Friday, August 26, 2016

Just Loving It

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14 NAS)

Just Loving It
Oh it really is becoming more and more fun! As you mix the colors together and make careful strokes on the page, you see an image appear. Different brushes provide different results and the picture is carefully laid onto the paper with each new stroke.

Then there comes that moment when the image is done, you can step back and say, I've finished!  It is new, it is unique and it is special!

That is the way God views us, unique, beautiful and spectacular, one of a kind original masterpieces and He placed every one of us on this planet for a unique purpose.

If you ever feel as though your life is pointless and that you have nothing to offer the world, stop that thought immediately! God loves every bit of you because He made you Himself! Ronwyn Hughes

Friday, August 19, 2016

Just Like Them

An argument broke out among them as to which one of them was the greatest. (Luke 9:46 NRS)

Just Like Them
It is too easy to judge the disciples for their blunders. They seemed at times ignorant, misunderstanding Jesus words regarding his purpose (Luke 9:45) or to engage in petty arguments about who would be the greatest amongst them in God’s Kingdom (Luke 9:46). They became jealous of another who caste out demons in Jesus’ name (Luke 9:40) when they themselves were unable to do so (Luke 9:49). At times their faith failed when they looked at surrounding circumstances rather than keeping their eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, (Matthew 14:30) and often they doubted what Jesus could do (Luke 8:24) when he was with them.

But today I want to read their story with empathy, not judgement. Yes, they stumbled, but don’t we? Believing that we are following Jesus, we still make mistakes and be blind to our shortcomings, just like the disciples.

And how does our Savior respond to our weakness, to our humanity? From conversations with his disciples we see that Jesus corrects and even rebukes (Luke 9:41, 55). Yet like a loving father who instructs his children, Jesus does so with our best interests at heart. We will get it wrong, only our Heavenly Father is perfect! Yet despite our human nature, He loves. He forgives. He understands. He remains faithful; even when we are not. Hallelujah! Jennifer Woodley

Father, thank you for your example in Jesus who demonstrated through his friendship with the disciples, that despite our failings, we can return to you to receive your love. Help us to remain true to you, in Jesus name. Amen.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Just Like a Child

“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15 NKJ)

Just Like a Child
Ever reminisce on your childhood days and wonder how life was easier and much simple back then? Happens to everyone. A songwriter expressed these words in his lyrics, “we sat down for a minute and grew up into men”. Adulthood may be an inevitable necessity that comes with responsibilities and adventures, but the heart of a child holds significant place in God’s kingdom, just as the scripture above reveals.

Mark 10:1-31 reveals a quest by four characters to inherit eternal life and enter God’s kingdom. They were the Pharisees, a rich young ruler, little children and even Jesus’ disciples — all of whom may have had different ideas on the approach to eternal life. We’ll look at each of them in that order.

The Pharisees were regarded as highly knowledgeable "keepers" of God’s law. They generally believed in a vast knowledge and ability to keep every detail of the Mosaic laws given in the old testament. While they may have regarded Jesus Christ as God-sent, they never really believed Him to be the messiah. Their questions were ultimately meant to test his knowledge of the law. The question bordered on the instant where divorce becomes lawful or unacceptable by God. But Jesus replied in verses 5-9 that divorce was not God’s will. It was a modification of the law by Moses because of the hardness of man’s heart. Obviously, little kids are not bothered about marriage, much more divorce! They have no in-depth knowledge of the law like the Pharisees, yet God sets them as a standard for His kingdom. All of our knowledge and ability to keep God’s laws does not guarantee us eternal life. No one can perfectly keep God’s laws on his own.

The rich young ruler approached Jesus humbly, in his quest for eternal life. Jesus sought his opinion on this subject by referring him to the commandments. Indeed, the young ruler could boast of keeping the commandments from his youth! The question is this; if he diligently kept all of the commandments as he indicated, why would he be uncertain of eternal life? And then Jesus gave him an answer that would see him walk away in sorrow. '21 Then Jesus looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “…sell whatever you have and give to the poor; and come, take up THE cross and follow me”. This was not a strict answer; the message was pretty much simple. Eternal life cannot be acquired by self-effort, or self-righteousness, or possessions, but can only be found in Jesus. Absolute faith in Jesus. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25.

It would be expected of the disciples (having spent more time with Jesus than any of the others) to have a better revelation of this reality, but it seemed contrary. Thank God that He meets us at the level of our faith. The disciples loved to have a part in God’s kingdom too (like everyone else), but perhaps, like the rich ruler, they must have presumed that you have eternal life by keeping the commandments. This is evident in their response to Jesus’ comment (v23/24) on how hard it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom. Apparently, Jesus had disqualified every means they thought was a guarantee of eternal life, so they were astonished and then murmured among themselves, “who then can be saved?” Jesus gave the ultimate answer to this mind-troubling question, “27 With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible”. He himself was God.

The little children were the favorites in this passage. The disciples must have had the impression that the front row in God’s kingdom was not meant for kids, hence they rebuked those who brought them to be touched by Jesus. On the contrary, Jesus pointed out that only those who are willing to receive the kingdom of God as a little child will enter it. How do little children receive? Remember again how things were less complicated as a child? That’s the heart of a kid receiving. They are entirely trusting and not bothered about their effort or performance. A young boy would trust Jesus with his entire lunch. A little servant girl would believe that the sick commander of a vast Syrian army would be healed in Israel without a price.

God wants us to trust and believe in Him with all of our hearts (not some part). He invites us into his kingdom and leads us all the way. We do not earn this invitation. We are granted this privilege only as a result of God's goodness. All we need do is believe and receive. Precieux Orhue

Friday, August 5, 2016

Just Keep Walking

Just Keep Walking
I don’t want to be “the Mom” today — the adult, the decision-maker, the one in charge, the one with calm and reassuring answers to fear-filled questions, the one who must rise this morning to face the aftermath of seven and a half inches of rain falling in less than two hours yesterday, flooding streets and basements, turning freeways, runways and parking lots into holding ponds and creating a sink hole that swallowed a stop light and a full-size SUV!

As three of my kids and I left the mall late yesterday afternoon, an eerie sky loomed in the west. Minutes later, fat mid-summer raindrops splattered the windshield, gaining momentum and quickly obscuring even the tail lights in front of us. “Mom,” asked my youngest daughter clearly worried, “can you see at all?”

“Enough,” I assured her, but the puddles were growing into pools and the farther we drove the worse it got. At one intersection, a river of water, mud and gravel surged across the road nearly bumper high. We made it through, but barely, and at the next intersection two men stood waist-deep in floodwater, waving their arms in warning. We couldn’t go back and we clearly couldn’t go on, so I did the only thing that came to mind and pulled my van into a stranger’s driveway, not out of the water, but still only inches deep.

“Leave everything in the van,” I told my kids, “and let’s go! We’re walking home!” Reaching for my youngest daughter’s hand, we crossed the road, and plunged thigh-deep into the culvert. In one sickening glance, I noticed my oldest daughter immobilized, shoes in hand, eyes wide, afraid to move, afraid to follow us one step into the floodwater. We didn’t have time for fear. We needed to climb the hill and get out of the storm. So I yelled her name, caught her eye, grabbed her hand, and dragged her in behind us. We were going home, and we were going there together. Then the sirens sounded.

“Mom,” yelled my terrified youngest child, “what are we going to do?”

“Keep walking,” I shouted, squeezing her hand. “Just keep walking.”

“Lord,” I pleaded, “are You kidding? Tornado sirens? Really??? Now?” If I hadn’t been living it, I’d never, ever have believed it.

Finally home, the night became a blur of sirens and severe storms. By morning, I was completely exhausted and had no desire to be in charge, but my husband was in Denver, one daughter had been stranded overnight with friends, and my oldest son had landed in Chicago en route from Guatemala and his third short term mission trip. Somebody had to be in charge and the only relatively qualified candidate was me.

Then I heard God whisper tenderly to my soul, “Oh, My weary child, rest in Me. My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” and suddenly the sufficiency of His love burst into brilliance, buoying my spirit and radiating light—just enough light—for my very next step. Just keep walking, I heard in my heart. It was enough, so much more than enough. It was exactly what I needed, for God absolutely always is! Cindee Snider Re

Friday, July 29, 2016

Joy Comes With the Morning

Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water. (Exodus 15:27 NIV)

Joy Comes With the Morning
Are you going through hardship and troubles? Take heart and trust on the Lord for your deliverance. Depend on the Lord and your cry in the night will be transformed to joy in the morning. It happened for the children of Israel, Naomi and Ruth, and for Paul and Barnabas.

After three days traveling through the desert without finding water, the children of Israel came to the waters of Mara. But they could not drink the water because it was bitter. After much complaining and grumbling on their part, Moses cried out to God. God showed Him a peace of wood that he threw into the water making it sweet. (This healing of bitter waters symbolizes the Lord the Healer’s or Jehovah Rapha’s deliverance from our spiritual and physical needs, if we trust and obey Him) Thereafter they came to Elim, a place of sweet waters and shade. 

Naomi accompanied her husband and sons to a far away land to escape famine. The sojourn brought so much bitterness to her soul after her husband and sons died that she said, “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” (Ruth 1:20)

But the seeds of God’s purpose and her joy followed her. She got a daughter in law Ruth who “loved her more than seven sons” (Ruth 4:15). She got her land back through Boaz the kinsman–redeemer. And she also got a grandson Obed, who would sustain her in her old age.

In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas preached effectively and boldly at Iconium. Even though many believed, they had to run for their lives after strong personalities threatened to have them mistreated and stoned. They fled to Lystra where despite miraculous healing of a cripple, they were misunderstood and plotted against. Paul was stoned and left for dead. (Who knows the surpassingly great revelations he was shown during this time? 2 Corinthians 12:7). However God healed him and they were able to proceed to Derbe where there is no record of their persecution. God was giving them rest. 

If we pray and trust in the Lord, He will heal us and provide for us. He will give us deliverance and rest. There will be an Elim after a Mara. So keep strong in the faith. Wangari Murathe

Friday, July 22, 2016

Joy Through Contentment

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)

Joy Through Contentment
I can’t tell you how many times throughout my life that I have read through these verses and not really given them any deeper thought other than thinking that Jesus gives me strength to do whatever it is I need to do. While that’s true, there’s something far deeper here than that.

Paul is one of the most powerful and influential people we find in Scripture, especially the New Testament. He goes from the extreme of murdering Christians to boldly proclaiming the name of Christ everywhere he went. Talk about a life change! What I find most appealing about Paul is how strength didn’t just come naturally to him.

One word here really sums this whole passage up, “learned”. As strong and bold as Paul was, there was so much learning he had to do before he became content. That’s a big word for us these days, “content”. Who is content? Are you? You may quickly mutter “yes”, but I would caution you before doing so. Look at your life and what you have and what you don’t have. Are you satisfied and happy with what God has given you even if there are some things you’d like to have, but don’t have now?

Paul really learned how to be content, whether he had much or very little. But that didn’t come easy. He had to learn through some very rough times. It’s all a part of learning and growing. None of us are perfect about it. However, if we continue to learn and grow and base our joy and strength on God and not what the world offers, we will truly learn how the Lord becomes our only source of joy and strength.

We all certainly need to learn how to be content, no matter the circumstances. I know I do! Being content is a daily struggle for me and I’m sure it’s for you all as well. For Paul, the joy of the Lord certainly became his strength. He was content, but it was only after years of growing through good and difficult times. We must learn and grow to be content with whatever we have or whatever we don’t have. The joy of the Lord should be our strength and we should be content with what He’s given to us. Zach Wood

Friday, July 15, 2016

Joy in the Fellowship of God

Joy in the Fellowship of God
Being thirsty is something all mankind has in common. The cool refreshing taste of water brings it own delight (Psalm 63:1-5).

I remember waking-up from a surgery which had required anesthetic. In the first moments of recovery I experienced the most awful taste in my mouth; feeling much like having my mouth filled with cotton. I longed for, and begged for, just a drop of water. The first taste of water was only a small piece of crushed ice. It was wonderful!

Recently, where I live we were fourteen inches below the yearly average for rain. The earth was parched and cracked. Grass was grown and ugly. Gardens had to be watered daily—or die. Dear one, as I observed the earth through the summer, I compared it to David’s Psalm. My soul without God is parched, cracked, brown and ugly. I must “water it” daily with the Word of God. Jesus promised He would give us “living water”—and He does. What a joy never to experience a “dry thirsty soul” again!

"... but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14 NKJ)

When David wrote this Psalm he expressed his desire for God as having a “thirsty soul.” He compared his life to a “dry and thirsty land”. David was in the wilderness of Judah when he wrote these words. He knew the meaning of thirst. He longed to be back in Jerusalem, to worship in the temple but he could not as he was in hiding from the rage of King Saul.

King David further expressed his search for God.

He meditated on Him day and night. He looked for Him in the sanctuary. He longed to see God’s power and glory. He found God’s loving-kindness to be better than life itself. In his search, He found God and was able to praise with his mouth and to lift his hands.

He found the satisfaction he was looking for—not in a place, not in an experience—but in a relationship with God. David said, “everyone who swears by Him shall glory!” What a relationship David developed with the Living God! E.J. Swanson

Father, Thank you for the “living water” that Jesus gives to my dry thirsty soul. Thank you for the relationship that is mine because of your loving-kindness, mercy and grace. Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Joshua the son of Nun

So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle. (Exodus 33:11 NKJ)

In any teaching relationship, there are two responsibilities: that of the teacher to teach and that of the student to listen. A teacher can spout wisdom now and then, but if he or she does not make a constant effort, even a willing pupil will learn nothing. Also, even if a teacher or mentor were to earnestly teach day and night, if the student is unwilling to listen then nothing will be learned. In order to be effective, the student-teacher relationship must be founded on a willingness to learn and to teach. Discipleship is no different: those who teach must choose to do so and not give up, and those being taught must be open to the Lord's Word and the wisdom of elders.

The relationship between Moses and Joshua is a wonderful case in point. Joshua was a young man when the Israelites set out for the Promised Land. We do not know what work he did in Egypt as a slave, but we can be sure he wasn't a soldier. And yet the very first mention of Joshua is when Moses tells him to lead an army against the Amalekites (Exodus 17:9). After God helped them defeat the Amalekites, the Lord said to Moses, "Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven" (Exodus 17:14). God wanted to make sure that Moses taught Joshua what was written in "the book"—what we now know as the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. And so Joshua's discipleship began with a battle and a lesson from God.

Joshua's willingness to do as he was told made him a great disciple. He went wherever Moses went, and he listened while Moses was busy with the Lord. When Moses went up the mountain to receive the law, Joshua went with him and waited on the mountainside for those forty days and nights. (Exodus 24:13) And when the Israelites got impatient waiting for Moses and made their golden calf and celebrated this new idol, although Moses first heard about it from the Lord, Joshua told Moses that he had heard something from the camp as he waited. (Exodus 32:17)

But it is today's verse that says the most about Joshua: he never left the tabernacle of the Lord. Why did Joshua stay there? He certainly didn't need to stay there to guard the Lord. No, Joshua undoubtedly stayed there so he would always be available to Moses or the Lord to do God's bidding. In Asian tradition, an apprentice or disciple lives with his master, stays in the same house, sleeps near his master, follows in his master's footsteps. Where did Joshua sleep? Near the Lord his God. Now THAT is a willing disciple.

When Jesus called four fisherman away from their boats to follow Him, it was a big leap of their tiny faith to go after Him and leave behind all they had known. It would take years of constant teaching—and several instances of trial and error—for them to learn some lessons. And even when the lessons got tough and seemed to fly in the face of what little they had known about the Lord, they stayed. Simon Peter summed it up best when he answered Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). The apostles had come so far and they had stayed with their Master because they wanted that life, they desired those words that Jesus spoke. They craved the gospel.

Joshua the son of Nun stayed with Moses because he loved the Lord and he knew that Moses had those words that would guide and teach him. He stayed near the tabernacle because there truly was nowhere else to go. As would be shown after the spies returned from the expedition to see the Promised Land, Joshua and Caleb would be abandoned even by their own kindred. (Exodus 14:2-4) To whom else would they go but to the Lord? When they finally crossed into that land forty years later and defeated the races there and divided it up among the tribes, Joshua said the thing which needed to be said:

Joshua 24:
14 "Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!
15 "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

span style="font-family: Trebuchet MS, sans-serif;">Joshua had always chosen the Lord, even when the odds seemed against him, even when all of Israel went the other way. Joshua stayed with his teacher Moses and lived at the tabernacle of his God, so that he would always be ready to serve the Lord.

We are all of us disciples of one sort or another, some of us newer to the Lord and some of us more mature in our faith. We are called by our Lord, "Follow Me," and it is to Him we must cling. Our earthly teachers deserve our attention and service, for they bring the words of life that come from the Lord. Our responsibility as disciples is to remain always available to the Lord our God, to always have our ears open and our hands ready. While others may faint along the way, while their faith may flag and strength may fail, and even when our own fears may start to get the better of us, we must hold fast to the teaching of our Master, Jesus Christ, and always remain where He is. We should be ready and willing to listen to the teaching of His chosen apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. As disciples, our lot is simply to serve the Lord. Let us therefore join Joshua and not depart from the tabernacle of God. Glenn Pettit

Lord God, to You I come for the words of life, for Your gospel alone can bring me salvation and eternal life. I will have many teachers in my life, and I willingly listen to the mentors You have given me, but Your will and Your ways are what I desire, and You alone do I serve. Therefore, Father, let me stay by Your tabernacle, always ready to serve You, always willing to teach and to be taught. Amen.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Joseph’s Work Ethic

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us-yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17 NIV)

Joseph was a great man and rose from the position of a slave to that of a prime minister. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Lives of great people all remind us we can make our lives sublime; and, departing, leave behind us footprints in the sand of time.” What footprints did Joseph leave? His story is told in Genesis Chapters 37-50.

Joseph had a noble character. He was obedient, faithful, and diligent in his work. When he was sent by his father to check on how his brothers were faring, he searched far and wide from Sechem where Jacob thought they were grazing the animals to Dothan, many kilometers away. And even as a slave and as a prisoner he worked hard at whatever he was tasked to do and was put in charge because his supervisors saw that saw that “the LORD gave him success in everything he did” (Genesis 39:3).

Joseph was not embittered by the betrayal of his brothers who sold him into slavery or even wrongful imprisonment arising out of Potiphar’s wife false accusation. He worked with diligence as Potiphar’s slave and at every task he was given in prison. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23). We learn from him that hard work is a pathway to peace and inner joy. “Any mans life will be filled with constant and unexpected encouragement if he makes up his mind to do his level best each day” —Booker T. Washington.

Joseph showed us that wherever we work we should work with a conscience. He showed us how to resist and deal with temptation and not compromise our integrity. Faced with sexual harassment from Potiphar’s wife, he tried as much as possible to avoid her and fled when confronted. He was faithful and true to his master who had placed so much responsibility and trust on him. Though he suffered imprisonment for sticking up to his morality, he did it because there is a higher court of justice which supersedes all other courts: that of God. A free conscience supersedes fleeting happiness and material gains.

Joseph was kind and caring. One morning when he noticed that two of his co-prisoners - the cupbearer and master baker were dejected, he offered to help them. “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as you ever can.” John Wesley. Two years later, this act of kindness led him to interpret Pharaoh’s dream and onto his high position of authority. “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”. Aesop. His humility was shown in his advice to Pharaoh. He did not even suggest himself as the man with the spirit of God. He just told Pharaoh to get “a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt (Genesis 41:33). In all his accomplishments including his power to interpret dreams, he gave all the glory to God. “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” Genesis 46:16. Do you give God all the Glory for all he has enabled you to do?

Joseph was magnanimous and forgiving of his brothers who had done him great harm. He worked for their reconciliation. He chose to believe that God always works for the good of those who trust in him, He said, says, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you (Genesis 45:5). “Forgiveness is a funny thing. It warms the heart and cools the sting”. William Arthur Ward. Such faith in God was his source of joy and security even in the midst of all his tribulations.

There is a reason why you are where you are. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) Wangari Murathe

“I love the man that can smile in trouble that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. It’s the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.” —Thomas Paine 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Joseph a Picture of Jesus

One of the clearest pictures of Jesus in the Old Testament is Joseph. Rejected and left for dead by his brothers, Joseph ends up saving his brothers, never once condemning them. He loved them, showing them mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Yet there was underlying unbelief. 

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”  So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died:  ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” (Gen 50:15-17a ESV) 

The brothers lack of belief in Joseph's forgiveness, led to the fear of punishment and the outward symptom of sin, lying in their father’s name. How did Joseph react? 

... Joseph wept ... (Gen 50:17b) 

Joseph wept because he had already fully forgiven them. Yet after years of loving kindness towards them, they still lived in unbelief. 

The Bibles tells us that those who really believe they have been forgiven by God, will produce the fruits of virtue, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love as listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7. If we lack these, 2 Peter 1:9 states we have forgotten we have been forgiven. In addition, Luke 7:47 states only those who believe they have been forgiven much, love much (Gal 5:14 Romans 13:8-10). 

All of us have been forgiven much. Jesus weeps if we are in unbelief, knowing the fear of punishment leads to sin, just like with Joseph’s brothers. 

Let God’s perfect love cast out unbelief and the fear of punishment (1 John 4:17-19). Michael Edwards


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