Fiery Arrows - Part 1


 Parents, have you ever seen one of your children under attack? I do not mean a flesh and blood attack with another person, but a spiritual attack from Satan or one of his demons. I have and, let me tell you, it is one of the scariest things you will ever witness. I know many people think demons are not real and not something we have to worry about but I can tell you they are very real and, unless you are prepared for the battle, you will not win the war and there will be casualties.
The Bible says in I Peter 5:8-9, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are”.
Ephesians 6:10-18 says this, “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere”.
 
Last night as I went upstairs to go to bed, I noticed the light was still on in my 14-year old daughter’s bedroom. I thought she had gone to sleep long before so I was surprised to see the light. My first thought was to continue on into my bedroom and go through my usual routine of putting on my pajamas, washing my face, brushing my teeth, etc.
However, I have learned to listen to that little voice in my head (the voice of the Holy Spirit) and instead I walked over to the doorway of my daughter’s bedroom. Her bed faces the doorway so I could see her perfectly as I stood there. She was sitting on her bed with her back and head against the wall. She had her legs crossed in front of her under her blanket and her arms were just kind of limp at her sides. She was very pale with some scattered redness across her face and chest and I could instantly tell that something was wrong.
But it was not a typical kind of wrong. It was a very weird and scary wrong. I did not initially clue in to what it was but I knew enough to call her name as I walked to her side. As soon as I said her name, her eyes opened and something about her presence immediately changed. She began to cry like I have not seen her cry in a very long time.
I sat on the bed in front of her, reached out and took her in my arms, and held her so very tight. I began to pray out loud for her, for God’s peace to wash over her, for whatever it was that was consuming her at that very moment to go away. After a few minutes of heavy sobbing, her body finally began to relax and she began to settle down. I pulled back, looked her in the eyes, and asked her what had happened.
She said everything had been fine. She said she had gone upstairs, and got ready for bed when all of a sudden she had the worst urge to cut (self-harm) that she ever had. She said it was so incredibly strong that it surprised her and scared her all at the same time. As we sat there and talked, I asked her about the events leading up to this incredible urge to cut. The more we talked, the more the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
My daughter is a child of God. She did, at one point in her life, make that commitment to follow Jesus and have the Holy Spirit live in her heart. She was a strong Christian – she loved going to church, she volunteered in the church café, and she was always listening to Christian music.
But at some point in her young life, she was given a test; a test to see just how strong her Christian faith was. It was a test just like you and I may receive at any given point in our lives. I Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”.


 To be continued…tomorrow…

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Fiery Arrows - Part 2


My Daughter was tempted with thoughts about another girl. I am not sure how long these thoughts danced around in her head or exactly what kind of battle raged but, I do know, that, at some point, she gave in to those thoughts and failed the test. This is where sin was allowed to remain and when she began to lose the war. In James 1:14-15 we read this, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death”.
You see, my daughter has a girlfriend. Not in the sense that she has a girl that is a friend, but a girlfriend. This sin has kept her from the relationship God wants to have with her and she is struggling. When we allow sin to rule in our lives, we leave the door open for Satan to waltz on in. Our continued sin distances us from God and leaves us vulnerable to Satan’s “fiery arrows”. For my daughter, I believe one of those “fiery arrows” is self-harm, otherwise known as cutting.
Her battle is so fierce that her only way of dealing with the torment in her heart is to cut herself in an effort to alleviate the pain. She knows the homosexual thoughts and feelings are wrong. She knows they are not in line with God’s plan and will for her life. She knows it goes against God’s Word. Yet she has a hard time saying no to the sin and yes to God. As a result, the cutting has become an addiction in and of itself and it is yet another war that rages inside her every day.
What my daughter shared with me, as we sat together on her bed, was that she had started to write a break-up letter to her girlfriend in her journal. She explained that the week that she had just spent in the behavioral hospital, and the lesson she had learned in intensive group therapy that night, had led her to this decision.
She was learning that two mentally unstable people probably do not belong together. My daughter’s girlfriend has her own mental issues of self-harm, suicide attempts, hospital stays, depression, etc. One depressed person cannot lift up another depressed person. When one person wants to inflict self-harm through cutting, it is kind of hard to talk him or her out of it when you want to do the very same thing yourself. It is kind of like the old saying of “the blind leading the blind”.
My daughter was beginning to see this for the first time and she shared with me that this was her reason for thinking about breaking up with her girlfriend.
For me, this was an answer to prayer. I had been praying that God would do whatever it took to get my daughter out of that relationship. I had been reading Stormie Omartian’s book The Power of a Praying Parent and I had been praying the prayers in that book over my daughter. I firmly believed that God was using what my daughter had been learning in her therapy sessions to end the inappropriate relationship and begin healing in my daughter.
When sin has a strong hold in your life, sometimes it does not leave very easily. At the moment that my daughter began to write her break-up letter, Satan stepped in and attacked. You see, he wins if my daughter remains in this homosexual relationship. This relationship with her girlfriend keeps her from  true fellowship with God and that is exactly what Satan wants.
So as the pen moved across the page of the journal, the urge to cut came on strong – stronger than it ever has before. My daughter was forced to stop the letter and focus on her urge for self-harm and she had to decide how she was going to handle it.
This is the point at which I walked into her doorway and found her, sitting on her bed with her back and head against the wall, with her legs crossed in front of her under her blanket and her arms just kind of limp at her sides. She was very pale with some scattered redness across her face and chest and I could instantly tell that something was wrong.
She was in the middle of the fight of her life. I know, without a doubt, that if she had cut herself in that moment, she might not have lived to tell me about it. So that is why the Holy Spirit moved me to go upstairs and respond to the light that was on in my daughter’s bedroom. He moved me to call out her name. As I did so, my daughter told me that the urge to cut left immediately and she was left to sob uncontrollably in my arms.
We were able to talk about how this had indeed been an attack from Satan and that thought really scared her. We talked about the armor of God and the verses mentioned previously. Then I prayed for her again. I prayed scripture over her, rebuking the spirits that had attacked, and asking God to fill my daughter with His Holy Spirit and to give her peace.
Parents, you need to know that your children can come under attack at any time for any number of reasons. It may be something small that can be handled quickly and easily with your presence and the power of a quick prayer; or it just may be the ultimate battle for a life.
Yesterday I learned just how important it is to pray for my children. Not just a prayer for God to be with them and guide them, but I must pray the armor of God on them, pray a hedge of protection around them, and intercede on their behalf before God. If we as parents will not do it, then who will?  

Experienced & Written by
 Sandra Vijsma
Daughter, Mother, Grandmother, Wife,
& Child of God
 
You may contact Sandra via No Time Today.
We will forward all emails to her.
devotionals@notimetoday.org

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Secret Rooms of the Heart
by Vicki Smith

 

I don’t know about you, but I like to read. I like to read good, faith-based books about people whose lives are changed because of the work God does in their hearts. I can usually relate to them, and God uses them to show me my own heart.
Recently, I read about a book called Rooms, which is a novel by James L. Rubart. I read reviews about the book that talked about how good it was. More than that, the reviews said that the rooms in the main character’s house represent the rooms of his heart. That intrigued me. I love learning about God, ways I can be drawn into a closer relationship with Him, and ways I need to change. I want to experience all the freedom in Christ Jesus that I can. It’s painful to be shown the dark places in my heart. I recognize that God’s word says “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV) I want Him to show me what’s in my heart because more than anything else I want to have a closer walk with Him. I want my heart to be clean. I want to deal with its dark places and be drawn closer to Him. I’ve read a little more than half of the book, and I haven’t been disappointed. The more I read the more God draws me in and closer to Him.
I’ve been praying a lot about an area of my life that I know is not pleasing to God, and He has faithfully answered my pray
er through reading this book. I know I’ve heard this before stated in another way, but I’m human, and I forget. Nevertheless, truth is truth. If I have to hear it several times stated in several ways over the course of my life and be reminded over and over, that’s ok. Each time it again brings the victory, and again encourages me to keep going and keep trying, and it reminds me that God hasn’t given up on me. He doesn’t tire of helping me, reminding me, and giving me the tools I need to be drawn into a closer relationship with Him.
I’m addicted to sweets. When I feel bad about anything, or even when I don’t feel too bad I eat sweet things. My favorites are M&Ms, sweet coffee drinks, ice cream, and really good chocolate. When I over indulge I lose my energy, get sluggish, experience brain fog, have trouble making decisions, and have no drive or determination. I don’t want to do anything but things that make me feel good. The cycle has begun: feel bad, eat, feel bad, and eat more.
The sweet indulgences are delicious, but deadly. They’re a salve. They’re like a “Band-Aid” that only covers the problem. They numb the pain. I’ve hidden my heart behind these and other things in the past; things I’ve enjoyed for a while and then given up. They couldn’t and can’t heal. I’ve been deceived, and my heart has been chained. Jesus came to “heal the brokenhearted, preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”. (Luke 4:18)
I am more than a conqueror and worthy because Jesus is inside me! He is proud of me! I am His child! He loves me with an unconditional, never-ending love! “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs!” (Zephaniah 3:17) “The treasure of My Kingdom are the hearts of the ones who are Mine. Let it sink into the innermost parts. Listen. Your heart is the treasure of My Kingdom. And I have done everything to set it free. And I love you with an unfathomable, unquenchable love.” (Rooms)
He’s done everything to set my heart free! He loves me with an unquenchable, unfathomable love! I love Him because of all that He is! I must choose, and I must forgive as He shows me the dark places in my heart. The bars are broken, the chains are released. I am set free in Christ Jesus!

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Serve with Gladness


Serve the LORD with gladness: come before him with joyful singing.
(Psalm 100:2)
 
The very idea of being a servant in our world is distasteful. We immediately think of being last, forgotten, stepped on by others, or some other ugly picture comes to mind.
We may make a distinction between serving the Lord and serving others, but Jesus made no such distinction. He made it clear that to serve others was to serve Him. In fact, the way we serve Jesus is by serving others.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

(Matthew 25:40, 45)
Therefore, “Serve the LORD with gladness: come before him with joyful singing” applies whether we are serving the Lord or serving others, for there is no difference. We are not to be reluctant servants but happy and joyful servants. No servant task should be beneath us or cause us to grumble and complain. “Serve…with gladness.”
Servants don't compete . . . or grandstand . . . or polish their image . . . or grab the limelight. They know their job, they admit their limitations, they do what they do quietly and consistently.
Servants cannot control anyone or everything, and they shouldn't try. Servants cannot change or "fix" people. Servants cannot concern themselves with who gets the credit.
In the secular system, there are distinct levels of authority. In the military, there are officers and enlisted men . . . and ranks within each. In sports, there are coaches and players. In the business world, there are corporation heads and lines of authority between managers, personnel, foremen, and laborers.
The person in the labor force is expected to punch a clock, show up on time, work hard, and not take advantage of his or her employer. There's a name for those who choose not to follow those directions - Unemployed! Why? Because the boss is in charge. That's the way the system works.
But it is not to be this way among the followers of Jesus. In the body of Christ, we are all servants and Jesus is in charge; He is the Head.
“…Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:26-28)
And Jesus willingly became a Servant and served you and me by dying on a cross and forgiving all of our sins. Yes, it was more painful than we could ever imagine, but He did it without grumbling and complaining.
We must follow in His steps. Being a servant can be distasteful at times, painful at times, even to the point of death. But we will experience nothing that our loving Savior has not already experienced.
So let us “Serve…with gladness.”

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Lords and Servants


 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
“What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them…"to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

(Matthew 20:20-21, 23)
 
If your child has been involved in any kind of a team effort, you understand Mrs. Zebedee’s request. You think your child is the best and want them to be recognized as such.
Our sons played baseball in high school. I can assure you that their mother and I wanted them to play every inning, bat in the best position, and play the best position in the field. We thought they were the best on the team and wanted them to be recognized as such.
This is exactly how the mother of James and John thought. Her sons were the best of the twelve and should be recognized as being the best. From this perspective, her request makes perfect sense to us. She was no different than mothers today.
Some of us may not be as bold as this mother, so we never actually make this request. But that is our desire, nonetheless. Others are bold enough to ask, but all it does is stir up dissent, just as it did among the other ten disciples.


When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.
(Matthew 20:24)
 
I have seen this same scenario played out in our world many times - in sports, in the business world, on the job, even in school. It may not be the mother who makes the request, but someone will, and the end result is almost always dissension among the people. Others get jealous and the fight is on.
This argument gave Jesus the perfect opportunity to reveal His plan of servanthood for His followers.
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:25-28)
 
This is still true in our world today. This is the way things are, out of necessity. There must be order and a system to accomplish the work. Without the Spirit of God in control, people will only look out for themselves and nothing will be accomplished. They will do what they think is good for them, which will bring fighting and dissension.
But for all believers, where the Spirit of God is expected to be in control, things must be different. Followers of Jesus are expected to look out for the best interest of others, not for themselves.
Therefore, we become servants of one another, not lords over one another. Status becomes a non-issue when our heart’s desire is to serve others. Whether we are in the back or the front, our responsibility to serve remains the same.


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Is God Mysterious?


Some will say yes, God is very mysterious. While others will say He is not mysterious at all. How would you answer this question?
The actual answer is yes and no. Yes, God is mysterious in the sense that there is so much we cannot possibly know about Him.
God is infinite while we are finite. The distance between these two are as far apart as the heavens are from the earth. The earth is finite; it has limits. The heavens are infinite; we have yet to find any limit to them.
Since God is infinite and we are finite, there are some things that are impossible for us to understand. These things range from the mundane and sometimes simplistic things to the great theological debates that have occurred throughout history.
How did God create everything that exists by merely speaking? How did He create matter out of nothing?
How does God know the number of hairs on my head? I lose hair every day. How does He keep track of that?
How can God be everywhere at once? How can He know what I am doing every second and also know what people are doing on the other side of the
world?
How did God create time? How can God see the beginning and the end at the same time?
Since God made His plans before creation and no one can change His plans, how can we still live freely? Aren’t we all really just following His plan without even knowing it? In other words, do I really have a free will?
How did God make water come out of a rock and food appear on the ground every morning for the Israelites?
How did God make fire come down from Heaven and consume the offering that Elijah had laid out for Him?
And the questions could go on and on and on.
On the other hand, the answer is No - God is not mysterious in that He has revealed Himself to us so that we might know Him. We will never know all about God, but we can know Him personally.
He has clearly explained to us who He is, what He has done, and how we can know Him personally and intimately.
God is light - He is clearly seen and known. He does not hide Himself from His creation. There is no dark side to God; He has nothing to hide from us. Therefore, we do not have to be afraid of God or hide from Him.

God is truth - There is no deceit in Him at all. He is always truthful. He cannot and does not lie. He says what He means and He means what He says. Therefore, we can trust Him.
God is love - He is patient and kind. He is not easily angered and He keeps no record of wrongs. He does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Therefore, we can love Him also.
God is life - God not only created life, He is life. To know God is to live now and forever. There is no life apart from Him. Not knowing God is death.
God created the earth and all that is in it. He created life and every living creature, including all humans. Yes, even you.
When Adam and Eve first sinned against God, He provided a way for them to be forgiven. And it is the same way you and I can be forgiven for our sin against God. An innocent animal died so their sin could be forgiven and they could live. This animal was symbolic of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who also died so that our sin might be forgiven.
All we have to do is say, “Yes, I believe Jesus died to forgive my sin.” God then forgives us and we enter into a personal relationship with Him right now and forever.

Once we are forgiven, God tells us how to live so that we might enjoy life on His earth. Since He created the earth and established all of the laws that govern it, it only makes sense that we should live by the laws He made. If we live by His laws, we will have joy, peace, and prosperity.
God has shown us how to love. He loved us before we were even born. He loved us when we were rebelling against Him. And He continues to love us no matter what we do. Therefore, we should love others in the same way. No matter who they are, no matter what they do, no matter how they treat us - we should love them, just as God loves us.
This is not mysterious at all. It is logical, sensible, and the right thing to do. Let’s do it!​

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No Time Tod​ay

Prayer is Effective
 

Do you really expect God to answer positively when you pray? Or do you pray just because you think it is the right thing to do, or because someone has told you to pray? I fear that far too many believers pray just because they know they should, but do not really expect much of a result.
More often than not, the effectiveness of our prayers goes unnoticed. Since we do not really expect God to answer, we are not really looking for an answer. Too often, we are content just to know we have prayed, which is the right thing to do.
If we pray just because we know we should, without expecting any result, we are insulting God. We are simply going through the motions of a religious exercise. We may as well chant some slogan over and over again with no meaning to it.
Where is the real desire to see God work on our behalf, if we don’t even expect an answer from Him? Where is the passion for what we are asking? Perhaps we don’t even care if God answers, for we are only doing our duty to pray in order to appease our conscience.
How would you respond if your child asked you for something, just to be asking, with no real expectation you would provide what was asked for? Would you not question why they were even asking? And would you be inclined to answer positively? I think not.
God tells us repeatedly in Scripture, that He not only hears our prayers, but He answers them. These Scriptures imply, and sometimes state outright, that we must believe. Consider -
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The righteous cry and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalms 34:15, 17)
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. (1 John 5:14-15)
All things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive. (Matthew 21:22)
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)


Did you realize that God answered the prayers of thousands, if not millions, of believers this last Monday? The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties in a very important case for religious freedom in America.
It just so happens that the day before, Sunday, was a day of prayer, Call2Fall, for believers all across our nation. It is no coincidence that the Supreme Court ruling came one day after a national day of prayer. God heard the prayers of His saints and He answered in a powerful way, the very next day!
This should give us hope and encouragement to keep on praying for our nation. This is an indication that God is not done working in America just yet. Yes, there is still much darkness around us, but the light of Jesus shines the brightest in the darkest places.
Let us keep on praying, believing when we pray, that God will answer and restore our country to being a light and example to the world once again.
And let us look for the answers to our prayers, so we can give God all the glory and honor He deserves for doing what only He can do!

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​​I Repent


 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
(Psalm 56:8) New Living Translation (2007)
 
Father, I have sinned against you, over and over and over, so many times they could not be counted, nor is there enough books to hold them all.
I have accused you of doing wrong and not caring about me, not loving me. I have not only said that You have not treated me right, but I have accused You of purposely treating me badly because You wanted to make me suffer and feel pain.
I have yelled and screamed at You in my pain when things did not go the way I wanted them to go. Yes, I have even cursed at You. I have accused You of abandoning me. I have accused You of caring about others more than me and treating others better than me.
I vividly remember standing in my backyard as a child, crying, screaming at You because of what You allowed to happen, the beatings I got when I had done nothing to deserve them. I was so mad at You that I vowed to never have anything to do with You, ever. I did not need a god who did nothing.
I have treated others shamefully because I thought You did not care about me. I have done to others what I accused You of doing to me. I have purposely hurt others in order to cause them pain, so they would feel the same pain that I have felt. Perhaps that was my way of getting back at You.
I have mismanaged the resources You have given to me, all resources, in every way. These include but are not limited to finances, time, talents, abilities, family, and Your word. I have used all of these for my own selfish purposes with no regard for how You wanted me to use them.
I have run away from You because… Well, I don’t really know why I ran from You. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to find out the truth about You. Maybe it was because I wanted to hold on to my anger toward You. Or maybe it was because I was afraid of what would happen if I did not run.


But now I read that You have counted every one of my tears and collected them in a bottle. How could I have ever thought that You did not care? How could I have run away from the One who loved me enough to collect all of my tears? Who does that anyway?
Yes, I have sinned against You, Father. And even when I was living in my sin, You continued to love me and care about me. You continued to count my tears and collect them. And you are doing so even now, as I write this.
The tears today, however, are not those of anger and pain, well, maybe the pain of knowing where I have been and what I have done. But mostly, they are tears of regret and tears of repentance. They are also tears of joy, for I know the forgiveness You have provided for me through Your Son, Jesus.
Yes, Father, I repent! I now turn to see You face to face, because Your Son has made that possible. “Thank you” is not an adequate expression for what You have done for me. Even giving You my life does not seem to be enough, and yet, that is all You really want from me - just me!
Why You want me, after all that I have done, I will never fully understand. But today, You have me! I freely give you myself, my life, all that I am. You are free to do with me as You choose. Amen!

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Which Way?


Early in the morning, Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. After three days, the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.
(Joshua 3:1-4)
 
We all have gone places where we have never been before. Most likely, you had a map, or maybe a GPS. You needed something to show you where to go, how to get to your destination.
We all have new experiences that we have not had before. We often turn to someone who has had this experience in the past to know more about what to do, how to respond, how to act.
The Israelites were in this situation. They were about to enter a land that was totally unknown to them. But they did not have a map or GPS. They had no one to tell them what to expect, how to respond, or how to act for none of them had experienced what was coming next.
How would they know the way? How would they know what to do? The answer was really quite simple. They would follow God, who knows the way every time, all the time, because He created everything on earth.
Oh, how we long for things to be this simple again! How we long for the good old days when life was less complex, easier to understand, and easier to live peacefully. But did these days ever really exist? Or are the good old days just a figment of our imagination?
Was the life of these Israelites really simpler and less complex than ours today? Didn’t they just spend 40 years in the wilderness, living day to day, needing to gather food each day, depending on God for water, looking to God for direction to know if they would travel or stay in camp each day? How many of us have to gather our food each day from the ground, wonder where we will get our next drink of water, or wonder what we will do tomorrow?
Most of us have our lives totally planned out. We have enough food in our pantry for weeks. We have bottles of water to drink whenever we want. And we have jobs to go to every day that will provide the income we need to restock our pantry and buy more bottles of water. We actually should have less stress in our lives than the Israelites had in theirs.
God has always made life simple for those who believe in Him. He says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” “Follow me!” It cannot get any simpler than that. He gave us His Son, Jesus, to show us the way, He has given us the Bible to reveal truth to us, and He has given us the Holy Spirit to lead us through all of life’s experiences. All we need is God, the Creator of all things, who has been there, done that.
Whatever complex issues you are facing today, God knows the answers and the way through them. They may be the result of wrong choices or they may just be in your imagination. God may have even caused them. But no matter how they originated,

God has not changed His plans for men and women. He still says, “Follow Me! Obey Me! Trust Me! And I will give you peace!”
The simple life is still available to all who desire it. You may be in uncharted territory, but God knows the way. God has been there, He is there with you now, and He will be your Guide. Follow Him! Plain and simple.


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Beginning…


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:1-5)
 
We know that the word of God is the most important resource available to us. Our life depends on His word. Without His word, there is no life of any kind.
Therefore, I want to encourage you to read the entire Bible this year, from beginning to end. You can read it in any of several different formats. These include from Genesis to Revelation, chronologically, or any of the several different formats put out by different ministries.
My suggestion is to read the Bible chronologically. You can find these Bibles online, if you don’t have one. You can even read it online without having to purchase one.
Time should not be an issue. It takes an individual of average reading ability 90 hours to read the entire Bible. That is less than 15 minutes a day. If you can’t find 15 minutes each day to read the most important resource we have, then you are not at all serious about your relationship with your Creator, your God, your Saviour, your life.
But since you are reading this, I know you are serious about these things. So take God at His word and read His word. It will literally change your life.
Did you know that less than 10% of professing Christians have read the entire Bible? Are you in this elite group? You can do what most people will never do by simply reading the Bible.
The Bible is God’s instruction manual for life, written especially for you. How can you hope to live the abundant life Jesus died to give you, if you haven’t read the instruction manual? Every single thing you experience in this life is covered in the Bible in one form or another.
In many cases, God has given us direct commands that are very explicit. In the absence of a clear command, He has given us timeless principles that apply to all areas of life. And He has given us hundreds of examples of godly men and women to follow, as He recorded history for us to read about.
Wise men and women will read the instructions rather than attempting to live life on their own. Only the foolish will ignore God’s instructions, thinking they know better than God how to live their life.
Many people say that God does not speak to them today. These people are no doubt part of the 90% that have never read the entire Bible. For I know that when you read His words, He speaks to you, loud and clear.
Yes, some parts of the Bible can be dry, maybe even boring to you, and hard to understand. But aren’t you the same way? We all are a little dry at times, even boring, and hard to understand. Yet, we do not want these things to be reasons for people to avoid us. So don’t use these as reasons to avoid reading God’s words to you.
15 minutes a day! You can find them, someplace. Will you do it? Your life will be forever changed! I guarantee it!


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The Day Before Christmas!


It’s the day before the birth of God’s only Son.
He was born just like us to save everyone.
 
A virgin with child; what would they say?
By the Spirit of God, ‘twas the only way.
 
Who would believe it; would the husband to be?
God opened his eyes, so Joseph could see.
 
He took her as wife, the Babe as his own.
He loved them completely; the truth was made known.
 
A census decreed; to Bethlehem, they must go.
A young woman with child, and the man who loved her so.
 
Mary on a donkey; the journey was long.
But the mother of Jesus had to be strong.
 
They arrived in the city; the Baby was due.
There was no place to stay; what would they do?
 
No room in the Inn; did anyone care?
He was born in a stable; it didn’t seem fair.
 
But this was God’s plan for the Savior to be.
His birth would be humble just like you and me.
 
To shepherds in the field the angels came,
A Babe has been born; Jesus is His name.
 
He is the Messiah; He is our King,
Glory to God; let His praises ring.
 
They hurried to Bethlehem to see the Infant.
Could this all be true? They would know in an instant.
 
They found the Babe, just as they were told,
As they worshipped, they became very bold.
 
Rejoicing, they left to tell everyone.
What they had seen and what they had done.
 
His star was seen in the East that night.
The magi who saw it understood the light.
 
They began their journey to worship this King.
It would take some time their gifts to bring.
 
Finally, they arrived, before the Child they knelt.
They gave Him their gifts, their worship heartfelt.
 
A Babe in a manger, how will you respond?
Will you worship and adore Him? Or ignore what God has done?
 
He was born to be your Savior, to forgive your sin.
Accept Him today; let your Savior come in.

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Self-Esteem


 Self-esteem is based on how we feel about ourselves and provides a way to measure this. We usually only think about it when we do not feel good about ourselves. It is not often people talk about high self-esteem; rather it is almost always low self-esteem that we discuss.
Everyone wants to feel good about themselves, but many do not. This is evident when we put ourselves down, try to pull others down to our level, act aggressively towards others, develop self-destructive habits, or are fearful of trying anything new.
These things, plus others, are symptoms of what we call low self-esteem. Lack of confidence, timidity, shyness, and fearfulness are other words we use to sometimes describe low self-esteem.
But what is the root of it? Where does it come from and how do we correct it? We must go to Scripture to find the answers to these questions.
But before we do, allow me to address what many will say about Scriptural solutions to our daily problems. “That is too easy”, or “That is unrealistic”, or “The problem is more complex than that” are common statements.
While it is true that we are complex creatures in many ways, in other ways, we are quite simple. What we want in life and the problems we struggle with are really quite simple. And the most serious problem of all, sin, was dealt with by one single act of Jesus - dying on a cross. This was not complex. Jesus died, period.
And the forgiveness made possible in one single act by Jesus is ours to have with one single act. All we need to do is confess our sin to Him -
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
(I John 1:9)
How simple is that? I’m not suggesting it is easy or painless, but it is rather simple, wouldn’t you agree? And if the solution to the problem of sin is that simple, surely the solutions to our other problems will be equally simple. For most of us are not capable of doing complex things. We need simple things to do.
We have all heard the saying, “Keep it Simple Stupid!” No, I don’t think we are stupid. But we do need simple solutions and that is exactly what Scripture provides. So let’s look at the simple solution to low self-esteem.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

(Genesis 4:2-7)
Approval and acceptance is the cure for low self-esteem and comes from doing what is right. In our innermost being, we need to be accepted by God. And we must do what is right in His eyes in order to receive His approval. Those who do this have no problem with low self-esteem.
But there are many today who do not know God, yet do not suffer from low self-esteem. This is because we can have a level of self-esteem simply by being accepted by others and receiving their approval. And our acceptance by others is based on doing what is right in their eyes. If we fit in with them, we will receive their approval.
We need approval and acceptance, and this comes from doing what is right. But we should do what is right in God’s eyes, not what others think is right. Practice doing what is right before God and low self-esteem will be a thing of the past.
Yes, the solution is rather simple - Doing what is right before God.

But it is not always easy. It will only be by His Spirit within us that we can do what is right in God's eyes.


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​Results of Low Self-Esteem


Cain suffered from what we would call today “low self-esteem”. He was not feeling very good about himself after being rejected by God. What did he do as a result of it? How did this problem present itself in his life? 
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
(Genesis 4:8) 
God had clearly told Cain what was expected of him and that if he did this, he would be accepted. But Cain chose a different path. His actions reveal one way people deal with low self-esteem. 
Instead of changing himself, he made some changes in his environment. He got rid of the one who was making him look bad, his brother. He became aggressive and killed Abel. But aggression never produces the desired results. It does not solve the problem, 
any more than it solved Cain's problem. Aggression only makes things worse. 

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
But the Lord said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

(Genesis 4:9-16)
 
It is interesting to note that God did not require Cain to die because he had killed his brother. The penalty was actually much more severe. Cain would be hidden from the presence of God. He would no longer be able to communicate with his Creator. God would no longer be his helper, so Cain was now completely on his own. 
The ground that had allowed him to produce food would no longer cooperate with him, reminding us of the penalty Adam suffered when he disobeyed God. Cain’s occupation was suddenly changed from that of a stable farmer to a wandering nomad. 
Cain recognized the seriousness of the penalty and believed it to be more than he could bear. Death would have been preferable to be being driven from the presence of God, his Creator. What would he do? Where would he go? 
Cain also realized that God’s protection would now be gone. God always protects those whom He accepts, but Cain was about to lose that protection. His life would constantly be in jeopardy. Anyone would be able to kill him at any time. This is not a life anyone would want. 


Whether we are aware of it or not, everyone wants and needs to be in the presence of God, for God created us with that need.
Even Cain, who had killed his brother, wanted to be in God’s presence. He did not want to be hidden from the presence of God. 
People need to be encouraged to do what is right and experience the approval and acceptance that comes as a result. We need to love people no matter what they do. But acceptance is based on their actions. We cannot accept those who do what is wrong, just as God cannot accept those who do not confess their sin. 
I hear people say, “I accept you just like you are.” What they really mean and should say is, “I love you just like you are. And I will accept you when you do what is right.” This is the example God set for us. 
Are you in the presence of God today? If not, confess your sin and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. God will then accept you and you will be in His presence forever.


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Our Spiritual Memorial Day


Monday, we celebrated Memorial Day by remembering all those who have given their lives to maintain our freedom. Millions of Americans have died to ensure that you and I might be able to make choices about our lives as we see fit.
This idea of a free country originated hundreds of years ago in Europe. It was then put into practice by the bold and courageous men and women who challenged the perils of ocean travel to come to the New World, the Americas.
It did not happen overnight. It took years of trying to get along with England before the colonists finally said, “Enough is enough!” And, strange as it may seem to some today, it was the “wealthy”, those who had the most to lose, that led the charge for freedom in America. Were it not for the “rich”, there would have been no weapons to fight with, no ammunition for the weapons they would not have had, and no leadership to lead them. Yes, in the early days, it was the great people of our country, beginning with the wealthy, and including all others, that paid for our independence, both with their fortunes and often their lives.
Once our freedom was gained, at the cost of thousands of lives lost, we have been fighting wars ever since to maintain that freedom. Millions of Americans have died to ensure that I can write this article today, because I choose to do so. I don’t need government permission, nor do I need permission from anyone other than my God. I am extremely grateful for their sacrifice.
Today, I hope you will celebrate with me another freedom, one that is even more important than our earthly freedom in America. Today, while we remember all of the soldiers who died, let us also remember the One Man, the man Christ Jesus, who died to give us freedom from sin.
This freedom was paid for by the death of One Man, not the death of millions. This freedom was won by the sacrifice of One Man, who died on a cross at Calvary nearly 2000 years ago. This freedom is eternal, not temporary. This freedom does not require on-going battles to keep it secure for it can never be taken from us. This freedom is not only for all Americans, but it is for all people in all places for all time. This freedom was not conceived a few hundred years ago, but rather, it is an age-old plan, devised by our Creator, before the world was even created. So everyone in the world can have this freedom. All that is required is faith and acceptance.
Yes, this is the spiritual freedom that we have in Christ! This is freedom from sin and slavery to Satan. This is freedom to obey God and do what is right. Even if we should lose our earthly freedom, this freedom will still be ours for all eternity.
This freedom was purchased by One man, one time, for all people, in all places. No one else needs to die for your spiritual freedom. You do not need to die for this freedom. Jesus did it all, He paid the full price, He secured your freedom, once and for all.
While your death is not required, your life is. You must give it to Him. It is not your sacrifice of death that He wants, but your living sacrifice. And this is not to earn or maintain your freedom, but to thank Him and show Him your gratitude for what He has done. For without His death, we would still be dead in our sin. But because He died and rose from the dead, we too died and now live a new life.
One man, dying one time, to procure spiritual freedom for all mankind forever. If only our earthly freedom could be won by one man for all time. But there is no other one like Jesus to do it. So we must be willing to lay down our lives, if necessary, to maintain our freedom, as we tell the world about the spiritual freedom they can have in Christ!
We are blessed to be able to do this! Let us celebrate our spiritual freedom in Christ today and every day!


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Doubting Thomas

 We have all heard the phrase “Doubting Thomas”. And you probably know that this expression comes straight from the Bible.
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

(John 20:24-25)


We have all been in Thomas’ shoes. We have all heard something that we refused to believe. Based on what we have seen and heard, we just can’t bring ourselves to believe it is true.
And most of the time, just like Thomas, it is good news that we refuse to believe. We seem to be able to believe unbelievable bad news easier that we can believe unbelievable good news.
Perhaps that is because we have been conditioned to expect the worst. “Murphy’s Law” and “Waiting for the other shoe to fall” are expressions we use that clearly demonstrate this concept. We often find ourselves not only expecting the worst to happen, but actually waiting for it to happen.
For Thomas and the other disciples, the worst did happen. They had seen their leader, their Messiah, crucified on a cross and they knew He was dead. Two of Jesus’ followers had actually put His dead body in a tomb and sealed it with a big stone. There was absolutely no doubt that Jesus had died and was buried.
Now, Thomas heard the reports that Jesus was alive. How could this be? All the evidence said this could not be true. Had Jesus not really died after all? Impossible! He was dead and buried. Could it be an imposter? No way! Everyone who had seen Jesus alive said it was the real Jesus; the same Man they had lived with and followed for three years.
But Thomas was not buying it. Yes, Thomas had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, but no one else had ever done that. And Jesus was now dead. Who was going to raise Him from the dead? Was Jesus going to raise Himself from the dead? Not likely and not believable.
Thomas had believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the King, who would restore the kingdom of Israel. When Jesus was crucified, that dream ended and so did his belief in the Messiah. Thomas was not going to be deceived a second time.
We do the same thing. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” is the expression we use to convey this same idea. We refuse to be “suckered” a second time. So we harden our belief system for fear that we will believe another lie and be disappointed once again.
We demand proof, just like Thomas did. Just like Thomas, we say, “Unless I see it myself, I will not believe it”. We need to personally experience it for ourselves just as Thomas did. Even then, when we see it for ourselves, we often still have difficulty believing.
What about you? Are you a “Doubting Thomas” when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus? Or have you chosen to believe? The choice is totally up to you.


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Doubting Thomas - Part 2

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

(John 20:26-29)
 
Believing in the resurrection of Jesus may be the most difficult thing you will ever be asked to believe. You will not see the risen Savior in person. You cannot put your hand in His side and feel the holes in His hands as Thomas did.
And yet, because of the Holy Spirit of God, you can still experience this on a personal level. God’s Spirit unites with our spirit to reveal Himself to us personally. The truth of the resurrection is revealed to us just as clearly as it was to Thomas. We can know that Jesus is alive just as confidently as Thomas came to know that truth.
And this personal revelation to us is just as much a mystery of God’s power as was the resurrection of Jesus. I can’t fully explain how it works. But I know without a doubt that it is true. And you too can have this same confidence in the Risen Jesus.
The key to believing relies on the word “personal”. We dare not believe what someone else has experienced. Another person’s belief or faith is not adequate for us. Yes, it may well lead us to investigate the matter to see if it is really true. But in the end, we must personally experience it for ourselves.
Our parent’s faith in the resurrection of Jesus will do us no good. A minister’s belief in the resurrection of Jesus will not cause us to believe. Their beliefs, no matter what they are, will not cause us to belief. No, we must look into these things ourselves. We must decide for ourselves if they are true. They must become personal to us in order for us to believe.
The good news is that God is more than willing to make His truth personal. He is able to unite His spirit with your spirit so that you will know the truth without any doubts. You will not have to see the risen Jesus to know that He lives.
Rather, you will come to know that He lives because He will live within you. He will take up residence in your heart and you will be forever changed. And all you have to do is indicate your desire to know the truth. Simply ask God to show you the truth about Jesus and He will.
For God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. His desire is that you believe in His Son, Jesus, and begin to allow Him to direct your life. When you accept what Jesus has done for you, He will forever change you from the inside out. And you will know that He lives because He will live within you.
As I said before, I cannot explain how this happens. It is the work of God and only He knows how it works. It is enough for me to know that He does it. He did it in my life and I have seen Him do it in the lives of many others. I know He can do it in your life, too. You just have to be willing to let Him. He will not force Himself on you. You must choose.
Will you choose to know the truth today?


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Being a Giver Is Worth It!
 

The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.
(Proverbs 22:9)


Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”

(2 Corinthians 9:7-9)
 
Shortly after World War II came to a close, Europe began picking up the pieces. Much of the old country had been ravaged by war and was in ruins. Perhaps the saddest sight of all was that of little orphaned children starving in the streets of those war-torn cities.
Early one chilly morning an American soldier was making his way back to the barracks in London. As he turned the corner in his jeep, he spotted a little lad with his nose pressed to the window of a pastry shop. Inside, the cook was kneading dough for a fresh batch of doughnuts. The hungry boy stared in silence, watching every move.
The soldier pulled his jeep to the curb, stopped, got out, and walked quietly over to where the little fellow was standing. Through the steamed-up window, he could see the mouth-watering morsels being pulled from the oven, piping hot. The boy salivated and released a slight groan as he watched the cook place them onto the glass-enclosed counter ever so carefully.
The soldier's heart went out to the nameless orphan as he stood beside him.
"Son . . . would you like some of those?"
The boy was startled, "Oh, yeah . . . I would!"
The American stepped inside and bought a dozen, put them in a bag, and walked back to where the lad was standing in the foggy cold of the London morning. The soldier smiled, held out the bag, and said simply: "Here you are."
As he turned to walk away, he felt a tug on his coat.
He looked back and heard the child ask quietly: "Mister . . . are you God?"


We are never more like God than when we give. "God so loved the world, that He gave…" (John 3:16).
Let me encourage you, in spite of the high cost of giving and the small number of servant-models you may see around you, to determine to be different. God tells us He "loves a cheerful giver", and He promises us that the one "who is generous will be blessed". Let's believe Him!
Deep down inside most Christians I know is a deep-seated desire to release instead of keep . . . to give instead of grab. It is worth whatever it takes to let that start happening. Moms, dads, singles, kids, teachers, preachers, businessmen, professionals, blue-collar workers, students—it is worth it!
Become a giver . . . and watch God open the hearts of others to Himself. We are never more godlike than when we give.


This devotional was written by
 Charles R. Swindoll
Insight for Living
Plano, Texas
It is provided courtesy of
Insight for Living

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Generosity is the Key


“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
(Luke 6:38)
 
Truth 101: The more you give, the more you receive.
As a small business owner, I struggle with how much to pay those that work for me. I do not have employees, but I have sub-contractors that work for me. It is a delivery business, they are drivers, also self-employed, and responsible for their own expenses.
My income fluctuates daily, depending on how much work there is. So naturally, their income will vary also. When my income is down, how much of my loss of income should be their loss of income? When my total income is down, should I continue to pay them at the same rate, or reduce their rate? They also have bills to pay and families to support.
When they do extra work for me, should I pay them extra, or just pay them the same, thinking that the extra work is expected? Remember that any extra that I pay them comes directly from my pocket - I will have that much less to spend for my own needs. There is no “stash” from which to draw. Whatever I pay the people that work for me means I have that much less for myself and my family.
My tendency is to be stingy and selfish. I tend to think I need that money more than they do. And I have control over who gets it. I have the right to decide who gets what. Pretty powerful stuff!
What I have found is that when I am generous and pay my drivers well, God is usually more generous to me. If I pay a driver an extra $100, God may make a way for me to make an extra $125, so that I still come out ahead. Thus, paying my drivers more may not really cost me anything, because God makes it up in other ways.
Even knowing this, I can still become so fearful that I will not have enough, that I tend to become stingy and selfish. So God keeps showing me that when I am generous, He is more generous. The more that I give, the more He gives.
Yes, I know this truth is found in Scripture, over and over again. But is seems to me that one has to live it and experience it before it really becomes a part of their lives. And even then, it takes continual work to keep it a part of our lives.
I actually think I have learned this in the past, but somehow, it slipped away. Now, I am relearning this truth. This is the story of my life. I learn something and begin to practice it, only to forget it at some point, and have to relearn it again later.
My next dilemma concerns bonuses of various kinds, things like a Christmas bonus or a Profitability bonus. Once again, this comes directly from my pocket. Whatever I pay out in bonus money is that much less I have to spend myself. And this is not money they have earned. It is, as the name implies, just extra money for them.
Again, the same truth keeps coming through. If God has supplied extra work and extra income, I should be willing to pass some of that extra on to my drivers. I cannot afford to become stingy and keep it all for myself.
I want my drivers to see God in how I treat them, so I must be generous, just as God is generous to me.


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God is Giving Us Enough


We must believe that God is giving us enough. Enough to live on, enough to pay our bills and taxes, enough to buy food and clothes, enough to pay medical bills, enough to give to others, etc. We must believe He is giving us enough right now to live. Without this faith, we are doomed to live in debt.
I used to think, “God is not giving me enough money to do all that I need to do.” I didn’t know why, but that is what I thought. Maybe He was disciplining me, mad at me, getting back at me because I had mismanaged His money in the past; there could be hundreds of reasons. But I really believed I was not making enough money.
This false belief led me to look for ways to make more money. I tried many different things, none of which worked out. But that is another story in itself, which we may write about later.
So, since God was not giving me enough to pay everything, I would decide what would not get paid. In my case, it was my taxes. Being self-employed, I am required to pay a lot in estimated taxes quarterly. But I reasoned that since God was not giving me enough money to pay all my bills, etc, I just couldn’t pay my taxes. So I didn’t pay them.
As a result, at tax time a few years ago, I owed IRS about $10,000. I then expected God to give me the $10,000 to pay my taxes.

You know, kind of like when Jesus told Peter to get the money to pay their taxes out of a fish’s mouth - "But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin.

Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours." (Mt 17:27)
No, I didn’t go fishing. I am not a fisherman like Peter was. But I did expect God to somehow supply these funds through my work, like he did through Peter’s work. And yes, their tax bill was not $10,000. But you get the idea.
But He didn’t. Surprise! So as a last resort, I had to set up a payment plan with the IRS, which then put me further in debt. And I blamed God for this, because He didn’t provide the money I needed. You see, I could blame all of my indebtedness on God, if I tried hard enough.
Some time after that, through a series of events and Scripture, I came to realize that God is giving me enough and I was wrong to blame Him for not having enough money. So I decided to start putting money aside for taxes from each paycheck. This is a lot of money for me to set aside.
Guess what happened? After putting this money in a savings account, I still had enough money to pay everything else! Unbelievable! How could this be? Part of it is that I was more aware of how I was spending my money. The other part is that God began providing new sources of income.
Since that time, God has done this same thing in other areas. Vicki and I decided to increase our giving one year. Guess what? Yep, God increased His giving to us. We always had enough to meet expenses, no matter how much we gave.
To this day, we are still not out of debt and are still suffering consequences from being in debt. But we decided that our giving is just as important as getting out of debt. Getting out of debt is primarily for our benefit, while our giving is for the benefit of others, as well as for our benefit.
We can’t lose by giving and we are reducing our debt little by little. One day, we will be debt-free.


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My Cup

Most of us have asked the question, “Is your glass half-full or half-empty?” when discussing our outlook on life. I know that I have. We do this in an effort to realize that our life is actually pretty good and to help develop a more positive outlook.
But maybe even looking at our glass or cup as being half-full is less than accurate. Maybe this is the world’s view of life, but perhaps it is not God’s view of life.
The 23rd Psalm may be the most well known of all Psalms. Most Christians can quote it. Many churches read it in their services every Sunday. As I was reading it this morning, one phrase stood out to me.
It begins with “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” We all know this, although we may not always act like we believe it. Then, in verse 5, we read, “my cup overflows”. This is the phrase that caught my attention.
The picture of a half-full cup immediately popped into my mind and I began comparing the two. If a half-full cup is supposed to represent a positive outlook on life, what does an over-flowing cup represent? This would go way beyond positive, this would be ultra, ultra positive. An over-flowing cup would be beyond-imagination positive.
I have to admit that I do not see my cup as over-flowing very often. In fact, I thought seeing my cup as half-full was pretty good. But what does that say about my view of our Heavenly Father?
Does He in fact, only fill our cup half-full? No, indeed not! He fills our cup to overflowing. He fills our cup so full that it spills over and begins running into other people’s cups also. And He does this not only for our benefit, but so that others can experience His great love and kindness too.
So why have I been looking at my cup as half-full and thinking that was good? Could it be that I have adopted the world’s view of God as being less than adequate and not supplying what I need? When in fact, He supplies much, much more than I need!
I must admit that I am often guilty of thinking God has not provided everything I need, much less thinking He has provided even more than I need. This must change now, because I am believing the lie of the devil when I think like this.
I have now purposed to change my picture of how I see my life. By the power of God, I will now see my cup as overflowing all the time, even when the situation or circumstance does not seem like it. I will choose to believe that God has not only met all of my needs, but has gone above and beyond.
By the power of God, I will choose to believe that my cup is so full it is overflowing into other people’s lives, so they too can experience the love and kindness of my Heavenly Father. I will choose to believe this even when “walking through the valley of the shadow of death”.
I have also purposed to change the picture I will use when talking to others about their outlook on life. My question now will be, “Is your glass half-full or over-flowing?” And this will give me an opportunity to talk about the great love and kindness of our Father in Heaven.
Please join me and make this your purpose also. Please resolve to see your glass as over-flowing all the time, no matter the situation. God will be pleased and you will be blessed!

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Tough Love


 Tough love has become a common and accepted practice. It is an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run.
If you are a parent, you have no doubt found it necessary to use tough love with your children. And if you have not ever used it with your children, your children will suffer.
But do you know where this idea originated? Do you know who first used tough love and when? Yes, just like all other ideas and practices that are of any value, God was the first to institute tough love. We only follow His example.
So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
(Genesis 3:23-24)
Adam & Eve had disobeyed God. He had given them only one “Do not…” command. And they broke that one command. The consequences were severe, ending with being forced to leave the Garden of Eden, the only home they had known.
In our way of thinking, this must have been a difficult decision for God, who is pure love. We know from other Scripture that God only wants the best for His children. He will do nothing that will harm them. Rather, He has promised to do only those things that will be beneficial and result in good for them.
This was both tough love at its toughest and tough love at its finest. This is where God set the example for parents for all time to follow. Do what is best for your children, even if it is difficult and painful at the time.
So why was this best for His children? Why would He cause His children to move out? Why would He make them leave their home and banish them from the only place of security, prosperity, and comfort that they knew?
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
(Genesis 3:22)
Yes, it really was for their own good. God’s intent was that man would live forever with Him in Paradise. The Tree of Live was put in the Garden for this purpose. As long as man ate from this Tree, they would continue to live.
But now, Adam and Eve had sinned and were no longer perfect. God did not want man to live forever in an imperfect state. What a blessing this actually is for us today! Would you want to live forever in your imperfect body with all your flaws and warts, with all the sinful lusts and desires, with a mind that tends to be out of control at times? No, not me either!
As believers, we can look forward to a coming resurrection in which we will receive a new body, a perfect body, with a perfect mind, and we will finally be just like God created Adam and Eve in the first place. God’s original creation will be re-created, only better. And yes, the Tree of Life will be there once again, so we can eat it’s fruit and live forever.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
(Revelation 22:1-5)
This eternal bliss is only possible because God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden so they could not eat the Tree of Life and live forever in their sinful state.
Thank you, Father, for practicing tough love!


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No Work - No Eat


Yesterday, we talked about the first instance of tough love in all of history, which was God banishing Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Today, we consider another example given to us by the apostle Paul.
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
(II Thessalonians 3:10)
We should note that this rule is for those who are “unwilling to work”, with emphasis on “unwilling”. We are not talking about those who may be unable to work, for whatever reason.
Many today would say this is too harsh. Others would say, “Who am I to judge…” referring to the “unwilling” part of the rule. Yet, this is Scripture, and as such, we must be able to obey the teaching. This is, in reality, only another example of tough love.
As with most rules, it usually helps to know the purpose or reason behind the rule. Do you know the purpose of this rule? Is it just meant to punish those who are unwilling to work? Is it a way to get even with those who are lazy?
No, of course not! Once again, it is really meant for their own good. Because this rule is based on necessity, as seen in Proverbs.
I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.
(Proverbs 24:30-34)
Our world is based on agriculture. Without it, there would be no food. In earlier times, before farms mass-produced food and exported it around the world, people had their own farms and gardens. The food they ate would be grown themselves.
So out of necessity, one had to work, in order to grow their own food. If they did not work their land to grow a crop, they would have nothing to eat. This was the literal picture of no work - no eat.
How could one go to a neighbor and ask for food, when the evidence of their own laziness was plain to see? Why would the one who worked hard to provide for his family give to the one who could have done the same, but chose to do nothing?
This is also why we read, Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. (Proverbs 24:27) What good would it be to have a house to live in, but no food to eat? Yet, that is what many do today. They make themselves comfortable first, with no thought of what they will eat or how they will survive. Rather, they just expect someone else to provide for them.
While most of us do not grow our own food today, the principle remains the same. Working to provide for your food is just as important today as it has ever been. This is one way we learn to be responsible and productive members of society, instead of being a burden and a drain on society.
But we also are given another reason for why we should work, which is just as important.
Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
(Ephesians 4:28)
There are many today, as there have always been, who are unable to work and adequately provide for themselves. Orphans, widows, disabled people, people in refugee camps, those living in drought regions, and many others have no means of providing for themselves. We must work in order to provide for them, as well as for ourselves.
So go to work, practice tough love with the unwilling to work, and give freely to those who are unable to work. You will be blessed by your Father in Heaven, who instituted work in the first place.

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The Buffet of Life


As it is with most of my dreams, I seem to be half-asleep and half-awake. So it is difficult to know if my dreams are really from God, or if I am just making something up. But then, something will happen during the dream that shows me it is from God. And the meaning of the dream is usually made clear to me.
Last night, I dreamed I was at a dinner event of some kind. I do not know what the event was or who else was there. It was a buffet style dinner laid out on long tables. While there were people in front of me and behind me, I did not pay any attention to them. My focus was on the food set before me.
I usually get nervous in these situations because I often don’t recognize many of the foods and I usually end up with things I don’t really like. This was true last night, but intensified, because I did not recognize any of the foods on the table.
Every dish seemed to be a blend of different foods, all mixed together. I could not tell what any of the individual food items were. In addition to this problem, none of them looked very appetizing. They were mostly runny, half-liquid foods, with no real appeal to them. They looked like something an amateur chef might put together, or maybe someone with no cooking experience at all.
As I went through the line, I put a few items on my plate just so I would have something. When I came to a dish that looked like it had pineapples in it, I took some of that because I thought I knew what was in it, not because it looked very good. I did the same thing when I saw a dish that appeared to have chicken in it.
When I arrived at the end of the line, which seemed to take forever, a chef was there looking at what people had put on their plate.

Was he the one who had put this stuff together? I didn’t know and was not going to ask.
As he looked at my plate, he asked if I was sure this was what I wanted to eat. Well, no, I really did not want to eat this stuff, however it was the best I could do with the choices I saw. But I was not going to tell him that. So I did what I do well, I pretended to know what I was doing and said, “Yes, this is what I want to eat”.
The chef then pointed at some of the foods on my plate and began telling me that these foods did not go well together. He said that I probably would not like them very well and suggested some other foods that I could replace them with.
While I knew he was probably right, I wasn’t going to admit it. I had no intention of going through the line again. One trip was enough.

I would rather eat something I didn’t like than to have to make those choices all over again.
So I did something else I do well, I stubbornly resisted his advice. I had my plate of food, if you want to call it that, and I would eat it, even if I didn’t like it. I learned to do that at a very early age and it has stuck with me. Like it or not, this is what I had and this is what I would eat. As you can see, I don’t do well accepting advice or changing my plans.
The chef then started talking about how amazing it is that people will make poor food choices and when given the opportunity to make better choices, they refuse to do it. He wondered why it is that people think they know more than the chef when it comes to food. Don’t they understand the chef made the food? Therefore, he would know better than anyone what the best choices are.
Well, I knew the answer to his question. This is not a mystery to me. It is because of our stubbornness and desire to do what we want to do without anyone else interfering. But again, I was not going to tell him.
 
Then suddenly, in an instant, my food was completely gone from my plate. I had no idea where it went. My plate had been wiped clean so fast that I did not even see it happen. There I was, holding an empty plate, trying to figure out what was going on and what to do next.
While I was wondering about what had just happened, trying to make sense out of it all, the chef ushered me into an adjoining room where many others were sitting down eating. He took me to a chair that had my name on it and told me to sit down.
Before me was a plate of food like I had never seen before. It was piled high with the most delicious looking foods I had ever seen. There were all kinds of meats, salads, vegetables, fruits, and even deserts. I could tell what each one was and they all looked just wonderful!
The chef told me to eat and enjoy, along with all the other people who were eating at this delicious-looking banquet table. And then he asked, “Why would you choose to eat what you had on your plate when this food is available to you?” My only answer was that I didn’t know this food was available.
But somehow, deep down inside, I knew that was not true. Somehow, even though I can’t explain it, I knew there was something better. But I was just too stubborn to pursue it. I was too stubborn to ask for something better. Rather, I was willing to settle for what I had chosen myself from the choices that I could see before me.
The plate of food that I chose represents the choices I make in this life, based on what I can see and making my own judgments about what I see. I can’t see the choices very well. They often blend together with no real distinction. “Six of one, half a dozen of the other” is the phrase that comes to mind. In other words, does it really matter what I choose?
All the choices I see seem to be pretty much the same. So I get in a rut and begin to think that life is just something to get through, just like the line in the buffet. I will choose whatever looks best to me, with no thought that there might be better choices, if I just ask. Even though I may not like the choices I see, I will still choose one of them, just to be able to move on.
This is living life from my perspective, from my viewpoint, and not from God’s. This is living life on my own, trusting my instincts, and doing what comes natural. Yes, I can live my life this way, and even be successful at times. But there is so much more available that I cannot see.
The chef represents God, who wants so much more for me. He looks at my choices and lovingly asks me if I am sure about them.

Far too often, I stubbornly say “Yes, this is what I want”, without even asking Him what else is available. Instead of asking, I simply choose from what I can see.
He tells me I will not like what I am about to eat, but I refuse His advice. He will tell me about other foods that will be better and suggest other choices. I am prone to ignore His advice, His words, thinking that I know better. Yes, I know, incredible! But true!
He asks me why it is that I think I know more than my Creator? He asks me why it is that I think I can see all the choices available, when my eyesight is limited to earthly things? He wonders why I settle for only the things I can see, which are limited at best, and far less than what He has planned for me. He wonders why I don’t ask Him to open my eyes so I can see the things that He sees.
My only answer is that I don’t know there are any other choices available. But somehow, someway, deep down inside, I know that is not true. Rather, I do know, because His Spirit, who lives within me, is at work telling me there are better choices available. His Spirit is telling me that God has better things planned for me than I have planned for myself. But am I willing to believe that?
If only I would listen more often… I could sit at His banquet table in a chair with my name on it… What a great life this would be…


Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21)

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The Voice of God


And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entrance of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What do you here, Elijah?

(I Kings 19:11-13)
 
Elijah did not react to the wind of hurricane force, even though it wrecked havoc on the mountains and broke rocks into pieces. Nor did he react to the earthquake, no doubt of similar magnitude, which would have split open the earth and swallowed up all that was there. He also did not react to the fire, which would have been as great as any forest fire we have seen today, destroying everything in its path.
But at the sound of a still small voice, He covered his face. God’s voice, His word, was more powerful than the hurricane, the earthquake, and the fire. God’s voice is the most powerful force in all of creation, for God’s voice created all of creation. God spoke and it was created.
At the sound of God’s still small voice, Elijah covered his face. Was he suddenly afraid? Was he suddenly overwhelmed with the power of God? Perhaps he just suddenly recognized his own weakness in the face of God’s voice, the most powerful force on earth or in the heavens.
Elijah had heard God speak to him many times. God had given him direction and purpose all of his life. And yet, on this day, it was different. Having seen the power of the wind, the power of the earthquake, and the power of the fire, Elijah was able to see how much more powerful God’s voice was than any of those things, and he was humbled by that power.
We all have been amazed at the power of hurricanes to destroy entire cities and everything man has created. We have been equally amazed by the power of earthquakes to do the same. And who has not fearfully watched as a fire consumed everything in its path leaving only a trail of ashes behind. Yet, these are nothing compared to the power of God’s voice.
We say, “God, please speak to us.” And we truly need Him to speak to us. And He does speak to us daily through His Spirit who lives within us. And yet, we often don’t recognize His great power when He speaks.
Perhaps it is time for us to get alone with God, as Elijah did, and listen for His still small voice. Wait for Him to speak quietly, and you too will cover your face and be in awe of His voice. He will give you new direction and energy to do His will. He will fill you with His power to accomplish His work.
For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
(Hebrews 4:12)


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The Voice of God - Part 2


“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
(John 10:27)
 
Listening to the voice of God is not a popular pastime these days. Most folks today would prefer to see more flashier things from God; things like hurricane force winds, mighty earthquakes, and thunder and lightning, as Elijah did. We tend to see these things as more indicative of His power.
And if we were totally truthful, many of us would really like to see these things unleashed on those we perceive to be our enemies. We want God to send judgment on those who oppose Him, to destroy them for their rebellion to Him. And God has promised to that, in His time.
But our real need today is to hear the voice of God, just as Elijah did on the mountain of God. Elijah was not overly impressed with the mighty wind, earthquakes, and fire. It was the still small voice of God that caught his attention. God’s power was revealed in His voice more than His might acts.
We frequently ask God to act on our behalf, to show His power in this way or that way. We see our need for deliverance and ask Him to do a miracle to deliver us. We see our need for daily provision and ask Him to provide for us. And all of these things we should do.
But there is so much more to God, so much more He wants us to experience in our relationship with Him. He wants us to listen for His voice and respond in the same way Elijah did, with humility and a willingness to obey.
God desires a personal relationship with each of us individually and that is most often experienced in one on one conversations. While He wants us to ask Him to meet our needs, that is only the beginning. For what He wants even more than that is for us to get to know Him intimately.
And the only way we can get to know God is by listening to Him speak to us. We can know nothing of God on our own. All knowledge of God must come directly from Him. So He has given us His written word, in which He reveals Himself to us. And He surely speaks to us as we read His words.
But He also has a voice that His sheep hear and listen to. Just as Jesus spoke to His disciples while on earth, God still speaks to His people today. It may not be an audible voice, although it may seem like it sometimes. But it is surely His voice and when we hear it, we will be humbled before Him.
If you want to experience the power of God in your life today, don’t look for Him to do miracles or great deeds. Listen for His voice, for His voice is the most powerful force on earth and in heaven. It is in His voice, His word, that His great power will be revealed.
As you listen to and obey His voice, He will transform you into the image of His Son, and you will become a demonstration to others of His power on earth. His voice will give you purpose and direction. You will understand exactly what it is He wants you to do, just as Elijah did. And He will then perform His mighty acts and miracles through you.
If you are in a fog, unsure of what to do next, maybe even fearful of what lies ahead, get alone with God and listen for His voice.

Be like Elijah!
So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice…”

(Hebrews 3:7)


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Only One Way


There once was a very industrious young man who worked hard for several years in order to save up enough money to travel to his favorite city, Paradise.  As the time drew near for him to take his vacation, he began to research all the possible ways to get to Paradise.
He considered going by bus, but that would take way too long. He thought about going by train, and while that would be more scenic, it would still take too long. So he finally decided to go by plane. This would be the fastest way to get to Paradise.
Then, he began checking with all the airlines to see who had the best price. He soon realized that there were dozens of airlines with hundreds of planes from which to choose. He shopped around and finally settled on an airline that only had one flight per day going to Paradise, but they seemed to offer the best service, and the price was reasonable.
Finally, the long awaited-for day arrived. The young man packed his bags and headed for the airport. He was so excited he could hardly contain himself! He had never been to the airport before so this would be a brand new experience for him.
When the young man arrived at the airport, he was shocked! He had no idea there would be this many airlines in one airport, with this many planes from which to choose. How would he ever find the plane that was going to Paradise?
He decided to start asking for help, so he looked for someone who looked “official”, someone who might know about airports and planes and destinations. He found a young woman in a uniform and asked if she could help him. But she was in the military and could offer no help. In fact, she had never even heard of Paradise.
He saw an older man who seemed to know what he was doing, so he asked him for help. However, he was a minister and could not help the young man either. Then, he saw a row of counters with people standing behind them. Perhaps they could help him.
Finally, he had found someone who worked at the airport. But he soon found out that each person worked for a different airline. After talking to several workers, he found the airline on which he was to travel. What a relief!
He went to the counter and purchased his ticket to Paradise. He could hardly wait to board the airplane. This would be a once in a lifetime experience. With ticket in hand, he headed for the boarding gates. However, he did not realize that there were several boarding gates for this airline.
As he approached the first boarding gate, the sign said “Boarding for Beautiful in 5 minutes”. “What?“ he thought, "Beautiful? That sounds interesting, but that is not where I want to go today. I want to go to Paradise". Then, he saw another boarding gate, so he ran to that one. This sign said, “Boarding for Comfort in 10 minutes”. And while he certainly wanted to enjoy comfort, this was not his destination either.
He suddenly realized that there were many planes leaving for many different destinations, all at about the same time. He needed to find the one plane going to Paradise, and he was running out of time. No other plane would do. There was only one plane that would get him to Paradise.
After frantically searching for the next 10 minutes, the young man finally found the plane going to Paradise. He boarded just in time and settled in for a wonderful flying experience.
(To be continued tomorrow)


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Only One Way - Part 2


Just as there are many airlines, there are many religions. And each of these religions have their own fleet of “airplanes” that are designed to take their “customers” to Paradise, wherever that may be. For some, Paradise is a financial windfall. For some, it is good health and prosperity. For others, Paradise is a place of eternal bliss when one dies. And the list goes on and on.
Many people are shocked at how many different religions there are. However, there is one huge difference between airlines and religions. Airlines clearly state where their airplanes are going. Each destination is clearly listed. Religions, on the other hand, all claim that their “airplanes” are headed for the same destination, Paradise.
If you board the wrong airplane at the airport, that will be your fault. And while it will be an inconvenience, you can correct your mistake when the plane lands. Boarding the wrong religious “airplane” will also be your fault, but is not corrected nearly as easy, if at all.
In order to board these religious “airplanes”, you must first find the right one for you. “What is it you are looking for,” you are asked. And whatever you are looking for, each religion has an “airplane” waiting that is promised to fulfill your desire.
The religious “airplanes” represent the many gods of this world. The only difference is that there are probably more gods than airplanes. Each god makes their own promise about what they will do, but they usually can only do one thing. So one must have many of these gods to satisfy all of their desires. The only thing these gods have in common is that they all promise eternal bliss at the end of your journey.
The young man had to find the airplane that was going to Paradise. It was not nearly as simple as he had supposed, for there were many airplanes, all going to different destinations. So must we find the one God who can really deliver us to Paradise at the end of our journey. And make no mistake, just as there was only one airplane going to Paradise, there is only one God who will give you eternal life.
All of the other gods are fakes, imposters, imitators, liars, and deceivers. They are all competing for your soul, and they will do anything to get it. They will make empty promises they cannot fulfill. They will tell you half-truths to lure you in. They will tell you whatever it is you want to hear, if it will persuade you to get on board.
How will you find the right God? How can you know which “airplane” to board?
Well, there is only one God who claims to be the Only Way. That God is Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
Jesus also said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)
So if you are really interested in finding the One Way to Paradise, to eternal life, to being in the presence of God for all eternity, check out Jesus first. Consider the One who claims to be the One and Only. If you find Him to be truthful, believe and be saved. If you find Him to be a liar, then continue your search with other gods.
My only request is that you honestly search for the truth and let the facts speak for themselves. The factual evidence of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ can be proven in a court of law, beyond a reasonable doubt.
If He really is the one and only way to eternal life, as He claims, you will want to be on board.

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The Cost of Doing Good


But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
(I Peter 2:20)
 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.
(I Peter 3:13-14)
 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
(I Peter 4:19)
 
I had given some “God Loves You” wristbands, along with some tracts, to a driver at work in the morning. I was feeling pretty good. I was making a difference for God’s kingdom.
Then, my afternoon was totally turned upside down. All the plans I had made were tossed out the window due to a late truck. I was going to have to work late, for the third day in a row, because of a late truck.
It wasn’t my fault. The company was incompetent. And this was a repeating problem. I was angry; it wasn’t right. Why should I have to pay for the company’s inability to do things right? I thought, “I will find a way to get around this. I will only do part of the job, and get done earlier.” I wrestled with this for two or three hours.
Finally, I  heard God say, “Do you think you can promote Me at work, tell others about Me, and not suffer for it?” It was like my heart had just been pierced with a knife, as I suddenly realized this was not about me, but about Jesus. He is the One who is under attack. I am only an ambassador representing Him.
How could I be so selfish in thinking only about me when Jesus suffered unimaginable pain when He died on the cross, not thinking about Himself, but only thinking about me?
I realized, once again, that there is a price to be paid, a cost, for following Jesus. If you proclaim Him as the Savior, you will be attacked by the ruler of this world, Satan. He will, as much as he is able, make you pay a price.
It was then that I, once again, decided that the price, the cost, was worth it. If working late on this day was the cost for proclaiming Jesus in the morning, I would gladly pay the price.
It was this truth that enabled me to accept what was happening and have peace that God was really in control. I took a deep breath, acknowledged His sovereignty, and accepted the situation as being from God.
My anger was suddenly gone. I began to feel a peace that had been missing for a few hours. I actually began to plan how I would accomplish the work, get it all done, and enjoy it.
I know that telling others about Jesus is worth any amount of persecution, harassment, problems, or whatever you want to call it. I will willingly accept any trouble for telling others about Jesus.
And I knew, as I had that thought, that more trouble would be on the way. So be it!

Praise the Lord!

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​​God at Work


 March 28th, 2011 by Wayne Bolan
 
Every Sunday afternoon, after the morning service at the church, the Pastor and his eleven-year-old son would go out into their town and hand out Gospel Tracts. This particular Sunday afternoon, as it came time for the Pastor and his son to go to the streets with their tracts, it was very cold outside, as well as pouring rain.
The boy bundled up in his warmest and driest clothes and said, ‘OK, dad, I’m ready.’
His Pastor dad asked, ‘Ready for what?’
‘Dad, it’s time we gather our tracts together and go out.’
Dad responds, ‘Son, it’s very cold outside and it’s pouring rain.’
The boy gives his dad a surprised look, asking, ‘But Dad, aren’t people still going to Hell, even though it’s raining?’
Dad answers, ‘Son, I am not going out in this weather.’
Despondently, the boy asks, ‘Dad, can I go? Please?’
His father hesitated for a moment then said, ‘Son, you can go. Here are the tracts, be careful son..’
‘Thanks Dad!’
 
And with that, he was off and out into the rain.. This eleven-year-old boy walked the streets of the town going door to door and handing everybody he met in the street a Gospel Tract .
After two hours of walking in the rain, he was soaking, bone-chilled wet and down to his VERY LAST TRACT. He stopped on a corner and looked for someone to hand a tract to, but the streets were totally deserted.
Then he turned toward the first home he saw and started up the sidewalk to the front door and rang the doorbell. He rang the bell, but nobody answered. He rang it again and again, but still no one answered. He waited but still no answer. Finally, this eleven-year-old trooper turned to leave, but something stopped him.
Again, he turned to the door, rang the bell, and knocked loudly on the door with his fist. He waited, something holding him there on the front porch! He rang again and this time the door slowly opened. Standing in the doorway was a very sad-looking elderly lady. She softly asked, ‘What can I do for you, son?’ With radiant eyes and a smile that lit up her world, this little boy said, ‘Ma’am, I’m sorry if I disturbed you, but I just want to tell you that * JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU * and I came to give you my very last Gospel Tract which will tell you all about JESUS and His great LOVE.’ With that, he handed her his last tract and turned to leave. She called to him as he departed. ‘Thank you, son! And God Bless You!’
 
Well, the following Sunday morning in church Pastor Dad was in the pulpit. As the service began, he asked, ‘Does anybody have testimony or want to say anything?’
Slowly, in the back row of the church, an elderly lady stood to her feet. As she began to speak, a look of glorious radiance came from her face, ‘No one in this church knows me. I’ve never been here before. You see, before last Sunday I was not a Christian. My husband passed on some time ago, leaving me totally alone in this world. Last Sunday, being a particularly cold and rainy day, it was even more so in my heart that I came to the end of the line where I no longer had any hope or will to live.
So I took a rope and a chair and ascended the stairway into the attic of my home. I fastened the rope securely to a rafter in the roof, then stood on the chair, and fastened the other end of the rope around my neck. Standing on that chair, so lonely and broken-hearted, I was about to leap off, when suddenly the loud ringing of my doorbell downstairs startled me. I thought, ‘I’ll wait a minute, and whoever it is will go away.’ I waited and waited, but the ringing doorbell seemed to get louder and more insistent, and then the person ringing also started knocking loudly…
I thought to myself again, ‘Who on earth could this be? Nobody ever rings my bell or comes to see me.’ I loosened the rope from my neck and started for the front door, all the while the bell rang louder and louder. When I opened the door and looked I could hardly believe my eyes, for there on my front porch was the most radiant and angelic little boy I had ever seen in my life. His SMILE, oh, I could never describe it to you!
The words that came from his mouth caused my heart that had long been dead, TO LEAP TO LIFE as he exclaimed with a cherub-like voice, ‘Ma’am, I just came to tell you that JESUS REALLY DOES LOVE YOU.’ Then he gave me this Gospel Tract that I now hold in my hand… As the little angel disappeared back out into the cold and rain, I closed my door and read slowly every word of this Gospel Tract. Then I went up to my attic to get my rope and chair. I wouldn’t be needing them anymore.
You see— I am now a Happy Child of the KING. Since the address of your church was on the back of this Gospel Tract, I have come here to personally say THANK YOU to God’s little angel who came just in the nick of time and by so doing, spared my soul from hell.’
 
There was not a dry eye in the church. And as shouts of praise and honor to THE KING resounded off the very rafters of the building, Pastor Dad descended from the pulpit to the front pew where the little angel was seated…. He took his son in his arms and sobbed uncontrollably.
 Probably no church has had a more glorious moment, and probably this universe has never seen a Papa that was more filled with love & honor for his son….


Except for One…

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Redeemed


There once was a man named George Thomas, pastor in a small New England town. One Easter Sunday morning, he came to the Church carrying a rusty, bent, old birdcage, and set it by the pulpit. Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak….
 
I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this birdcage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright.
I stopped the lad and asked, “What do you have there, son?”
“Just some old birds,” came the reply.
“What are you going to do with them?” I asked.
“Take ‘em home and have fun with ‘em,” he answered. “I’m gonna tease ‘em and pull out their feathers to make ‘em fight. I’m gonna have a real good time.”
“But you’ll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?”
“Oh, I got some cats,” said the little boy. “They like birds. I’ll take ‘em to them.”
The pastor was silent for a moment. “How much do you want for those birds, son?”
“Huh??!!! Why, you don’t want them birds, mister. They’re just plain old field birds. They don’t sing. They ain’t even pretty!”
“How much?” the pastor asked again.
The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, “$10?”
The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill. He placed it in the boy’s hand. In a flash, the boy was gone. The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.
 
Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story:


One day Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting. “Yes, sir, I just caught a world full of people down there. Set me a trap, used bait I knew they couldn’t resist. Got ‘em all!”
“What are you going to do with them?” Jesus asked.
Satan replied, “Oh, I’m gonna have fun! I’m gonna teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I’m gonna teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I’m really gonna have fun!”
“And what will you do when you are done with them?” Jesus asked.
“Oh, I’ll kill ‘em,” Satan glared proudly.
“How much do you want for them?” Jesus asked.
“Oh, you don’t want those people. They ain’t no good. Why, you’ll take them and they’ll just hate you. They’ll spit on you, curse you, and kill you. You don’t want those people!!”
“How much?” He asked again.
Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, “All your blood, tears and your life.”
Jesus said, “DONE!” Then He paid the price!
 
And Jesus set you and I free!
 
Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Psalm 124:6-8) 
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”
(Isaiah 42:6-7) 
For this is what the Lord says: “You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.”
(Isaiah 52:3) 
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him, you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
(I Peter 1:18-21) 
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
(Galatians 3:13-14) 
Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
(II Timothy 2:25-26) 
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” declares the Lord.

(Isaiah 49:15)

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Put on Love


And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
(Colossians 3:14)
 
Every morning, rain or shine, we get dressed. We select certain clothes to wear, usually based on what we will be doing that day.
So what is the first item of clothing you put on in the morning? And why is that? Is it because it is the most important item you will wear? Or do you put it on first out of habit?
How much thought do you put into what you will wear? Do women really think more about the clothes they will wear than men? Do you ever ask for advice about what to wear? All of us give some thought to what we will wear. We all spend a certain amount of time, some more, some less, putting on clothes each day.


I wonder how much time we spend thinking about our spiritual dress. The above Scripture tells us to put love on, in the same way we put our clothes on. I wonder if we take this command seriously.
Now to be sure, there is a difference. If you don’t put your clothes on and go outside, everyone will immediately notice. While I have never forgotten to get dressed before leaving home, I have had dreams about doing just that. They were not fun dreams! Talk about embarrassing…
However, if you don’t put on love, it may take awhile for anyone to notice. In fact, you may be able to go all day without anyone asking you where your love is. And my guess is you have done that. I know I have.
Yet, love is more important than any clothes you will ever wear. Love is more important than pants, a shirt, a coat, a suit, even more important than a wedding dress.
For it is only as we put on love that others will have any chance of getting to know Jesus personally. Just like the love of Christ drew us to Him, our love will draw others to Him also. And there is no way other than love.
The love the apostle Paul is talking about doesn’t just happen. We don’t wake up with it already on. It doesn’t magically appear when we take a shower. No, love must be put on. It requires action on our part. We must think about what we are doing and make a conscious decision to put on love.
Others will know when you have put on love. They will benefit from your smile and laughter, your good works, meeting needs, showing compassion, and being a servant to whomever needs one. A bride would never forget to put on her wedding dress, and we must never forget to put on love.
In 1965, Jackie DeShannon sang, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. That’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…” This is still true today. The world needs to know the love of Christ.
Love is the most important part of your spiritual wardrobe. Take a few extra minutes this morning and be sure to put it on. Gaze in the mirror briefly and picture yourself wearing this beautiful garment.
No matter what clothes you decide to wear today, if you put on love, you will look and feel wonderful!

For a walk down memory lane, watch and listen to Jackie DeShannon in 1965 -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=tMS2uMUQNnQ
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Benefits of Love


Who really benefits from love - the one being loved or the one doing the loving? The answer, of course, is that both benefit. And God benefits also if the love is done in His name.
We need only look at the greatest display of love this world has ever known to know this is true -
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16)
It is crystal clear that “the world” whom God loved, which is you and I and everyone else, stands to benefit from what God did. All who believe in His Son, Jesus, are guaranteed to spend eternity in the presence of God. I can think of no greater benefit that to be forever in God’s presence. Yes, we are the benefactors of God’s love. We are truly blessed by the love of God.
In the same way, those that you love will also benefit. They will be receiving something they need, whether they know it or not. Having needs met is always a benefit and that is what love does.
Loving others is also the best way to bless them. And everyone wants to receive a blessing. Jesus wants to bless others through us, so bless others by showing the love of Jesus to them.
It might be a little more difficult to see how Jesus benefited from His Father sending Him to die for us. While His Father conceived the plan out of love, it was Jesus who actually demonstrated His love for us. Jesus is the One who died on the cross, bearing our sin with unimaginable suffering.
So what benefit did Jesus receive from loving us? Certainly, this kind of death is not a benefit in any way. His benefit came, not so much in His death, but in the aftermath of His death. Consider Hebrews 12:2 -
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.


Jesus’ benefit was the joy of sitting down at the right hand of His Father’s throne, knowing He had provided for the salvation of His creation. He was willing to endure tremendous suffering, in the name of love, because He saw the joy on the other side of the cross. And His joy continues to this day and will continue forever.
In the same way, we also benefit when we love someone. Just as Jesus’ love required a sacrifice from Him, so our love will require a sacrifice of some kind from us. While making this sacrifice may sometimes be painful to us and benefits another person, we benefit after we have loved. We too have the joy of knowing we have done what is right in our Father’s eyes and that He is present with us.
We will also have peace and feel good about ourselves, called self-esteem today, because we have done what is right. And loving others is always the right thing to do. I am convinced that if we love others as ourselves, we will have no low self-esteem problems.
For those who feel good about themselves are those who do what they know is the right thing to do.
Yes, we will be at peace with ourselves, we will have peace with the one whom we have loved, and best of all, we will have the peace of God. For when we act in love, the peace of Christ follows -


And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.
(Colossians 3:14-15)
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Benefits of Love - Part 2


We have discussed the benefits of love to the one who is loved and to us. We used the example of Jesus to illustrate this.
But how does God, the Father, benefit from the love He showed us by sending His one and only Son to die for us? What possible benefit can there be in causing your only Son to die?
Once again, we must look beyond the event itself to the results that will come afterward. The single, greatest benefit to the Father is the redemption of His creation. If it were not possible to provide forgiveness to mankind, to redeem us from the grip of the devil, He would have to destroy us.
So God, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9), provided the way of repentance, with the sacrifice of His Son, so that He could enjoy a relationship with us forever.
We know the Father’s joy is great every time a sinner repents because we read in Luke 15:10 - “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” And if the angels of God are rejoicing, so is God Himself.


Now imagine His great joy when an innumerable number of saints are standing before Him, singing His praises, and worshipping Him -
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

(Revelation 7:9-12)
This is truly a day of rejoicing for the Father. All that He does on earth is done so that these kinds of events can take place. He sent His Son to die so that His creation could be redeemed and worship Him, just like this.


After this, I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
And again, they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!”
Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!”
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

(Revelation 19:1-9)
Here, we get another glimpse of what is happening in Heaven as the end of time nears. What a great worship service! And we will one day be a part of all of this. We will be the bride, ready to be married to Jesus, the Lamb.
Yes, this is the benefit the Father receives from loving us. So love us He will, for all eternity!​


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