Daily Devotional

  • Responding To Distress – Prepared Ahead by God’s Deep Love - Wednesday, November 20th

    I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:14-19

    If you are slack, in the day of distress your strength is limited. Proverbs 24:10

    Today's thoughts from today's verse:

    Experiencing God's presence is synonymous with experiencing his love. We have so much to learn about letting God love us in our actual daily experience of living life. Most of us realize that we have hardly scratched the surface of experiencing God's love as fully as we might. The image of roots and growth are so compelling. Growing spiritual roots that go down deep into God's love, so that we experience the full and joyful life that grows up within us as a result is something we must give ourselves to when we are not in the middle of distressing circumstances. This must be our daily practice. If we are slack about pursuing this kind of relationship with God, then when the day of distress arrives, we will not be prepared.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I know this is the desire of your heart and your eternal plan for me. Grant that I experience your love in full measure so that my spiritual roots grow deep, my life wonderfully reflects the fullness of the growth you desire for me, and I am fully prepared for the distressful circumstances that come my way. Amen.

  • Responding To Distress – Developing a Heart of Full Confidence in God - Tuesday, November 19th

    My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart! Wake up, lyre and harp! I will wake the dawn with my song. I will thank you, Lord, among all the people. I will sing your praises among the nations. For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. May your glory shine over all the earth. Psalm 108:1-5

    Today's thoughts from today's verse:

    In today’s Scripture the Psalmist says to God, “May your glory shine over all the earth.” Picture the warm and comforting rays of the sun shining over the earth. The Psalmist is asking God to shine his glory over all the earth in the same healing way the sun does. The Psalmist knows all about trials and troubles that produce distressing circumstances in his life. When distressing circumstances come into the Psalmist life he puts his confidence in God. He knows there is a world of people out there that are in the middle of distressing circumstances. He believes that if God will shine his glory on this troubled world many will join him in putting their confidence in God and will be able to speak to him like he does: “My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart! Wake up, lyre and harp! I will wake the dawn with my song. I will thank you, Lord, among all the people. I will sing your praises among the nations. For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.” “Our confidence in times of distress” must be placed squarely on God. This was the key for the Psalmist, it is the key for us, and it is the key for the whole world

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for shining your glory on my life. I praise you for your unlimited love that never fails and for your unlimited faithfulness. Continue to help me to rely confidently on you in times of distress. You deserve unlimited exaltation, Lord and I want to be a part of doing that in a full and complete way. Amen!

  • Responding To Distress – Choosing to Turn to the Safety of God’s Presence - Monday, November 18th

    But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love. Psalm 59:16-17

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    In today’s Scripture we have these words from the Psalmist: “When I am in distress.” If it were you saying, “When I am in distress,” what words would come next for you? The Psalmist begins the passage with the words, “But as for me.” It is as if he saying that everyone has a choice to make when they are in distress, and I have made my choice of what I will do “when I am in distress.” The Psalmist chooses to turn to God and speak to him words of faith and dependence. He says, “I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety …. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.” Truly “our response to times of distress” must be modeled after the response of the Psalmist.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, fill me with the joy of your presence. Put a song in my heart that helps me begin each day with an awareness of your power, unfailing love and strength that is more real to me than any and all distressing circumstances. Lord, truly you are my refuge and place of safety and for that I give you abundant praise. Amen!

  • "Scatter Seeds of Kindness" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, November 17th

    Scatter Seeds of Kindness

    If you have a friend worth loving
    Love him. Yes, and let him know
    That you love him, ere life’s evening
    Tinge his brow with sunset glow
    Why should good words ne’er be said
    Of a friend till he is dead?

    If you hear a song that thrills you
    Sung by any child of song
    Praise it. Do not let the singer
    Wait deserved praises long
    Why should one who thrills your heart
    Lack the joy you may impart?

    If you hear a prayer that moves you
    By its humble, pleading tone
    Join it. Do not let the seeker
    Bow before his God alone
    Why should not thy brother share
    The strength of ‘two or three’ in prayer?

    If your work is made more easy
    By a friendly, helping hand
    Say so. Speak out brave and truly
    Ere the darkness veil the land
    Should a brother workman dear
    Falter for a word of cheer?

    Scatter thus your seeds of kindness
    All enriching as you go
    Leave them. Trust the Harvest-Giver
    He will make each seed to grow
    So, until the happy end
    Your life shall never lack a friend

  • A Spirit of Giving is for Everyone - Saturday, November 16th

    In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Today’s Scripture gives to us the final component of the Apostle Paul’s departing words to the church at Ephesus. Later in Acts 20 we are told that Paul is about to set sail to resume his third missionary journey. Paul’s speaks of “working hard” in our passage and it is a reference to what he said just before in Acts 20 about how he managed his ministry among them financially. Paul said, “Night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears …. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me.”

    So, Paul is saying in today’s passage that by “working hard” like he did, they will have the resources to “help the weak.” The weak are those who do not have enough resources to meet their own needs. Paul then quotes the Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Do you work hard? Why do you work hard or why do you work at all? Certainly it has to do with having the financial resources for living life here on earth. But this must not be your primary reason for working hard. What kind of connection is there in your life between “working hard” and “helping the weak?” We have been talking about the “goal” of life. The real “goal” of life is advancing God’s kingdom on earth. “Working hard” to “help the weak” is very much a part of advancing God’s kingdom on earth. The Apostle John said, “Whoever has the word’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him.”

    How much of your financial resources goes to helping those who do not have enough resources to meet their own needs? Would you be willing to live in a smaller house, drive older cars, spend less on household accessories, downsize spending on recreation and vacations, give up having the latest and greatest gadgets, etc.? How about volunteering at a hospital, nursing home, hospice agency, soup kitchen, food bank, prison, disaster agency, youth or senior citizen center, etc.? A “giving spirit” can go a long way when we give up “working” and “living” for ourselves.

    How does this all fit together. Let’s look at the word “blessed” from Paul’s quote of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Is it referring to “being blessed” or “being a blessing?” Certainly, the one who makes “giving” a priority over receiving will be blessed, but if one’s motivation in giving is to be blessed then making giving the priority hasn’t really happened. Jesus is talking about “being a blessing by giving” and only ones who seek this really have giving as their motivation. So, “being a blessing by giving what we have to offer” to those who are weak because they need what we have to offer, is the most basic springboard of all for achieving the goal of advancing God’s kingdom.

    But being a true “blessing” to others means there are no strings attached to our giving. It is born out of genuine love for others. Yes, we want to see people reached with the gospel of grace, we want them to be redeemed, we want them to enter into a relationship with Christ, we want them to be transformed (sanctification) by his indwelling presence, and we want them live for the goal of the advancement of God’s kingdom as well. But, if we treat others as ones to be reached, we will not be a true “blessing” and our love will not be pure. Being a true “blessing” and having pure love for others means that we really want to be in a relationship with them no matter how they respond to us and that we really do care about them and are willing to bless them through giving.

    When you truly bless others with the pure love of a “giving spirit,” your relationship with them becomes a bridge across which Christ can come to them. Not everyone that comes your way will be weak in financial resources, so even if giving of your financial resources is not called for, you can give “yourself” to anyone God brings your way.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, help me to die to myself, so that I might become fully alive to you and others. Bring me to the spot where my approach to what “I do for” and what “I have” in regard to “material” things is fair game for you to change. Grant me a genuine “giving spirit” so that I become a true “blessing” to others and really do live “fully” for you and the goal of advancing your kingdom on earth. Amen!

  • Sanctification is for Everyone - Friday, November 15th

    And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20:32

    I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 18:14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Acts 20 (from which we have looked at excerpts this week) records the account of the Apostle Paul’s farewell words to the church of Ephesus. This is why Paul begins today’s Scripture with the words, “And now I commend you to God.” He is preparing them for his departure. Today’s passage helps us see that the goal of the gospel is not just that people would be reached and receive the gift of redemption but that they would experience sanctification as well. Sanctification is a part of the message of God’s grace. Paul says that God’s grace “is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” This is a forward look to the final result of the difference Christ will make in their lives.

    The book of Ephesians is a follow up letter to this same group of people and in it there is a passage that expounds on what Paul is saying in today’s verse. It says this: “Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her, so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25B-27). This is God’s goal for his people, every one of them. The goal is never just redemption (conversion). It is always redemption (conversion) and sanctification (transformation).

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for redeeming me. Help me to cooperate with you fully in your goal of sanctifying me. Help me to always believe, never give up, and to keep pressing onward and upward. Help me to view others as ones who can be reached for Christ, but always with a view to the whole and complete people they can become through the word of your grace. Amen!

    Note: there is a Saturday Devotional this week

  • Living Fully is for Everyone - Thursday, November 14th

    For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Acts 20:27

    But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” Luke 18:13

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    There are a lot of aspects to life, aren’t there? Some of these are marriage, family (children), relatives, work, education, health, community, finances, possessions, recreation, food, clothing, housing, government, protection, etc. When we talk about living for the goal of spreading the gospel of Christ, we are not talking about abandoning all these things. We are talking about not allowing these things to be so central in our lives that they keep us from participating fully in the goal of spreading the gospel. In reality when we let Christ have full reign and look to him to bring transformation to all the aspects of our lives, they form the setting and even the means for how God uses us to impact others with the gospel of Christ.

    In today’s Scripture the Apostle Paul speaks of “the whole purpose of God.” God’s purposes touch every aspect of our lives. As a matter of fact, every aspect of the universe falls within the realm of “the whole purpose of God.” So, if we are going to live fully for God, we must not only give him full reign for transforming every aspect of our lives, we must give him full reign for transforming our “understanding” of every aspect of the universe. This is often referred to as having a “Biblical world view.” The truly “Christian” life is all encompassing, isn’t it? Remember, the Christian life is a life of “surrendering” and not “accomplishing.” It is all about giving Christ “full reign” to accomplish the transforming of every aspect of our lives and every aspect of our understanding of the universe. May we live fully for “the whole purpose of God.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, surrendering to you is an everyday thing, even a moment by moment thing. The thought that living fully for you includes everything is a bit daunting. So, I will just concentrate on seeking you fully, loving you fully, and yielding to you fully. I trust you for the transformation of all aspects of my life and my understanding of the universe. I choose to embrace your “whole purpose” by wholly embracing you, Lord. Amen!

  • Having a Testimony is for Everyone - Wednesday, November 13th

    But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24

    The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” Luke 18:11-12

    Today's thoughts from today's verse:

    In today’s Scripture the Apostle Paul refers to the “course” of his life. We all have a “course” of life and where that “course” is taking us makes all the difference. When we became a Christian, we became a disciple of Christ. Disciples follow their master. Our Master is Jesus Christ and the “course” of our lives should be all about following him. Paul speaks about finishing his “course” and we can tell from what is included in the passage that he intends to “finish” well as a follower of Christ.

    Paul gives us several things that will help us “finish” well. Paul says that he received a ministry from the Lord Jesus. This is how it is with all disciples. Jesus gives a ministry to every one of his followers that shapes the “course” of their lives. That ministry is to testify of the gospel of the grace of God. Someone who testifies is someone who has firsthand experience with that which they are testifying. We testify about our firsthand experience with Christ. We do this with all that we are, all that we do, and all that we say. We call this our testimony and when we talk to others about our testimony we are testifying.

    Paul starts today’s passage with a statement about himself that needs to be true of us if we are going to finish the “course” of our lives well as ones who truly give themselves to the ministry of testifying of the gospel of the grace of God. He says, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself.” Paul does not consider anything more “dear,” not even his life, than finishing the course and ministry given to him by Christ. What adjustments will you need to make in regard to what you hold “dear” so that you finish well?

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I am not the Apostle Paul and you have not called me to bring the gospel to the whole world. I do see, though, that you have called me to bring the gospel to my world. Thank you for saving me, thank you for living in me, thank you for changing me, and thank you for overseeing my life. Thank you that I really do have a testimony. Show me how and when to testify to others. Help me share the testimony of my relationship with you. Amen!


  • Repentance and Faith are for Everyone - Tuesday, November 12th

    …. I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 20:20-21

    Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Luke 18:10

    Today's thoughts from today's verse:

    We become an agent of the gospel at the very moment we become a recipient of the gospel. As today’s passage says, the gospel is “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” In essence we help others do what we have done. If we are going to help someone with a response to the gospel that brings them to full repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we need to take a closer look at our own understanding and experience with repentance and faith. Full repentance is more than just acknowledging our sin and sinfulness. A full repentance needs to get to the core of the matter which is this: God created us for himself to do with us whatever he desires and we chose to ignore him, not be available to him for whatever he desired for us, and we went our own way and did our own thing.

    Turning from this rebellion and getting it right is not what repentance is about. Only Christ can turn our lives around so that we life fully for God. Repentance is an about face in perspective – a deep conviction that in rebellion against God we have existed for ourselves rather than him. Faith is all about seeing our need of a Savior who will rescue us from the plight of living for ourselves rather than God. It is receiving the forgiveness of sins so that Christ can live in us through the Holy Spirit and change us into someone who lives fully for God instead of someone who lives for themselves. Checking the foundation of our own repentance and faith and shoring things up with God will go a long way at helping us be agents of the gospel that are dedicated to the goal of bringing the gospel to a world that desperately needs to be rescued through full repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I reaffirm my own repentance and faith and take my place before you accordingly. You are my Master and I am your servant. You do not exist for me but rather I exist for you. May others see that this is truly the kind of relationship I have with you. May they see the miracle of it and be drawn to you. Grant that I might live fully for you and be one who fully helps others respond to the gospel in a way that brings them to full repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

  • The Boldness of the Goal is for Everyone - Monday, November 11th

    The promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, which I (the Apostle Paul) was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power …. so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church …. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Ephesians 3:6B-7, 10, 11-12

    And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt. Luke 18:9

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Today’s Scripture tells us that the Apostle Paul was a uniquely gifted minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God used him in powerful ways to help establish the church of Jesus Christ throughout the world of that day. The Apostle Paul says this all happened so that “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church.” The centerpiece of the manifold wisdom of God is the gospel of Jesus Christ and it has been the goal of the church down through the ages to bring the gospel to the world. The Apostle Paul says “this was in accordance with the eternal purpose which he (God) carried out in Christ Jesus.

    When we speak of the church we are talking about the church as a whole and each of the individual persons who make up the church. This means that the goal (purpose) of bringing the Gospel to the world which God gave to the church is both a collective and individual responsibility. In essence, those who belong to Christ, share Christ. The Apostle Paul concludes by saying that those who belong to Christ have a boldness and confidence that comes from Christ to them. It is the boldness and confidence we have in Christ that wonderfully suits all of us for being ones who bring the gospel to the world.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I believe I am here to walk with you, live for you, and share you with the world. I embrace this goal today and ask that you help it to be realized in my life in significant ways going forward. Thanks for your grace that brought me to faith and I look forward to the grace you will give me for sharing my faith. Amen!

  • "Myself" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, November 10th

    Myself
    By Edgar A. Guest

    I have to live with myself and so
    I want to be fit for myself to know.
    I want to be able as days go by,
    always to look myself straight in the eye; I don't want to stand with the setting sun
    and hate myself for the things I have done.

    I don't want to keep on a closet shelf
    a lot of secrets about myself
    and fool myself as I come and go
    into thinking no one else will ever know
    the kind of person I really am,
    I don't want to dress up myself in sham.

    I want to go out with my head erect
    I want to deserve all men's respect;
    but here in the struggle for fame and wealth
    I want to be able to like myself.

    I don't want to look at myself and know that
    I am bluster and bluff and empty show.

    I never can hide myself from me;
    I see what others may never see;
    I know what others may never know,
    I never can fool myself and so,
    whatever happens I want to be
    self respecting and conscience free.

  • "Hard Luck" - An Inspirational Poem for Saturday, November 9th

    Hard Luck
    By Edgar A. Guest

    Ain't no use as I can see
    In sittin' underneath a tree
    An' growlin' that your luck is bad,
    An' that your life is extry sad;
    Your life ain't sadder than your neighbor's
    Nor any harder are your labors;
    It rains on him the same as you,
    An' he has work he hates to do;
    An' he gits tired an' he gits cross,
    An' he has trouble with the boss;
    You take his whole life, through an' through,
    Why, he's no better off than you.

    If whinin' brushed the clouds away
    I wouldn't have a word to say;
    If it made good friends out o' foes
    I'd whine a bit, too, I suppose;
    But when I look around an' see
    A lot o' men resemblin' me,
    An' see 'em sad, an' see 'em gay
    With work t' do most every day,
    Some full o' fun, some bent with care,
    Some havin' troubles hard to bear,
    I reckon, as I count my woes,
    They're 'bout what everybody knows.

    The day I find a man who'll say
    He's never known a rainy day,
    Who'll raise his right hand up an' swear
    In forty years he's had no care,
    Has never had a single blow,
    An' never known one touch o' woe,
    Has never seen a loved one die,
    Has never wept or heaved a sigh,
    Has never had a plan go wrong,
    But allus laughed his way along;
    Then I'll sit down an' start to whine
    That all the hard luck here is mine.

  • A Revolution of Blessing – Divine and not Diabolical - Friday, November 8th

    But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17-18

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    There can be no greater outcome for us from our stay here on earth than having our lives be the product of that which comes from Heaven above to bless the world around us with the good fruits of peace and gentleness. This is our calling and it is revolutionary in contrast to that which comes so naturally to all of humanity from the dark side. Yes, Jesus makes a difference and the radical difference of letting Jesus deliver us from being a “curser” and transforming us into a “blesser” is ours for the asking because He waiting, willing, and ready to do just that.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I see that life is not something to toy with and that it really does matter what I do with it. I know that you came to bring light into a dark world. Thank you for bringing your light into my life. May my life consistently be a Divine expression of your revolution of blessing so that the people in my life are truly touched by the blessing of your light and not the curse of darkness. Amen!

  • A Revolution of Blessing –Patience and not Anger - Thursday, November 7th

    Wherever you go, stay in the same house until you leave town. And if a town refuses to welcome you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.” Luke 9:4-5

    But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Luke 9:53-55

    But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices …. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity Colossians 3:8-9, 12-14

    This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Quite a leap from shaking the dust from your feet to calling down fire from heaven. We can all relate to the feelings of indignation that can so easily spring up with in us and push us in directions that are so opposite to what God really has in mind. Sometimes people are just not ready for us and we need to move on to others who need the blessing of love we can bring to them. God will show us the way in this and you can be certain that indignation will not be a part of what He has in mind.

    The bond of unity is the product of love. Love is the king piece of all the other qualities of a “blesser” mentioned above. And being a “blesser” lies at the heart of what it means to be “chosen of God.” In contrast are the characteristics of a “curser”. How often our anger is the driving force in how we relate to others even when we have the motivation of wanting to promote righteousness on behalf of God and for the good of others. We might not recognize this as “curser” behavior but it is. Truly the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, how easily I become indignant and angry with the people in my world. I know that love is patient and that I have much to learn about bringing the blessing of love to others by being patient with them. Forgive me for trying to do your work in my way. I choose to yield to you for your work of transforming me into a loving and patient “blesser.” Amen!

  • A Revolution of Blessing – Cooperation and not Competition - Wednesday, November 6th

    John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group.” But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.” Luke 9:49-50

    I begged your disciples to cast out the spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” Luke 9:40

    Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. James 3:13-16

    Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    It is comforting to know that the disciples were early in their training when we encounter all the “ought not to be” behavior on their part in Luke 9. The novice getting it all wrong is a recurring theme in life and is humorous at times. How instructive it is to see that the disciple’s complaint about someone casting out demons follows on the heals of their failure to be able to accomplish the same thing. Being jealous of the success of others in the face of our own failures happens far to often in our world and becomes for us something far from humorous when it persists beyond the novice stage of our Christian experience. When it comes to the fellowship of the redeemed all are welcome and petty and pious “in group” distinctions must be abandoned altogether.

    It seems so right, normal, and justifiable to relate to others in the ways that come so easily to us. Look at the contrast of behaviors and sources of behavior in these two passages. Love is not jealous. What seems normal lies in stark contrast to love and is truly not of God. The Christian way of life and mission is not a competition but rather a Divinely induced cooperative journey of love and blessing that builds God’s kingdom and transforms the world.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, forgive me for my jealous and competitive spirit. All too often I am petty and pious. Build into me a gracious, accepting, and cooperative spirit in my everyday relationships with all people. I choose the way of your kingdom and embrace your mission of “blessing and not cursing.” Amen!

  • A Revolution of Blessing – Love and not Hate - Tuesday, November 5th

    You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. Matthew 5:43

    But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Matthew 5:44

    To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9

    Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse …. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14, 21

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We have difficulty grasping how truly revolutionary the teaching of Jesus on human relationships really was. We might say that such an approach to relationships is not human and in a sense we would be right. Without Divine intervention, loving our enemies is not very likely to happen. It really is a supernatural thing to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. On the other hand, such divine behavior is human in the sense that God purposed from the start that mankind be a “bless and not curse” kind of people. 

    So then, those who live by a “curse your enemies” rule of thumb, are being something less than human and those who live by a “bless your enemies” rule of thumb are becoming the human beings they were meant to be right from the start. Jesus came to make a difference and that difference is His revolutionary mission of restoring true humanness to a “fallen” humanity.

    The way things ought to be is the way things will be in the end and is the way things can be as we let God make us into big time “blessers.” The contrast between a “blesser” approach to life and a “curser” approach to life is huge. Jesus can bridge the gap and bring about His “new way” for each of us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, without you I cannot love others. Help me to be all I am here to be to others. Grant that I become a big time “blesser” through your powerful presence. May I genuinely love and not hate. Amen!

  • A Revolution of Blessing – Reach and not React - Monday, November 4th

    But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. James 3:8-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We all have those moments when a sense of the overall condition of things on the planet hits us and we want to say, “Lord, beam me up.” The words of our opening passage, “things ought not to be this way” ring loud and clear for us in those kind of moments. I can readily see these words capturing the heart of God as well, as He takes in the condition of mankind (check out the story of Noah). While we might say them with some despair and desperation, God (although different at the time of Noah) would not do so now. 

    God’s complete expression, I think, would go something like this: Things ought not to be this way and that is why I sent my son, Jesus Christ, and He makes all the difference. My kingdom is being built one person at a time with multitudes who have come to Me through Him and multitudes who will yet come to Me. Through my Son I am purifying for Myself a people for My own possession, zealous for good deeds. All along the way I am at work doing this until I wrap things up for mankind at the end. Through the indwelling presence of My Son by means of the Holy Spirit, I am using “My people” to reach and not react to the “ought not to be this way” people of the world. Even though my people at times revert to “ought not to be this way” behavior with the unreached and with each other, ultimately my kingdom shall come and My will shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven. My people, through the work of my Son, becoming more and more a people from whom “blessing” and not “cursing” flow is my one and only game plan. I am counting on them and they will come through for Me.” 

    So, we must cast aside despair and desperation in favor of hope and endurance. Jesus came to make a difference and the difference (blessing, not cursing) He is making in our lives is the very means He will use to impact the lives of people all around us, both friends and enemies alike.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, revolutionize me and make the difference in me you came to make in the world. Purify me for yourself so that I am truly your possession and not my own. Make me zealous for genuine good deeds. Show me how to reach and not react by blessing and not cursing. Amen!

  • "Shalts and Shalt Nots" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, November 3rd

    Shalts and Shalt Nots

    By Elodie Armstrong 

    Thou shalt not worry,
    for worry is the most unproductive of all human activities.

    Thou shalt not be fearful,
    for most of the things we fear never come to pass.

    Thou shalt not cross bridges before you get to them,
    for no one yet has succeeded in accomplishing this.

    Thou shalt face each problem as it comes,
    you can handle only one at a time anyway.

    Thou shalt not take problems to bed with you
    for they make very poor bedfellows.

    Thou shalt not borrow other people's problems,
    they can take better care of them than you can.

    Thou shalt not try to relive yesterday
    for good or ill, it is gone
    concentrate on what is happening in your life today.

    Thou shalt count thy blessings,
    never overlooking the small ones
    for a lot of small blessings add up to a big one.

    Thou shalt be a good listener,
    for only when you listen do you hear ideas different from your own,
    it's very hard to learn something new when you're talking.

    Thou shalt not become bogged down by frustration,
    for ninety percent of it is rooted in self-pity
    and it will only interfere with positive action.

  • "The Spacious Firmament" - An Inspirational Poem for Saturday, November 2nd

    The Spacious Firmament
    By Joseph Addison

    The Spacious Firmament on high
    With all the blue Etherial Sky
    And spangled Heav’ns a Shining frame
    Their great original proclaim:
    Th’unwearied sun, from day to day
    Does his Creator’s pow’r display
    And publishes to every land
    The work of an almighty hand 

    Soon as the evening shades prevail
    The moon takes up the wondrous tale
    And nightly to the listning Earth
    Repeats the story of her birth:
    Whilst all the stars that round her burn
    And all the planets, in their turn
    Confirm the tidings as they rowl
    And spread the truth from pole to pole

     

    What though, in solemn silence, all
    Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
    What tho’ nor real voice nor sound
    Amid their radiant orbs be found?
    In reason’s ear they all rejoice
    And utter forth a glorious voice
    For ever singing, as they shine
    ‘The Hand that made us is Divine.’

     

  • A Genuine Spiritual Legacy – Advancing Hope, Joy, and Glory as God’s Agents - Friday, November 1st

    For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything …. For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea ….  For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?  For you are our glory and joy. 1 Thessalonians 1:8, 2:13-14A, 19-20

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We have the opportunity to touch our world in ways that are both similar to and distinct from other points in history. The gospel never changes and thus the similarity of our opportunity. But the conditions and needs of our world today are unique and thus the distinctiveness of the opportunity before us. Breaking down unnecessary limitations, “seeing” others through the eyes of our Heavenly Father, embracing people and their needs in the midst of the conditions of our times, bestowing genuine love and compassion, and communicating the true message of the Gospel, will allow us to leave behind a legacy where the impact of the gospel through us “lives on” as we advance hope and joy and the glory to God.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts: 

    Lord, thank you for your Word and the work it is performing in me. My life is being transformed so that more and more I am living for you and not myself. I am getting more of a handle on what it means for me to be an agent of the Gospel so that I am sharing my faith with others. Please continue to help me connect with other people no matter who they are and no matter what conditions encompass their lives. Living for you is all about hope, joy, and your glory. I know that as you use me to advance hope, joy, and your glory in the lives of others, I will someday leave behind a genuine spiritual legacy. Amen!

  • A Genuine Spiritual Legacy – Overcoming Selfish Barriers as God’s Agents - Thursday, October 31st

    When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34

    Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matt 9:35-38

    Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” …. At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Turning to the disciples, He said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them.” Luke 10:1-2, 21-24

    But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him (lame man) and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene--walk!” Acts 3:4-7

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Jesus perfectly served the purposes of His Father. There were no barriers between Him and the people around Him that were of His making. And He was able truly to “see” the people He came into contact with. What happens when we truly “see” the people we come into contact with? Unnecessary barriers that keep us from being involved are taken away so that our focus is off of us. We are not caught up in wanting to be “seen.” We are not worried about what our contact with another will do for us or to us. We are not absorbed in promoting ourselves, our agenda, or our needs. Jesus longs to send us out into the harvest fields where he says that the harvest is plentiful. We must be willing. It is not difficult. We simply seek to be present and available for the welfare of another. Filled with the presence of God, His love and compassion overflow from us to another person as He enables us to “see” that person the way He does. With troublesome barriers out of the way, the purposes God has for us in the life of another can be fulfilled.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I do pray that you will send out workers into your harvest and I genuinely intend to be a part of the answer to that prayer. I choose to take my eyes off myself and onto you and others. Fill me with your love and compassion. Show me today someone my life can touch in very special ways. May your love and compassion overflow from me to them. Perhaps in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene they will rise up and walk. Amen!

  • A Genuine Spiritual Legacy - Assuming All Risks as God’s Agents - Wednesday, October 30th

    Who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:4

    For the Scripture says, “whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for whoever will call on the name of the lord will be saved. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” Romans 10:11-15

    But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:21-24

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    In our world today there are conditions that exist and needs that people have that are simply overwhelming. At the same time, however, we often find ourselves isolated and insulated from a world in dire straits. We seem to put great effort into protecting ourselves from the conditions of our times not realizing that when we do we often cut ourselves off from those people who have the greatest level of need as the result of experiencing the brunt of those conditions. We need to examine ourselves for the presence of fears that bind us and keep us from impacting our world with the words and deeds of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is for everyone regardless of the risks that reaching certain ones may present. Possible loss of comfort, dignity, respectability, and security, etc. must not keep us from the very people who most need us.

    Today's  prayerresponse from today's thoughts:

    Lord, forgive me for being so concerned about what will happen to me that I am blinded to what other people who need you are going through. I see that the risk of someone missing you is a far greater issue than the risk of my involvement. Take away my fears, fill me with compassion and concern, and help me impact my world with the words and deeds of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen!

  • A Genuine Spiritual Legacy – Serving Unique Purposes as God’s Agents - Tuesday, October 29th

    For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay. Acts 13:36

    I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now …. Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. Philippines 1:3-5, 27

    You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Each generation of believers has the opportunity to impact their world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we look back we can see both good and not so good examples from generation to generation. God has His purposes in each generation and we must serve those purposes. There are always conditions and needs present in our world and as we impact people with the gospel of Jesus Christ we must remember that we do so in the context of those conditions and needs. We need to embrace people, right where they are in the middle of what they are going through, with love, compassion, and help. When this is done in a genuine way, the message of the gospel can be shared with greater receptivity and thus there exists the very necessary and wonderful blend of both the words and deeds of the gospel of Jesus Christ. May it be that when future generations of believers look back to us they will see that as “God’s Agents” we truly served his unique purposes for us in our time.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, help me embrace people, right where they are in the middle of what they are going through, with love, compassion, and help. I confess I get so caught up in myself that I routinely choose to bypass people who are impacted by conditions that make me uncomfortable and have needs that I’d rather not be involved with. Change me, Lord. Show me how to give myself to others so that my words and deeds serve the Gospel and accomplish your unique purposes for today. Amen!

  • A Genuine Spiritual Legacy – Accepting Our Role as God’s Agents - Monday, October 28th

    Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was …. But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. John 17:1-5, 13-21

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    John 17 is a prayer offered by Jesus to the Father on behalf of His disciples just before His crucifixion. He is praying that they will be steadfast in their faith when He is no longer with them. But then amazingly Jesus takes it much further and says, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word.” What a wonderful picture of how the impact of the original disciples and each subsequent generation lives on. 

    Jesus’ prayer includes us and we are a testimony to the reality that His request was granted. One generation after another has believed through the “word” of disciples who have “gone on” but in a very special sense “live on” because they fulfilled their role as “God’s Agents.” While such considerations are mind boggling, there is one specific consideration that is of supreme importance. When we have “gone on” will we “live on” because the impact of His “word” through us has gone forth, with us as “God’s Agents” having left behind others who have believed? How to leave behind a “genuine spiritual legacy” such as this, is the focus of this week’s Devotionals.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I join you in the desire you have for me to leave behind a genuine spiritual legacy by accepting the role you have for me as an agent of the Gospel. I really do want it to be that when I have “gone on” the impact of my life will “live on” because there will be others left behind who have truly believed. Teach me more fully than ever before how to leave behind such a spiritual legacy. Amen!

  • "A Special Teacher" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, October 27th

    A Special Teacher

    Years ago a John Hopkin’s professor gave a group of graduate students this assignment: Go to the slums. Take 200 boys, between the ages of 12 and 16, and investigate their background and environment. Then predict their chances for the future. The students, after consulting social statistics, talking to the boys, and compiling much data, concluded that 90 percent of the boys would spend some time in jail.

    Twenty-five years later another group of graduate students was given the job of testing the prediction. They went back to the same area. Some of the boys – by then men – were still there, a few had died, some had moved away, but they got in touch with 180 of the original 200. They found that only four of the group had ever been sent to jail.

    Why was it that these men, who had lived in a breeding place of crime, had such a surprisingly good record? The researchers were continually told: “Well, there was a teacher…” They pressed further, and found that in 75 percent of the cases it was the same woman.

    The researchers went to this teacher, now living in a home for retired teachers. How had she exerted this remarkable influence over that group of children? Could she give them any reason why these boys should have remembered her? “No,” she said, “no I really couldn’t.” And then, thinking back over the years, she said amusingly, more to herself than to her questioners: “I loved those boys…”

  • "Don’t Hope… Decide!" - An Inspirational Story for Saturday, October 26th

    Don’t Hope… Decide!

    While waiting to pick up a friend at the airport in Portland, Oregon, I had one of those life-changing experiences that you hear other people talk about - the kind that sneaks up on you unexpectedly. This one occurred a mere two feet away from me. Straining to locate my friend among the passengers deplaning through the jetway, I noticed a man coming toward me carrying two light bags.

    He stopped right next to me to greet his family. First he motioned to his youngest son (maybe six years old) as he laid down his bags. They gave each other a long, loving hug. As they separated enough to look in each other’s face, I heard the father say, “It’s so good to see you, son. I missed you so much!” His son smiled somewhat shyly, averted his eyes and replied softly, “Me, too, Dad!”

    Then the man stood up, gazed in the eyes of his oldest son (maybe nine or ten) and while cupping his son’s face in his hands said, “You’re already quite the young man. I love you very much, Zach!” They too hugged a most loving, tender hug.

    While this was happening, a baby girl (perhaps one or one-and-a-half) was squirming excitedly in her mother’s arms, never once taking her little eyes off the wonderful sight of her returning father.

    The man said, “Hi, baby girl!” as he gently took the child from her mother. He quickly kissed her face all over and then held her close to his chest while rocking her from side to side. The little girl instantly relaxed and simply laid her head on his shoulder, motionless in pure contentment.

    After several moments, he handed his daughter to his oldest son and declared, “I’ve saved the best for last!” and proceeded to give his wife the longest, most passionate kiss I ever remember seeing.

    He gazed into her eyes for several seconds and then silently mouthed. “I love you so much!” They stared at each other’s eyes, beaming big smiles at one another, while holding both hands. For an instant they reminded me of newlyweds, but I knew by the age of their kids that they couldn’t possibly be.

    I puzzled about it for a moment then realized how totally engrossed I was in the wonderful display of unconditional love not more than an arm’s length away from me.

    I suddenly felt uncomfortable, as if I was invading something sacred, but was amazed to hear my own voice nervously ask, “Wow! How long have you two been married?” “Dated two years; married twelve,” he replied, without breaking his gaze from his lovely wife’s face. “Well then, how long have you been away?,” I asked. The man finally turned and looked at me, still beaming his joyous smile, two whole days!”

    Two days? I was stunned. By the intensity of the greeting, I had assumed he’d been gone for at least several weeks – if not months. I know my expression betrayed me, I said almost offhandedly, hoping to end my intrusion with some semblance of grace (and to get back to searching for my friend), “I hope my marriage is still that passionate after twelve years!”

    The man suddenly stopped smiling. He looked me straight in the eye, and with forcefulness that burned right into my soul, he told me something that left me a different person. He told me, “Don’t hope, friend… decide!” Then he flashed me his wonderful smile again, shook my hand and said, “God bless!” With that, he and his family turned and strode away together.

    I was still watching that exceptional man and his special family walk just out of sight when my friend came up to me and asked, “What’cha looking at?” Without hesitating, and with a curious sense of certainty, I replied, “My future!”

    – Author Unknown

  • Divine Troubles – The Lord Blesses - Friday, October 25th

    O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears …. O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him …. The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:3-4, 8, 17-18

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Those very difficult kind of troubles that don’t go away, make one feel powerless against them, and have the ability to produce a lot of pain and suffering, can really take a toll on a person’s life. We saw this in evidence in David’s life in a Psalm from the other day where he said, “My soul is bowed down.” Very few of us are strangers to the impact of troubles that break us down, wear us out, and from time to time get us to the spot where we say, “My soul is bowed down.” However, there are some people who have experienced pain and suffering to a degree that is beyond that of the average person, so that they are almost always in a state of being “bowed down” in their souls.

    Today’s Psalm speaks of those who are “brokenhearted” and “crushed in spirit.” Whether you are one who is “brokenhearted” and “crushed in spirit” from time to time or routinely, our Psalm offers some helpful things we can do that will really make a difference in our lives. Notice the words, "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” We do this on Sunday mornings when we join with others in worshiping God. But, let’s take it a step further. Find a worship buddy! On a weekly basis or more often if needed, join with another person (not connected with your own troubles) for a time of just “magnifying” and “exalting” the name of the Lord (no complaining).

    A significant factor in why our soul becomes “bowed down” is “fear.” So, every day, seek the Lord in prayer and make your requests known (in regard to your troubles). Go forward from your prayer time believing God will answer and that he will deliver you from all your fears. Until your next prayer session, dismiss all negative thoughts that would counter your faith that God is working to answer you and deliver you from all your fears. This is what taking refuge in God is all about. The more you practice these disciplines, the more you will experience (taste) God and the more you will find him to be good, and the more you know his goodness, the more you will be blessed.

    It is important to remember that prayer is talking to God. It is easy to let a prayer session shift into your talking to yourself in a rehearsal of your troubles that just locks you further into the condition of your soul being bowed down. Our Psalm says, “The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” You must openly and honestly cry out to God in full awareness that he hears. It is a full exchange between you and God and not yourself and yourself. Expect him to do something for your soul. He delights to bring you to the spot where your soul is lifted up. Perhaps, being delivered out of all your troubles is more about the blessing of your soul being lifted than it is having the troubles removed from your life.

    “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” We began our considerations today by talking about those who are brokenhearted and crushed in Spirit. If this is you and you let God help you practice the disciplines that have been covered today, then the Lord will be “near” to you in ways you have never experienced before and will “save” you from the impact of troubles in ways that will absolutely amaze you. “Taste and see that the Lord is (indeed) good.” The Lord who is good will surely bless you through your troubles. This is what makes it possible for our troubles to be thought of as Divine.

    We have looked at different Psalms throughout the week which have helped us see how God makes himself available to us in times of trouble. We have seen how he ministers to our deepest needs as we face the challenges of painful experiences produced by troubles that come into our lives. In the middle of constant and long-term troubles, like severe illness, loss of loved ones, divorce, disabilities, past disasters, mental illness, etc., God’s grace, presence, power, and comfort make all the difference and help us live triumphantly day by day.

    Let the meaning and reality of this week’s truths about Divine troubles take deep root in your heart and soul. The more they take root, the stronger your connection with God will become. The stronger your connection with God becomes, the more he will be able to be everything he wants to be to you so that you navigate victoriously through the troubles of life.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    I think this would be a great occasion to write out your own prayer response to God. May God bless you richly today! Amen!

  • Divine Troubles – The Lord Shelters - Thursday, October 24th

    He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust …. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark …. Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation. Psalm 91:1-2, 4, 14-16

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We have another Psalm today to help us with those particularly difficult troubles in our lives that we can’t make go away, that we are powerless against, and from which we experience a lot of pain and suffering. We want to look at today’s Scripture in the light of an analogy. Picture the mom who sends her young children off to school each day. At home they are safe and secure, but out there in the world of school, they are vulnerable and susceptible to the troublesome things they come up against day after day.

    The mom can only hope the experience of the home will offset the experience of the world. She pictures the good atmosphere of the home (including her presence, care, and influence) carrying over into the world of school. In our relationship with God, home is the sanctuary of quiet, alone times spent in his presence. The first words of our Psalm capture it this way: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High.” We need concentrated times of being in God’s presence (dwells in the shelter).

    The atmosphere of the shelter of God’s presence (concentrated time with him) carrying over to life on the go (children at school) is captured with the next words of our Psalm: “will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Now granted when we are on the go in life, God is with us in a way that a mom cannot be with her children when they are at school. However, we need to keep in mind that our ability to be aware of God’s continued presence is limited when we are rightly concentrating on other things.

    It should be noted that we can develop an ability to be aware of him when we are on the go and we can stop and look to him (go home) in concentrated moments with him. But even so, the images of “dwelling in the shelter of the Most High” and “abiding in the shadow of the Almighty,” will help us remember how important it is to have a daily quiet time with God (shelter) that carries over (shadow) into our world of life on the go.

    Developing this kind of relationship with God will make all the difference in how we are impacted by the particularly troublesome things we have been talking about this week. Notice the image of the mother bird in our Psalm. Use this image in your quiet times to help you picture yourself as being sheltered under His wings. In addition, use this image when you are on the go to help you picture yourself as being under the shadow of his wings.

    Regularly being in the shelter and shadow of God’s presence causes us to grow in our ability to love and know God. Notice from the rest of the Psalm how growing in our ability to love and know God opens the door for him to be at work in our lives in some pretty amazing and powerful ways.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for these very special words you have spoken to me through the Psalmist today. Help me on a daily basis to succeed at being in the shelter of your presence and under the shadow of your presence. Change me so that I want you more than I want solutions to my problems. Right now, I choose to make loving you and knowing you the centerpiece of my life. Amen!

  • Divine Troubles – The Lord Intervenes - Wednesday, October 23rd

    Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by. I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me.  He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. God will send forth his lovingkindness and His truth …. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing, yes, I will sing praises! Psalm 57:1-3, 7

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We are looking at various Psalms this week for guidance in how to navigate those areas of life that cause us to experience significant pain and suffering and are powerless to change. Today’s Psalm was written by David, King of Israel in ancient times. Even though he was a king, David was not a stranger to hurtful, harmful things that he had no power over. Many of David’s Psalms are like condensed episodes from his life in regard to the impact of troubles, turning to God for help, and reaching the outcome of faith and dependence.

    Make no mistake, troubles of the kind we are talking about this week (things like severe illness, loss of loved ones, divorce, disabilities, past disasters, mental illness, etc.) have a terrific impact on us. David is very candid about his own experience with the impact of troubles on his life. Elsewhere in today’s Psalm, David says, “My soul is bowed down.” This is where he is when the Psalm starts. The impact of the trouble he is experiencing seems to be at its pinnacle when he cries out to God, “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me.”

    Not only is David helpless to do anything about the trouble but for the moment he is struggling to escape the impact it is having on his soul. When David cries out to God, “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,” he is asking for intervention in regard to both the trouble and the impact of the trouble. When David goes on to say, “my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by,” he is not there yet in this instance of “trouble” management.

    David’s soul is bowed down and he wants to be in the refuge of God’s presence and care like he has been in the past so his soul can be lifted up, but it’s hard to get there. It is like he is reviewing what he knows is needed and is available from God. When David says, “I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me,” he is asking God to be gracious by moving him from the impact of the trouble to the impact of his presence.

    Experiencing God as a refuge and shelter is what David needs and wants. This is where he wants to be and where he wants to stay for the duration of the problem (until destruction passes by). David knows that his focus needs to be on God and not the problem. When this shift takes place through God’s gracious intervention, he will then be able to leave the problem in God’s hands. Notice what David says next: “He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. God will send forth his lovingkindness and His truth.”

    David’s prayer for God to be gracious to him is answered and he is able to say confidently and boldly, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!” God has become more real to him than the trouble. No longer is his soul bowed down but lifted up. David’s experience here can be our experience. We may have to repeat the process over and over again. God does not mind. He loves to have us call on him and count on him to be a refuge and shelter to us from destructive troubles. Whatever we are facing, we really can begin with “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me” and end up with “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, my prayer today is the prayer of David, “be gracious to me, be gracious to me.” Lord, help me to experience you as a refuge and shelter to such a degree that I am able to say, “my heart is steadfast, my heart is steadfast. Become more real to me than my troubles so that I can fully sing your praises day by day. Amen!

  • Divine Troubles – The Lord Revives - Tuesday, October 22nd

    On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul …. For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting; You do not forsake the works of Your hands. Psalm 138:3, 6-8

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We continue with our consideration of those things that cause us to experience significant pain and sorrow and are powerless to change. We turn today to another Psalm from which we will see how God makes himself available to us in times of trouble and how he ministers to our deepest needs as we face the challenges of painful experiences produced by these troubles that come into our lives. God’s grace, presence, power, and comfort make all the difference and help us live triumphantly day by day.

    God has made us in such a way that we find deep inside ourselves a desire to have it be that our lives count for something. This is true in regard to what we are able accomplish but also in regard to all we go through in the process. On the one hand we want to know if this experience is “worthwhile” and on the other hand we want to know if this experience is “worth it.” We really do want “what we do” and “what we go through” to count for something.

    Today’s Scripture gives us some insight into this. This is a Psalm of David and one of the most reoccurring words in his Psalms is the word “trouble.” Notice the words, “I walk in the midst of trouble.” This is what lies behind these helpful words of David we are looking at today. You can be sure that David wrestled with whether his experiences were “worthwhile” and “worth it.” David knew all too well about being powerless in the face of troubles that brought pain and suffering. It was David’s connection to God that made all the difference.

    David was a man of faith and he knew that turning to God in full trust and dependence was the key to having it be that everything would truly “count” in the end. David had developed the discipline and habit of turning to God when walking in the midst of trouble. Consider carefully what he says about this: “On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.” Ongoing troubles that produce pain and suffering in our souls, can only truly be countered by God, who makes us bold with strength in our souls instead.

    What is it that really lies at the center of why we do or we don’t face the troubles in our lives the way David did? Notice what David says next: “For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar.” The humble (lowly) are convinced they are powerless and all is futile unless they count on God fully. The proud (haughty) are not absolutely convinced they are powerless and helpless apart from God’s intervention. If you know you need God, he is able to come close to you with the help you need. If you don’t know for sure you need God, he can’t get very close to you with the help that is needed.

    Notice all the things the Psalm goes on to say God will do if he is able to draw near to you with his help: He will revive you; He will stretch forth his hand against the wrath of your enemies, and his right hand will save you. The Lord will accomplish what concerns you (worthwhile); His lovingkindness will last forever and He will not forsake you, the work of his hands (worth it).

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, forgive me for how easily I leave you out of the equation of my life in so many ways. Even with my troubles and the pain and suffering they have produced, I go it alone far too often. Like David, I call on you right now and I believe you will answer me. Revive me, Lord, and build into me the discipline and habit of humbly turning to you in the midst of my troubles. I ask you to do a work in my heart regarding the effects pain and suffering have had on me. Bring me to the spot where I know my life is “worthwhile” and that all I have been through is “worth it.” Amen!

  • Divine Troubles – The Lord Sustains - Monday, October 21st

    The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly. The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly. I will not die, but live, and tell of the works of the Lord. The Lord has disciplined me severely, but He has not given me over to death …. You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 118:14-18, 28-29

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We are very much aware of those things in our lives that cause us to experience significant pain and sorrow and are powerless to change. These are things that come with living in a fallen and broken world. They are things that we would rather not have in our lives. They are things that God has evidently allowed to show up and stay in our lives for the sake of the bigger scheme of things that he, and he alone has in mind.

    Each day this week we will be looking at a different Psalm from which we will see how God makes himself available to us in times of trouble. We will see how he ministers to our deepest needs as we face the challenges of painful experiences produced by troubles that come into our lives. We are talking about things like severe illness, loss of loved ones, divorce, disabilities, past disasters, mental illness, etc. Even though such things are constant and long-term, God’s grace, presence, power, and comfort make all the difference and help us live triumphantly day by day.

    Today’s passage indicates that the Psalmist was in the middle of something that produced severe suffering and pain. We are told that it was a severe discipline in his life that didn’t kill him. The fact that the Psalmist is one who is properly aligned with God through faith is seen in his words, “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” The focus of the Psalmist is one of relying on the Lord. However, his reliance is more about the Lord sustaining him in the middle of his troubles than it is about the Lord delivering him from his troubles.

    The Psalmist speaks of the righteous (others who are properly aligned with God) and their example of relying on the Lord. The homes of the righteous are filled with joy. They readily proclaim that the right hand of the Lord is exalted and does valiantly. This is a great image and helps the Psalmist with his own personal reliance on the Lord. The image of the right hand of the Lord depicts the ongoing ability of the Lord to sustain the Psalmist in the midst of his troubles and ultimately to deliver him from them. It depicts the Lord being at the Psalmist’s side with total availability of his strong right arm for sustenance and deliverance.

    The reassurance and encouragement the Psalmist experiences, lead him to say, “I will not die, but live, and tell of the works of the Lord.” His response to God is, “You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I bring to you the relentless troubles that have brought sorrow and pain into my life. I join the Psalmist in saying that you are my strength, my song, and my salvation. I rely upon you with your strong right arm that sustains and delivers. Thank you for being by my side. Help me to trust you and rely upon you more fully. Help me to “live” fully and readily tell of your works. You are my God, and I give thanks, I extol you, for you are good and your lovingkindness is everlasting. Amen!

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