Saturday, May 31, 2014

Thrill of Victory...2 Chronicles 13

2 Chronicles 13; John 12:1-26

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. 1 John 5:4

Did you know that this word "victory" is used only six times in the New Testament? The Greek word for victory is "nike" and it means "a conquest" or "means of success." For many of us, the word Nike refers to the mega-sporting enterprise that sells shoes and clothing. Victory has been skewed by society standards to now mean something of extraordinary achievements. But Jesus would come and tell us to just have faith, for through faith we will be victorious.

How many of us as Christians today have victory in our lives? How awesome to experience the thrill of victory! But far too often we face the agony of defeat. Jesus did not come to earth, give His life, and leave us His Holy Spirit, just so we could enter heaven. Yes, He came to give us eternal life if we believe in Him, but He wants us to experience heaven on earth—today. Heaven on earth in this day and age? Is such a thought really possible?

Today's verse tells us that "whatever is born of God overcomes the world." If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, then you have been born of God and are His child. To even accept Jesus indicates a position of faith on your part, for "by grace you are saved through faith" (Ephesians 2:8). But real victory does not stop here, it begins here. Faith must be grown, matured and developed by the tests and trials of life. One reason prayer is so important is that our faith is increased every time we see God answer our prayers. And we must plant His word on our hearts and in our minds, for "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Christians who have weak prayer lives and no time in God's Word will face the agony of defeat more than the thrill of victory. But Christians who pray, who read the Bible, and who seek the Lord with all their heart will have victory simply because of their faith. Just remember, however, that victory in Jesus is not always defined the same as victory in the world.

Does your life reflect more victories or more defeats? Where do you spend your time and what are you seeking after? Start today by asking the Lord to increase your faith. Start praying for God's help. Confess and repent from any worldly desires that steal your time and attention away from the Lord. Begin reading His Word and praying for more understanding of how to apply it in your life. At some point, we must decide which way we want to live; and then start acting on the faith given to us through Jesus. Then, and only then, will we have victory.

Commentating author unknown

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Seeking God...2 Corinthians 7

2 Corinthians 7; John 11:1-29

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

Do you really want God to hear your prayers? Would you like to know how to get God to listen to you? Read today's verse and notice what God Himself is telling His people to do to get His attention. The children of Israel had turned from God. They practiced idolatry of all kinds, worshipping other gods, disobeying God's laws and living their lives according their own desires. Regardless of the depths of their sin and wickedness, the Lord showed them mercy. God wanted to give them a chance for redemption but the people needed to come back to Him.

The Lord clearly tells the Israelites what to do: humble themselves, pray, seek, and turn. In return, the Lord says that He will hear, forgive, and heal. Right here, in this one verse, we receive a message from the Lord that is just as relevant today in our lives as it was back then. First of all, we are told to humble ourselves. If you notice the order, humility comes before prayer. God wants us to come to Him in submission, in lowliness and brokenness, recognizing our desperate need for His saving grace. Then, we pray. We pour out our hearts to the Lord, asking, seeking and knocking for His response. In prayer, we must seek not only answers, but we must seek His face. To seek God's face demonstrates our love for Him, our desire to know Him, and our relentless pursuit of His attention. We need more than just words; we need intimacy and fellowship with Jesus. Finally, our prayers must include confession and repentance of our sins. Again, not just in words asking forgiveness, but in a true desire to change. To change means that we are willing to turn from our "wicked ways" and start following the Lord's ways by obeying His Word.

Regardless of where you are today in your relationship with the Lord, be assured of one thing: He wants more of you. If you feel distant from God, He wants you to know He is not distant from you. If you feel close to God, He wants to be even closer to you. If you humble yourself before Him, pray and seek His face, and are willing to turn from your sins, then He promises to hear, forgive and heal you. Just ask Him. Humble yourself before the Lord today and open your heart to Him. Be sincere, honest and vulnerable before Him. If you come to the Lord in this manner, you will definitely have His attention, and your heart will be ready to receive His answers.

Commentating author unknown

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Strength...1 Samuel 30:6

For today's devotional, I would like you to read 1 Samuel 30:6 again as it contains another truth I want you to see,

Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters.  But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.

Notice that this verse begins by saying, David was greatly distressed, but it ends this way,  But David strengthened himself in the Lord.

It is all right to weep, but when you are done, you need to strengthen yourself.  It is all right to grieve, it is all right to express those emotions, but when you are done, you need to strengthen yourself in the Lord.

You need to connect with God in whatever way you find is best for you.  If it is lifting your hands and worshiping Him, then that is what you should do.

If it is getting into His Word (which I would suggest for everyone) and spending time feeding your spirit, then do that.  If it is reminding yourself about how God has helped you in the past, you need to do that.

Personally I believe that is what David was doing when the Bible says he "strengthened himself in the Lord."  I think David was reminding himself about:

·        How God delivered him from the lion and the bear;

·        How God delivered Goliath into his hands; and

·        How God delivered him when Saul tried to kill him.

I am confident David was thinking, "You know, God hasn't delivered me so miraculously in my past to get to this point and to let go of my hand and abandon me.  I know He is going to help me now."

David was strengthening himself in the Lord, and you need to learn to do the same thing.

Commentating author unknown

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Common Blessings...Exodus 23:25

"Ye shall serve the LORD your God, and He shall bless thy bread, and thy water"   (Exodus 23:25).

What a promise is this! To serve God is in itself a high delight. But what an added privilege to have the blessing of the LORD resting upon us in all things! Our commonest things become blessed when we ourselves are consecrated to the LORD. Our LORD Jesus took bread and blessed it; behold, we also eat of blessed bread. Jesus blessed water and made it wine: the water which we drink is far better to us than any of the wine with which men make merry; every drop has a benediction in it. The divine blessing is on the man of God in everything, and it shall abide with him at every time.

What if we have only bread and water! Yet it is blessed bread and water. Bread and water we shall have. That is implied, for it must be there for God to bless it. "Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy waters shall be sure." With God at our table, we not only ask a blessing, but we have one. It is not only at the altar but at the table that He blesses us. He serves those well who serve Him well. This table blessing is not of debt but of grace. Indeed, there is a trebled grace; He grants us grace to serve Him, by His grace feeds us with bread, and then in His grace blesses it.

Commentating author unknown

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Impact of prayer...1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

Prayer is the lifeblood of an intimate relationship with the Father. But believers often have questions about its power and effectiveness. Don’t hesitate to take your queries to the Lord, dig into Scripture for answers, and seek the counsel of a trusted spiritual mentor. Prayer is too important to neglect.

Will God’s plans fail if I don’t pray? God is not subservient to believers or dependent upon their prayers. The time we invest in speaking with Him involves us in the work that He is doing in our lives and in the world, but He will carry on without us.Laboring alongside the Lord is our privilege.

Does my prayer (or lack thereof) impact God’s work? I believe that Scripture indicates the answer to this question is both yes and no, depending upon the situation. There are times when God’s purpose is set. He is in control and has determined the best course. In the Old Testament, the Lord often prophesied what He would do and then brought those events to pass.

In other cases, “you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). There are some good things that He holds back until we put out prayerful hands to receive them. But because God is a loving Father, He also pours our blessings that we wouldn’t even think to request.

Believer’s prayers have tremendous impact, particularly on their own faith and life. Do you understand what an awesome privilege it is to kneel before the all-powerful Father and know that He listens and will respond? God loves to be good to His children and answer their prayers

Commentating author unknown

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Encouragement...Psalm 121:1-8

1 Chronicles 19; John 9:1-27

Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the hills-- From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore. Psalm 121:1-8

Today's psalm is one of my favorites. I read it and meditate on the words when I need encouragement from the Lord. Are you in need of encouragement today? Do you feel as if trouble surrounds you? Maybe you feel as if the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Let's be encouraged together as we look at what these verses are saying. First of all, we need to look up and "lift up" our eyes to the hills. We need to look up at the Lord and believe that He is coming to help us. Acknowledge that our Lord is the One who made heaven and earth with amazing power and majesty. He is strong enough to help us. I love the verse that says He "shall neither slumber nor sleep." Our Lord is watching over us constantly. He is our keeper.

This message is not just for today but also for eternity. He preserves our soul and protects us from all evil. He preserves our every move and keeps watch over us everywhere that we go. Because of His Son, Jesus Christ, all who believe in Him are preserved for eternity in heaven. Some days seem longer than others here on earth, but be encouraged and know that the Lord of heaven and earth has His eyes upon you every moment of every day. Take comfort in the words of this psalm and meditate on it throughout times of trouble. Consider these precious words as promises from God, and trust that He always keeps His promises.

Commentating author unknown 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Relying on God...Psalm 72:12

"For He shall deliver the needy when he lieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper"   (Psalm 72:12).

The needy cries; what else can he do? His cry is heard of God; what else need he do? Let the needy reader take to crying at once, for this will be his wisdom. Do not cry in the ears of friends, for even if they can help you it is only because the LORD enables them. The nearest way is to go straight to God and let your cry come up before Him. Straightforward makes the best runner: run to the LORD and not to secondary causes.

"Alas!" you cry, "I have no friend or helper." So much the better; you can rely upon God in both capacities - as without supplies and without helpers. Make your double need your double plea. Even for temporal mercies you may wait upon God, for He careth for His children in these temporary concerns. As for spiritual necessities, which are the heaviest of all, the LORD will hear your cry and will deliver you and supply you.

O poor friend, try your rich God. O helpless one, lean on His help. He has never failed me, and I am sure He will never fail you. Come as a beggar, and God will not refuse you help. Come with no plea but His grace. Jesus is King; will He let you perish of wants What! Did you forget this!

Commentating author unknown

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sadness...2 Corinthians 7:10-12

2 Corinthians 7:10-12

For sadness as intended by God produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret, but worldly sadness brings about death.  For see what this very thing, this sadness as God intended, has produced in you: what eagerness, what defense of yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what deep concern, what punishment! In everything you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.  So then, even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did wrong, or on account of the one who was wronged, but to reveal to you your eagerness on our behalf before God.

You can tell what kind of sorrow you are experiencing by looking at the fruit produced because of it. Sorrow that produces death deceives us. It captures us in confusion and doubt about ourselves, about God, about everything. Anxiety and fear often accompany worldly sorrow, and the result is a spiritual paralysis that corrupts all areas of our life. Godly sorrow, on the other hand, brings conviction and leads us to repentance. This type of sorrow is a tool the Holy Spirit uses to confront us about sin and enact change in our hearts and minds. Keep careful watch over the sorrow that you experience, and let God lead you down the path that brings life.

Verse/Commentary courtesy of 'Verse-A-Day' app.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rain without clouds?...Ecc 11:3

"If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth"   (Ecclesiastes 11:3).

Why, then, do we dread the clouds which now darken our sky? True, for a while they hide the sun, but the sun is not quenched; He will shine out again before long. Meanwhile those black clouds are filled with rain; and the blacker they are, the more likely they are to yield plentiful showers. How can we have rain without clouds?

Our troubles have always brought us blessings, and they always will. They are the black chariots of bright grace. These clouds will empty themselves before long, and every tender herb will be the gladder for the shower. Our God may drench us with grief, but He will not drown us with wrath; nay, He will refresh us with mercy. Our LORD's love letters often come to us in black-edged envelopes. His wagons rumble, but they are loaded with benefits. His rod blossoms with sweet flowers and nourishing fruits. Let us not worry about the clouds but sing because May flowers are brought to us through the April clouds and showers.

O LORD, the clouds are the dust of Thy feet! How near Thou art in the cloudy and dark day! Love beholds Thee and is glad. Faith sees the clouds emptying themselves and making the little hills rejoice on every side.

Commentating author unknown

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

We Dare Not Doubt...Isaiah 45:2

"I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron"   (Isaiah 45:2).

This was for Cyrus; but it is evermore the heritage of all the LORD's own spiritual servants. Only let us go forward by faith, and our way will be cleared for us. Crooks and turns of human craft and satanic subtlety shall be straightened for us; we shall not need to track their devious windings. The gates of brass shall be broken, and the iron bars which fastened them shall be cut asunder. We shall not need the battering ram nor the crowbar: the LORD Himself will do the impossible for us, and the unexpected shall be a fact.

Let us not sit down in coward fear. Let us press onward in the path of duty, for the LORD hath said it: "I will go before thee." Ours not to reason why; ours but to dare and dash forward. It is the LORD's work, and He will enable us to do it: all impediments must yield before Him. Hath He not said, "I will break in pieces the gates of brass"! What can hinder His purpose or balk His decrees? Those who serve God have infinite resources. The way is clear to faith though barred to human strength. When Jehovah says, "I will," as He does twice in this promise, we dare not doubt.

Commenting author unknown

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Humility vs Worldliness...James 4:1-10

James 4:1-10

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."

(JAMES 4:10)

Reflecting upon years of ministry at home and abroad, I'm painfully reminded of the times of conflict within the family of God. If only those hours of clashing could have been put into productive ministry! James speaks pointedly to our behavior. He reminds us as Christians that when we are ruled by our desires and practice improper methods to get what we want, we shatter relationships within God's family and bring disgrace to the name of Jesus.

Verse 4 uses strong metaphorical descriptions of spiritual unfaithfulness. James urges us to turn away from our friendship with the world and instead submit, draw near, and humble ourselves. Submitting to God (v. 7) means lining ourselves up under Him. Drawing near to God (v. 8) is pursuing an intimate love relationship with Him. Humbling ourselves before the Lord (v. 10) means making ourselves low so that Christ is lifted up.

Could you trade your friendship with the world and humbly kneel before the One who loves you and gave His life for you? Trust Jesus to show you how.



Commentating author unknown

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Eternal Rewards...2 Corinthians 4:15

2 Corinthians 4:15; Matthew 10:41–42; Matthew 25:31–40

While preparing the Twelve for a lifetime of serving others, Christ promised an eternal reward even for holding out a cup of cool water.

"He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." 
(Matthew 10:41

Those words tell us that "improving our serve" begins with little things. It begins with thoughtful things—an understanding embrace of one who is hurting, a brief note to one who is lonely and feeling unappreciated and forgotten, a cup of cool water for one whose lips are parched from the hot blast of a barren desert when all seems futile and worthless.

God takes special notice of all these efforts.

These words take on a new shade of significance when we read that familiar account in Matthew 25. Jesus said:

"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'" 
(Matthew 25:

The scene is after this life. The Judge is offering His rewards. The servants receiving them were so unselfish, they had long since forgotten the deeds.

But not our Lord!

Commentating author unknown

Friday, May 16, 2014

Meekness...Matthew 5:5

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

Meekness begins when we put our trust in God. Then, because we trust him, we commit our way to him. We roll onto him our anxieties, or frustrations, our plans, our relationships, our jobs, our health.

And then we wait patiently for the Lord. We trust his timing and his power and his grace to work things out in the best way for his glory and for our good.

The result of trusting God and the rolling of our anxieties onto God and waiting patiently for God is that we don't give way to quick and fretful anger. But instead, we give place to wrath and hand our cause over to God and let him vindicate us if he chooses.

And then, as James says, in this quiet confidence we are slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19). We become reasonable and open to correction.

Meekness loves to learn. And it counts the blows of a friend as precious. And when it must say a critical word to a person caught in sin or error, it speaks from the deep conviction of its own fallibility and its own susceptibility to sin and its utter dependence on the grace of God.

The quietness and openness and vulnerability of meekness is a very beautiful and a very painful thing. It goes against all that we are by our sinful nature. It requires supernatural help.

If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, that is, if you trust him and commit your way to him and wait patiently for him, God has already begun to help you and will help you more.

And the primary way that he will help you is to assure your heart that you are a fellow heir of Jesus Christ and that the world and everything in it is yours.

Commentating author unknown

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How and Love...1 Timothy 1:5

The aim of our instruction is love. (1 Timothy 1:5)

Victor Frankl was imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Dachau during the Second World War. As a Jewish professor of neurology and psychiatry he became world renowned for his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which sold over eight million copies.

In it he unfolds the essence of his philosophy that came to be called Logotherapy — namely, that the most fundamental human motive is to find meaning in life. He observed in the horrors of the camps that man can endure almost any “how” of life if he has a “why.” But the quote that stirred me recently was this:

I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers. (“Victor Frankl at Ninety: An Interview,” in First Things, April 1995, p. 41.)

In other words, ideas have consequences that bless or destroy. People’s behavior — good and bad — does not come from nowhere. It comes from prevailing views of reality that take root in the mind and bring forth good or evil.

One of the ways that the Bible makes plain the truth that ideas have practical consequences is by saying things like, “Whatever was written beforehand was written . . . that you may have hope” (Romans 15:4). The ideas presented in the Scriptures produce the practical consequence of hope.

Again, Paul says, “The aim of our instruction is love” (1 Timothy 1:5). The imparting of ideas by “instruction” produces love.

Hope and love do not come from nowhere. They grow out of ideas — views of reality — revealed in the Scriptures.

Another way the Scriptures show us that ideas have consequences is by using the word “therefore” (1,039 times in the NASB). For example, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). “There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus“ (Romans 8:1). “Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34).

If we want to live in the power of these great practical “therefores,” we must be gripped by the ideas — the views of reality — that go before them and stand under them.

Commentating author unknown

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

God is Famous...Acts 15:14

Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. (Acts 15:14)

It is scarcely possible to overemphasize the centrality of the fame of God in motivating the mission of the church.

When Peter had his world turned upside down by the vision of unclean animals in Acts 10, and by the lesson from God that he should evangelize Gentiles as well as Jews, he came back to Jerusalem and told the apostles that it was all owing to God’s zeal for his name. We know this because James summed up Peter’s speech like this: “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name” (Acts 15:14).

It’s not surprising that Peter would say that God’s purpose was to gather a people for his name; because the Lord Jesus had stung Peter some years earlier with an unforgettable lesson.

You recall that, after a rich young man turned away from Jesus and refused to follow him, Peter said to Jesus, “Look, we have left everything and followed you [unlike this rich fellow]. What then shall we have?” Jesus responded with a mild rebuke, which in effect said that there is no ultimate sacrifice when you live for the name of the Son of Man. “Every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).

The truth is plain: God is pursuing with omnipotent delight a worldwide purpose of gathering a people for his name from every tribe and language and nation (Revelation 5:9; 7:9). He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the fame of his name among the nations.

Therefore when we bring our affections in line with his, and, for the sake of his name, renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join his global purpose, God’s omnipotent commitment to his name is over us and we cannot lose, in spite of many tribulations (Acts 9:16; Romans 8:35–39).

Commentating author unknown

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Love your Enemies...Luke 6:27

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27)

There are two main reasons why Christians should love their enemies and do good to them.

One is that it reveals something of the way God is. God is merciful.

“He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

So when Christians live this way, we show something of what God is like.

The second reason is that the hearts of Christians are satisfied with God and are not driven by the craving for revenge or self-exaltation or money or earthly security.

God has become our all-satisfying treasure and so we don’t treat our adversaries out of our own sense of need and insecurity, but out of our own fullness with the satisfying glory of God.

Hebrews 10:34: “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property [that is, without retaliation], since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” What takes away the compulsion of revenge is our deep confidence that this world is not our home, and that God is our utterly sure and all-satisfying reward.

So in both these reasons for loving our enemy we see the main thing: God is shown to be who he really is as a merciful God and as gloriously all-satisfying.

The ultimate reason for being merciful is to glorify God — to make him look great in the eyes of man.

Commentating Author unknown

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dying to self...Philippians 4:10-20

Philippians 4:10-20

"I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me." (v.13, Phillips)

Day by day, as we unfold this thrilling theme of The Corn of Wheat Afraid to Die, it is becoming increasingly obvious that God gives us a choice - a choice of either to live or to die. We can live for the fulfilment of our own desires, or we can die to our desires and live for His. This is perhaps the moment that we should come to grips with the question which people often ask when this issue of "dying to self" is raised: "Isn't this a terribly passive attitude to life? And doesn't it tend to diminish personal responsibility and self-control?" John Dewey, the famous American educator, held that view. Once, when lecturing to his students, he drew a line down a blackboard and on one side listed those systems of thought which teach control, and on the other those systems that teach acquiescence. On the "control" side he put "science", and on the "acquiescence" side he put "religion". To be fair, he should have written, "Some forms of religion". The religion of Jesus Christ does not produce passive and acquiescent disciples, but surrendered disciples - surrendered to God, but surrendered to nothing else. They rise from the dust of self-surrender to lay hold on the raw materials of life - good, bad and indifferent - and use them. Would you describe the early Christians as passive and acquiescent? I wouldn't. Surrendered - yes. Acquiescent - no. Surrendering to God so that He may work in and through us may at first seen passive, but actually it represents the most amazingly positive and active method of dealing with life. Other ways are possible, but no other way is as powerful.

Commentating author unknown 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Coping with Suffering...Job 2:3-6

Job 2:3–6; 2 Corinthians 1:3–7

I have found great help from two truths God gave me at a time in my life when I was bombarded with a series of unexpected and unfair blows (from my perspective). In my darkest hours, these principles become my anchor of stability, my only means of survival. Afflicted, confused, persecuted, and rejected in that situation, I claimed these two truths and held on to them like wild waves, strong winds, and pounding rain grabbing hold of the mast of a ship at sea. God took me through the consequences and kept me from becoming a bitter man.

Because they worked for me, I pass them on to you. At the risk of sounding simplistic, I would suggest that you not only write them down where you can read them often, but also that you might commit them to memory. The day will come when you will be thankful you did, I assure you. They have scriptural support, but I'll only list a couple of verses for the sake of brevity and clarity.

Here is the first truth to claim when enduring the consequences of suffering: nothing touches me that has not passed through the hands of my heavenly Father. Nothing. Whatever occurs, God has sovereignly surveyed and approved (Job 2:3–6). We may not know why (we may never know why), but we do know our pain is no accident to Him who guides our lives. He is, in no way, surprised by it all. Before it ever touches us, it passes through Him.

The second truth to claim is this: everything I endure is designed to prepare me for serving others more effectively. Everything. Because my heavenly Father is committed to shaping me into the image of His Son, He knows the ultimate value of this painful experience (2 Corinthians 1:3–7). It is a necessary part of the preparation process. It is being used to empty our hands of our own resources, our own sufficiency, and turn us back to Him—the faithful Provider.

And God knows what will get through to us.

Commentating author unknown 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Servanthood...2 Corinthians 4:9-11

2 Corinthians 4:9–1116–1811:25–2733

Paul was no criminal. The man was innocent of wrong . . . yet he was misunderstood, mistreated, hunted like a wounded deer, and hated by those who once respected him. In
 2 Corinthians 4:9, Paul states we are "struck down." And then to illustrate just how close he came to death itself, he mentions the following experiences in chapter 11 of this letter:

Shipwrecked three times (11:25)
A day and a night spent in the ocean (11:25)
Surrounded by constant dangers (11:26)
Without sufficient food (11:27)
Being exposed to the elements (11:27)
Escaping death by being let down a wall in a large basket (11:33)
What happened? How could so much unfair, near-fatal treatment happen to a man like Paul? An even deeper question is this: How could and why would God permit it? Without sounding glib . . . it was par for the servanthood course. Still is. Paul even admits that we are:

always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. . . . Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 
(2 Corinthians 4
:10–11, 16–18)

sounds beautiful, almost poetic. However, it is one thing to read it as black print on a white page, but it's another thing entirely to embrace that mind-set when all hell breaks loose against us. How does the servant of God cope when the bottom drops out? I'll share that in tomorrow's post. In the meantime, read those last verses again. Isn't Paul's perspective amazing?

Commentating Author unknown

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Role Model...2 Corinthians 11:23-28

2 Corinthians 11:23–28

It is an inescapable fact. If you get serious about being shaped into Christ's image, you'll have to learn to cope with the consequences of being a servant of God. Those who serve will suffer. Read these verses slowly:

Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23–28)

What stories Paul could tell! You remember the four words from 2 Corinthians 4 we've studied? Today's verses—from the same letter of Paul—amplifies each. The comparison looks like this:

Chapter 4     Chapter 11

Affliction     "in far more labors"

Confusion     "in far more imprisonments"

Persecution     "beaten times without number"

Rejection     "often in danger of death"

You see? Paul not only told us what a servant could expect, he verified it with his own experience. What a model Paul was!

Commentating author unknown

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Following Him...1 Kings 18-21

And Elijah came to all the people, and said, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people answered him not a word. 1 Kings 18:21

Do you ever find yourself faltering between two opinions? Have you ever felt torn between decisions and not sure of what to do? Maybe we get torn sometimes because we are focusing more on the what, than on the Who. Whether we want to admit it, everything comes down to a choice. We must choose between who, what and how almost everyday of our lives. The Bible makes it clear that we are to choose whom we will follow. There really is no middle road.

The problem lies in the fact that we do not like to think of ourselves as choosing to follow a false god, like Baal. But when we turn from following the Lord, we are turning to follow something else. We get caught up in life’s activities and look for God only when we need Him. Did we just choose those activities over the Lord? Probably so. How do we make sure that we choose God first in everything?

We must make the Lord our priority everyday. We must start our day with Him, praying about our schedules, asking for His guidance, reading His word for instruction, and worshiping Him with grateful hearts. We must learn to practice these things every day.

If we put these actions into practice, then we will find ourselves following God, without faltering. God knows our hearts and He wants us to want Him more than anything else. He wants us to stop choosing the what in our lives and start choosing the Who, Jesus Christ. Start your day with the Lord and ask Him to guide you. Beware of choosing to serve the false gods of this world. The Lord will help you if you just ask Him.

Commenting Author unknown

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mistreatment...1 Peter 2:20-24

1 Peter 2:20–24; 3:17–18

As you serve people in ministry, you will give, forgive, forget, release your own will, obey God to the maximum, and wash dirty feet with an attitude of gentleness and humility. And after all those beautiful things, you will get ripped off occasionally. Knowing all this ahead of time will help "improve your serve," believe me.

The Bible doesn't hide this painful reality from us. In 1 Peter 2:20 (addressed to servants, by the way—see verse 18), we read: "For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God."

Part of this "makes sense," according to our logical and fair standard. Part of it doesn't. If a person does wrong and then suffers the consequences, even though he or she patiently endures the punishment, nobody applauds.

But—now get this clearly fixed in your mind—when you do what is right and suffer for it with grace and patience, God applauds! Illustration: Jesus Christ's suffering and death on the cross. He, the perfect God-man, was mistreated, hated, maligned, beaten, and finally nailed cruelly to a cross. He suffered awful consequences, even though He spent His life giving and serving (1 Peter 3:17–18).

One thing is certain: if people treated a perfect individual that way, then imperfect people cannot expect to escape mistreatment. If mistreatment hasn't happened to you yet, it will.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Peace...Romans 12:18

When Peace Isn't Possible

Romans 12:18 says,

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

By implication, this verse is telling us that it is not possible to live peaceably with some people because they refuse to make peace.  They take the posture of being an enemy, being an antagonist, and they refuse to shift from that position no matter what you do.

But as much as it depends on you, you must pursue the things that make for peace.  You need to pray, you need to communicate, and if God leads you, you need to give a gift.  And certainly with your actions, you need to express the fact that you want peace.

Sometimes somebody may not yield.  They may not yield to the influence of God's Spirit; they may not yield to your endeavors.  But once you have done all you can do, all you can do has been done.

Does that give you a license to be rude to them or to treat them unpleasantly?  No.  The next few verses address that.  Look at Romans 12:19-21,

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.  Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Continue to extend the olive branch.  If they never respond, at least you will have a clean conscience.  God will deal with the things that you cannot deal with.  Do not take matters into your own hands.  "Vengeance is Mine," says the Lord.