of her request on the way up to Jerusalem. Such 
a memory would only have increased her terror for what might now happen to
her sons.

Along with other faithful women at the cross, Salome was present on the 
morning of Jesus' resurrection. Surely the angel's words—"He has risen! He 
is not
here!"—would have comforted her later in life when her son James became the 
first martyred apostle, dying at the hands of Herod Agrippa.

Instead of asking Jesus what he wanted for her sons, Salome acted as though 
she knew exactly what he needed to do on their behalf. She must have 
forgotten
that Jesus had exhorted his followers to leave behind not only houses, 
brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers for his sake, but also children. 
In Salome's
case, it didn't mean turning her back on her children but surrendering them 
to God. It meant putting Jesus above everything and everyone, loving him 
better
than her own sons. Only then would she understand the meaning of what they 
would suffer as followers of Christ. Only then would she really know how to
pray.

Her Promise

Though the typical woman in biblical times was in a subservient role, her 
position as a mother is exalted by Scripture. God the Father recognized from
the very beginning the important role a mother would play in her children's 
lives, and he promised to bless her. Those same promises apply to you today.

Today's devotional is drawn from
Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture
by Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda. Visit
AnnSpangler.com
to learn more about Ann's writing and ministry.

Global Prayer Digest People of the Day
Shinwari Pashtun Tribe
Nov 20, 2014 12:00 am

Today's Devotional

Psalms 141:5 "Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds."

Notice that the prayer is not against the people, but against their deeds. 
Are you able to pray against deeds, but not people? It is very easy to pray
against people who do wicked deeds and forget that God wants to bring them 
to repentance and salvation.

Pray for repentant hearts among the members of the Shinwari Pashtun people 
group who commit acts of evil. Pray that this people group will turn to Him
and be living testimonies of His mercy, grace, and love.

Today's People Group

Terrorism is an ongoing issue that must always be actively dealt with. In 
January of 2010 the Shinwari people pledged themselves to helping in the 
fight
against terrorism by committing at least one military aged male from each 
family to the Afghan army or police. The Shinwari number about 400,000, so 
this
promise carried much significance. Their pact appears to be the first in 
Afghan history in which an entire Pashtun tribe has declared war on the 
Taliban
insurgents. The agreement also states that anyone who supports the Taliban 
would be punished with fines and expulsion.
But at the same time the pact is fragile because of the nature of any 
agreement made in Afghanistan. Tribal loyalties can be very fluid, and in 
the past
the government has been unable to prevent Taliban retaliation.
In 1885, a British author wrote of the Shinwari “...They are brave, 
hospitable, stalwart, and hardworking. They are well-educated people.” These 
things
are still true of the Shinwari tribe.
There is, unfortunately, no known church planting movement going on among 
the Shinwari. They are 100 per cent Muslim.

Praise God that the Shinwari are actively opposing terrorism. Pray that they 
will continue in their efforts against it. Pray that the church will step
up with an equally great effort to bring the good news of Jesus to the 
Shinwari tribe. Pray that active church planting will soon begin among them.

Learn more at
Joshua Project.

The Lesson Peter NEVER Forgot

We have come to Peter's final lesson, the one he never forgot. In fact, to 
the end of his life he was talking about Christ's wondrous love and 
forgiveness
that restored, renewed, and allowed Peter back into ministry.

In his letters he spoke of that love when he said: Peter 4:8 "And above all 
things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude
of sins."

Jesus promised Peter a new beginnings and offered complete forgiveness and 
no condemnation.

In a real sense those seven Jesus met on the shore, represent all of us 
here today, whoever we are, wherever we are going or have been—Jesus wants 
to
restart and redirect our lives.

Jesus spoke to them two thousand years ago, but through His Word, He is also 
speaking to us today.

John 21 is amazing in many ways. Unseen on the shore, Jesus waited for them 
to realize how empty and fruitless it is to step away from following Jesus.
It is very hard to follow Jesus. Paul called it agonizing, and so it was. 
But hard as it is to follow Jesus, it is far worse to not do so! That was 
the
lesson Jesus led them though that morning.

1. Jesus wanted them to know they couldn't do anything on their own (vv. 
1-3). "… and that night they caught nothing."

2. Jesus wanted them to know He won't bless anything done apart from Him 
(vv. 4-5). John 21:4-5 "But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on 
the
shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said 
to them, "Children, have you any food?" They answered Him, "No."

3. Jesus wanted them to learn to follow His directions for their lives 
(v.6). John 21:6 "And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of 
the boat,
and you will find some." So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it 
in because of the multitude of fish."

4. Jesus wanted them to know that He blesses obedience. (vv. 7-11) John 
21:7-11 "Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the 
Lord!"
Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment 
(for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.8 But the other disciples
came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two 
hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish.9 Then, as soon as they had come 
to
land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread.10 
Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish which you have just caught."11 
Simon
Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred 
and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken."

5. Jesus wanted them to share the joy of His Presence through life (vv. 
12-13). John 21:12-13" Jesus said to them, "Come and eat breakfast." Yet 
none of
the disciples dared ask Him, "Who are You?"—knowing that it was the Lord.13 
Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the 
fish."

6. Jesus restored Peter in public, showing all of them the only motive for 
ministry Christ accepts is LOVE. (vv. 15-17). John 21:15-17 "So when they 
had
eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you 
love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love 
You."
He said to him, "Feed My lambs."16 He said to him again a second time, 
"Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know 
that
I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep."17 He said to him the third 
time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He 
said
to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know 
all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.

Have you ever stopped thinking that what you do externally for Christ makes 
you any more pleasing to Him? It is in His unchanging love that we rest. 
Peter
did so to the end of his life.

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

10 Spiritual Keys to Presenting the Gospel Effectively in Cross-Cultural 
Ministry
Whitney Hopler

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of 
Ryan Shaw’s new book
Spiritual Equipping for Mission: Thriving as God’s Message Bearers
(IVP Books, 2014).

What do you need most to reach people from another culture with God’s 
message of
salvation?
Compassion for people’s needs, knowledge of their culture, and smart mission 
strategies are all important. But what really determines whether or not you
successfully present the Gospel is how well you live a holy, faithful life 
that shows people how the Holy Spirit is at work in your soul.

No matter how hard you may work in cross-cultural ministry, you won’t be 
able to succeed unless you’re personally relying on Jesus in the ways that 
you’re
trying to convince others to trust him. The state of your inner spiritual 
life is critically important when people are watching to see if your faith 
is
truly genuine.

Here are 10 spiritual keys to presenting God’s message effectively in 
cross-cultural ministry:

Being saturated with the powerful presence of God. Although God has promised 
to always be with believers, he will bless you with his presence in greater
measure when you intentionally welcome him into your life. Ways you can do 
so include: intercessory prayer (praying for God to intervene in specific 
situations
to help people in need), remembering that it was God who appointed you to 
the work you’re doing and trusting him to empower you to do it well, living 
with
moral purity by resisting temptations to sin and confessing and repenting 
quickly of sins you do commit, abiding in a close relationship with Jesus by
spending lots of time with him through prayer and Bible reading, and finding 
joy in God’s presence with you even during mundane moments.

Embracing humility. Surrender yourself and your plans completely to God, 
inviting him to accomplish his purposes through your life and ministry work. 
Confess
and repent regularly of pride in your life. Study Jesus’ life on Earth for 
the perfect example of humility at work. Be willing to surrender rights that
the world tells you you’re entitled to in order to serve people whom God 
calls you to serve. Stop trying to impress other people through your 
busyness
or the importance of your work; instead, work only to please God, by simply 
saying “yes” to however he leads you day by day.

Hungering and thirsting for God. Develop a greater desire to seek God more 
by reminding yourself often of God’s great love for you and letting that 
reality
inspire you to respond to his love. Reduce distractions to pursuing a closer 
relationship with God by cutting back on the amount of time you spend on 
entertainment
and social networking so you can spend more time in prayer. Learn to worship 
God for his characteristics (who he is), rather than what he or isn’t doing
for you in your current circumstances. Develop a consistent lifestyle of 
worship. Seek God in the midst of adversity, relying on him to help you deal 
with
it.

Being clothed with God’s Word. Build a life and ministry that’s informed by 
the Bible, which it is meant to convey God’s will, impart God’s life, and 
unveil
God’s transforming power. Allow biblical values to shape you personally. 
Grasp the intent of biblical content so you can apply them to your current 
ministry
situations. Use the Bible in your ministry work to impact others. Keep in 
mind that God blesses you the most as you do what his Word says, rather than
just studying it. Regularly search the Bible, pray about what you read, 
align your life with it, and teach it to others.

Discerning God’s guidance and revelation. Pay attention to the different 
ways God speaks, so you can discern his messages to you. Listen for God’s 
guidance
and revelation in ways that include: the Holy Spirit clarifying something 
you read in the Bible or speaking within your mind as you’re thinking, 
impressions,
circumstances, talking with other believers, visions, dreams, angelic 
visitations, an audible voice, prophecy, nature, and the media. Expect a 
sense of
peace when you’ve actually heard from God. Obey his guidance and trust him 
to bring his plans to reality at the right times and in the right ways.

Pursuing a lifestyle of prayer. Incorporate prayer into your life on a 
regular basis. Spend time in both communion prayer (focusing on God for who 
he is,
telling him how you desire to grow closer to him, and listening to his 
personal messages to you) and intercessory prayer (prayer on behalf of 
people, families,
cities, nations, and situations in which you contend for God’s will to be 
done among them). Add fasting to your prayers when you can, because fasting 
helps
you focus more clearly on what God wants to tell you and increases the power 
of your prayers in the spiritual realm.

Cooperating with God’s twofold purpose. Aim to join God in his work 
accomplishing his two highest priorities: forming people in the likeness of 
Jesus,
and restoring a broken and hurting world through the ministry work of
Christians.
Let your work teach you lessons that help you build Christ-like character. 
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you communicate a healthy balance of God’s love
and truth, so the people to whom you minister will get an accurate sense of 
both God’s mercy and justice.

Understanding the times and seasons of God. During each of the different 
times and seasons God brings into your life, ask him what he is trying to 
teach
you, and do your best to learn those lessons and apply them to your ministry 
work. View each season you’re in within the context of the big picture of
fulfilling God’s eternal purposes. Ask God to give you his perspective on 
the crises you go through so you can hold onto hope during them. Cooperate 
with
God as he matures you throughout all of the different times in your ministry 
work.

Persevering with steadfastness and stability. Once God has revealed your 
central life’s work, focus on it for as long as possible so your ministry 
will
be as fruitful as God intends it to be. Resist discouragement by managing 
your emotions rather than letting them manage you, being willing to suffer 
when
necessary to accomplish God’s purposes, and engaging in spiritual warfare 
prayer to fight evil attacks on your work.

Pursuing a focused life. Order your life around the vision of pleasing God 
in every sphere of your life and ministry. Write a life purpose statement 
and
develop a time management plan to focus your life as God leads you to do so.

Adapted from
Spiritual Equipping for Mission: Thriving as God’s Message Bearers,
copyright 2014 by Ryan Shaw. Published by IVP Books, a division of 
InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill.,
www.ivpress.com.

Ryan Shaw is international lead facilitator and president of Student 
Volunteer Movement 2. He is the author of
Waking the Giant
(William Carey Library, 2006) and holds an M.A. in Intercultural Studies 
from Fuller Seminary. He and his wife, Kelly, currently serve as 
missionaries
in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for 
many years, is author of the Christian novel
Dream Factory,
which is set during Hollywood's golden age. She produced a
site about angels and miracles for About.com.
Now she writes about the power of thoughts on her
“Renewing Your Mind” blog.

Publication date: November 6, 2014

Start Seeking God
by Charles R. Swindoll

Lamentations 3:25

"Lord, I'm back and I diligently seek you." How many times have we said 
this? This time stop talking and sit silently. Wait patiently, seek 
diligently,
sit silently. That means you need to pour out your heart and then 
deliberately be quiet. Spend a full day in quietness.

Meditation is a lost art in this modern, hurry-up world. I suggest you 
revive it. Not by endlessly repeating some mantra to get into some other 
frame of
mind. Not that. Simply and silently wait before your faithful God. Read a 
passage of Scripture, perhaps a psalm, and let it speak. Say nothing. Just 
sit
silently. Let Him talk. Let Him reassure you that you are fully and 
completely forgiven and that your shame is gone. Feel His arms around you. 
Understand
the cleansing that He's bringing. Feel again the freshness and relief of His 
presence.

God will give you a fresh start if you'll stop fighting. It works. I know. 
I've been there. Just submit to Him and accept His grace.

God will keep His promise to forgive and welcome you home.
His mercies are new every morning.

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.

The Practice of Godliness
Keep At It

© 2014 Insight for Living. All rights reserved worldwide.

Devotions by Christine Caine - Undaunted

Read
Habakkuk 3:17–19

The prophet Habakkuk states his commitment to rejoice in the Lord and gain 
strength even when times are difficult and there seems to be no end in 
sight.

Five Important Tools

God knows when we need to be nurtured and healed, refreshed and sustained. 
He gives us five important tools for the journey—tools that will help us and
equip us to help others as well.

1. Comfort in the Church. When you’re hurting, going home is the best thing 
to do, and church is the believer’s spiritual home.
2. Power in Worship and Praise. The beautiful lyrics of the song, “Blessed 
Be Your Name” by Matt and Beth Redman goes: “Blessed be your name on the 
road
marked with suffering, though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be your 
name.” The weight of grief and the burden of feeling alone spill out as we
lose ourselves in worship and praise. Peace and confidence in the Lord’s 
love and care pour in. We magnify the Lord instead of our disappointment. We 
remember
his mercies more than our hurt.
3. Strength in Choosing the Joy of the Lord. Happiness is based on 
circumstances, while joy is based on God’s love and faithfulness. Happiness 
is rooted
in positive emotions, while joy is something more. It’s a fruit of the 
Spirit (
Galatians 5:22–23),
something that God divinely gives us through the power of his Holy Spirit. 
Joy is like a medicine when our hearts are sick and the pain seems 
unbearable.
4. Wisdom of His Word. God’s Word is full of his promises to us, and when we 
read it, we’re reminded of them. The psalms, in particular, have helped me
through heartache because in them are some of the most pure and honest heart 
cries ever written. God has a plan and purpose for my life, as he does for
each of us, beyond this moment of disappointment. We need not be passively 
resigned to the problems in life. We need not give up and stop fighting for
what we believe in; there is always hope, and as long as there is hope, we 
can move forward—and bring others with us.
5. Love of Family and Friends. A friend will help us move forward through 
our disappointment and into God’s promises. When we can’t see anything but 
the
fog of grief, a friend can help clear the way, help us laugh, bring a 
smile—and like medicine––the mirth helps us heal.

Point to Ponder

Disappointment is inevitable—for you and everyone else. It’s part of life. 
But God has given you tools to help you move past the disappointments you 
encounter
and on to a joyous and productive future. You aren’t alone in your sadness, 
God has given you something to work with.

ADVERTISEMENT

Undaunted by Christine Caine
Today's reading is adapted from
Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do
by Christine Caine. Available in softcover, audio, ebook, and Spanish 
editions.
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Valentines & Love Letters

"The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an 
everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." (Jeremiah 31:3, 
NIV)

"Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I 
will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life." 
(Isaiah 43:4, NIV)

I believe everyone likes to receive a valentine or to hear someone say they 
love you. In the Scriptures above from two different prophets we hear God 
saying that He loves us. Later He actually showed us how much He loved us by 
sending his Son Jesus Christ to come to earth and die for us.

There is a song about the greatest valentine ever written. The song is 
“Written in Red” and was sung by Janet Paschal. It said that God wrote His 
love on Calvary and has done so through the years with the nail pierced 
hands of Jesus Christ. Calvary said, “I love you” and it was a message 
written in red.

God spoke to me through that song during a time when a lot was happening in 
my life. He sent it just when I needed to hear it. God can speak through 
songs and other ways but the main way he speaks is through His Word the 
Bible. Some have called it God’s Love Letter.

Once I was told by a woman that she was cleaning house and found some 
letters that she had received from her husband many years earlier when he 
went to boot camp right after they got married. She also found the letters 
she and other family members had sent to him. Can you imagine what she did 
when she got a letter from him? Did she put it down and think, “I’ll get to 
it later and read it.” No, she probably couldn’t wait to read it. That is 
the way we need to be about God’s Love Letter. WE need to want to read it 
daily. Before we read we need to ask Him, “Lord, what message do you have 
for me today from your Word?”

The Bible is also like a letter from home. This woman’s husband probably 
couldn’t wait to read the letters from home. WE Christians are not home. AS 
one song I heard said, “We are not home yet.” Heaven is our home. WE should 
want to find out what message our Father has for us each day. WE should want 
to read His Word as our letter from home.

Prayer

Holy Father, we thank you for your great love. Thank you for the greatest 
valentine ever written. Thank you Jesus for dying for us. Father, You have 
drawn us. Continue to draw us. You know we love You, help us to love You 
more. Give us a hunger and a thirst for You and your Word. In the name of 
Jesus Christ, Amen.

by Dean W. Masters

7 Ways to Overcome Any Challenge
Whitney Hopler

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of 
Dudley Rutherford’s new book
Walls Fall Down: 7 Steps from the Battle of Jericho to Overcome Any 
Challenge
(Thomas Nelson, 2014).

One of history’s greatest victories happened when faithful people followed 
God’s guidance during the battle of Jericho, and the city’s massive walls 
fell
down so they could take the land he had promised them. Just as those ancient 
people marched around Jericho’s walls for seven days, the biblical story 
reveals
seven spiritual principles that will help you today to overcome any type of 
obstacle you face in your own life – from your relationships to your 
finances.

Here are seven ways you can rely on God to help you break down and overcome 
the challenging obstacles that are standing in your way:

Focus on God’s power rather than on the size of your problem. No matter how 
big your “wall” seems as it looms over your life, be assured that you can 
shrink
it down until it falls down completely when you trust God to help you 
overcome it. God is much larger than any obstacle you’ll ever face. So 
rather than
look at the wall that’s standing in your way right now, look at God, who 
stands ready to help you overcome that obstacle. When you focus on how great 
God’s
power is, you’ll be able to see your problem from the right perspective and 
gain the confidence to know that you can handle it with God’s help. Keep in
mind that God – your Creator – knows every detail about what you’re going 
through, cares deeply about it, wants to help you, and is capable of doing 
anything
to help. Choose to see your obstacle as an opportunity to cultivate your 
character and increase your
faith
while you trust God to lead you through the process of overcoming it.

Trust in God’s plan even when it doesn’t make sense. God’s plan for your 
life may seem unconventional and mysterious from your limited human 
perspective.
But whenever you decide to trust God’s plan, you can count on God to deliver 
on his promise to bring all of your circumstances – even the toughest 
challenges
– together to accomplish good purposes. God’s plan for your life is in your 
best interest, so choose to follow it faithfully by seeking God’s help to 
solve
your problems rather than trying to solve them in your own limited strength. 
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you cast aside your fears by recalling God’s 
love
during moments when you need courage to move forward with his plan for your 
life. The more you focus on God’s love, the less afraid you’ll feel. As God
reveals his plan to you, simply follow it as well as you can day by day. Be 
willing to say “yes” to whatever God asks you to do – even when it doesn’t
make sense – and you’ll make real progress overcoming your challenges.

See the supernatural in all situations and pursue holiness. Ask the Holy 
Spirit to help you recognize the extraordinary ways that God is working in 
all
of the ordinary situations in your life. Every day, try to grow in holiness, 
because as you do you’ll become stronger and better able to overcome your
challenges. Place your relationship with God at the center of your life and 
invite God to empower you as you practice spiritual disciplines such as 
prayer,
Bible reading, and worshiping in church regularly. Approach your life each 
day with faithfulness and zeal to discover and fulfill God’s purposes for 
you,
confident that God is with you every step of the way.

Surround yourself with other believers committed to the same goal. Other 
Christians who are also working to overcome their own challenges can lift up 
your
spirit, remind you of the truth, and cheer you on toward achieving your 
goal. Choose to be in a culture of people who are committed to matters of 
eternal
importance. Help each other set aside sin and disagreements to unite as pure 
people set apart for God’s plans.

Keep putting one step in front of the other consistently to make progress. 
Every day, choose to take whatever next steps the Holy Spirit leads you to 
take.
Don’t give up when you’re frustrated that your progress is slower than you’d 
like it be. Instead, remind yourself that God works on an eternal timetable,
and pray for the strength you need to be patient and persevere. Ask God to 
help you avoid becoming distracted, and to encourage you whenever you feel 
like
quitting so you can carry on. Since consistent, faithful steps ultimately 
lead to victory, eventually every step you take will result in something 
worthwhile.

Usher in blessings by obeying God’s instructions every step of the way. 
Expect God to reward you for your faithful obedience along the journey of 
overcoming
your challenges. When you obey God in small ways, God will lead you to a 
greater level of faith and responsibility, so that you’ll keep growing 
spiritually
and be able to move forward to victory over the challenges in your life. Do 
whatever you sense God telling you to do – from staying in your
marriage
when you feel like giving up, apologizing to a friend you’ve hurt, or 
forgiving a friend who’s hurt you, to getting out of debt, giving more money 
to
your local church, or moving to a different job that’s a better fit for you.

Get ready for a season of joy. Seek to learn all of the valuable lessons 
that God wants to teach you as your walls of challenges gradually break 
down,
confident that at the end of your journey you’ll experience a season of joy. 
Notice the hopeful signs that God gives you along the way, and when you do,
praise God for who he is and what he’s doing for you. It’s only a matter of 
time before God gives you a great victory!

Adapted from
Walls Fall Down: 7 Steps from the Battle of Jericho to Overcome Any 
Challenge,
copyright 2014 by Dudley Rutherford. Published by Nelson Books, an imprint 
of Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tn.,
www.thomasnelson.com.

Dudley Rutherford is the senior pastor of the 10,000-member
Shepherd of the Hills Church,
which the mayor of Los Angeles has called “the most racially diverse church 
in Los Angeles.” Dudley and his wife, Renee, and their three children reside
in Porter Ranch (Los Angeles). His other published works are
Unleashed: The Church Turning the World Upside Down,
Proverbs in a Haystack,
Romancing Royalty,
and
Keeping a Smile on Your Faith.

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for 
many years, is author of the Christian novel
Dream Factory,
which is set during Hollywood's golden age. She produced
a site about angels and miracles
for About.com. Now she writes about the power of thoughts on her
“Renewing Your Mind” blog.

Dean Masters, owner of the Masters List
"I would rather walk in the dark with Jesus than to walk in the light on my 
own."
Wayne Watson

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
by Kelly Givens, Editor, iBelieve.com

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, 
which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, “'You 
shall
love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with 
all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. The second is like
it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' " -Matthew 22:35-39

I live in an apartment complex, and new tenants have recently moved into the 
rental directly below me. I haven’t met them yet, but I do know one thing
about them: they have an incredibly close relationship with their bass 
speakers. If you’ve ever had neighbors with a big sound system, you’ll know 
why
I’m frustrated. While other sound waves bounce off or are absorbed by the 
objects around them, bass sound travels right through. So while I can’t hear
the words of the song my neighbors are blasting, I can feel the floor 
vibrating to the irregular heart-beat like bumps of the bass. It’s the kind 
of sound
that even earplugs can’t always drown out--which is especially annoying at 1 
o’clock in the morning.

Situations like these tempt me to toss aside every sermon I’ve heard on 
patience, gentleness and self-control and start banging on the floor with a 
broom
handle. But this is completely antithetical to what Christ demands. Jesus’ 
message to “love your neighbor as yourself” is a verse that often gets 
thrown
out there without a lot of thought. However, I’m starting to realize there 
are major implications of truly loving someone the way I love myself.

How do I love myself? Well, for starters, I’m always thinking about myself. 
I think about what I’m going to eat for breakfast, what I need to do at 
work,
what I need to pick up from the store on the way home. I also love myself by 
making my needs top-priority. How I schedule my day revolves around the 
things
I want or need to accomplish. Basically, my thoughts and my day are centered 
on me.

So when Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, that’s a 
tall order. He’s saying we need to think about others as much as we think 
about
ourselves. He means we should remember the needs of others like we remember 
our own. He means seeking the happiness, goodness, peace, security of others
as much as we seek those things in our own lives.

How can we do this- especially to those who annoy us, hurt us, or perhaps 
even persecute us? When I think about loving my neighbors as sacrificially, 
as
a priority number one, it seems impossible. I can’t even say I do this fully 
for the people I love most. But then I remember the first part of Jesus’ 
command-
‘Love God with all your heart, soul and mind.” There’s my answer. When I 
focus all my love toward God, he takes my selfish heart and transforms it 
into
a heart capable of loving others. I no longer need others to validate me, be 
kind or loving toward me in order to love them back. Christ’s love is 
enough.
He fills me up so I can pour out selfless love to others, even others with 
loud bass speakers.

This selfless love isn’t something I’m good at- it’s not even something I 
can say I regularly attempt. I’m more selfish than I realize. But God has 
been
using my noisy neighbors to convict my selfish heart, to show me how much 
better I can be at putting the happiness and peace of others above my own. I
know it’s not going to be easy to start loving people as much as I love 
myself, but I know the first step: loving God above everything else.

Intersecting
Faith
and Life: Are you loving others as you love yourself? Without loving God 
first and fully, this is impossible to do. If there is someone in your life 
you’re
struggling to love, ask God to help you persevere in loving them - and in 
loving Him better, too.

Further reading
Matthew 5: 43-48
Leviticus 19:18
Romans 13: 9-10

The Shape of True Love
ALICIA BRUXVOORT

"God sent His only Son into the world so that we could find true life 
through Him. This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God 
first,
but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become 
an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:9b-10 (VOICE)

The first time I danced with my husband my nose came up to his armpit. We 
were swaying straight-armed beneath the disco ball at our eighth grade 
graduation
party, and I joked about how I hoped he’d used plenty of deodorant that day. 
His face turned crimson, the red rising from his neck, as he solemnly 
promised
that he was protected with a double-dose.

I’d stood on my tiptoes in an effort to shrink the gap, but even with my 
hair ratted and sprayed as high as an ‘80s girl could manage, that boy 
loomed
tall above me.

Of course, I had no idea I was dancing with my future husband that night in 
the junior high gym. I never would have guessed that six years later we’d 
trade
the sheen of a disco ball for the gleam of rings and pledge to love one 
another ‘til death do us part.

Though we were no longer gangly teens on our wedding day, my groom still 
towered 10 inches above me. But I wasn’t bothered by my armpit view on that 
special
day; I’d set my sights on the heights of love.

I’d given my husband a hand-written letter just hours before I’d walked down 
the aisle, the words scrawled across the page capturing my hopes for the 
future:
"No matter what life sends our way, our love will always stand tall …"

It was a poetic line, not unlike one you might find on a Valentine’s card 
this month. But after 21 years of marriage, I’ve come to believe my 
sentiments
were wrong.

Love is, indeed, a sacred and lofty gift, but two decades of loving and 
learning has taught me that the mark of true love isn’t height, it’s 
humility.
True love doesn’t stand tall; it bends low.

As we see in today’s key verse, God sent Jesus to demonstrate how true love 
is sacrificial at its core.

True love stoops to pick up the trash bag sitting near the kitchen door and 
crouches to look a sullen child in the eye.

True love bows to change diapers and to shovel snow, to deliver goodnight 
kisses and offer hugs.

True love bends over the dishwasher and over the sick child. True love 
hovers over the hurting and kneels quietly in prayer.

True love chooses to be righteous instead of right, servant instead of 
master, humble instead of haughty.

Let’s be honest, true love isn’t headline news. It’s not greeting card 
verse. It’s not blockbuster buzz. True love is Heaven’s hope, as we see in 1 
John
4:10: "This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God 
first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to 
become
an atoning sacrifice for our sins."

God didn’t declare His love for us with a bouquet of red roses. He didn’t 
wrap up a box of fine chocolates or a flowery card. Instead, God wrapped His
only Son in wrinkled flesh and proclaimed His undying love on Calvary’s 
cross.

It’s crazy when you think about it, the way the truest love of all stooped 
the lowest — so we might know the summit of His glorious love.

I didn’t realize it as a starry-eyed bride, but the heights of love can only 
be discovered in the depths of surrender. It sounds unnatural, doesn’t it?
Impossible … on our own.

But 1 John 4:14-17 tells us that when we confess Christ as our Lord, He 
perfects His love in us. And as the stooping Savior makes Himself at home in 
our
hearts, our lives proclaim the truth that the whole world longs to hear:

The shape of true love isn’t a diamond. It’s a cross.

Dear Jesus, Thank You for loving me with a true and unshakeable love. Grow 
in me a humble heart so that Your perfect love can shine through my 
imperfect
life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 John 4:11-12, "My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we 
certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we 
love one
another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us — 
perfect love!" (MSG)

I John 4:17, "God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of 
love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the
house, becomes at home and mature in us …" (MSG)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Lynn Cowell’s
Devotions for a Revolutionary Year
can help you or a young woman in your life begin each day with a reminder of 
Christ’s true love.


Today's Topical Bible Study
Falling in Love?
by Craig L. Blomberg

Years ago, dear Christian friends of my wife and me explained why they had 
gotten divorced by writing, "We exhausted our spiritual resources." It was 
one
of the strangest explanations I had ever heard, especially from two Ph.D.'s 
and Christian educators who knew very well that God's spiritual resources 
are
inexhaustible. Apparently, they were unwilling to admit what had really 
happened and to say, "We quit trying."

More recently, another close Christian friend, a Ph.D. in New Testament 
studies no less, and a long-time educator, left his wife for another woman, 
who
herself was seminary trained and a pastor, by saying to his wife, "I haven't 
loved you for the last seven years." What he meant, of course, was that he
didn't have the same kind of feelings he once had for her. But in the Bible 
love is primarily a commitment, obedience to God's commands, rather than an
emotion.

Just this fall, a former student and long-time pastor told me about how had 
"made a mistake" and cheated on his wife. In fact, he used the expression 
several
times in our conversation. Never once did I hear the word "sin," however.

I guess in a world in which politicians "misspeak" when they lie, in which 
athletes "make bad choices" when they commit crimes, and prostitutes are 
called
"sex workers," I shouldn't be so surprised.

But how about the innocuous and even heart-warming, "I fell in love"? As 
sweet as it sounds, it's not a biblical expression. And if you can claim 
you've
fallen in love, then you can say you've fallen out of love, as lots of 
people do. In a country in which even many Christians think the pursuit of 
happiness
is an inalienable right (no, just because the American Constitution declares 
it so doesn't make it true), is it any wonder that people justify leaving
their spouses because they just don't feel good any more?

Paul, in his famous love chapter, writes in
1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is 
not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not 
easily
angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but 
rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, 
always
perseveres." Notice the use of "always" a few times? And the adjectives and 
verbs used to characterize love don't have that much to do with emotion, 
except
perhaps when they refer to keeping it under control.

Twice in my life, I've had friends who were in the process of divorcing 
their spouses who looked me straight in the face, and admitted, "I know, I'm 
reneging
on my wedding vows." At least they were honest. So were Bill McCartney and 
company when they challenged us to be promise-keepers. That's what it's 
really
all about - promise keeping.

If I can't trust someone to remain true to their word when they have made 
the most solemn pledge of their entire lives before God, spouse, and a 
Christian
congregation, why should I trust them for anything else?

Now, of course, God is a God of amazing grace, wonderful forgiveness and 
countless fresh starts. And I have dear friends who sinned miserably with 
their
first spouses and are having godly, inspiring second marriages.

But they repented. They called sin sin. They confessed to God and fellow 
humans. They prayed for forgiveness. They received godly counsel and, often, 
counseling.
Their lives genuinely changed. The words we use for labeling concepts do 
matter.

Most countries and cultures in the history of the world that have practiced 
arranged marriages have had extremely low divorce rates. At least those 
couples
recognized that it wasn't feelings or emotions that made or unmade 
marriages. They were also less likely to define love as a feeling or an 
emotion in the
first place.

1 Corinthians 13
ends with the famous
1 Corinthians 13:13:
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these 
is love." If love is eternal and love is the greatest of the attributes we
will share throughout eternity, maybe we'd better start paying more 
attention in this life to what it truly involves. Richard Walker, a former 
pastor of
mine and founder of AMOR Ministries, working with Brazilians in the Upper 
Amazon basin, put it well, "Love is the giving of the very best you have on 
behalf
of another regardless of response." - even when it's thrown back in your 
face. Isn't that what Jesus did with and for us?
Dr. Craig L. Blomberg is a distinguished professor of New Testament at
Denver Seminary
in Denver, Colorado. His books include Interpreting the Parables, Neither 
Poverty nor Riches, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, The 
Historical
Reliability of John's Gospel, commentaries on Matthew and 1 Corinthians, 
Making Sense of the New Testament: 3 Crucial Questions and Preaching the 
Parables.
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Are You Dreading Valentine's Day?
Laura Petherbridge

When I went through my divorce
Valentine’s Day
was one of the most dreaded days of the year. I hated it. The endless 
scenarios of people falling in love or frolicking on sun baked beaches all 
confirmed
that I was a failure. During that season of loss and grief my friends tried 
to tell me I was a terrific person. But I felt like an ugly, rejected loser
who couldn’t keep a husband, and Valentine’s Day was the proof.

Engagement ring commercials inflicted the worst torture. I’d watch the 
lovers proclaiming a life of endless bliss, pledging eternal love to each 
other.
And the sparkling emerald-cut diamond ring somehow made it all delightfully 
perfect. My cynical tongue would hiss, “Yeah, someone made that vow to me 
once
too—don’t believe it!”

After several years of helping others during their divorce, and time spent 
listening to truth instead of the media, I discovered a handful of 
encouraging
ways for single people to cope with the day for “lovers.”

I’m not talking about an unrealistic “just don’t think about it” mentality, 
or pretending the day doesn’t evoke nostalgia or a longing for someone 
special.
We were created for companionship, that’s a God-given need.

However, my suggestion is an optimistic approach to Valentines Day, instead 
of focusing on what is lacking. What if our yearnings caused us to look for
beneficial ways to heal our wounds rather than tolerate them? When we take 
positive steps toward mending a broken heart, the result can be a healed 
life
that thrives—whether single or married.

Here are a few practical “Survival Tips” to help a person refrain from an 
emotional meltdown on Valentine’s Day.

Connection

• Don’t hibernate or wait until February 13th to make a plan. Force yourself 
to be with other people, even if only briefly.
• Gather same sex friends and visit a “
family
focused” restaurant. Avoid ones that cater to couples or have romantic 
overtones.
• Look into a church or community support group. They often have fun 
activities planned.
• Non-custodial parents: Bring your child a valentine or small, inexpensive 
gift that communicates your love.

Creativity

• Think of new, fun things to do this year such as: making handmade 
heart-shaped decorations, pizza, cakes or cookies.
• Try something completely different. Go roller-skating, skiing, hiking, 
bowling, climb a mountain or a walk through a museum.
• Immerse your family in assembling a model airplane, a Lego adventure, or a 
jigsaw puzzle.
• Have a potluck supper with each person bringing a favorite chocolate 
treat.

Care

• Help your child make a valentine for your ex-spouse or former in-laws. 
This communicates your permission for the child to love the other family, 
which
greatly reduces his or her fear and tension.
• Splurge on a cappuccino or box of Godiva chocolates—for yourself!
• Notice a married same-sex friend who may need encouragement or a hug. 
While others are receiving cards, gifts, and flowers, Valentine’s Day may be 
a
reminder of a spouse who is thoughtless, cruel or unloving.
• Take a small gift to someone who is lonely or hurting such as: an exchange 
student, a widow or widower, an unmarried pregnant girl, someone out of 
work,
an elderly neighbor, or a handicapped/ homebound person.

Considerate

• Invite friends over for dinner and use the good linens and china.
• Ladies: Indulge yourself to cozy bed linens, a new nightgown, a massage or 
pedicure.
• Guys: Treat yourself to a ballgame, model train exhibit or car show.
• Send a valentine or flowers to someone who has comforted and loved you. 
This day isn’t solely for romantic love.

Calm

• Try a new pillow or neck exercises. They work wonders for tension.
• Make yourself a warm, comforting drink of hot cocoa or chai tea.
• Get enough sunshine. Winter’s shorter daylight hours can produce 
depression.
• Exercise produces natural stress reducers, and it’s a great way to meet 
new people. Many gyms have childcare available.
• Calligraphy your favorite Bible verse (Suggestions:
Deuteronomy 31:6
Philippians 4:6-8,
1 Peter 5:7
or try your hand at drawing or sculpting.

Caution

• Refrain from anesthetizing loneliness with drugs or alcohol. These 
chemicals can induce despair which often leads to a greater sense of 
isolation.
• Shun the temptation to frequent bars or use sex as a way to ease the pain. 
This decision often leads to disastrous long-term consequences.
• Avoid photographs, memorabilia, fragrances, restaurants or atmospheres 
which trigger nostalgic memories of “what used to be.”
• Steer clear of movies that focus on weddings, people falling in love, 
adultery, or emotionally wounded children. Instead choose films with a 
lighthearted,
fun plot.

And the last, but not least suggestion: Look to the true “Lover of your 
Soul” Jesus, for comfort. He alone is the one who knows all of your pain, 
needs
and desires. And He promises that He loves you with an everlasting love that 
will not change or fade (
Jeremiah 31:3,
Isaiah 55.
He longs to lavish you with love, his passionate heart burns for you. (
1 John 3:1,
Zephaniah 3:17).

I pray these suggestions help to make Valentine's Day brighter. After all, 
any day with chocolate as the focus is something to smile about!

Copyright © 2009 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved. Originally 
appeared at
LauraPetherbridge.com.

Rebecca Barlow Jordan
The Perfect Valentine
http://www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com/perfect-valentine

We love to give Valentines to each other at this time of year. But someone 
gave us the best one of all–the perfect Valentine. And He’s the source of 
all Love.

The Perfect Valentine:
A Personal Valentine from God
I Love You and Will Always Care for You

My child, have you walked with me this long,

and yet you still wonder at times about My love for you?

What can I do to prove your worth to Me?

What more can I do than to offer My own Son in exchange for your life?

That was My ultimate Valentine gift to you.

Because your performance could never measure up to My standards,

I gave you
Jesus.

I love you—simply because you are My child.

Is your burden too heavy for you to bear?

Do your man-made crosses weigh you down?

They were never intended for your arms alone.

Don’t you know how much I care?

I bore the cross so you could live joyfully, forgiven and free.

But first, you must release your cares–

and give them all to Me.

-Rebecca Barlow Jordan

For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son,

that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16,
NIV

A Personal Prayer

Jesus, You are the fulfillment of love. You will never leave us or deceive 
us. Your love is unconditional and unchangeable. Your wisdom is infinite; 
Your
mercies are always new. Your forgiveness is complete; You are perfect in all 
you do. Your grace is amazing; Your goodness undeserved; Your care is 
tender;
Your promises are true. Teach us how to love like You, Lord. You are the 
perfect Valentine!

Day-votedly Yours,
Rebecca

* Each Valentine’s Day I like to share this poem and prayer. I hope you’ll 
share the Perfect Valentine (Jesus) with others this year!

What about You?

What does God’s personal valentine say to you? Please leave your comments 
below. Your words might encourage someone today.

BANKING ON THE GOLDEN RULE

What’s yours is mine; what’s mine is my own. Is this any way to build a 
marriage?

Copyright 1998

Leslie A Turvey

A servant of the only true and living God

There’s a see-through His ‘n Hers bank sold at novelty shops and crafts 
booths. At first glance it looks quite normal.

But closer inspection reveals any money put into His side is automatically 
shunted to Hers. (Of course, any money put in Her side goes into her account
too.)

Not a bad deal for her. What’s yours is mine; what’s mine is my own! And for 
most couples the bank is a lot of fun.

But that bank can represent a one-sided relationship: all for her; nothing 
for him. Too often that’s the way a woman wants her marriage.

She wants an expensive, sporty car. He can have the old clunker. She wants a 
fur coat and diamonds. He can wear last year’s outfit.

Now whoever made the bank could just as easily have reversed the signs to 
Hers and His, with all the money going into His side. Unfortunately too many
men want their married life to be like that: all for him; nothing for her.

You know the type. All the latest toys and gadgets he’d be just as well off 
without. Keep the old lady barefoot and pregnant.

There are His ‘n Her banks that keep the money separated. What’s put in His 
side stays on his side, and what’s put in Her side stays there.

This represents a 50/50 relationship. What’s yours is yours; what’s mine is 
mine. And a lot of marriages are based on this selfish system.

These are often career marriages, with each partner tied up with his or her 
personal ambitions. They both may have fancy cars and fashionable clothes.
But they’re really only two people sharing the same bed.

What’s really needed is a His ‘n Hers bank with no divider. The money, 
regardless of whether it goes into His side, or Hers, would all end up in 
the same
place. This kind of relationship says what’s mine is ours, and what’s yours 
is ours. It’s a 100 percent relationship with each member giving everything
to the other.

He opens the door for her. She polishes his image to her friends. He helps 
with the dishes. She brings him coffee to his office in the basement. He 
cares
for the kids so she can spend an evening with the girls. She’s a gracious 
hostess when the guys come to play poker. He tells her she’s beautiful, even
with her hair in curlers. She vows he’s the handsomest prince on earth.

There’s a biblical principal called the golden rule: Do to others as you 
would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12).

When people follow the golden rule life is worth living. But when it’s mine, 
all mine, greed destroys the relationship.

The His ‘n Hers bank from the novelty shop may be fun. But a marriage based 
on that system is doomed.
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