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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #3590 - 05/29/18 at 08:57:36
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Hebrews 13:14 (KJV)
For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.


Gazing at the Horizon

Almost as soon as the ferryboat started to move, my little daughter said she felt ill. Seasickness had already begun to affect her. Soon I was feeling queasy myself. “Just stare at the horizon,” I reminded myself. Sailors say this helps to regain a sense of perspective.

The Maker of the horizon (Job 26:10) knows that sometimes in life we may become fearful and restless. We can regain perspective by focusing on the distant but steady point of our destiny.

Our present troubles are temporary. Focus on God and gain perspective.

The writer of Hebrews understood this. He sensed discouragement in his readers. Persecution had driven many of them from their homes. So he reminded them that other people of faith had endured extreme trials and had been left homeless. They endured it all because they anticipated something better.

As exiles, these readers could look forward to the city whose architect is God, the heavenly country, the city God prepared for them (Hebrews 11:10, 14, 16). So in his final exhortations, the writer asked his readers to focus on God’s promises. “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (13:14).

Our present troubles are temporary. We are “foreigners and strangers on earth” (11:13), but gazing at the horizon of God’s promises provides the point of reference we need.

Father, in the midst of troubles, help me to focus on Your promises.

Focus on God and regain perspective.

INSIGHT
Followers of Jesus wait for the day when we will be with Him—the fulfillment of what we’ve spent our lives pursuing. We rightfully yearn to be “home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). The troubles we have in this life make our desire that much sharper and earnest. Today’s passage isn’t about forgetting the world we live in and thinking only of heaven; it’s about seeing our present life from the perspective of the life to come. Paul reminded us that our current troubles are not worth comparing to what is to come (Romans 8:18).
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #3591 - 05/30/18 at 08:31:59
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Psalm 33:22 (KJV)
Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.


When Words Fail

Not long ago I sent my wife, Cari, a text message using only voice prompts. I was on my way out the door to give her a ride home from work and intended to send the words, “Where would you like me to pick you up, old gal?”

Cari doesn’t mind my calling her “old gal”—it’s one of the affectionate nicknames we use around the house. But my cell phone didn’t “understand” the phrase, and sent the words “old cow” instead.

We can come to Him with every need, assured that He understands and receives us with love.

Fortunately for me, Cari immediately understood what had happened and found it funny. She later posted my text message on social media and asked, “Should I be offended?” We were both able to laugh about it.

My wife’s loving response to my awkward words that day makes me think about God’s loving understanding of our prayers. We may not know what to say when we pray or even what to ask for, but when we belong to Christ, His Spirit within “intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26) and lovingly helps us articulate our deepest needs before Him.

Our heavenly Father doesn’t stand at a distance waiting for us to get our words right. We can come to Him with every need, assured that He understands and receives us with love.

Abba, Father, thank You that I can come to You without fear of having to get my words just right. Help me to keep company with You today.

God’s love is beyond words.

INSIGHT
Some of the New Testament’s most important teaching on the Holy Spirit is found in Romans 8. The Spirit is mentioned 21 times in the first 27 verses, with activities ranging from indwelling the lives of followers of Jesus (v. 9), giving us assurance of our relationship with the Father (v. 16), and helping us as we pray (as seen in today’s devotional; vv. 26–27). What a rich and wonderful gift we have received in the Holy Spirit! May we, as Paul says, “not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #3592 - 05/31/18 at 09:43:25
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Matthew 27:46 (KJV)
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?


Interrupted Fellowship

The loud, sorrowful cry pierced the dark afternoon air. I imagine it drowning out the sound of mourning from friends and loved ones gathered at Jesus’s feet. It must have overwhelmed the moans of the dying criminals who flanked Jesus on both sides. And surely startled all who heard it.

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” Jesus cried out in agony and in utter despondency as He hung on that cross of shame on Golgotha (Matthew 27:45–46).

Jesus, thank You for making it possible to have fellowship with the Father.

“My God,” He said, “my God, why have you forsaken me?”

I cannot think of more heart-wrenching words. Since eternity, Jesus had been in perfect fellowship with God the Father. Together they had created the universe, had fashioned mankind in their image, and planned salvation. Never in the eons past had they not been in total fellowship with each other.

And now, as the anguish of the cross continued to bring devastating pain on Jesus—He for the first time lost the awareness of God’s presence as He carried the burden of the sins of the world.

It was the only way. Only through this time of interrupted fellowship could our salvation be provided for. And it was only because Jesus was willing to experience this sense of being forsaken on the cross that we humans can gain fellowship with God.

Thank You, Jesus, for experiencing such pain so we could be forgiven.

Jesus, we again stand in awe at Your sacrifice. We kneel in Your presence and with gratitude acknowledge what You did for us on the cross. Thank You for making it possible to have fellowship with the Father forever.

The cross reveals God’s heart for the lost.
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #3593 - 06/01/18 at 06:26:04
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Psalm 46:10 (KJV)
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.


Stop

My friend and I sat in the sand, near the ever-rhythmic ocean. As the sun sank in the distance, wave after wave curled, paused and then rippled toward our extended toes, stopping just short each time. “I love the ocean,” she smiled. “It moves so I don’t have to.”

What a thought! So many of us struggle to stop. We do, do, do and go, go, go, somehow afraid that if we cease our efforts we will cease to be. Or that by stopping we will expose ourselves to the ever-present realities we work to keep at bay.

In Psalm 46:8–9, God flexes His omnipotent muscles, putting His power on display. “Come and see what the Lord has done . . . . He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.” God is a busy God, who works to create calm within the chaos of our days.

And then in verse 10 we read, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Of course it’s possible to know God while running here and there. But the psalmist’s invitation to cease striving beckons us into a different kind of knowing. A knowing that we can stop—and still be—because God never stops. A knowing that it is God’s power that gives us ultimate value, protection, and peace.

Dear God, help me to find my rest in You.

We rest well when we’re in the loving arms and perfect will of God.

INSIGHT
Psalm 46 has been a source of encouragement to many over the years—including reformer Martin Luther. In fact, he based the classic hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” on this psalm. During times of struggle “when terribly discouraged, he would turn to his co-worker, Philipp Melanchthon, and say, ‘Come, Philipp, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm’” (Ligonier Ministries, Luther and the Psalms: His Solace and Strength).

This mighty fortress describes the God of strength who is our refuge. And He is also the God who calls us to find our rest in Him. In the New Testament, Jesus personalized that rest when He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). In the midst of the cares and despairs of life, we can stop, be still, and find refuge in God.


  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #3594 - 06/02/18 at 05:41:03
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Matthew 5:6 (KJV)
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.


The “Chewing” Years

My wife recently gave me a Labrador retriever puppy we named Max. One day when Max was spending time with me in my study, I was concentrating at my desk and heard the sound of paper ripping behind me. I turned to find a guilty-looking puppy with a book wide open and a page dangling from his mouth.

Our veterinarian tells us that Max is going through his “chewing years.” As puppies lose their milk teeth and permanent ones grow, they soothe their gums by chewing almost anything. We have to watch Max carefully to ensure he isn’t gnawing on something that could harm him, and we point him to healthy alternatives.

Max’s urge to chew—and my responsibility to watch him—cause me to think about what we “chew on” in our minds and hearts. Do we carefully consider what we are feeding our eternal souls when we read or surf the web or watch TV? The Bible encourages us, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2–3). We need to fill ourselves daily with God’s Word and truth if we are to thrive as followers of Christ. Only then can we grow to maturity in Him.

Loving Lord, help me to hunger for You and Your Word and to stay away from that which harms me. Fill me with Your goodness today.

When Christ returns, what will He find us craving?

INSIGHT
Food is used as a metaphor to describe the Bible’s nutritional value. To Peter, it’s pure milk (1 Peter 2:2). Job treasured God’s Word more than his daily bread (Job 23:12). In Psalm 19:10, it’s sweeter than honey. Looking at Hebrews 5:12–14, why do we need the solid food of Scripture to mature spiritually?


  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #3595 - 06/03/18 at 08:51:11
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Psalm 62:8 (KJV)
Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.


Clocks and Calendars

My father died at 58 years of age. Ever since then, I pause on the date he died to remember Dad and reflect on his influence in my life. When I realized I had lived more of life without my dad than with him, I began pondering the brevity of my own life.

On reflection, we may wrestle with both an event in time and the feelings it stirs within us. Though we measure time with clocks and calendars, we remember times because of events. In the moments of life that trigger our deepest emotions, we can experience joy, loss, blessing, pain, success, failure.

The Scriptures encourage us: “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8). This confident statement did not occur in a time of ease. David wrote these words while surrounded by enemies (vv. 3–4). Still, he waited quietly before God (vv. 1, 5) reminding us that God’s unfailing love (v. 12) is greater than any of the times of struggle we may face.

In every event, we have this confidence: Our God stands with us, and He is more than adequate to carry us through all of life’s moments. When the times of life threaten to overwhelm us, His help will be right on time.

We’re grateful that You are always and will always be faithful to us, Father.


Our God is ready to be with us in all the times of life.

INSIGHT
Slowing down to consider what Psalm 62 tells us (or at least implies) about the situation that prompted the psalmist to write it can deepen our understanding of God. It helps us internalize the psalm’s teaching in a way that transforms us rather than simply informs us. These are not the blissful words of reflection from an untroubled soul. David writes from the tired depths of someone maligned and assaulted. Saying that hope comes from the Lord is simple when hope is a luxury. To say that you will not be shaken when even your friends are secretly cursing you (v. 4) is an expression of trust before, during, and after all other hopes have failed.

How can you express hope in God?
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #3596 - 06/04/18 at 05:46:23
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John 14:26 (KJV)
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.


Open My Eyes

The first time I went to the gorgeous Chora Church in Istanbul, I was able to figure out some Bible stories from the Byzantine frescos and mosaics on the ceiling. But there was much I missed. The second time, however, I had a guide. He pointed to all the details I had previously missed, and suddenly everything made perfect sense! The first aisle, for instance, depicted the life of Jesus as recorded in the gospel of Luke.

Sometimes when we read the Bible we understand the basic stories, but what about the connections—those details that weave Scripture into the one perfect story? We have Bible commentaries and study tools, yes, but we also need a guide—someone to open our eyes and help us see the wonders of God’s written revelation. Our guide is the Holy Spirit who teaches us “all things” (John 14:26). Paul wrote that He explains “spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words” (1 Corinthians 2:13).

How wonderful to have the Author of the Book to show us the wonders of it! God has not only given us His written Word and His revelation but He also helps us to understand it and learn from it. So let us pray with the psalmist, saying, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18).

Dear Lord, as I read Your Word, open my eyes that I may discover the wonders of Your revelation.


We need God in order to understand Scripture.

INSIGHT
Did you do connect-the-dot puzzles as a child?

When Jesus spoke in John 14:23–31 about giving His Spirit to show His disciples all they needed to know, they couldn’t yet see the picture. What He said about love, obedience, and the Spirit who would help them put it all together were still just words.

Imagine what it was like to be one of Jesus’s disciples for whom what He was saying was such a mystery and a puzzle on that Passover night. Then the Spirit came and began to reveal truth. Think about how the Spirit is now, through the Scriptures, connecting the dots for you.
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #3597 - 06/05/18 at 09:39:22
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Luke 18:38 (KJV)
And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.


A Blind Man’s Plea

Some years ago a traveling companion noticed I was straining to see objects at a distance. What he did next was simple but life changing. He took off his glasses and said, “Try these.” When I put his glasses on, surprisingly my blurred vision cleared up. Eventually I went to an optometrist who prescribed glasses to correct my vision problem.

Today’s reading in Luke 18 features a man with no vision at all, and living in total darkness had forced him to beg for a living. News about Jesus, the popular teacher and miracle worker, had reached the blind beggar’s ears. So when Jesus’s travel route took Him by where the blind man was sitting, hope was ignited in his heart. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 38) he called. Though without sight physically, the man possessed spiritual insight into Jesus’s true identity and faith in Him to meet his need. Compelled by this faith, “He shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (v. 39). The result? His blindness was banished, and he went from begging for his living to blessing God because he could see (v. 43).

In moments or seasons of darkness, where do you turn? Upon what or to whom do you call? Eyeglass prescriptions help improve vision, but it’s the merciful touch of Jesus, God’s Son, that brings people from spiritual darkness to light.

Father, open the eyes of my heart to clearly see who Jesus is and what He can do.

The Father’s delight is to give sight to those who ask Him.

INSIGHT
From the gospel of Mark we learn the blind man’s name is Bartimaeus (10:46). Bible scholar Kenneth Bailey, in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, tells us that Bartimaeus’s story is best understood in the context of what happens next—Jesus’s encounter with Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector of Jericho (Luke 19). With these two men, Jesus is reaching out to the extremes of the social context of first-century Israel—a blind beggar and a wealthy publican. Christ shows profound grace to both by giving Bartimaeus his sight and bringing salvation to the house of Zacchaeus (19:9–10).

A key element that connects these stories is the word son. Bartimaeus calls Jesus “Son of David,” a title identifying Jesus as the Messiah that Israel had longed for. Jesus calls Zacchaeus a “son of Abraham” (v. 9). This was not an ethnic description but an affirmation that Zacchaeus had come to faith (Galatians 3:7). The stories close with Jesus’s self-identification as “the Son of Man”—another title with Messianic implications (Luke 19:10).

On the cross Christ would complete His work of seeking and saving those who are lost—like Bartimaeus, Zacchaeus, and us.
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #3598 - 06/06/18 at 06:56:12
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Ecclesiastes 4:9 (KJV)
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.


Side by Side

In ancient times, a city with broken walls revealed a defeated people, exposed to danger and shame. That is why the Jews rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. How? By working side by side, an expression that can well describe Nehemiah 3.

At first glance, chapter 3 might appear to be a boring account of who did what in the reconstruction. However, a closer look highlights how people worked together. Priests were working alongside rulers. Perfume-makers were helping as well as goldsmiths. There were some who lived in nearby towns and came to give a hand. Others made repairs opposite their houses. Shallum’s daughters, for example, worked alongside the men (3:12), and some people repaired two sections, like the men of Tekoa (vv. 5, 27).

Two things stand out from this chapter. First, they all worked together for a common goal. Second, all of them are commended for being part of the work, not for how much or little they did as compared to others.

Today we see damaged families and a broken society. But Jesus came to build the kingdom of God through the transformation of lives. We can help to rebuild our neighborhoods by showing others they can find hope and new life in Jesus. All of us have something to do. So let us work side by side and do our part—whether big or small—to create a community of love where people can find Jesus.

Dear Lord, help me to work with others, side by side, by showing love and pointing others to Jesus.

Let’s work together to build the kingdom of God.
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #3599 - 06/07/18 at 06:01:00
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Zephaniah 3:17 (KJV)
The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.


And in Truth

Years ago, I attended a wedding where two people from different countries got married. Such a blending of cultures can be beautiful, but this ceremony included Christian traditions mixed with rituals from a faith that worshiped many gods.

Zephaniah the prophet pointedly condemned the mixing of other religions with faith in the one true God (sometimes called syncretism). Judah had become a people who bowed in worship to the true God but who also relied on the god Molek (Zephaniah 1:5). Zephaniah described their adoption of pagan culture (v. 8) and warned that as a result God would drive the people of Judah from their homeland.

Yet God never stopped loving His people. His judgment was to show them their need to turn to Him. So Zephaniah encouraged Judah to “Seek righteousness, seek humility” (2:3). Then the Lord gave them tender words promising future restoration: “At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home” (3:20).

It’s easy to condemn examples of obvious syncretism like the wedding I attended. But in reality, all of us easily blend God’s truth with the assumptions of our culture. We need the Holy Spirit’s guidance to test our beliefs against the truth of God’s Word and then to stand for that truth confidently and lovingly. Our Father warmly embraces anyone who worships Him in the Spirit and in truth (see John 4:23–24).

When I am in trouble, where do I turn? A crisis reveals where I put my trust. Is my faith completely in God? What do I need to give over to Him today?

God is always ready to forgive and restore.

INSIGHT
God’s judgment is the theme of Zephaniah and is predicted because the people “neither seek the Lord nor inquire of him” (1:6). Several groups are targeted: the priests, who thought they could worship God and false gods (v. 6); the royal family, “who fill the temple of their gods with violence and deceit” (v. 9); “merchants,” who exploit the poor (v. 11); and the “complacent” (v.12), who live comfortably while doing nothing to change their corrupt culture. When we mix God’s truth with error, as the idolatrous priests did, judgment is inevitable.
  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
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