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  #1291  
Old 02-15-2012, 02:25 AM
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Default Feb. 15

More, More, More

February 15, 2012

Read: Philippians 4:10-20

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. —Philippians 4:11

Now that my daughter is learning to talk, she has adopted a favorite word: more. She will say “more” and point to toast with jam. She held out her palm and said “More!” when my husband gave her some coins for her piggy bank. She even exclaimed, “More Daddy!” one morning after her father left for work.

Like my little one, many of us look around and call for “more.” Unfortunately, enough is never enough. We need the power of Christ to break the cycle so that we can say with Paul, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil. 4:11).

The phrase “I have learned” tells me that Paul did not meet every situation with a smile. Learning contentment required practice. His testimony included ups and downs ranging from snake bites to soul-saving; false accusations to founding churches. Yet he claimed that Jesus was the answer to soul-level satisfaction. He said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (v.13). Jesus had given him the spiritual muscle to endure lean times and to avoid the pitfalls of abundance.

If you find yourself angling for “more, more, more,” remember that contentment comes when you have “more” of Christ.

Fret not for want of earthly things;
They’ll never satisfy.
The secret of contentment is
To let the Lord supply. —D. De Haan

True contentment is not dependent on anything in this world.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #1292  
Old 02-16-2012, 02:52 AM
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Default Feb. 16

Knocked Off Your Feet?

February 16, 2012

Read: Psalm 116:1-6

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. —Psalm 46:1

Because I’ve written many articles and a book about dealing with life’s losses, I have the privilege of being introduced to a number of fellow strugglers along life’s journey. One of my new friends is a mom whose 21-year-old daughter died suddenly in 2009, which sent her reeling. She told me, “I feel like an outcast from the normal world. I feel crushed and my soul is in so much pain.”

Indeed the losses that visit us can knock us off our feet—whether a death in the family, a child who walks away from God and family, or a physical or mental setback.

Yet what I’ve discovered is something musician Jeremy Camp made clear in a song he wrote after the death of his wife in 2001: When you are knocked off your feet by life’s difficulties, remember that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). That’s reason enough to get back up again. Camp described his struggle in the song called “Understand.” He asked, “Why don’t I get back on my feet again?” And he recognized that he could because “I know You understand it all.”

When trouble knocks us down, we can look up. God is there. He understands and cares. It’s not easy, but we can trust Him to help us get back on our feet again.

Lift up your eyes, despairing one,
The Lord your help will be;
You have a friend in heaven who cheers,
And calms the troubled sea. —Anon.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are felt more than in heaven.
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  #1293  
Old 02-17-2012, 02:18 AM
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Default Feb. 17

Side By Side

February 17, 2012

Read: Deuteronomy 6:1-9

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. —Deuteronomy 6:7

In my family scrapbook is a picture of my daughter at age 4 working next to me, using a toy hammer to repair the siding on the house. Side by side we worked that day; she imitated my every action, absolutely convinced that she too was fixing the house. Rarely have I enjoyed a chore more. In the picture, it’s obvious that she’s enjoying it too.

That photo reminds me that our children mimic most of what they see in us—words and deeds. They also form their images of God from the images they have of us as parents. If we’re stern and unmerciful, they’re likely to see God that way too. If we’re distant and cold, so God will seem to them as well. It is one of our most important duties as parents to help our children see God clearly, especially the unconditional nature of His love.

I can imagine the family scrapbook of my relationship with God having a similar picture. I’m learning from Him how to live life, how to love, and how to make it a permanent part of my being. He then teaches me how to teach others (Deut. 6:1-7).

May the Lord grant us an understanding of Him and the wisdom to pass it on.

We must teach our children clearly
What is right and what is wrong;
Live before them an example—
Godly, righteous, pure, and strong. —Fitzhugh

To teach your children well, let God teach you.
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  #1294  
Old 02-18-2012, 03:52 AM
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Default Feb. 18

Invite Questions

February 18, 2012

Read: Exodus 12:1-13

Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you. —1 Peter 3:15

When I teach, I sometimes use the motto “Question Authority” to get the attention of my students. I am not inviting them to challenge my authority; I am encouraging them to ask me questions. Some education experts say that more learning takes place when teachers answer questions than when they impart information. By nature, we all place a higher value on what we want to know than on what someone wants to tell us.

There is, of course, a place for both types of teaching, but encouraging questions is one of the first that is found in Scripture. Even before the Israelites left Egypt, the Lord instructed Moses to institute a practice that would invite questions. The Passover celebration would serve two purposes: It would remind the adults of God’s deliverance, and it would cause their children to ask about it (Ex. 12:26).

“Why” can be an annoying question, but it can also be a wonderful opportunity to give a reason for our faith (1 Peter 3:15). Instead of being impatient when others ask questions, we can be thankful they have a heart and mind open to learning. Questions give us the opportunity to answer lovingly and carefully, knowing that our words may have eternal consequences.

Lord, may I be approachable and open to listening
to others’ questions. May I not feel threatened but
instead have confidence that You will give me wisdom
to know how to reply or where to find an answer. Amen.

Honest questions can lead to faith-building answers.
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  #1295  
Old 02-19-2012, 03:45 AM
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Default Feb. 19

A Word From The Lord

February 19, 2012

Read: 1 Samuel 3:1-10

The word of the Lord was rare in those days. —1 Samuel 3:1

Noted preacher and theologian Helmut Thielicke (1908–1986) endured great opposition from the Nazi regime in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. Yet he remained committed to proclaiming God’s presence and power in Jesus Christ during a difficult and perplexing time. Scholar Robert Smith said that as Thielicke addressed modern issues and problems in his sermons, “he sought to answer the question, ‘Is there any word from the Lord?’”

Isn’t that what each of us is seeking today? What has God said that will strengthen and guide us through the difficulties and opportunities we face?

First Samuel 3 describes a time when “the word of the Lord was rare” (v.1). When God spoke to young Samuel, the boy mistakenly thought it was the aging priest Eli calling him. Eli told the boy to respond to God’s voice by saying, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears” (v.9). Samuel listened, and he became known as a man who lived faithfully and fearlessly, “for the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (v.21).

Whenever we open the Bible, listen to a sermon, or pause to pray, it’s a wonderful practice to say, “Lord Jesus, speak to me. I’m ready to listen and eager to obey.”

God who formed worlds by the power of His word
Speaks through the Scriptures His truth to be heard
And if we read with the will to obey
He by His Spirit will show us His way. —D. De Haan

God speaks through His Word to those who listen with their heart.
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  #1296  
Old 02-20-2012, 03:42 AM
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Default Feb. 20

The Remedy For Fear

February 20, 2012

Read: Psalm 34:1-10

I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. —Psalm 34:4

In his first inaugural speech in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the newly elected president of the US, addressed a nation that was still reeling from the Great Depression. Hoping to ignite a more optimistic outlook regarding that economic crisis, he declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”

Fear often shows up in our lives when we are at risk of losing something—our wealth, health, reputation, position, safety, family, friends. It reveals our innate desire to protect the things in life that are important to us, rather than fully entrusting them to God’s care and control. When fear takes over, it cripples us emotionally and saps us spiritually. We’re afraid to tell others about Christ, to extend our lives and resources for the benefit of others, or to venture into new territory. A fearful spirit is more vulnerable to the enemy, who tempts us to compromise biblical convictions and to take matters into our own hands.

The remedy for fear, of course, is trust in our Creator. Only when we trust the reality of God’s presence, power, protection, and provision for our lives can we share the joy of the psalmist, who said, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4).

Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. —Berg

Trust in the Lord is the cure for a fearful spirit.
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  #1297  
Old 02-21-2012, 01:02 AM
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Default Feb. 21

Slacker?

February 21, 2012

Read: Proverbs 6:6-11

How long will you slumber, O sluggard? —Proverbs 6:9

While studying the book of Proverbs in my small-group Bible study, our leader suggested that we change the description of a lazy person from a sluggard to a slacker (6:6,9). Ah, now he was speaking my lingo. I immediately started thinking of all the people I consider to be slackers.

Like the men and women who fail to teach and discipline their children. Or that guy who refuses to help around the house. Or those teenagers who neglect their studies and play Internet games day and night.

If we’re honest, we’re all susceptible to this. What about being a “prayer slacker” (1 Thess. 5:17-18), or a “Bible-reading slacker” (Ps. 119:103; 2 Tim. 3:16-17), or a “non-exercising-of-our-spiritual-gift slacker” (Rom. 12:4-8), or a “non-witnessing slacker”? (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

If we are not doing what we know God wants us to do, we are certainly spiritual slackers. In fact, when we refuse to obey God, we are sinning.

Listen to these challenging and convicting words from the book of James: “It is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it” (4:17 NLT). Let’s not be spiritual slackers.

When we know what God wants us to do,
But then we refuse to obey,
We’re ignoring the voice of the Lord,
And sinfully choosing our way. —Sper

We may make excuses for not obeying God,
but He still calls it disobedience.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #1298  
Old 02-22-2012, 04:12 AM
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Default Feb. 22

An Ordinary Guy

February 22, 2012

Read: John 10:31-42

John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about [Jesus] were true. —John 10:41

Steve was just an ordinary guy. He quietly served in a church I attended years ago. He helped prepare communion, shoveled the church sidewalks in the winter, and mowed the lawn in the summer. He spent time with teenage boys who had no fathers in the home. I often heard him telling people at church in his quiet way how good the Lord was to him. During prayer meeting he didn’t talk much about himself but would ask us to pray for those he was telling about Jesus’ forgiveness and love.

A verse in John 10 about John the Baptist makes me think of Steve. People said of him: “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man [Jesus] were true” (v.41). John didn’t perform miracles as Jesus did. He didn’t talk about himself but came to “bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe” (1:7). He said of Jesus, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29). My friend Steve bore witness of that Light as well.

Our aim, as followers of Jesus, is to do the same—to “bear witness of the Light.” We’re just ordinary people, serving God in our little corner of the world. With our quiet deeds and words, let’s point others to the Light!

Just what do Christians look like?
What sets their lives apart?
They’re ordinary people
Who love God from the heart. —D. De Haan

Christians are ordinary people who are committed to the extraordinary person of Christ.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #1299  
Old 02-23-2012, 01:41 AM
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Default Feb. 23

Help Needed

February 23, 2012

Read: Hebrews 4:9-16

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. —Hebrews 4:16

During World War II, the British Isles represented the last line of resistance against the sweep of Nazi oppression in Europe. Under relentless attack and in danger of collapse, however, Britain lacked the resources to see the conflict through to victory. For that reason, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill went on BBC radio and appealed to the world: “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.” He knew that without help from the outside, they could not endure the assault they were facing.

Life is like that. Often, we are inadequate for the troubles life throws at us, and we need help from outside of ourselves. As members of the body of Christ, that help can come at times from our Christian brothers and sisters (Rom. 12:10-13)—and that is a wonderful thing. Ultimately, however, we seek help from our heavenly Father. The good and great news is that our God has invited us to come confidently before Him: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

At such times, our greatest resource is prayer—for it brings us into the very presence of God. There we find, in His mercy and grace, the help we need.
God has given you His promise, That He hears and answers prayer, He will heed your supplication If you cast on Him your care. —Bernstecher
Don’t let prayer be your last recourse in time of need; make it your first.
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  #1300  
Old 02-24-2012, 03:58 AM
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Default Feb. 24

Fresh And Flourishing

February 24, 2012

Read: Psalm 92

They shall be fresh and flourishing. —Psalm 92:14

In Psalm 92, the poet begins with a commendation of praise: “It is good to give thanks to the Lord.” Good for what? Good for you and me. It does our soul a world of good to turn from anxious thoughts and fill our days with prayerful praise; good to greet each morning with songs of thanksgiving, for such praise makes us glad. It lifts us out of gloom and replaces our sadness with cheerful songs at the “works of [His] hands” (v.4). And what is that work? The work He is doing in us!

Here’s one of my most cherished metaphors: “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing” (vv.12-14).

Palms are symbols of towering beauty and cedars of unbending strength. These are the characteristics of those who have been “planted in the house of the Lord” (v.13). Their roots go down into the soil of God’s unquenchable love.

Do you think your usefulness to God is over? Continue in God’s Word, rooted and grounded in Christ, drinking in His love and faithfulness. Then, no matter your age, you will bear fruit and be “fresh and flourishing.”
From your heart give God your praise For His blessings all your days; Lift your voice to God above— God of mercy, God of love. —Hess
Praise comes naturally when you count your blessings.
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-Colossians 3:23

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