Overcoming discouragement brings great blessing

 Are you a “big picture” person?

(My Note: Considering the previous message on the site today, I think this one was also “right on” and meant for me to contemplate today.  Funny how that happens, huh?)

Who but God goes up to the heaven and comes back down? Who holds the wind in his fist? Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak? Who has created the whole wide world? What is his name — and his son’s name? Tell me if you know!

Proverbs 30:4 NLT

Impressive panorama

When people understand events clearly, we often say that they “see the big picture.” This passage in Proverbs makes the point that the clearest view of the “big picture” will always include God. The sequence of rhetorical questions helps us consider the awesome identity and capacity of God. Much like the litany of questions that God showered on Job (Job 38:1-41:34), these push us toward humble and silent worship.

Agur was feeling overwhelmed (30:1), insignificant (30:2), and limited (30:3). But when he turned away from his smallness to contemplate God’s greatness, an atmosphere of confidence filled the rest of the chapter. He began with a little picture, no bigger than himself, but he soon looked at the big picture and forgot that he was weary and worn out. God gave him a new and refreshing point of view.

WISE WAYS  One of the best remedies for a weary and tired spirit is to contemplate the majesty and greatness of God. How have you found that to be true?

Dear Lord, when I look at all you have made, I know it makes me feel smaller, but it also fills me with wonder over how great you are! I worship you.

Adapted from The One Year® Book of Proverbs by Neil S. Wilson, Tyndale House Publishers (2002), entry for January 30.


Content is derived from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation and other publications of Tyndale Publishing House

Look up!

God wants you to stop being “absorbed with the things right in front of you.

Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—

that’s where the action is.

See things from his perspective”.

(Colossians 3:2 MSG)

If I ever needed to hear this verse, today was the day! I’m having a rough time facing the fact that my sister’s leukemia has now progressed and she will be starting chemo soon.  Also, it seems, people who are “supposed friends”, just simply “aren’t”.  So I need to look up, and try to see it all in “God’s perspective”.

Have a blessed New Year!

Just wanted to wish you all a blessed New Year…full of happiness, love, warmth, encouragement, healing, discernment, wisdom, praise to our Lord, humility, gratitude, forgiveness, grace, mercy, hope, faith, spiritual growth, victory, and all the good things our Lord has in store for each of us.

 

Sharon & Erick

Christ in You!

When grace happens, Christ enters.  Christ in you, the hope of glory!

For many years, I missed this truth.  I believed all the other prepositions:

Christ for me, with me, ahead of me.  But I never imagined that Christ was in me.

I can’t blame my deficiency on Scripture. Paul refers to it 216 times.  John mentions it 26.  No other religion or philosophy makes such a claim.  No other movement implies the living presence of its founder in his followers.

Muhammad does not indwell Muslims.  Buddha does not inhabit Buddhists.

Influence?  Instruct?  Yes.  But occupy?  No.

The mystery in a nutshell is Colossians 1:27:  “Christ is in you!”

The Christian is a person in whom Christ is happening!  We sense his re-arranging.  He’s turning debris into the divine, a pig’s ear into silk purse.  Little by little a new image emerges!

God’s Grace!

From GRACE

~ Max Lucado

Are you wearing the “belt of truth”?

The belt of truth

Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth.

Ephesians 6:14 NLT

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” says Jesus (John 8:32). But what will the truth set us free from?

First of all, it sets us free from the snares of deception. When people know the truth, they can’t be taken in by a lie. You can’t convince people to believe in something that they know in their hearts and minds is false.

The truth will also set you free from guilt and shame. When you’ve held tightly to the truth, you don’t have to worry about a lie coming back to haunt you. You don’t spend your nights lying awake wondering what words of deception might trap and ensnare you. You are free to live with a clean conscience and an innocent heart.

Finally, the truth sets you free from judgment. When you trust in the truth of Jesus, you have no more fear of death — physical or spiritual. You know his promises to be true and his words to be life-giving. You can no longer be bound by Satan’s lies.

The belt of truth Paul writes about is the strap that holds together the entire armor of God. Without it, everything else would fall away and Satan would have an open target to your heart. So take the truth of Christ, and latch it firmly around your waist. Let it set you free!

From a devotional by Frank M. Martin in Embracing Eternity (Tyndale House) p 293

Content is derived from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation and other publications of Tyndale Publishing House

Blessings come from applying God’s Word.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

I have always loved this passage in Psalm 34. Read the whole chapter (which I have copied from biblegateway.com and included it after the following message from The Life Application Study Bible).  Let it bathe over you with comfort.

~~~~~

God pays attention to those who call on Him.  Whether God offers escape from trouble or help in times of trouble, we can be certain that He always hears and acts on behalf of those who love Him.

God promises great blessings to His people, but many of these blessings require active participation.  He will deliver us from:

  • fear (34:4),
  • save us out of our troubles (34:6),
  • guard and deliver us (34:7),
  • show us goodness (34:8),
  • supply our needs (34:9),
  • listen when we talk to Him (34:15)
  • and redeem us (34:22),

but we must do our part.

We can appropriate His blessings when:

  • we seek Him (34:4, 10),
  • cry out to Him (34:6, 17),
  • trust Him (34:8),
  • fear Him (34:7,9),
  • refrain from lying (34:13),
  • turn from evil,
  • do good and seek peace (34:14),
  • are humble (34:18,
  • and serve Him (34:22).

34:8  “Taste and see” does not mean “Check out God’s credentials.”  Instead it is a warm invitation. “Try this; I know you’ll like it.”  When we take that first step of obedience in following God, we will discover that Je is good and kind.  When we begin the Christian life, our knowledge of God is partial and incomplete.  As we trust Him daily, we experience how good He is.

34:9   You say you belong to the Lord, but do you fear Him?  To fear the Lord means to show deep respect and honor to Him.  We demonstrate true reverence by our humble attitude and genuine worship.  Reverence was shown by Abraham (Genesis 17:2-4), Moses (Exodus 3:5, 6), and the Israelites (Exodus 19:16-24) showed this kind of fear of the Lord.

34:9, 10  At first we may question David’s statement, because we seem to lack many good things.  This is not a blanket promise that all Christians will have everything they want.  Instead, this is David’s praise for God’s goodness–all those who call upon God in their need will be answered, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Remember, God knows what we need, and our deepest needs are spiritual.  Even though many Christians face unbearable poverty and hardship, they still have enough spiritual nourishment to live for God.  David was saying that to have God is to have all you really need.  God is enough.
If you feel you don’t have everything you need, ask:

  • Is this really a need?
  • Is this really good for me?
  • Is this the best time for me to have what I desire?

Even if you answer yes to all three questions, God may allow you to go without to help you grow more dependent on Him.  He may want you to learn that you need Him more than having to achieve your immediate desires.

34:11-14  The Bible often connects the fear of the Lord (love and reverence for Him) with obedience.  “Fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13); “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (John 14:23).

David said that a person who fears the Lord

  • doesn’t lie,
  • turns from evil,
  • does good,
  • and promotes peace.

Reverence is much more than sitting quietly in church.  It includes obeying God in the way we speak and the way we treat others.

34:14  Some may think that peace should come with no effort.  But David explained that we are to seek and pursue peace.  Paul echoed this thought in Romans 12:18.  A person who wants peace cannot be argumentative and contentious.  Because peaceful relationships come from our efforts at peacemaking, work hard at living in peace with others each day.

34:18, 19  We often wish we could escape troubles–

  • the pain of grief,
  • loss,
  • sorrow,
  • and failure;

or even the small daily frustrations that constantly wear us down.

God promises to be “close to the brokenhearted,” to be our source of

  • power,
  • courage,
  • and wisdom,

helping us through our problems.

Sometimes He chooses to deliver us from those problems.  When trouble strikes, don’t get frustrated with God.  Instead, admit that you need God’s help and thank Him for being by your side.

34:20  This is a prophecy about Christ when He was crucified.  Although it was the Roman custom to break the legs of the victim to speed death, not one of Jesus’ bones was broken (John 19:32-37).  In addition to the prophetic meaning, David was pleading for God’s protection in times of crisis.

 

Psalm 34

1 I will extol the Lord at all times;
His praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me;
He delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
He saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
and He delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.
Fear the Lord, you His saints,
for those who fear Him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and His ears are attentive to their cry;
16 the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
He delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20  He protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems His servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in Him.

 

 

To read this passage in the King James Version, please click on this link:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2034&version=KJV

Faithful Perseverance

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” Hebrews 10:36-37

The greatest example of Christian perseverance for me is Sister Alice Yuan from China. Her pastor husband, Allen Yuan, was imprisoned for almost twenty-two years for refusing to join the government controlled church in the middle 1950’s. She says:

“When my husband Allen was sent to prison in April 1958, I was told that I would never see him again. I felt completely miserable and continually blamed God. The future looked so terribly bleak. I had the care of six children and my mother-in-law. I was only earning 80 cents a day. How could I keep my family alive on that?

“When it all became too much for me, one night I heard a voice: ‘My child, I have everything in My hands. These things come from Me.’ I replied, ‘If these things come from You, please protect me and my family. Do not allow me to dishonor Your name. I want to serve You and glorify Your name’

“Then I received peace in my heart. I was encouraged by Psalm 68:19, Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. In those difficult years, people let me down, but God never abandoned me. But he did put me through trials.

“The first trial was the struggle to survive. I was only earning 80 cents a day. How could we get by on that? But God took care of us, in the same way that he took care of Elijah. He promised to be my shepherd and provider.

“One evening, my mother-in-law said that there was no food anymore in the house. The next morning, at five to six there was a knock on the door. ‘Are you sister Alice?’ asked a woman in her sixties, whom I didn’t know. ‘God wanted me to give you this.’ She put a package in my hand and disappeared. When I opened the parcel I found there was rice in it and some other food and a banknote to the value of about four month’s salary of a professor! Praise the Lord. Where man comes to an end, God begins! This was only one of the many miracles which kept us alive all those years.”

RESPONSE: Today I will not complain about discomforts but thank God for all His blessings!

PRAYER: Lord, You desire faithfulness and perseverance. Help me develop these qualities in my life.

“But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Hebrews 10:38-39

“The second trial came from the Communist party. Every day for nineteen years, I had to report to the police station, where for six hours, they put pressure on me. They said that I would never see my husband again, that I should divorce him and that I should give up my faith. With God’s help I kept going. Praying with my eyes closed, I endured the interrogations every day.

“The third trial consisted of the hard work. After I had been pressured by the security police for six hours, I still had to work for eight hours to earn a living. I had to push handcarts filled with building materials. The carts were much too heavy. I was completely exhausted and was already tired before I started. In the winter, it was even worse. Sometimes I had to shovel cement up onto a floor above my head. The work was dirty, hard and cold, but I achieved my quota. The others were surprised and wondered where I got the energy from.

“The fourth trial had to do with my natural desires. I was thirty-nine-years-old when my husband was taken away. The authorities put me under pressure to marry someone else. All my papers would be changed, so that I could start a new life without all the difficulties. I was offered money and clothing. God loved me so much that He gave me the strength to resist all these temptations. When I prayed to God, He gave me everything I needed, and even more than that.

“My favorite text is Psalm 68:6, God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing.”

It is a miracle that her husband, Allen Yuan, got out of the labour camp alive. In December 1979, he was released after twenty-one years and eight months. He was then sixty-five years old, thin but still healthy. At an age when many people are enjoying retirement, Allan again took up his vocation as a pastor. He died on August 16th 2005 at the age of ninety-one. Alice joined him in heaven in early August 2010 to hear her own “Well done!”

RESPONSE: I resolve to persevere, with faith in a good God, through all the trials that come my way.

PRAYER: Lord, may all Your children experiencing severe persecution today be filled with faith and refuse to shrink back. Help me to emulate these great examples of faithful perseverance.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES

This message makes me stop and think.

Do I really love my enemies?And better yet, who are my enemies? Do I really have any?

First of all, we are so blessed that we do not have to endure the kind of persecution referred to in this story. But if we did, what would be our attitude? our response?

On a routine day, how do we respond to our neighbors when they do something that displeases us?

Do we vent to them?

Take it out on them?

Are we passive aggressive?

Do we fuss and fume about it in our homes?

Do we love, instead?

Food for thought!

~ Sharon

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… Matthew 5:44

Perhaps the most difficult of Jesus’ commands is to love even our enemies. A true Christian always seeks another person’s highest good—even when mistreated. Brother Andrew says “The Christian’s only method of destroying his enemies is to ‘love’ them into being his friends.”

Romanian pastor, Dr. Paul Negrut, was visiting an old friend in Romania named Trian Dors in his humble home. As Paul entered, he realized that Trian was bleeding from open wounds. He asked, “What happened?”

Trian replied, “The secret police just left my home. They came and confiscated my manuscripts. Then they beat me.”

Pastor Paul says, “I began to complain about the heavy tactics of the secret police. But Trian stopped me saying, ‘Brother Paul, it is so sweet to suffer for Jesus. God didn’t bring us together tonight to complain but to praise him. Let’s kneel down and pray.”

“He knelt and began praying for the secret police. He asked God to bless them and save them. He told God how much he loved them. He said, ‘God, if they will come back in the next few days, I pray that you will prepare me to minister to them.’” Paul continued, “By this time I was ashamed. I thought I had been living the most difficult life in Romania for the Lord. And I was bitter about that.”

Trian Dors then shared with Paul how the secret police had been coming to his home regularly for several years. They beat him twice every week. They confiscated all his papers. After the beating he would talk to the officer in charge. Trian would look into his eyes and say, “Mister, I love you. And I want you to know that if our next meeting is before the judgement throne of God, you will not go to hell because I hate you but because you rejected love.” Trian would repeat these words after every beating.

Years later that officer came alone to his home one night. Trian prepared himself for another beating. But the officer spoke kindly and said, “Mr. Dors, the next time we meet will be before the judgement throne of God. I came tonight to apologize for what I did to you and to tell you that your love moved my heart. I have asked Christ to save me. But two days ago the doctor discovered that I have a very severe case of cancer and I have only a few weeks to live before I go to be with God. I came tonight to tell you that we will be together on the other side.”

RESPONSE: Today I will destroy my enemies only with love.

PRAYER: God give me Your kind of love for my enemies—so they too will love You.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission

SELFLESSNESS

Note: This is a beautiful story. I hope you will be blessed by it as I have been. Makes you really stop and think! ~ Sharon

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

Brother Andrew loves to tell this parable from the Middle East:

A certain man had two sons. One was rich and the other was poor. The rich son had no children while the poor son was blessed with many sons and many daughters. In time, the father fell ill. He was sure he would not live through the week, so on Saturday he called his sons to his side and gave each of them half of his land for their inheritance. Then he died. Before sundown the sons buried their father with respect.

That night the rich son could not sleep. He said to himself, “What my father did was not just. I am rich and my brother is poor. I have plenty of bread while my brother’s children eat one day and trust God for the next. I must move the landmark which our father has set in the middle of the land so that my brother will have the greater share. Ah – but he must not see me; if he sees me, he will be shamed. I must arise early in the morning before it is dawn and move the landmark!” With this he fell asleep and his sleep was secure and peaceful.

Meanwhile, the poor brother could not sleep. As he lay restless on his bed, he said to himself, “What my father did was not just. Here I am surrounded by the joy of many sons and daughters while my brother daily faces the shame of having no sons to carry on his name and no daughters to comfort him in his old age. He should have the land of our fathers. Perhaps this will in part compensate him for his indescribable poverty. Ah – but if I give it to him, he will be shamed. I must awake early in the morning before it is dawn and move the landmark which our father has set!” With this he went to sleep and his sleep was secure and peaceful.

On the first day of the week – very early in the morning, a long time before it was day, the two brothers met at the ancient land marker.

They fell with tears into each other’s arms. And on that spot was built the New Jerusalem.

RESPONSE: Today I will focus on the needs and interests of others rather than on my own.

PRAYER: Pray that this biblical attitude of love, humility and selflessness will pervade the church of Jesus Christ in the Middle East today and around the world.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission

Every day, we are closer to Home!

By Max Lucado

Too seldom do I hear thunder and think “Is that God?”

I’ve been known to let a day pass, even two days, without a glance to the eastern sky. Let’s do better!

Colossians 3:2 reminds us to “Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.”

Blessings and burdens. Both can alarm-clock us out of slumber. Gifts stir homeward longings. So do struggles. Every homeless day carries us closer to the day our Father will come.

The Bible tells us God will wipe away all tears, there will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain.

All of that gone forever. Write checks of hope on this promise! With Paul in Romans 8:23, we “wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children.”

Every day—closer to home!

From Come Thirsty

Loving the you He sees

Why does God love you so much?

For the same reason the artist loves his paintings.  You are His idea!

Ephesians 2:10 confirms that we are “God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

In the movie Hook, Peter Pan had become old and looked nothing like the Peter the lost boys knew.  In the midst of the boys shouting that this was NOT Peter, one of the smallest boys pulled him down to his level.  He places his hands on Peter’s face, moved the skin around and reshaped his face.  The boy looked into Peter’s eyes and said, “There you are, Peter!”

Shh.  Listen.  Do you hear?

God is saying the same words to you.  There you are!  There you are!

He’s seeing you and loving the you he sees.

From Fearless

by Max Lucado

SPIRIT OF FORGIVENESS

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

A Spanish father and son were estranged. The father later went to search for his son. When he could not find him, the father put this ad in the Madrid newspaper:

“Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.”

Saturday noon, 800 Pacos showed up at the office looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful actions that Christians can perform. The world does not understand the ability or reasons to do this because it is most unnatural in a dog-eat-dog world. There is also pain to be overcome because behind every act of forgiveness lies the wound of betrayal; but there is far more pain and emotional, social, physical damage done when we do not forgive.

An Asian Christian apologist says, “If I am asked what separates Christianity from other religions, or what’s different about Christianity, aren’t all religions the same when you get down to it?’ one of the first things that I would say is bound up in this one beautiful word: forgiveness.”

Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a brother who sins against him. He thinks he is magnanimous and suggests seven times! Jesus makes his famous reply, “…not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:22).

Jesus then shares a parable about a man who, after much pleading for mercy, was forgiven for much and yet would not forgive another person who owed him little. In the parable, the master throws the man into jail to be tortured until he pays back his large debt. Then comes the conclusion: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

RESPONSE: Today I will forgive others who hurt me because God has commanded it and because my own forgiveness depends on it.

PRAYER: Lord, give me a spirit of forgiveness toward others who hurt me, just as You have forgiven me.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission

Take out the Trash

Who wants to live with yesterday’s rubble? 

Who wants to hoard the trash of the past? 

You don’t, do you? 

Or do you?

I’m not talking about the trash in your house, but in your heart. 

Not the junk of papers and boxes but the remnants of anger and hurt. 

Do you rat-pack your pain? 

Amass offenses? 

Record slights?

A tour of your heart might be telling. 

A pile of rejections. 

Accumulated insults. 

No one can blame you. 

They’re innocence takers, promise breakers, and wound makers.  

They’re everywhere and you’ve had your share.

Jesus answered Peter’s question in Matthew 18:21 and 22 when he asked:  “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me?  Seven times?”  “No, not seven times,” Jesus said.  “Seventy times seven!”

Do you want to give every day a chance?  

Jesus says to get rid of the trash. 

Give the grace you’ve been given!

~ Max Lucado

From Great Day Every Day