Lasting Treasure

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6: 19-21 (NKJV))

If you go looking for Jesus, the Savior, you will find He isn’t one with a flashy smile, a showboat who peddles parlor tricks like an amateur magician as do so many people who try and speak for Him today. He did not shy away from the performance of miracles when the need arose: He turned water to wine, He fed thousands from five small loaves and two fish, He calmed a turbulent sea with a few words. But He wasn’t an egotist who sought glory for Himself. Instead, even though He knew His stature in the universe, He still humbly submitted to His Father’s will. Jesus was not a shill for His Father, hawking cheap potions for fake cures. He was a faith healer, to be sure, but in the truest sense. He healed the blind, the lame, the leper---He even raised the dead. But He was in His true element when He looked into and healed the soul. Think of His treatment of the Samaritan woman at the well, or of Peter, when after three denials, whom He was willing to forgive over a casual breakfast of fish on the beach.

He preached a gospel of love, for God and for our fellow man, not one of sewing a seed of faith in the form of a financial pledge. When the subject of money was brought up, He valued the widow’s mite much more than silver dropped into the temple coffers by the elite. He knew the tentacle-like hold money could have on a person. That is why the story of the rich young man who came to Him in search of the way to inherit eternal life is such a poignant one. He admitted he had followed all the ten commandments to the letter. Yet, when Jesus confronted him with the most important one, of giving all his worldly goods away to the poor in order to follow the Lord and prove his singular allegiance to God, the young man withdrew in sadness. 

If you search for Jesus, rather than making a financial investment in a prosperity ministry that boasts outlandish returns, why not invest in something far more dear to God, like Mary in the Gospels, by spending time at Christ’s feet? Your return will be more rewarding. In fact, unlike material success, where your satisfaction will always be fleeting, spiritual rewards are enduring. Matthew, the tax collector knew this, and Zacchaeus learned this lesson as well. They are both memorialized in Scripture for trading in a life of shady deals with vast monetary rewards for one of faith and service. 

In our fast-paced, commercially driven world, it is easy to mistake acquiring the latest style or gadget as a means to satisfy the constant need that gnaws at us from within. But true peace cannot be found online or in a brick and mortar store, but in a life of simple communion with Christ. And better yet, it is free!

Blessed Jesus, thank you for bearing with us when we make self-centered choices and for showing us a better plan for our lives. Amen.

Carol (NC)

Our Father Knows Best

"If you endure chastening, God deals with you as a son." Hebrews 12:7

Looking back over my life, I have rarely valued the hard times more than the enjoyable times. I must confess that this is a commentary on the lack of spiritual maturity I have possessed.

Many Christians can testify that the best times in their lives have not been the most pleasurable times, rather the best times were when they walked one painful step at a time holding Jesus' loving hand. In His presence, they found more than they ever imagined.

It was somewhat of a shock to me when I learned about the potential found in the Father's chastening (or child training) when I passed through what my attending physician described as:"you have been given a divine reprieve to a death sentence, enjoy it".

Spirit-controlled believers often feel, contrary to human reasoning, blessed and thankful for the refining pain of earthly tragedies. They have learned that the Lord's love and presence are often easier to experience when the things of this world grow dim. Knowing that it is because of his love that they are being taught, they cling to Jesus. The difficult times of this life are proof that they are loved: "The Lord chastens those whom He loves." (Heb. 12:6)

"Dear Lord, help us to look back over our lives and see in the sands of time only one set of footprints where you have carried us through our sorrow and pain. In Your name, Amen." 

Dr. Bob, AZ

The Power of a Hug

And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:47 NIV)

Our last pastor was a hugger. Every week he stood at the open church door after the closing hymn and welcomed each person who passed through with a heartfelt, personalized hug. The line was always long and slow-moving as nearly everyone was eager for their turn to be blessed. I am ashamed to say at times I groused at how long it took for the congregation to be processed through, but I was as motivated as anyone for my free hug. I suspect I am not alone in saying that more often than I care to say, other than the occasional handshake, this was the only physical contact I had with another human all week long. Some of us were widows or widowers (for our pastor didn’t shy away from offering his hugs universally to men and women alike), some of us were in a transitional phase between relationships, or worse yet, I imagine there were even those among us who poured out their love all week long, receiving little or nothing in return. Whatever the case, we all appreciated the mission this young man was on to improve the quality of our lives, if only for a passing moment.

Our church no longer has the benefit of this young minister serving among us, but I have noticed an uptick in the warmth within our congregation as we struggle to fill the void left by his absence. Last Sunday I witnessed an outpouring of welcome I doubt I would have seen prior to our young minister’s tenure. A man who was clearly down on his luck was drawn into a warm, inviting hug by one of our ushers. This brought to mind our pastor’s message to indiscriminately welcome others into our midst who don’t fit into our mold. While we have never given outsiders a chilly reception, we are guilty of being somewhat reserved. Our pastor’s example exposed our need to be more inclusive. I suspect losing him jolted us out of our complacency. 

The best leaders do so by example and their influence is a ripple effect that bears witness of them long after they are gone. Sometimes their methods are unconventional and go against tradition, but if we follow their lead of offering comfort wherever we see that it is needed, we will be drawing from the best within ourselves and in God’s world this behavior will not go unrewarded.

Dear Lord, Help us to broaden our reach and offer your warmth to those we may consider to be outsiders, not only as a church but on a personal level as well. Amen.

Carol (NC)

My Manna

"...He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna..."
Deuteronomy 8:3, NIV

What is it, Lord? 
I question what You've brought... 
I had an idea of what it should be
but this isn't it, it's not... 

What is it, Lord? 
I don't recognize it at all... 
what is this that's been given, 
from Your hand it did fall..? 

What is it, Lord? 
I am struggling to process, 
l think of the mystery You gave
to the Israelites in the wilderness... 

The provision that You choose
that would be their nourishment
even if they didn't understand
but on and on it went... 

Are you asking me, also, 
not to complain but to receive, 
to trust what Heaven determines
for the feeding of my needs...? 

Then, Lord, so be it, 
may I trust what comes from above, 
may I not need You to explain
and may it taste like love. 

Cindy (GA) 

" the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna..." (Revelation 2:17, NIV)

My Demanding Past

"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 NASB

I was sitting in my office chair one morning asking the Lord what He would have me learn that day. Praying Samuel's prayer from long ago: "Speak Lord for Your servant is listening" (I Samuel 3:9), I felt my heart relax and a peace that passes understanding flooded my soul.

My heart kept going back to what we had seen with a group from our church the previous evening. We had seen the popular movie "I Can Only Imagine". My heart was led to the subject of repentance (or turning away from).

Repentance is at the center of an honest confession of our sins that enables forgiveness. I was being taught that there is a sorrow that is the will of God that leads to deliverance, because it produces an abhorrence of the attitudes and choices we had that led to our sinful condition.

Tears came to my eyes as I identified with the star of previous nights movie, an abused young man in his inability to forgive his father even though the father had found salvation later in life. My wife joined me as I cried, I tried to hide my tears, she didn't. My sorrow turned into deliverance without regret as I finally forgave my Dad.

"Help us Father to not be as spoiled children who accept Your forgiveness without giving that forgiveness to others. In Your Son's name, Amen."

Dr. Bob, AZ

A Safe Bet

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does (Psalm 145:13 NIV)

In a certain sense, we are all gamblers in life. If we are to forge bonds with others, regardless of the type of relationship, we must go all in if we are to be successful at it, taking our guard down long enough to know and be known.

Unfortunately, all some of us learn when we take the risk of trusting another person on a deep level and are betrayed in return is that we don’t want to put our most precious feelings on the line like that again.

This reluctance to commit may transfer to our relationship with God as well. Opening our hearts and minds to an ongoing communion with God involves a certain element of risk taking too. Only when our eyes shed the scales that keep us from seeing ourselves as God sees us, do we cast about for spiritual fig leaves to cover our shame. We fear we may be exposed as imposters, unworthy of the trust Christ has lavished on us. If we don’t get beyond these feelings of guilt and self-accusation, we risk leading lives that are stunted and distorted, falling far short of the glorious lives Christ has envisioned for us.

God knows what courage it takes to break from the comfort of a life of complacency and self-interest in order to make this new beginning---one promising hardships and challenges, and a level of commitment that far exceeds any of our earthly relationships. Yet he also guarantees us peace, joy, and a camaraderie unlike any we will find in what the world has to offer. We may not reap the money or prestige that sadly, as a society, so many of us have come to equate with a wise and successful wager, but we will know the complete satisfaction of a life well-lived. Going all in on God is the safest of all bets. 

So let the world see you living like a winner because if you have given your life to Christ, you have made the decision of a lifetime. After all, He has promised us an afterlife in which there will be “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying….no more pain.” (Rev 21:4 NKJV) What earthly pursuit can make such a promise and deliver on it? Trust God---He is unwavering, unchanging, and His words ring true.

Heavenly Father, Please help us to realize trusting you introduces us to an unparalleled closeness, one which will never let us down. Amen

Carol (NC)


The Door Is Wide Open

Revelation 3 verse 8;-I know your works, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it.

Yes, God loves you so much, he is gracious, he gives gifts that we don't deserve.He has given you an opportunity, and no man can take that away from you. You only have to trust in him and believe & receive what he has given to you.

There may be obstacles on the way but do not give in, listen to the word that says go for it, do not listen to the word that says don't go.Jesus has all authority and he says I am the door, my sheep listen to my voice, they go in and out and find pasture. When he opens, no one can shut, he has the final say, so be grateful and thank the Father for what he has done for you. Move inside that door, take the opportunity, do all that you have to do and wait for God to give you the breakthrough.

God fights for his people, the battle is not yours but the Lord's. Surrender it all to him and see him work it out. Look at our Lord Jesus, the door had opened in Jerusalem for him to die for the people, it was the will of God that he was about to fulfill,and we here Peter saying, Lord you cannot die, and he answered saying, get behind me Satan, for you focus on the things of man and not of God.

Even the devil could not shut that door, then we see Jesus dying for our sins and rising again on the third day, and by his blood, we are now saved from all our transgressions. Glory to God.

People may try to stop you from grabbing that opportunity, or you may be in a fight, and you see many adversaries because of that open door, just know that God's will and purpose cannot be hindered. Keep on praying and bless his name for the open door.

Oh Father,I thank you for the open door that no man can shut, I thank you for your love and faithfulness, I trust in you, you have begun a good work in me, and I am confident that you will bring it to completion, thank you for the Holy Spirit that guides me, and helps me all the way. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Tarupiwa Muzah [Zimbabwe]

The Cross On The Ceiling

"He has said, I will never leave nor forsake you" Hebrews 13:5

Several years ago, I was flat on my back in a hospital recovering from my replaced left hip.

It was the middle of the night and I was feeling mighty lonely in the darkness. Suddenly, I opened my eyes and looked up at the ceiling. My breath was taken away a bit when I realized what stood out in the gloom. As clear as could be was a bright cross directly above my heart on the ceiling. At first, I blinked my eyes to make sure it was there. Opening my eyes again, spookily it was still there.

Then, I began to look around to see if it was a reflection from the hall. As I didn't have a roomie, I knew it wasn't from another person. I tried and tried to figure out how it could be on my ceiling and couldn't.

My heart filled with warmth as I began to yield to God's Spirit and talk to my Lord who had died on the Cross. I knew He was telling me He was with me in all my pain. I then laid there in the dark with my warm heart until I peacefully fell asleep. 

"Blessed Lord, thank you for being the Lord of the painfully lonely. In Your name, Amen." 

Dr. Bob, AZ

A Beautiful Thing

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” ~ Mark 14:6-8(NIV)

Your in-home Bible study starts in an hour. You’ve prepared all week with careful study and prayer. Throughout the week there were meetings, family responsibilities, and a visit to a friend in the hospital. Ministry calls, it always does.

This account reminds me that we are to take time to pour out our sincere affection to Christ because of all he’s done. It is far easier said than done; our hectic schedules and to-do lists never seem to end. It’s easy to get caught up in doing things, even good things. 

Christ comes to the woman's defense, admonishing those who criticized her. He reminded them that although it’s important to serve and minister to those in need, it is also important to sit at his feet and worship him. This woman demonstrated her love for Christ by offering an extravagant gift. It made little sense to others, but isn’t that usually the case when we linger long in his presence? Others may think it strange, but there are times when out of genuine gratitude for all that he has done, we’re compelled to remain. 

As I pondered this text, I wondered about the last time I lingered at his feet; and I was reminded once again that even good things can get in the way of doing what is best. I am honestly more like Martha, and it has taken me years to cultivate a heart that willingly chooses to be still. 

There is also an account in Luke 10 when Jesus gently corrected Martha after she complained that her sister Mary was doing nothing to help with preparations for their guests. Jesus reminded Martha that Mary had chosen the better thing. Like the woman who lavished Jesus with the costly perfume, Mary sat at our Lord’s feet and gave him her undivided attention. Both women demonstrated their love by choosing to sit at his feet.

Before we rush headlong into the day, let’s take a moment to sit in his presence and lavish him with love. In the Lord’s estimation, this is a beautiful thing.

Heavenly Father, you long to speak to us. Remind us to sit quietly in your presence before we start our day and help us to recognize our need for solitude. It is in your presence we will find strength. In Jesus name, Amen.

Nydia, NY

Getting Stuck

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 40:2 NIV)

The road to my daughters is a winding one, narrow, with marshes on either side, no shoulder, no guard rails. I would never have traveled it at night had it not been to attend the church play her whole family of five had invested themselves in practicing for a month. There are several turns that are deceptively easy to find in daylight, but at night get lost in the shadows and low beams, so I was not surprised I had missed one. We simply doubled back and this time I was confident I was going the right way and that we would make it on time. Just when I said as much to my son we entered a curve and misjudging the width of the road, ran my rear tire off the pavement into the edge of the marsh. 

When I tried to get us out of the mess I had gotten us in, it merely resulted in the tire spinning in the water and muck. Revving the engine only worsened my predicament. I turned on my flashers and waited, suffering the accusatory groan that came from my son.

What followed was an orchestration of help from many fine people who had clearly been through this scenario before. A passerby called 911 and relayed the dispatcher’s instructions for us to exit the car. Then came the fire truck which blocked off one lane of the narrow two-lane road and directed traffic until a police officer got there. The officer did his assessment of the situation and arranged for a tow truck to come pull the car out. The tow truck hooked a chain to the front of my car and pulled it out unscathed on the first try. 

I was lucky. There was no water in the car, no damage to the body or the engine, just some unsavory debris hanging from the undercarriage that would require a thorough professional cleaning. And we didn’t even have to trudge through the marsh to get to dry land. God had brought the right people to my aid and had seen to it the only thing suffering damage was my pride. A small price to pay.

The coordinated efforts of those good people who helped me are not unlike what God does when we are in trouble spiritually. Like when I turned on my flashers that dark night, admitting I was out of my depth and needed rescuing if we will but signal God He will come to our aid. He will mobilize His forces, the church, friends, family, trained professionals if we will just let down our guard and admit we can’t get by on our own. Even if it means being extricated from the muck time and again by God’s tow truck, He is ready and willing.

Dear Father, Please help us to not be too proud to call for your help when we so badly need it. Amen.

Carol (NC)

Tears Inside Prison

“For you do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:16-17 NASB

One Day, when I was a prison minister, a Russian man stood up after accepting Jesus as his Savior. As tears streamed down his face he sobbed: “I can’t forget what I’ve done to so many people”. Pictures of terrible things he had violently done to many flooded his mind. Confessing his sins to Jesus had opened a floodgate of pain and pictures of blood.

I helped him the best I could by urging him to put the pain and pictures in the hands of the Lord who died a terrible death on the Cross for all his sins. This calmed him down a bit and his sobbing lessened, but I could tell there was still an ocean of pain straining to be set free.

I then remembered something that I had learned during my career as a psychologist. Pain often must be released the way we sometimes deal with an onion, by unpeeling layer by layer. Cutting abruptly through an onion will often overcome us by what is released.

I still pray for that prisoner that he has learned to not bury those memories when they come up but admit them and place them each time in his Lord’s loving and forgiving hands while living a Psalm 51 life.

Claim the answer to living with painful memories: “No Matter the Crime, One Layer at A Time.”

“Dear Father, please help us to understand that no matter our experiences the answer to living with painful memories is the same as for prisoners: no matter the crime, one layer at a time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Dr. Bob AZ

Getting the Basics Right

These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, says the LORD." (Zechariah 8:16-17 RSV)

My father and I were sitting in the living room, as always waiting for my mother to get ready before we left for Sunday School. Somehow the conversation drifted into one about absolute truth. “Just because you’re not lying doesn’t mean you’re telling the truth,” I offered. The subject had been bandied about before so this time I was ready with an example of what I meant. 

Several years before I had been party to a conversation with a fellow teenager at church who had earned a reputation for having a wild streak. She confessed she had gotten around her mother’s probing her about her whereabouts one night by countering with a statement meant to deflect her mother’s prying. “Suzy had a party last night,” she volunteered. Now she didn’t go to Suzy’s party, but she asserted she wasn’t lying to her mother as she hadn’t made that claim. As you can easily see, this was a technicality that doesn’t pass God’s litmus test for telling the truth, nor should it ours.

Using the truth as a convenience or crutch when it suits us, or just when it works to our advantage like one of the commonplace conversational tools is to abuse the privilege. Dealing in half-truths out of some misguided desire to placate our audience, whether in the public or private sector hardly advances our cause. We shouldn’t, out of complacency, allow the fabric of our society to decline to the point we accept varying degrees of truth as the norm as if truth exists on a sliding scale. In an age where truth is a slippery thing in the hands of politicians and the media, isn’t it up to the church to take a firm stand on this bedrock principle?

Dear Lord, Please help us to make a practice of telling the truth in all our dealings so the world can readily recognize we are your people. Amen.

Carol (NC)

Light In The Darkness

Read Isaiah 9:2-7. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. v 2a KJV

My family genealogy includes the story of a young boy named Peder who in his early teens had to leave home and find work because there were more children in the family than their parents could feed. As the very first settlers on the Nebraska prairie, they were literally living from hand to mouth. It was expected of most boys that age to hire out to work for a neighboring farmer.

One Friday night Peder decided to go home for the weekend. He started to walk across the prairie toward his home. There were as yet no fences or roads -- nothing but open prairie with an occasional homestead here and there. As the murky darkness descended upon the prairie he realized the sky was overcast. No moon in sight -- nor could a star be found anywhere in the vast expanse of the heavens. He had nothing to guide him and he knew he could easily wander far in the wrong direction. So Peder lay down on the lonely prairie and slept until sunrise.

Isaiah paints us a picture of spiritual darkness every bit as deep and all consuming as the Nebraska prairie on that night. The people lived without hope. Then Isaiah came to them with a thrilling message. He has been with the Lord and the Lord has given him a glimpse into the future. There will be an end to the dark despair. There is a great light in their future. Unlike Peder who could lie dow on the prairie grass and sleep knowing the sun would rise in a few hours, the people of Isaiah's day had no such assurance -- until God sent Isaiah with His message of hope.

The prophesy of Christ's coming has now been fulfilled, but sadly the darkness has not been altogether dispelled. There are still many who live in despair all around us; many who have not seen the Light. God depends on you and me to bring that Light to them. When the first pink rays of the sunrise illumined the prairie sky, Peder had no trouble finding his way home. We can be that ray of hope in a lost world.

Lord help us never to be guilty of not sharing the light of your great love with others. Amen.

Madeline, Nebraska, USA

Father to the Fatherless

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. (Psalm 68:5, NIV) 

I never thought my four children, three boys and a girl, would lose their dad when they were very young. Life was supposed to roll along in the usual way, wasn't it? Instead, my husband died from cancer, and I became a widow at age 38.
It was during this dark time that I noticed in my daily Bible reading how God shows His special love and concern for fatherless children and widows. I had not given it much thought before. He promises to provide, like a husband and father, just as He had done in Deuteronomy 14. Back then, He had told His people to lay aside extra food for families in my situation. I saw this again in the story of Ruth, the Moabite widow, who was allowed to gather grain in Boaz's field. God, through Elijah, also provided food for the widow of Zarephath and her son in I Kings 17.
His providential care and direction for us was soon evident. I was able to work out of my home by teaching classes to homeschoolers through a private school program. Later, I decided to homeschool my own children. Positive male role models came along to coach my kids' sports and to be godly leaders for their church activities. We were covered in much prayer by friends and relatives. 
I am so thankful that our heavenly Father cares deeply about those of us who have suffered loss.

Father, we are grateful that You have a special concern for single parent families. We can trust You to provide our needs. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Linda (WA)

A New Foundation

1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.
(Psalm 46:1-3 ESV)

Have you ever felt your life crumble beneath your feet? I did sophomore year in high school. Thanksgiving of 2013, Jesus welcomed my ailing father home. He entered glory. So, the family foundation he helped build crumbled. Mom endured two funerals, for him, grandmother’s eyes never dried (they still run at times today). His children suffered prolonged emotional shock.

Family life fell apart, but something unexpected happened. I stepped up. Surrounded by grief and pain, strength to serve came from on high. God gave strength through a closer walk with him. My Sophomore year marked a dramatic shift in my walk with God, complete surrender. 

Yet, this surrender did not come overnight. God worked behind the scenes, preparing this heart for the times of trouble. He exposed selfish habits and provided the necessary help to kick them. Following Him, a host of other idols still vied for my attention at the time. God cared too much, and filled my heart with restlessness. The idols fell like dominoes—total surrender.

As God emptied my heart of one love, he filled it with another. Time spent on temporary things filled former days. The change brought activities like consistent time in Bible study and prayer instead. Serving family preoccupied most other time.

Drawing closer to God meant he drew near too (James 4:8). He walked through this with me. This tragedy soon revealed a new reality. I had a new foundation. Everything (even strong family ties) passes away, except for Jesus. He remains forever (Hebrews 13:8). Trusting Jesus alone gives strength to face any circumstance.

Jesus, our unchanging foundation, teach us to rely solely on you, so we can serve others with your strength, love, and joy.

Sojourner, IN, US

A Spiritual Checkup

Read Luke 13:10-13.
When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. v 13 RSV

My daily walks not only help keep me physically fit, but they are a time for me to enjoy nature. I enjoy the wind in my hair. I try to identify the birds as they chatter in the tree tops. I watch the progress of my neighbors' flower gardens.

How different the experience of the woman Jesus encountered. Could she see anything but a dusty road and countless feet in dusty sandals? Jesus approaches her. "Woman, you are set free from your ailments." Now the woman straightens up and is able to look around at a world she has not seen for eighteen years. Imagine the gratitude she felt!

Physical health is truly a blessing. When we are blessed with it we have God to thank. Some of us have annual checkups for that reason. Physical checkups can save lives. In Psalm 103:1-8 we learn, however, that physical healing is only a small part of what Jesus came to do. "He forgives all your sins." "He redeems your life from the grave."

I thank God that I can walk straight and tall and enjoy the beauty that surrounds me. But as I enjoy my physical blessings I must be alert to the danger of being spiritually crippled. Do I live as one who has been redeemed? Do I fully appreciate the price Christ paid that I might have eternal life? Or am I so spiritually crippled that I do not grasp this immeasurable gift. Is it time for a spiritual checkup by the Great Physician?

Prayer: Lord, you are the healer of all our ills. Help us walk ever in your presence and attuned to your spiritual guidance. Amen.

Madeline. Hastings, USA

The Case Against Hypocrisy

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27 KJV).

This Bible verse is often used to support arguments that not only was the church full of hypocrites in Christ’s time but still is in the Christian church despite all our protests to the contrary. We hear this as an excuse for avoiding organized religion altogether too much to totally ignore it. But what are our arguments in the church’s defense?

As long as the church is held to the gold standard of perfection these outsiders expect, it will always come up shy this side of heaven. The church, for better or worse, is made up of people, everyday run of the mill people whose primary difference from these naysayers is that in Christ they have glimpsed what it means to be saintly and believe in His power to transform them in His likeness.

As such the church is a knitting together of imperfect people with perfect aspirations. True we will stumble and falter, we will make mistakes, yes we will sin, but in the church at its best, we will find solace and the support of like-minded people who will be there for us, lifting us up in prayer, encouraging us to stay the course. 

The church is more as a whole than the sum of its individual parts, due in no small measure to Christ’s contribution to the mix. To avoid church because we feel it is comprised of hypocrites is to fail to take into account that we are all works in progress. The fellow next to you in the pew is, the deacon is, even the preacher is---there is no escaping the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. “ (Romans 3:23 NKJV).

Surely at the heart of our critics’ complaints is the notion many of us put on our Sunday faces with our Sunday bests, only to discard our best efforts when we are back on the street. We leave the impression we do not bear witness by living by what we profess to believe. In this respect we could all do a better job, with God’s help of seeing to it our outer man reflects our inner beliefs.

Blessed Jesus, We pray that you will steer us towards having our lives accurately reflect our beliefs. Amen

Carol (NC)

A very rich Father

All the animals in the forest are mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. Ps. 50:10 TEV

My mother-in-law's life was hard from a very early age. Money was scarce and she often went to bed hungry. Much suffering followed, including the death of her youngest brother and her first-born child. Then, with her two youngest children still at home, she lost her beloved husband. With no skills for working outside the home, she took in washing. And yet, through it all, she could often be quoted as saying, "I am not poor. My father owns the cattle on a thousand hills."

Slavery, practiced down through the ages in many countries and by many countries, dehumanizes men and women. They are considered possessions. And no slave ever presumes to inherit the wealth of his master. This is the privilege of the sons. 

Paul's letter to the Romans was to help them understand their new relationship with God. In Romans 8:12 - 17 they are admonished to live by the Spirit. "The Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves.....but makes you God's children." Romans 8:15a.

My mother-in-law may not have had much in the realm of material things in her time on earth, but she knew she had a great inheritance coming. She knew that, as a child of God, she stood to inherit all that He owned; the cattle on a thousand hills and much, much more.

Prayer: Loving Father, we thank you for adopting us as your own. Amen.

Madeline, Nebraska, USA

Love Deficiency

"If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge: and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." 
I Corinthians 13:2 NASB

There were three young men that were in competition as they went through a graduate seminary. Each was an honor student-focused upon winning the highest cum lade.

The student who ended up with the lowest honors degree, a cum laude, was bothered for the rest of his life that the other two students earned a higher honor, the magna cum laude. Toward the end of his life, many years later, he still tried to downgrade his seminary competitors lives when talking to others about them. 
All three went on to serve in equally important ministries. One served as a missionary to Japan and then as a seminary professor. The second served as a college professor and then as the director of a hospital's psychological services. The final servant served as a college teacher and the went on to be the president of that college. Yet, being third in seminary still bothered him. 

This true story illustrates how the earning of honors, or knowledge, can become too important and pollute friendships. We must have humble hearts that consider others:"more important than yourself" (Phil. 2:3). Pride is like grasping a handful of bitter sand.

We should remember: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, oh God, You will not despise." (Ps. 52:17) A humbled and loving heart means more to our Lord than any honor we can earn or service or gift we can bring to Him.

A person who opens their heart to God's Holy Spirit finds a type of love that will keep Almighty God from considering them "nothing". Without this type of love, God considers people to be living as they were originally created, animated dirt.

"Dear Father, by Your Holy Spirit, help us to be what we aren't by nature, divinely spiritually motivated." "Thank You, In Your Son's name, Amen. 

Dr. Bob, AZ

Good News

For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9 KJV)

It’s one of those memories that surface when you are trying to get to sleep, demanding the reflection and deference that are its due. 

One day when I was still in one of the mid grades of elementary school our class was finishing our lunch break in the school cafeteria and we were filing past the kitchen window where we dropped off our used plates. What attracted my attention that day was a classmate manning the window, scraping the remains of our half-eaten meals from our plates, wearing an apron over his clothes to protect him from the mess. Recognizing him and not wanting to ignore him and create an awkward silence between us, I hesitated, fumbling about for a feeble hello for him.

If there was any discomfort from the situation, it didn’t appear to be on his part. He continued the rhythm he had established, attending to his duties in a way that was clearly more mature than any I could feign. While the rest of us complained about the quality of food we were being served, this young man was quietly going about the business of cleaning up after us

Poverty suddenly had a face for me and it wasn’t one I would have expected. It was only a moment yet I am left with his facial expression, which did not fall between the extremes of embarrassment and defiance, but rather spoke of a dignity he had embraced at such an early age.

Jesus was no stranger to the plight of the common man. The very fact He chose to come to earth in the humble fashion He did, not arrayed in splendor and accompanied by an army of angels to do His bidding as He was accustomed to, instead choosing to labor as a tradesman is illustration enough of this. He identified with the poor. Indeed the Gospel or Good News He was anointed by God to preach was tailored to that audience (Luke 4:18). But the similarities don’t end there. When His time came to assume the role of Savior and He was paraded before Pilate, the quiet dignity He displayed was in keeping with the humility and composure of a man schooled in hardship and resigned to His fate. His death may have been that of a common criminal, but His resurrection fulfilled His divine mission. In so doing He gave hope and purpose to generations of the disadvantaged.

Blessed Savior, Please guide us towards the dignity that comes through humility and faith. Amen.

Carol (NC)