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  #381  
Old 09-24-2009, 11:22 PM
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Default Sep. 25

September 25, 2009

The Teacher As A Midwife

READ: Galatians 4:12-20

My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you. —Galatians 4:19

The mother of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was a midwife. So Socrates grew up observing that she assisted women in bringing new life into the world. This experience later influenced his teaching method. Socrates said, “My art of midwifery is in general like theirs; the only difference is that my patients are men, not women, and my concern is not with the body but with the soul that is in travail of birth.”

Instead of just passing information on to his students, Socrates used the sometimes painful process of asking probing questions to help them arrive at their own conclusions. Teaching them to think seemed at times like the travail of childbirth.

Paul expressed a similar idea in discipling believers in the faith when he said, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). Paul was concerned that each believer grow to spiritual maturity in Christlikeness (Eph. 4:13).

Becoming like Christ is a lifelong experience; therefore, we need patience with others and ourselves. All of us will have challenges and disappointments along the way. But if we put our trust in Him, we’ll grow spiritually and have character qualities that will radiate new life. — Dennis Fisher

Lord, help us see how much we need each other
As we walk along the Christian way;
In fellowship with sister and with brother,
You will keep us growing day by day. —Hess

Conversion is the miracle of a moment; maturing takes a lifetime.
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-Colossians 3:23

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  #382  
Old 09-26-2009, 03:58 AM
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Default Sep. 26

September 26, 2009

Love Believes All Things

READ: 1 Corinthians 13

[Love] believes all things, hopes all things. —1 Corinthians 13:7

It was 40 years ago or more that I observed a friend of mine showing great affection for someone I considered unworthy of love. I thought my friend was being taken in, and I was afraid he would be disillusioned and saddened in the end.

When I expressed my concern, he replied, “When I stand before my Lord, I hope He’ll say of me that I’ve loved too many, rather than too few.” I’ve never forgotten his words.

Paul insists that “[love] believes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). Love “believes” in people. It can see the potential in them. It believes that God can take the most unattractive and unworthy individual and turn that person into a masterpiece of beauty and grace. If love errs, it must err in the way of trustfulness and hopefulness.

Certainly, we must be aware of danger when we see it coming, and become “as wise as serpents” (Matt. 10:16). Tough love may be the best response to irresponsible and foolish people, but we can be too guarded, too wary and distrustful.

It doesn’t do us any real harm to be hoodwinked and defrauded (Matt. 5:38-48). It’s better to believe in someone and have your heart broken than to have no heart at all. British poet Alfred Tennyson wrote, “ ’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I agree. — David H. Roper

Lord, help us to believe in people
And all that in them You can do,
So we can say we’ve loved too many,
Rather than too few. —Sper

Love looks beyond what people are to what they can become.
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  #383  
Old 09-26-2009, 03:19 PM
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Default Sep. 27

September 27, 2009

Nailed To The Cross

READ: Colossians 2:9-17

[Jesus] has made [you] alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses. —Colossians 2:13

It was a touching church service. Our pastor talked about Jesus taking our sins upon Himself and dying in our place to take our punishment. He asked if anyone still felt guilt over confessed sins and was therefore not enjoying the forgiveness of God.

We were to write the sin or sins on a piece of paper, walk to the front of the church, and nail the paper to the cross that was placed there. Many went forward, and you could hear the pounding of nails for several minutes. That act didn’t give us forgiveness, of course, but it was a physical reminder that Jesus had already taken those sins on Himself as He hung on the cross and died.

That’s what the apostle Paul taught the church at Colosse. The people were being influenced by false teachers who presented Christ as less than adequate for their needs. But Paul explained that Jesus paid the price for our sins. He said, “The handwriting of requirements that was against us, . . . He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14).

If we confess our sin to God, seeking His cleansing, He will forgive (1 John 1:9). We don’t need to hold on to the guilt. Our sins have been nailed to the cross; they’ve been taken away. Jesus has forgiven them all. — Anne Cetas

Lord, give me courage to confess,
To bare my sinful heart to Thee;
Thy full forgiveness I would know
And from this weight of guilt be free. —D. De Haan

Guilt is a burden God never intended His children to bear.
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  #384  
Old 09-28-2009, 12:24 AM
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September 28, 2009

Beware Of Jumping To Conclusions

READ: Joshua 22:10-34

Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools. —Ecclesiastes 7:9

The e-mail contained nothing but Bible verses, and it came from someone I didn’t know very well at a time when there was disagreement among members of a church committee I was on. I assumed that the verses were aimed at me in an accusing way, and I was angry that someone who didn’t know all the issues involved would use Scripture to attack me.

Before I could retaliate, my husband, Jay, suggested I give her the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst. “Perhaps there’s an innocent explanation,” he said. I couldn’t imagine what it would be, but I followed his advice and called. “Thank you so much for calling,” she said. “My computer has a virus and it spewed out e-mails using pieces of our Sunday school lesson to random people in my address book.” Gulp. I’m thankful that God used Jay to keep me from creating a problem where none existed.

By jumping to a conclusion that was logical but untrue, I came dangerously close to unnecessary conflict. The Israelites did the same thing. They were ready to go to war because they wrongly assumed that the altar built by their brothers was a sign of rebellion against God (Josh. 22:9-34). To avoid making wrong judgments, we must be careful to get the facts right. — Julie Ackerman Link

When you’re forming your opinions,
Do it carefully—go slow;
Hasty judgments oft are followed
By regretting—that I know. —Anon.

To avoid an embarrassing fall, don’t jump to a wrong conclusion.
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  #385  
Old 09-28-2009, 11:21 PM
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September 29, 2009

Struggling To Kneel

READ: Colossians 4:1-12

Always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. —Col. 4:12

Just before John Ashcroft was being sworn in as a US senator, he met with family and friends for prayer. As they gathered around him, he saw his dad trying to get up from the couch where he sat. Since his father was in frail health, Ashcroft told him, “That’s okay, Dad. You don’t have to stand up to pray for me.” His father replied, “I’m not struggling to stand up. I’m struggling to kneel.”

His father’s effort reminds me of the exertion it sometimes takes to intercede for a fellow believer. In Colossians, Paul refers to Epaphras as a bondservant who is “always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12). “Laboring fervently” is the translation of a Greek word from which we get our word agony. It was used of wrestlers who in the Greek gymnastic games strained to overcome an opponent.

Epaphras interceded for other believers to become mature in their walk with the Savior. Asking God to overcome obstacles to spiritual growth in the lives of others requires our concentration and discipline. Are we willing to labor “fervently” in prayer to ask God to meet the needs of our loved ones? — Dennis Fisher

There’s a holy, high vocation
Needing workers everywhere;
’Tis the highest form of service,
’Tis the ministry of prayer. —Woodworth

Intercessory prayer is life’s real work.
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  #386  
Old 09-29-2009, 11:21 PM
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September 30, 2009

The Measure Of Love

READ: John 15:9-17

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. —John 15:13

On October 2, 1954, First Lieutenant James O. Conway was taking off from Boston Logan Airport, flying a plane that carried a load of munitions. When his plane became airborne, he suddenly lost power over Boston’s bay. In an instant, Conway faced a brutal choice—eject from the plane and save his own life, or crash the plane into the bay causing his own death.

If he ejected, however, the plane would crash into an East Boston neighborhood filled with homes and families. Amazingly, Conway chose to crash the plane into the bay—giving his life for the lives of others.

In John 15:13, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” The willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect others shows a heart that cares more about the needs of others than the needs of one’s self. Someone once said that “the measure of love is what one is willing to give up for it.” God the Father loved so much that He gave up His Son. Christ loved so much that He gave up His life—even taking our sins on Himself and dying in our place.

The measure of God’s love for you is great. Have you accepted His love personally? — Bill Crowder

When Jesus gave His life for me,
Enduring all the agony
Upon the cross of Calvary,
He showed the love of God. —Sper

Nothing speaks more clearly of God’s love than the cross of Christ.
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  #387  
Old 09-30-2009, 11:57 PM
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October 1, 2009

Expectancy

READ: Matthew 7:7-11

If you . . . know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! —Matthew 7:11

With a handful of Cheerios, I tip-toed across the deck in my backyard trying to sneak up on the fish in the pond. Perhaps it was my shadow on the water . . . or maybe I wasn’t as sneaky as I thought. As I approached the railing, 15 enormous goldfish raced toward me, their large mouths frantically opening and closing in eager anticipation of an expected treat.

So, why did the fish so furiously flap their fins? Because my mere presence set off a conditioned response in their tiny fish brains that told them I had something special to give them.

If only we always had such a response to God and His desire to give us good gifts—a response based on our past experience with Him that flows from a deep-seated knowledge of His character.

Missionary William Carey stated: “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” God desires to equip us perfectly for what He wants us to do, and He invites us to “come boldly” to find mercy and grace in time of need (Heb. 4:16).

When we as God’s children are living in faith, we can have an exciting expectancy and a quiet confidence that God will give us exactly what we need, when we need it (Matt. 7:8-11). — Cindy Hess Kasper

When with expectancy we pray
According to God’s will,
We’ll see Him working in our lives
His purpose to fulfill. —Sper

Prayer without expectancy is unbelief in disguise.
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  #388  
Old 10-01-2009, 11:12 PM
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October 2, 2009

Music Of The Soul

READ: Ephesians 5:15-21

Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. —Ephesians 5:19

In his book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Oliver Sacks devotes a chapter to the therapeutic role of music with people suffering from Alzheimer’s. He writes of watching people with advanced dementia respond to songs that bring back memories that had seemed lost to them: “Faces assume expression as the old music is recognized and its emotional power felt. One or two people, perhaps, start to sing along, others join them and soon the entire group—many of them virtually speechless before—is singing together, as much as they are able.”

I have seen this occur at Sunday morning services in the Alzheimer’s care facility where my wife’s mother lives. Perhaps you’ve experienced it with a loved one whose mind is clouded, and a song calls forth an awareness from deep within.

Paul encouraged the Christians in Ephesus to “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:18-19). Songs that glorify God can reach the deepest level where the meaning never fades. More than words, harmony, or conscious thought, such music is good for the heart and soul. — David C. McCasland

There’s wondrous music in my soul
Since Jesus’ blood has made me whole;
Now my heart sings His songs of praise
For all His blessings all my days. —Hess

A heart in tune with God can’t help but sing His praise.
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  #389  
Old 10-02-2009, 10:43 PM
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October 3, 2009

Distortion

READ: 1 Corinthians 2

Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. —1 Corinthians 2:5

Cartographers (mapmakers) deal with the problem of distortion when they display the round shape of the earth on the flat surface of a map. Since there is no perfect way to do this, some world maps depict Greenland as larger than Australia.

Christians have to deal with the problem of distortion as well. When we try to understand the spiritual realm within the limitations of the physical world, we can end up exaggerating minor things and minimizing important things.

The New Testament often addresses the distortion that results when the ideas of popular teachers become more important to us than what God says. God’s purpose, said the apostle Paul, is “love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). Sound teaching does not distort God’s Word or divide the church. Rather, it unites believers and builds up the body of Christ to care for one another and to do the work of God in the world (1 Cor. 12:25).

All human attempts to explain God are inadequate, and can even distort our priorities, confuse our thinking, and flatten our understanding of the spiritual life. To keep from distorting God’s truth, we must rely on God’s power rather than man’s wisdom (1 Cor. 2:5). — Julie Ackerman Link

This mortal life is far too brief,
Eternity too vast,
To follow human sophistries
And lose the soul at last. —Clayburn

To detect error, expose it to the light of God’s truth.
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  #390  
Old 10-04-2009, 03:44 AM
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October 4, 2009

Goats For Jesus

READ: 1 John 3:16-20

Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? —1 John 3:17

When Dave and Joy Mueller felt God prompting them to move to Sudan as missionaries, all they knew was that they would be helping to build a hospital in that war-ravaged land. How could they know that goats would be in their future?

As Joy began working with the women, she discovered that many were widows because of the devastating civil war and had no way to earn a living. So Joy had an idea. If she could provide just one pregnant goat to a woman, that person would have milk and a source of income. To keep the program going, the woman would give the newborn kid back to Joy—but all other products from the goat would be used to support the woman’s family. The baby goat would eventually go to another family. The gift of goats given in Jesus’ name would change the life of numerous Sudanese women—and open the door for Joy to explain the gospel.

What is your equivalent to goats? What can you give a neighbor, a friend, or even someone you don’t know? Is it a ride? An offer to do yardwork? A gift of material resources?

As believers in Christ, we have the responsibility to care for the needs of others (1 John 3:17). Our acts of love reveal that Jesus resides in our hearts, and giving to those in need may help us tell others about Him. — Dave Branon

O Lord, my heart is filled with love
For others who have urgent needs
So help me share in every way
What I can give through words and deeds. —Hess

God gives us all we need, so let’s give to others in their need.
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