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Re: A Daily Prayer for all
Reply #4070 - 09/12/19 at 05:08:49
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Ephesians 4:29 (KJV)
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.


Tongue Tamers

In West with the Night, author Beryl Markham detailed her work with Camciscan, a feisty stallion she was tasked with taming. She’d met her match with Camciscan. No matter what strategy she employed, she could never fully tame the proud stallion, chalking up only one victory over his stubborn will.

How many of us feel this way in the battle to tame our tongues? While James compares the tongue to the bit in a horse’s mouth or a ship’s rudder (James 3:3–5), he also laments, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (v. 10).

So, how can we win the battle over the tongue? The apostle Paul offers tongue-taming advice. The first involves speaking only the truth (Ephesians 4:25). This is not a license to be painfully blunt, however. Paul follows up with “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up” (v. 29). We can also take out the trash: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (v. 31). Is this easy? Not if we attempt to do it on our own. Thankfully, we have the Holy Spirit who helps us as we rely on Him.

As Markham learned, consistency with Camciscan was needed in the battle of wills. Such is the case in the taming of the tongue.


Reflect & Pray
What do you find most challenging in taming your tongue? What practical steps can you take to win the battle in the coming week?

Jesus, I need You to help me be mindful of the words I use.


Insight
Who was James, the “servant of God” (1:1) and author of this epistle? Several different men named James appear in the New Testament. The most prominent is James, Zebedee’s son and John’s brother (Matthew 4:21). Another of Christ’s disciples was James the son of Alphaeus (10:3). James the younger or “the Less” (nkjv) is mentioned in Mark 15:40, but some scholars say this James might have been James the son of Alphaeus. Another was the father of Judas (not Iscariot, Luke 6:16). Finally, is James the half-brother of Jesus Himself (Matthew 13:55; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19). This James most likely wrote the book. James the son of Zebedee was the first of Christ’s disciples to be martyred (Acts 12:2), and the others were not prominent enough to have such broad influence.
  

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 #4071 - 09/13/19 at 05:18:28
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Proverbs 16:3 (KJV)
Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.


Whatever We Do

In Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis confessed he came to Christianity at the age of thirty-three, “kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape.” Despite Lewis’s own personal resistance, his shortcomings, and the obstacles he faced, the Lord transformed him into a courageous and creative defender of the faith. Lewis proclaimed God’s truth and love through writing powerful essays and novels that are still being read, studied, and shared more than fifty-five years after his death. His life reflected his belief that a person is “never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”

As we make plans and follow dreams, God can purify our motives and empower us to devote whatever we do to Him (Proverbs 16:1–3). From the most ordinary tasks to the greatest challenges, we can live for the glory of our almighty Maker, who “works out everything to its proper end” (v. 4). Every action, every word, and every thought can become an expression of heartfelt worship, a sacrificial gift to honor our Lord, as He watches over us (v. 7).

God can’t be limited by our limitations, our reservations, or our tendencies to settle or dream small. As we choose to live for Him—dedicated to and dependent on Him—He will bring about His plans for us. Whatever we do can be done with Him, for Him, and only because of Him.


Reflect & Pray
How can Proverbs 16:3 help you be more confident in the use of your gifts? What steps can you take to honor God as you follow a dream He’s placed on your heart?

God, thank You for reminding us that no jobs are too small and no dreams are too big in Your great kingdom.


Insight
The book of Proverbs stresses honoring God in whatever we do. One phrase that parallels this sentiment is “the fear of the Lord” (16:6), which speaks of profound reverence and respect for God. Such awe, honor, and deference should be reserved uniquely for Him as Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Lord over all. The personal and corporate value of possessing this essential quality is noted throughout the Proverbs. The fear of the Lord is foundational for wise living (1:7; 9:10); it’s something that can be chosen (1:29); possessing it prolongs one’s life (10:27); and its value is greater than material wealth (15:16). Those who are guided by the fear of the Lord protect themselves from evil (16:6; 19:23) and have everything they need (10:3).
  

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 #4072 - 09/14/19 at 05:16:09
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John 12:42 (KJV)
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:


Whatever the Cost

The film Paul, Apostle of Christ takes an unflinching look at persecution in the early days of the church. Even the movie’s minor characters reveal how dangerous it was to follow Jesus. Consider these roles listed in the credits: Beaten Woman; Beaten Man; Christian Victims 1, 2, and 3.

Identifying with Christ often came at a high cost. And in much of the world, it’s still dangerous to follow Jesus. Many in the church today can relate to that kind of persecution. Some of us, however, may feel “persecuted” prematurely—outraged any time our faith is mocked or we suspect we were passed over for a promotion because of our beliefs.

Obviously, there’s a colossal difference between sacrificing social status and sacrificing our lives. Realistically, though, self-interest, financial stability, and social acceptance have always been intense human motivators. We see this in the actions of some of Jesus’s earliest converts. The apostle John reports that, mere days before Jesus’s crucifixion, although most Israelites were still rejecting Him (John 12:37), many “even among the leaders believed” (v. 42). However, “They would not openly acknowledge their faith . . . for they loved human praise more than praise from God” (vv. 42–43).

Today we still face societal pressures (and worse) to keep our faith in Christ hidden. Whatever the cost, let’s stand together as a people who seek God’s approval more than human praise.


Reflect & Pray
We might be tempted to judge the early believers who hid their faith, but are we any different? Are there times we choose to be quiet so we can hide our identification with Jesus?

Jesus, I want to be a close friend of Yours.


Insight
When John (12:38–40) quotes Isaiah 53:1 and 6:10, it might appear that he’s blaming God for pre-determining widespread unbelief in Jesus. But when we read both Isaiah and John in context, we see that God decided ahead of time to give His people the freedom to have their own way so that He could show them how far He would go to rescue them from themselves.

John described religious leaders who, for their own political and religious reasons, were afraid to believe in Jesus (John 11:45–53; 12:42–43). Isaiah—a prophet living six centuries before Christ—wrote about a King who would eventually show up in the story and glory of Jesus (Isaiah 6:1–10; John 12:41) and in the God-given freedom of those who refused to believe in Him. Without divine revelation, they couldn’t and wouldn’t believe Christ was their Messiah.
  

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 #4073 - 09/15/19 at 09:39:31
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Ephesians 4:3 (KJV)
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.


Unity

In 1722 a small group of Moravian Christians, who lived in what is now the Czech Republic, found refuge from persecution on the estate of a generous German count. Within four years, more than 300 people came. But instead of an ideal community for persecuted refugees, the settlement became filled with discord. Different perspectives on Christianity brought division. What they did next may seem like a small choice, but it launched an incredible revival: They began to focus on what they agreed on rather than on what they disagreed on. The result was unity.

The apostle Paul strongly encouraged the believers in the church in Ephesus to live in unity. Sin would always bring trouble, selfish desires, and conflict in relationships. But as those who were made “alive with Christ” the Ephesians were called to live out their new identity in practical ways (Ephesians 5:2). Primarily, they were to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:3).

This unity isn’t just simple camaraderie achieved through human strength. We are to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (v. 2). From a human perspective, it’s impossible to act in this way. We can’t reach unity through our own power but through God’s perfect power “that is at work within us” (3:20).


Reflect & Pray
How are you experiencing division or unity in your community of faith? What efforts can you make in God’s strength to keep the unity of the Spirit?

Father, You who are over all and through all and in all, live among us in such a way that unity will be present.


Insight
Paul and his team planted the church at Ephesus during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19). He returned during his third journey, spending three years there growing the faith of the young believers in Jesus (19:1–41; 20:31). We read of the apostle’s final direct engagement with the Ephesians in Acts 20:17–38. As he was traveling to Jerusalem at the conclusion of his third missionary journey, Paul stopped at the port city of Miletus in western Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) and called for the Ephesian elders so he could invest in the congregation there one final time. Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians some years later while he was under house arrest in Rome, awaiting his hearing before Caesar (28:30). Combined together, these points of contact reveal a deeper investment and relationship of Paul with the Ephesians than any of the other churches he served.
  

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 #4074 - 09/16/19 at 06:01:38
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Colossians 4:5-6 (KJV)
5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.
6 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.


Don’t Feed the Trolls

Ever heard the expression, “Don’t feed the trolls”? “Trolls” refers to a new problem in today’s digital world—online users who repeatedly post intentionally inflammatory and hurtful comments on news or social media discussion boards. But ignoring such comments—not “feeding” the trolls—makes it harder for them to derail a conversation.

Of course, it’s nothing new to encounter people who aren’t genuinely interested in productive conversation. “Don’t feed the trolls” could almost be a modern equivalent of Proverbs 26:4, which warns that arguing with an arrogant, unreceptive person risks stooping to their level.

And yet . . . even the most seemingly stubborn person is also a priceless image-bearer of God. If we’re quick to dismiss others, we may be the ones in danger of being arrogant and becoming unreceptive to God’s grace (see Matthew 5:22).

That might, in part, explain why Proverbs 26:5 offers the exact opposite guideline. Because it takes humble, prayerful dependence on God to discern how best to show others love in each situation (see Colossians 4:5–6). Sometimes we speak up; other times, it’s best to be silent.

May we find peace in knowing that the same God who drew us near while we were still in hardened opposition to Him (Romans 5:6) is powerfully at work in each person’s heart.


Reflect & Pray
How have you witnessed very different approaches being used by God to touch others? How can you better speak the truth in love?

Loving God, help me share Your love with others around me.


Insight
The Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) is Hebrew poetry that uses a variety of poetic devices. In Proverbs 26, metaphors and analogies are used. The foolish person is compared to weather that’s inappropriate for the season (v. 1), an animal that needs to be constrained (v. 3), a useless leg (v. 7), and a powerless sling (v. 8). These comparisons warn about the self-destructive nature of foolish choices.
  

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 #4075 - 09/17/19 at 05:26:50
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Galatians 3:27 (KJV)
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.


More than Water

One of my earliest childhood memories of church was a pastor walking down the aisle, challenging us to “remember the waters of our baptism.” Remember the waters? I asked myself. How can you remember water? He then proceeded to splash everyone with water, which as a young child both delighted and confused me.

Why should we think about baptism? When a person is baptized, there’s so much more to it than water. Baptism symbolizes how through faith in Jesus, we’ve become “clothed” with Him (Galatians 3:27). Or in other words, it’s celebrating that we belong to Him and that He lives in and through us.

As if that weren’t significant enough, the passage tells us that if we’ve been clothed with Christ our identity is found in Him. We’re the very children of God (v. 26). As such, we’ve been made right with God by faith—not by following Old Testament law (vv. 23–25). We’re not divided against one another by gender, culture, and status. We’re set free and brought into unity through Christ and are now His own (v. 29).

So there are very good reasons to remember baptism and all it represents. We aren’t simply focusing on the act itself but that we belong to Jesus and have become children of God. Our identity, future, and spiritual freedom are found in Him.


Reflect & Pray
What does it mean for you to be clothed with Christ and to belong to Him? What are ways in which you can regularly celebrate and remember the meaning of baptism?

God, help me to never forget that through Jesus I am a child of God!


Insight
Much has been written about Paul’s view of the law as it relates to the Christian life. The apostle wrote about the law in several letters to the early believers in Jesus, most notably in his letter to the Romans. Here in Galatians, Paul initially paints the law as a jailer who held us in custody until faith was revealed (3:23). A jailer restricts prisoners’ activities and keeps them confined within certain parameters. In verse 24, however, Paul calls the law our guardian—a role with a different connotation. A guardian is charged with protection and safety; one who keeps those under his care from harm and helps them to grow and flourish. In each case, jailer or guardian, Paul says that because faith has come, they’re no longer needed.
  

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 #4076 - 09/18/19 at 05:34:02
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1 Peter 5:9 (KJV)
Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.


Turn and Run

Ali was a beautiful, smart, and talented teenager with loving parents. But after high school something prompted her to try heroin. Her parents noticed changes in her and sent her to a rehabilitation facility after Ali eventually admitted the impact it was having on her. After treatment, they asked what she would tell her friends about trying drugs. Her advice: “Just turn and run.” She urged that “just saying no” wasn’t enough.

Tragically, Ali relapsed and died at age twenty-two of an overdose. In an attempt to keep others from the same fate, her heartbroken parents appeared on a local news program encouraging listeners to “run for Ali” by staying far from situations where they could be exposed to drugs and other dangers.

The apostle Paul urged his spiritual son Timothy (and us) to run from evil (2 Timothy 2:22), and the apostle Peter likewise warned, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8–9).

None of us is immune to temptation. And often the best thing to do is to steer clear of situations where we’ll be tempted—though they can’t always be avoided. But we can be better prepared by having a strong faith in God based in the Bible and strengthened through prayer. When we “[stand] firm in the faith” we’ll know when to turn and run to Him.


Reflect & Pray
In what area(s) are you particularly susceptible to temptation? What has helped you to resist?

Dear God, there are so many temptations out there. Help us to watch and pray so that we won’t fall. And thank You for welcoming us back when we do.


Insight
The Scriptures have much to tell us about our spiritual adversary, Satan. Peter, writing from his own painful defeat, warns us of our adversary “the devil [who] prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Some thirty years before writing this letter, Peter boasted that he would never disown Jesus (Matthew 26:33–35), but in his overconfident pride he failed to “be alert and of sober mind” (1 Peter 5:8). According to John, the whole world is presently under Satan’s control (1 John 5:19), but Jesus came “to destroy the devil’s work” (3:8). Jesus has already defeated Satan (John 12:31; 16:11; Hebrews 2:14), but the devil is permitted to continue to deceive people for a season (2 Corinthians 11:14). Satan’s end is sealed, however, for he will be “thrown into the lake of burning sulfur . . . tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
  

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 #4077 - 09/19/19 at 04:55:20
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Psalm 8:4 (KJV)
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?


Feeling Small

Many movie critics consider David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia one of the greatest films of all time. With its seemingly endless vistas of the Arabian deserts, it has influenced a generation of filmmakers—including Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg. “I was inspired the first time I saw Lawrence,” said Spielberg. “It made me feel puny. It still makes me feel puny. And that’s one measure of its greatness.”

What makes me feel small is creation’s vastness—when I gaze at an ocean, fly over the polar ice cap, or survey a night sky sparkling with a billion stars. If the created universe is so expansive, how much greater must be the Creator who spoke it into being!

God’s greatness and our feelings of insignificance are echoed by David when he declares, “What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” (Psalm 8:4 nlt). But Jesus assures us, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

I may feel small and insignificant, but through my Father’s eyes, I have great worth—a worth that is proven every time I look at the cross. The price He was willing to pay to restore me to fellowship with Him is evidence of how He values me.   


Reflect & Pray
What wonder of creation draws your attention to God? How does it impact you to know how much your Creator values you?

Father, help us to remember Your heart is for us.


Insight
Our passage today continues Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) and is a subsection of the major theme considered in chapter 6—“the Christian walking and living in this world, in his relationship to the Father” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount). But while the earlier subsection (vv. 19–24) deals with the danger of laying up and hoarding the treasures of this earth, this portion is concerned with our worrying or being anxious about material things. Some believe the first passage addresses the rich, while today’s addresses the poor or those who struggle to make ends meet. But it’s also possible for the rich to be obsessed with worry over material things. No matter how we look at these texts, both convey the danger of trying to find our security anywhere but in God and His great care for us (1 Peter 5:7).
  

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 #4078 - 09/20/19 at 05:35:28
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John 15:4 (KJV)
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.


In the Vine

One spring after a particularly dreary winter during which she helped a family member through a long illness, Emma found encouragement each time she walked past a cherry tree near her home in Cambridge, England. Bursting out at the top of the pink blossoms grew blossoms of white. A clever gardener had grafted into the tree a branch of white flowers. When Emma passed the unusual tree, she thought of Jesus’s words about being the Vine and His followers the branches (John 15:1–8).

By calling Himself the Vine, Jesus was speaking of an image familiar to the Israelites in the Old Testament, for there the vine symbolized God’s people (Psalm 80:8–9; Hosea 10:1). Jesus extended this symbolism to Himself, saying He was the Vine and that His followers were grafted into Him as branches. And as they remained in Him, receiving His nourishment and strength, they would bear fruit (John 15:5).

As Emma supported her family member, she needed the reminder that she was connected to Jesus. Seeing the white flowers among the pink ones gave her a visual prompt of the truth that as she remained in the Vine, she gained nourishment through Him.

When we who believe in Jesus embrace the idea of being as close to Him as a branch is to a vine, our faith is strengthened and enriched.


Reflect & Pray
How are you receiving spiritual nourishment from Jesus? What will help you remain in the Vine?

Jesus, thank You for helping me to remain in You. May I find the peace, hope, and strength I need today.


Insight
The vineyard metaphor is used to describe the relationship between God and Israel (Psalm 80:8–9; Isaiah 5:1–7; 27:2–6). God expected His people to produce “a crop of good grapes, but [they] yielded only bad fruit” (Isaiah 5:2).

Jesus also spoke of a spurned vineyard owner who wasn’t given his share of the crop at harvest time (Matthew 21:33–43). He warned the Jews that God wants a “people who will produce its fruit” (v. 43). We can’t bear fruit if we’re not connected to the Vine. Jesus said that when we bear fruit we demonstrate we’re His disciples (John 15:8). The Holy Spirit’s work produces good fruit in us (Galatians 5:22–23) and causes us to become more and more like Christ (Romans 8:29).

  

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 #4079 - 09/21/19 at 05:17:29
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Philippians 2:9 (KJV)
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:


Name of Names

The name of Antonio Stradivari (1644–1737) is legendary in the world of music. His violins, cellos, and violas are so treasured for their craftsmanship and clarity of sound that many have been given their own names. One of them, for instance, is known as the Messiah-Salabue Stradivarius. After violinist Joseph Joachim (1831–1907) played it, he wrote, “The sound of the Strad, that unique ‘Messie,’ turns up again and again in my memory, with its combined sweetness and grandeur.”

Even the name and sound of a Stradivarius, however, doesn’t deserve to be compared to the work of a far greater Source. From Moses to Jesus, the God of gods introduces Himself with a name above all names. For our sake, He wants the wisdom and work of His own hand to be recognized, valued, and celebrated with the sound of music (Exodus 6:1; 15:1–2).

Yet this deliverance of strength in response to the groans of a troubled people was only a beginning. Who could have foreseen that, by the weakness of crucified hands, He would one day leave a legacy of eternal and infinite value? Could anyone have predicted the resulting wonder and grandeur of music sung in praise of the name of One who died—bearing the insult of our sin and rejection—to show how much He loves us?


Reflect & Pray
In what ways can you see the hand of a Master patiently shaping your life to put His name on you? What is He doing today to remind you that you’re His child?

Father in heaven, please do something in and through us today that helps others see that we owe everything to You.


Insight
As God had instructed, Moses asked Pharaoh for some time off to sacrifice to God (Exodus 5:1). Pharaoh responded by worsening the Hebrews’ workload (vv. 2–9). The Hebrews directed their anger over this injustice at Moses and Aaron (vv. 19–21). Moses, in turn, questioned God: “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me?” (v. 22). God responded, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh” (6:1). He also reminded Moses that while He didn’t reveal His Name to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, He did share it with him (3:13–15).
  

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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