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  #1171  
Old 10-21-2011, 01:04 AM
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Default Oct. 21

eart At A Time

October 21, 2011

Read: Philemon 1:12-22

. . . no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother. —Philemon 1:16

Quaker John Woolman was an itinerant preacher who waged his own personal campaign to end slavery in colonial America. Woolman met with slave-holders to speak of the injustice of holding other human beings as property. Although Woolman did not eradicate slavery completely, he did persuade many masters to free their slaves. His success was due to individual, personal persuasion.

The book of Philemon contains a similar one-on-one appeal. Onesimus was a runaway slave who had escaped from his Christian master Philemon. Onesimus had come to faith through Paul’s ministry, and now Paul was sending him back to Philemon with these words: “Perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother” (vv.15-16). Although we don’t know if Onesimus was set free from slavery, his new faith in Jesus had changed his relationship with his Christian master. He was now also a brother in Christ. Paul was influencing his world one heart at a time.

By the transforming power of the gospel, people and situations can change. Like Woolman and like Paul, let’s seek to influence our world one heart at a time.

If I can help some wounded heart,
If I can by my love impart
Some blessing that will help more now—
Lord, just show me how. —Brandt

The kindest thing you can do for another is to show him the truth.
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  #1172  
Old 10-22-2011, 02:08 AM
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Default Oct. 22

So Long

October 22, 2011

Read: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

[Do not] sorrow as others who have no hope. —1 Thessalonians 4:13

My grandfather refused to say “goodbye”; he felt the word was too final. So, when we would drive away after family visits, his farewell ritual was always the same. Standing in front of the green ferns that lined his house, he would wave and call out, “So long”!

As believers, we never have to say “goodbye” to the ones we love, as long as they have placed their trust in Jesus as Savior. The Bible promises that we will see them again.

The apostle Paul said that we should not “sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13), because when Jesus returns, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves and—together with the believers who are still alive—will meet the Lord in the air (vv.15-17). We have confidence that one day in heaven there will be “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Rev. 21:4). It’s in that wonderful place that “we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

Christians have the hope of an eternal reunion with Christ and with believing loved ones who have passed away. That’s why Paul exhorted us to “comfort one another with these words” (v.18). Today, encourage someone with the hope that allows us to say “so long,” instead of “goodbye.”

Beyond the sunset, O glad reunion
With our dear loved ones who’ve gone before;
In that fair homeland we’ll know no parting—
Beyond the sunset forevermore. —Brock

At death, God’s people don’t say “Goodbye,”
but “We’ll see you later.”
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  #1173  
Old 10-23-2011, 04:53 AM
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Default Oct. 23

He Guards Me Well

October 23, 2011

Read: John 10:7-15

I lay down My life for the sheep. —John 10:15

During the quiet moments before a Sunday morning service, the organist played a hymn that was new to me. I turned to the page noted in the hymnal and read the words of the song “The Lord My Shepherd Guards Me Well,” a beautiful paraphrase of Psalm 23:

The Lord my Shepherd guards me well,
And all my wants are fed:
Amid green pastures made to lie,
Beside still waters led.
My care-worn soul grows strong and whole
When God’s true path I tread.

No matter how often we read or hear the familiar 23rd Psalm, it seems to come with a fresh message of God’s care for us.

Though I should walk in darkest ways
Through valleys like the grave,
No evil shall I ever fear;
Your presence makes me brave.
On my behalf Your rod and staff
Assure me You will save. (© Hope Publishing Co.)

This image was familiar to the people who heard Jesus say, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Unlike a hired person who runs away from danger, the true shepherd stays with the sheep to protect them. “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd . . . sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees . . . . I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep” (vv.12-14).

No matter what you’re facing today, Jesus knows your name, He knows the danger, and He will not leave your side. You can say with confidence: The Lord my Shepherd guards me well!

The Lamb who died to save us
is the Shepherd who lives to lead us.
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  #1174  
Old 10-24-2011, 03:54 AM
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Default Oct. 24

Stuck In The Mire

October 24, 2011

Read: Jeremiah 20:7-13

His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back. —Jeremiah 20:9

Jeremiah has been called “the weeping prophet.” He may have had a sensitive and melancholic disposition that was compounded by his heartbreak over God’s judgment on disobedient Israel. His capacity for sorrow is amazing: “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night!” (Jer. 9:1).

As if sorrow for his nation were not enough, Jeremiah was persecuted for his prophetic message of judgment. In one instance, Jeremiah was imprisoned in a cistern filled with mire (Jer. 38:6). Opposition to his ministry had gotten the great prophet stuck in a place of despair.

Sometimes in our attempts to serve the Lord, we can feel stuck in painful circumstances and surprising heartache. But the prophet’s resilience should inspire us to persevere. Jeremiah’s sense of divine call was so strong that he could not be deterred from serving the Lord. “But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not” (Jer. 20:9).

Have the results of your service for the Lord been disappointing? Ask Him to renew your heart by His Spirit, and continue to serve God despite your setbacks.

Be not weary in your serving;
Do your best for those in need;
Kindnesses will be rewarded
By the Lord who prompts the deed. —Anon.

No service for Christ is insignificant.
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  #1175  
Old 10-25-2011, 03:09 AM
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Default Oct. 25

Poetic Justice

October 25, 2011

Read: Esther 3:1-11; 7:1-10

“Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. —Romans 12:19

For nearly a year, a former publishing colleague lived under a cloud of fear that he would be fired. A new boss in the department, for reasons unknown, began filling his personnel file with negative comments. Then, on the day my friend expected to lose his job, the new boss was fired instead.

When the Israelites were taken as captives to Babylon, a Jew named Mordecai found himself in this kind of situation. Haman, the highest noble of King Xerxes, expected every royal official to kneel down and honor him, but Mordecai refused to bow to anyone but God (Est. 3:1-2). This outraged Haman and he set out to destroy not only Mordecai but every Jew in the whole Persian empire (vv.5-6). Haman convinced Xerxes to sign a decree authorizing the destruction of all Jews and started building a gallows for the execution of Mordecai (5:14). But, in a startling turn of events, Haman was executed on the gallows he had built for Mordecai, and the Jewish people were spared (7:9-10; 8).

In literature, this is called poetic justice. Not everyone gets justice in such dramatic fashion, but Scripture promises that God will one day avenge all injustice (Rom. 12:19). While we wait, we are to do what we can to work for justice and leave the results in God’s hands.

The call for justice must be strong
To show what’s right, to thwart what’s wrong,
But let’s reject the smallest part
Of vengeance harbored in the heart. —D. De Haan

The scales of Divine justice always balance—
if not here, then hereafter.
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  #1176  
Old 10-26-2011, 12:46 AM
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Default Oct. 26

Divine Appointments

October 26, 2011

Read: Acts 16:9-31

Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. —Acts 16:25

Have you ever been stuck in an airport? For 24 hours? In a city where you can’t speak the language? Four thousand miles from home?

It happened to a friend recently, and we can learn from his response. While most of us would find such an inconvenience intolerable, my friend John saw God’s hand in his delay. As he waited out his forced stay, he looked for opportunities to connect with fellow passengers. He “happened” to find some fellow Christians from India—and in talking to them he heard about a ministry they were involved with. In fact, because John’s interests matched his new friends’ ministry, they invited him to India to participate in a short-term project.

How often do we experience delays, changes of plans, and redirections and treat them as intrusions? It could be that God is detouring us so we can do something different or new for Him. Consider Paul’s trip to Philippi in Acts 16. He had gone to Macedonia because of a God-directed vision (vv.9-10). How could he know that he would end up in prison there? But even that trip to jail was God-led, because He used Paul to bring salvation to a jailer and his family (vv.25-34).

God can use inconveniences in our lives if we look at them as divine appointments.

“Disappointment—His appointment,”
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me. —Young

God can turn obstacles into opportunities.
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  #1177  
Old 10-27-2011, 03:15 AM
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Default Oct. 27

Zero Tolerance

October 27, 2011

Read: Leviticus 19:11-18

You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people. —Leviticus 19:16

When Shayla McKnight applied for a job for an online printing company, she was surprised to learn that they had a zero-tolerance policy for gossip. The employees are encouraged to confront one another, instead of gossip about their fellow employees. If employees are caught gossiping, they are reprimanded, and if they continue, they are fired.

Long before this kind of policy was ever implemented by a company, God spoke of His own zero-tolerance policy for gossip and slander among His people (Lev. 19:16). Idle talk that foolishly or maliciously spreads rumors or facts about another person was forbidden.

Solomon said that speaking badly of others could have disastrous effects. It betrays confidence (Prov. 11:13), separates close friends (16:28; 17:9), shames and saddles you with a bad reputation (25:9-10), and perpetually fuels the embers of a quarrel (26:20-22). People rarely can undo the damage their untrue words have done to a neighbor.

Let’s ask the Lord to help us not to engage in harmful talk about others. He wants us to set a guard over our mouths so that we’ll instead speak all the good we know about everybody.

Many things that others say
Are not for us to tell;
Help us, Lord, to watch our tongue—
We need to guard it well. —Branon

Destroy gossip by ignoring it.
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  #1178  
Old 10-28-2011, 12:00 AM
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Default Oct. 28

October 28, 2011

Read: Psalm 131

The secret things belong to the Lord our God. —Deuteronomy 29:29

Recently I read Psalm 131, one of my favorite psalms. In the past, I viewed it as an encouragement to understand that mystery is one of the hallmarks of God’s character. It challenged me to let my mind be at rest, since I am unable to understand all that God is doing in His universe.

But then I saw another side of David’s calm spirit: I am unable to understand all that God is doing in me, and it is impossible to try.

David draws a comparison between a weaned child that no longer frets for what it once demanded, and a soul that has learned the same lesson. It is a call to learn humility, patient endurance, and contentment in all my circumstances—whatever they are—though I do not understand God’s reasons. Divine logic is beyond the grasp of my mind.

I ask, “Why this affliction? Why this anguish?” The Father answers, “Hush, child. You wouldn’t understand if I explained it to you. Just trust Me!”

So, I turn from contemplating David’s example to ask myself: Can I, in my circumstances, “hope in the Lord”? (v.3). Can I wait in faith and patience without fretting and without questioning God’s wisdom? Can I trust Him while He works in me His good, acceptable, and perfect will?

It may not be for me to see
The meaning and the mystery
Of all that God has planned for me
Till “afterward”! —Anon.

In a world of mystery, it’s a comfort
to know the God who knows all things.
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  #1179  
Old 10-29-2011, 03:46 AM
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Default Oct. 29

The Right Ingredients

October 29, 2011

Read: Matthew 22:34-39; 28:16-20

Always be ready to give a defense . . . with meekness. —1 Peter 3:15

Although my culinary skills remain undeveloped, occasionally I use a box of premixed ingredients to make a cake. After adding eggs, vegetable oil, and water, I stir it all together. To bake a palate-pleasing cake, it’s vital to have the correct balance of the right ingredients. That helps me picture the relationship of the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:36-38) and the Great Commission (28:19-20) as we spread the gospel.
When Jesus told His followers to go and make disciples of all nations, He did not give them permission to be rude and uncaring as they did so. His own citing of the “first and great commandment”—to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind—was quickly followed by the call to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39). Throughout the New Testament, we find this model of compassionate, respectful living restated many places, including “the love chapter” (1 Cor. 13) and Peter’s instruction to give a reason for the hope within us “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV).
In our eagerness to share Christ with others, we must always include a healthy balance of those two ingredients—the true gospel and godly love. This wonderfully sweet cake bakes best in the warmth of God’s love.

Lord, help me to love with both words and deeds,
To reach out to sinners and meet their needs;
Lord, burden my heart for those lost in sin,
With mercy and love that flows from within. —Fitzhugh
They witness best who witness with their lives.
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  #1180  
Old 10-30-2011, 03:50 AM
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Default Oct. 30

Father Of Lies

October 30, 2011

Read: John 8:37-47

When [the devil] speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. —John 8:44

Satan’s sway over mankind began when he turned the minds of Adam and Eve against God. In order to pull it off, he had to lie to them about God—and they had to fall for it. In that defining moment, he lied to them about God’s goodness, God’s Word, and God’s intentions (Gen. 3:1-6).
Satan is still up to his old tricks. Jesus said that when the devil “speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar” (John 8:44). It should not be surprising, then, that when trouble interrupts our lives, the father of lies whispers in our ears and suddenly we are questioning God’s goodness. When we are told to follow His commands, we wonder if His Word is really true in the first place. When Jesus tells us things like, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matt. 6:19), Satan tells us that the good life is about piling up things here, causing us to doubt God’s good intentions.
Our problem is that we, like Adam and Eve, believe Satan’s lies. And when we do, our loyalty to God is compromised. Then our enemy slithers off to his next assignment, leaving us alone to face our regrets and the realization that his lies have seduced us away from our truest and dearest Friend. Who have you been listening to lately?

Satan can catch you by surprise
And stop you in your tracks,
So keep on guard and trust God’s Word,
Resist his strong attacks. —Branon
The power of Satan is no match for the power of God’s Word.
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