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  #1131  
Old 09-11-2011, 04:32 AM
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Default Sep. 11

The Mercy Of God

September 11, 2011

Read: Psalm 31:9-15

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye wastes away with grief, yes, my soul and my body! —Psalm 31:9

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001. It’s hard to think about that date without mental images of the destruction, grief, and loss that swept over America and the world following those tragic events. The loss of thousands of lives was compounded by the depth of loss felt corporately—a lost sense of security as a country. The sorrow of loss, personal and corporate, will always accompany the memory of the events of that day.

Those horrific events are not the only painful memories of September 11. It also marks the anniversary of my father-in-law’s death. Jim’s loss is felt deeply within our family and his circle of friends.

No matter what kind of sorrow we experience, there is only one real comfort—the mercy of God. David, in his own heartache, cried to his heavenly Father, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye wastes away with grief, yes, my soul and my body!” (Ps. 31:9). Only in the mercy of God can we find comfort for our pain and peace for our troubled hearts.

In all losses, we can turn to the true Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who alone can heal our brokenness and grief.



We have a Friend who’ll never leave,
Who’s closer than a brother;
He’s there to meet our deepest needs,
To comfort like no other. —Sper





When God permits suffering, He also provides comfort.
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  #1132  
Old 09-12-2011, 01:26 AM
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Default Sep. 12

Blessed Assurance

September 12, 2011

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. —2 Corinthians 5:8

As I was talking with a gentleman whose wife had died, he shared with me that a friend said to him, “I’m sorry you lost your wife.” His reply? “Oh, I haven’t lost her; I know exactly where she is!”

To some this may seem like a rather bold or even flippant assertion. With so many after-death theories, one might wonder how we can be really sure where our loved ones go after death, let alone where we ourselves will end up.

Yet, confidence is appropriate for followers of Jesus Christ. We have the assurance from God’s Word that when we die we will immediately be with our Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Thankfully, this is more than just wishful thinking. It is grounded in the historic reality of Jesus, who came and died to cancel our penalty for sin so that we could receive eternal life (Rom. 6:23). He then proved that there was life after death by exiting His grave and ascending into heaven where, as He promised, He is preparing a place for us (John 14:2).

So, rejoice! Since the benefits of this reality are out of this world, we can boldly say with Paul that “we are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).



Lord, when I take my final breath
And see You face to face in death,
Then shall my heart forever sing
The heavenly praises of my King. —Raniville





For the follower of Jesus, death means heaven,
happiness, and Him.
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  #1133  
Old 09-12-2011, 11:35 PM
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Default Sep. 13

Character Amnesia

September 13, 2011

Read: Job 1:13-22

There was a man . . . whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. —Job 1:1

It seems that young people in China are beginning to forget how to write the characters that comprise the beautiful calligraphy of their traditional language. Some are calling the phenomenon “character amnesia.” Heavy usage of computers and smart phones often means that writing is neglected and some can no longer remember the characters they learned in childhood. One young man said, “People don’t write anything by hand anymore except for [their] name and address.”

Some people appear to have “character amnesia” of a different sort. When faced with a dilemma, they seem to “forget” the right thing to do and instead choose the easy way out.

God called Job “a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). God allowed Satan to take everything Job had—his children, his wealth, and his health. But despite his heart-wrenching circumstances, Job refused to curse God. “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (v.22). Satan had challenged God’s assertion of Job’s blameless character, but he was proven wrong.

Character amnesia? No. Character is who we are; it’s not something we “forget.” Those who have a loss of character make a choice.



It isn’t the tranquil and placid seas
That bring out the sailor’s skill;
It’s the wind and waves that pound his ship
And toss it about at will. —Ritter





When wealth is gone, little is lost; when health is gone, something is lost; but when character is gone, all is lost!
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  #1134  
Old 09-13-2011, 10:52 PM
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Default Sep. 14

Rising To The Top

September 14, 2011

Read: 1 Samuel 15:17-30

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit. —Philippians 2:3

“Lacks ambition.” That is not a phrase you want to see on your performance review. When it comes to work, employees who lack ambition seldom rise to the top of an organization. Without a strong desire to achieve something, nothing is accomplished. Ambition, however, has a dark side. It often has more to do with elevating self than with accomplishing something noble for others.

This was the case with many of the kings of Israel, including the first one. Saul started out with humility, but he gradually came to consider his position as something that belonged to him. He forgot that he had a special assignment from God to lead His chosen people in a way that would show other nations the way to God. When God relieved him of duty, Saul’s only concern was for himself (1 Sam. 15:30).

In a world where ambition often compels people to do whatever it takes to rise to positions of power over others, God calls His people to a new way of living. We are to do nothing out of selfish ambition (Phil. 2:3) and to lay aside the weight of sin that ensnares us (Heb. 12:1).

If you want to be someone who truly “rises up,” make it your ambition to humbly love and serve God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).







Rise up, O men of God!

Have done with lesser things:

Give heart and mind and soul and strength

To serve the King of kings. —Merrill
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  #1135  
Old 09-14-2011, 11:34 PM
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Default Sep. 15

Heavy Lifting

September 15, 2011

Read: Matthew 11:25-30

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden. —Matthew 11:28

One day I found my son straining to lift a pair of four-pound barbells over his head—an ambitious feat for a toddler. He had raised them only a few inches off the ground, but his eyes were determined and his face was pink with effort. I offered to help, and together we heaved the weight up toward the ceiling. The heavy lifting that was so hard for him was easy for me.

Jesus has this perspective on the stuff that’s hard for us to manage. When life seems like a carousel of catastrophes, Jesus isn’t fazed by a fender-bender, troubled by a toothache, or harassed by a heated argument—even if it all happens in one day! He can handle anything, and that is why He said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden” (Matt. 11:28).

Are you worn out from ongoing problems? Are you weighed down with stress and worry? Jesus is the only real solution. Approaching the Lord in prayer allows us to cast our burdens on Him so that He can sustain us (Ps. 55:22). Today, ask Him to assist you with everything. By helping you with your burdens, He can supply rest for your soul, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:29-30).



O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer. —Scriven





Prayer is the place where burdens change shoulders.
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  #1136  
Old 09-16-2011, 12:35 AM
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Default Sep. 16

Be An Armor-Bearer

September 16, 2011

Read: 1 Samuel 14:1-14

Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you. —1 Samuel 14:7

The Israelites and the Philistines were at war. While Saul relaxed under a pomegranate tree with his men, Jonathan and his armor-bearer left camp quietly to see if the Lord would work on their behalf, believing that “nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few” (1 Sam. 14:6).

Jonathan and his helper were about to cross a path between two high cliffs. Armed enemy soldiers were stationed above them on both sides. They were two men against who knows how many. When Jonathan suggested they climb up after them, the armor-bearer never flinched. “Do all that is in your heart,” he told Jonathan. “I am with you, according to your heart” (v.7). So the two climbed the cliff, and with God’s help they overcame the enemy (vv.8-14). We have to admire this courageous young armor-bearer. He lugged the armor up that cliff and stayed with Jonathan, following along behind and killing those Jonathan wounded.

The church needs strong leaders to face our spiritual foes, but they must not be left to face them alone. They need the help and support of everyone in the congregation—loyal “armor-bearers” like you and me who are willing to join them in battle against the “enemy of our souls.”



We give the help that pastors need
For burdens they must bear
When we entrust them to the Lord
And hold them up in prayer. —D. De Haan





Leaders are their best when people get behind them.
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  #1137  
Old 09-17-2011, 02:53 AM
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Default Sep. 17

No Reverse

September 17, 2011


Read: Exodus 16:1-12

You shall know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt. —Exodus 16:6


The first time I saw her, I fell in love. She was a beauty. Sleek. Clean. Radiant. As soon as I spied the 1962 Ford Thunderbird at the used-car lot, her shiny exterior and killer interior beckoned me. I knew this was the car for me. So I plunked down $800 and purchased my very first car.
But there was a problem lurking inside my prized possession. A few months after I bought my T-Bird, it suddenly became particular about which way I could go. It allowed me to go forward, but I couldn’t go backward. It had no reverse.
Although not having reverse is a problem in a car, sometimes it’s good for us to be a little like my old T-Bird. We need to keep going forward—without the possibility of putting life into reverse. In our walk with Jesus, we need to refuse to go backward. Paul said it simply: We need to “press toward the goal” (Phil. 3:14).
Perhaps the children of Israel could have used my T-Bird’s transmission. We read in Exodus 16 that they were in danger of putting life into reverse. Despite the many miracles God had performed, they longed for Egypt and failed to trust that He could guide them forward.
We need to keep moving ahead in our walk with God. Don’t back up. Look forward. Press on.

*
When long and steep the path appears
Or heavy is the task,
Our Father says, “Press on, My child;
One step is all I ask.” —D. De Haan
*
*
When facing a crisis, trust God and move forward.
*
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  #1138  
Old 09-18-2011, 03:23 AM
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Default Sep. 18

Daddy!

September 18, 2011

Read: 2 Kings 19:10-19

Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see. —2 Kings 19:16

Twenty-month-old James was leading his family confidently through the hallways of their large church. His daddy kept an eye on him the whole time as James toddled his way through the crowd of “giants.” Suddenly the little boy panicked because he could not see his dad. He stopped, looked around, and started to cry, “Daddy, Daddy!” His dad quickly caught up with him and little James reached up his hand, which Daddy strongly clasped. Immediately James was at peace.
Second Kings tells the story of King Hezekiah who reached up to God for help (19:15). Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, had made threats against Hezekiah and the people of Judah, saying, “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you . . . . You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by utterly destroying them; and shall you be delivered?” (vv.10-11). King Hezekiah went to the Lord and prayed for deliverance so “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God” (vv.14-19). In answer to his prayer, the angel of the Lord struck down the enemy, and Sennacherib withdrew (vv.20-36).
If you’re in a situation where you need God’s help, reach up your hand to Him in prayer. He has promised His comfort and help (2 Cor. 1:3-4; Heb. 4:16).

*
When serving the Lord and you lose your way,
Just hold out your hand and let Jesus lead;
He’ll come to your aid, and you’ll hear Him say,
I’ll show you the way and meet every need. —Hess
*
*
God’s dawn of deliverance often comes
when the hour of trial is darkest.
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  #1139  
Old 09-19-2011, 12:26 AM
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Default Sep. 19

Seasons Of Ups And Downs

September 19, 2011

Read: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. —Ecclesiastes 3:4

Most of us would agree that life has its ups and downs. Wise King Solomon believed this and reflected on our responses to fluctuating circumstances. In Ecclesiastes, he wrote: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (3:1-4).

Solomon’s father, David, was called “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22). Yet David’s life illustrates how life is filled with seasons of ups and downs. David wept over his and Bathsheba’s first child who was fatally ill (2 Sam. 12:22). Yet he also wrote songs of praise and joyous laughter (Ps. 126:1-3). With the death of his rebellious son Absalom, David experienced a time of deep mourning (2 Sam. 18:33). And when the ark was brought to Jerusalem, David, in spiritual ecstasy, danced before the Lord (2 Sam. 6:12-15).

We do a disservice to ourselves and others when we portray the Christian life as peaceful and happy all the time. Instead, the Bible portrays the believer’s life as consisting of seasons of ups and downs. In what season are you? Whether a time of joy or sadness, each season should motivate us to seek the Lord and trust Him.



Dear Lord, help us to turn to You not only in sadness
but also in joy. We know You give us both good times
and bad to draw us to You and help us grow.
May we learn to trust You in all seasons of life. Amen.





Every season needs faith to get us through it.
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  #1140  
Old 09-20-2011, 12:07 AM
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Default Sep. 20

Are You Ready?

September 20, 2011

Read: 2 Peter 3:1-13

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. —2 Peter 3:9

Many will remember the fall season of 2008 as the beginning of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of 1929. In the months to follow, many lost their jobs, homes, and investments. In a BBC interview a year later, Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve, indicated that the average person doesn’t believe it will happen again. He said, “That is the unquenchable capability of human beings when confronted with long periods of prosperity to presume that it will continue.”

Assuming that things will continue as they always have is not just 21st-century-type thinking. In the first century, Peter wrote of people who thought that life would continue as it was and that Jesus would not return. He said, “Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). Jesus said He would come back, but the people continued to live in disobedience as though He would never return. But His delay is only because of God’s patience with us, for He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (v.9).

Paul tells us that Christians ought to live “soberly, right*eously, and godly” in the light of Christ’s certain return. (Titus 2:12). Are you ready to meet Him?



Faithful and true would He find us here
If He should come today?
Watching in gladness and not in fear,
If He should come today? —Morris





Jesus may come any time, so we should be ready all the time.
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