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  #1321  
Old 03-20-2012, 02:16 AM
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Default Mar. 20

Long-Awaited Reunion

March 20, 2012

Read: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. —1 Thessalonians 4:17

As a boy, I had a collie named Prince Boy, a great dog that I really loved. One day, he disappeared. I didn’t know if he had been stolen or if he had simply run away—but I was devastated. I searched everywhere. In fact, one of my earliest childhood memories is of climbing a tall tree from which I could scan our neighborhood in hopes of spotting him. I desperately wanted my beloved dog back. For weeks, I was always watching and hoping to see Prince Boy again. But we were never reunited.

There’s a much greater sense of loss when we think we’ll never again see a loved one who dies. But for those who know and love the Lord, death’s parting is only temporary. One day we will be reunited forever!

Paul assured the Thessalonians, “The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). The words that provide comfort to the grieving heart are together and we. These words of reunion indicate that followers of Christ don’t ever have to experience permanent separation. For us, death is not a goodbye; it’s a “see you later.”
We’ll be reunited one day
With our loved ones who have died
If they know the Lord as Savior—
Then with Him we will abide. —Sper
God’s people never say goodbye for the last time.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #1322  
Old 03-21-2012, 02:40 AM
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Default Mar. 21

Your Bio Here

March 21, 2012

Read: John 1:1-14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. —John 1:14

While searching for an interesting way to instruct my college writing class about the concept of writing a biographical sketch, I found this idea: Write a biography in six words. When asked to do this, Pulitzer Prize winner Ernest Hemingway wrote this poignant bio: “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” Imagine the sad story behind those six words.

As I thought about this concept, I wondered if we could find any six-word biographies of people in the Bible. What I discovered was astonishing. Many of our scriptural heroes have already been described that way. For example, David, of whom God said: “A man after My own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22). Or Paul’s self-description: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:1). Or Paul’s description of Timothy: “My true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2 NIV). And consider these words about Mary: “The virgin shall be with child” (Matt. 1:23). And about Jesus: “Became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

This exercise in precise descriptions of people of faith should cause us to wonder: What six-word description would best describe me? Would it be positive or negative? Would it be “Not an easy person to love” or “A shining light for the Lord”? What would your bio say?
Lord, help me to be what You want me to be
In character, actions, and will,
For You are the potter and I am the clay—
Your purposes I would fulfill. —Fitzhugh
Once lost, now found. Eternally thankful!
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  #1323  
Old 03-22-2012, 01:55 AM
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Default Mar. 22

“Me First”

March 22, 2012

Read: James 4:1-10

Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. —Ephesians 4:22

A man once asked me, “What is your biggest problem?” I replied, “I see my biggest problem every day in the mirror.” I am referring to those “me first” desires that lurk in my heart.

In James 4:1 we read: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” The words “desires for pleasure” refer to our self-serving desires. That’s why in James 1:14 we are told: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” James warns that such “me first” desires will destroy our friendship with God (4:4) and cause divisions, wars, and fights (vv.1-2).

Therefore, we are told to put off “me first” thinking. How do we do this? First, “Submit to God” (4:7). We need to get our ranking right—God is God and His will must always be first. Second, “Draw near to God” (v.8). Deal with those desires that lead to sin by going to God for cleansing. Don’t be double-minded, desiring both evil and good. But rather desire to please God alone. Third, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord” (v.10). Then “He will lift you up.”

Remember, “me first” living is not the key to success. Put God first.
I once was full of self, and proud
Just like a Pharisee,
Until one day, quite by surprise,
I caught a glimpse of me. —Hawthorne
When you forget yourself, you usually start doing something others will remember.
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  #1324  
Old 03-23-2012, 02:00 AM
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Default Mar. 23

Something To Declare

March 23, 2012

Read: Matthew 5:13-16

Let your light so shine before men. —Matthew 5:16

It was just a routine baggage inspection, but there was nothing ordinary about the contents of the suitcase. The Swiss customs agent who examined it discovered 14 original drawings by Pablo Picasso. The artwork, which was contained in a sketchbook, was estimated to be worth as much as $1.5 million, yet the passenger indicated “nothing to declare” to customs authorities.

It’s hard to imagine anyone packing Picasso’s sketchbook between sweaters, trotting off to the airport, and hoping it would remain a secret. The man was obviously smuggling it.

We as Christians have something far more valuable than a Picasso to declare! Yet we sometimes keep the treasure of our faith in Christ locked in our hearts instead of sharing it with those around us. Jesus reminded us, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). Part of our purpose is to reflect God’s glory so that others will understand their need for Him. He also calls us to let our light shine, so that they see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (v.16).

We risk becoming spiritual smugglers when we hide our faith in Christ. Instead, let’s open the “suitcase,” share the treasure, and give glory to the Master.
Lord, help me make my witness clear,
And labor faithfully,
So friends and neighbors turn to Christ
Through what they hear from me. —Anon.
A word well chosen can open a heart to God.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #1325  
Old 03-24-2012, 03:57 AM
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Default Mar. 24

I’ll Take Him

March 24, 2012

Read: Psalm 27:1-10

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me. —Psalm 27:10

Years ago, when I was a student at the University of California at Berkeley, I developed a friendship with a fellow student who had suffered a terrible loss. His child had died and his wife had left him because she couldn’t deal with the pain.

One day, as my friend and I were walking down the street, we found ourselves behind a disheveled mother with a grubby little boy in hand. She was angry at the child and was walking much too fast, towing him at a pace his little legs couldn’t maintain.

We reached a busy intersection where the child abruptly stopped and his hand slipped out of his mother’s grasp. She turned around, spat out a curse, and trudged on. The little boy sat down on the curb and burst into tears. Without a moment’s hesitation, my friend sat down next to him and gathered the little guy in his arms.

The woman turned and, looking at the child, began to curse again. My friend sighed and looked up. “Lady,” he said softly, “If you don’t want him, I’ll take him.”

So it is with our Father in heaven. He too has known great loss and loves us just as tenderly. Even if our friends and family forsake us, our God never will (Ps. 27:10). We are ever in His care.
I love to dwell upon the thought
That Jesus cares for me,
It matters not what life may bring—
He loves me tenderly. —Adams
If God cares for sparrows, He surely cares for us.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #1326  
Old 03-25-2012, 02:53 AM
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Default Mar. 25

Sharing Space

March 25, 2012

Read: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. —1 Corinthians 12:22

The number of people who run a business out of their homes is in the millions. But some have found that working alone can be a little too lonely. To give these lonely ones a community, “co-working” spaces have been designed. Large facilities are rented out where people working by themselves can share space with others. They have their own work area but can exchange ideas with fellow independent workers. It’s for those who feel they can work better together than they do alone.

Sometimes Christians think they work better alone. But we are meant to work together with others in the church. Every Christian has been placed into “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27). And the Lord desires that we take part in fellowship with a local community of believers—using our spiritual gifts and working together in His service.

Yet for various reasons, some aren’t able to join in. Because of health issues, they may be shut in at home or may not know how to fit in at church. Yet they are a needed part of the body (vv.22-25). That’s when others can meet their need for togetherness. Let’s do our part so that others may feel they’re an integral part of the community of faith. We work better together than alone.
Thinking It Over
What can you do to help others feel a part of your church
community? Visit, pray with them, read Scripture together,
drop a note, or invite them to join you in serving others.
Fellowship builds us up and binds us together.
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  #1327  
Old 03-26-2012, 03:02 AM
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Default Mar. 26

Avenue To Power

March 26, 2012

Read: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

I will . . . boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. —2 Corinthians 12:9

When Tarah was in high school, she had a growing fear that she would someday battle a serious illness. So she began to pray—asking God to spare her from this imagined illness. Then she reached a turning point in her thinking, and she yielded her future to God no matter what.

Years later, Tarah’s doctor found a cancerous tumor, which was successfully treated with chemotherapy. Tarah says that because she had entrusted her future to God, she was ready when the disease came. Her problem became an avenue for God’s strength.

This idea of surrendering to God can be seen in Paul’s life as well. His surrender came after the problem*—“a thorn in the flesh”—had developed (2 Cor. 12:7). Paul prayed repeatedly about this difficulty, pleading for the Lord to take it from him. But God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (v.9). Understanding this, Paul adopted a positive view: “Most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong” (vv.9-10).

In facing our fears and struggles, it’s vital that we yield totally to God. When we do, God can use our problems as an avenue for His power.
Whenever life’s burdens oppress you And trials are too much to face, Remember God’s strength in your weakness; He’ll give you His power and grace. —Sper
Wielding our power is no substitute for yielding our will to God’s power.
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  #1328  
Old 03-27-2012, 02:06 AM
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Default Mar. 27

The Real Thing

March 27, 2012

Read: 1 John 2:3-11

Whoever keeps His Word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. —1 John 2:5

A church in Naperville, Illinois, is basking in excitement about its brand-new bells in the belfry above its sanctuary. When the church was built many years ago, they didn’t have the money to purchase bells. However, for its 25th anniversary they were able to raise the funds to hang three bells in the vacant space. Even though they are stunning, there is one problem: the congregation will never hear the bells ring. Although they look real, they are artificial.

The apostle John wrote his first epistle to encourage believers not to just look like real Christians, but to prove they are genuine by how they live. The evidence that a person’s faith is real is not found in some mystical experience with God. The proof that people truly know and love God is found in submitting to His authority and to His Word. John writes, “But whoever keeps His Word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:5-6).

If we claim that we have been transformed by the gospel and intimately know and love God, we should validate it by our obedience to His Word.
Don’t listen to the Word of God
And then ignore what you have heard;
Instead obey God’s will for you—
Be doers of the Word. —Sper
Obedience to God is an expression of our love for God.
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  #1329  
Old 03-28-2012, 02:06 AM
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Default Mar. 28

One Beautiful Moment

March 28, 2012

Read: Isaiah 40:6-11

All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. —Isaiah 40:6

One snap of the shutter, and there it was . . . one beautiful moment captured in time for eternity. The late summer sun reflected in the breaking wave made the water look like liquid gold splashing onto the shore. If my friend had not been there with his camera, the wave would have gone unnoticed, like so many others that have come and gone, seen only by God.

Who can imagine how many waves Lake Michigan has sent rolling onto the shoreline? Yet each one is unique. As seen in every wave, God makes extravagant beauty out of seemingly mundane things. Using water and air, He makes wondrous works of art. We enjoy His gallery in skies above and on earth and sea below. But most of earth’s beauty remains invisible to us; it is seen only by God.

God uses another gallery to display His glory—humans. We too are made out of something ordinary—dust (Gen. 2:7). But to us He added an extraordinary ingredient—His very own breath (v.7). Like waves of the sea and flowers of the field (Isa. 40:6), our lives are brief and seen by few. Yet each one is a beautiful “moment” created by God to say to the world, “Behold, your God!” whose Word will last forever (v.8).
Only one life, so live it well,
And keep your candle trimmed and bright;
Eternity, not time, will tell
The radius of that candle’s light. —Miller
We fulfill our purpose when we serve our Creator.
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  #1330  
Old 03-29-2012, 01:48 AM
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Default Mar. 29

Trust Me

March 29, 2012

Read: Psalm 121

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. —Isaiah 43:2

When I was a little girl, my aunt and uncle took me to Lake Michigan. While some of my cousins ventured far out into the waves, I played close to shore. Then my Uncle Norm asked me, “Can you swim?” “No,” I admitted. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll take you out there.” “But it’s too deep,” I protested. “Just hang on to me,” he assured me. “Do you trust me?” Then I took his hand and we began to walk farther out into the lake.

When my feet couldn’t touch the bottom anymore, Uncle Norm held me up and reassured me, “I’ve got you. I’ve got you.” Then finally he said, “Okay, let your feet down. You can stand here.” I was afraid because I thought we were still in deep water, but I trusted him and happily discovered that I was standing on a sandbar.

Have you ever been in so much despair that you felt as if you were sinking in deep water? The difficulties of life can be oppressive. God doesn’t promise that we will escape the turbulent seas of life, but He does promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

We can trust our faithful God to be there in all of our struggles. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you” (Isa. 43:2).
God, give me the faith of a little child! A faith that will look to Thee— That never will falter and never fail, But follow Thee trustingly. —Showerman
Before your burden overcomes you, trust God to put His arms underneath you.
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