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  #1271  
Old 01-28-2012, 03:02 AM
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Default Jan. 28

Feeding Frenzy

January 28, 2012

Read: Matthew 5:1-12

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. —Matthew 5:7

People who study sharks tell us that they are most likely to attack when they sense blood in the water. The blood acts as a trigger to their feeding mechanism and they attack, often in a group, creating a deadly feeding frenzy. Blood in the water marks the vulnerability of the target.
Sadly, this is sometimes how people in the church respond to those who are hurting. Instead of being a community where people are loved, cared for, and nurtured, it can become a dangerous environment where predators are looking for the “blood in the water” of someone’s failings or faults. And then the feeding frenzy is on.
Instead of kicking people when they are down, we should be offering the encouragement of Christ by helping to restore the fallen. Of course, we’re not to condone sinful behavior, but our Lord calls us to display mercy. He said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7). Mercy has been described as not getting what we deserve, and we all deserve eternal judgment. The same God who shows us mercy in Christ calls us to show mercy to one another.
So when we see “blood in the water,” let’s seek to show mercy. The day may come when we will want someone to show mercy to us!

Lord, help us to be merciful
To those who fall in sin,
Remembering You rescued us
And cleansed us from within. —Sper
We can stop showing mercy to others
when Christ stops showing mercy to us.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #1272  
Old 01-29-2012, 05:20 AM
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Default Jan. 29

Genuine Friends

January 29, 2012

Read: John 15:9-17

No longer do I call you servants, . . . but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. —John 15:15

Experts who track the changing vocabulary of the English language chose unfriend as the New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year for 2009. They defined it as a verb, “to remove someone as a friend on a social networking Web site,” such as Facebook. On that site, friends allow each other to access the personal information on their Facebook pages. They may never meet face to face or even exchange greetings online. In our world of fleeting cyber acquaintances, we are beginning to realize that having a true friend means more now than ever before.
When Jesus called His disciples “friends” (John 15:15), He spoke of a unique relationship involving mutual commitment. He was only hours from laying down His life (v.13), and He asked them to show their friendship by keeping His commands (v.14). Most astonishing, perhaps, is Jesus’ statement: “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (v.15).
In a genuine friendship, one’s faithfulness can shore up the other’s in times of discouragement or fear. That is what Jesus is to us—our always faithful, forever Friend.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Hallelujah! What a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end. —Chapman
The dearest friend on earth
is but a mere shadow compared to Jesus.
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  #1273  
Old 01-30-2012, 05:11 AM
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Default Jan. 30

When The Wind Blows

January 30, 2012

Read: Romans 8:26-30

Blessed be the . . . God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation. —2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Harold and Cathy and their two sons were in a wooded area in Minnesota when a tornado touched down. Cathy described her experience to me several years later:
“My husband and older son were some distance away, but my younger son and I took cover in a cabin. We heard a sound like a hundred railroad cars and instinctively dropped to the floor in a tucked position. The cabin began to break apart, and I shut my eyes because of all the flying debris. It felt like I was going up in an elevator and then was shot into the air. I landed in a lake and clung to debris to stay afloat.”
Tragically, however, their younger son did not survive. Harold said of their loss: “We cried every day for 6 weeks. But we believe that God’s loving sovereignty allowed that tornado to come down where we were. And we also took comfort in the fact that our son knew the Lord.”
When a loved one is taken and we are left behind, it can create all kinds of questions. In times like these, Romans 8:28 can be of great encouragement: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This couple’s trust in God’s loving sovereignty brought them comfort in the midst of their grief (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

When we sustain a heartbreaking loss,
When grief overwhelms our soul,
The Savior who gave Himself on the cross
Reminds us that He’s in control. —D. De Haan
Our greatest comfort in sorrow is to know that God is in control.
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  #1274  
Old 01-31-2012, 03:24 AM
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Default Jan. 31

Prince Of Peace

January 31, 2012

Read: John 14:25-31

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. —John 14:27

Years ago I came to know a young man who rode with a motorcycle gang. He had grown up on a mission field where his parents served. When his family returned to the US, he seemed unable to adjust to life. He lived a troubled existence and was killed in a street fight with a rival gang.

I’ve helped at many funeral services, but this was by far the most memorable. It was held in a park where there is a natural grassy bowl surrounding a small lake. His friends parked their bikes in a circle and sat on the grass around a friend and me while we conducted the service. We spoke simply and briefly about peace among warring factions and the inner peace that Jesus’ love can bring.

Afterward, a motorcycle gang member thanked us, started to walk away, but then turned back. I’ve never forgotten his words. He said that he had “a putt, a pad, and an old lady” (a bike, apartment, and girlfriend), and then added, “But I ain’t got no peace.” So we talked about Jesus who is our peace.

Whether we’ve got a chopper or a Cadillac, a mansion or a tiny apartment, a loved one or no one—it makes no difference. Without Jesus, there is no peace. He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you” (John 14:27). This gift is for all who trust in Him. Have you asked for His peace?

Lord, I want to have peace in my life.
To be at peace with You, with others, and with myself.
Your Word says that comes from You.
Please give me Your gift of peace. Amen.

Jesus died in our place to give us His peace.
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  #1275  
Old 02-01-2012, 03:27 AM
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Default Feb. 1

The Spirit Of Christmas

February 1, 2012

Read: Luke 1:31-41

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you. —Luke 1:35

The acts of generosity and good will that flourish in December often fade quickly, causing many to say, “I wish we could keep the Christmas spirit all year long.” Why does it seem that kindness and compassion are chained to the calendar? Is there an ever-flowing fountain of compassion deeper than warm holiday feelings that pass with the season?

In the first two chapters of Luke, it is striking that the Holy Spirit is mentioned seven times. His work is cited in the lives of the unborn John the Baptist (1:15), Mary (1:35), Elizabeth (1:41), Zacharias (1:67), and Simeon (2:25-27). Here, in what we often call “the Christmas story,” there is no mention of people having something just come to mind or of feeling strangely moved. Instead, the Holy Spirit is identified as the One who guided Simeon, filled Zacharias and Elizabeth, and created the baby in Mary’s womb.

Do we, like them, recognize the Spirit’s voice in the midst of all others? Are we alert to His promptings and eager to obey? Will we allow His warmth and love to fill our hearts and flow through our hands?

Today, the presence and power of Christ remain with us through the Holy Spirit, who is the true, eternal Spirit of Christmas—all year long.

Let the fullness of Thy Spirit
Fall upon us here this hour.
How we need a new anointing
Of the Holy Ghost and power. —Jarvis

Jesus went away so the Spirit could come to stay.
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  #1276  
Old 02-02-2012, 02:40 AM
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Default Feb. 2

God’s Plan, Not Ours

February 2, 2012

Read: 1 Samuel 4:1-11

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” —Psalm 91:2

Everybody was wrong about the ark of the covenant (an item in the tabernacle that represented the throne of God). After losing a battle to the Philistines, Israel sent messengers to Shiloh to ask that the ark be hauled to Ebenezer, the site of their army camp.

When the ark arrived, the Israelites celebrated so loudly the enemy heard them all the way over in Aphek. The ark’s arrival caused the Philistines to fear and the Israelites to have courage.

They were both wrong. The Israelites took the ark into battle and were again clobbered by the Philistines, who captured the ark. Another mistake. The Philistines got sick and their false gods were destroyed.

We can understand the Philistines’ error—they were idol-worshipers. But the Israelites should have known better. They failed to consult God about using the ark. While they knew that the ark was earlier carried in battle (Josh. 6), they didn’t consider that God’s plan, not the ark’s involvement, allowed Israel to defeat Jericho.

No matter our resources, we will fail unless we use them according to God’s plan. Let’s study the Word, pray for God’s direction, and trust His leading (Ps. 91:2) before we step out in any venture of faith.

My times are in my Father’s hand;
How could I wish or ask for more?
For He who has my pathway planned
Will guide me till my journey’s o’er. —Fraser

We see in part; God sees the whole.
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  #1277  
Old 02-03-2012, 03:05 AM
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Default Feb. 3

Pleading The Lord’s Cause

February 3, 2012

Read: Philippians 1:12-18

I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. —Philippians 1:17

Charles Finney, a 29-year-old lawyer, was concerned about his soul’s salvation. On October 10, 1821, he retreated to a wooded area near his home for a time of prayer. While there, he had a profound conversion experience. He wrote: “The Holy Spirit . . . seemed to go through me, body and soul. . . . Indeed it seemed to come in waves of liquid love.”

The next day, he met with a client who had come to him for legal representation. Finney told him: “I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead His cause and cannot plead yours.” He left his law practice and entered the ministry. Later, he would be used mightily of God to bring others to Christ.

The apostle Paul was also called to plead the Lord’s cause. He wrote, “I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17). The word translated “defense” was used in the ancient world for an attorney pleading his case in a court of law. All believers are called to share the wonderful news of the saving grace of God. “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

What a great privilege to be used of God to bring others to Christ!

Do we really care for those
Who live beneath God’s wrath?
The gospel must be shared with them,
To turn them from death’s path. —Sper

The good news of Christ is too good to keep to yourself.
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  #1278  
Old 02-04-2012, 02:36 AM
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Default Feb. 4

Six Degrees Of Separation

February 4, 2012

Read: Isaiah 55:8-11

My Word . . . shall not return to Me void. —Isaiah 55:11

Eighty years ago, Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy wrote a short story he called “Chain-Links,” in which he proposed the idea that any two individuals in the world are connected through, at most, five acquaintances. The thesis has been revived today and is usually described as “Six Degrees of Separation.” It’s an unproven theory, of course. But there is a dynamic at work that links us to others around the world: It is the wisdom and providence of God working through His Word to accomplish His will.

Some years ago, I received a letter from a man whom I had never met telling me that a note I had sent to a nearby friend had found its way to him, and it had encouraged him in a time of weariness and dark despair. The friend to whom I had sent the note sent it to a friend, who, in turn, sent it to a friend, and so on, until it was sent to the man who wrote to me.

It may be that a simple word offered in love, guided by the wisdom of God, and borne aloft on the wings of the Spirit will have eternal consequences in someone’s life.

Should we not then fill ourselves with God’s Word and pass it on to others with the prayer that God will use it for His intended purposes? (Isa. 55:11).

Do a deed of simple kindness,
Though its end you may not see;
It may reach, like widening ripples,
Down a long eternity. —Norris

As the blossom can’t tell what becomes of its fragrance,
we can’t tell what becomes of our influence.
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  #1279  
Old 02-05-2012, 04:48 AM
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Default Feb. 5

Making Music

February 5, 2012

Read: 1 Corinthians 3:1-17

Be filled with the Spirit, . . . singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. —Ephesians 5:18-19

On a lovely summer evening, a capacity crowd gathered in a beautiful outdoor venue for a concert by one of my college friends. It happened to be his birthday, so the emcee hinted that we might want to sing “Happy Birthday” to him. One by one, people started singing, each in a different key, each at a different tempo. As the jumble of notes and words joined together, the result was, well, less than harmonic. It wasn’t even melodious. It was in fact downright pitiful. When my friend took the stage, he gave us another chance. He didn’t give us the pitch, but he did give us a downbeat, so at least we were singing together. By the end of the song most people were somewhat close to the same key.

The noise that was supposed to be a song reminded me of a problem in a first-century church. They couldn’t agree on their leader. Some followed Paul; others Apollos (1 Cor. 3:4). The result was conflict and division (v.3). Instead of music, they were making noise. When people don’t agree on a leader, they all “sing” (I’m speaking metaphorically here) at the pace and pitch most comfortable for them.

To make beautiful music that will attract unbelievers to Jesus, all believers must follow the same leader, and that leader must be Christ.

Lord, give us wisdom. We know it’s good to follow
the example of our godly leaders, but help us not to
think so highly of them that we worship them
instead of You. Amen.

Keeping in tune with Christ keeps harmony in the church.
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  #1280  
Old 02-06-2012, 02:23 AM
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Default Feb. 6

Consider The Source

February 6, 2012

Read: James 1:12-

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights. —James 1:17

I love cinnamon. I love cinnamon rolls, cinnamon graham crackers, cinnamon candies, cinnamon toast, cinnamon apples, and cinnamon pretzels. Cinnamon is one of those spices that makes other things taste better. However, it never crossed my mind to think about where cinnamon comes from. Then, on a recent trip to Sri Lanka, I learned that 90 percent of all the cinnamon in the world comes from that island nation located in the Indian Ocean. For all of the cinnamon I’ve enjoyed over the years, I never stopped to consider its source.

Sadly, my walk with Christ is sometimes like that. God has blessed me with a wonderful wife, five children, and grandchildren who are more fun than a barrel of monkeys. In the midst of my enjoyment of them, however, I sometimes fail to consider the source of those blessings—what the hymnwriter called the “fount of every blessing.” James put it like this: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (1:17).

How ungrateful we would be to enjoy the rich blessings of life without thanking the Father who is the source of all of creation.

Dear Lord, from whom all blessings flow,
Most precious gifts dost Thou bestow;
So truly faithful may I be
As Thou art gracious unto me. —Roworth

Gratitude is a God-honoring attitude.
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