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DR. BILL'S THOUGHTS

Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (NASB)

Have you ever tried to do something for someone and not really given it your all or had enough time? Instead, you try to fit it all in, cramming things, trying to do 100 things in the time allotted for 10. The impatience builds until finally things begin to go wrong. Sometimes they go seriously wrong. We men are task-orientated; we watch the clock to see if we can get more done in less time. We miss so many blessings because we fly by them at lightning speed. There is no clock in heaven, and all the things God wants to accomplish get done. When I walk by my flesh, I find myself trying to do things my way, what I think is best, and what I want. I don’t take the time to seek God’s direction and guidance. I don’t walk by the Spirit, and it always leads me down the same path, missing the blessings and missing the opportunities to share Christ, His love, and the message of salvation. In my confused state, I wonder what kind of witness am I for Christ. How about you? When things get overwhelming, do you walk by the Spirit or the flesh? Today’s verse shares some of the fruits of the Spirit Are we walking in them?

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Genesis 8:22 says, "While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night, Shall not cease.” (NASB)

Many love to dance with their spouse, but if you try to dance by yourself it seems pointless and looks kind of funny.

Today’s verse speaks of our Creator’s Cadence, the dance of our God. Everything has a beat, a rhythm. When we all are “in step” with God and His sheet music, we must sound like a well-tuned orchestra. The problem arises when we try to start a song all by ourselves and keep a different beat than what the Lord has created. Sometimes our music is so loud that it drowns out God’s. Have we become so loud in our pursuit of our own song that we have missed God’s rhythm?

Today, it’s about slowing down and listening for God, to hear His beat and rhythm. It’s about submission to God. Do we believe He is ultimately in charge of all like today’s verse speaks of, or do we think that our way and our song is better than God’s? Listen for God’s song today. Hear the rhythm of His creation and follow the beat of His music in the season of life you’re in.

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Romans 12:5 says, “So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

When I was a kid my friends father was repairing an old compressor. He took apart each piece and set them neatly where he could reinstall them correctly. The only problem was that he had somehow lost one key part, a small part, but without it, the compressor wouldn't run. It was a set screw that held the pull wheel in place.

Today's scripture speaks that we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. I thought of how each of us has our place in the body of Christ. Though some of us may be small or have small parts to play, we are all needed for the body to work. My friends father searched and searched and finally found that set screw and once he put it in place, the compressor worked like a well-oiled machine. That is how the body of Christ will work if each of us, no matter how small, does our part. Are we doing our part or have we been lost along the way? Believe me when I say the body of Christ is searching for you and needs you to do your part so we can work as a well-oiled machine for Christ.

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John 4:23 says, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” (NASB)

A carpenter said, "My wife reminds me that copying is the greatest form of flattery. I thought about that as I tried to make a chair spindle look like the originals. One of the chairs that we have had broken a spindle beyond repair; and it had to be replaced. Taking the piece of wood to the sander, I kept taking more and more off so that it looked like an original. Although it will never look exactly like an original, I can do my best to be true to the form and type of it."

Today's verse speaks of worshipping the Father in spirit and truth and that worshipping like that is true worship. Jesus worshipped the Father by giving His life for us. Now, I will never be Christ, but I try to be like Him. Maybe you do too. That means our worship of the Father should be as close to Jesus' as possible. I wonder if we have taken enough of us off so that we begin to live like Jesus, to act like Jesus, to love like Jesus that would be true worship of the Father. Worship is not just singing songs in church; it is a way of life. So are we copying Jesus’ example?

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Psalms 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” (NASB)

I can still hear it every time I put a bolt in or take a nut off. “Righty- tighty, Lefty losey.” Growing up as a young boy I loved to take things apart and put things back together. A friend of mine and I were working on putting together a metal shelf in his dad's basement and of course his dad would stand over our shoulders and repeat "righty tighty, lefty losey." Today, I find myself repeating those same words to those who are young and new at putting things together or when they are helping me with a project around the church.

Today's scripture states that God will instruct us and teach us in the way that we should go. He will counsel us with His eye upon us. What a wonderful thought! No matter what kind of parents we had or what kind of father we are, we can rest in the knowledge that our Heavenly Father is watching us and instructing us in the way we should go. Oh you may ask how is He instructing and leading us, by His Word. The Bible is a living breathing word from our Heavenly Father, and it might just do us some good to open it up and see where He leads.

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Matthew 4:3 says, "Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."

Jesus was tempted in every way as we are yet without sin. He began His public ministry with baptism. As john the baptist raised Him from the water, Jesus heard His Father's affirmation, "Well Done!" Immediately afterward Jesus spent forty days fasting in the wilderness. There Satan met Him and presented three temptations.

First, Satan enticed jesus to use His divine power to transform stones into bread. It seemed like a logical thing to do. Jesus was hungry, but He had a much greater need to follow His Father's leading. The Father had led Him to fast; Satan sought to persuade Him to eat.

Next, Satan tried to convince Jesus to us Satan's means to accomplish the Father's ends. If you are the Son of God throw yourself down" (Matthew 4:6) Jesus understood that this would be presumption, not faith. It would be attempting God's work in the world's ways. The world looks for spectacular displays; God uses a holy life.

The final temptation Satan proposed for Jesus to achieve God's will was by worshipping Satan (Matthew 4:8-9). In return Satan offered to give Him all the kingdoms of the world. By compromising, Jesus could gain a powerful ally and achieve His mission without suffering the cross. Jesus knew that only God was to be worshipped, and to worship Satan would not bring instant success, as Satan promised, but devastating failure.

As you seek to follow God, temptations will inevitably come. Sometimes they will come immediately after a spiritual victory. Jesus relied on God's word to see Him through the temptations that could have destroyed Him and thwarted God's plan. He has modeled the way for you to meet every temptation.

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1 Timothy 6:11 says, "But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness."

Flee - Success at any cost. Financial accumulation. Power. Prestige. Image. Controlling influence. The top of the pyramid. Celebrity status. Are you running away from these things?

I am always a bit discouraged when the Christian community parades its celebrities across the stage. I wonder if Jesus would emcee such an event. I suspect that he would be sitting with the janitor or talking with the parking attendants. Do we go to the auditorium to have some of the glitter rub off on us? Is there just that hint of secret envy? Have we simply sanctified the "success" package commonly viewed on any corporate platform? Why would we pay to hear the big name but we couldn't care less about the woman who serves in the kitchen? Something is wrong in the "Christian" world. Take away the hymns and the God-talk and we look very much like the rest of society. Are we running away from these things, or are we chasing after them as fast as we can?

Paul says that men and women of God will flee the world's paradigm of money and success. He offers us another direction. Run toward righteousness. Sprint toward godliness. Chase after faith and love.

That's the problem, isn't it? If we pursue the characteristics of the Father and the Son, we aren't likely to see our names on the billboard. We won't get the television interviews. We won't sit in the speaker's chair. People won't clamor for our autograph. We'll just fade into the background of life, the unrecognized but remarkable servant-slaves of the King of Kings. Oh, yes. By the way, He will be right there with us, on His knees, washing feet.

Never underestimate the subtlety of ego. Ego deflation is a constant challenge to every servant of the King. Wherever we begin to hold up an image of success that does not lead us directly to the cross, we are in danger of heading in the wrong direction. To serve Jesus is to die. And there are no parties at ego funerals.

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Acts 2:3 says, “And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each of them.”

It starts with a simple spark. One time a plummer was telling his apprentice how to work on a copper line. He said, "You need to heat the joint so you can take it off and replace it with a "T" to add another line. So I told him to grabbed my torch and and the striker. He never used a torch or striker before so I proceeded to click the striker. I told him, "The striker is a tool that when pushed causes a spark, a tiny little spark, that will ignite the torch. Without the spark, the torch will never light. It will sit there and be useless."

Today's verse speaks of the Holy Spirit anointing upon the early disciples. The flame like appearance was the spark they needed to begin their new mission of sharing Christ and the message of love with those around the world. Like the plummers torch, the tiniest spark is needed to ignite the flame. Without it, the torch is powerless. Likewise, without the Holy Spirit, our lives will be useless. Where are you getting your spark from, the world or the Word? A simple question, but the answer can be the difference between a useless thing and an all-consuming fire of revival. I know what I choose. How about you?

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Ecclesiastes 9:5 says, “For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten.” (NASB)

I always take time to look at the pictures. I've seen them at almost every funeral - pictures from the life of the one who has passed on. At a recent funeral, I took the time to look through the many photos that hung on poster boards in the corner of the room of their family, moments just living life, some that were of childhood times, and others were of events that marked their time here on earth. I got to thinking about today's scripture. How we know that one day we will die, but to those who have passed away, their time is over. They no longer look forward to the reward that awaits those of us who still live. I couldn’t help but think with all the tragedies around our country and the world, that none of us know the time or the hour when our life will be over. I wonder what pictures will sit on those boards when we finally say goodbye to this world. Will there be pictures of us loving our families and loving each other? We may not have tomorrow but we have today. Make some wonderful pictures by loving each other!

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Romans 8:11 says, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (NASB)

When we were building our church we had a challenge with the electric. We couldn't seem to get power to the lights in one area. While tracing the wires the electricine said needed to find the break in the line in order to get the lights to work properly. They started at the first light that wasn't working and began to trace the wires back. With each light on the line, they found the same condition - no power. They kept tracing until they found themselves at the electrical panel box. There within the source of the power, was a lose screw on one of the breakers, causing the entire line of lights to not work properly.

Today's verse speaks about the Holy Spirit and the source of power that raised Jesus from the dead. That same power is available to us if He lives within us. I can't help but think that sometimes in life we get our screws a little loose leaving us without a good connection to God's source of power. If we are not connected to the power source of the Holy Spirit, our lights of service may not be working properly. Maybe we should check to make sure our screws aren't loose to see if we're working in full power for Christ.

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John 7:38 says, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (NASB).

I wasn't sure what was wrong, the ministry house on our church property wasn't getting any water coming to the house from the well. So after investigating why the water pressure seemed to have slowed down to a trickle I went under the house to see if I could find the problem. I didn't see any problem under the house so I went to the well outside about 200 feet away from the house. I knew right away when I saw the galvanized pipe that ran from the well. Over the years, the pipes had become clogged with rust and debris to the point where the pipe was reduced to about a 1/8 inch opening making it impossible for the water to flow at the pressure and amount the pipe was designed for. We ended up putting in a new well with plastic pipe.

Today's verse speaks of believing in Christ and from our innermost being will flow rivers of living water However, just like the pipe, our lives can become so clogged with this and that that we no longer flow like we used to. The rivers of water that should flow out of us have been reduced to a trickle, and therefore, we must spend time unclogging the pipes. We had to replace all of the piping with new lines and the flow and pressure returned to normal. In fact, it was better than normal. Clearing out the garbage in our "pipes" of life will allow the Holy Spirit to flow through us in measures we can't even imagine. So, what do you say, time to clean out some pipes?

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Proverbs 2:3-4 (NASB) says, “For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures…”

If your life depended upon a doctor to do surgery, would you want someone who just went through medical school looking for shortcuts and not asking questions if they didn’t understand? Would you rather want someone who studies with their mind fully engaged? The answer is obvious; we would want someone who has given all they have at learning the skill of surgery and being a doctor who can handle emergencies dealing with our health issues. So, why would we want anything less for our “spiritual health”? If reading the Bible, meditating upon it deeply, asking questions as we read, and seeking the wisdom of those blessed as pastors and teachers of His Word would all help us in our Christian walk, why aren’t we doing that? Maybe we are, but to be honest with myself, I can go deeper. How about you? There are so many promises and advice laying just beneath the pages of our Bibles waiting for us to unfold them. I pray you go DEEP with God as you read His Word each day. You are reading each day aren’t you, crying out for discernment, and lifting your voice for understanding?

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Genesis 28:15 (NASB) says, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

A man said, "We checked on our daughters a few times, made some calls, did some FaceTime, sent a few texts and pictures to be sure they were okay while we were away.." AS a parent and grandparent I understand how they felt. Any parent who has gone away for business, vacation, schooling, etc. and has left children behind has this feeling that things won't really be the same until they return.

Today's verse speaks of what God spoke to Jacob, about leaving his home land but God would not leave him until God did what He promised to do. In life, there will be times when we have to leave our families for a variety of reasons, but the key is to always let them know that while we are away they will be in our thoughts and prayers until the job is accomplished. Don't listen to what the world says about being a good parent, a good man or woman, be a man or woman of God: a good husband or wife, a good father or mother, and listen to what God is telling you to do and keep on keeping on until the task is done!

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Proverbs 10:17 (NASB) says, “He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, But he who ignores reproof goes astray.”

As a pastor I have heard the words, "I hear ya, but I'm going to do it my way," quite a lot over the years. And I usually think to myself, "They are going to be calling back soon." A couple had reached out to me once looking for some advice, I listened to what they were facing and gave them the best option for what they were trying to accomplish. Then I heard those words "I hear ya, but I'm going to do it my way."

Today's verse speaks of the one who is on the path of life heeds instruction, but the one who ignores it goes astray. Sure enough, within a few days, my phone rang again; it was the couple asking me to explain again the option that I shared earlier. Sometimes we think we know what's best. Then we begin to put our thoughts into actions. When things begin to fall apart, that's when we usually seek help. Don't wait till your life begins to fall apart before you call out to God. Speak to Him daily, (prayer) walk with Him, (in the Spirit), and above all, make sure we heed His instructions (the Bible). That's the best path of life I know. I tried my own path, but thank God it led me right to Him. Where does your path lead?

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2 Timothy 4:2 (NASB) says, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”

Anumber of years ago my cell phone rang, I thought for a moment of not answering it. I was on vacation something I rarely get to do when my cell phone started going off. It was a friend who had a problem and needed an answer. I could have just blown him off, but that's not how I operate. I took the time to hear the problem and then began to describe how I would go about fixing it. Today's verse speaks of being ready in season and out of season, to preach the word, to give an answer with great patience and instruction. Being on vacation was definitely out of season for me, but I can't just pick some of the verses in the Bible to live and not others. If we are truly trying to be followers of Christ, that means following all of God's Word, not just the parts we like. If we do try to live them, we will be able to preach the Word in season and out of season so others can know our God, the Jesus who went to the Cross, and the Holy Spirit who will guide us and comfort us in our times of trials and struggles. So what verses are you leaving out of your answers in season and out? Maybe it's time we have His answers in all seasons.

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James 5:17 (NASB) says, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.”

What would it take for us to believe that God answers prayer? Do we need to see the miracle of someone healed or some other miracle that would “wow” us? I wonder if a life changed is enough, because I guarantee that someone was praying for each of us who have come to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We who have accepted Christ and have truly repented are walking miracles. If you were to ask my friends or family if they would rather have their “old friend” or family member" back or the one they know today, they would say the latter. What about when God doesn’t answer our prayers? How do we cope with that? Do we find ourselves saying, “I wanted this or I wanted that,“ and when it doesn’t happen or happen how we wanted it to we curse God for not answering our prayer? It’s not about us! Even our prayer life needs to be “Your Will be done.”

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Many of us lose confidence in prayer because we don’t recognize the answer. We ask for strength; God gives us difficulties which make us strong. God sends problems, the solutions of which develop wisdom. We plead for prosperity; God give us a brain and brawn to work. We plead for courage; God give us danger to overcome. We ask for favors; God give us opportunities. So often we reject the very things God send to develop and strengthen us.

We lose confidence in prayer also when we lose focus on what true prayer is all about! Prayer is as much about speaking to God as it is about listening. Like any conversation, a good one includes an exchange where both parties are seeking both to be understood and to understand.

A successful prayer life doesn’t include one that simply involves petitions, lists of grievances, or even a laundry list of “needs.” Rather, a healthy prayer life includes one where you simply avail yourself in submission to God and His Supreme authority! A time where we await instructions as much as we seek God’s favor and intervention; A time of praise and thanksgiving; A time to simply connect with your Creator.

Take a few moments to reflect upon your prayer life and ensure it contains the essential two-way communication that is vital to the success of any thriving relationship, earthly and eternal!

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Acts 3:19-20 (ESV) says, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus…”

Maybe it's happened to you too? My smartphone displayed a message, "Update Required." But no sooner had I updated the phone when my laptop I used displayed the same message. Next, it was my ipad! Today's verse speaks about times of refreshing, kind of like "updating" in a way, and as I begin to think about the next time I will update my electronic devices I wonder if we have ever thought about updating our relationships. Are there friends that need to hear from you; people who you have lost touch with over the years? And what about your relationship with God? Does that need to be updated? In anything that needs updating, it comes down to a choice, to update, or not to update. But the one update you definitely need to do regularly is your relationship with God. Don't click "ask me later." Do it today. Now. It's the best update available and it's free.

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Ephesians 5:2 (ESV) says, "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Once while taking Rocky outside he ran to the back of the yard and began to sniff at this tiny baby bird sitting in the grass. It was helpless. Its death was near. But suddenly the mother bird flew down and did something very strange. She began chittering and flopping in the grass, as if injured. Then I realized she was diverting my dog’s attention towards her! It was a desperate act to save her offspring. Today's verse speaks of love, and the greatest sacrifice given to us in the name of love. I was amazed that even in the animal world, personal sacrifice is found. Yes, you could say that it was instinct that caused the mother bird to step in, but I believe there's a deeper reason there. God created birds and gave them those instincts. Maybe he wants us to observe his creations more closely and learn something. How many of us are willing to sacrifice ourselves out of love? Whether it's dying to self in our marriage so our spouse know love, or sharing possessions with a stranger, or overcoming our hesitations and fears in order to tell someone about our Heavenly Father's love. Christ demonstrated sacrifice and the Father’s love for us. Let’s be prepared to do the same when the time comes!

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Colossians 3:5 (ESV) says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

Being truthful about where we are in life often takes being brutally honesty. A man once said this, "Seven years of telling a therapist what I thought he wanted to hear did not solve my anger problem. But being truthful with myself and God brought me the peace I needed. Otherwise I would have lost my family."

Inside each of us is a sense that things are not as they should be. Something is broken. Something we can’t fix ourselves. We can go on playing the game or we can look at ourselves with truth. ASk yourself, "In what area of my life do I need help?" If we listen to God and heed what He says, then we can change the way we live and become more like Him! How awesome is that? Don’t even think about making that excuse! Seek out and live by God’s Word and you’ll live life to the fullest, and in His fullness.

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John 13:17 (ESV) says, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

There is an old saying, “practice what you preach.” Another says, “do as I say but not as I do.” Both statements hit the point of today’s verse. One is the positive side of the verse and the other is the negative side. Putting into action the concepts, ideas or life pattern we see in the Bible is the positive side. But it’s more than just saying the words, it’s living the Word. You can memorize the entire Bible, recite it from cover to cover, and never know what is meant by “the Word was made flesh.” But just as Christ, the Word, became flesh, we are also to do the same. We are to become like Christ so others can see Him! The next time we see someone hurting we can either live Jesus or we can sit back and wait for someone else to.

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Luke 5:32 (ESV) says, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

A man once said, "Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s I spent some time at a certain church in another state. On weekends we went to malls to talk to people about the Lord. We did a lot of finger pointing and saying things that were true but were hard for people to swallow. The reactions from people were disappointing. Although the things we said were biblically true, they were not effective ways to evangelize."

I understand his statement as I have known churches and Christians who have had the same results for doing the same thing. I may have done the same thing in my early years as a believer. But I have learned to let my life, actions and decisions be a witness for Jesus (even though sometimes I am not the best witness). It’s my hope that people will see what Jesus has done for me, and how He’s remade me.

When I became a new creation in Christ it took a while for my friends and family to truly believe that I was a changed man. There were times when a situation would come up and they would watch with wide eyes to see how I would react. They really were looking for evidence of my change. Seeing how anger was replace with love and caring made an impact with them. How do you share Christ best?

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Galatians 5:7 (ESV) says, “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”

When your car isn't running well you typically get it tuned up. Problem solved! Today's verse is a question Paul asked the Galatian believers about why they seemed to need some spiritual “maintenance.” I think this is a question everyone needs to ask himself often. While tuning up a car, you have to pull out the feeler gauge and make sure the ignition timing is set right. All these small parts are critically important. You see, when we share the Gospel with others we need to make sure our spiritual parts (our engine) is running well. Otherwise, what real use are we to our Father? So ask yourself today: Are you running well; is it time for a tune up? As a further step, go ahead and read the entire chapter of Galatians 5 to get some great perspective on Paul’s question to the believers.

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Isaiah 65:24 (ESV) says, "Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear."

If you were to ask most people how they feel about prayer, they would say that God doesn’t answer prayer anymore. But I guess we need to define what prayer is. For some of us prayer is like a request form found at a stationary store. You know, where you put down the list of things you need or want and then send it in. For others prayer is for when we have messed things up really bad and we need someone to clean it up. Prayer is simply talking with God. That’s all. It can be about laying our needs at His feet. It can be about seeking guidance and help. Or it can be about talking with a friend. Can you imagine how long our friendship would last if every time we met I asked for something from you? “Hey, can you do this for me; or can you give me a couple of bucks; or can you fix this?” How long do you think that friendship would last? The great thing about God is He does not turn away from us when we do silly and thoughtless things like that. He is there, always ready to talk. When was the last time you had a conversation with God? Have one right now!

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Jonah 4:11 (NIV) says, “And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left…”

Anger, Prejudice, an uncompassionate spirit. Many have carried these three things around in their heart for years. Though they claimed to follow Jesus, in this area of their lives they are walking in the opposite direction as our Savior. World events affecting America have turned them bitterly against certain groups of people (I won’t say which). They hate America, and so they hate them. They don't care if they go to hell or not. Their problem is the same as Jonah’s. He wanted to see the people of Nineveh, enemies of Israel, face the judgement he felt they deserved. He was angry when God saw their repentance and showed mercy. Jonah said he was “angry enough to die” over it.

Then God says (paraphrased), “You don’t have any right to be angry. I am the only judge that matters. I care about these people too, even though they are wicked. C’mon, Jonah. These people are LOST! I want YOU to have my compassionate heart for them, no matter what they’ve done to you.”

Is there anyone you hate, dislike, or have given up on because of anger, prejudice, or a lack of compassion? Ask Jesus to forgive you and help you see that person, or those people, through His eyes today.

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Titus 2:13 (ESV) says, “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…”

The wait to meet our grandchildren lasted nine months but was so worth it. When I first met them, they didn't have to say a thing. I could feel the effect upon my heart. Today's verse speaks about waiting for our blessed hope, Jesus Christ to return to take us home. The birth of each of our grandchildren was a special occasion. We had waited patiently for them to come into the world and I still think about the excitement, the thrill, of meeting them. I remember asking myself if I am just as excite about the return of our Lord. When I first met Jesus, He didn't say anything either, but He spoke to my heart. He changed my life. I can only imagine what the second time will be like, when I see Him in person. If it's at all like meeting my grandchildren, I will be overjoyed.

You don't have to wait for His Second Coming, you can meet Him today, and there is no nine-month wait. You can accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior today by simply repenting and asking Him into your heart. Like a new born child or grandchild, He will change your heart!

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Colossians 3:17 (ESV) says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

I am always amazed how we refer to people by their occupation. He’s a plumber, or he’s a banker, or she’s a home maker. Wouldn’t it be nice to refer to each other by who we are not what we do? And what if people could tell we were Christians without us saying a word, not by the shirts we wear or the WWJD bracelet (what would Jesus Do), but by our actions as Christians. There are the words in an old song, ‘They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.’ Can others see us living Christ all the time, or do we do it when it’s convenient? Are we really part of God’s team, fighting for His will to be done or is it about us and what we can get out of life? These are some tough questions we need to ask ourselves. If someone meets us for the first time, will they know we serve Jesus by our love for others instead of ourselves?

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Mark 1:35 (ESV) says, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed.”

Sometimes it's early morning, sometimes late at night, sometimes it’s in the car driving, and sometimes it’s cutting grass on the riding mower.

Today's verse shares where Jesus went to speak to His Father. I find myself taking moments, no matter where I am, to talk with God, much like what Jesus did as He rose early in the morning. I thank God that it doesn't have to be a specific place, or a specific time or doing a specific thing. That's one of the blessings that we received when Jesus went to the Cross. The old ritual of the high priest going to God once a year to atone for the nation’s sin was forever broken. Suddenly, all mankind had direct access to the Father, through Jesus! It's almost like our cell phones. We can call anyone at anytime in almost any place. The key of course is making the call. So it's not where but when. Do you call God? He is always ready to listen!

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Psalm 112:4 says, “Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness.”

A missionary in Peru told of going one evening to visit a small group of believers. She knew that the house where they were meeting was located on a cliff and that climbing up the pathway would be treacherous. From her own house she took a taxi as far as it could go, and then she began the hazardous ascent to the house. The night was dark and the way was very difficult. As she rounded a bend, she suddenly came upon several believers carrying bright lanterns. They had come out to light the way. Her fears relieved, the missionary ascended the path easily and had a good meeting.

In a similar way, God lights our pathway. When we accepted Jesus as our personal Savior, He who is the light of the world entered our lives and removed the darkness of our sin and despair. This light continues to comfort us through times of sorrow and despair. In the midst of sadness, trouble, illness, or disappointments, the Lord brightens the way and encourages His children by giving hope. This may come through a word of exhortation from a fellow believer. It may be the soothing illumination of His word by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It may be a calm reassurance in response to heartfelt prayer. Or it may be the miraculous supply of a specific need. Whatever the case, God sends light when we are engulfed in darkness, and it will continue to shine until we exit the other side of “the valley of the shadow of death.”

For the believer, there is always light in the darkest night! Remember, God sometimes puts us in the dark to show us that He is light.

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Proverbs 3:5 (ESV) says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding."

When I was a kid I was a Boy Scout. Our scout troop would do a lot of hiking and camping. One time on a camping trip we were teamed up with another scout from our troop and we had to take our compass and map and go into the woods and find our way to a certain point. That may not sound so bad but there was over a thousand acres of woods! The scout that was with me was pretty new to scouting and I thought he would not be the best choice to get us to our destination, but he was the "one in charge" according to our Scout Master.

Well, after a few hours in the woods, I found out that he knew what he was doing. As we hiked through the woods, we became disoriented and lost our way. None of the surroundings looked familiar. Not sure what to do next, my friend said, "Trust me." As he began to walk, he simply said, "Follow me." Without choice in the matter, I began to follow him. After a few hours, we found ourselves on a familiar path that lead us to our destination and then our campsite. I wasn't sure how he did it, but I learned to trust him.

Sometimes in life, we may not be sure just where God is leading or what He is doing in a certain situation. It is then that we need to trust Him with all our hearts. In the end, we will see that He will lead us on a path of safety. The key is to let go and let God, whether we understand or not.

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Psalm 39:6 (NASB) says, “Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them... "

As I sat down and began to read my Bible to prepare a devotion, I found that I was in a hurry. I usually try to get them done by a certain time to post them, but I was a little late. So, I grabbed my Bible and trying to rush through it, I realized that I was missing the message of each verse I read. Then I realized how impatient I was. That it became more about sending them out than reading the Word for me. I was losing the message of the message. It became more about getting it out than getting it IN. What became more important, my words or God’s Word? I humbly repented and sought first His Kingdom and the message He was trying to tell me. I am more aware of how much of my time is spent trying to get my goals accomplished instead of His goals and make the necessary changes. I pray that you too will seek His truth and His Spirit for without it, we are lost in a world of us.

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John 13:35 says, “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

David Doubilet is a photojournalist whose pictures of a silent underwater world can turn even an ugly, bug-eyed sea creature into a lovely luminescent work of art. Although he has received many honors for his work, he has also been criticized by environmentalists for not doing more hard-edge journalism. They want him to take pictures of dead fish, dirty beaches, and polluted oceans. But Doubilet believes there’s a better way to get people to care about the environment. Instead of showing the destruction that humans are causing, he shows the beauty God created.

Some Christians seem to think that the way to improve our spiritual environment is to point out all the evil in the world. But Jesus showed a better way. Although He never glossed over sin (Matthew 15:18-20), he said to His followers before going to the cross, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). We are more effectivbe witnesses when we become portraits of the beauty God is creating in us than when we merely paint a bleak picture of human degradation.

“In the end” says Doubilet, “the best thing one can do is to amaze people.” And what could be more amazing to the world than Christians who truly love one another? Remember, love is a magnet that draws believers together and unbelievers to Christ

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Romans 15:5 (ESV) says, "May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus"

Let me tell you a story about John and Joe, they are neighbors in a small community. John said, "I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was. For years, my neighbor Joe and I didn't see eye to eye. When we first moved into the neighborhood, we were friends but sadly things turned sour."

Today’s verse speaks about God granting us endurance and encouragement for living in harmony.

John went on to say, "One day, Joe needed help. I could have walked away, but I know Christ means to share His love through action and not just words, so, I helped him. I put our disagreements aside. We could fight another day. Well, shortly afterwards, things begin to change. A simple wave, a shovel of a driveway, and finally, a conversation with a friendly tone. We were on the way to becoming friends again."

Friends, don't give up on what God is doing. Even with your enemies, who knows what might happen. Be encouraged to keep on keeping on for Christ! He will amaze you!!

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Ephesians 4:1 (NASB) says, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called”

What’s the first thing Paul says when it comes to walking in a way that honors the Lord? Get a lawyer! At least that’s how we could translate this verse in today’s street vernacular. The very first words of this verse are not “I therefore.” The first word is parakalo, “entreat, urge, call alongside, beseech.” And, of course, this word is tied directly to the role of the Spirit, the parakaleo, the One called alongside, the advocate, Gods personal attorney sent to help us.

Paul is about to instruct his readers in the art of walking worthy of Yeshua. But he doesn’t start with exhortations to keep rules of conduct. He doesn’t start with church membership or baptism or discipleship training. He starts with the Spirit. When he puts the word parakalo in the first position in this sentence, it is as if he put double exclamation points behind this word. Paul is begging you to open your life to the Spirit’s gentle whispers. Listen to what the heavenly lawyer tells you. His advice is absolutely true.

More than any other message, the Parakaleo brings comfort. In fact, one of the four principal meanings of parakaleo is comforting (the others are calling, beseeching and encouraging). This shouldn’t be a surprise. Exodus 34:6 tells us that YHWH is first a God of compassion. “Comfort, comfort, yea my people” is an echo that sounds through the ages since Isaiah. God loves us. He is brokenhearted when we suffer as a result of unworthy steps, for that is what they are. When we falter, when we stop walking the path of His instruction, when we cause our own disruption in relationship with Him, God suffers. And so do we that is why the Spirit of comfort is so critical. This heavenly lawyer not only shows us where we have made the wrong choices, He directs us back to the path of righteousness while holding our hands.

We are often in need of the Spirit. Why? Because we are often beside ourselves, looking at the path we should have taken and wondering why we have been so blind to our own disobedience. We stand on the edge of the detour, longing to get back to the royal road, afraid that this time we have completely lost our way. “Comfort, comfort yea, my people” comes the soothing sound of His voice. If you are going to walk worthily, you must employ the services of the Spirit. To think you can do it with only the words of the Book is foolishness. This is about relationship, not regulation. Do you need the Book, absolutely. The Book sets out the course of daily practice so that some acts become habits. The Book explains why we do what we do and how we are to do it. Would you try to repair a racing engine without an instruction manual? But in the end, the Book leads us to the designer and the designer wants to engage us in fellowship. We do in order to be. And parakaleo introduces being with Him. Struggling today? OK, so hire the lawyer – and listen.

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Isaiah 40:31 (NASB) says, "Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary."

When our lives become all about us and not about Him, we will inevitably find it hard to wait. Paul often spoke about the trials and sufferings, and how they could never compare to the glories that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). But to have the glories revealed, we must wait patiently secure in the knowledge that God is in control.

My wife and I have been in situations where we needed God’s hand upon the outcome. We prayed and waited, prayed and waited and trusted, prayed and waited and trusted some more, and in His timing, the situation was resolved. However, the waiting wore on each of us at different times. I was amazed at how sometimes I would get frustrated waiting and she would strengthen me. Then there were times when I would strengthen her, but it always comes down to having faith and trust in our God knowing He was in control. Sure, we had the choice to do things our way, but I know the outcome would not have been as peaceful and things would definitely be different in regards to the situations we prayed for. What’s probably worse is the fact that our relationship with Him would have been tarnished. The trust and faith between God and us would have been broken. How long does God have to wait patiently for us to learn to wait on Him?

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Proverbs 12:22 (ESV) says, "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight."

They didn't want to hear the truth but a young couple lived in their house for a few years when they noticed that one wall was starting to lean in. They called a contractor to see if he could find out why, and what could be done about it.

Today's verse speaks of how lying lips are an abomination, and those who act faithfully are His delight. As the contractor began to investigate the problem, he found that the previous owners had put on an addition to the house. The only problem was that they didn't get a permit, or follow safety codes to build it. The pressure from the roof load wasn't tied to the rest of the structure causing the wall to give out under the weight. In life, we may think that a simple lie won't hurt anyone, but eventually the truth will come out and that can lead to a disaster. Better to tell the truth from the start, then we will be able to stand up straight!

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Philippians 3:13 (NASB) says, "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,"

Sometimes you just have to let go of some things. Years ago I use to fish alot with my friend John. Once when I was checking out my spring fishing equipment I realized that the fishing line on my favorite pole needed to be changed. It may seem kind of funny, but I have great memories of the fish I caught and the memories I share with my friend. Regardless, it was time to put on new line.

Today's verse speaks of forgetting what lies behind and reaching for what lies ahead. Sure, the times with that line brought me some great memories, but if I don't change it, there is a chance I might lose a prize fish. In life, we may want to hold on to things longer than we should. The past can keep us locked in place, and we miss new adventures that Christ is calling us to. So, don't be afraid to let go of the old and reach for what lies ahead. Remember, with God it will truly be something to remember!

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Mark 16:15 (NASB) says, "And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."

There are things in this world that can save your life. Things that we sometimes don't take care of that could keep us from harm like smoke detectors, seat belts, yearly physical, etc. Then there is something that can save your life forever… for all of eternity.

Today's verse shares that Jesus asks us to do something rather important. No one likes to admit taking the battery out of the smoke detectors, driving without a seat belt, or refusing to go get a checkup, but sadly we find ourselves doing just that. This thing Jesus asked us to do is something we just can't ignore because it will save the life of those around us. It is simply to share Him, to be loving and caring enough to go into all the world and share Him. You don't need a battery, to buckle up, or take any tests. Just let Christ’s love in you out! Think about it, someone's life depends on it!

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“Matthew 6:26 says, "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and yet your heavenly Father feeds them”

The universe has a built-in economic order. It’s not quite the one we recognize. Our economic model twists God’s design just a tiny bit, but that tiny bit sends us down a dead-end street. Jesus corrects our vision with this metaphor from the birds.

There is nothing particularly special about these three Greek words. You might recognize some of our English derivatives if you knew that “to sow” was the word speiro (which is the root of sperma – seed – something containing the germ of the new) or “to reap” - therizo (to harvest, but also “summer” since the harvest occurred in the thermal time) or “to gather” - sunago (to assemble together – the basis of the word “synagogue”). It’s not the actual words that matter. It’s the order and the sub-ordination.

The first step is sowing. Think of this as the foundation stage. This is the hours of preparation, the nurturing, the diligent overseeing. If you want your seeds to grow, you have to pay attention to this part of the process. You can’t toss the seeds anywhere and expect to see a harvest. That is just as true for wheat as it is for careers, capital development and children.

Sowing produces harvest. In ancient Israel, this was the summer job. This is the time to reap the fruit of all your labors. Bread doesn’t walk to the table. Neither do long-tended relationships suddenly become joyful melodies. Harvesting takes more work.

Finally, there is gathering – the process of bringing together, in this case, to store against a rainy day. Not all gathering is for future protection, but any crop left harvested in the field will soon rot. Bring it in.

We think the pattern is almost universal. But Jesus turns it all upside down when He points out that this order is subordinate to the God of heaven. Jesus explains that we are the bird-brained, thinking that the economic order of our lives is under our control. Jesus notices that the birds don’t bother with any of this order, not because there is no order but because they know something we don’t – God is the power behind every order and they can trust Him. The birds demonstrate a spiritual wisdom far deeper than men. They have learned to utterly rely on the Provider of the order. They are in tune with the universe. Life is a soaring song. We, on the other hand, have yet to learn to fly.

The first step in any ordered universe is acknowledgement of the One who created order. Without that step, you are stuck on the ground.

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Hebrews 10:25 (NASB) says, "not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."

If you have a sump pump you know that during a hard rain you may hear it kick on a few times an hour. So its important to go down and check it out to make sure everything is okay.

Today's scripture speaks of not forgetting to get together, about encouraging one another. It doesn't take that long to go and check to make sure a sump pump is running right. Typically when you check it you think about how long it had been since you checked on it. Sometimes life gets busy, and we forget things that may need checked on once in while, like old friends that we haven't spoken with in too long. Maybe we've lost touch and need to reach out and see how things are going. With modern technology, it doesn't take but a moment to send a text, a Facebook message, or a Snapchat to just say hello, you’re being thought of, prayed for you, etc. No one likes to get their feet wet, but everyone likes a friendly hello. What are you waiting for? Text a friend!

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Hebrews 12:25 (NASB) says, "See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven"

When a house is on fire as it is burning the fire eats all the oxygen. Then thick, black smoke beings to bank down until there is total darkness. When a firefighter enters the house to find the fire he can usually only see a few inches in front of his face. With nothing to see but black and feeling around as you bump into this and that, you can get turned around. If you stop moving, however, and take a moment, you can hear the crackling of the fire. It is only a whisper, and you need to listen close or you’ll miss it.

Today’s verse talks about refusing Him who speaks and warns from Heaven. Sometimes in our life things go black. We have lost the oxygen to keep going and are going in circles with no clear direction. It is then that we must stop, take a moment and listen. We need to listen for the whisper of His voice. Once we hear it, we need to follow it or run the risk of walking aimlessly in life. Are you listening for His whisper today?

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Joshua 1:9 says, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord your God, am with you wherever you go.”

It is hardly surprising that Joshua, called to take over from an outstanding leader like Moses, should think himself inadequate for the task. But he went forward in the strength of God’s repeated promise, “I am with you wherever you go.”

Sometimes we too seem crushed by the weight of life’s responsibilities, and we feel we just cannot cope. We would do well then to pause and realize that we do not work alone. We can claim that same promise made to Joshua and countless other men and women, the promise that God will be close behind us all the time.

Our difficulties will not necessarily disappear, but we will discover a source of inner strength enabling us to see things in their true perspective. And our faith will grow stronger as we learn that God’s power will sustain us in every situation.

My prayer for all of us today is, “Dear Lord, only You know all about the heavy load I have to bear. I claim your promise that through Your Spirit You will walk beside me for the rest of my life’s journey. Amen.

Always remember, God’s Spirit empowers you for your appointed tasks.

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Matthew 15:8-9 (NASB) says, "This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”

I wonder, Am I walking for Christ and living for Him? Is there a personal agenda in my decisions? So often, I find myself doing many things at once and not always giving 100% to just one and doing that one right. If there is one thing in my life I want to get “right” it’s my walk with the Master. There is no other thing in my life more important than that, and the minute I begin to forget that, Satan is there to attack and destroy any hope of walking with Christ. It must be our constant focus and main concern; the reason we breathe. Giving Christ 100% means that we give nothing to ourselves. Tough choice, but if you think about it, you know that our way leads to sin and death, and His way leads to life. There is no choice at all. I choose Jesus. What about you? Let's not honor Him with just our lips, but our heart as well.

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Proverbs 10:4 (NASB) says, “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”

A contractor told me this story: He said, “The job took an hour longer than needed. While doing some construction work for a customer, I needed a tool I hadn't used in years. I began to search around my shop and finally found it hidden behind a bunch of other things. When I pulled it out, the tool had rusted beyond belief. The extra time needed to do the job was due to my laziness in keeping my tools in good working order. Due to my carelessness, I had let the tool get to a point where, in order to use it, I had to do some much needed work on it.”

Today's verse speaks that the worker who works with a negligent hand will be poor where the diligent one makes rich. In life, if we don't use it, we can lose it. Sounds simple enough, but the key is keeping things in good working order. So, when we call upon them, they are ready to work at a moments notice. Like the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit. If we allow them to get hidden when they are called upon to be used we may find ourselves wasting time remembering how to use them. And the part about being rich? Sure it can mean financial blessing, but what about spiritual blessings? The feeling you get when you hear "well done, my faithful servant!"

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Ephesians 2:10 (NASB) says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

A carpenter once said, “Every once in a while, I pull out pictures of some of the houses I have built in my life. I think back to how each man had a part to play; how we started with nothing and watched each day as the foundation went in, the lumber came, and the house began to take shape. Now, many years later, I can look back and see what was accomplished.”

Today's verse speaks that we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God had prepared for us to walk in. When the carpenter first arrived on the scene of a house build, he tries to imagine what the finished home would look like. But it wasn't until the work was fully completed that the image came to life. God has called each of us and blessed us with special gifts to be used for the benefit of mankind. We may imagine what things will look like, but until we begin the work and finish the work, we won’t see that image come to life. So, as we prepare for the work God has for us, let’s take a moment and ask ourselves, “Am I using the gifts He has given to me? Will I finish well so that He will receive the glory?” What will you look back at some day? Will you accomplish what He called you for?

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Titus 1:1 says, “Paul, a servant of God and an Apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith.”

Paul was a man consumed by a mission even before he became a Christian. As a Pharisee, Paul was dedicated in his beliefs and committed to the actions he thought to be God’s will. In fact, it was the desire to keep Judaism pure that caused him to persecute the early Christians.

When Paul’s conversion took place, it was not a new God who spoke to him through Jesus Christ. It was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Because of this experience, Paul’s understanding of God’s plan was changed. But he still was convinced that God was using him as a witness to that plan.

Do we share Paul’s conviction for our own lives? Life takes on new meaning when we can believe that we are a part of God’s eternal plan. Like Paul, we can see ourselves as servants of God and Apostles of Jesus Christ. We are called with Paul to believe that, as servants of God, we will be used by God to fulfill the divine plan for our world.

My prayer today for all of us is, “Dear God, help us to find and fulfill our place in Your plan. Amen”

Remember, you are a part for God’s plan for the world. Do your part!

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Romans 5:4 (ESV) says, “and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,”

When I was a kid I wasn’t into sports and didn’t play any except once in a while I would play baseball with the kids in the neighborhood. One time my friends were shooting hoops and asked me to join in. I remember the words of my friends as they taught me how to shoot a basketball. “Try it again and again. Keep trying. You'll get it." As a young boy, the hoop seemed so far away, and I didn't think I had the strength to shoot the ball into the basket. Their words of encouragement kept me trying.

Today's scripture tells how if we have endurance it will produce character and character will produce hope. Now, many years later, when I shoot the ball, I have hope because of my friend’s lesson about never giving up. I don't make every shot, in fact, most don't go in at all, but as I release the ball, I have hope that it will. You see, It is better to have tried and failed, then never to have tried at all.

Many things in life may cause us to give up too early. We try once and if we don't get the result we were looking for, we tend to give up and move on. What if we endured a little while longer and our character in not giving up grows stronger? That character gives us hope. No matter what you're facing, don't give up too early. Keep trying. Keep pushing forward. Keep calling out to God for His help in the matter and with Him on our side, our hope takes on a whole new meaning.

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Psalm 126:2 (NASB) says, “Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations The Lord has done great things for them.”

I really enjoy when I get an opportunity to see a pastor friend of mine, sometimes we just sit and laugh. We share stories that make each other laugh, like situations in our life that have funny endings. The joy and laughter that we share are wonderful times of refreshment.

Today's verse speaks of laughter and joy, and how it is because the Lord has done great things for them. Sometimes in life we can become so consumed with doing this and that, that we miss the joy and laughter that life can bring. I know when I leave my friend after sharing a good laugh or two, I always come away blessed having more joy for the day ahead. I think there are times when we take life too seriously and forget about the joy that the Lord brings to us. That's if we look and listen for it. Why not take a moment and think of a funny story or joke and share it with a friend? It doesn't take much, a simple "Did you hear the one about..."

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Matthew 6:25 (NASB) says, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”

The deadline was fast approaching, and I found myself more concerned with the date and time than the actual presentation. Years ago I was asked to speak to a group of men concerning integrity and purity. As the date seemed to come faster than anticipated, I found myself checking the time I had left before I was to share with the men rather than the message I was going to share.

Today's verse speaks of not being worried about trivial things like food and clothing but caring more about life and what we do. Sometimes in life, we find ourselves being concerned and even worried about things that are out of our control. I couldn't stop the days from passing or the time I had left to prepare, but I could take care of what I was asked to do. We can become so consumed by the things that we have no control over that we allow worry to control us. That's not a good place to be. We need to slow down and concern ourselves with the things that we can do rather than things we have no control over. What has God asked you to do? Are you doing it, or are you more concerned with something else?

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Psalm 51:10 (NASB) says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Sometimes in the winter, I grow a beard to keep my face warmer in the cold weather. My wife likes it, but I have had a few people say they like it better when I shave it off. I know they are not being mean but It's like saying "when are you going to get rid of that?"

Today's verse speaks of creating a clean heart within ourselves and renewing a steadfast spirit. I started thinking today about how we change our outward appearance, like maybe getting a new haircut or different clothing for starters. We can even change things like where we live and what we do for a living, but when it comes to true change, our heart must be the part of ourselves that needs an attitude adjustment. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, there should be a heart change, a turning away from the things of our former life and a turning to Him. That's what repentance is all about.

When I hear people say that they have made a few New Year’s resolutions, I can’t help but think that what we really need is a heart resolution. Maybe we need to spend less time with the diet, and the gym and more time with Him to truly change our hearts. Maybe God is asking us, "When are we going to get rid of that?"

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Matthew 5:13 (NASB) “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men."

Anyone who has grown up in the north where the temperature can dip below freezing, way below freezing depending where you live, learns that the salt put out to melt the ice won't work. People who live in western New York, with the extreme one digit temperatures, know that it's useless to put salt on the ice to melt it. It's too cold for the salt to work.

Today's verse tells us that we are the salt of the earth, and if we become tasteless, we become useless. As temperatures dip lower and lower, the ice becomes dangerous to walk on. One wrong move and down you would go. It's not a pleasurable experience! You can come away bruised or with a broken bone. Sometimes in life, our walk with Christ can become tasteless. Our salt has lost its usefulness. It is time to warm things up so that when ice spreads on the world, we can melt even the hardest heart. Don't become useless, but be useful by staying in His Word, walking by the Holy Spirit, and praying for God's leading in every situation. You just might melt a cold, icy heart today.

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1 Corinthians 9:27 (NASB) says, "but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified."

There is an old saying that some live by. "Do as I say, not as I do." One of the first things they taught us in Bible school was never ask anyone to do something you are not willing to do yourself. I have remembered those words all these years

Today's verse speaks of disciplining our bodies and after having shared with others, we need to make sure we do as we say and not be disqualified. Being willing to do what you ask others to do is the sign of good leadership. If we are not willing to lead by example, then we must examine what type of leader we truly are. Jesus told us to lay down our life for others. He didn't just say those words, He lived them. People, especially children, can see right through words without action; so, let’s be careful how we lead as men who follow Christ. Let's be men who say, “Do as I do because that's what He did!”

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Isaiah 30:21 (NASB) says, “Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.”

Shhhhh… Can you hear it? There it is again! Close your mind to all the sounds of your busy schedule and the world we live in and sit quietly for a moment. Can you hear it now? What did you think when you read the scripture for today? Did you hear anything as you sat quietly… listening?

Maybe some of you thought there was going to be a big bang or some music to go along with the scripture. Nope. I want you to take a moment and listen, listen for the voice of God in a small whisper or pull on your heart. Sometimes, we may not hear Him simply because we don’t take the time to listen. Try it now. Sit quietly and see if you can hear Him. What is He trying to stay to you? What does He have in store for you in the upcoming year?

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Philippians 4:9 (NASB) says, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

As we sit around the table with family during holiday’s it occurs to me that I am passing on something I have learned to do. Its dinnertime, however, before anyone takes a bite, we bowed our heads to give thanks to God and ask His blessing upon our meal and family. We do this whether at home or at a restaurant. I also want my life to be an example in everything I do, in word and in deeds, like attend church services, prayer times, and ministry opportunities, and to be a blessing to those I come in contact with.

Anytime family gets together is a special day and I realize that I am passing on a tradition: It may not seem much to a lot of people, but I do this because I want to leave an example to my grandchildren, and future great-grandchildren. I want them to learn and share the lessons they learn from me with their children, the lessons to give thanks, be grateful, and follow Christ as I have followed Him. As the scripture for today states, there was a peace among us. So what example are you teaching by how you live? Those younger eyes are watching and so are your friends and family members!

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Ephesians 6:11 (NASB) says, "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil."

After the third time it popped lose, I knew I left something out. As a young man, I had put together a project, tightened all the bolts and made sure it was secure, but as the project began to move around, the bolts came lose. I tightened them up again and again.

Today's scripture instructs us to put on the full armor of God. Then and only then will we be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. After tightening the project for the third time, it occurred to me that I left out some very important parts, small parts, but oh so important. I left out the lock washers, small circular rings that were bent in such a way as to hold the nuts in place. That's how it is with the armor of God. If we forget to put even the smallest piece on, our armor will come lose and be open to attack. Even if we try to tighten it ourselves against the schemes of the devil, if we don't have all the armor on and have it on tight, we will fall to his schemes. When was the last time you checked to make sure all your armor was on before going into battle... even the smallest piece?

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Matthew 24:44 (NASB) says, “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”

When weather reports begin coming in about the possibility of the first snow storm, we should expect it. Phones ring off the hook and lines form at the local fix it shops. Living in the north east with the threat of a snow storm, people began to prepare. But sadly they look at their snow blowers that have sat quietly for months, never doing anything to make sure they work.

Today's verse speaks of being ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when we do not think He will. We know the season the snow will come, but being ready for it is another thing all together. Many put off being ready until the day or two before the weather reports predict a serious snow storm, then they seek some guidance on why their snow blowers weren't starting or running properly.

There is one thing for sure about living in the North East, the possibility of snow is real! It's the same with Jesus Christ. He will come back and being ready means being prepared. Have you been waiting too long to get a tune up for His return?

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1 John 1:9 (NASB) says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I knew what I had to do. Sometimes things don't go as planned. You say things or act a certain way that hurt others. I have been guilty of both at times, and when it's over, I found myself asking for forgiveness from those I hurt. Forgiveness is something we need to ask for. It's not usually given until we come clean with our faults.

Today's verse speaks of confessing our sins and God is faithful and righteous to forgive us and cleanse us. What a wonderful thought, but the key is coming clean. Confessing our sin is really asking for forgiveness and being truthful with ourselves and with God. I have had to ask for forgiveness, and I thank God, the person accepted my confession. Only after that can we truly begin again and start over. It's a wonderful feeling to get the pain behind you and move on to a new beginning.

Is there someone you need to ask forgiveness from? Have you confessed your sin before God? He is faithful to forgive, but we need to do our part! Come to think of it, that's what the cross was all about, our forgiveness.

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John 13:7 (NASB) Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.”

Whether we are accountants, doctors, factory workers, first responders, housewives, or congressmen, we should be about our Father’s business. Doing the Lord’s work is not just helping at church. It’s the day-to-day stuff. Loving each other; serving each other. Getting off our high horses and really serving. Jesus set such a great example, and yet we find within ourselves reasons to humble ourselves in service of the Lord to each other. Can you imagine what the body of Christ (us believers) could accomplish for HIM if we were to all engage in the work He’s called us to do? Can you imagine that when someone stumbled, another would be there to comfort and lift up instead of judge? That it was more about helping our neighbor than about us. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. In view of the pain and suffering He was going to go through at the Cross. He didn’t whine about it or make excuses. He led by humble servant leadership. Are we serving God by serving each other?

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Colossians 3:17 (NASB) says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

I am always amazed that we refer to people by their occupation. “Oh, he’s a plumber.” “He’s a banker.” “She’s a stay-at-home-mom.” Wouldn’t it be nice to refer to each other by something other than what we do? Wouldn’t it be great if people could tell we were Christians without us saying a word? No, not by the shirts we wear or the bracelet that says WWJD, but by our actions. There is that old time song… They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love (Peter Scholtes, 1968). Can they see us living Christ all the time, or do we do it when it’s convenient? Are we really part of God’s team, fighting for His will to be done or is it about us and what we can get out of life? A tough question to ask yourself is this: If someone were to meet you for the first time, would they know you are a Christian?

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Romans 5:8 (NASB) says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Every day, I thank God. I guess you could say that there is much to be thankful for, but I always thank God for one thing in particular. I thank Him for my wife. Despite learning that I had lots of issues and problems and experiencing it in our marriage, she still chose to love me and stay with me.

In being part of men’s ministry, I have heard many stories over the years of a wife choosing to leave the relationship when things got hard, but not my wife. She stayed by my side, comforted me, told me I was wrong when I was, and shared her intimate feelings and love of God with me. For that, I am grateful. That is what I thank God for each day because I know she came from Him. Each day, I rediscover the heart of God. To discover God, we need to slow down and take a long look at our lives. When we do, we’ll discover just how much He loves us. The reality is that none of us are worthy to receive anything from Him. Yet, He loves us and sent His Son to die for us. What are you thankful for?

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Proverbs 13:4 says, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made fat.”

A mechanic once told this story, he said, "I got the call after the bumper pulled off. A customer of mine called for help after her grandsons had tried to pull out a bush in her front yard. The boys took a chain and wrapped it around the truck and began to drive away thinking that the bush would just pop out. They were sadly mistaken as the bumper on the truck was the only thing that popped!

Today's verse speaks of the soul of a sluggard craves and gets nothing but the diligent soul is made fat. Maybe we should change that word from fat to prosperous. I mean really who wants to get fat! But the meaning of the verse is a rather simple concept, do the job, do the work, don't be a slacker and things will go well. Those boys had tried to take the easy way out by just hooking a chain to the truck; however, the real work needed to be done, the digging deep to get to the roots. Then the bush popped out. Sometimes in life, we take the easy road. The one we think will get us there faster. Nope, it only leads to a dead end. So, if you want the job done right, do the work. That means in all things and yes even the things of God. To sit back and expect Him to do all the work is possible but not probable. Do the work, and you will see results; unless, of course, you want to be referred to as a sluggard!

2 Chronicles 15:7(ESV) says, “But you take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded."

Many years ago my wife and I lived in a house where we had 14 acres of woods and 2 acres of grass. There were tons of leaves in the fall season which meant work. I could have fired up the gas leaf blower, had the silence of the day drowned out by the motor, or I could have grabbed an old-fashioned rake and raked the leaves in our yard. I chose the latter. I wanted to do some good old-fashioned leaf raking. Not that I can hear anything, but there seemed to be a peaceful silence around me, and I began to rake. It felt good to use my hands, arms, and my own strength to get the job done rather than let the machine do the work. Afterwards I felt a sense of accomplishment.

Today's verse shares with us to take courage and not let our hands be weak for our work shall bring a reward. I didn't win any prize or any "most beautiful" rake award, but I did get the sense of accomplishment of a job well done. I wonder if we are allowing other people to do the work that God has called us to. Are we waiting for pastors or ministers to share Jesus with someone? Didn't Jesus command us to go and make disciples? Maybe it's time we put away the idea that someone or something will do the work and get our hands dirty in sharing Christ.

Psalm 37:30-31 (NASB) says, "The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip."

When I was a kid one of my friends was trying to change a flat tire on his car. With two lug nuts broken, he needed to find out what he was doing wrong. So he called his dad and told him what had happened. Very simply, his dad told him to look at the stud and see if there was an “L” stamped on it. There was, and he said, “Son, that stands for left handed thread.” He was turning the nuts the wrong way. The rest came off no problem.

He had to swallow his pride to accept his dads advice and call for help, and his dad gave the advice without judging him. Don’t be afraid to admit when you need help especially from God and those of godly council. People of godly council will be people who follow today’s verse. Is God calling you to be a person of godly council?

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James 1:2-3 (NASB) says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance."

One time I had to remove a bolt and not ruin the threads in the process. The bolt had to come off in order to change the part. The only problem was that the nut had rusted tight to the bolt. I tried everything but to no avail. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I decided to keep soaking it with oil over the next few days.

Today's verse speaks of finding joy when we encounter trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. I can't really say I was having fun trying to remove the nut, but I can say that the entire situation tested my endurance. After a few days, I began to heat the nut and tried the extender bar on the ratchet. Finally, it broke free!!!

Sometimes the trials we face will take time and patience to get through. However, if we don't give up, we will see it accomplished. There is that old saying, “No pain. No gain.” I wonder if we can find the joy through the trial? That is the sign of a mature man, knowing that if we endure, He will see us through. The next trial that comes along, try finding the joy knowing that we will get through it with His help!

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Jeremiah 33:3 (NASB) says, ‘Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’

I heard a man say, “We sit with no real objective but to listen and share. I have the honor of sitting each week for about an hour with a friend. There is no agenda or timetable to keep. We enjoy each other's company. We laugh; we share back and forth, and I always come away feeling blessed by our time together.”

Today's scripture speaks of prayer and calling out to God. He will answer and tell us great and mighty things. That man and his friend discuss many things, but he said “he especially likes when they share about God's Word. He said, his friend would never admit it, but he is quite the Bible teacher. His teachings have taught me so much and have made me dig deeper in God's Word and I am grateful.”

How many of us just sit and talk with God? Yes, its prayer, but just sitting, listening, and sharing. I promise you'll come away with some wonderful insights from spending time with Him just like that man does with his friend. God wants to sit with you, can you spare the time?

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Ephesians 2:19 (NASB) says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household”

A coach once said, “As the practice continued, I noticed that the court was filled with boys from every walk of life. I had the opportunity to coach a little league basketball team. It was open to any young boy that met the age requirement and nothing else. It didn't matter what the color of your skin was, your parents’ background, how much money they made, or how well you did in school.”

Today's scripture reminds us that we are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens of God's household. Those boys with different colors of skin, backgrounds, and different walks of life were a united team by the end of the year. They played like one, sharing the victories and the defeats, and they took care of each other. They were excited when one would make a great play. They comforted each other when things didn't go well. They did not have their own agenda, but all worked together as one unit no matter who was in the game.

Imagine if our churches really worked like that. No personal agendas, but only the will of God to reach others and invite them in to be part of a family, the family of God. Who are you going to invite to join God's family this week?

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1 Peter 2:9 (NASB) says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”

A few years ago I had the opportunity to speak to a pastor, who somewhere along the way, lost sight of who he was and he began to share that his church was failing, his marriage was on the rocks, and his children had written him off. He continued saying that he was a failure and not wanting to continue in ministry.

Today's verse says that we, those who believe in Jesus Christ, are a chosen race, members of His Royal Priesthood, for His own possession, and that we may proclaim the excellency of Him. Sometimes we may find ourselves questioning who and what we are. We may have forgotten the passion we had when we first believed; we may have simply lost our way, but if we can remember today's verse and hold it close to our heart, we will find the passion to realize that we are in fact His chosen people called by God to share His Son with others. I shared that verse with that pastor, and as we prayed he began to be energized by the Holy Spirit. Maybe you are in that place: wondering, questioning, and doubting, meditate upon today's verse and find peace and power in the Holy Spirit to keep going.

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Philippians 4:9 (NASB) says, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Years ago I began thinking about mentoring. Who can I get to know? Who can give me some good advice and words of wisdom? Who can I partner with? Then it hit me. I was thinking a lot of what that person would do for me and my family. Well, the word partner to me was completely lost. It became about me. What about me mentoring someone else? What did I bring to the table? I needed to take a good look at my life and see if there was anything that I could offer someone else.

Every one of us has learned things through the ups and downs of life. We have lived, and I bet that each of us have some great advice to share. Paul tells us to keep putting into practice what we learned from him and that the God of peace will be with us. Loving one another is the best thing we can “practice.” Pray that God sends someone into our lives that we can partner with to mentor each other.

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Psalm 27:13-14 says, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”

I never felt the pain of the waiting, but I saw it in their eyes. As a young boy, I was blessed with the ability to run fast, so when the flag football team or other games where you had to run fast were picking sides, I usually went in the first group. However, there were those that wanted to play, but seemed to always get picked last. It may not seem like a big deal, but as a young boy, it told you just where you stood in the group. After a few times watching the faces of those picked last, I made a promise to myself that if I was ever named team captain, I would make my picks different.

The despair in waiting can be overwhelming. So, we can take comfort from today’s scripture that as we wait for an unanswered prayer, a phone call from a loved one, a misdeed to be forgiven, etc., we will find courage as we wait in the Lord.

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Deuteronomy 30:19 (NASB) says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So, choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants”

My wife, and I pray regarding every decision we make. Some of the choices are easy while others are very difficult to make, but one thing we always held firm on was to find the peace of Christ in those decisions.

Today's verse speaks of the choice between life and death, between the blessing and the curse. There were times when we didn't want to make the decision but knew it had to be made: like deciding to go against the grain when everyone else was going one way, or choosing to discipline our son when it wasn't easy. Those choices were choices about living, but the choice spoken of in today's verse is speaking of eternity, the choice between living with God or not for all eternity. So, whether it's a living choice or a life choice be sure to spend some time in prayer. Seek His peace above all. Some decisions will still be easy and others hard, but you will have a peace the world will not understand to make the right decision.

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Psalm 127:2 (NASB) Says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.”

Years ago I had a man who I was counseling tell the following story. He said, “I worked 120 hours a week going from one job to another. I thought I was giving love to my family. I have been down this road, where it was all about work and money. Funny thing though, the people that mattered most to me, my wife and children, who I thought I was loving, were the ones being hurt. I thought I was loving them by making lots of money. But, now I see I wasn’t loving them, I was hurting them by taking myself out of the picture.”

Think about it. What would you rather have: a hundred dollars or a person who cares and loves you? The sad reality is that some of us say they prefer the hundred dollars. I pray that we all choose to follow God’s direction for our lives and not make it about work but about love. If we take one thing from today’s verse, let it be that we need to take time away from work to re-examine our priorities.

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

You can feel it in the air. Living on the East Coast you can feel the change taking place in nature. The air a little crisper, the wind a little colder, and the color of the leaves begin to change, this is a signal that it's time for a new season.

Today's verse speaks of our former manner of life and a new self, a change in nature. When I was living as an unbeliever, I knew I needed a change in my nature. With the help of my wife and some friends, I began to see my nature as that of Christ's and not my former self. I had to get rid of the old self, difficult as it was, to see the newness of life through the Spirit of God. No one likes change. Those living in the East Coast don't really look forward to shoveling snow or dealing with the cold. However, without the change in nature, we wouldn't see the touch of God upon this earth. A change in our own nature will allow God's touch upon our lives, a life that can then begin to change those around us. Don't be corrupted by the old, but begin new with the change God is calling us to.

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Ephesians 4:29 (NASB) says “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Here is something that you know you can't do. You just can't do it no matter how you try. I’m speaking about putting toothpaste back in the tube! I know it might be weird to you, but I have thought “how hard would it be to put toothpaste back in the tube?” Well I know you can’t do it.

Today's verse speaks of unwholesome words coming out of our mouths. Once those words come out of our mouth we can't get them back in no matter how we try. Sure we can apologize after words, but sometimes the damage is already done. If we only use words to build each other up, words of comfort, words of love, we won't have to try and get them back in our mouth. Like the toothpaste, it's an impossible task. So why not use the right words and not have to worry about cleaning up the mess our words can make.

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Acts 27:25 (NASB) says, “Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told.”

He was down and out, felt like there was no hope, and yet he called and asked me to pray with him. These moments of men reaching out have become a blessing to me. I’m not sure, but I believe Satan is attacking men with an alarming rate in these last days. I took a moment and prayed with him. I shared a scripture and said “make sure you read it. It is a word of encouragement for any man who is struggling with something. Don't give up; don't let Satan rob you of the power we have in Jesus Christ.”

I want to encourage each one who reads this to do two things: (1) pray to find God’s direction, and (2) reach out to that man you know who is struggling and share today's verse. Men don't have to go it alone. We have Jesus Christ, but we also have each other. A call or text at the right time will make the difference in a man's life. Whether they know the Lord or not, reach out. Let us not be just hearers of His Word, but be doers as well. So, the challenge is to reach out to one man after reading this, a simple text, an email, a phone call, a face-to-face visit, but do it. See what God does.

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Galatians 6:2 (NASB) says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

My first “real” job was with a guy named Ralph who upholstered furniture. I will never forget hearing him say “Over… under… repeat; over… under… repeat.” I was working on an old chair. And he told me that just one cane couldn't support the weight of someone sitting in the chair, but all the canes, working together, woven together as one, could support the weight of someone.”

Today's verse speaks of bearing one another's burdens and fulfilling the law of Christ. Each of us will struggle with burdens. There will be things that we try to carry around alone, but there are those living today's verse, those individuals who care for the burdens of others. If you are one who carries the burdens of others, remember that like the cane on the chair, it's easier when there are more involved. So, don't be afraid to reach out and ask for some help. If you're struggling to carry your own burdens, reach out and ask for help! It is then, working together, that we fulfill the law of Christ. What's the law of Christ? It is simply loving God with all that we have and loving others as Christ has loved us. He carried our burdens to the cross, maybe we can help carry other's burdens like He did ours.

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2 Peter 3:8 (NASB) says, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.”

A fireman once said, “Waiting can seem to last a lifetime. While in bomb school, where we learned about the different types of bombs and uses and how to investigate after a bomb has been detonated, we were lined up behind the barriers waiting for the next bomb to go off. The instructor said, “Any minute now; wait for it.” The anticipation of what we were about to see was rather exciting and yet seemed to drag on longer than I thought."

Today's verse speaks of the fact that we should not forget that a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day to the Lord. That fireman said, “As I waited patiently for the bomb to go off, I remembered how I had prayed for something, and it seemed as if God was making me wait for an answer. Eventually, the bomb went off, and we did our inspection of the scene. Now that it was over, the wait seemed more exciting than the actual explosion.”

Sometimes in life, it's the waiting that will bring us more than the actual answer if we remain faithful and seek out God. What are you praying for? Have you waited for a while? Maybe it's in the waiting that God will speak to you. So, enjoy the wait and keep crying out to God. He will answer. It may seem like a thousand years or so, but it may be only a day or two.

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Psalm 119:18 (NASB) says, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law."

A man that worked at a car wash told this story. “When I truly looked at him, I saw the problem. After the third time I washed his windows, it occurred to me that there was another problem. The elderly man said the windows looked dirty and asked if I could do them again.”

Today's scripture speaks of God opening our eyes that we may see the wonderful thing from His law.

After the third attempt to make the gentleman happy, the man at the car wash said, “I took a good look at him. Then I noticed it. I asked him a simple question, “May I see your glasses?” He handed them to me. As I looked at them, I realized the problem wasn't his windows, but his own glasses. They were filthy. Once cleaned, he could see the world more clearly.”

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Sometimes in life, we may look, but not really see. Just glancing at the Bible instead of taking the time to read it and meditate upon it or looking at someone and not really seeing the beauty that lay’s within them we make judgments without really seeing the person inside. Let's make sure our own glasses are clean, and if you don't wear glasses, let's make sure our eyes are wide open to the truth in God's Word and the people around us.

Romans 5:9 says, "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him."

It’s something we don’t like to talk about, but reading God’s Word, and yes, the Old Testament too, we see God’s wrath. It was and is a terrible thing, but the act of one man changed the world and eternity forever. His precious blood was poured out for ALL. His willingness, despite the pain and suffering, to give up His life for us was the greatest act of love. Have we ever spent some time at the foot of that cross realizing that the debt of our sin was paid in full?

Now, we have a decision to make, do we accept Him in full or do we make some excuse and choose to walk away from that act of love? Three days after the cross, there was a day of glory. Like today’s verse shares, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Jesus Christ.

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Jeremiah 23:24 says, “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him, declares the Lord. Do I not fill the heavens and the earth, declares the Lord.”

A good finish carpenter can hide a screw hole so that no one knows its there. For years, I hid my anger from most people. Only those close enough, those I was supposed to love, would see the angry side of my life. No matter how well I hid it from the outside world, God knew and so did I.

Today's scripture talks of our Lord asking a simple question, "Where can a man hide himself so that He doesn't see us?" Many times we do things. Things that we think no one will ever notice or call us out on. To be honest, some of those things are sin. Falling short of what we know is right, what we know will honor God, we think that we can hide it. The reality is that God sees all and knows all. If we think we are fooling Him, we are sadly mistaken.

There is something more to this. If we are truly sorry for what we did, there is forgiveness. I have been forgiven more times than I can count and deserve. We just have to stop hiding our sin and confess it before Him. Think about it, where can we run where He doesn't see us and know? It's time to come clean.

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2 Corinthians 12:10 (NASB) says, "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Many years ago I decided to do some concrete work with a friend of mine for extra money. And found out that sometimes you have to work through the muck. We probably should have picked a different day; however, the schedule had been set, and we needed to get the job done. It had rained for days before. So, the ground was soaked. As we began to dig for the new driveway, we became covered in muck, mud and stone. It was everywhere, but we kept moving forward.

Today's verse speaks of being content with weaknesses, insults, distresses, and persecutions for Christ's sake. We need to learn that when we are weak, we are strong in Him. With each shovel the we moved, more mud was flung. By the end of the day, we were covered from head to toe in muck... slimy filthy muck, but as we walked away, there stood the driveway, laid out, forms in place and ready for stone, wire and concrete.”

In life, we will have those days of muck. Those days when it will be hard to move because of the weight of the muck on our boots. We will need a good shower to rinse off the filth we have collected upon us, but if we keep moving forward in Christ, keep praying, keep reading His Word, and walking by the Spirit, we will accomplish the goal set before us. Finding our strength when we are weak in Christ can bring a sense of accomplishment that we never knew possible. So, rise above the muck in the power of the Holy Spirit and finish the job. Then go take a shower!!

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John 16:33 says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

What do you say? When you see tragedy, where can you turn? I have seen my share of tragedies. Things I wish I could forget forever, but sadly, that is not the case. Each of us at some time in our life will face situations that makes us cry, shout out to God, and try to find reasons and answers in how best to stop them. I have held a small child in my arms that had passed away, witnessed many people take their last breath, and I still come away thinking, “Why?”

Today's verse gives us hope, not that things like this will never happen again, but a place to go to for peace. It states that in the world we will have tribulations, but we are to take courage in Christ for He has overcome the world. Knowing Him doesn't take the pain away or stop the tears for those we see hurting and dying, but we can take away that one day He shall reign on this earth again. And those tragedies and tribulations will happen no more. The key is whether we know Him or not. I pray that you find peace from the pain, peace from the tears, peace in the knowledge that Jesus Christ overcomes no matter what we face and will never leave us or abandon us. Take comfort in knowing Christ; He’s the only place to find peace amid the craziness of this world.

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Mark 8:35 says, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it."

Someone said, “I lost a little piece of myself recently, and it was painful. I had to have one of my molars removed due to the decay that found its way between the crown and what was left of my tooth. From the outside, you couldn't tell, but deep within, the decay was eating my tooth away."

Today's verse speaks of anyone wishing to save his life must lose it, and whoever loses his life for Christ sake and the gospel will save it. That man said, “I realize it was only my tooth, but the pain involved can be overwhelming. The weird part was that the crown made the tooth look as if it was just fine. Only by an x-ray were we able to see how bad it was.”

Sometimes in life, we seem to be okay on the outside. Everything looks good but upon examining deep within ourselves, we find that we really don't want to lose part of ourselves. However, that's exactly what Christ is asking of us, to die to self so that He may live in and through us. When was the last time we did a thorough examination of our spiritual walk with Christ? It may seem to be fine on the outside, but what's going on behind that good looking exterior? It's time for some self-x-rays, because the decay of this world will eat us away.

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Psalm 92:1 says, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O most high.”

What character trait clearly reveals a person’s moral and spiritual health? Is it love, integrity, kindness, cheerfulness, or trust? Opinions differ, to be sure.

Otto Friedrich Bollnow, in his essay “Who Really Gives Thanks?” said, “There is hardly any other quality of man that is so suited to reveal the state of his inner spiritual and moral health as his capacity to be grateful.” Even if we may not agree with Bollmnow’s opinion it is thought provoking. After all, Scripture emphasizes the importance of praising God for His goodness and mercy. Many of the psalms are an outpouring of thankful hearts. For example, “Let the people praise you, O God; let all the people praise you” (Psalm 67:3). “Be thankful to Him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4). And the apostle Paul urged his fellow Christians to give “thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20)

In light of this, take some time to recall the Lord’s pardon, constant protection, faithful provision, and His abiding presence. Remember being grateful will help you stay in good spiritual health and will bring honor to Him.

So think - then thank! Remember giving thanks is a course from which we should never graduate!

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John

6:37 says, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out."

I heard about a man who really was living the Gospel. His name was Paul. He was attending a conference with a few of his roommates. Paul was a factory worker whose wife had died; he didn’t have any children, but lived in a large house. He began to take in homeless men. Men who had fallen on hard times, and he began to minister to their needs. He gave them food, shelter, helped them find a job. He was truly living the gospel.

Today's verse speaks that all that our Father in Heaven gives to Jesus will come to Him, and the ones that come to Jesus will not be cast out. In talking with Paul, a man asked him how many men he had living with him. His reply was simple, "All of them. Anyone who comes to my door will not be turned away.” People wanted to know more about Paul and what he was doing, but he didn't want to share any more than he had. He didn't want the notoriety that sometimes comes when stories like this are told. He just asked for prayer, and he went on his way. I wonder, as I think about this man, if I am living the gospel as he is. I wonder if you are, and I wonder if we all could be doing more to share the love of Christ.

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1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

A man once said, “Over the years, the wind and waves had slowly taken its toll on the piers of our boathouse. We thought it was OK after all it was concrete. We checked the concrete piers a few years before to make sure they we okay to rebuild the boat house, but coming back this one year, we found them in serious condition of failure.”

Today’s verse speaks to us as believers, about being steadfast, immovable always abounding the work of the Lord. We may think that we are as strong as concrete in the way we walk this earth, the way we live for Christ, but when was the last time we really did a good thorough check of our "foundation." Like the concrete piers, things can begin to erode what we thought was strong and immovable. Time spent away from His Word, not being in prayer, not attending fellowship, and not sharing life with other Christian’s can lead to our foundation in Christ slowly eroding. That is never a good thing. When was the last time you really checked your foundation? There may be some cracks that need to be repaired!

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Luke 11:28 says, “But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

I heard about a man who had hearing aids tell this story. He said, "Did you hear that?" I had to ask again, about a week after getting my hearing aids. I heard a voice. It was small and quiet to me, but I was sure my wife heard it. “Did you hear that?” I asked again. The voice came again. I thought for sure she could hear it, but I wasn't sure what it said. The hearing aids I wear have a battery meter that goes off in the voice of a person that says, "Low battery." After the second time it says it, the battery goes dead and the hearing aid is useless.”

Today's verse speaks of those who hear the Word of God and observe it are blessed. The man went on to say, “when I hear those words "low battery," I have a decision to make. I can ignore it or change the battery.” Likewise, when we hear the Word of God spoken, we have a choice. We can either ignore it or observe it. If we ignore it, it's like having a dead hearing aid battery. It becomes useless, but if we observe God's Word, we can move forward in doing what it says. Don't ignore the Word of God; it can lead to dead silence in your life. Observe it, and be blessed. You will be able to continually hear the Word of God more and more. Be sure to check your battery.

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Mark 11:22 says, “have faith in God.” And 2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful.”

Although a strong faith honors God more than a weak faith, the most important thing about faith is its object. A weak faith in Almighty God produces amazing results, whereas a strong faith in a false god is worthless. Christ demonstrated this truth when He delivered a boy from the terrible power of an evil spirit. When Jesus told the Father, “…all things are possible to him who believes,” the man responded with tears, “Lord I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:23, 24). That meager trust was enough for the Savior to perform a miracle.

The greatest saints have wavered at times, but God’s unchanging faithfulness strengthens their flagging confidence. Paul reminds us that if we are faithless, God remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). The pioneer missionary Hudson Taylor, when home on a furlough, would often say, “Friends, I’d like to give you the motto of my life. It is found in Mark 11:22 where we read, “Have faith in God.” He then commented that even when we have our weak moments, the Lord in grace under girds us. He concluded, “Reckon not only on your own faith but also on God’s faithfulness to you. All my life I’ve been fickle: sometimes I could trust and sometimes I couldn’t. But when unable to have faith, it was a great encouragement to realize that God would still be faithful to me.”

You too can walk the pathway of life confidently with Hudson Taylor’s motto, “Have faith in God.” Yes, God remains faithful. Remember, He pleases God best who trusts Him most.

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2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God.”

A columnist illustrated man’s ability to overcome obstacles when they wrote: Cripple him, and you have a Sir Walter Scott. Lock him in as prison cell, and you have a John Bunyan. Bury him in the snow of Valley Forge, and you have a George Washington. Afflict him with asthma as a child, and you have a Theodore Roosevelt. Make him play second fiddle in an obscure South American orchestra, and you have a Toscanini. Deny her the ability to see, hear, and speak, and you have a Helen Keller.

I’m sure you get the point. No one has to be a loser. Lets look at two Biblical examples, Moses and Paul. Do you remember what happened when God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush and commanded him to lead Israel to freedom? Moses responded with a list of obstacles he felt was too great. “I’m not eloquent. No one will listen to me. No one will believe that Jehovah has spoken to me.” But God wouldn’t let him say no. With His help, Moses became Israel’s greatest leader. And think of Paul. He overcame difficult circumstances to become the mighty Apostle to the Gentiles.

If you are using some limitations or hardships as an excuse for falling short of God’s best, its time to change your attitude. In the power of God, and following the example of others, you can be a winner. Remember, God does not demand of us success, but obedience.

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John 7:38 says, "He who believes in Me, as the scripture says, out of his heart (belly) will flow rivers of living water."

Did you know that a healthy tree may consist of up to 80% moisture? It draws large quantities of water through its root system or absorbs it from dew and rain. The tree does not hoard its moisture for itself. The vast network of running roots beneath the soil often exceeds the outspread of the trunk, branches, and leaves to the sky. And vast quantities of water are lifted through the framework of the tree to be transpired into the surrounding air. This moisture, along with the discharge of oxygen, is what gives the forest atmosphere such a fresh fragrance.

The similarities between a trees use of water and the Christians use of the water of life is striking. In John 7:38, Jesus said that the rivers of living water will flow from the heart of the one who believes in Him. He was referring to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in and through us. The Spirit, who is received when we trust the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, has the capacity to empower and refresh us, which in turn enables us to be a blessing to others. Our part is to read and study God's word, to receive cleansing and renewal through confession of our sins, and to obey the Lord. Then, as we depend on the Holy Spirit, "Living Water" flows through us and provides refreshment and goodness to people around us.

My prayer is, "Lord Jesus, thank You for being to us the refreshing Water of Life by the Holy Spirit." Remember, only the Living Water can quench the driving thirst of the soul.

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Psalm 115:1 says, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, But to Your name give glory Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.”

A man once said, “They went on and on, but I had to stop them. When the job I was doing for a company was finished, the people said how wonderful the job was. How I did an amazing job. How talented I was... and for a second, the praise began to fill my head. I had to stop myself and stop them too!”

Today's verse speaks that we are not to receive the glory, but God alone, because of His loving kindness and truth. That man said, “I had to stop the people from praising me for I was only one of many who got the job done. The other's gifts and talents were all used to produce such a wonderful thing, and I could not take the praise.”

We all need to realize that all we do, all the gifts and talents, and how we use them, come from God. He should always receive the glory. We can say thank you for the praise we get, but we must always point to heaven and say, "Give God the glory," for without Him, we are but piles of dust. When the praise starts, where do you point?

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2 Timothy 2:2 says, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

I remember when we were renting space for our church from a kitchen and cabinet company. Many times during the day I would visit the guys working in the cabinet shop. I remember I heard one of the men asking another where he learned how to put the door handles on the cabinets. He said, “I learned it from a guy, who heard it from the man who taught him. While being a young apprentice on the job site, we had the task of putting the handles on the kitchen cabinets. As I began to measure and drill the first door, one of the carpenters came over and shared with me about making a jig, a pattern, if you will that I would be able to set up on the door and drill the holes for each handle. It made the job easier and faster.”

Today's verse speaks of Paul's advice to young Timothy about the things he had heard from Paul and entrusting them to other faithful men who will then teach others. As I think on this scripture and the men in our church, I know there are men who have learned much from their walk with Christ, it would be a good idea to get together with each other and learn from each other. How else are we going to be able to teach others? It's as simple as putting a handle on a cabinet, if we follow the pattern. What pattern are you using?

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Romans 15:5-6 says, “Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It started with one, then another, and another. Before you knew it, there were a whole group of people coming together with one focus. We have reciently seen a lot of tragedies, here in America from fires, storms, and floods. The one thing that always amazes me is the fact that people come together to help. No matter what political party, what nationality, or religion, when there is a need people will arise to the occasion.

Today's verse speaks of people having the same mind with one another. Tragedy brings people together. I am sure we have all seen the pictures of the recent national disasters. We have seen picture after picture, video after video, all people coming to the aid of their fellowman. Believe it or not, that glorifies God our Father. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all carry the same spirit, the same breath of life within us. Are we joining in and doing our part with others as one? Are we glorifying God our Father by how we live as one? Let's not wait for the next disaster to join in.

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Titus 2:12 says, “instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age;”

Standing up for what is right, standing up for what is decent, standing up for what is godly, and what He calls us to be seems to be very hard these days. Even when we state the truth with other Christians, the temptation to gray some areas is ever present. We as Christ-like men and women should be setting the example, the example that Jesus showed us, but too many times the Christian is the one who cheats, lies, and gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

I remember many years ago you could tell a Christian by the way they lived and the choices they made. We scream to each other about abortion, but when it’s time to hit the pavement there is no one there. We say to each other, “Did you see this movie? I know it has some bad parts, but it’s really funny.” Our need to feel accepted by society has caused us to make some terrible choices, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have the strength in Jesus Christ. We just need to trust Him, call out to Him and seek Him. He is always right there. Turn to Him today and start living for Him. Let our choices reflect the love we say we have for Him.

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Proverbs 23:15-16 says, “ My son, if your heart is wise, My own heart also will be glad; And my inmost being will rejoice When your lips speak what is right.”

I read about a fireman who had saved some people from a burning building. He said even though the building had been abandoned for years and no one was thought to be in it he just felt like he needed to go in. If he had not went in no one would have known they were in the building. When he was interviewed for being a hero he said, “My father was proud, very proud, when he heard the report of what happened. One of the chiefs witnessed what took place at the fire and shared it with my dad. I had learned wisdom from Dad on how to handle situations that seem out of control, and I had put that wisdom into action. A few days later when my dad and I got together, he shared with me what the chief said. He told me how he was proud of me.”

Today’s verse speaks of a father’s heart being glad. How he rejoices in his inner most being when we do and speak what is right. When reading the article I couldn’t help but think, “I wonder how God our Father looks at our actions and our wisdom in situations” Have we used the wisdom of His Word? Are we speaking what is right? Are we following the world’s standards or God’s? How we act will either make His heart glad or ache. Is God proud of you and your actions?

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1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”

I know a guy who said, “Growing up with a brother a year older and having the name Tim and me being Tom, there were many days at school that I was called Tim. I am not Tim, and he is not me. We are brothers, but I hated it when people mixed up our names.”

As Christians we are all individuals with gifts and talents different from each other, but we are members of the same family. God’s Word tells us that we all have a gift given by God to be used for His glory. We, as members of a congregation, fit together to form the body of Christ. If one part is missing, then the body suffers.

I remember when I about 12 years old I sprained my right hand, my body suffered. I had to eat left handed, write lefty, things slowed down. I was not able to function as well as I had with two good hands. The body of Christ is like that. When we don’t use the gift given to us by Him we hurt the body. We cannot function as well. The job will get done, but not as efficiently as when all parts are working properly and working together.

Don’t try to be like someone else. Be yourself. God created you with specific gifts and talents. Are we using them, or are we trying to be like someone else?

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Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are your words to my taste.”

A small New England town needed water. After workers drilled 800 feet deep, however, they still had no success. About to abandon the search, the town officials consulted the U. S. Geological Survey. Their engineers examined the strata and decided that there was water deeper down. So they gave instruction to continue boring. When the workmen reached a depth of 1100 feet, they finally struck water. Always before the town had to buy water from another municipality. Now that they had their own ample supply, this was no longer needed. They now became the supplier to other towns.

For the Christian, the Bible is a deep well of refreshing truth. Yet how often we miss Gods rich source of blessings because we keep too near the surface. We need encouragement to go “deeper” into His Word. But how do we do this? Drilling into the depths of the Bible means reading it, meditating on its truths, applying its instructions, and memorizing key verses. The result will be sufficient spiritual nourishment for daily living. Furthermore, as we delve into its unlimited supply, we not only “get” for ourselves, but we are also able to “give” to others. This spiritual fruitfulness enables us to bless, help and influence fellow believers in their Christian walk.

Let me encourage you to drill deep into the Word. Read it often. Ask God to make it a part of your life. Then you’ll want to make that refreshing water available to others. Remember, to read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.

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Philippians 1:21 says, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

There is a story told of a rough ocean crossing during which a Mr. Jones became terribly seasick. At an especially rough time, a kind steward patted Jones on the shoulder and said, "I know, sir, that it seems awful. But remember, no one ever died of seasickness." Mr. Jones lifted his green countenance to the stewards concerned face and replied, "Oh, don't say that! Its only the wonderful hope of dying that keeps me alive."

There's more in Mr. Jones words than a touch of irony. As a Christian, I hear echoes of Paul's words to the Philippians. He said that the wonderful hope of dying kept him going (Philippians 1:21-23). Yet he wasn't merely looking for relief from his suffering. Paul's hope was rooted in Christ, who died on the cross for sinners, rose from the grave, ascended to heaven, and would one day take Paul into His presence.

How did this hope of seeing Christ, either at death or at the Lord's return, keep Paul going? It gave meaning to every moment. It gave him reason to live for Christ. It also gave him incentive to focus on others who needed his encouragement. He said, "for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (v.21). My prayer today is, "Father, thank You for the risen Christ. He is our reason for living."

Remember, those who are prepared to die are most prepared to live.

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Proverbs 15:4 says, "A soothing tongue is a tree of life, But perversion in it crushes the spirit."

Communicating and speaking to each other has taken on a form that seems to be getting worse by the day. Disrespect and verbal assaults seem to be the way to speak to each other. There is now trash talking on the sports field, students disrespecting teachers and those in authority, children speaking back to their parents, where will it end?

I had a man years ago in our church who had a serious anger problem that resulted in a verbal assault against some innocent person (usually his wife). He said, “sadly as I look back, I see the damage that did. I see how my words cut my wife down. I would apologize for my actions, and then want her to believe me when I told her I loved her. The damage had been done. I praise God for the lesson He taught me. How it was unacceptable behavior and that my words need to be more like His words.”

Our words are to speak the truth with love, so share love, and be uplifting. Isn’t there enough sadness and pain in the world without us adding to it by selfish attacks by our words? Take a moment before you speak today and ask one question, “Will this hurt or help?”

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Romans 15:7 says, “Therefore, accept one another just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”

I wonder where the hatred for others comes from. Is it jealousy or fear; is it the preconceived notion of things we have learned or been taught, or is it that we have never taken the time to get to know someone else?

We can sit and agree we love others, but only YOU and God know if you are hiding resentful or racial feelings toward another person or culture. If we refuse to deal with these feelings, they will continue to blind the way we look at people.

As witnesses of Christ we MUST be ever mindful of the witness we are for Him, and also be aware of the resentful feelings being passed on to others. We can instill the wrong attitude in our children, family, and friends with our poison. As Paul shared, examine ourselves for any hint of racial, cultural, financial, personal prejudice, and give it to the Lord.

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1 Timothy 2:8 says, "Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension."

It was a rather rough day years ago on our church job site. The plumbers were in the electrician’s way, the HAVC men were having trouble with the plumbers. At every turn, someone was fighting with someone about trying to get their own work done."

Today's verse speaks of Paul wanting men, in every place to pray, lifting holy hands without wrath and dissension. The truth was that hands were being raised but not to pray, not holy hands, but hands of anger. When you run into conflict, do you ever think to pray about it? To take a moment from the craziness and simply offer up a prayer request for God's peace?

By the end of the day, not much work had been done on our church building. There was too much time spent fighting with each other rather than getting the job accomplished. Sadly, that happens even in churches. Each group or ministry thinks that "theirs" is the most important in the church, and they want "top billing." If we were to stop and pray, whether on the job site, in our homes, and even in our churches, I wonder how much work we could really accomplish for the glory of God. Someone needs to start the prayer, maybe it's YOU. Worth a try the next time things get a little conflicting.

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Romans 12:2 says, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

What seems normal to others is just the opposite for us. When you think about running into a burning building, there is something inside you that says, "You're going the wrong way!" That’s what fire fighters are hired to do, that's exactly what they are trained to do. They run in while everyone else is running out!

Today's verse is one of my favorites. Maybe that's why I use it so much. It says to be different than the world, to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you can prove what the will of God is: good, acceptable, and perfect!

God will ask you to do the unnatural when it comes to His will. The world will think you’re crazy when you run into a burning building, pray for someone in the middle of the grocery store, or invite a lonely neighbor to dinner at your house. Just imagine if everyone did the unnatural. They would become the natural, and then not doing these things would be unnatural. Think about it.

Ask yourself today, “What is God asking me to do today that is unnatural,” then DO IT! It might change someone's life, maybe even yours!

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Psalm 55:22 says, Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.”

According to a Wall Street Journal report, anxiety has overtaken depression as the leading mental health problem in the United States. Anxiety fighting drugs are the top selling pharmaceutical products. Even with a booming economy and political stability, worry and apprehension remain part of our human condition, one that can never be adequately relieved by a pill.

When David composed Psalm 55, his mind was agitated by the same types of situations we struggle with today: He recoiled in horror from the violence, anger and abuse that stalked the city streets (vv.9-11). He suffered the anguish of being betrayed by a close friend (vv.12-14). He longed to leave and escape to a place of peace (vv.4-8).

Because David’s anxious pain mirrors our own, his prescription for relief can be ours as well. He wrote, “I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you.”

Anxiety is a burden that we are not called to bear. Instead, we are to lay our concerns on Christ because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7; see also Philippians 4:6-7).

If your heart is weighed down today, the Lord is ready to bear every burden you give Him. Remember God invites us to burden Him with what burdens us.

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Colossians 4:8 says, "For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts;"

A fireman was telling a story of a fire his volunteers had recently fought. He said “Help finally arrived. Our crew worked through the night to fight a rather large fire. We were exhausted, tired, and hungry. When another crew was sent to help us, we were very encouraged.”

Today’s verse speaks of Paul sending another faithful servant to help others. He was sent to share what Paul was going through and to be an encouragement to others. Sometimes in life, we will be in situations where we could use a little help. We may be the ones sent by God to encourage others to keep going.

The fireman continued, “Eventually the fire was put out. We went back to the fire house knowing we accomplished our goal.”

Be encouraged or be an encourager today. You may just be the help someone needs to accomplish what God has asked them to do. Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, that’s the key to know where to go and when. That’s if you are listening for His voice. Are you?

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Acts 11:20 (NASB) says, “But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus.”

It hit me. If I only share Jesus Christ with those that happen to be within my circle of life, the people that I contact daily, I would be missing a huge missions field. What about those outside my immediate circle of life, the ones that I must go to share Christ with? Isn’t that what we are told at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, to go to all the world and share?

Do we play it safe by only sharing Christ when it’s easy? Do we walk outside our immediate circle? Don’t they have as much right to know this friend of mine called Jesus? I am so glad that Paul felt a need to share Jesus with Gentiles. If Jesus was only for the Jews, where would that leave me and my family?

Jesus came and died for all of us. Isn’t it time we shared Him with others? That might mean going where ever He sends us. Some of you reading this might even be missionaries, but if we don’t step outside our immediate circle, those waiting will never know Christ like we do.

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Acts 4:31 says, “they spoke the Word of God with boldness.”

Though uneducated and rough in his mannerisms, Peter Cartwright possessed a keen insight into human nature and an overpowering devotion to God. One day he was conducting a service in a church when President Andrew Jackson unexpectedly showed up. The deacons hurriedly called the preacher from the pulpit and informed him of the distinguished visitor. They asked Cartwright to be careful what he said. As he stood up to give his message he began, “I understand that Andrew Jackson is with us, and I have been requested to be guarded in my remarks. Andrew Jackson will go to hell as quickly as any other man if he does not repent!” The congregation was shocked, wondering how the president would react. At the close of the meeting, the Chief Executive stepped forward to speak to Cartwright. “Sir, he said, If I had a regiment of men like you, I could whip the world.”

Jesus said to His Apostles before He ascended into heaven, “But you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and you shall be witnesses unto Me” (Acts 1:8). Controlled by the Spirit of God, their lives fulfilled that promise, for they were marked with a holy boldness in proclaiming the truth of the resurrected Lord. Yet they were not the only recipients of this spiritual courage. It is said of the early church, “…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

We need not be faint copies of the original. If we surrender to the indwelling Spirit, fellowship with Christ can produce in us the same holy boldness.

Wanted: Men of faith and fire,

Men whose zeal will never tire.

Wanted: Men with hearts aglow,

To show the world the Christ they know.

Remember, two of the greatest hindrances to witnessing are a cold heart and cold feet.

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Matthew 24:44 (NASB) says, "For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will."

When the alarm rang, it wasn't the time to get prepared. At the fire house, when the fire call comes in, the firemen need to respond. It’s not the time to prepare, that time comes before the alarm ever goes off. Their gear needs to be ready, their tools all set and in place, their breathing pack all set, prior to the sound of the alarm.

Today's verse shares that we must also be ready for when the Son of Man returns. We need to be ready and prepared. There is a part of fighting fires that most people don't think about, but firefighters do. It's always being ready. Each time the alarm goes off, it could be the last call they respond to. That means when they leave home for work, it might be the last time they see their family, friends, and all the people that they care about. It also means that they may meet their Maker face-to-face.

You don't have to be a firefighter. Anyone of us could experience our last day on this earth. The question is are we ready? Have we prepared our lives to meet Jesus face-to-face? Have we prepared in such a way that we can face death at any moment? The end of the verse states that He may come at an hour when we do not think He will. Are you ready? Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Do you live like you know Him?

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Luke 18:17 says, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

One time I pulled up to the church to get ready for Bible study, there he sat, a young boy with his mom and puppy dog. I remember seeing them a few times playing with the puppy in the field behind our church. They live in one of the houses that lines one side of our property. I said hello and that's when he asked the question. "What do you do in there?" I introduced myself to his mom first, and then began to speak to the boy. "I said would you like to come in?" "Oh no," his mom relied, "We have the dog." I said, "It’s okay I bring my German Shepherd Rocky in here too." So, they followed me in. Again, the young boy asked, "So, what do you do in here?" As I began to share with him about our church, he kept asking questions like, “and what about this room and that room, what are all the chairs for, etc.”

Today's verse speaks of receiving the Kingdom of God like a child. This little boy was so inquisitive; so, wanting to learn more about our church, about Jesus, about what a Bible study is. I couldn't help but think I wished more adults had that kind of inquisitive nature when it comes to God and the things of His Church.

Maybe it's time we open the doors of our life and begin to share just "what we do in there!"

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Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!”

Why bother going to church? Some would tell us that its better to sleep late on Sunday, eat a leisure breakfast, and lounge around talking with family. And then maybe have lunch with friends or enjoy a picnic and games with the children. “Make it a day that’s different and even restful,” some would say, “but don’t waste time by going to church on Sunday!”

Worship? Who needs worship anyway? We all do! We need worship because we are unique creatures made in the image of God. We are made for God, so we can’t fulfill our purpose unless we develop a right relationship with Him. And worship helps us do that when we focus on the Lord.

As we join with other worshippers in church, our hearts are lifted out of this temporal world into God’s eternal world. In worship the conscience is quickened by the holiness of God, the mind is fed by the truth of God, the imagination is purged by the beauty of God, the heart is opened to the love of God, and the will is opened to the purpose of God. And thus we are helped onward in our goal of becoming more like God.

Let’s decide now that on Sunday (and Wednesdays) we will be in church with a heart prepared to worship. Remember, what you worship determines what you become.

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1 Peter 1:7 says, “so that the proof of your faith being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

When I was a kid a few of from the neighborhood decided to go fishing. One of the guys knew the perfect spot to catch the “big ones.” So, we all followed him. After getting off our bikes, we headed through this thick brush. The further we went the thicker it became. It looked as if we were just walking in circles. It almost got to the point where it was so dense, we couldn't go any further and were seriously considering turning around.

Today's verse speaks that the proof of our faith, more precious than gold, even though it's tested by fire, may be found to result in us praising God. The guy leading us said, "A few more steps and we will be there." Sure enough, when we pushed on, we found a beautiful fishing hole. The best part was that we caught some big bass. We all praised the guy who showed us the way. In life, we will have to push through this and that and fight our way to get where we are headed. When we get there, we can praise God for without His strength and guidance, we will just walk in circles. I think about the man, Jesus Christ. I think about how He is the way, and you will praise Him for being tested by fire and coming out more precious than gold.

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Proverbs 3:21, 23 says, "...keep sound wisdom and discretion. Then you will walk safely in your way."

A frustrated homeowner had a yard full of moles. He did everything he knew to do to defeat his "underground enemy," but he was losing the battle. Finally a friend informed him that he was trying to solve his problem in the wrong way. The moles weren't the real culprits, even though they were tearing up his yard. The real problem was the grubs that the moles were feeding on. Get rid of them and the moles would have no reason to stay. The homeowner took the advice and applied an insecticide. It worked. With the grubs gone, the moles left. Soon he had a healthy lawn again.

The 3rd chapter of Proverbs gives us a parallel situation. Instead of moles, the problem is fear - the kind of fear that robs us of strength during the day and sleep at night. What is also evident from this chapter is that we can eliminate our fears only by attacking the "bugs" that attract it. We must go after self-sufficiency and irreverence (vv. 5-8). We have to treat our evil and foolish ways with a strong application of divine wisdom and understanding (vv. 13-18). Then and only then will fear loose its grip. Admittedly, this is more difficult than going to the hardware store and picking up some insecticide, and spreading it to the lawn. But it’s worth the effort.

What's important is to know the real problem so that we can work on it. In the case of paralyzing fear, making wise decisions based on God's Word and building a love-trust relationship with Christ go a long way in getting rid of the "grubs."

Remember, keep your eyes on God and you'll soon lose sight of your fears.

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Psalm 5:3 says, “My voice You will hear in the morning, O Lord; and I will look up.”

Before we go to the grocery store, we should make a shopping list. Before we accept a responsibility, we should check to see what it involves. Likewise, when we plunge into a new day, we should prepare for it. As we think about what lies ahead, we can commit it all to the Lord. Then we will be able to take advantage of the days opportunities and to cope with its disappointments.

Ray Ortlund, in The Best Half of Life, wrote, “I like to start out the morning by covering the whole day in prayer. After a time of praise and confession, I take out my appointment book and pray through the hours. I pray for everyone I am scheduled to see. I ask that I might be helpful to them, but also open for what they might have for me. I pray for the unscheduled ones I will bump into. I found that if I pray over my interruptions and get them squarely under Gods sovereign control, they don’t irritate me. I realize that they are part of Gods plan.”

So you and I need to pray about our morning, lunchtime and evening; pray and think about the time you will be with your loved ones and others you will meet during the day. Pray through the day before you experience it. Then relax. Whatever comes, you’ve covered it. Each day does present trying circumstances, unique challenges, and exciting opportunities. So before we begin our activities, let’s turn the day over to the Lord. Then, whatever happens, we have it covered! Remember, morning prayers lead to evening praise.

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Isaiah 30:19 says, “O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.”

Why does God answer some prayers and not all? I have heard every reason given. You hear things like, your faith wasn’t strong enough, or you have too much sin in your life; you haven’t done enough to get it answered. The truth be told, I don’t know why God answers some prayers and not others, but I do know if we never ask we may never receive. So, I would rather ask and not get an answer then never ask and know that there was a chance it answered that I didn’t take. Prayer to me is like talking to a friend, and we all know that our friends don’t always do what we ask them either. I have faith that God knows what’s best in every situation. I may not agree with Him or understand the reasons, but then who am I? What prayers can I answer? I live knowing that I would rather have God in charge than me in charge. I tried that, and it didn’t go very well. So, now I talk to my friend and let Him do what He does best, love me. That’s what He wants to do for you too, just love you. That may mean that we get what we need and not what we want!

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Revelation 3:20 says, “I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.”

An elderly couple had no means of support except a weekly gift of money from a man in the church. One Sunday the church scheduled a special meeting in the afternoon. The couples benefactor, who lived quite far away, wanted to remain in the area for the afternoon service. So he said to the old couple, “Would you mind if I joined you for supper after the morning service?” Immediate the couple thought of the half loaf of stale bread, a bit of butter, and some cheese that was the entire contents of the cupboard. How could this friend dine with them, they thought? But the man interrupted their worries by adding, “I have brought a basket of things with me and there will be plenty for the three of us.” When he arrived at the poor, bare cottage he unpacked the basket. Soon the three of them were gathered around a table that was spread with fried chicken, sliced ham, homemade bread, country butter, and apple pie. The man not only came to dine with them, but he had also brought all that was needed for the feast.

What a picture of the relationship we have with Jesus! He desires to fellowship with us, and by His power He provides us with all that we need. When we open the door of our heart and the Lord Jesus comes in, we have the privilege of “dinning” with Him. We have nothing to offer, but into our spiritual poverty. He brings all the riches of His grace. What blessed fellowship is ours as He spreads His bounteous table and invites us to dine with Him!

Remember, grace is everything for nothing for those who don’t deserve anything.

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Acts 4:13--They took note that these men had been with Jesus.

This was said of two fishermen called Peter and John. They were only very ordinary men. There was nothing very special about them. In fact, the Bible says they were unschooled. Another translation calls them "unlearned and ignorant", yet when they began to speak people stopped to listen.

Comments were made as to their boldness and the people were astonished! What a strange situation! These two men who had spent most of their lives on the Sea of Galilee fishing were now making an impression far beyond that of ordinary fishermen. Now the big question is, what was it that made all the difference? What turned them from humble fishermen into powerful preachers? The simple answer is, they had been with Jesus. Simple but true! People took notice of them, not because of their education or their social status, but because of their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

But, you may ask, what has this got to do with us today? Let me tell you! We may be ordinary people, you and me, nothing very special, nothing outstanding, but other people will see something different about us when we have been with Jesus. Remember, Jesus is still alive today! No one can become personally involved with Him and remain the same. With Jesus the ordinary becomes the extraordinary. Our education or our social status may not attract people, but our personal relationship with Jesus Christ most certainly will.

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Psalm 89:1 says, “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.”

God delights to hear the praises of His people. Even if our voice is ragged and our tone is off pitch “it is good to sing praises to our God.” Perhaps that’s why our faith, unlike non-Christian religions, is marked by song.

While visiting a missionary in Egypt, a man was asked to listen to the singing of some men and women who had recently been saved by God’s grace. As they sang, the man noticed that they seemed to have no ear for music, and the discord was jarring. Yet when they finished, the missionary asked, “Didn’t they sing beautifully?” She had invested her life in winning those people to Christ, and their singing was sweet music to her ears.

In heaven today is One who gave His life, who shed His blood for us. He willingly died on Calvary’s Cross to pay the price for our redemption. How His heart must rejoice to hear us sing praises to Him! Oh, our singing may be out of tune and our voice may quiver, but if our song issues from a heart of love for God it pleases Him.

Perhaps there is no song in your heart because some sin has disrupted your praise. Now would be the appropriate time to have the fellowship restored. Confess your sins to God and ask His forgiveness. Mediate on the many ways the Lord has blessed you. Then you can say again, as David did in Psalm 40:3, “He has put a new song in my mouth.”

Remember, no music so pleases God as the singing of His saints.

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Proverbs 30:26 says, “The rock badgers are a feeble folk, yet they make their homes in the crags.”

Some translations of the Bible render the term “rock badgers” in our verse for today to read “coneys.” I had often wondered what a coney was. With some investigation, I found that a coney is a weak, timid, furry little rabbit like animal. It has no way to defend itself from its fierce enemies - the weasel, hawk, the fox, and the eagle. Therefore, this vulnerable creature lives among the rocks, and it never ventures far from home. When a coney spots an enemy, it doesn’t stand its ground and try to fight, it wouldn’t last a minute. Rather it scurries away and hides down in the rocks where it cannot be reached. Knowing its own weakness, the coney finds its protection in the crags.

Every Christian can learn a valuable lesson from this little creature. Sometimes when Satan attacks us, we try to defend ourselves against his onslaught without immediately fleeing to God for help. We make firm resolves and try to defeat him in our own strength. But Satan is more powerful than we are. He is also a slick and crafty deceiver. How much better to flee to safety to the Rock, the Lord Jesus Christ! We just can’t fight the devil by ourselves. But through diligent prayer and strong faith in God, we can find the safety we need. As the psalmist said, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Yes, the Lord has promised to keep us and to protect us. We are safe in the Rock. Remember, every temptation is an opportunity to flee to God.

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Jeremiah 2:28 says, “Where are your gods that you have made for yourselves? Let them arise, if they can save you in the time of your trouble.”

Ever notice how people react to tragedy? Even the nonreligious try to get the attention of God, whom they have previously ignored. Accounts of plane crashes, floods, tornadoes, or hurricanes often tell of someone who calls on the Lord for help.

It would be nice to think that the Heavenly Father is just waiting for such times of panic so He can send all the emergency equipment of heaven to the rescue. But the Bible indicates otherwise. Through Jeremiah the Lord challenged His people who were in trouble to get help in the hour of death from the idols they had worshiped. He wanted them to see the futility of trusting false gods.

The Lord may ask the same question of us. In an hour of distress, He may say, “Why do you cry for me now? Where are your sports heroes and movie stars? Why not seek help from the TV, appeal to your paycheck, take comfort in your possessions, or rely on your credit cards? Let these gods whom you served so faithfully now serve you!”

God doesn’t want us to go on trusting false gods and still expect Him to protect us from trouble. He graciously grants forgiveness to us if we are truly repentant. And He offers help and hope to those who have learned to depend on Him all the time. Remember those who walk with God always find Him close at hand.

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Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!”

Why bother going to church? Some would tell us that its better to sleep late on Sunday, eat a leisure breakfast, and lounge around talking with family. And then maybe have lunch with friends or enjoy a picnic and games with the children. “Make it a day that’s different and even restful,” some would say, “but don’t waste time by going to church on Sunday!”

Worship? Who needs worship anyway? We all do! We need worship because we are unique creatures made in the image of God. We are made for God, so we can’t fulfill our purpose unless we develop a right relationship with Him. And worship helps us do that when we focus on the Lord.

As we join with other worshippers in church, our hearts are lifted out of this temporal world into God’s eternal world. In worship the conscience is quickened by the holiness of God, the mind is fed by the truth of God, the imagination is purged by the beauty of God, the heart is opened to the love of God, and the will is opened to the purpose of God. And thus we are helped onward in our goal of becoming more like God.

Let’s decide now that on Sunday (and Wednesdays) we will be in church with a heart prepared to worship. Remember, what you worship determines what you become.

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Ezekiel 23:18 says, “and I became disgusted with her, as I had become disgusted with her sister.”

Disgusted - Does God ever get to the point where He just can't take it anymore? If you read your Bible carefully, and put aside the idea that God is always the forgiving Santa Claus in the sky, you might be surprised. Ezekiel conveys God's words: "I am disgusted with you." That's scary language. God disgusted? That makes me tremble. What if that's how He feels about me? I am compelled to look deeper into Ezekiel's message. Why would God say such a thing?

In this prophecy of Ezekiel, God describes two women. They are daughters. They are both harlots. In God's story, these two women represent Samaria and Jerusalem. God recalls their lust and adultery with other nations and other gods. He is quite specific about their behavior. And then He says, "I am disgusted with both of them." The Hebrew word is naqa. It is a word peculiar to Ezekiel. It describes God's intense disapproval and alienation over their continuous disobedience. In the end, there's nothing left for Him to do but to bring punishment in order to foster repentance.

Sometimes I think God must be disgusted with me. He reveals the depth of my sinfulness, the magnitude of my arrogance, the heartlessness of my interactions and the depravity of my soul. I discover that my most spiritual efforts are still laced with self-satisfaction. I see that my purest desires carry poison pride pills. I often wonder if Romans 7 wasn't written just for me.

I can only throw up my hands and plead, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner." Amazingly, that is exactly why God might not be disgusted with me. Samaria and Jerusalem disgusted God not because their sins were any worse that all other sins but because they refused to repent. They ignored God's warnings and pleas. They believed that they had no need for weeping over sin.

But I do. I might not cry tears at this moment, but I know my own heart. My cardiologist is Jeremiah. I'm sick right to the core. "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner" is not just a convenient excuse. I beg for His forgiveness and restoration. I have no other way. There are days when I am afraid to ask God to show me my true condition. But He is kind. He only lets me see what I can handle. It brings me to my knees every time. I thought I was making such progress. Then He shows me my holiness EKG. "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Don't be disgusted with me. Bring me back."

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John 14:8 says, “Show us the Father, and it is enough for us”

Enough - They didn't get it. Three years with Jesus and they were still clueless. So when Philip asked Jesus to satisfy them, he put a big foot in his mouth. What was he really asking? To see God? Hardly. Every Jew knew that seeing the face of God meant instant death. No, Philip had something else in mind. He was asking for a miracle. He just wanted Jesus to provide proof. "Just let me see something certain, Jesus. Just give us a glimpse of the divine. Then we can believe."

What's enough for you? Does God have to provide you with a miraculous proof before you will decide to trust Him? Does He need to give you a rock-solid answer before you can be obedient to His call? Are you a miracle-only believer? Then you should change your name to Philip. He spent three years with Jesus and he never met the Father. He was a man who liked the company of the Lord but didn't commit himself to the message. He was waiting for a miracle.

We spend a great deal of fruitless time waiting for just enough to satisfy. We wait for that new job that's going to make everything work. We wait for a new spark in the marriage. We wait for circumstances to change so that our lives will improve. And we wait for miracles from God to fix it all. We wait. And we wait. And all the time, Jesus is saying, "Don't you know me? Have I been here all this time and you still don't see? If you had only invested yourself in a relationship with me, you would not be waiting. You would be celebrating. I've already shown you everything you needed to know. You just failed to act on it."

Our religious culture today is no different than the religious culture of the first century. We all want miracles. Why? Because we aren't content with the relationship Jesus offers. We want just that little bit more; that little bit that meets my need and fulfills my agenda. We still come to Jesus with our hands out, ready to take but not quite willing to give. The result is "not enough". When my life is controlled by what satisfies me, there will never be enough, not even enough of God. Until I really embrace "it's not about me", I cannot be satisfied, even in the presence of Jesus.

"I just need enough", you say. And Jesus answers, "You already have more than you need." Is that what you think?

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Psalm 73:3 says, “For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked “

Robin Leech introduced all of us to the "Lives of the Rich and Famous". We watched them entertain in splendor, board their private jets, sail on their yachts, slip away to their island homes and spend like there was no tomorrow. And all the while we thought, "Why can't I have that kind of life?" We are a culture of envy. It saturates our press. It is displayed without embarrassment in advertisement after advertisement. "Live famously" says the Las Vegas enticement. Be like the stars. See what the good life really means.

Asaph, the author of this psalm, felt that same envy. He uses the Hebrew qana, a very strong word. We can understand just how strong this word is when we see that its basic meaning describes jealousy in marriage. The bond between husband and wife was to be jealously guarded so that no one could interfere with the relationship. The fact that breaking the vow carried the death penalty shows how strong a term qana is.

What is good for marriage is not good for the desire to have what someone else has. Qana as envy shows up as intense desire to possess the favor granted to someone else. When I see the lives of the wicked rich, I am stirred to want what they have. That desire can easily possess me and alter my behavior in order to gain what I see. But God warns us, see Psalm 37:1. All of this is temporary. Appearance is not reality. And when Asaph realized just how much his envy was affecting him, he suddenly remarked, "I was like a beast before You". The animal instinct of envy drives us away from true humanity. The more we desire to possess what others have, the more we become like beasts.

Why is this remarkable confession of Asaph a contentment psalm? Because we will never find contentment in this life until we confront the animal desire of envy within us. As long as the beast prowls in our souls, we will feel the rage of envy. It is the beast that must die if we are to be free to enjoy God's gifts. This psalm is special because it is confessional. It touches what all of us have felt. And it shows us the way out of the cage of the beast. "God is my portion forever", says Asaph. All the rest is temporary appearance. What I want is what will last. And that, says Asaph, is the nearness of God.

Have you confronted the envy lurking in your life? Have you looked into the face of the beast and said, "God is my portion. The lives of the rich and famous don't seem so rich or famous after that.

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2 Chronicles 19:11 says, “Behave courageously, and the Lord will be with the good.”

The importance of following our higher impulses (inclinations to do right) came home to me when I read the story of a 65 year old Christian. Fifty years earlier, he tried to pas another vehicle on a hill, causing an oncoming car to careen into the ditch. He saw the cloud of dust in his rearview mirror and knew he should stop. But he let his fear overcome his conscience. Now he says, “I should have returned to face the music, but I didn’t.” The internal struggle that accompanies his memory of this event has become such an obsession that he may need psychiatric treatment. How he wishes he had obeyed his higher instincts!

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, secret disciples of Jesus, must have also experienced inner conflict as they watched Jesus dying on the cross. They loved Him, and they knew that they should give Him a decent burial. They also realized that asking for the body could get them in trouble, but they obeyed the impulse to do what was right. They lovingly cared for the body of Jesus Christ and placed it in Joseph’s tomb hewn out of the rock. While both of these men fade out of the biblical record after this, they are revered for making the right choice.

Obeying that higher impulse requires effort. Our lower instincts (inclinations to do wrong) are strong, and the path seems easy. But this “low road” leads to shame and regret. Taking the “high road” requires courage, but it leads to peace and fulfillment. Remember, when conviction strikes deep enough, courage will rise to sustain it.

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Romans 5:18 says, “Through one mans righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”

The final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation was taken to Abraham Lincoln at noon on January 1, 1863. Twice the president picked up his pen and twice he laid it down. Turning to Secretary of State William Seward, he said, “I have been shaking hands since 9:00 am this morning, and my right arm is almost paralyzed. If my name ever goes into history, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it. If my hand trembles when I sign the proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter will say, ‘he hesitated.’” The president then took up the pen again and slowly but firmly wrote “Abraham Lincoln.” That historic act endeared Lincoln to the world as the Great Emancipator.

One greater than Lincoln and with even surer resolve brought freedom to the human race. Jesus signed our liberty with His own blood by dying on a cross to release us from the awful slavery of sin. Oswald Chambers wrote, “Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken. Jesus Christ made the redemption the basis of human life, that is, He made a way for every son of man to get into communion with God.”

Having trusted the Savior, we have been set free from sin’s awful condemnation. Now by His Spirit we have the power to turn from sin and live for Him. That’s the only way to honor Christ - Our Great Emancipator. Remember, the empty cross and the empty tomb spell a full salvation.

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Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrated His love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound. The soldiers fiance had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell’s heart was touched and he said, “Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. Curfew shall not ring tonight!”

Like the condemned man, we are all rebels against God under a sentence of death. But He loved us so much that He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to intervene in our behalf. He has saved us at a great cost to Himself. If skeptics had questioned Jesus after His resurrection, all He would have to do was show them His hands, His bruised, nail pierced hands. They are ample proof that He has given Himself for mankind. His sacrifice means that the curfew of eternal death will never toll for those who trust in Him. That’s why the Apostle Paul said in Romans 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him.”

What have you done with Christ’s love? Have you accepted the sacrifice of His Son on the cross for your sins? Its not enough to know about it. You must say from your heart, “He died for me!” Remember believing Christ died, that’s history; believing Christ died for me, that’s salvation!

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1 Peter 5:7 says,, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Sometimes Christians wonder if God really cares. These periods of questioning usually do not arise during happier times. Instead they occur when the burdens of life weigh heavily, when temptation has been overpowering, or when a final farewell must be said. Yet our text for today says the Lord Jesus cares so much that He will always be with us to help.

A hymn on this theme, “Does Jesus Care?” by Frank E. Graeff, has brought comfort to thousands. In his book 101 More Hymn Stories, Kenneth Osbeck wrote, “Mr. Graeff was a pastor in the Philadelphia area. Throughout the district, he was known as the “sunshine minister.” C. Austin Miles, author of the popular hymn, “In The garden,” paid tribute to Mr. Graeff: ‘He is a spiritual optimist, a great friend of children; his bright sun-shining disposition attracts him not only to children, but to all with whom he comes in contact with. He has a holy magnetism and a child-like faith.’ In spite of his cheery disposition and winsome personality, Graeff was often called upon to go through severe testing experiences.” While enduring one such test - he faced severe despondency, doubt, and physical agony - Graeff turned to scripture for solace and strength. The words of 1 Peter 5:7, “He cares for you,” spoke deeply to him, and the hymn “Does Jesus Care” was born.

Is your heart filled with pain or grief? Read 1 Peter 5:7 and remind yourself, “O yes, He cares!” Remember, God’s resources are always greater than our needs.

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Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.”

The Biblical perspective on work is entirely practical. If anyone suggests that spirituality means passive waiting for God to act, that person knows nothing about the Bible. Two things characterize Biblical work. Urgency and commitment. In this verse, we see them both.

First, Solomon tells us that whatever you're doing, do it with all that you've got. He uses the Hebrew word koah. It's a word about power and strength. Biblical work is never a "good enough" effort. When God calls us to go to work, we are to engage all of our abilities, concentration and effort. "Don't hold back" is the Biblical motto.

Secondly, whenever the Bible speaks of work, it includes a sense of urgency. As Solomon says, "Get it done now because there is no chance to complete it after you're dead." The Biblical perspective is always the realistic perspective. No one knows what tomorrow brings (in spite of weather predictions). That means we must take a "Do it now" attitude. What God calls you to work, don't delay.

What does this mean? It means that followers in the Way should be the world's most productive employees. They should be the ones every business loves to have. They should lead the pack in getting things done. Why? Because they believe that wherever God has placed them, they serve the Lord of lords. Did you notice that Solomon does not say, "When you have a clear sign from God that you are in the right job"? He says, "Whatever your hand finds to do". It doesn't matter if it's sweeping floors, washing feet or running the country. The job is not the important thing. What is important is whom you serve, not what you are doing in your service. When everything you do glorifies the Father, what you do really doesn't matter. The smallest task or the greatest accomplishment is not measured on the "importance" scale. It is measured on the "honoring" scale.

Today you can honor the Lord of life. What He places before you, do with all your strength. Don't ask why He brings the task. Just ask how you can do it to please Him.

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Mark 2:9 says, “Arise, take up your bed and walk.”

A man who was greatly depressed by life’s circumstances wandered aimlessly along a country lane. Tiring because of the long walk, he stopped to rest besides a tall hedge. As he sat there brooding over his troubles, he heard two girls talking on the other side. They were discussing a sermon they had heard in a local church. One of them said of the pastor, “That was the only time I heard him preach, but his message gave me a big spiritual lift. I shall never forget one thing in particular he said.” The other girl ask what it was that so greatly stirred her. Her friend replied that as the minister spoke of the healing of the paralytic in Matthew 9, he had declared, “The world will always say, ‘you made your bed and now you must lie in it;’ but Jesus said, ‘take up your bed and walk. Your sins are forgiven you.’” When the troubled and despairing man on the other side of the hedge heard these gracious words, hope was kindled in his heart and the dark shadow of despair was lifted from his soul. The Holy Spirit used that incident to draw that man to Christ.

Every disheartened person who seeks to have the weight of his sins lifted can find both forgiveness and strength to face his life by trusting Jesus. He says, in effect, “Take up your bed - take up your cross; and then bear your burden graciously as you walk in My strength!”

Today, ponder Jesus’ gracious command, “Take up your bed and walk.” Let it bring to your heart new hope. Then act on it. Remember, God tells us to burden Him with what burdens us.

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Revelation 1:5 says, “Christ loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.”

A person who trusts Christ never needs to fear being condemned for his sins. His guilt is gone forever because of Christ’s shed blood.

A story from the 14th century gives us an analogy that illustrates the point. Robert Bruce of Scotland was leading his men in battle to gain independence from England. Near the end of the conflict, the English wanted to capture Bruce to keep him from assuming his position as next in line for the Scottish crown. So they put his own bloodhounds on his trail. When they got close, Bruce could hear them baying loudly. His attendant said, “We are done for. They are on your trail and they will reveal your hiding place.” Bruce replied, “It’s all right.” Then he headed for a stream that flowed through the forest. He plunged in and waded upstream a short distance. When he came out on the other bank, he was in the depths of the forest. Within minutes, the hounds, tracing their masters steps, came to the bank. But they went no further. The English soldiers urged them on, but the trail was broken. The stream had carried the scent away. A short time later, the crown of Scotland rested on the head of Robert Bruce.

The memory of our sins, prodded on by Satan, can be like those baying dogs. But a stream flows, red with the blood of God’s own Son. By grace through faith we are safe. No sin-hound can touch us. The trail is broken by the precious blood of Christ. Remember, when God forgives, He removes the sin and restores the soul.

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Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “…do not fear…He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

The former President of the Moody Bible Institute James M. Gray wrote about a tourist in Portugal who saw a fisherman’s wife at the waters edge holding a small child by the hand. Just beyond where they were walking was a sharp drop off. Still the mother kept leading the boy towards the brink. The frightened youngster clung to her, but with affectionate words she led him to the same spot over and over again. Finally encouraged by her reassurances, he toddled along the edge by himself. Gray said, The traveler trembled at the risk, a few feet farther the water deepened dangerously. But there was no real cause for alarm. The mother’s eye was on the boy, and her hand was ready to catch him before he went too far. ‘What are you doing?’ the traveler asked. ‘Drawling out his fear,’ the woman replied.”

When Moses was about to die, he appointed Joshua as his successor. He impressed on the new leader and all the people that the presence of the Lord would never leave them, and that this should give them courage for the difficult days ahead. Knowing that fear can be paralyzing, he reminded them that God is bigger than any obstacle they would face. That’s what they needed to hear as they were about to enter a hostile land.

If God asks us to walk on dangerous paths, we can count on His presence and unfailing help. As we cling by faith to His promises, we will find that His unfailing presence will “draw out” our fear. Remember, Fear God and you’ll have nothing else to fear.

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Acts 10:15 says, "What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy”

Consider Unholy - We need to see the Greek construction in order to fully appreciate the impact of this statement. It is literally "you do not make common". There is an act of the will involved here. God cleanses, but, without the reciprocal act of human beings, God's cleansing will have no effect on the way we live. We will go right on treating those things that God cleanses as if they were still unworthy, unholy and defiled. We must do what God cannot and will not do. We must put God's provision into action.

The Greek is koinoo. It means "to pollute, defile or make unclean." What God cleanses, human beings have no right to make unclean. It is a matter of authority (as are all matters with God). If I live under God's authority, then He establishes the boundaries and the order of my life. And if God tells me that what I previously regarded as filthy has now, by divine edict, been declared clean, I must live accordingly. I must forever cease treating such things as unworthy and impure. They have been altered by the Most High God. I am no longer to allow their previous character to rule my behavior.

There is something incredibly powerful at work here. God cleanses my sin. How He does that is the story of His redemptive work in Jesus. Why He does that is the message of the good news. But that He does it is His declaration that it is so. The character of my sin has been altered. It is no longer grounds for guilt. It is now the basis upon which my life with Him is established. My sin becomes the doorway to my sanctification.

Think about it. In all my life there is only one thing that is truly mine. My sin. All the rest comes from God. All the rest is His gift. So when I come to God, I have only one thing that is really mine to offer Him. My sin. And when I offer it to Him, He transforms that unworthy mess in my life into an invitation to His presence. The very thing that kept me away from Him becomes the path to Him. My hideousness transformed into blessing. How can I ever let it return me to the depths of the pit? Without my sin, I would never have known His grace. I experience the sacred curse.

Thank God I recognized my sin. Thank God He transformed it. The thing that sought to destroy me became the conduit of my redemption.

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James 5:16 says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

While waiting for the teller at a bank counter in Liverpool, England, evangelist Charles Alexander picked up a pen and began to write on a pad of paper. Two words had gripped his heart: “Pray Through.” So he wrote them over and over until the paper was filled from top to bottom. When the teller returned to the window, the preacher transacted his business and left. The next day, a friend visited Alexander to tell him a striking story. A businessman had come into the bank shortly after Alexander had left. He was discouraged and weighed down with financial troubles. As he began to do his banking at the same counter, he noticed the pad with its long columns of “Pray through.” When he learned from the teller that Charles Alexander had printed these words, he exclaimed, “That is the very message I need! I have tried to worry through in my own strength, and have only mentioned my troubles to God. Now I am going to pray through until I get light.”

Jesus said of Elijah that “he prayed earnestly.” Our heavenly Father waits to here fervent, earnest, persistent prayer from us rather than feeble, apathetic requests. This is suggested by Jesus in Luke 18 in His parable about an unjust judge who responded to the continual pleading of a widow. Certainly God will “avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him” (v.7).

When troubles surround us, let’s determine to “pray through.” Remember, if you are a stranger to prayer, you are a stranger to power.

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Ephesians 5:8 says, “…you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”

The Bible depicts our world as a place of darkness, a world controlled by the “rulers of the darkness of this age” (Ephesians 6:12). In the midst of this spiritual night time, the Christian must stand out in sharp contrast. Because we have been “called out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9), we have an important job to do. Here’s how Jesus described it: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

In a sense we are the lighthouse keepers to the world. So many people are lost - foundering like ships on the raging sea. When we realize that our job is to make sure the “light” is visible to direct them, we will see the value of maintaining a holy and exemplary life. A story about a French lighthouse keeper who worked in the costal city of Calais illustrates the diligence we should display in keeping our testimony shining. When someone asked him, “What if one of your lights go out?” he responded, “Never!” He explained that if he allowed that to happen, he would live in fear of being blamed for the danger he would cause the ships. “Never!” he repeated. “Sometimes I feel as though the whole world is looking at my light.”

Jesus said, “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). We are like that city, observed by a watching world. That’s why our actions and words must honor Christ. When our light shines, it directs people to Jesus. Remember, if your light is shining for Jesus, God will put it where it can be seen.

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Psalm 119:71 says, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”

In our scripture reading for today, the psalmist viewed affliction as beneficial for his correction (v.67) and for his spiritual education (v.71). This is reassuring whenever we as God’s children experience His chastening hand or must face a severe testing. Although going through a difficulty is not a pleasant experience, we know that “afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

Someone once said, “A certain amount of opposition is a great help. Kites rise against and not with wind. Even a headwind is better than none. No sailor ever worked his passage anywhere in a dead calm. Let no man wax pale, therefore, because of opposition. Opposition is what he wants and must have to be good for anything.”

As much as we may dislike adversity, affliction, and trial, they work for our good. Sometimes when we are experiencing the corrective hand of God in our lives or enduring a hardship such as trying circumstances, a lengthy illness, or some deep sorrow, we cannot see how anything beneficial could possibly come out of it. But God has assured us that “all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28).

So rather than letting adversity make us bitter, lets thank God and ask Him to teach us valuable lessons through it. Like the wind against a kite, it can lift us higher. Remember, God sends us trials not to impair us but to improve us.

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Romans 6:23 says, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The grace of God is the offer of His goodness to mankind. He extends to all the free gift of salvation. He longs to have fellowship with those He created in His image. When God makes His presence known to unbelievers, therefore, He does so to forgive them of their sins and bring them into a right relationship with Himself.

Many people, however, are afraid of God. They see Him as their enemy not as their friend. C. H. Spurgeon illustrated this tendency in his book “All of Grace.” He told of a minister who went to the home of a poor woman to give her some money that she desperately needed. When he knocked at her door, she didn’t answer. He felt sure that she was home, so he knocked again. Still no response. After more knocking, he left. On Sunday, he saw her in church and said, “I called at your home last Friday. I suppose you were not home, for I knocked several times and you didn’t answer. I had some money for you.” “What time were you there?” She asked. “About noon,” the minister replied. “Oh dear,” said the woman, “I heard you. But I didn’t answer. I thought it was my landlord calling for the rent.”

If you are not a Christian, you do not have to hide from God. He doesn’t come to you “calling for the rent.” He comes with His gracious offer of salvation. He sent His Son into the world to die for your sins. Invite Him into your heart. Today, receive the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Remember, grace is neither bought nor wrought - it is God’s free gift to mankind.

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Romans 7:6 says, “but now we have been delivered from the law…so that we should serve in the newness of the spirit.”

The Pharisees were sticklers for keeping the tiny points of the law. They were so busy obeying its every regulation that they ignored its overall intent. And they took their eyes off the God who gave them the standard in the first place. In looking for the fine points of obeying the regulation, they misses the big issue of loving obedience to the Lord.

A Pastor illustrated the difference between following the letter of the law and understanding the spirit of the law by telling of an experience from his own life. He said it was a frigid day and he and his friend were hitchhiking home from school. They weree cold and discouraged when he saw a familiar car. It was his sister-in-law, heading in the same direction they were. “Oh, boy,” he said. “We’ll get a ride now.” So he waved. His sister-in-law smiled and waved back, but to his surprise she kept driving. They boys ended up walking all the way home. Puzzled, he called his sister-in-law and asked why she didn’t pick them up. Her explanation? “My husband told me never to pick up hitchhikers.” He went on to explain that certainly his brother would not have objected to her picking up his own brother! But she was following her husbands “law” to the letter. She did not understand its spirit.

We can easily become uncaring if we follow the “letter of the law” and ignore its overall intent. So lets serve in the newness of the Spirit. Remember, mans rules should never replace God’s requirements.

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John 14: 1-3 says, “Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God believe also in Me. In My Fathers house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am there you may be also.”

The Bible speaks to us in a thousand ways. Tremendous promises, profound insights, towering emotions, and yet sometimes it’s the simplest sentence, the quietest phrase, that lingers longest in the heart. For me there is such a phrase in John’s account of the Last Supper. In the upper room the great drama of Jesus’ last days on earth is gathering momentum. In a gesture full of love and selflessness, the Lord has washed the disciple’s feet. Judas had gone out into the night on his dark mission. With him, no doubt, has gone some of the tension, but much remains. These are uneasy and apprehensive men. Even now, in the darkness outside, forces are gathering that may destroy them before another day dawns. Jesus has warned them that one of them is a traitor. Worst of all, their beloved Master has told them that He is going to leave them.

Seeing the fear and sorrow in their eyes, Jesus tries to reassure them. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” But the fear persists. And so He chooses a simpler message, one that even the simple men cannot fail to understand. “In My fathers house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you…”

If it were not so…that is the phrase above all others in the New Testament that transports me back through 2000 years to that specific moment in time and brings absolute conviction that those words were spoken just as reported. The Revised Standard Version of the Bible puts them in the form of a question: “In My Fathers house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Here the tone is even clearer; the loving parent reassuring the frightened children by invoking simple logic based on trust. “Trust Me,” Christ is saying, “I wouldn’t invite you to a house if there were no house. What sort of invitation would that be? You know Me better than that!”

They did know Him better than that, and I like to think that after they heard those words their fear subsided and they were able to listen without the paralysis of terror to the great disclosure that followed.

If it were not so…The words are still alive; they are restless, they expand, and they grow. They will not be confined to one place, one time. They apply to all of it, the stupendous claims, the whole towering structure of Christian belief. If all those things were not so, would He not have told us? Yes. He would.

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James 3:1 says, “…let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”

A man became a pastor but had to resign a few years later because of a nervous breakdown. He became overwhelmed with the responsibility that went along with a pastor’s authority. He may have gone into the ministry because he loved public speaking or being the focal point of attention on Sunday mornings. Or maybe he wasn’t really called. We can feel sorry about the trauma he experienced, yet we can be glad that through it he learned to be sensitive to his responsibility before God.

King Ahasuerus apparently never understood that the greater our privileges and powers, the greater is our responsibility before God. He enjoyed his power as the head of the vast Persian Empire, but he didn’t seem to feel much constraint to use it wisely. In Esther, chapter 1, we read that he thoughtlessly followed the advice of counselors who told him to get rid of his wife Vashti because she refused to appear before a crowd of drunken men. In Esther 3, he gives blanket approval to Haman’s wicked scheme to kill thousands of people. And he didn’t even ask Haman why he wanted this law!

If you are a parent, thank God for the privilege. But remember, the Lord holds you accountable for the way you govern your children. If you are a leader in church, thank God for the opportunity. But ask Him to make you wise and humble so that you can properly exercise your authority. We can rule well only if we recognize the responsibility that accompanies authority. Remember, those who would give orders must first learn to take orders.

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Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in His own image.”

Ephesians 1:5 says, “He has made us accepted in the Beloved.”

When a drill sergeant barked out, “Now, all you dumbbells fall out!” all but one recruit did so. Angered by what he thought was defiance, the sergeant marched up to the rookie and growled, “Well?” But the young man held his ground and said, “There certainly were a lot of them, weren’t there sir?”

The response of that recruit expresses a truth many Christians have yet to learn: its not wrong to affirm your worth. The Bible tells us that we have been created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). Even though sin has marred that image, God loves us so much that He sent His own Son to die for our sins. Now through faith in Him we are accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6).

When I teach Marriage Enrichment I always share that there are three basic emotions that support an adequate self-concept. They are a sense of belonging, a sense of worthiness, and a sense of inner confidence and sin undermines these emotions with hostility, guilt, and fear. As Christians, however, we are new creatures in Christ. Our union with Him answers the problem of our aloneness. God’s abundant forgiveness removes guilt. And the assurance of God’s presence quells fear.

We must affirm our worth in Christ when feelings of inadequacy would defeat us. An inner voice of self-condemnation may shout, “Dumbbells fall out!” But we can firmly reply, “God made me and Christ saved me, I’m a person of worth!”

Remember, man is the creature in whom God decreed He shall be represented and glorified.

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Numbers 22:20,22 Says, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them. Then God’s anger was aroused because he went.”

During his senior year in high school a young man told his parents he wanted to go into a business venture instead of going to Bible school as they desired. Sensing that he was motivated by a greedy desire to make money, they urged him not to do it. But he begged until they reluctantly consented. Several severe setbacks did not deter him. Soon he started making big money. He married a beautiful, but non-Christian girl and became the father of two children. He gradually began to compromise his principles. Today he is a divorced man. He regrets the wrong decisions he made when he chose his own path instead of the one desired by his parents. He realizes that he ignored the red flags God set up to stop him. Though he can repent and change his ways, he can never undo much of the harm he has done.

God, like parents, sometimes gives consent without approval. Balaam wanted to go with the princess of Moab to curse Israel because he was eager to receive the handsome fee he was offered. When God said no, he should have listened and agreed. But when the emissaries came back with an even more attractive offer, he told them to wait for his answer, hoping the Lord would let him go. God gave His consent, but He desired that Balaam should not go. He even set up a roadblock, but Balaam paid no attention. The rest of the story is one of sad consequences.

Oh, if we would just desire God’s consent rather than just His wholehearted approval! Remember, the cost of obedience is nothing compared to the cost of disobedience.

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Malachi 4:6 says, “…lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

Last words are very powerful. Today’s text expresses God’s final words to Israel under the Old Testament dispensation. For 400 years He would remain silent until they would hear “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord” (Matthew 3:3). Although Malachi 4:6 appears to be a curse, it really is not. It does not close the door on hope. On the contrary it was God’s last appeal of love. The threat of a curse, expressed by the word “lest” was aimed at averting the natural consequences of disobedience.

From Malachi’s time until Christ’s, rabbis did not end their reading of Malachi with verse 6. Skipping from verse 4 to 6, they then reverted back to verse 5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” And in the Greek Old Testament the 4th verse is put at the end. So the Jews regarded God’s final words as spoken in love, not anger.

God’s final words to believers in the New Testament are also filled with hope: “He who testifies to these things says, “surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Revelation 22:20,21).

Today we stand at the threshold of an opportunity to have hope. God’s last words to Israel and to the church can give us hope. May the assurance of His grace and the warnings from His love keep us living close to Him. Remember, the Christian’s future is as bright as the promises of God.

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1 John 2:17 says, “And the world is passing away….but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

Change is an inescapable part of life. It accompanies us from the time we are born till the moment we die. Sometimes we long for it, sometimes we resist it. But through it all, God challenges us to live for eternal values in the midst of a world that is rapidly passing away.

In an address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in 1859, Abraham Lincoln illustrated the profound and tempering effect that change can have on us. He told of an Eastern Monarch who asked his counselors to formulate a truth that would apply to all times and situations. After careful consideration, they returned with this sentence: “And this too shall pass away.” Said Lincoln, “How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the hour of affliction!”

I have thought of those words, “And this too shall pass away,” in both my happiest and saddest moments. They have not only quieted my heart in times of trial, but they have also aroused me from my lethargy. They have made me realize the importance of using wisely the fleeting days God has allotted me.

When we understand that change can be a stimulus to our growth, it will not threaten our sense of well-being. Only when it overwhelms us to the point of making us bitter or proud are we in danger. If that happens, we are apt to drift away from the One who does not change. And apart from Him and doing His will, it is always true that “this too shall pass away.”

Remember, he who would spend time wisely must learn to invest it in eternity.

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Ephesians 2:8,9 says, For by grace you have been saved by faith…not of works.”

I read a story about Cesar Malan, a famous minister from Geneva who had a genuine interest in the spiritual welfare of anyone with whom he came in contact. On one occasion, after being introduced to a woman, Malan asked her about her personal relationship with the Lord. Caught off guard, and somewhat annoyed by his question, she curtly said that she didn’t care to discuss this matter. The minister kindly assured her that he would be praying for her salvation. It wasn’t long before circumstances brought them together again. As they talked, it became apparent to pastor Malan that his prayers were being answered. The once antagonistic woman had recognized her spiritual need and was now asking him what was required to come to the Savior. The preacher replied, “Come to Him just as you are.” And that’s what she did. Realizing that she could do nothing to save herself, and depending on the finished work of Christ on the cross to pay for her sins, she received Him by faith as her Lord and Savior. That woman was none other than Charlotte Elliot, who later wrote the beloved old hymn, “Just As I Am.”

All who desire to be saved must come to the Lord Jesus Christ the same way she did. Admitting their sinfulness, and believing that Christ died for them, they must trust Him and Him alone for their salvation. Have you ever done that? If not, right now make the words of Charlotte Elliott your prayer:

Just as I am, without one plea

But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Remember, we are saved by Christ’s mediation, not by our merits.

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John 14:2 says, “In My Fathers house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you.”

Our stay upon this earth is temporary. The scripture clearly states that “here we have no continuing city” (Hebrews 13;14). Yet we often treat this present world as our permanent dwelling place. We sometimes forget that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).

A pastor in Ireland went to visit a poverty stricken woman. She had only one room, but by hanging up sheets and blankets she divided the area into a bedroom, living room and kitchen. She explained to her visitor, “This is a very poor place. I hope you don’t mind coming here.” The minister assured her that it was his privilege to be in her home. “Well”, she said, “it’s a poor place, but a Kings daughter lives here!” Because she knew she was a member of the royal family of heaven, her temporary lodging did not diminish her outlook.

Its easy to become so attached to our surrounding and our possessions that we loose sight of Jesus’ promise that He has gone to prepare a special place for us. Of course, we cannot ignore the fact that God has put us here so that we can share our faith with others. But we shouldn’t love the things of this world so much that we don’t look forward to heaven. As the song puts it, “this world is not my home; I’m just a passin through.”

We wait for our Lord to return, knowing that we shall be with Him and share His glory. Until then, we live in temporary lodgings. Lets not get too attached to them. A better place awaits us. Remember, Don’t drive your stakes too deep - we’re moving in the morning.

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Matthew 12:41 says, “they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.”

People are usually so interested in the big fish that swallowed Jonah that they overlook the beautiful picture of God’s grace this story presents. The Lord was gracious to the people of Nineveh, He was gracious to the pagan sailors, and He was gracious to Jonah by preserving his life through a mighty miracle. And when Jonah complained that he really wanted the Ninevites destroyed, the Lord dealt very patiently with him.

Jesus used this Old Testament story as a picture of the fullness of grace that He had come to bring. The prophets 3-day stay in the fish and his deliverance from it portrayed Christ’s burial and resurrection (Matthew 12:40). Jonah’s preaching to the people of Nineveh served as a comparison with our Lords earthly ministry. He said that the Ninevites that repented at the preaching of Jonah will be better off in the day of judgment than those who had the privilege of hearing from Jesus Christ in the flesh and didn’t believe (Matthew 12:41).

Today we are even more privileged than those who lived in Jesus’ day. We have the New Testament. We can look back to the cross, the empty tomb, the ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And we can see how He has worked through 2000 years of history.

If you have never trusted Christ, take warning! He calls for repentance and offers salvation, and He is “far greater than Jonah.” Don’t spurn the fullness of His grace! Remember, God’s wrath comes by measure; His grace without measure.

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Amos 6:1 says, “Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria!”

A good-looking, talented, and high-salaried young man who was drinking heavily and living immorally responded to the warnings of his pastor by saying, “Don’t worry about me. Nothing really bad is going to happen to me. If I see things getting out of hand, I’ll do something about it. I believe in Christ, He’s helped me before and He will help me again.” Some time later, however, this young mans life was a shambles. He lost his job. His marriage came to an end, and his drink habit was out of control. He had been living with a false confidence.

Israel’s leaders, both in the southern kingdom (Zion) and the northern kingdom (Samaria), displayed a similar attitude. Because God had showered blessings on them, they assumed that He would continue to do so no matter how they lived. They also believed that their capital cities were too well fortified to be taken by enemy powers. As a result, they shrugged off God’s warnings spoken by the prophet Amos. They persisted in being unjust, money-hungry, and cruel. Amos told them that because of this they would soon experience God’s judgment.

When things are going well, its easy to assume that life will continue as it has, even if we become careless about our walk with God. But this is a grave mistake. The fact that our Heavenly Father loves us makes it necessary for Him to chasten us when we sin (Hebrews 12:6). Don’t let past and present mercies give you a false confidence. Keep your commitment up-to-date.

Remember, when we are walking in our own way we are actually running from the Lord.

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Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good.”

On one of her visits to America, Princess Diana went into a department store and saw a red-and-black polka dot silk scarf. “This is very smart looking,” she said to an aide, and instructed her to buy the $8.00 item. Immediately after Diana’s purchase, some men from the British Embassy rushed up to the counter to buy a scarf just like it - presumably for their wives. The wife of a store executive also bought one for her daughter, noting, “She’ll be thrilled.” Later when the store was reopened to the public, a swarm of women raced to the red-and black polka dot scarves, as if guided by radar.

Oh, that we would be as quick to take our cues from the Lord as those people did from royalty! How spiritually enriched we would be if we studied Christ’s words and actions and carefully considered His values and choices. Instead we tend to look to the world for direction.

That was Israel’s problem. They didn’t take their cues from the Lord but from the people around them. They imitated them in the worship of their false gods. Rather than putting into practice the values of the one living and true God, they acted like pagans (Micah 2:8,9). Instead of displaying justice, kindness, and reverent behavior (Micah 6:8), they took advantage of the weak and lived only for themselves.

What about us? Where do we stand with regard to the One who has told us and shown us how to live? Christ, not the world, must be our Pacesetter. Remember, you are either leaving a mark on the world, or the world is leaving a mark on you.

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Obadiah 15 says, “…as you have done, it shall be done to you; your reprisal shall return upon your own head.”

Many prominent figures in the entertainment world and respected leaders in the field of education reject God and deny the existence of an absolute standard of morality. They say that we can determine for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. They laugh at such words as patriotism, duty, loyalty, and godliness. And their teaching, which has influenced millions, is now producing a bitter harvest - multiplied abortions, heartbreaking divorces, violent crimes, teenage suicides, all a whole host of other shocking and perverted actions. This is what happens when people accept the premises of naturalistic humanism.

Obadiah warned the Edomites that they would reap what they have sown. Using the past tense, but speaking about the future, he portrayed the lighthearted drinking of their wild parties and said that their derisive fun would soon give way to somber drinking from the cup of God’s wrath. His prophecy was fulfilled. Within a few years Edom was destroyed by Gentile powers.

Oh, may we ever be mindful of the reaping principle! Woven into the fabric of life, it applies to individuals as much as to nations. Its both a warning and a promise. When we do evil, we reap judgment. But when we do good we reap the blessing of God’s approval. Remember, the heritage of the past is the seed that brings forth the harvest of the future.

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Matthew 7:1 says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

How often we make rash judgments about others without knowing all the facts! Here is a true story that illustrates the point. “Mrs. Smith (not her real name) was greatly disturbed. Through a conversation with her neighbor she had learned that Mrs. Jones (not her real name) was giving a party on Saturday, and she and Mr. Smith had not been invited! She couldn’t understand it, for they had often gone out of their way to be kind to her. When Mrs. Jones moved to the area years ago, they had been the first to invite her into their home. The more Mrs. Smith thought about it the more disturbed she became. She remembered the times she had given her a ride to the store and to church. It just confirmed her suspicion that some people are thoughtless and ungrateful. Thinking of the injustice of it all made her nervous and upset.

That evening Mr. Smith came home with a big smile on his face. “Guess what!” he said. “Mrs. Jones is giving a party for us next Saturday! She heard it was our anniversary and she planned on surprising us but thought she better tell me so that we didn’t make other plans!” At that point Mrs. Smith began to feel very guilty. She remembered Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 about the sin of misjudging people, and she deeply regretted her evil thoughts.”

Lets be careful not to make snap decisions about the motives of others. We may be criticizing the very ones who are seeking to do us good. Remember, its much easier to be critical than to be correct.

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Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Songwriter Oscar Eliason wrote, “Got any rivers you think are un-crossable? Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?” He answered these questions by saying, “God specializes in things thought impossible.” That’s good news, because every Christian faces obstacles along life’s pathway and walking in God’s will doesn’t guarantee that the way will be easy. That’s why we must trust God and go forward in faith.

At the entrance to a hospital parking lot is an automatic gate. It is designed to raise when a car activates a hidden sensor near the entrance. When you drive up the ramp leading to the gate, it remains down, firmly blocking the entrance. But as you get close to it, the arm swings up and you can proceed through. If you were to park your car a few yards away from the entrance, it would stay closed. Only as you move forward does it open.

Is there some barrier across your path right now? Someone has said, “If God built a bridge a yard ahead, it could not be a bridge of faith.” Its that first step into the unseen that proves we have faith. Abraham for example, “went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). He was obeying God and was relying on Him. His task was to go; God’s was to clear the path.

If you have been walking in obedience to the Lord, yet you have been stopped by a close gate, take the step of faith. Move forward and watch God open the way. Remember, faith is the gate between man’s peril and God’s power.

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2 John 5 says, “And now I plead with you…that we love one another."

In his book Daily Gems, D. L. Moody said that when he was a new convert he wished every Christian would wear a badge to signify his faith in Christ. He was so excited about being I the family of God that he wanted to know who his brothers and sisters in the Lord were. But later he changed his mind about labeling Christians. He said, “Every hypocrite would have a badge within 30 days if Christianity should become popular.”

The problem with a literal tag is that it could be easily worn by a counterfeit and most people wouldn’t know the difference. But there is a reliable way of identifying genuine follows of Christ that cannot be duplicated. It is their love for each other - a love that springs up within their hearts. The Lord Jesus Himself indicated that His disciples would be recognized by that characteristic. He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34,35).

Zane Hodges, writing in the Bible Knowledge Commentary, observed, “Christian love is by no means mere sentimentalism or humanistic compassion; it is motivated by the knowledge of the truth which has been revealed in Christ.” And that love involves walking in obedience to the commandments of God.

Yes, as followers of Christ, our “badge” is love. Is yours clear and shining for all to see? Remember, love is the Christian’s ID card.

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James 4:6 says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

King Nebuchadnezzar learned the lesson of humility the hard way, but he learned it well. After relating his humbling experience of losing his sanity, and then praising God, the King of Heaven, he concluded that “Those who walk in pride He is able to abase” (Daniel 4:37).

Most of us don’t express our pride in such a boastful manner as did King Nebuchadnezzar, but it’s there just the same. In his book “Forever Triumphant, F. J. Huegel wrote, “Let us presume that I have had my feelings hurt. Just remember that more Christians go on the rocks, defeated, over the nasty little thing we call ‘hurt feelings’ than over the so called great crisis which tests the very fiber of our soul. I have been slighted. I have not been given the place I feel I merit, or I have been treated inconsiderately, unjustly. Self has been wounded. My opinions and feelings have not been consulted. As a result I have begun to sink. I am being defeated, not by a monster but by a mere fly. And yet it is no less defeat. A scum covers my spirit formerly free and rejoicing. I have sunk down into the so-called vessel of the soul…My step has become heavy, and my face now carries an unhappy, darkened look. I am plainly defeated.” Huegel then explained why that happens: “Wounded pride did it. I looked at myself and took my eyes off Jesus.”

Do you feel self-sufficient? Are you easily hurt by others? Maybe its time to get your focus off self and back on Jesus. That’s a sure cure for pride. Remember, pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the one who has it.

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Psalm 127:2 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows.”

Worry has been defined as “a small trickle of fear that meanders through the mind until it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” The psalmist told of the futility of rising up early and sitting up late mulling over troubles that are beyond control. Ian Maclaren a preacher, warned against the adverse effects of worry. He said “What does your anxiety do? It does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but it does empty today of its strength. It does not make you escape the evil; it makes you unfit to cope with it when It comes.”

There is a practical way of handling this problem. Not having enough faith to overcome your troubles immediately, you are to decide that the next best thing is to postpone thinking about your problems until your mind has cleared. So when something disturbing occurs, you are to write the problem on a card and not dwell on it until a little time has passed. Then when you review the difficulties that had been of such concern a few days ago, you will find to your surprise that most of the problems have already disappeared. Therefore conclude that much of your distress was a waste of energy and loss of sleep, for God has intervened and directed your life in ways you have never envisioned.

We cannot deny that we all face difficulties, but we must learn to trust in God’s good leading and providence. He will provide all that is necessary (Matthew 6:32,33). Troubled heart, stop worrying. Start trusting God! Remember, worrying is like a rocking chair, it will give you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere!

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Mark 7:21 -22 says, “From within proceed evil thoughts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit.”

As Christians, we face strong spiritual foes that would bring us into defeat. Our greatest enemy, however, lurks within. Even though we have been born again, we are deeply aware of our inclination toward evil. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, how to perform that which is good I do not find” (Romans 7:18). He added, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (vv. 22,23).

In Victor Hugo’s story “Ninety Three”, a ship is caught in a storm. The frightened crew hears a terrible crashing sound below. Immediately the men know what it is: a cannon breaks loose and is crashing into the ship’s side with every smashing blow of the sea! Two men, at the risk of their own lives, manage to fasten it down again, for they know that the unfastened cannon is more dangerous than the raging storm. Let me make this application: Many people are like that ship - their greatest danger areas lie within their own lives.

Yes, if our flesh - that old tendency to envy, pride, malice, covetousness, and deceit - is not fastened down by yielding ourselves to God’s Spirit, we will live under the constant threat of defeat. So, lets be alert to the enemy within! Remember, master that sin in your heart or it will master you.

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Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

The 1960’s are known for the rebellion of thousands of young people. But ever since the fall of Adam in the garden of Eden, people of all ages everywhere have rebelled against authority - parental, governmental, and divine.

The fool, who is referred to in Psalm 53:1, denied God’s rule over his life. People in our day do so in their hearts and in their actions.

Its obvious that rebellion pays bad dividends. It inevitably results in a sense of emptiness that often leads to alcoholism, drug addition, bizarre religious practices, flagrant immorality, broken homes, incurable diseases, and despair. Sadly, many experience the high cost of putting what they call “my way” above “God’s way.”

The psalmists portrayed God as seeing the defiance of the wicked, observing their antagonism toward His people, and striking them with bewildered panic (Psalm 53:5). One way or another, people who “despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7) always pay a high price.

To live as if there is no God is foolish, for it leads to pain, despair, and eternal death. But to live “in the fear of God” is wise, for it leads to satisfaction, rejoicing, and everlasting life. You must decide, so choose wisely! Remember, he is truly wise who submits to God’s wisdom.

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John 14:16 says, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.”

One time a man said, “I like to do jobs around the house by myself. One day I disassembled our heavy ping-pong table and strained as I carried it to the basement piece by piece. I was sore for a while after carrying the sections down the steps. Sometimes, though, I need to ask for help. There’s no way I’m climbing on the roof to retrieve a stranded toy without someone holding the ladder. And some jobs I simply cannot do without the know-how of my handy brother-in-law.”

To succeed in our walk of faith as Christians, we all need help. We can’t do it by ourselves. We need the help of all three persons of the Trinity - The Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit to give us guidance, strength, and instruction.

Look at what Jesus said before He went to the cross. He told His disciples that He was going away but He would send them a Helper - the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). He knew that His followers could not fulfill their purpose in this world without the Spirit’s indwelling presence.

There are no do-it-yourself jobs in the Christian life. We need the assistance of the Father who knows us, the Savior who intercedes for us, and the Holy Spirit who empowers us. We always need God’s help. Remember, God the Father gave us His Spirit to enable us to be like His Son.

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Colossians 1:24 says, “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, …for the sake of His body, which is the church.”

In this self-indulgent age, many believe that people of faith should not suffer. But according to author George MacDonald, “The son of God suffered unto death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.”

In Colossians 1:24, The Apostle Paul said that his own sufferings filled up what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ. He didn’t mean that Christ’s death was inadequate to save us. He was indicating that suffering for the Lord is a part of following Him. As we live for Christ and proclaim His sacrifice to a lost world, we will experience suffering.

What an example the apostle is to us! Instead of pitying himself, he joyfully suffered for Christ and His people. He knew that pain and suffering were not too great a price for the privilege of being a blessing to others.

Hymn writer Frances Ridley Havergal, referring to her pain ridden body, said, “Everybody is so sorry for me except myself.” Then she added, “I see my pain in the light of Calvary.” Even those who suffer physical infirmities can glorify God and challenge others.

It’s not morbid to accept suffering as we serve the Lord - it’s our calling and ministry! Remember, the call to serve Christ includes the call to suffer for Christ.

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Psalm 25:4 says, “Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths.”

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is changing the way we work, travel, and play. Using the signals from multiple satellites, an inexpensive GPS receiver can compute your location anywhere in the world. Using the information can help a lost hiker return to camp, enable a driver to locate a house in a strange city, or guide commercial fishermen back to the place of a big catch. In a very real sense, it is “guidance from above.”

But it helps only the person who believes the information and acts upon it. What if the person viewed the GPS readout information and said, “I can’t be where this says I am?” What good would it be for a person to turn off the unit, jam it in a pocket, and headed out on his own, saying, “I know I’m going east, even if this thing says I’m going south”?

In a similar way, God’s guidance through the Bible fits us only when we trust His word and obey it. “The humble He guides in justice,” the psalmist wrote, “and the humble He teaches His way. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies” (Psalm 25:9-10).

Remember, guidance from above is promised to all who will accept God’s Word and follow His directions. The question is not only “where do we stand?” But also “where are we headed?”

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Matthew 25:35 says, “I was a stranger and you took Me in.”

King Abdullah, the ruler of Jordan, has been known to disguise himself and go out into public places. His purpose is to talk with ordinary people and find out what they are thinking, and to check up on civil servants to see how they are treating his people. He has visited hospitals, and government offices to learn what kind of service they are giving.

The king got the idea while in New York. He couldn’t leave his hotel without getting mobbed, so he slipped out in disguise. It worked, so he tried it at home. He reported that once this practice was begun, civil servants and hospital employees started to treat everyone like kings.

When Jesus comes as King, He will judge the nations (Matthew 25:31-46). He said that the basis for that judgment will be how people treated Him when He was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, or imprisoned. Those being judged will ask when they saw Him in these situations, and Jesus will say, “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (v.40).

Because all people are created in God’s image, and because Jesus by His words and example taught us that He cares deeply how we treat others, we should treat all people with kindness and compassion. Let’s treat them like kings no matter if we agree with them or not. Remember, our love for Christ is only as real as our love for our neighbors.

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Psalm 1:2,3 says, “His delight is in the law of the Lord…and he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.”

During an operation, an experienced surgeon asked a young intern, “who is the most important person in this operating room?” The intern searched for an appropriate answer. He didn’t believe that his mentor was fishing for personal compliments, so trying to sound gracious he replied, “I suppose that it would be these nurses who assist you in such an efficient manner.” The surgeon shook his head and said, “No, the most important person in this room is the patient.”

Its possible to overlook the obvious in studying the Bible too. Its easy to forget how important you are in the process. Whether or not you find profit depends on your attitude. What is the right attitude to bring to Bible study? First, approach the Bible with a sense of your own need, not simply to teach it to someone else. Second, approach the Bible with humility. Don’t try to make the Bible say what you want it to say, but study to discover what God has said.

German theologian Johann Bengel (1687 - 1752) said, “Be like a maker of a well who brings no water to his source but allows the water he finds there to flow freely without stoppage, diversion, or defilement.” Those who do that will grow like trees planted by the rivers (Psalm 1:3). Remember, Bible study is meant not merely to inform but to transform.

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Psalm 55:22 says, Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.”

According to a Wall Street Journal report, anxiety has overtaken depression as the leading mental health problem in the United States. Anxiety-fighting drugs are now the top selling pharmaceutical products. Even with a booming economy and political stability, worry and apprehension remain part of our human condition-one that can never be adequately relieved by a pill.

When David composed Psalm 55, his mind was agitated by the same types of situations we struggle with today: He recoiled in horror from the violence, anger and abuse that stalked the city streets (vv.9-11). He suffered the anguish of being betrayed by a close friend (vv.12-14). He longed to leave and escape to a place of peace (vv.4-8).

Because David’s anxious pain mirrors our own, his prescription for relief can be ours as well. He wrote, “I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me…Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you.”

Anxiety is a burden that we are not called to bear. Instead, we are to lay our concerns on Christ because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7;

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2 Samuel 12:7 says, “Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’”

Imagine that you are a school bus driver. A red-haired student gets on the bus and begins combing her hair with a green brush. At the next stop two more students get on the bus and say in passing that they like the color of the driver’s new blue cap. As they walk to the rear of the bus, the shorter of the two shouts back, “I wouldn’t let that red-head stay on the bus if I were you. Her brush clashes with your hair!” What color is the bus drivers hair? Did you forget, you are the bus driver? So the color of the bus drivers hair is the color of your hair!

If you didn’t see yourself in that story until I told you, you’re not alone. King David made a similar mistake with another story. He became furious when a prophet of God told about a rich man who stole a poor mans pet for his dinner. Yet it became very clear as Nathan bluntly said to David, “You are that man!”

We can read the Bible but fail to see ourselves in the picture. We tend to forget that the Bible was written for our admonition (1 Corinthians 10:11). Do you see yourself in the pages of the scripture? How long since you’ve realized how personal these letters from God are to you? Remember, the Bible gives us a picture of who we really are.

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1 Peter 2:23 says, “Jesus, when He was reviled, did not revile in return.”

I once heard a skeptic say that if Jesus was really the Son of God, His suffering must have been easier to bear. This comment caused me to re-examine the Gospels. While reviewing the incredible things Jesus did and said to accomplish our salvation, I also noted a number of things that Jesus did not do that are equally vital to our salvation.

Jesus didn’t demand His own will (Matthew 26:39). He didn’t call down legions of angels to rescue Him (v.53). He didn’t defend Himself or threaten His accusers (27:12-14). He didn’t save Himself (Mark 15:31). He didn’t come down from the cross (v.32). He didn’t stop loving and saving sinners (Luke 23:43).

The fact that Jesus could have done these things intensified His agony and increased the temptation to use His power for His own advantage. But He didn’t. Instead, He used His power for our benefit! This is described in Hebrews 4:15-16. Jesus suffered temptation the same as we do - except that He didn’t sin. So He can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (v.15). Therefore, we can approach His throne of grace boldly and obtain His “help in time of need” (v.16).

Whatever your need is today, Jesus wants you to come and make full use of this privilege. Remember, every temptation is an occasion to trust God.

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Matthew 22:37 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

Throughout the London subway there are signs that warn, “Mind the Gap.” They remind riders to pay attention to the space between the train and the platform. In the United States there are signs along some parts of the highways with the single word, “Think!” The point of both is clear: in the midst of our daily routine, we often fail to engage our minds in what we are doing.

Could this also happen in our relationship with God? When Jesus was asked to state the greatest commandment, He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your souls and with all your mind.” Our minds are to be as fully yielded to God and actively engaged in loving Him as our hearts and souls are.

In his book on Christian Leadership, William H. Danforth writes, “When it is so easy to get our thinking done for us, the big temptation is not to think.” I believe that instead of engaging our minds as we worship and serve God, we tend to follow familiar, predictable routines. Instead of thinking fearlessly and creatively about ways to express our love for the Lord, we become content to say and do what we’ve always done. This is the year to engage our minds in all that we do including our relationship with the Lord.

Thinking is hard work, but loving God is a great privilege that deserves all the mental muscle we can put into it. Remember, to grow in your love for God, keep God in your thoughts.

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Luke 14:33 says, “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”

Whatever weight-loss plan you choose, you’re bound to lose pounds- at least for a while. But most dieters reach a plateau before they reach their goal, and many get discouraged when the thrill leaves before all the weight does. Many give up and go back to their old ways of eating.

Something similar happens in our Christian lives. When we begin our walk with Jesus, we easily shed many of the sins that have weighed us down. We give dramatic testimonies about being freed from addictive behaviors. Then the attention shifts to another new believer, and we discover that “little” sins like jealousy, resentment, and anger don’t drop away as readily as the “big ones.” Some of us get so discouraged that we lose sight of our commitment to Christ and go back to some of our old ways of living.

When Jesus talked about the cost of being His disciple (Luke 14:25-35), He wanted those who heard Him to realize that believing in Him and following Him involves more than starting something that is exciting. It means sticking with something that is difficult.

So whether we are talking about weight loss or spiritual gain, the message is the same: What matters most is not how we start but how we finish. Remember, perseverance makes the difference between failure and success.

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Isaiah 6:3,5 says, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts. …Woe is me, for I am undone!”

Many followers of Jesus Christ are preoccupied with the love and goodness of God, but not many think about His holiness. And even fewer quake in fear of it! Why? The reason is this: when we catch a glimpse of our Lords greatness and glory, we see more clearly our own sinfulness. And that’s humbling!

We see an illustration of this truth in the Gospel of Luke. After witnessing a miracle, Peter fell down before Jesus and cried out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (5:8).

If we were to see God in all of His splendor and holiness, we would respond as Isaiah did and admit to our sinfulness (Isaiah 6:5). That’s a healthy response, but it’s only half the picture. God is not out to destroy us by His holiness. His purpose is to take away our sin (v.7). He longs for us to experience His forgiveness and enjoy a close relationship with Him.

This truth is very close to my own heart. In one shattering moment many years ago I saw more clearly than ever the awfulness of my sin. I was crushed, broken, terrified - until I also saw the unfathomable love of God, and His power to forgive and purify me (1 John 1:9).

God reveals His holiness not to destroy us but to expose and remove our sin. Ask Him to cleanse you today. Remember, God has both an all-seeing eye and an all-forgiving heart.

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

A high school teacher in Los Angeles has a unique way of stimulating her students to think. From time to time she would write brief messages on the black board that were unrelated to their current studies. One morning the students found the number 25,550 written on the board. One pupil finally raised his hand and asked the instructor why that number was written there. She explained that 25,550 represented the number of days in the life of a person who lives to be 70. The teacher was trying to emphasize the brevity and value of each day.

When I was young and looked ahead, time seemed to move so slowly. It was hard to imagine what older folks often said - that time passed so quickly they wondered where it had all gone. But as I grew older, the years seem so short and fleeting, especially when compared with eternity.

This underscores what James said about life: “It’s even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Therefore it’s important that we make the most of our opportunities to honor God, serve others, and proclaim Christ. Lets all ask God to teach us to number our days (Psalm90:12) so that we will spend them wisely! Remember, don’t just spend time; invest it.

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Psalm 119:65 says, “You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your Word.”

I’ll always remember the Bible teacher who held up his well worn Bible and said, “Every believer should wreck a copy of the Bible every couple of years.” in other words, we should use our Bibles so much that they gradually wear out. His challenge also reminds me of the saying, “A Bible that’s falling apart is usually owned by someone who isn’t.” That certainly became true for me.

I’m not proud of the times when my Bible was considerably under-used. During that time, I was leading towards falling apart instead of my Bible. Not that I was in sin but that I didn’t seem to have the answers or victory for the things I was facing. Amazingly, God used my condition as a means of whetting my appetite for His Word.

One day I sensed that God was reminding me that His Word is full of truth that works. From that point on, I desired to put those truths into action in my life. For me, the Bible was no longer just a guilt producer and dust collector. Little by little as I read it, digested it, and underlined key phrases, my Bible began falling apart instead of me!

In the margin of many pages in D. L. Moody’s Bible, he wrote the letters T and P, meaning “tried and proved.” He had put into practice passages from God’s Word, proving that they worked. You too can try and prove God’s wonder-working Word. Remember, the Bible is meant to be bread for daily use, not cake for special occasions.

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Philippians 2:5,7 says, “Christ Jesus…made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant.”

“Money is Power.” That principle drives most cultures of the world. People scramble for wealth, often at the price of personal integrity., in order to gain the power to live where and how they want, drive the kind of vehicle they want, and get whatever else they want.

In a culture that worships money, believers in Jesus Christ are in danger of doing the same. Some use their money to control their family, or they may threaten to stop giving to their church if they don’t get their way.

How unlike Jesus! He had power over disease, and He used it to heal the sick. He had power over the sea, and He used it to remove fear. He had power to create, and He fed thousands. He had power over sin, and He forgave sinners. He had power over His own life, yet He willingly gave up His life to save all who would call upon Him (Romans 10:13).

Jesus possessed all power, but He used it to serve others. He was called “Lord” by the disciples in the upper room, yet He was the only servant there (John 13:2-17). He washed their feet! When Peter protested, Jesus answered, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (V.8).

Instead of using money or anything for selfish means, use it to serve others. That’s the right use of power. Remember, the more we serve Christ, the less we will serve self.

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2 Peter 1:21 says, “Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

At the beginning of a new year we hear many predictions. But then, making predictions isn’t new. In 1983 US News and World Report Magazine had a section titled “What the Next 50 Years Will Bring.” It had the usual suggestions about the growing importance of computers, about new medical breakthroughs, and about the sleeker, faster ways of getting around. The introduction said, “Prediction is at best a risky business.” Then it quoted Sir Francis Bacon, who said, “Dreams and predictions ought to serve but for winter talk by the fireside.”

That may be true of man’s predictions, but not of God’s prophecies. Man may speculate about what will happen next week, but God shows us in the Bible that He knows the future. This truth is one reason we can have absolute confidence in the Book of Books. The Old Testament contains hundreds of prophecies about people, events, and nations that have already been fulfilled. The chance of that many predictions coming true is astronomical.

Do you lack confidence in the Bible? Spend some time examining its many fulfilled prophecies. I predict that you will be convinced that it is truly God’s Word, and that you can rely on it for everything in your future.

For further study look up the following prophecies and their fulfillment: Isaiah 7:14 and Luke 6:26-35; Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:1; Isaiah 53:9,12 and Matthew 27: 38, 57-61.

Remember, in a changing world you can trust God’s unchanging word.

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Matthew 6:26 says, “Look at the birds of the air… are you not more valuable then they?”

A young athlete was in a hospital bed going to have an operation but he didn’t want a visiting pastor to pray for him. He was sure he would recover fully. He said that he was turned off by a religion that tells people that they are bad and requires them to practice self-control. He said that he could make it on his own and that he didn’t need God. Furthermore, he said he wasn’t concerned about what comes after death. He said, “while I’m on the earth, I’m going to get all the pleasure I can out of life.”

Interestingly, this man views Christians as enemies of pleasure. He sees himself as an advocate of a positive, self-affirming lifestyle. But he is dead wrong! In reality he sees himself as a mere animal that lives only for temporal and physical pleasures. If that young man gets to be 70 or 80 years old without accepting Christ, he will probably have overindulged himself with food, consumed gallons of expensive drinks, and enjoyed many sensual experiences. But he will have lived in vain.

Christians, on the other hand, know that they are destined for a glorious eternity in heaven. They recognize that in God’s sight they have great value (Matthew 6:26). Even our sufferings are part of God’s plan for our eternal good. That’s why we try to do what is right and practice self-control for Christ’s sake. In so doing, we are declaring that we are not just animals but responsible moral beings created in the image of God. We are the ones with a positive self-affirming view of life.

Remember, the yearning of a mans heart is to know God.

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Psalm 68:19 says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits.”

One morning R.C. Chapman, a devout Christian, was asked how he was feeling. “I’m burdened this morning!” was his reply. But his happy countenance contradicted his words. So the questioner exclaimed in surprise, “are you really burdened, Mr. Chapman?” “Yes, but it’s a wonderful burden - its an overabundance of blessings for which I cannot find enough time or words to express my gratitude!” Seeing the puzzled look on his friends face, Chapman added with a smile, “I am referring to Psalm 68:19, which fully describes my condition. In that verse the Father in heaven reminds us that He daily loads us with benefits.”

Friends, Let me remind you of some of those benefits or blessings:

An acceptance that can never be questioned (Ephesians 1:6)

An inheritance that can never be lost (1 Peter 1: 3-5)

A deliverance that can never be excelled (2 Corinthians 1:10)

A grace that can never be limited (2 Corinthians 12:9)

A hope that can never be disappointed (Hebrews 6:18-19)

A bounty that can never be withdrawn (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

A joy that need never be diminished (John 15:11)

A nearness to God that can never be reversed (Ephesians 2:13)

A peace that can never be disturbed (John 14:27)

A righteousness that can never be tarnished (2 Corinthians 5:21)

A salvation that can never be canceled (Hebrews 5:9)

Throughout each day we should review these blessings and praise God who daily loads us with benefits! Remember, gratitude should not be a passing incident, but a continuing attitude.

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Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

When guests at the Houstonian Hotel in Houston, Texas, enter the main lobby on a searingly hot summer day, they are often surprised to see flames dancing in a huge stone fireplace. If it’s scorching outside and the air-conditioning is humming away, why have a fire burning inside? Because people like to gather around a fire. The gas logs don’t produce much heat, but there’s something warm, inviting, and relaxing about the flickering light. It seems to say, “Pull up a chair, sit down, and rest awhile.”

As I read the Bible, I often sense that weary, anxious people were drawn to Jesus Christ in much the same way that travelers today are drawn towards the fireplace in that Texas hotel. Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” For those who believe in Christ, its not just temporary relief but eternal rest of soul that stays with them wherever they go.

A Christian who loves Jesus is sometimes said to be “on fire for the Lord.” What a great way to describe the warm, inviting presence of Christ that radiates from the lives of His children before the eyes of a weary people in a troubled world!

Lets live in such a way that people will see Christ in us and want to gather around the light of His life-giving love. Remember, a Christian on fire for God will draw others to the light.

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Romans 13:11 says, “Its high time to awake out of sleep.”

The following notice was posted on the bulletin board in a business office: “It has come to managements attention that workers dying on the job are failing to fall down. This practice must stop, as it becomes impossible to distinguish between death and the natural movement of the staff. Any employee found dead in an upright position will be dropped from the payroll.”

This humorous description finds a serious parallel among Christians. We can go through the motions of obedience without any real heart involvement. Behind our business-as-usual appearance is a lack of enthusiasm for righteous living and serving God. We need Paul’s admonition: “It’s high time to awake out of sleep” (Romans 13:11).

We must remain intense in our desire to please the Lord. Centuries ago the psalmist prayed that he wouldn’t settle for a casual religious experience (Psalm 119:1-8). He longed for a total commitment to love what God loved and hate what God hates. He sensed that he would have to give his whole heart, mind, and strength to the task.

We will accomplish much for the Lord if we set our will against the current of the world and the pull of our sinful flesh. Let’s not fall asleep on the job. Remember, living for Jesus is not a part time job.

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Zephaniah 3:17 says, “He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you in His love.”

The theme of the book of Zephaniah is “the day of the Lord,” which is referred to as “the day of the Lord’s anger.” Judgment will fall on Judah and Jerusalem (1:4), Canaan (2:1-7), Moab and Ammon (2:8-11), Ethiopia (2:12), and Assyria (2:13-15). But Israel will suffer the most. Even so the book ends with a wonderful promise. A remnant will be faithful (3:8-13), and they will be safe amid all this turmoil. Although faced with terrible days, they will find rest. Zephaniah promised “(God) will quiet you in His love.”

God’s love not only quiets the hearts of His own when their outer world is in turmoil, but it also brings peace to the sinner who turns his life over to Christ. A young woman said that she had been filled with anger, bitterness and rebellion. She said that her mind sometimes raced out of control. At times she was driven with an almost wild desperation from one thing to another. She said, “It seemed to me that my head was about to explode! Then I found Jesus; rather, He found me. And He gave me His love and forgiveness. At first slowly, then rapidly, the turbulence of my inner world quieted. My frantic restlessness disappeared. I found peace.”

Friends, are you filled with restlessness? Does it sometimes seem that you are about to blow apart? Then do as this young woman did. Acknowledge that you are a sinner, and ask Jesus Christ to save you. You too will find that God “will quiet you in His love.”

Remember, to experience the love of God is to experience the peace of God.

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Psalm 139: 7 says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?”

I read about an interesting map that is on display at the British Museum in London. Its an old mariner’s chart, drawn in 1525, outlining the North American coastline and adjacent waters. The cartographer made some intriguing notations on areas of the map that represented regions not yet explored. He wrote: “Here be giants, “ Here be fiery scorpions,” and “here be dragons.” Eventually, the map came into the possession of Sir John Franklin, a British explorer in the early 1800’s. Scratching out the fearful inscriptions, he wrote these words across the map: “Here is God.”

We Christians sometimes respond to the “unknown” like that ancient mariner. As we pass through difficult and frightening situations, we may feel as though we are being threatened by the “giants” of fear, the “scorpions” of pain, or the “dragons” of discouragement. But God’s children find great comfort and courage in knowing that wherever they go and whatever situation they may find themselves, God is with them. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

If your present circumstances have you worried and troubled, look again at our scripture text for today. Take comfort in the assuring words from Psalm 139: 9-10 which says, “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” Yes wherever we are, we can joyfully exclaim, “Here is God!” Remember, for the Christian, no danger can come so near that God is not nearer.

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Psalm 112:4 says, “Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness.”

A missionary in Peru told of going one evening to visit a small group of believers. She knew that the house where they were meeting was located on a cliff and that climbing up the pathway would be treacherous. From her own house she took a taxi as far as it could go, and then she began the hazardous ascent to the house. The night was dark and the way was very difficult. As she rounded a bend, she suddenly came upon several believers carrying bright lanterns. They had come out to light the way. Her fears relieved, the missionary ascended the path easily and had a good meeting.

In a similar way, God lights our pathway. When we accepted Jesus as our personal Savior, He who is the light of the world entered our lives and removed the darkness of our sin and despair. This light continues to comfort us through times of sorrow and despair. In the midst of sadness, trouble, illness, or disappointments, the Lord brightens the way and encourages His children by giving hope. This may come through a word of exhortation from a fellow believer. It may be the soothing illumination of His word by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It may be a calm reassurance in response to heartfelt prayer. Or it may be the miraculous supply of a specific need. Whatever the case, God sends light when we are engulfed in darkness, and it will continue to shine until we exit the other side of “the valley of the shadow of death.”

For the believer, there is always light in the darkest night! Remember, God sometimes puts us in the dark to show us that He is light.

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Isaiah 9:6 says, “His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The Associated Press carried a story a number of years ago about a couple in England who gave their newborn daughter 139 names. They said they will call her Tracy, but officially she’ll be: Tracy Mari Claire Lisa Tammy Samantha Christine Alexandra…(you get the idea). When the father was asked why they did this, he said, “We just wanted to give her something for when she grows up.” The article, carried by a local paper, was captioned, “What’s In A Name? Don’t Ask This Girl.” Obviously here parents weren’t thinking about the meaning of her names. They just wanted to do something unusual.

In December we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who also had many names. But in our Lords case, all His titles are very significant. In Biblical times, a persons name had great meaning; it did more than provide a “handle.” It said something about the character of the person who bore it. That’s especially important especially when we realize that Jesus is referred to in the Bible by many different titles, each reflecting something about His person and work.

As Christians, we must make sure we know and experience Him in a manner consistent with His names. If we call Him Jesus, which means “Savior,” we must trust Him to deliver us from the power as well as the penalty of sin. If we call Him “Lord,” we must allow Him to be just that. And what about such names as “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”? Do I act as if that is who He really is? Remember, Jesus is God spelling Himself out in language that man can understand.

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Galatians 5:22,23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is…self-control.”

Like the swing of a pendulum, the children of Israel went from one extreme to another. When urged to advance into Canaan, they dragged their feet (Numbers 14:2). Then, realizing they had missed a great opportunity, they rushed forward in their own strength. (Numbers 14:44).

As Christians, we have a similar problem. When we know we should do something, we often put it off. Then after its too late, we kick ourselves for not acting. Or we may plunge ahead with some plan or project, only to find later that we should have gone more slowly. Extremes - we are all too familiar with them!

In his book Spirit Life, D. Stuart Briscoe gives a formula that can lead to a better self-control. He says, “I have found it helpful…to ignore the aspect of truth that comes easily and concentrate on the one which may require some degree of discipline. For instance, when I find myself in a situation where it is easier to relax when I ought to be taking action, I concentrate on naked obedience…On the other hand, when I confront a situation on which I instinctively react with drive and determination, I consciously try to remember to depend on the resources that are mine through the Spirit.”

Outright obedience when we prefer to relax, and conscious dependence on God when we feel like forging ahead, will release the Spirits power in our lives. And when we are under His control, He will keep us from going to extremes.

Remember, God’s part we cannot do; our part God will not do.

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2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “For our light affliction…is working for us a far more exceeding…weight of glory.”

A certain cathedral in Europe was famous for the large magnificent, stained-glass window that was located behind the altar and high above the sanctuary. One day a violent storm shattered that beautiful window into a thousand pieces. The church custodian was hesitant to discard the fragments, so he put them in a box and placed them in the basement of the cathedral. Shortly after the storm, a man who had heard about the damage asked for and received the broken pieces of glass. About 2 years later, he invited the caretaker to visit him in a nearby village. When the custodian arrived, the man explained that he was an artisan and that he had something to show him. When the craftsman unveiled his work, the visitor was astonished to see a lovely window fashioned from the broken fragments. It was even more beautiful than the original!

Often our plans or accomplishments go the way of that majestic stained-glass window - they are destroyed by the storms of unexpected circumstances. When this happens, we cannot understand why. We wonder what good it is for us to face suffering, disappointments, or struggles. But let me assure you that there is a reason. God has something better planned for us. In His infinite wisdom He sometimes allows our plans and dreams to be broken and cast aside. Then out of the shattered pieces He brings about the fulfillment of His will, which is far better than anything we could have devised. This is how God works in us and for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Remember, broken things become blessed things if you let Christ do the mending.

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Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are your words to my taste.”

A small New England town needed water. After workers drilled 800 feet deep, however, they still had no success. About to abandon the search, the town officials consulted the U. S. Geological Survey. Their engineers examined the strata and decided that their was water deeper down. So they gave instruction to continue boring. When the workmen reached a depth of 1100 feet, they finally struck water. Always before the town had to buy water from another municipality. Now that they had their own ample supply, this was no longer needed. They now became the supplier to other towns.

For the Christian, the Bible is a deep well of refreshing truth. Yet how often we miss Gods rich source of blessings because we keep too near the surface. We need encouragement to go “deeper” into His Word. But how do we do this? Drilling into the depths of the Bible means reading it, meditating on its truths, applying its instructions, and memorizing key verses. The result will be sufficient spiritual nourishment for daily living. Furthermore, as we delve into its unlimited supply, we not only “get” for ourselves, but we are also able to “give” to others. This spiritual fruitfulness enables us to bless, help and influence fellow believers in their Christian walk.

Let me encourage you to drill deep into the Word. Read it often. Ask God to make it a part of your life. Then you’ll want to make that refreshing water available to others. Remember, to read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.

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1 Peter 5:10 says, “May the God of all grace…establish, strengthen, and settle you.”

What a beautiful title Peter gave to our heavenly Father: The God of All Grace. He provides illuminating grace for every seeker, justifying grace for all believers, strengthening grace for the weak, growing grace for young Christians, comforting grace for the bereaved, living grace for the daily walk, and dying grace for the end of the journey. No matter what need you face today, the grace of God will perfectly conform to each specially shaped sorrow and trial.

On the island of Trinidad is famous Pitch Lake - a mineral deposit that is filled with asphalt. Although here and there gases escape in bubbles from the surface, the substance is hard enough for people to walk on. Workers dig great chunks from the tar like lake and load train cars full of it to pave the roads of the world. For over 90 years Trinidadians have been taking asphalt out of this great crater, yet it never runs empty. It is said that no matter how large a whole is made in this crater,no cavity will remain after 72 hours, for it immediately fills up from below. Workers have drilled as far as 285 feet into the lake and found that this black, gum-like substance is at least that deep. There seems to be an unlimited supply. This seemingly endless deposit of pitch can be seen as a picture of God’s grace. No matter how great your need, you can’t exhaust His love.

Are you facing difficulties today? Then place yourself in the Father’s hands. He is the God of all Grace! Remember grace is infinite love expressing itself through infinite goodness.

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1 Thessalonians 1:6 says, “You became followers of us and of the Lord.”

Lesile Stobel became a Christian in 1979 and modeled her faith in such a way that it influenced her atheistic husband Lee to begin his own search for God. In his book The Case for Christ, he tells of his 2 years of intensive research that finally led him to receive Jesus Christ as His Savior. With a law degree from Yale and an award-winning career in journalism at the Chicago Tribune, Lee had the ability to answer tough questions raised by unbelievers and cynics.

The change in his life also influenced their 5 year old daughter Alison, who said, “Mommy, I want God to do for me what He’s done for daddy.” Leslie’s faith created a ripple effect that changed the whole family.

This pattern of modeling or imitating is what Paul described in the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians. His example, along with that of Silas and Timothy, motivated the new believers in Thessalonica to imitate them. Then, as these new believers suffered for Christ with patience and endurance, they in turn became models to believers in Macedonia and Achaia, inspiring them to new levels of devotion.

Our example can be our most persuasive influence for Christ. Do others imitate us because we model Him? Remember, the one who follows Christ leads the way for others.

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Acts 4:31 says, “they spoke the Word of God with boldness.”

Though uneducated and rough in his mannerisms, Peter Cartwright possessed a keen insight into human nature and an overpowering devotion to God. One day he was conducting a service in a church when President Andrew Jackson unexpectedly showed up. The deacons hurriedly called the preacher from the pulpit and informed him of the distinguished visitor. They asked Cartwright to be careful what he said. As he stood up to give his message he began, “I understand that Andrew Jackson is with us, and I have been requested to be guarded in my remarks. Andrew Jackson will go to hell as quickly as any other man if he does not repent!” The congregation was shocked, wondering how the president would react. At the close of the meeting, the Chief Executive stepped forward to speak to Cartwright. “Sir, he said, If I had a regiment of men like you, I could whip the world.”

Jesus said to His Apostles before He ascended into heaven, “But you shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and you shall be witnesses unto Me” (Acts 1:8). Controlled by the Spirit of God, their lives fulfilled that promise, for they were marked with a holy boldness in proclaiming the truth of the resurrected Lord. Yet they were not the only recipients of this spiritual courage. It is said of the early church, “…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

We need not be faint copies of the original. If we surrender to the indwelling Spirit, fellowship with Christ can produce in us the same holy boldness.

Wanted: Men of faith and fire,

Men whose zeal will never tire.

Wanted: Men with hearts aglow,

To show the world the Christ they know.

Remember, two of the greatest hindrances to witnessing are a cold heart and cold feet.

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John 3:17-19 says, “I pray that you may be able to comprehend…the love of Christ which passes knowledge.”

Gods love for us is so deep that we have a hard time comprehending it. It reaches down to us through the darkness of this sinful world, even though we are hopelessly undeserving. The Bible says that before God created our planet, He decided to display the depth of His love for us through His Son’s death on the cross (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8).

In my imagination I look back over time and see the Lord raising mountains to majestic heights, cutting valleys for flowing rivers, and stretching out vast plain. I envision Him creating the mighty oceans and beautiful lakes. Then I see Him pause and reflect on the goodness of His creation. He gazes at that part of the world where His Son will be born. He knows that Jesus will be rejected and crucified. With a sweep of His hand He could obliterate the world and spare His Son from the agony of the cross. But He doesn’t.

Because of Gods love, the Son came to earth and was slain. On Calvary He died to pay the penalty for our sins. In John 3:16 we read, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” Oh, how great is Gods love for us!

Remember, eternal life is made possible by Gods eternal love.

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Proverbs 3:21, 23 says, "...keep sound wisdom and discretion. Then you will walk safely in your way."

A frustrated homeowner had a yard full of moles. He did everything he knew to do to defeat his "underground enemy," but he was losing the battle. Finally a friend informed him that he was trying to solve his problem in the wrong way. The moles weren't the real culprits, even though they were tearing up his yard. The real problem was the grubs that the moles were feeding on. Get rid of them and the moles would have no reason to stay. The homeowner took the advice and applied an insecticide. It worked. With the grubs gone, the moles left. Soon he had a healthy lawn again.

The 3rd chapter of Proverbs gives us a parallel situation. Instead of moles, the problem is fear - the kind of fear that robs us of strength during the day and sleep at night. What is also evident from this chapter is that we can eliminate our fears only by attacking the "bugs" that attract it. We must go after self-sufficiency and irreverence (vv. 5-8). We have to treat our evil and foolish ways with a strong application of divine wisdom and understanding (vv. 13-18). Then and only then will fear loose its grip. Admittedly, this is more difficult than going to the hardware store and picking up some insecticide, and spreading it to the lawn. But it’s worth the effort.

What's important is to know the real problem so that we can work on it. In the case of paralyzing fear, making wise decisions based on God's Word and building a love-trust relationship with Christ go a long way in getting rid of the "grubs."

Remember, keep your eyes on God and you'll soon lose sight of your fears.

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Psalm 86:5 says, "For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive."

No one deserves God's forgiving grace. It’s not something He owes us. And we could never accuse Him of being unfair if He didn't extend it to us. But the Old and New Testaments gives us the assurance that God is ready to forgive according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7). The Lord pardons penitent sinners not only because He is gracious but also because He delights in pardoning them. He longs to remove their guilt, take away their transgressions, and bring them back into fellowship with Himself.

In his book "Ephesians: Key Words of the Inner Life, F. B. Meyer observed that "God is only too ready to forgive...as the hungry sea frets down the line of cliff to find an opening through which to pour itself, and seeths and sobs until it finds room, so does the love of God wait impatiently outside our hearts until we open to it in confession and repentance. Then God forgives, not meagerly or stingingly, but royally, gracefully, abundantly. His forgiveness is worthy of Himself, proportioned to the wealth of His glorious being, and according to the riches of His grace. He does more than forgive; He remembers no more. He does more than forget; He sets the joy bells ringing...he does more than this: He insets the scars of our sins with jewels - where sin abounded, His grace abounds much more - and all because of the blood that has set free this wealth of mercy."

Thank God for His forgiving grace! Remember, grace is an unearned blessing given by God to an unworthy recipient.

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Psalm 5:3 says, “My voice You will hear in the morning, O Lord; …and I will look up.”

Before we go to the grocery store, we make out a shopping list. Before we accept a responsibility, we check to see what it involves. Likewise, when we plunge into a new day, we should prepare for it. As we think about what lies ahead, we can commit it all to the Lord. Then we will be able to take advantage of the days opportunities and to cope with its disappointments.

Ray Ortlund, in The Best Half of Life, wrote, “I like to start out the morning by covering the whole day in prayer. After a time of praise and confession, I take out my appointment book and pray through the hours. I pray for everyone I am scheduled to see. I ask that I might be helpful to them, but also open for what they might have for me. I pray for the unscheduled ones I will bump into. I found that if I pray over my interruptions and get them squarely under Gods sovereign control, they don’t irritate me. I realize that they are part of Gods plan.”

So you and I need to pray about our morning, lunchtime and evening; pray and think about the time you will be with your loved ones and others you will meet during the day. Pray through the day before you experience it. Then relax. Whatever comes, you’ve covered it. Each day does present trying circumstances, unique challenges, and exciting opportunities. So before we begin our activities, lets turn the day over to the Lord. Then, whatever happens, we have it covered! Remember, morning prayers lead to evening praise.

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Revelation 3:20 says, “I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.”

An elderly couple had no means of support except a weekly gift of money from a man in the church. One Sunday the church scheduled a special meeting in the afternoon. The couples benefactor, who lived quite far away, wanted to remain in the area for the afternoon service. So he said to the old couple, “Would you mind if I joined you for supper after the morning service?” Immediate the couple thought of the half loaf of stale bread, a bit of butter, and some cheese that was the entire contents of the cupboard. How could this friend dine with them, they thought? But the man interrupted their worries by adding, “I have brought a basket of things with me and there will be plenty for the three of us.” When he arrived at the poor, bare cottage he unpacked the basket. Soon the three of them were gathered around a table that was spread with fried chicken, sliced ham, homemade bread, country butter, and apple pie. The man not only came to dine with them, but he had also brought all that was needed for the feast.

What a picture of the relationship we have with Jesus! He desires to fellowship with us, and by His power He provides us with all that we need. When we open the door of our heart and the Lord Jesus comes in, we have the privilege of “dinning” with Him. We have nothing to offer, but into our spiritual poverty He brings all the riches of His grace. What blessed fellowship is ours as He spreads His bounteous table and invites us to dine with Him!

Remember, grace is everything for nothing for those who don’t deserve anything.

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Job 1:10 says, “have you not made a hedge around him?”

No servant of the Lord escapes the eye of the adversary. The devil and his host are constantly seeking to hinder us as we walk in the pilgrim pathway. Even Job - a blameless and upright man who was providentially protected by a hedge of angles (Psalm 34:7 and Hebrew 1:14) and the sheltering love of God - had to fight off Satan’s attacks. But as we learn from reading the book of Job, nothing can harm us or come inside the hedge unless God allows it. We are guarded on all sides by His presence, for He is before us (Isaiah 48: 17), behind us (Isaiah 30:21), to the right of us (Psalm 16:8), to the left of us (Job 23:9), above us (Psalm 36:7), underneath us (Deuteronomy 33:27), and within us (1 Corinthians 3:16).

A pastor was extremely ill. In his weakened condition, he felt the strong attacks of the evil one. “I have had a terrible conflict with the enemy today,” he remarked to a friend who was visiting. “The devil said, ‘You have been my enemy all your life, and now I have you fast. I shall have my revenge on you on the death bed.’ In answer to the Pastor replied, ‘Devil, the Lord has put a hedge around me, and you can’t touch me.’ “What did the evil one say to that?” asked the visitor. “Nothing! Replied the Pastor. “The old serpent just fled, and I fell into a peaceful sleep!” From that moment on the pastor had a confidence in the security and protection of the Lord. And so can we, for God keeps His “hedge” about us.

Remember, When God allows extraordinary trials, He gives extraordinary comfort.

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Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage.”

We are all in such a hurry! Yet the best thing God has for us often takes time to mature. That’s why we must patiently wait on Him and not run before Him. Someone has said, “Give God time and even when the knife flashes in the air, the ram will be seen in the thicket. Give God time, and even when Pharaohs host is on Israel’s heels, a path through the waters will; be suddenly opened. Give God time, and when the bed of the brook is dry, Elijah shall hear the Guiding Voice.”

Hebrews 12:1 tells us to run with endurance the race set before us. We commonly associate patience with laying down. We think of it as the angel that guards the couch of the invalid. Yet there is a patience that I believe to be harder - the patience that can run. To lie down in the time of grief, to be quiet under the stroke of adverse fortune, implies a great strength; but I know of something that implies a strength greater still: it is the power to work under stress; to have a great weight at your heart and still run; to have a deep anguish in your spirit and still perform the daily tasks. It is a Christ like thing! The hardest thing is that most of us are called to exercise our patience, not in the sickbed but in the street. To wait is hard, to do it with good courage is harder!

Do not try to hasten the unfolding of God’s bud of promise; you will only spoil the perfect flower. “In your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19). Remember, The STOPS of a good man are ordered by the Lord as well as his STEPS!

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Ruth 2:20 says, “Blessed is he of the Lord, who has not forsaken his kindness to the living.”

Genuine love always manifests itself in kindness. This truth is portrayed in the book of Ruth. When Boaz saw Ruth gathering grain behind the reapers in his field, he commanded them to leave some handfuls on purpose to help her. To her, this was a blessing from the Lord. In the same way, the people who’s lives we touch need to experience Gods love through our compassion and generosity. That’s why we should ask God to give us opportunity to show kindness.

A man once said that at the end of one of the truck terminals where he worked was a coal company with a high fence around it. Nearby was a railroad, and each day several freight trains passed by. The man often noticed that the owner of the yard, who was a Christian, threw chunks of coal over the fence at various places along the track. One day he asked the man why he did this. With compassion in his voice, he replied, “A poor elderly woman lives across the street, and I know that her old-age pension is inadequate to buy enough coal. After the train goes by, she walks along and picks up the pieces she thinks have fallen from the coal car behind the engine. Her eyesight is failing, and she doesn’t realize that diesels have replaced steam locomotives. I don’t want to disappoint her, so I just throw some pieces over the fence to help her.” That is Christianity in action!

If you know the Lord and love your neighbor as yourself, you too will be kind, the giving kind! Remember, kindness is the oil that takes the friction out of life.

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2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God.”

A columnist illustrated man’s ability to overcome obstacles when they wrote: Cripple him, and you have a Sir Walter Scott. Lock him in as prison cell, and you have a John Bunyan. Bury him in the snow of Valley Forge, and you have a George Washington. Afflict him with asthma as a child, and you have a Theodore Roosevelt. Make him play second fiddle in an obscure South American orchestra, and you have a Toscanini. Deny her the ability to see, hear, and speak, and you have a Helen Keller.

I’m sure you get the point. No one has to be a loser. Lets look at two Biblical examples, Moses and Paul. Do you remember what happened when God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush and commanded him to lead Israel to freedom? Moses responded with a list of obstacles he felt was too great. “I’m not eloquent. No one will listen to me. No one will believe that Jehovah has spoken to me.” But God wouldn’t let him say no. With His help, Moses became Israel’s greatest leader. And think of Paul. He overcame difficult circumstances to become the mighty Apostle to the Gentiles.

If you are using some limitations or hardships as an excuse for falling short of God’s best, its time to change your attitude. In the power of God, and following the example of others, you can be a winner. Remember, God does not demand of us success, but obedience.

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Mark 11:22 says, “have faith in God.” And 2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful.”

Although a strong faith honors God more than a weak faith, the most important thing about faith is its object. A weak faith in Almighty God produces amazing results, whereas a strong faith in a false god is worthless. Christ demonstrated this truth when He delivered a boy from the terrible power of an evil spirit. When Jesus told the Father, “…all things are possible to him who believes,” the man responded with tears, “Lord I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:23, 24). That meager trust was enough for the Savior to perform a miracle.

The greatest saints have wavered at times, but God’s unchanging faithfulness strengthens their flagging confidence. Paul reminds us that if we are faithless, God remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). The pioneer missionary Hudson Taylor, when home on a furlough, would often say, “Friends, I’d like to give you the motto of my life. It is found in Mark 11:22 where we read, “Have faith in God.” He then commented that even when we have our weak moments, the Lord in grace under girds us. He concluded, “Reckon not only on your own faith but also on God’s faithfulness to you. All my life I’ve been fickle: sometimes I could trust and sometimes I couldn’t. But when unable to have faith, it was a great encouragement to realize that God would still be faithful to me.”

You too can walk the pathway of life confidently with Hudson Taylor’s motto, “Have faith in God.” Yes, God remains faithful. Remember, He pleases God best who trusts Him most.

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John 7:38 says, He who believes in Me, as the scripture says, out of his heart (belly) will flow rivers of living water."

Did you know that a healthy tree may consist of up to 80% moisture? It draws large quantities of water through its root system or absorbs it from dew and rain. In his book "As a Tree Grows," W. Phillip Keller points out that "the tree does not hoard its moisture for itself. The vast network of running roots beneath the soil often exceeds the outspread of the trunk, branches, and leaves to the sky. And vast quantities of water are lifted through the framework of the tree to be transpired into the surrounding air. This moisture, along with the discharge of oxygen, is what gives the forest atmosphere such a fresh fragrance."

The similarities between a trees use of water and the Christians use of the water of life is striking. In John 7:38, Jesus said that the rivers of living water will flow from the heart of the one who believes in Him. He was referring to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in and through us. The Spirit, who is received when we trust the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, has the capacity to empower and refresh us, which in turn enables us to be a blessing to others. Our part is to read and study God's word, to receive cleansing and renewal through confession of our sins, and to obey the Lord. Then, as we depend on the Holy Spirit, "Living Water" flows through us and provides refreshment and goodness to people around us.

My prayer is, "Lord Jesus, thank You for being to us the refreshing Water of Life by the Holy Spirit." Remember, only the Living Water can quench the driving thirst of the soul.

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