Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Little Things

Read: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
The Father of mercies and God of all comfort . . . comforts us in all our tribulation. —2 Corinthians 1:3-4

A medical school program in New York gives students who are training for geriatric medicine a unique opportunity. They experience life as nursing home residents for 10 days. They learn some of the struggles of maneuvering a wheelchair and being raised out of bed with a lift, as well as reaching the shower bar from a seated position. One student learned how little things counted for a lot—like lowering nameplates on doors so that patients can find their rooms more easily, or putting the TV remote in a reachable location.
Although the students still can’t fully relate, they will be better able to serve the elderly in their future work.
Sometimes God gives us the opportunity to use the lessons we’ve learned and the comfort He’s given us during difficult times to help others in special ways. Paul indicated this when he wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
Are you using the lessons you’ve learned in your trials to touch the lives of others? Remember—even little things can mean a lot.

The comfort God has given us
He wants us now to share
With others who are suffering
So they will sense His care. —Sper
God doesn’t comfort us to make us comfortable;
He comforts us to make us comforters.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Preparation And Expectation

advent wreath 2
advent wreath 2,
originally uploaded by Ellen5e.
Read: Luke 2:8-12; 21:25-28
An angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. —Luke 2:9

When our children were young, we observed Advent (the time beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas through Christmas Eve) by making a wreath and lighting candles each night after supper. We sang a carol and read a short Bible passage about the birth of Christ. This was a special time of preparing our hearts to celebrate Christmas.
But Advent is more than that. When Christians first started practicing it in the fourth century, they viewed it not only as preparation for celebrating Jesus’ birth but also as a time of looking forward to His second coming. They found hope and cheer in the sure promise of His return.
The gospel of Luke describes “the glory of the Lord” that shone around the shepherds when the angel announced the Savior’s birth (2:9). Luke also records Jesus’ promise that He will return “with power and great glory” (21:27). These two events frame the purpose for which the Son of God came into the world.
In Latin advent means “a coming.” The weeks before Christmas can be a wonderful season of repentance and expectation as we celebrate our Lord’s first advent in Bethlehem and anticipate His second advent when He returns in glory. Christ has come! Christ is coming again!

The first time Jesus came to earth,
Humble was His story;
But He has promised to return
With power and great glory. —Sper
Christ has come! Christ is coming again!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Crutch?

have a little faith
have a little faith,
originally uploaded by bloghopperuk.
Read: 2 Corinthians 4:8-15
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed. —2 Corinthians 4:8

Have you ever heard skeptics say that the Christian faith is nothing more than a crutch—that the only reason people claim to trust Jesus is that they are weaklings who have to make up “religion” to get by?
Apparently those skeptics haven’t heard about the doctor in one Far Eastern country who spent 2 ½ years in jail being “reeducated” because he professed faith in Christ. Then, after his release, he was arrested again—this time for his efforts at his church.
And perhaps those skeptics haven’t heard about Paul. After trusting Christ, he was arrested, flogged, mocked, and shipwrecked (2 Cor. 11:16-29).
These believers were not looking for a crutch. No, they had something deep and essential in their hearts. They had a personal relationship with God—a relationship born of faith in the work of Jesus on the cross. As a result, they became children of the King—eager to sacrifice everything for the privilege of proclaiming Him. They were not limping along looking for something to hold them up.
A crutch? Hardly. Faith in Christ is not about safety and caution. It’s about believing Jesus and trusting Him no matter what. It’s about taking up a daily cross (Luke 9:23) and living for the Savior.

“Take up your cross,” the Savior said,
“If you would My disciple be;
Take up your cross with willing heart
And humbly follow after Me.” —Everest
Because Jesus bore the cross for us,
we willingly take it up for Him.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Daily Diligence

Sunset violinist
Sunset violinist,
originally uploaded by L e f t y J o r.
Read: 2 Timothy 2:3-16
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth. —2 Timothy 2:15

Internationally acclaimed violinist Midori believes that focused, diligent practice is the key to performance. While playing a rigorous schedule of 90 concerts a year, she still practices an average of 5 or 6 hours a day. Jane Ammeson, in NWA WorldTraveler magazine, quoted Midori as saying: “I have to practice for my job and I practice every day. . . . It’s not really the hours, but the quality of the work that needs to be done. I see with students, that they play and they call it practice, but they are not listening and not watching. If you have your textbook open, it doesn’t mean that you are studying.”
That same principle applies to our walk of faith. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Diligence implies constant, earnest effort, and is the opposite of a careless, inattentive approach. It embraces every aspect of our relationship with God.
Just as a musician strives for excellence, we should want to serve God with confidence, seek His approval, and skillfully share His Word with others.
Am I diligently studying, praying, and listening to the Lord today?

When we live with expectancy,
Awaiting Christ’s return,
Our diligent obedience
Becomes our main concern. —Sper
God speaks to those who take time to listen, and He listens to those who take time to pray.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Special Virtue

Read: 1 Cor. 9:24-27
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. —Galatians 5:22-23

In her book Food in Medieval Times, author Melitta Adamson writes of European culinary delights in the Middle Ages. Wild game, pastries, puddings, and other exotic foods illustrate the creative joy taken in food preparation. But with all these wonderful entrĂ©es there was a problem—overeating. This tendency was compounded by the Christian calendar, which abounded with fasts and feasts. Abstaining from meals was often followed by gluttony.
To address this problem, theologian Thomas Aquinas uplifted the Christian character quality of temperance, calling it “a special virtue.” He saw how self-restraint should extend to all areas of life.
For the believer, temperance, or moderation, does not derive from sheer human willpower. Instead, it comes from the Holy Spirit who gives us self-control: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Self-control is the Spirit-produced quality that enables us to be “temperate in all things” (1 Cor. 9:25).
Overindulgence in food, rest, work, recreation, ministry, and a variety of “good things” can be corrected only through the balance of self-control. Take a few minutes to ask God to produce that special virtue in you.

If gaining the fruit of self-control
Is something you’re trying to do;
Submit your will in everything
To the Spirit living in you. —Kieda
To gain self-control, give the Spirit control.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Aim High!

Aim high !
Aim high ! ,
originally uploaded by pfala.
Read: Hebrews 5:12–6:3
Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. —2 Corinthians 13:11

When my daughter and her family were in town for a visit, I had a chance to take my son and two sons-in-law out for a “guy” outing.
We decided that while the ladies were shopping, we would go to a firing range and practice shooting. We rented two pistols and took aim at our targets. While shooting, all four of us discovered that on one of the firearms the sight was set too low. If we aimed using that sight, we hit the bottom of the target. We had to aim high in order to hit anywhere near the bull’s-eye.
Isn’t life a lot like that? If we set our sights too low, we really don’t accomplish all that we can. Sometimes we have to aim high in order to reach a desired goal.
What should be our aim in life? How high should we point our ambitions? Well, since Scripture is our true guide, we will shoot for nothing but spiritual maturity. In fact, in Paul’s farewell to the people of Corinth, he said, “Aim for perfection” (2 Cor. 13:11 NIV). And we also have the high aim of these words from the lips of Jesus, “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
Perfection is a lofty target, and we won’t attain it in this life. But if we want to honor God and get close to that high goal, we need to aim high.

O to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear. —Chisholm
Conversion is the miracle of a moment; maturing takes a lifetime.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

God’s Presence At Church

originally uploaded by ianchan1949.
Read: Colossians 1:9-14
Walk worthy of the Lord. —Colossians 1:10

I love reading church slogans. You know, the ones you see on the marquee in front of churches. Recently I noticed a slogan that said, “Come in and experience the presence of God.” That one caught my attention, primarily because it’s an important promise to make and sometimes a hard promise to keep. Hard, because if we’re not careful our churches might reflect the presence of its people more than the presence of our God.
So what would a church have to do to display the presence of God? Its people would have to live like Him! Dynamics like hospitality, the loving acceptance of all kinds of people, a quickness to serve, a tangible love for one another that makes people feel safe and included regardless of color or class, and a patient tolerance of one another’s weaknesses would all be a great way to start. Paul said we should walk in a manner “worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10). And he also said that being worthy means that we will be humble, gentle, bearing with one another in love, eagerly maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:2-3).
Let’s live in such a way that others will experience the presence of the God who lives in us—wherever we are, but especially at church.

The world gets a glimpse of God
When those who claim to be
The followers of Jesus Christ
Are living righteously. —Sper
Those who walk with Christ
bring the presence of God to everyone around them.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Remember John-The Ordinary People

Read: 2 Kings 5:1-15
Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. —2 Kings 5:15

John is a humble, uneducated man. Yet God used him to start the peace process in Mozambique. His name is not mentioned in any official documents; all he did was arrange a meeting between two of his acquaintances— Kenyan Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat and a Mozambican. But that introduction set in motion the events that led to a peace treaty after a 10-year civil war.
From that experience, Ambassador Kiplagat learned the importance of respecting everyone. “You never dismiss people because they are not educated, because they are white, because they are black, because they are women, because they are old or young. Every encounter is sacred, and we need to value that encounter,” the ambassador said. “You never know what word might be there for you.”
The Bible confirms that this is true. Naaman was a great man in Syria when he got the dreaded disease of leprosy. A servant girl whom he had captured from Israel told Naaman’s wife that the prophet Elisha could heal him. Because Naaman was willing to listen to this lowly servant girl, his life was spared and he came to know the one true God (2 Kings 5:15).
God often speaks through those to whom few are willing to listen. To hear God, be sure to listen to the humble.

God often uses lowly things
His purpose to fulfill,
Because it takes a humble heart
To carry out His will. —D. De Haan
God uses ordinary people to carry out His extraordinary plan.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It Can Never Happen To Me

Read: Psalm 30:6-12
Now in my prosperity I said, “I shall never be moved.” —Psalm 30:6

Actor Christopher Reeve was para- lyzed in a horseback riding accident in 1995. Prior to this tragedy, he had played the part of a paraplegic in a movie. In preparation, Reeve visited a rehabilitation facility. He recalled: “Every time I left that rehab center, I said, ‘Thank God that’s not me.’ ” After his accident, Reeve regretted that statement: “I was so setting myself apart from those people who were suffering without realizing that in a second that could be me.” And sadly, for him, it was.
We too may look at the troubles of others and think that it could never happen to us. Especially if our life journey has led to a measure of success, financial security, and family harmony. In a moment of vanity and self-sufficiency, King David admitted to falling into the trap of feeling invulnerable: “Now in my prosperity I said, ‘I shall never be moved’” (Ps. 30:6). But David quickly caught himself and redirected his heart away from self-sufficiency. He remembered that he had known adversity in the past and God had delivered him: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing” (v.11).
Whether He has brought us blessing or trial, God still deserves our gratitude and trust.

I can always count on God, my heavenly Father,
For He changes not; He always is the same;
Yesterday, today, forever, He is faithful,
And I know He loves me, praise His holy name. —Felten
In good times and bad, our greatest need is God.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Emergency Kit

Emergency Survival Kit
Emergency Survival Kit,
originally uploaded by survivalaid.
Read: Ephesians 6:10-18
For a dozen years, I took an auto emergency kit on every long driving trip but never had to use it. It became such a familiar item that on the night we really needed it, I forgot it was there. But fortunately my wife remembered.
After hitting a deer on a dark rural highway, our van was completely disabled. While I fumbled with a small flashlight to assess the damage and call a tow truck, my wife opened the emergency kit, set out a reflective warning marker, then turned on the bright flashlight, much to my surprise. Later we talked about how a crisis can cause us to forget the resources we have, just when we need them most.
Paul urged the Ephesians to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). This protective covering includes truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, and prayer (vv.14-18). Although these spiritual resources guard us each day, we need to remember them when disaster strikes and the enemy tries to undermine our confidence in God’s love and care.
Use the kit. “Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (v.13).

When Satan launches his attack,
We must take heart and pray;
If we submit ourselves to God,
He’ll be our strength and stay. —Sper
God provides the armor, but we must put it on.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Lock Of Hair

Samson & Delilah
Samson & Delilah,
originally uploaded by dinkus30.
Read: Judges 16:4-17
The Lord . . . [shows] Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. —2 Chronicles 16:9

After his return from the moon, Neil Armstrong was often plagued by the media. Seeking greater privacy, he moved his family into a small town. But notoriety was a nuisance even there. Armstrong’s barber found out that people would pay good money to get a lock of his hair. So after giving the space hero several haircuts, he sold the clippings to a buyer for $3,000! Armstrong was shocked at the barber’s opportunism.
The Scriptures tell of another story of disloyalty and a haircut. As a symbol of God’s calling of Samson as a Nazirite, he was never to cut his hair (Judg. 13:5). When the Spirit of God came upon him, he was given super-human strength over his enemies (15:14). Wanting to overpower him, the Philistines hired Delilah, a woman who had a relationship with him, to find out the secret of that strength. He foolishly told her that his power would be gone if his hair were cut. She lulled him to sleep and had him shorn (16:5,19).
Greed can drive us to be disloyal to others and to God, causing us to make sinful choices. Our desire should be to exhibit a heart that is fully committed to love the Lord and others. He shows “Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chron. 16:9).

O Lord, may my heart be loyal to You
In all that I say and all that I do;
When a trusted person is not a true friend,
I know that on You I can always depend. —Hess
Loyalty is the test of true love.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Well-Chosen Words

Read: 1 Corinthians 2:1-9
[I] did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. —1 Corinthians 2:1

When I was a kid, I learned a big word that was fun to pronounce: “antidisestablishmentarianism.” What a mouthful! I recently took the time to look it up. The dictionary defines it as “the doctrine or political position that opposes the withdrawal of state recognition of an established church.”

The definition is almost as difficult as the term itself. Neither I nor my school friends knew what it meant. But using the big word made me look knowledgeable.
When the apostle Paul ministered to people, he didn’t try to impress others. In his letter to the Corinthians, he wrote: “When I came to you, [I] did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God” (1 Cor. 2:1). “Excellence of speech” is the translation of Greek words meaning “high-sounding words” or “pompous speech.” This implies using words to exalt self instead of to instruct others. Paul was a brilliant scholar who expressed the deep things of God in Scripture. Yet he did not use lofty language to elevate his self-importance.
As we grow in our understanding of God’s Word, let’s follow Paul’s example and guard against parading knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Instead, let’s use well-chosen words that build up and encourage others.

The words we speak may indicate
A heart that’s filled with pride;
But godly self-control displays
The Spirit’s work inside. —Sper

It’s not the words we know that show wisdom,
but how and when we use them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hoarding Or Helping?

World War II
World War II,
originally uploaded by Paperback_Writer.
Read: Isaiah 58:6-12
If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness. —Isaiah 58:10

In August 1914, when Britain entered World War I, Oswald Chambers was 40 years old with a wife and a 1-year-old daughter. It wasn’t long before men were joining the army at the rate of 30,000 a day, people were asked to sell their automobiles and farm horses to the government, and lists of the dead and wounded began appearing in daily newspapers. The nation faced economic uncertainty and peril.
A month into the war, Chambers spoke of the spiritual challenge facing followers of Christ: “We must take heed that in the present calamities, when war and devastation and heart-break are abroad in the world, we do not shut ourselves up in a world of our own and ignore the demand made on us by our Lord and our fellowmen for the service of intercessory prayer and hospitality and care.”
God’s call to His people rings true in every age: “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday” (Isa. 58:10).
Fear causes us to grasp what we have; faith in God opens our hands and hearts to others. We walk in His light when we help others, not hoard for ourselves.

Give me a heart sympathetic and tender—
Jesus, like Thine, Jesus, like Thine—
Touched by the needs that are surging around me,
And filled with compassion divine. —Anon.
As Christ’s love grows in us, His love flows from us.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Safely Secured

courtesy of flicker.com and originally uploadedby ron iterationRead: Romans 8:35-39
Abide in My love. —John 15:9

On a whim, I bought a red foil balloon at the grocery store. The message “I Love You” streamed across the front in billowy script. As I was loading bags into my car, the balloon’s string slid            
            through my fingers. I stood there watching it float away, and soon it was nothing more than a tiny red dot—finally, just a memory.
Losing that balloon reminded me of the way love sometimes vanishes from lives. Children rebel and distance themselves; spouses or loved ones desert; close friends stop calling.
I’m so thankful that God’s love is steady; it can sustain us when love here on earth drifts away. In fact, it’s so reliable that Jesus invites us to abide in His love (John 15:9). He wants us to know it’s okay to settle in and get comfortable.
We can always remain in God’s tender embrace because “neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come” (Rom. 8:38), or anything else, can ever separate us from His love through Christ. Once we trust Christ as Savior, the guarantee of God’s love is ours forever.
Have you watched love disappear from your life? Rest in God’s affection—His constant care will keep your heart safely secured.

More secure is no one ever
Than the loved ones of the Savior
Not yon star on high abiding
Nor the bird in home-nest hiding. —Berg
Our salvation is secure because God’s Word is sure.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Helping Hand

She reaches out her hands to the needy. —Proverbs 31:20

In the 1930s, jockey Johnny Longden was rammed in mid-race. While thundering steeds came up from behind, Johnny was thrown sideways off his horse. Seeing his predicament, another jockey reached out and attempted to push Longden back up on his mount. Unfortunately, he pushed too hard and Longden flew over the horse onto the other side. Still another jockey nearby grabbed him and was able to help him safely back on his horse. Amazingly, Johnny Longden won the race! A newspaper dubbed it “the ultimate impossibility.” Helping hands had not only saved him from severe injury and possible death, but allowed him to win the race.
As believers, we are to offer a helping hand to others as well. In Proverbs 31, we read of the virtuous woman who “extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy” (v.20). For centuries, the compassion of this woman of faith has been an inspiration to both men and women. She helps to remind us that extending ourselves to others is a biblical virtue to be exhibited by all believers.
There are many who are struggling or have fallen on hard times and need our assistance. Who in your life needs a helping hand?

Your faith in God is proven when
You serve as one who cares;
Faith finds a way to love and help—
Puts action to your prayers. —Hess
God often sends His help by way of human hands.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Read: Mark 2:13-17

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. —Mark 2:17

When people ask Michael St. Jacques, a Franciscan brother, what he’s wearing, he says, “It’s called a habit.” He wears the distinctive brown robe for a definite reason. St. Jacques toldHemispheres magazine, “We have the choice to wear it, and a lot of us make a real effort to because it acts as a magnet. People tell me things they’ve never told anyone. Complete strangers will confess something they did 30 years ago and ask if God can forgive them.” You might say that Michael is clothed in “approachability.”
Throughout the Gospels, we find that all types of people approached Jesus wherever He went. They came to be taught, helped, healed, accepted, and forgiven. When some criticized Jesus for associating with tax collectors and sinners, people they considered undesirable, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17).
Do people see us as aloof or accessible? When we become so focused on our own plans that we have no time for others, we are not clothed with the spirit of Christ.
When the Savior lives through us, His open arms invite people to open their hearts and unburden their souls.

Our world around us surges—duties vie
For all our time, our energies, our care;
But greater duty urges; don’t pass by
A hurting heart whose burden we may share. —Gustafson
Being available for the needs of others honors Christ.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why Is There Color?

Read: Psalm 19:1-6

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. —Psalm 19:1

Why do some trees turn into a collage of radiant maroon, red, orange, and yellow colors in the fall? Trees are green in the summer because chlorophyll, a green pigment in the leaves, absorbs red and blue light from the sun. The light reflected from the leaves appears green to our eyes.
Chlorophyll is an unstable substance, and bright sunlight causes it to decompose rapidly. Therefore, plants must continuously synthesize and regenerate it. The shortening days and cool nights of autumn, however, interfere with this process. As chlorophyll breaks down, the green colors of the leaves begin to fade. Some trees change from green to bright yellow as the chlorophyll degrades. In others, the action of sugar in the leaves creates a red pigment, causing the leaves to turn maroon, purple, and bright red as the chlorophyll fades.
But why do we have color? It seems to serve no practical purpose—at least none that scientists can discern. And why are there photoreceptors in our eyes that enable us to see it?
I believe that God’s goodness is the point of His creation. He is “good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Ps. 145:9). He colored the world for our childlike delight. He’s like that, you know.

God, the engineer of all creation,
Spoke the word, and beauty was begun,
Then He gave to us His great salvation
Through the sacrifice of His own Son. —Hess
God’s glory shines through His creation.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Visible Reminders

Read: Colossians 3:1-10

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. —Colossians 3:2

What’s the first image you see when you turn on your computer? Maybe it’s a family portrait or a special vacation picture. Or perhaps your favorite pro athlete.
How about an artist’s rendition of Jesus? A man once wrote to me about his lengthy battle with pornography—a disheartening cycle that punctuated seasons of victory with crushing forays back into an online world of empty lust. Finally, he found that putting a visible reminder of Jesus in the corner of his computer screen helped him achieve lasting victory. That constant reminder of the One who set him free caused the offensive Web sites to lose their appeal. The man wasn’t tapping into some gigabyte good-luck charm. He was giving himself a simple reminder of the teaching of Colossians 3 where Paul says, “put to death . . . fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness” (v.5).
When we turn our eyes toward Jesus, He becomes a powerful reminder that our old life “died, and [our] life is hidden with Christ in God” (v.3). Whether it’s a verse taped to the dashboard of your car or a picture on your computer, choose a tangible way to lift your thoughts into the presence of Jesus.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace. —Lemmel
The best way to keep sin at a distance is to make sure Jesus stands between you and temptation.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. —John 6:66

Popularity is fickle. Just ask a politician. Many of them watch their ratings to see how their constituents view their policies. They may start with a high rating, but then it steadily declines during their term.
Jesus also experienced a sharp decline in popularity. His popularity reached its peak after He fed the 5,000 (John 6:14-15). It plummeted when He told His listeners that He had “come down from heaven” (v.38). Their response to His stupendous claim was, essentially, Who does this guy think He is?! (see v.41).
Jesus’ popularity continued to dip when He explained how they could have Him as spiritual bread (vv.51-52). Perplexed by what they heard, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” (v.60). As a result, many left Him.
The crowds followed Jesus conditionally. They were happy only as long as Jesus supplied their needs and met their wants. They balked when He asked for commitment.
Jesus’ question to His disciples was “Do you also want to go away?” (v.67). Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (v.68). Will you, like Peter, choose to ignore the world’s rating of Jesus and follow Him daily?

Those searching to know life’s true meaning
Can find it in only one way:
By serving the Lord with commitment,
And living for Him day by day. —Branon
Commitment to Christ is a daily calling that challenges us.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hold My Hand

      Read: Deuteronomy 31:1-8

The waves of Lake Michigan were high and splashing onto the pier one day as I followed a young family out to a lighthouse. I overheard the young girl say to her father: “Daddy, please walk alongside me and hold my hand at this scary part.”
Sometimes life can be scary for us too: Loss of loved ones. Financial woes. Health problems. As we carry these heavy burdens and cares, we long for a strong hand to hold oukeep us steady and secure.
When Joshua took over the leadership of Israel, Moses reminded him of God’s help in tough times. In the difficult days to come, Joshua would need to remember to trust God and His promises. Moses said, “The Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8).
Isaiah 41:13 encourages us with these words from God: “I, the Lordyour God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’ ” When life gets scary, God is with us, we can hold His strong hand.
This song by Lowell Alexander reminds us of God’s presence: “You will face mountains so steep, deserts so long, and valleys so deep. Sometimes the journey’s gentle, sometimes the cold winds blow. But I want you to remember, I want you to know you will never walk alone. . . . Jesus will be right beside you all the way.” He’ll walk alongside us and hold our hand at the “scary” parts.

Fears flee in the light of God’s presence.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Itinerary Of Redemption

Read: Philippians 2:1-11

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who . . . made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant. —Philippians 2:5-7

In his book The First Man, James Hansen chronicles Neil Armstrong’s flight to the moon. The author explains how each astronaut was asked to fill out a report upon completion of the flight. The report listed how they traveled from Houston, Texas, to Cape Kennedy, Florida, to the Moon, to the Pacific Ocean, to Hawaii, and returned to Houston, Texas. What a list of destinations!
There is another itinerary that outshines any trip ever taken. Imagine this itinerary of our Savior, Jesus Christ: Place of origin—the heavenly places; Initial destination—Bethlehem; Mode of travel—the virgin birth; Reason for travel—the redemption of sinners; Return destination—the right hand of the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11 eloquently describes Christ’s coming to earth to provide our redemption. One Bible commentator considers this passage a hymn of praise to the glory of the Suffering Servant who became exalted for His obedience: “Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, . . . humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death . . . . Therefore God also has highly exalted Him” (vv.5-9).
Our Lord’s extraordinary itinerary of redemption should fill our hearts with gratitude and praise!

Our gracious redemption was carefully planned,
The gulf between heaven and earth has been spanned,
The portals are open, the passage is free,
Oh, wondrous salvation, it’s even for me! —Johnson
God broke into human history to offer us the gift of eternal life.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Right Help

Read: Psalm 18:6-13

In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; . . . my cry came before Him, even to His ears. —Psalm 18:6

On a recent radio program, the hosts spoke with a “crisis management” expert about how a celebrity can recover from a public relations disaster. This specialist said one of the keys was to build strong allies who can help the star rehabilitate his or her image. In other words, it is vital when in trouble to get the right help.
That is wise counsel, for at the heart of all crisis management is recognizing that we can’t accomplish everything on our own. Some challenges are too big. Some mountains are too high. In our own seasons of crisis, it is critical that we have help. That’s why it’s comforting to know that we have the strongest ally possible.
King David knew about that ally. In Psalm 18:6, he affirmed, “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears.” There is no greater help in our time of need than God. He alone can carry us through the trials and crises of life, and we have His word that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5).
When crisis hits, we don’t have to stand alone. We have the right help. We can depend on God to be the greatest ally we could ever know. Lean on Him.

When a crisis looms before you,
Don’t face it on your own;
Seek advice from godly counsel,
And take it to God’s throne. —Sper
Our greatest hope here below is to get help from God above.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Keeping Busy?

Read: Matthew 11:25-30

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

People who are trying to be friendly sometimes ask, “Are you keeping busy?” The question seems harmless, but in my mind it carries a subtle message. Beneath the surface is a test of personal value. If I can’t rattle off a list of things I have to do, I feel as if I’m admitting that I’m not worth much.
But does God determine our value by how busy we are? Does He calculate our worth by how much we accomplish? Does He reward us for living on the edge of exhaustion and not taking care of ourselves?
One of the first verses I learned as a child was Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” It didn’t mean much to me at the time because I didn’t understand weariness. But now that I’m older, I feel the temptation to keep pace with the world so I won’t be left behind.
But followers of Jesus don’t have to live like that. Not only has He released us from slavery to sin but also from the bondage of having to prove our worth.
Accomplishing a lot for God may make us feel important, but whatmakes us important to God is what we allow Him to accomplish in us—conforming us into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-30).

Christ never asks of us such busy labor
As leaves no time for resting at His feet;
The waiting attitude of expectation
He often counts as service most complete. —Anon.
Our value is not measured by what we do for God but by what He has done in us.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Celebrating Together

Read: 1 Cor. 11:23-26
For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. —1 Cor. 11:26

Many churches celebrate the first Sunday in October as World Communion Sunday. It is a time to observe the Lord’s Supper with a special awareness of celebrating together with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe. On this day, being with a community of believers has become very meaningful to me.
One year, however, I found myself in an airport with a long flight ahead and no opportunity to attend church on that day. Sitting alone, I read the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, along with the passages describing Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Then from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, I pondered the words so often read at communion services: “The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread . . .” (v.23). With some common elements to represent the bread and the cup, I observed the Lord’s death for us, feeling a deep kinship with those followers of Christ in many places who are unable or forbidden to gather with others in worship.
Whatever your location and circumstances today, may you find joy and strength in remembering the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (v.26).

When Christians join in blessed fellowship
Commemorating Jesus’ sacrifice,
They sense a common bond of unity
Because for every race He paid the price. —Hess
Celebrating Christ together brings strength and joy.