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  #1471  
Old 08-15-2012, 02:53 AM
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Default Aug. 15

Hopes And Dreams

August 15, 2012

Read: Acts 20:16-24

So that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. —Acts 20:24

In 1960, everyone in the high school I attended participated in Project TALENT. For several days, we took tests that surveyed our aptitudes in academic subjects. In addition, we were asked to express our plans, hopes, and dreams for the future. What we didn’t know was that we were among 400,000 participants from 1,300 schools in the largest study of high school students ever conducted in the US. None of us involved in the study could have imagined how our lives would turn out.

The same was true for Saul of Tarsus. As a young man, his goal was to destroy the followers of Jesus (Acts 7:58–8:3; Gal. 1:13). But after his conversion, he became the apostle Paul, whose mission was to multiply them. As he journeyed to Jerusalem, facing prison and hardship, Paul said, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24 niv).

When our goal is to honor the Lord, He guides and guards us each step of the way. Whatever our hopes and dreams may be, when we place them in God’s hands we know that everything, including setback or success, is under His control.
When we give our hopes and dreams to God
And then leave them in His hand,
We can trust His love and care for us
To fulfill what He has planned. —Sper
Live the Christian life in the same way you began it— by trusting Christ.
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"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men"
-Colossians 3:23

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  #1472  
Old 08-16-2012, 03:03 AM
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Default Aug. 16

Plugged In

August 16, 2012

Read: Isaiah 40:27-31

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. —Isaiah 40:29

My wife was working at home on her computer recently when she suddenly noticed her laptop battery power was low and the computer was about to shut down. The computer was plugged in, though, so it shouldn’t have been using the battery. Following the laptop cord to the extension cord, she finally noticed that the extension cord was actually plugged back into itself instead of the wall outlet! She looked at me, amused, and said, “There’s a devotional in there somewhere.”

As she said it, I was reminded of a passage of Scripture on the power of God: Isaiah 40:27-31. Isaiah identifies the true and unending Source of strength from which we must draw ours—“the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth” (v.28). Then he speaks to those whose strength is ebbing, encouraging them to wait on the Lord to find their strength renewed (vv.29-31).

Jesus spoke of us as branches abiding in Him as the Vine (John 15:4-5). It’s a parallel to Isaiah’s powerful closing, which promises that if we’re plugged into God we will “run and not be weary, . . . walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:31).

When we find ourselves weary and distressed, we need to plug into the true Source of strength and life.
We are more than conquerors
Through Him who loved us so;
The Christ who dwells within us
Is the greatest power we know. —Carmichael
The Creator of the universe knows no power failure.
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  #1473  
Old 08-17-2012, 01:48 AM
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Default Aug. 17

They Are Watching

August 17, 2012

Read: Matthew 5:13-16

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. —Matthew 5:16

A professional football player’s team was having a terrible season, losing week after week. A reporter asked him how he stayed motivated to play hard and give his best even though his team lost almost every game. He responded, “My dad is watching that game. My mom is watching that game. You better believe I’m going to do my best!” He recognized that there was more at stake than just winning or losing. People were watching, and that reality always drove him to do his best.

Jesus reminded us of this reality in the early portions of His Sermon on the Mount. We should live our lives with a recognition that what we do is observed by those around us—and this visible life makes a statement about our God. He said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). How does the light of our lives shine? By bringing the heart and character of Christ into the situations that engage us every day. By showing compassion as He did for the marginalized or forgotten. By displaying concern for the Father’s name and reputation.

People are watching us. The question is, What do they see?
Show me the way, Lord, let my light shine
As an example of good to mankind.
Help them to see the patterns of Thee,
Shining in beauty, lived out in me. —Neuer
Let your light shine—whether you’re a candle in a corner or a lighthouse on a hill.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #1474  
Old 08-18-2012, 02:45 PM
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Default Aug. 18

Living In Community

August 18, 2012

Read: Philippians 2:1-11

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. —Philippians 2:4

Texas Ranger baseball player Josh Hamilton has battled the demons of drug and alcohol addiction. So when his team won their playoff series in 2010, Hamilton was concerned about the postgame celebration. He admitted that it’s not good for a recovering alcoholic to be in the midst of a “rainstorm” of champagne. But something beautiful happened. Instead of champagne, his teammates stocked the locker room with ginger ale so that Hamilton could be included in the celebration. What a great picture of community and putting others’ needs above your own.

This is what Paul meant when he commanded the Philippians to count others as more significant than themselves (2:3-4). Being united to Christ made the Philippian believers members of the same family and gave them a special bond. Thus their attitude toward one another was to be expressed in practical ways: unity in love, sacrificial service, and discovering how to help others even when they didn’t realize they needed help. The motivation for this type of normal Christian behavior is the example of Jesus Christ.

Like Hamilton’s teammates, let’s carry each other’s burdens. When we selflessly love our neighbors, we are expressing our love for God.
Beautiful lives are these that bear
For other lives their burden of care;
Beautiful souls are those that show
The Spirit of Christ wherever they go. —Abbott
Christlike love is seen in good works.
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  #1475  
Old 08-19-2012, 04:29 AM
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Default Aug. 19

Heman’s Honesty

August 19, 2012

Read: Psalm 88

My soul is full of troubles. —Psalm 88:3

I marvel at Heman, the poet who wrote Psalm 88. His lot in life was unrelieved distress. “My soul is full of troubles,” he lamented (v.3). He was fed up with suffering!

Heman looked back and remembered poor health and misfortune. He looked around and saw adversity and abandonment. He looked up and found no solace. “I am distraught,” he complained (v.15). He was “adrift” (v.5), “in darkness” (v.6), “afflicted” (vv.7,15), and “cast off” (v.14). He could see no light at the end of the tunnel; no resolution of his sorrow.

Heman’s honesty warms my soul. Christians who never struggle confuse me. There’s balance, of course: No one wants to be around those who babble on all day about their troubles, but it does my heart good to know that someone else has struggled.

Yet, there’s more to Heman than mere candor. He also had a stubborn, intractable faith. Despite his many problems, he clung to God and cried out to Him “day and night” (vv.1,9,13). He didn’t stop praying. He didn’t give up. And even though he didn’t sense it at the time, Heman acknowledged God’s lovingkindness, faithfulness, and righteousness (vv.11-12).

I like folks like Heman. They strengthen my grip on God and remind me never to stop praying.
In solitude, on wings of prayer
My soul ascends before the throne;
My only hope of strength is where
My heart and His meet all alone. —Anon.
Prayer is the soil in which hope grows best.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #1476  
Old 08-20-2012, 01:01 AM
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Default Aug. 20

Unrewarded

August 20, 2012

Read: Matthew 6:1-4,19-21

Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. —Matthew 6:18

Most of us look to friends and colleagues for rewards: a slap on the back, a hero’s medal, applause, a sincere compliment. But according to Jesus, the more important rewards await us after death. It’s possible that the most significant human acts of all are carried out in secret, seen by no one but God. In a nutshell, the message of the kingdom is this: Live for God and not other people.

As Jesus explained it, we are accumulating a kind of savings account, storing up “treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20) rather than on earth—treasures so great that they will compensate for any amount of suffering. The Old Testament has dropped a few scant hints about an afterlife, but Jesus spoke plainly about a place where “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43).

In their quest for a kingdom, the Jews of Jesus’ day had been looking for signs of God’s approval in this life, primarily through prosperity and political power. Beginning with this speech, Jesus changed the focus to the life to come (ch.6). He discounted success in this visible world. Invest in the future life, He cautioned. After all, rust, a thief, or a lowly insect can destroy all else that we accumulate (v.20).
Lord, help us not to seek the applause of our friends
and colleagues, but rather to look to You for approval.
Teach us to put into practice the principles of the
Sermon on the Mount. Amen.
Reward in eternity does not depend upon recognition in life.
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  #1477  
Old 08-21-2012, 01:29 PM
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Default Aug. 21

Sharpening One Another

August 21, 2012

Read: 1 Kings 19:19-21

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. —Proverbs 27:17

Social networks on the Internet are on the rise. Even when separated by great distance, people are still able to gain insights and a listening ear from peers on-line. Blogs, Twitter, e-mail, and Web links add to the ways we can receive and give spiritual guidance.

But it’s also valuable to meet face to face with mature believers for mentoring. “Elisha . . . followed Elijah” (1 Kings 19:21), and Paul mentored Timothy as “a true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2). He even admonished Timothy to set up a chain of mentoring which would multiply spiritual growth (2 Tim. 2:2). Moses exhorted parents to teach their children throughout their day: “when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:7). The Master Teacher, Christ Himself, illustrated how to mentor: “He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out” (Mark 3:14).

From these passages we see the value of meeting face to face in a variety of settings so that we can sharpen one another spiritually (Prov. 27:17). Along life’s journey, there are times when we can benefit from a wise guide or provide this same service to one who wants to follow.
Lord, who could be my mentor? And is there a
younger person in the faith I could help?
Please lead me so that I might grow stronger
spiritually and help others as well.
We need each other to get where God wants us to go.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #1478  
Old 08-22-2012, 12:43 AM
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Default Aug. 22

Theory Of Everything

August 22, 2012

Read: John 1:1-13

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible. —Colossians 1:16

Scientists have been looking for the “Theory of Everything.” One person who thinks he found it is physicist Brian Greene, who wrote The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. Greene’s “string theory” is a complicated concept suggesting that at its tiniest level everything consists of combinations of vibrating strands, or strings. He has described his theory as “a framework with the capacity to explain every fundamental feature upon which the world is constructed.”

Over the years, thinkers from Newton to Einstein to Hawking to Greene have spent the greater portion of their lives trying to figure out how the universe works—and they have proposed fascinating theories.

In reality, for any theory to explain everything in the universe adequately it must begin and end with God. “All things . . . visible and invisible” (Col. 1:16) have their origin in Him and exist for His glory (Ps. 72:19). The first few verses of John’s gospel tell us that our Lord created the universe—and that without His hand of creation nothing would exist.

That’s why when we consider the world and everything in it, we can exclaim with Isaiah: “The whole earth is full of His glory!” (6:3). Praise His holy name!
Our God has fashioned earth and sky,
Sun, moon, and stars beyond compare;
His workmanship we can’t deny—
His fingerprints are everywhere. —Seals
All creation is an outstretched finger pointing toward God.
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  #1479  
Old 08-23-2012, 02:35 AM
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Default Aug. 23

A Picture Of Him

August 23, 2012

Read: Hebrews 12:3-11

Whom the Lord loves He chastens. —Hebrews 12:6

One day my son uncapped an orange marker and drew a picture of his father. His toddler’s rendering featured eyes, a nose, and a mouth, all inside of a circle on top of two long sticks (he informed me that those were the legs). Although my little boy scored high marks for effort, his picture didn’t quite capture the specifics that would have created a close likeness to my husband: blue eyes, a confident smile, and silver-flecked hair.

As God’s children, we sometimes create images of our heavenly Father that aren’t accurate. We may view God as unloving when He corrects sinful patterns in our lives. And because discipline is painful (Heb. 12:11), we may assume that God’s correction is a form of divine revenge or the result of His anger. In reality, it is proof of His love for us. The Bible says, “Whom the Lord loves He chastens” (v.6). He disciplines us for our benefit, so that we “may be partakers of His holiness” (v.10) and experience the peace that comes from right living (v.11).

Today, if you are facing God’s discipline, remember that He isn’t peering down at you with an angry scowl or shaking a vengeful fist. Picture Him as a concerned Father, lovingly correcting His child in whom He delights (Prov. 3:12).
Lord, when I sin and You discipline me,
help me to see it’s Your love in action. May Your loving
discipline mold and shape my character
so that I become more and more like You. Amen.
God’s hand of discipline is a hand of love.
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  #1480  
Old 08-24-2012, 01:56 AM
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Default Aug. 24

Risky Business

August 24, 2012

Read: Luke 9:18-27

Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. —Luke 9:24

As the worldwide financial crisis deepened in 2010, executives of a global banking firm were investigated for deceiving their customers about the risk involved in certain investments they were selling. While promising a high rate of return, the banking firm knew that the investments were destined to fail, leaving those who purchased them with nothing.

Deception is nothing new. Jesus described Satan as one who “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him . . . for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). The enemy of our souls tells us, “Live only for the present,” when he knows it will result in our eternal loss.

Jesus, on the other hand, did not offer His disciples a life of prosperity and ease but called them to self-sacrifice and identification with Him. After telling them that He would be killed and raised from the dead, Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

There are two voices telling us where to invest our lives. It’s risky business to follow the wrong one.
When you hear the Shepherd’s voice
As He calls you, “Come to Me,”
In your life make Him your choice
And His faithful follower be. —Hess
If we hold on to God’s truth, we won’t be trapped by Satan’s lies.
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