And the Holy Spirit

….And the Holy Spirit

. . .as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived--the things God has prepared for those who love him—
These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. (1 Corinthians 2:9-12 NIV)

The small bird lighted on the passenger side mirror of my sedan and began to peck feverishly at its reflection. I was entertained by the bird’s antics and probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought had it not been for an email I received from a fellow church goer later in the week. She said a pesky mockingbird had taken up residence in the church parking lot and to thwart its attacking their mirrors, a couple of church folk had resorted to putting paper sacks over them. It turned out what I had taken for a friendly gesture, other, better informed people recognized for the nuisance it was.

When I thought more about my comical misunderstanding, I realized it was an illustration of how if our thought processes can be that far offbase about even the most commonplace things, how much more are they likely to be when dealing with matters in the spiritual realm if we are left to our own devices.

Fortunately God has provided us with a resource to deal with life’s uncertainties so we don’t have to rely on our own limited vision.

True “aha” moments are inspirations, but do not spring from any mental Olympics on our part; we have been guided there by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s internal dialog with us is not done in a threatening or preachy sort of way but with the same gentle touch the Master was known for. They are so subtle in fact, we may be tempted to claim the ideas as our own. It is God’s way to unveil truths to us in a form that is digestible to us in whatever frame of mind we are in.

That the Holy Spirit can single us out for such individualized attention while simultaneously ministering to the whole body of Christ is beyond our comprehension, but let us rejoice it is so. 

Blessed Jesus, Thank you for sending us the Comforter to help us better navigate our way through life. Amen

Carol (NC) 

Three Billion Letters

"Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One fashion us in the womb? Job 31:15 (NKJV) 

Recently, I was reading about how babies are made by God. The source that I was reading stated that "the genetic code that determines our basic makeup, from our health risks to what we look like is more than a three billion letter code." I thought: "THREE BILLION LETTERS? " 

No wonder each baby is unique and special. I went on to think that no wonder each baby is a treasure. Each baby is the product of Almighty God writing a one of a kind code that produces what He wants that baby to look like and be. 

Each baby has the same needs: food and water, being touched etc. Also, each little one has the same potentials: creativity, being born-again etc. Babies with an unusual code are still gifts from God to produce understanding and trust. A unique baby has needs that bring out love, trust and growth in their parents. They also spend their lives causing prayers to rise to heaven for help.

Many take the miraculous for granted and devalue God's choice in favor of women's choices. This hardness of heart toward babies and disrespect of God has a reckoning day coming.

Respect what God goes through to produce each baby as He writes and makes come to pass each unique three billion letter code baby.

"Lord, help us to be in awe of Your creating work as we look at children. In Jesus' name, Amen."

Dr. Bob [Surprise,AZ]

Longing for Christ

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
- But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
- And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.
(Luke 15:21-24 KJV)

While I was waiting in the car for the rest of my party to arrive at the restaurant where we were having lunch, the cell phone conversation being carried on on the patio was loud enough to get my attention. He was young, no more than twenty, with a clean cut look about him. We hear all the time that the new face of drug and alcohol abuse is no longer the disheveled, shady look of days past, but more the boy or girl next day and the story that unfolded in front of me certainly gave credence to that fact.

He confessed he had been thrown out of his parents’ house, and then a neighbor’s in the middle of the night for his disruptive behavior. Pacing in the way the young do when they are excited about the subject of their conversation, he was bragging about dropping out of school, going on a bender that resulted in his car winding up totaled in a ditch and him being jailed on a drunk driving charge.

All of this was delivered in a joking way, the same lighthearted tone anyone would use in bringing a friend up to speed on what has been transpired since you last spoke. It didn’t take a professional to determine this young man was treading very close to disaster, the kind you may not come back from. But tucked into all of this bravado was one telling remark about how his father was handling the situation. From what he said it seemed his father was walking the high wire between doing what the emotions that were running high would dictate, or opting for a more measured, forgiving approach. In the end he came down on the side of coming to the aid of his son, who related his father had said, “You need to make better decisions.” I am sure this was in no small part due to him simply being relieved it was the car and not his son who was lost in the crash.

Back during the time when Mosaic law was enacted, the option given an Israelite father in the event of an undisciplined son was one we now consider barbaric. In Deuteronomy 21:18-21, the Mosaic law relates the fate of a rebellious son as consisting of being taken to the town elders where the men present would stone him to death to make an example of him. In the New Testament, Jesus’ answer to a similar scenario is contained in the parable of the prodigal son, where the wayward son is welcomed home with a warm embrace and a celebration thrown in his behalf. It should be said Jesus was careful to preface this with the son in the story repenting of his sins. 

When faced with the kind of difficult decisions the father in my story is facing, we can welcome and forgive our children when they stray, but as much as we would like, we cannot take the crucial extra step of repentance for them. Their decision will be an individual one, just as it was for each of us. What we can do is pray for their safety, their sobriety, but most of all for them to face the reality that they need for God to be the driving force in their lives instead of giving into the temptations which the world uses to lure them away. Some of these youth are thrill seekers, some merely trying to deaden a nagging emotional pain. Whatever the case, their search always springs from a deep ill-defined longing only knowing Christ can satisfy. Pray the person in your life, like the prodigal son, finds their way to their spiritual home.

Blessed Jesus, Please aid us in finding the best possible care for our troubled youth, not just medical or psychological help, but spiritual as well.

Carol (NC) 

Hold on to Hope

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV)

I had to stay off my feet for at least a few days.

My knee pounded with pain as I limped from room to room. As I sat stranded in front of the TV and bore the discomfort, a friend from church who had been homebound for a while came to mind. He always offered a cheerful smile when I dropped in for a visit. Even on days filled with severe pain, he extended his hand to greet me—but he uttered not a word. I understood what his silence meant and prayed for his pain to go away.

Even though I was there to comfort him, he comforted me even more with his unselfish interest in my life. His witness to the power of God’s grace—which sustained him through his many trials—inspired me and strengthened my faith. 

Our friends and family members who inspire others in the face of illness should remind us to hold tight to Christ when we find ourselves in the midst of a storm. God wants us to hope in Him who cares about every difficulty. He is there when we grieve and mourn. He is there when we cry out in pain.

He knows our misery. Christ felt it before.

The Lord does not want our trust in Him weakened, allowing the pains and sorrows to strip us of hope. There is hopefulness in Christ—and despair lies in wait for those who turn from the Savior. 

Encouraged by those who suffer with hope in the Lord, let us remember to ask Jesus to bestow the same grace to us during our difficult moments.

Lord, at times it seems impossible to feel hopeful during our trials. Help us to always trust that in and through You we can find the hope we seek. Amen.

Doug (CA)

Three Persons - One god

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." Matthew 28:19 

I've been on a journey for several months; I've desired to understand more how to have a personal relationship with each person of the Trinity.

After much prayer, study and personal research, I've been blessed with some soul blessing insights that are to be passed on. "No man knows the things of God except the Spirit of God", I Cor.2:11 , and He reveals the mind of God by the words of the Word.

The Spirit of God has an unique relationship to God's children during this, the age of grace. He indwells every born again believer, John 14:17; Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 6:19). He also fills or controls, Ephesians 5:18, Christians who are "clean" or "obedient" , John 15:3,10, yielded branches of the Vine, Jesus.

The Father is the Planner and Papa. The Son is the Creator Savior and Good Shepherd. The Holy Spirit is the Power and Comforter. Almighty God is One, The I Am of eternity. 

"Praise You Almighty God, help me have warm trusting relationships with You and each member of Your God-head as described in Your Word. Amen, In Jesus name." 

Dr. Bob, AZ 

Let Your Light Shine

If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58:10 NIV)

He was one of those people at whom you marvel. His shopping cart was loaded with bulk staple goods in a drug store, a place where you usually limit your purchases to prescriptions and beauty products. At first, I was frustrated at having to wait in line behind him at the only open register, but when I overheard his conversation with the cashier, my attitude made an about-face.

He was a couponer, but that is just the beginning of the story that unfolded as he passed the time of day with the clerk. Turns out the majority of the purchases he was making at tremendous savings were earmarked for the local food bank. When he had been rung up and left the store and it was my turn in line, I sheepishly fished in my purse for the coupon that had lured me in the store and used it for a vanity item.
While I had a twinge of gratification for whittling down the cost of my purchase, it hit me the man ahead of me, fueled by sheer ingenuity and heart, had bought a whole cart full of items for the needy for little more than the few dollars I was spending. 

Of course, it was no coincidence God had put us both there at that moment in line with each other, within hearing distance so I would be able to share the man’s story with a larger audience. I don’t think the takeaway is that suddenly we should all be clipping coupons for the needy. Rather, I believe the lesson is that we should all train ourselves to be alert to the creative possibilities of ministering to the needs of those within our orbit, whether it be that we draw from our material goods or our natural talents. 

When we become attuned to pursuing opportunities for sharing our good fortune with the less fortunate, our spirit’s light will shine for the world to see, glorifying our heavenly father.

Blessed Father, May our spirits reflect your love and kindness as ordained in scripture. Amen.
Carol (NC)

Angels On Duty

For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. They will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. – Psalm 91:11 NIV

My youngest son, Jonah, was about four years old when he was nearly mauled by a dog! He had been playing in the yard with the neighborhood kids as he always did. And as I always did, I had poked my head out the door to check on him. I noticed him standing on the other side of the yard, frozen in place. His eyes were locked on the scary neighborhood dog running right for him. This dog was mean, and all the kids knew to stay away from it. Somehow that day it had escaped its fenced in yard and was headed right for my little boy. I had no time to reach him and I was certain I was about to see him be mauled by a dog. But the strangest thing happened! Just as the dog was about to pounce, it stopped dead in its tracks and ran off. Not one hair on Jonah’s head was harmed and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that an angel intervened that day. 

One of my favorite passages of scripture tells us God has commanded His angels to guard us and that they will intervene to keep us from harm. I have believed this for as long as I can remember, and I have proclaimed it countless times as I envisioned the heavenly hosts on assignment. I have prayed it over my husband and my children. I have prayed it over school busses and cars. I have prayed it at the start of the day as I sent them on their way and lying in bed at night while I waited for them to come home. 

When you pray a prayer like that, you can’t help but have faith that God heard you and that He's on it! His angels are there just as He commands them to be and no situation will occur in the lives of God's children that hasn't been approved by Him. 

Don’t let fear and worry overtake you. Trust that God has angels on duty surrounding your loved ones and intervening to keep them safe. Hold on to this promise and let go of fear. 

Heavenly Father, thank you for the promise of protection. Surround my loved ones with your angels and intervene in our lives for Your glory. In Jesus name, Amen.

Used by permission of Christian Devotions Ministries.

Erika, Minnesota

What Do You Worry About?

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 NET). 

I fidgeted with a snag in my jeans reflecting on my pastor’s questions: “What do you worry about?” The thread-pull got longer as uncertainties flooded my mind.

God has proven himself trustworthy repeatedly in Scripture, but I find nothing in there about good grades or post-grad school plans. Nothing about marital bliss, a job, or future sons and daughters accepting Christ. Acknowledging all of the uncertainty in the future makes me cringe. I do exactly what Jesus told us not to do—I worry.

But Jesus didn’t tell his listeners to get over themselves and then carry on with his day. He offered an explanation of why they shouldn’t worry themselves over the matters of this life: because He cares for them. If God takes care of the flowers in the field, will he not take care of us whom he values more? (6:26). He has freed us, his sons and daughters, of worrying. God values and cares for me; I have no reason to worry. Simple, but hard to trust. 

Lord, I recognize that I worry when I fail to trust you. Thank You for Your patience. When I look at the flowers, would You remind me of Your love and trustworthiness? Teach me to trust You. 

Corinne (TX)

A Living Hope

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you…(1 Peter 1: 3-4 NIV).

When you have been friends as long as we have it isn’t unusual for you to sense when something is amiss, even at a distance. Even so, I was surprised when the day after a minor mishap sent me to urgent care for stitches, out of the blue my childhood friend texted me saying I had been on her mind for several days. As we brought each other up to date on our respective worlds, it became apparent her problems far eclipsed mine.

I knew her husband suffered from dementia, but its rapid progression has become alarming. She explained that she struggles along with him as he tries to reach through the mental fog to communicate. Even his basic self-help skills have deteriorated, leaving her to rejoice in the small victories of him still being able to feed and dress himself. Yet in the midst of all this tragedy, what struck me most about her revelations was the steely faith that ran like a silver thread throughout them.

Sandwiched between the words “faith” and “love” in the summation of the famous Love Chapter in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13) is the word “hope.” It is largely overlooked in the teaching of the scriptures, yet life is intolerable without hope, as is evidenced by the skyrocketing suicide rate among those desperate for the peace that only comes from well-grounded beliefs.

For believers, hope isn’t just a life circle to be embraced like a drowning man when the prospect of death looms. Rather, it involves day to day encouragement which makes it possible to weather the buffeting on life’s sea of trials and disappointment. 

While my friend has the good grace to have come to terms with what the future here on earth may hold for her and her husband, her sights are set beyond the horizon, where a bright future with their Lord and Maker awaits them both. Circumstances haven’t dimmed that hope, but rather enhanced it. 

Heavenly Father, May we train our sights on the glory you have promised us rather than focusing on the troubles we face here on earth. Amen.

Carol (NC)

Daily Delight

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 (ESV)Bible Verse goes here 

Everyone wants the desires of their hearts fulfilled. We look to marriage, jobs, children, food, travel, friendships and other things to fulfill a space reserved for the Lord. God's word is clear-- our only real, satisfaction will come from seeking Him first. 

When I think about delighting in something, I think about when my children were first born. Those first few months of newness, when everything they did was precious, when I was always looking for the next "first" thing they did... rolling over, crawling, first solid foods, first tooth. Everything was delightful. They had my full attention. My heart was full. Life was good.

I wonder if that's how we should delight in the Lord? What if I was more aware of His presence, His work in my life? What if I paid closer attention to how He is orchestrating and moving? I wonder if I would be more fulfilled if I would just sit in delight of who He is, what He has done and what His Word promises me He will do. 

Sometimes, just as our kids reach milestones and get older, we pay a little less attention. They are eating on their own. They can dress themselves. They can do their own homework. We lose sight of the delightful moments in the tween and teen years, and before we realize those years are in the rearview mirror. 

Don't regret missing the moments right now to delight in the Lord. There are things happening right now that we can thank Him for, praise Him for and give Him glory. Don't miss it! Delight yourself in Him, His presence and character.

Prayer: Father, thank you for your generous promise to give us the desires of our heart when we delight ourselves in You. Help us to focus on what You are doing today. Don’t let us miss the daily delight of walking close to You. 

Gina (TX)

You're Priceless

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 more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

As I rummaged up and down the aisles, the shoe department ahead with the caption “Prices Slashed” grabbed my attention. I tried on a pair of lace-less deck shoes. They fit and looked great—and a bargain at 25% off. But as I continued sampling other shoes, I noticed the value I placed on the slip-ons vanished.

It became obvious the shoes only had worth as long as nothing better came along. This was true with other things in my life, such as a navy blue suit I wore a lot, the phone I glared and swiped at all day, and the sedan I just about lived in. 

These possessions didn’t have inherent value in themselves but had value in comparison to other items of the same kind.

On the other hand, there is one thing that does have absolute value—and it’s each and every one of us.

But we often undermine our self-worth by comparing our qualities to those who possess the same kind of qualities. We may ask ourselves, "Since I’m not as educated, am I less admired? Since I’m not as successful, am I less valued? Since I’m not as popular, am I less respected?"

Jesus leaves us with no doubt we’re valuable inherently and carry within us a God-given dignity. Our value doesn’t hinge on the qualities we may or may not have. We’re beyond comparison.

God didn’t make a mistake when He created us. There is no need to compare ourselves to others to prove our worth.

Lord, thank you for helping us understand just how valuable we’re to you and reminding us we don’t need to ever worry about not being valuable enough in Your eyes. Amen.

Doug (CA)

Time Passes

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)

Having been with the same company for many years I have seen people come and go, forged friendships and alliances, and had my share of differences with coworkers and management. During one particularly rocky period, I was told by someone whose opinion I valued that my staying power was due to good coping skills. I see the situation from a different perspective. 

The Bible teaches us the value of getting up every morning and facing what the day holds having accepted it is through God’s grace only that we will weather life’s tempests. Any good coping skills you have cultivated, while useful and even admirable, can only take you so far. When you are out in the deep, it is God you turn to, to throw you a lifeline.

By facing each day as an increment and not concentrating on and worrying about the big picture, we exhibit the patience and faith God longs to see in us. To live in the moment is a hard concept to accept, much less master, but surely it is at the heart of human existence. God wouldn’t have structured our lives in seconds, minutes, hours, days and years had he not wanted us to value each as a blessing. For some reason, it is human nature to want to skip ahead and see what unfolds, but by dwelling on this we cheat ourselves of the beauty and harmony God intended for today. Besides when all is said and done we are promised a new life where we will be more than compensated for any hardships we have faced.

Heavenly Father, Please cultivate in us the wisdom to rely totally on you for our welfare: physical, mental and spiritual. Amen

Carol (NC)

Forty Days

Blessed is the man who endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (James 1:12 KJV).

In many Christian churches, the 40 day period preceding Good Friday, known as Lent, is a time of self-reflection and self -sacrifice. The tradition is to either give up something to which you are attached, (bread or chocolate are popular choices) or add some new activity which draws you closer to God for those forty days. The end result should be you approach Easter with a renewed spirit.

The practice has its roots in Christ spending forty days alone in the desert fasting before officially beginning his ministry. During that time Satan squared off with him, subjecting him to temptations which could have seduced a weaker man, but at every turn, Christ rebuked his tormentor and prevailed. When offered bread to satisfy his hunger his response was, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. “(Matthew 4:4 KJV, Deut 8:3). When it was suggested he tempt fate by hurling himself down from the pinnacle of the temple to see if the angels would swoop down and save him, Christ said “ Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7 KJV, Deut. 6:16) In the third temptation, the devil offered Jesus dominion over all the kingdoms of the earth, in exchange for Jesus falling down and worshipping him instead of God. Jesus answered “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10 KJV, Deut. 10:20).

In each case you will notice Christ had scripture at the ready as a rebuttal to Satan’s tempting offers, each time he cited his source, the holy scriptures, prefacing his remarks with “It is written.”. In the end, the devil left him and the angels came and ministered to his needs and he was ready to choose his disciples and launch his earthly ministry.

I wish I could say my Lenten discipline for this year was going as well. Rather than focus on food, I resolved to try and break a bad personal habit, one that distances me from God when I give into it. Only two weeks into the season and the tension to control it is getting the best of me and I have become difficult to be around.

Someone suggested I had chosen something too hard to give up, but isn’t the very fact I am having such difficulty evidence in itself that it was the right choice? Then it hit me, were the temptations Christ faced alone and hungry in the wilderness easy ones? No, they appealed to the same basic instincts we all face as humans. And Satan perceived an advantage and approached him when he was most vulnerable. He uses the same strategy with us today, offering the easy way out. In James 3:7, we are told to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” If you are in doubt as to how to accomplish this, arm yourself with scripture for those times when you find yourself in a one on one with Satan. That is what Christ did and he prevailed. It is the best tool to have in your arsenal.

Dear Lord, Please help us to hide your word in our hearts to use to fight temptation. Amen

Carol (NC)

Pictures Painted By God

"You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." Micah 7:19 (NASB)

Having another bad day, my life before I got right with the Lord brought waves of sorrow.

I was having a hard time forgiving myself for a youthful life that was a prodigal life. It was often harder for me to forgive myself than to believe the Lord had forgiven me. I bowed my head and asked for help. Only the Spirit of God can teach a troubled soul in times like I was experiencing. Three verses came to my heart:

"For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation. But the sorrow of the world produces death." II Corinthians 7:10

"You will cast all their sins into the depth of the sea." Micah 7:19

"I have wiped your transgressions like a thick cloud, and your sins like a heavy mist." Isaiah 44:22

My soul relaxed understanding it was alright if I had residual sorrow about my prodigal days that blew in like a dark mist sometimes because, I now had an honest, repentant heart.

Let God paint living pictures of forgiveness in your soul with the brush strokes found in the Word of God.

Thank You, Lord, You are the master painter, paint my heart with the pictures You want to live there. In Your name, Amen. 

Dr. Bob, AZ

Praying Out Loud

The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and, give thee peace. Number 6:26, KJV

Thought for the Day: It is more effective to pray as God leads.

The lady I took care of had trouble staying asleep. I worked the night shift, so I got to see a lot of her sleepless nights.

One night I wanted to pray for her. The thought came that I should pray out loud for her. I did not like to pray out loud. I gave the excuse I did not know how she would take it. I just wanted to claim a verse about peace and trusting, and let God do the rest. God had tired of me claiming verses to make Him do what I wanted. I wanted to use John 14:27, KJV “Peace I leave with you”. God did not want me to use that verse. The burden to pray out loud strengthened. Not only was I going to have to pray out loud, but I was also going to have to do it without a verse.

I went to her and held her hand. I prayed out loud for a peaceful, good night's sleep. A verse, Numbers 6:26 (KJV)came to mind. I quoted it: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and, give thee peace. I took her back to bed. She didn't wake up the rest of the night.

The next day I talked to one of her friends who told me my lady said she had the best sleep she ever had. 

Prayer: Thank you our prayers lead to learning lessons and helping others. Amen.



"These things I have spoken to you that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." John 15:11 

Recently, the Lord brought to my mind why He taught His children about the Vine and the branches in John 15. I was so blessed that I wanted to share this with you this morning.

He gave the reason in John 15:11. I had never before realized how much Jesus was interested in me having joy. I felt very grateful. Always before I had stopped at the three promises that grew from abiding in Jesus: 1. Much fruit (v.5); 2. Answered prayer (v.7); 3. Experiencing Jesus' love (v.10)

I checked for input from God's great teachers and found: "we all know the value of joy. It alone is the proof that what we have satisfies our hearts."; "There is no proof of the reality of God's love and the blessings He bestows, which men can feel, as when the joy of the Lord overcomes trials."

I think the reason all this means so much to me is that the abomination that New York just passed has been robbing me of joy recently. Then, I remembered that Jesus said: "Come to Me and I will give you peace."
In His arms, I now feel better and knowing He is in control gives me back my joy.

"Dear Lord, there is so much ugliness and demonic activity surrounding us that when we are drawn away to look at it we feel we are sinking in a toxic sea. Help us to keep our eyes on You. Amen." 

Dr Bob (AZ)

How Does This Benefit Me?

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3 (NIV)

One day at work, I noticed a repeating theme running through my head as I checked my inbox and talked to colleagues. I got a request to attend a meeting at 9 o’clock. I asked myself, “How does this benefit me?” Later that morning, a few of my colleagues asked if I wanted to join them for lunch to discuss one of their upcoming projects. Again, I asked myself, “How does this benefit me?” 

This me-first way of thinking sneaked into my personal life. I wanted something in return from family members and friends for my help. At times I even asked for more than I deserved. As a Christian, I knew better than to accept the view that says it is right to put yourself first. My selfishness bothered me more than I care to admit.

Challenging today’s me-first culture is what Jesus is asking of us.

Christ wants us to value others more than ourselves. However, we shouldn’t view this as another obligation that just gets in the way of our happiness. 

No, it’s not what Jesus intended.

Each act of sacrificial service for the benefit of others, whether big or small, strengthens the relationship bond with Christ. And when we’re inspired to serve others with this view of wanting to draw near to God, we will gain from the people we help more than one can imagine, especially from our Father in heaven. 

Christ promised an abundant life for those who choose to serve others before themselves—because far less happiness is achieved when we choose to serve mostly ourselves.

Lord, give us the grace to prevent selfishness from consuming our lives that we fail to reach out in love to you and to those who are in need of our help. Amen.

Doug (CA)

Crying In a River

"Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine, via Facebook, down in Africa. He had posted a picture of his congregation standing in a river crying.

They were crying because the previous day, their pastor, Pastor O, had been killed in a car accident. They didn't know what to do.

I want to share with you what I told them as these thoughts may help in what you are going through or will be soon: During these "Only God knows why times", let's try to remember that only He knows the big picture and what is best. You are not alone brother, you and yours are in our thoughts and prayers. Our loved one has moved to a beautiful retirement home prepared for him and is filled with joy. We miss him and cry warm tears that cleanse as they are healing medicine from our Lord. But, we shall keep looking up and pressing on in the power of the Spirit, that is what Pastor would want us to do.

We come to You, right now dear Jesus for You have told us: "Come to Me, you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Thank You, Amen."

Dr. Bob, AZ

Using God's Gifts

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,- so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;- if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; - if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12: 4-8 NIV)

Little wonder she chose the local post office as the spot where she would stop on her daily rounds to distribute free copies of the inspirational book she has written. In this age of all forms of social media and the drive to make us a paperless society, when the time comes for the mail to be up, people still converge on the local post office as if a dinner bell has been rung. The lady with the books has found a way to capitalize on this age-old habit.

Dressed in athletic attire that complements the good shape she is in, particularly for her age, a baseball cap added as a flourish, she seeks out someone she feels is either deserving or in need of a boost. She cheerfully fishes a copy of the small, colorful book from the zippered pouch she wears around her waist and hands it to the day’s recipient. She is clearly on a mission.

The day I was the lucky person she chose, she explained her desire to share her book by singling out people she feels God has put in her path. I have to admit I was curious about what was between those two covers, as I had watched her go about her business on several prior occasions.

From the text, it was clear she is passionate about her faith and wants to inspire others to join in her pursuit. The brief bio at the end of the book describes her rich, vibrant life which is still going strong in retirement. A proponent of a good health regimen and time spent daily in devotions, she feels these are the means by which we reap the hope and encouragement that make for a well-lived life.

You never know what might happen on a routine trip to the post office. You just might get a lesson in being creative about how you share your faith. As I watched the lady disappearing into the bank parking lot across the way, it struck me she has found an unconventional avenue for hers which, as just another example of God’s great mystery, works.

Dear Father, May each of us find the best outlets in which to use our God-given gifts in ways that will glorify Christ and be supportive of your kingdom. Amen.

Carol (NC)

Bearing the Cross

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23 (NIV).

Having had the good fortune to come into possession of a tabletop sculpture of the Last Supper, I spent years moving it here and there, trying to find a good, permanent home for this statement piece. Finally, I settled on making it the centerpiece of a grouping of Christian keepsakes I have collected over the years. 

Towards the back of the table is a copy of an unstaged photo our assistant pastor snapped, showing our youth pastor transporting the lifesize cross our church displays to commemorate the crucifixion from storage to a spot in our sanctuary. He is not a small man, yet he appears to be straining to shoulder the weight of the massive wooden cross. 

Recently I had the idea to move my neglected photo from an inexpensive frame to one worthy of its subject, pristine white in the Baroque fashion. Only now do I realize the ornate frame, instead of accentuating its subject, detracts from it. Not only has this motivated me to return the photo to its original unadorned frame, but also to relocate it to a more noticeable space up front in keeping with its powerful message. 

Too often, in our peculiarly modern way of reducing grisly facts into manageable symbols, we wear a replica of the cross as jewelry, failing to focus on the fact the real cross on which our Savior hung was designed by the Romans as a torturous execution device. We tend to think making the cross of precious metal is a sufficient nod to the extraordinary sacrifice made that dark day on Calvary. To do so is to trivialize just how far the Son and the Father were willing to go to conquer death and open the door to eternal life for those who choose. Christ was ever mindful of his fate and echoed it when he challenged the masses to take up their own cross and follow him.

Following Christ comes at a cost and we should use the symbols we have at our disposal of art and mementos to keep us focused on the gravity of the subject matter. Yet Christ’s life and message doesn’t stop with the crucifixion. At the opposite end of my table is a fitting counterpoint --a resin scroll depicting the empty tomb and bearing the scripture from Matthew 28:6---He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. May we take joy and comfort from Christ making his promise a reality.

Blessed Jesus, Help us to better understand the lessons from your life and put them into practice in ours. Amen 

Carol (NC)