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  #1451  
Old 07-26-2012, 02:21 AM
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Default Jul. 26

Changing Enemies Into Friends

July 26, 2012

Read: Matthew 5:43-48

But I say to you, love your enemies . . . do good to those who hate you. —Matthew 5:44

During the US Civil War, hatred became entrenched between the North and South. In one instance, President Abraham Lincoln was criticized for speaking of benevolent treatment for the Southern rebels. The critic reminded Lincoln that there was a war going on, the Confederates were the enemy, and they should be destroyed. But Lincoln wisely responded, “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.”

Lincoln’s comment is insightful. In many ways it reflects Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: “I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:44-45).

We will encounter difficult people in our lives—some on whom we will need to set limits. But to give in to the temptation to undermine or hurt them in any way is not God’s way. Instead, we should pray for them, show consideration, look out for their best interests, and emphasize the positive. This may result in changing an enemy into a friend.

Not everyone will respond positively to us, but we can pray and plan for a more harmonious relationship. What difficult person can you start befriending?
Lord, some people in my life are difficult to love.
I am tempted not even to try to care. But You showed
love to me even when I was Your enemy. Please direct
me into ways to love with Your power and grace.
It’s hard to hate someone when you’re doing something good for him.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #1452  
Old 07-27-2012, 01:14 AM
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Default Jul. 27

Quiet Encouragers

July 27, 2012

Read: Acts 11:22-26

[He] encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. —Acts 11:23

One of the qualities I most admire in others is the gift of quiet, behind-the-scenes encouragement. I remember arriving home from a stay in the hospital and finding that my friend Jackie (who had surgery a few days earlier) sent me a book of God’s promises.

My Uncle Bob was so thankful for the people who cared for him at the cancer center that he sent hundreds of complimentary notes to their work supervisors.

My cousin Brenda experienced the agonizing loss of a child almost 20 years ago, and now her quiet deeds of compassion are treasured by many.

Often it is the very people who have experienced the most suffering—physical and emotional—who are the most abundant providers of encouragement to others.

In Acts, we read about Barnabas, who was known as the “Son of Encouragement” (4:36). He was “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (11:24) and encouraged others so “that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord” (v.23). His acts of encouragement must have had a wide and strong sphere of influence.

Just as we have been blessed with encouragement, let’s be a modern-day Daughter or Son of Encouragement to others.
Teach me to love—this is my plea;
May all the Spirit’s graces shine through me;
Tear from my heart all hate, foolish pride;
Help me to live like Christ the crucified. —Peterson
The human spirit rings with hope at the sound of an encouraging word.
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  #1453  
Old 07-28-2012, 03:34 AM
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Default Jul. 28

From Mars?

July 28, 2012

Read: Job 38:4-18

So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves . . . . Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image.” —Genesis 1:21,26

Microbes from Mars fell on the very early Earth . . . , and the offspring of those microbes are still here—and they are us.” That’s how one astronomer speculated about how life originated on Mars and then came to Earth.

Some men and women of science are looking to outer space for the origins of life on earth, not believing the Bible’s explanation that God placed mankind, animals, and plant life on earth through special creation. But how did that supposed microbial life start on a hostile planet? The bigger question is this: Why is it so difficult to accept that the earth, uniquely and singularly fitted for life to exist, is where God created and placed living creatures?

As humans struggle to accept a miraculous beginning of life from the breath of God (Gen. 2:7), they choose to trust a miracle of a far different sort—the miracle of life originating from no first cause at all. Perhaps they could follow the advice Job received: “Listen to this, O Job; stand still and consider the wondrous works of God” (Job 37:14). And maybe they should try to answer God’s question: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (38:4).

Praise God for creating such a wonderful place for us to live! We stand in awe of His marvelous creation.
Dear Heavenly Father, what an awesome and powerful
God You are! You created life by Your very breath.
We praise You and stand in awe of You.
Thank You for Your creation.
Only God could create the cosmos out of nothing.
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  #1454  
Old 07-29-2012, 05:25 AM
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Default Jul. 29

Not A Myth

July 29, 2012

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. —1 Corinthians 15:6

I’m fascinated with history, so I eagerly watched a television special on England’s great King Arthur. A theme surfaced as each historian acknowledged that there were no eyewitness accounts nor historical evidence to support the story of King Arthur, his knights, and their Round Table. Repeatedly, the story was referred to as “legend” or “mythology.” It appears that the story is merely a legend woven together over centuries from fragments of other stories.

The good news of the gospel, however, is not rooted in mythology or legend but in verified fact, and it’s the greatest story ever told. Paul wrote that the most important event in human history—the resurrection of Jesus Christ—is supported by actual eyewitnesses. While listing disciples who had seen the risen Christ, Paul punctuated the list of eyewitnesses by writing, “After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:6). At the time of Paul’s writing, many of those witnesses were still alive and available for questioning.

The resurrection of Christ is not a myth. It is the factual pivot-point of history.
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign. —Lowry
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the best attested fact of ancient history. —Arnold
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  #1455  
Old 07-30-2012, 02:26 AM
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Default Jul. 30

Bad News And Good News

July 30, 2012

Read: Philippians 1:12-22

I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel. —Philippians 1:12

Recently I had a conversation with a woman who had experienced a very difficult situation. The stress had affected her health, so she had to visit the doctor frequently. But with a smile on her face, she told me that she has been able to use this painful circumstance as an opportunity to share Christ with her doctor.

In the book of Philippians, we read how the apostle Paul used his difficult situation—imprisonment—to preach the gospel. The Philippian believers were grieved because Paul had been arrested for preaching Jesus, but he told them that his bondage had “actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (1:12). The whole palace guard and others knew why he was in jail—because he preached Christ. Whoever came in contact with Paul heard about Jesus—whether soldiers (who guarded him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) or others outside. As a result of using his bad news to share the good news, some of the guards may have even become believers (4:22). Just because Paul was confined didn’t mean that the gospel was confined.

As Jesus-followers, we can allow our pain to be a platform to share the gospel. In our bad news, let’s find an opening to share the good news.
We often think if life were smooth
We would a better witness be;
But God knows best—that faith midst trials
Can honor Him more powerfully. —Cetas
Pain can be a platform to share Christ.
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  #1456  
Old 07-31-2012, 04:13 AM
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Default Jul. 31

Recall Notice

July 31, 2012

Read: Acts 3:13-21

Repent . . . that your sins may be blotted out. —Acts 3:19

In 2010, auto manufacturers recalled a staggering 20 million cars in the US for various defects. The thought of such a large number of defective cars on the road is startling enough. But what is more disturbing is the apathy of some owners. In one instance, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety warned owners, “It’s a free repair. Get it done. It may save your life.” Yet, despite the risk to their own lives, 30 percent never responded.

Likewise, many ignore God’s “recall notice” to the entire human race. Unlike a defect found in automobiles, the moral defect of the human race is not the Maker’s fault. He made everything “very good” (Gen. 1:31), but people’s sin ruined it. God’s offer to us is “repent . . . that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).

God offers not just a free repair of the human heart but a replacement of it (Ezek. 36:26; 2 Cor. 5:17). Though the offer costs us nothing (Eph. 2:8-9), it cost God the life of His only Son Jesus Christ. “[Jesus] bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

Don’t ignore the Lord’s call. The free and permanent remedy offered by God for your spiritual defect will save your life!
The heart of man is stained by sin,
From Adam’s fall this has been true;
Yet God in Christ can make a change—
Through faith in Him we are made new. —Fitzhugh
For a new start, ask God for a new heart.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #1457  
Old 08-01-2012, 02:59 AM
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Default Aug. 1

But God

August 1, 2012

Read: Romans 5:8-11

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8

Howard Sugden, my pastor when I was in college, preached many memorable sermons. After all these years, the one titled “But God . . .” still makes me stop whenever I come to those words in the Bible. Here are a few examples of verses that encourage me with the reminder of God’s righteous intervention in human affairs:

“You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to . . . save many people alive” (Gen. 50:20).

“Their beauty shall be consumed in the grave . . . . But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave” (Ps. 49:14-15).

“My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26).

“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7-8).

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard . . . the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:9-10).

Whenever you feel discouraged, look up some “but God” verses and be reassured of God’s involvement in the lives of those who love Him.
Creator of the universe
Who reigns in awesome majesty:
How can it be that You’re involved
With such a one as me? —Sper
God’s involvement in our lives should reassure us of His love.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #1458  
Old 08-02-2012, 03:08 AM
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Default Aug. 2

Take Notice

August 2, 2012

Blessed be the one who took notice of you. —Ruth 2:19

Bible in a Year:
Isaiah 19-21

While standing in a checkout line, I was estimating my bill and trying to keep my son from wandering away. I barely noticed when the woman ahead of me shuffled toward the exit, leaving all of her items behind. The clerk confided that the woman didn’t have enough money to pay her bill. I felt terrible; if only I had been aware of her situation earlier, I would have helped her.

In the book of Ruth, Boaz became aware of Ruth’s plight when he saw her gleaning in his fields (2:5). He learned that she was recently widowed and was the breadwinner for herself and her mother-in-law. Boaz saw her need for protection, and warned his harvesters to leave her alone (v.9). He supplied her with extra food by instructing his workers to let grain fall purposely (v.16). Boaz even addressed Ruth’s emotional needs by comforting her (vv.11-12). When Naomi heard about this, she said, “Blessed be the one who took notice of you” (v.19).

Are you aware of the needs of the people around you—in your church, neighborhood, or under your own roof? Today, consider how you might help bear someone’s burden. Then you will be fulfilling God’s plan for you (Gal. 6:2; Eph. 2:10).
Help me Lord, to notice
The hurting, sick, and lost;
Guide me as I help them
Regardless of the cost. —Schuldt
God works through us to meet the needs of those around us.
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  #1459  
Old 08-03-2012, 02:55 AM
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Default Aug. 3

Faith With Works

August 3, 2012

Read: James 2:14-26

Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. —James 2:17

Because of his arthritis, Roger could no longer handle the winters of Illinois, so he moved to tropical Bangkok, Thailand. One day he remembered his grandmother’s favorite song, “What You Are”: What you are speaks so loud that the world can’t hear what you say; they’re looking at your walk, not listening to your talk; they’re judging from your actions every day.

This song prompted Roger to feed the homeless who stayed along a half-mile stretch of road. Every morning, he served hot food to more than 45 families. Years later, one of the homeless women came to know Jesus as Savior and sought out Roger to thank him for introducing her to the love of Christ.

In James, we are clearly told that faith without works is dead (2:17). It does not mean that works will result in faith, but that good works will affirm that our faith is real. It is easy to say we believe in God, but only our works can prove the truthfulness of our words. Abraham was an example of this. He didn’t just talk about his faith; he demonstrated it by his willingness to give up his only son in obedience to God (James 2:21-24; see Gen. 22:1-18). And Isaac was spared.

Today, how can we actively demonstrate our love for God and trust in Him?
Faith is the power that prompts us to go
And give to the hungering, bread—
Faith means much more than a doctrine or two,
For faith without works is dead. —Woodrum
What matters is not faith and works; it is not faith or works; it is faith that works.
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  #1460  
Old 08-04-2012, 03:50 AM
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Default Aug. 4

Life-Changing Choices

August 4, 2012

Read: Isaiah 41:8-14

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. —Isaiah 41:10

Champion athlete Eric Liddell’s decision not to run on Sunday in the 1924 Olympic Games was not difficult because of his deep belief that the Lord’s Day was for worship and rest.

A more agonizing dilemma had come a year earlier when Eric was asked to speak about his faith in Christ to a group of coal miners. Liddell said of his struggle: “My whole life had been one of keeping out of public duties but the leading of Christ seemed now to be in the opposite direction, and I shrank from going forward. At this time I finally decided to put it all on Christ—after all if He called me to do it, then He would have to supply the necessary power. In going forward the power was given me.”

The day after agreeing to publicly share his faith, Eric received a letter from his sister, Jenny, in China. Written weeks before, it ended with this verse of Scripture: “Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).

Every call from God is an opportunity for us to say “Yes,” trusting His strength and not our own.
Lord, I’m fearful sometimes when You ask me
to do something out of my comfort zone.
Help me to remember that as I step out in faith,
You will provide the power to obey.
He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. —1 Thessalonians 5:24
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