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  #541  
Old 02-19-2010, 04:55 AM
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Default Feb. 19

February 19, 2010

If Day

READ: James 1:1-11

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. —James 1:2-3

February 19, 1942, was a fascinating day for Canada. It was “If Day”—a World War II staging of a fake Nazi invasion of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The intent was to show what it would be like “if” Canada fell under the harsh occupation of Nazi forces, and so that Canadians would support the war effort more fully.

As one person described the event: “If Day brought home the reality of Nazi occupation. Manitobans got a very bitter taste of nearly every aspect of Nazi brutality.” The key word there is nearly. While “If Day” was a valiant attempt to educate people about danger in the world, it could not begin to recreate the actual suffering that was sweeping Europe.

Real trials in life are not ifs—they are whens. In fact, life’s most profound lessons cannot simply be observed, they must be experienced. It is there, in actual seasons of heartache and loss, that we gain greater insights into life, faith, and our need of God. To that end, James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3).

Trials come because we live in a broken world, but we decide if we will learn the lessons taught. There are no “ifs” about it—it is an important way to grow. — Bill Crowder

Though you cannot see the outcome,
Trust the Lord—He knows what’s best;
Be assured He sees your trial,
And He’s with you in your test. —Hess

Tough times can teach us to trust.
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  #542  
Old 02-20-2010, 05:05 AM
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February 20, 2010

Parked For Now

READ: Numbers 9:19-23

I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. —Psalm 40:1

Parking my car has been a lifelong problem for me. It really wasn’t a high priority with my driving instructor, so I never learned to back up into a parking space until many years later. He also skipped the parallel parking lesson, and I still avoid that unless there’s enough space for two or three cars.

I’ve also struggled to understand a statement I heard when I was a young Christian: “God can’t steer a parked car.” I took that as a challenge to shift my life into motion, and along the way God would guide me in the right direction. It’s an interesting thought, but it’s not always the way God works. Occasionally, God does want us to “stay parked” for a while.

At times, when Moses was in the wilderness, God kept the Israelites in one place. He led them by a cloud, and when it stayed still for many days, “the children of Israel . . . did not journey” (Num. 9:19). Waiting isn’t always easy, but sometimes God wants us to stay right where He has put us. The psalmist reminds us, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart” (27:14).

You may feel that you’re stuck and just spinning your wheels in your service for God. But keep your heart open to God’s leading. Then you’ll be ready to shift gears when you hear God say, “Let’s go this way.” — Cindy Hess Kasper

Praying, resting, waiting, trusting—
These are words that tell a story;
As we wait for God to lead us,
He responds, “Just seek My glory.” —Hess

God orders our stops as well as our steps.
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  #543  
Old 02-21-2010, 05:00 AM
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February 21, 2010

Running In The Right Direction

READ: John 6:53-69

Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” —John 6:68

One of the most difficult experiences in my years as a pastor was telling a member of our church that her husband, her son, and her father-in-law had all drowned in a boating accident. I knew the news would shatter her life.

In the days following their tragic loss, I was amazed as she and her family responded with unusual faith. Sure, there was deep brokenness, haunting doubt, and confusion. But when nothing else made sense, they still had Jesus. Rather than deserting Him in the midst of their desperately difficult days, they ran to Him as the only source of hope and confidence.

This reminds me of the reaction of the disciples to Jesus. After some of them “went back and walked with Him no more” because He was hard to understand (John 6:66), Jesus turned to His inner circle, and asked, “Do you also want to go away?” (v.67). Peter got it right when he responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (v.68).

Whatever you face today, be encouraged by the words of Peter and by the example of a family who went through the fire with their faith intact. As long as you’re running in the right direction—to Jesus—you’ll find the grace and strength you will need. — Joe Stowell

Jesus is the One to run to
When our lives bring grief and pain;
He provides His strength and guidance
With a peace we can’t explain. —Sper

When all is lost, remember that you haven’t lost Jesus. Run to Him.
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  #544  
Old 02-22-2010, 02:23 AM
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February 22, 2010

Short-Timers

READ: Romans 5:1-5

Hope does not disappoint. —Romans 5:5

I served in the Armed Forces many years ago and have always been thankful that I was able to give those years to my country. I must say, however, that my most memorable time in the service was the brief interval when I was a “short-timer.”

Short-timers are soldiers who have but a few weeks before discharge. They spend their last days “mustering out”—visiting the commissary and the quartermaster’s office to clear accounts and return equipment. What I remember most about that period was my jaunty pace and the happy, carefree spirit with which I carried out my tasks. I had duties but few worries, for I knew I was going home.

Now that I’m an “old-timer,” once again I’m a short-timer. It won’t be long before I’m discharged from my duty here. Again, my pace is jaunty and my spirit is light for I know that very soon I’ll be going home. That’s the outlook that Jesus and His apostles called “hope” (Acts 24:15; Rom. 5:2,5).

Hope, in the biblical sense, means certainty and assurance. It is the firm, unshakable, indomitable belief that we will be raised from the dead (as Jesus was) and will be welcomed into our eternal home. That’s enough to put joy in our heart and a spring in our step this day! — David H. Roper

God has given us a life abundant
As we serve Him in this world below;
Though our time on earth is surely fleeting,
Hope of heaven makes our pathway glow. —Hess

The risen Christ will come from heaven to take His own to heaven.
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  #545  
Old 02-23-2010, 03:18 AM
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February 23, 2010

Foreign Worship

READ: Acts 17:16-31

“[Paul] seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus. —Acts 17:18

During a trip to the Far East, I visited an unusual shrine made up of hundreds of statues. According to our guide, worshipers would pick the statue that looked the most like an ancestor and pray to it.

A few years ago, I read about a student named Le Thai. An ancestor worshiper, he found great comfort in praying to his deceased grandmother. Because he was praying to someone he knew and loved, he found this to be personal and intimate.

But when he came from Vietnam to the US to study, Le Thai was introduced to Christianity. It sounded like a fairy tale based on American thinking. To him, it was the worship of a foreign God (see Acts 17:18).

Then a Christian friend invited him to visit his home on Christmas. He saw a Christian family in action and heard again the story of Jesus. Le Thai listened. He read John 3 about being “born again” and asked questions. He began to feel the pull of the Holy Spirit. Finally, he realized that Christianity was true. He trusted Jesus as his personal Savior.

When friends see Christianity as foreign worship, we need to respect their heritage while sharing the gospel graciously and giving them time to explore Christianity. And then trust the Spirit to do His work. — Dave Branon

Man gropes his way through life’s dark maze,
To gods unknown he often prays,
Until one day he meets God’s Son—
At last he’s found the Living One! —D. De Haan

God is the only true God.
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  #546  
Old 02-24-2010, 03:38 AM
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February 24, 2010

Being Real

READ: 2 Corinthians 6:3-11

In all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses. —2 Corinthians 6:4

An antique dealer thought the wrinkled old baseball card she found might be worth $10. After posting it on eBay, she began to wonder if it might be more valuable than she had thought. She removed the posting and consulted a professional evaluator who confirmed that the photo on the 1869 card showed the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team in the US. The card sold for more than $75,000.

Mike Osegueda’s article in The Fresno Bee said that even though the card was creased and discolored, the most important thing was its authenticity—it was real.

Paul and his companions suffered greatly while spreading the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 6, he listed their outward trials, their inward traits, and their spiritual resources (vv.4-7). Try to imagine the circumstances in which all these things interacted—beatings, patience, prison, kindness, distresses, love. Although broken physically, depleted emotionally, and tested spiritually, the authenticity of their faith in Christ clearly shone through. “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (v.10).

In our walk with Christ, there’s no substitute for spiritual authenticity—being real. — David C. McCasland

O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart. —Chisholm

There’s no substitute for being real.
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  #547  
Old 02-25-2010, 04:39 AM
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February 25, 2010

Imagine That!

READ: 2 Peter 1:16-21

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, . . . rightly dividing the Word of truth. —2 Timothy 2:15

My friends and I were anticipating a contemplative time looking at a collection of artwork about the prodigal son who returned home to a forgiving father (Luke 15). When we arrived at the information table, we noticed the brochures, books, and a sign pointing to the artwork.

Also on the table was a dinner plate with bread, a napkin, and a glass. Each of us privately pondered what the significance of the plate could be. We wondered if it represented communion fellowship between the prodigal son and his father when he returned home. But as we examined it more closely, we realized simultaneously: Someone had left a dirty plate on the display table. And it wasn’t bread, but leftover cookie bars! Our imaginations had been wrong.

We had a good laugh, but then it made me think about how sometimes we imagine more than what’s really there while reading the Bible. Rather than assuming that our speculation is correct, however, we need to be sure our interpretation fits with the whole of Scripture. Peter said that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). As we depend on the Spirit’s instruction, a careful study of the context, and the wisdom of respected Bible teachers, we’ll avoid seeing things in the Word that aren’t really there. — Anne Cetas

We must correctly hear God’s Word,
Or we will be misled;
We must give careful thought and prayer
To what the Author said. —Hess

A text out of context is often a dangerous pretext.
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  #548  
Old 02-26-2010, 03:31 AM
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February 26, 2010

Under New Orders

READ: Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. —Matthew 22:37

Herman Wouk’s thrilling World War II novel The Caine Mutiny contains an excellent illustration of what happens when someone becomes a follower of God.

In the novel, a young man from an influential family has enlisted in the Navy. On the day of his induction, his mother drops him off in her fancy car and then kisses him goodbye. He shakes hands with the guard as he enters the building, and the door closes behind him.

His mother, suddenly worried that he might not have enough money, rushes up to the door. But the guard politely stops her. When she demands entrance, he refuses to let her in. She can see her son standing inside the door, so she reaches for the doorknob. “He’s my son!” she cries. The guard gently removes her hand from the knob and says softly, “I know, Ma’am, but he belongs to Uncle Sam now. He’s a sailor.”

When we believe in Jesus Christ and become His followers, we are under new authority. We are subject to new commands. Now we belong to Him. What was once important to us loses its significance. We evaluate things differently. Our new desire is to love and serve the Lord with all our heart (Deut. 6:5-6). Have you joined His ranks? — David C. Egner

Jesus my Lord will love me forever,
From Him no power of evil can sever;
He gave His life to ransom my soul—
Now I belong to Him! —Clayton

Followers of Christ get their marching orders from Him.
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  #549  
Old 02-27-2010, 04:51 AM
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Default Feb. 27

February 27, 2010

Strength In Weakness

READ: Matthew 20:20-28

Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. —Matthew 20:26

No one wants to be weak, so we find ways to appear strong. Some of us use the force of our emotions to manipulate people. Others use the force of personality to control people, and some use intellect to intimidate. Although these create an illusion of strength, they are signs of weakness.

When we are truly strong, we have the courage to admit our limitations and to acknowledge our dependence on God. As a result, true strength often looks a lot like weakness. When the apostle Paul prayed that an affliction would be taken from him, God answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul responded with these troubling words: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (v.10).

Toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, some of His disciples were striving for positions of prominence. Jesus used their argument as an opportunity to teach them that in His kingdom things are different: greatness comes when we willingly assume positions of weakness (Matt. 20:26).

This is a hard truth. I prefer the illusion of strength to the reality of weakness. But God wants us to realize that true strength comes when we stop trying to control people and start serving them instead. — Julie Ackerman Link

The life that we live for God’s glory,
Let’s live it in biblical light:
God’s strength is made perfect in weakness;
He alone controls power and might. —Branon

God’s greatest power can be displayed in our biggest weakness.
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  #550  
Old 02-28-2010, 07:21 AM
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February 28, 2010

The Country Of Old Age

READ: Mark 7:1-13

If anyone does not provide for his own, . . . [he] is worse than an unbeliever. —1 Timothy 5:8

In the book Another Country, author Mary Pipher met with people in their seventies, eighties, and nineties who were confronting many different life situations.

“I wanted . . . to understand the country of old age,” Pipher writes. “We are not organized in a way that makes aging easy.” The root problem, she observed, is that young and old have become segregated, to the detriment of both groups.

This social trend is not necessarily intentional. But many people do ignore and shirk their responsibilities for the elderly. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees found creative ways to avoid their family duties. In Mark 7:9-13, Jesus rebuked their common practice of dedicating their material possessions to God (declaring them as Corban) rather than using their assets to provide for their parents. Their tradition had violated the commandment to honor their father and their mother.

Our children, work, and church activities can pull us in many directions. But that doesn’t excuse us from honoring our aging parents by making provision for their needs, as much as we are able (1 Tim. 5:8). When the time comes for us to enter the country of old age, let’s hope we’ve set the right example for our own children to follow. — Dennis Fisher

Providing for our parents’ needs
With loving words and selfless deeds
Is what the Lord expects of those
Who try to follow where He leads. —Sper

Honoring our parents is learned by example.
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