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Showing posts from September, 2019

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The Valley of VisionJonah 2:1-10
I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you.(Jonah 2:7) The Puritan prayer “The Valley of Vision” speaks of the distance between a sinful man and his holy God. The man says to God, “Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision . . . ; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.” Aware of his wrongs, the man still has hope. He continues, “Stars can be seen from the deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine.” Finally, the poem ends with a request: “Let me find Thy light in my darkness, . . . Thy glory in my valley.” Jonah found God’s glory during his time in the ocean’s depths. He rebelled against God and ended up in a fish’s stomach, overcome by his sin. There, Jonah cried to God: “You cast me into the deep . . . . The waters surrounded me, even to my soul” (Jonah 2:3,5 nkjv). Despite his situation, Jonah said, “I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you” (v. 7). God heard his prayer and caused the fish to free…

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Piercing the DarknessIsaiah 60:19-22
The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.(Isaiah 60:19) I caught my first glimpse of them as a college student. On a frosty, fall night, far from the lights of the city, I was riding on a hay wagon loaded with noisy friends when the sky lit up and colors flashed across the horizon. I was mesmerized. Ever since that night I have been fascinated with the phenomenon called aurora borealis, also known as northern lights. Mostly they are seen far north of where I live, but occasionally they appear in lower latitudes. Having seen them once, I long to see more. Whenever the conditions are favorable, I say to my equally fascinated friends, “Maybe tonight . . .” Throughout Scripture, light and glory are used to describe the coming of the Lord. A time is coming when the sun and moon will be unnecessary (Isa. 60:19). And in describing God on His throne, the apostle John wrote, “The one who sat there had the appearance of jasper an…

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Give It AwayPhilippians 2:19-30
I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, . . . whom you sent to take care of my needs.(Phil 2:25) Many charities that help people with various needs depend on donations of unwanted clothing and household items from those who have more than enough. And it’s good to give away unused things so they can benefit others. But we are often more reluctant to part with things of value that we use every day. When Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he needed continuing encouragement and the companionship of trusted friends. Yet he sent two of his closest comrades to help the followers of Jesus in Philippi (Phil. 2:19-30). “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon . . . . I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare” (vv. 19-20). And, “I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs” (v. 25). Paul f…

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Consider the PoorMatthew 25:31-40
The righteous considers the cause of the poor.(Proverbs 29:7) The year was 1780, and Robert Raikes had a burden for the poor, illiterate children in his London neighborhood. He noticed that nothing was being done to help these children, so he set out to make a difference. He hired some women to set up schools for them on Sunday. Using the Bible as their textbook, the teachers taught the poorest children of London to read and introduced them to the wisdom of the Bible. Soon about 100 children were attending these classes and enjoying lunch in a safe, clean environment. These “Sunday schools,” as they were soon called, eventually touched the lives of thousands of boys and girls. By 1831, Sunday schools in Great Britain reached more than a million children—all because one man understood this truth: “The righteous considers the cause of the poor” (Prov. 29:7 nkjv). It’s no secret that Jesus cares greatly for those who struggle. In Matthew 25, He suggests that…

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A Matter Of TrustPsalms 5 Let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them.(Psalms 5:11) A news item from Australia told the story of Pascale Honore, a paraplegic woman who, after 18 years of being confined to a wheelchair, has taken up surfing. How? Ty Swan, a young surfer, straps her to his back with duct tape. After getting the balance perfect, Ty paddles out into the ocean so they can catch a wave and Pascale can experience the exhilaration of surfing. This requires a tremendous amount of trust; so many things could go wrong. Yet her confidence in Ty is enough to enable her to enjoy a dream come true, in spite of the danger. Life is like that for the follower of Christ. We live in a dangerous world, filled with unpredictable challenges and unseen perils. Yet, we have joy because we know Someone who is strong enough to carry us through the churning waves of life that threaten to overwhelm us. The psalmist wrote, “Let all those rejoi…

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First StepsRomans 8:14-17
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.(Romans 8:16) A friend stopped me the other day with some exciting news and then spent 10 minutes describing for me the first steps of her 1-year-old nephew. He could walk! Later I realized how bizarre we might have sounded to an eavesdropper. Most people can walk. What was the big deal? It struck me that childhood provides a quality of specialness that nearly vanishes for the rest of life. Thinking about our treatment of children gave me further appreciation for the fact that God chooses the word picture of “children” to describe our relationship with Him. The New Testament announces that we are God’s children, with all the rights and privileges of worthy heirs (Rom. 8:16-17). Jesus (the “one and only” Son of God) came, we’re told, to make possible our adoption as sons and daughters in God’s family. I imagine God views each halting step forward in my spiritual “walk” with the eagerness of a …

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No Wonder!Song of Solomon 1:1-4
We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) “He’s perfect for you,” my friend told me. She was talking about a guy she had just met. She described his kind eyes, his kind smile, and his kind heart. When I met him I had to agree. Today he’s my husband, and no wonder I love him! In the Song of Solomon the bride describes her lover. His love is better than wine and more fragrant than ointments. His name is sweeter than anything in this world. So she concludes that it’s no wonder he is loved. But there is Someone far greater than any earthly loved one, Someone whose love is also better than wine. His love satisfies our every need. His “fragrance” is better than any perfume because when He gave Himself for us, His sacrifice became a sweet-smelling aroma to God (Eph. 5:2). Finally, His name is above every name (Phil. 2:9). No wonder we love Him! It is a privilege to love Jesus. It is the best experience in life! Do we take the time to tell Him so? Do we e…

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Repeat WarningsGalatians 1:6-10
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.(Gal 1:6) “Caution, the moving walkway is ending. Caution, the moving walkway is ending.” If you’ve ever used an automated walkway at an airport, you’ve heard this kind of announcement repeatedly. Why do airports repeat this announcement over and over? To ensure safety and to protect them from liability if someone were to be injured. Repeated announcements can be annoying, but they do have value. As a matter of fact, the apostle Paul thought repeating a warning was so vital that he did it in the text of Galatians. But his statement had value far beyond the danger of tripping at the airport. Paul warned them not to listen to, nor believe, him or an angel from heaven if they preached “any other gospel” than what they had already heard (1:8). In the next verse, Paul said it again. It was a warning worth repeating. The Galatians had begun to believe …

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Medieval MealPsalm 19:7-14
How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalms 119:103) A while ago I attended a conference on the Middle Ages. In one seminar we actually prepared several foods that would have been common in medieval times. We used pestle and mortar to grind cinnamon and fruit to make jam. We cut orange rinds and broiled them with honey and ginger to produce a sweet snack. We crushed almonds with water and other ingredients to create almond milk. And, finally, we prepared a whole chicken to serve as a main dish with rice. As we sampled these dishes, we enjoyed a tasty culinary experience. When it comes to spiritual food for our souls, God has given us a varied menu that we can chew on and savor. In doing so, we can be filled and satisfied. The historic books, poetry, wisdom literature, prophecy, and other parts of the Bible strengthen us when we are weak, give us wisdom and encouragement, and nourish us for the day’s journey (Ps. 19:7-14; 119:97…

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Rooted2 Chronicles 24:15-22
Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest. (2 Chroni 24:2) Joash must have been confused and frightened when he was told about the evil deeds of his grandmother Athaliah. She had murdered his brothers to usurp the power of the throne in Judah. But baby Joash had been safely hidden away by his aunt and uncle for 6 years (2 Chron. 22:10-12). As he grew, he enjoyed the love and instruction of his caregivers. When Joash was only 7 years old, he was secretly crowned king and his grandmother was overthrown (23:12-15). Young King Joash had a wise counselor by his side—his very own Uncle Jehoiada (chs. 22–25). Joash was one of the rare “good kings” of Judah, and while his uncle was alive he obeyed the Lord by doing right (24:2). But once his uncle was no longer there to teach and lead by example, Joash fell away and his life ended badly (24:15-25). It seems that the roots of his faith did not run very deep. He even began to …

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On Being KnownJames 5:16-20
I acknowledged my sin to You . . . . I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalms 32:5) One of the most difficult inner conflicts we have is our desire to be known versus our fear of being known. As beings created in the image of God we are made to be known—known by God and also by others. Yet due to our fallen nature, all of us have sins and weaknesses that we don’t want others to know about. We use the phrase “dark side” to refer to aspects of our lives that we keep hidden. And we use slogans like “put your best foot forward” to encourage others to show their best side. One reason we are unwilling to risk being known is that we fear rejection and ridicule. But when we discover that God knows us, loves us, and is willing to forgive even the worst thing we have done, our fear of being known by God begins to fade away. And when we find a community of believers who understands the dynamic relationship be…

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2 A.M. FriendsColossians 4:2-15
He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.(Colossians 4:12) A friend told me about a group of people who share a strong bond of faith in Christ. One of them, a 93-year-old woman, said, “I feel like I can call any of you at 2 a.m., and I don’t even have to apologize if I feel the need for any type of assistance.” Whether the need is prayer, practical help, or someone to be there during a time of need, these friends are unconditionally committed to each other. The same sense of commitment shines through Paul’s letter to the followers of Jesus in Colossae. Writing from prison in Rome, Paul says he is sending Tychicus and Onesimus to encourage them (Col. 4:7-9). Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus send their greetings (vv.10-11). And Epaphras is “always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (v. 12). These are bold assurances of pr…

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Giving It To GodMark 10:17-22
[He] went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:22) A hero to a generation of people who grew up after World War II, Corrie ten Boom left a legacy of godliness and wisdom. A victim of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, she survived to tell her story of faith and dependence on God during horrendous suffering. “I have held many things in my hands,” Corrie once said, “and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that, I still possess.” Corrie was well acquainted with loss. She lost family, possessions, and years of her life to hateful people. Yet she learned to concentrate on what could be gained spiritually and emotionally by putting everything in the hands of her heavenly Father. What does that mean to us? What should we place in God’s hands for safekeeping? According to the story of the rich young man in Mark 10, everything. He held abundance in his hands, but when Jesus asked him to give it up, he refused. He kept…

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A Heart For PrayerPsalms 27:7-14
When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” (Psalms 27:8) While traveling on an airplane with her 4- and 2-year-old daughters, a young mom worked at keeping them busy so they wouldn’t disturb others. When the pilot’s voice came over the intercom for an announcement, Catherine, the younger girl, paused from her activities and put her head down. When the pilot finished, she whispered, “Amen.” Perhaps because there had been a recent natural disaster, she thought the pilot was praying. Like that little girl, I want a heart that turns my thoughts toward prayer quickly. I think it would be fair to say that the psalmist David had that kind of heart. We get hints of that in Psalm 27 as he speaks of facing difficult foes (v.2). He said, “Your face, Lord, I will seek” (v.8). Some say that David was remembering the time he was fleeing from Saul (1 Sam. 21:10) or from his son Absalom (2 Sam. 15:13-14) when he wrote this psalm.…

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God’s CompassPsalms 119:105-112
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.(Psalms 119:105)
During World War II, small compasses saved the lives of 27 sailors 300 miles off the coast of North Carolina. Waldemar Semenov, a retired merchant seaman, was serving as a junior engineer aboard the SS Alcoa Guide when a German submarine surfaced and opened fire on the ship. The ship was hit, caught fire, and began to sink. Semenov and his crew lowered compass-equipped lifeboats into the water and used the compasses to guide them toward the shipping lanes closer to shore. After three days, the men were rescued. The psalmist reminded God’s people that His Word was a trustworthy “compass.” He likened it to a lamp. In that day, the flickering light cast by an olive oil lamp was only bright enough to show a traveler his next step. To the psalmist, God’s Word was such a lamp, providing enough light to illuminate the path for those pursuing God (Ps. 119:105). When the psalmist was wandering in …

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Gentle JesusMatthew 18:1-10
Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.(Matthew 18:3) Charles Wesley (1707–1788) was a Methodist evangelist who wrote more than 9,000 hymns and sacred poems. Some, like “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” are great, soaring hymns of praise. But his poem “Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild,” first published in 1742, is a child’s quiet prayer that captures the essence of how all of us should seek the Lord in sincere, simple faith. Loving Jesus, gentle Lamb, In Thy gracious hands I am; Make me, Savior, what Thou art, Live Thyself within my heart. When some followers of Jesus were jockeying for position in His kingdom, the Lord “called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matt. 18:2-3). Not many children seek position or power. Instead, they want accepta…

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Think Of Them No MoreIsaiah 43:22-28
I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.(Isaiah 43:25) My early years as a believer in Christ were laden with foreboding. I had the impression that when Jesus comes back, all my sins will be portrayed on a giant screen for everyone to see. I know now that God chooses not to remember against me a single one of my transgressions. Every sin has been buried in the deepest sea, never to be exhumed and examined again. Amy Carmichael wrote, “A day or two ago I was thinking rather sadly of the past—so many sins and failures and lapses of every kind. I was reading Isaiah 43, and in verse 24 I saw myself: ‘You have wearied me with your iniquities.’ And then for the first time I noticed that there is no space between verse 24 and verse 25: ‘I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.’” Indeed, when our Lord comes back He will “bring to light the…

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The Small Giant1 Samuel 17:32-37
The Lord . . . will deliver me.(1 Samuel 17:37) The towering enemy strides into the Valley of Elah. He stands 9 feet tall, and his coat of armor, made of many small bronze plates, glimmers in the sunlight. The shaft of his spear is wrapped with cords so it can spin through the air and be thrown with greater distance and accuracy. Goliath looks invincible. But David knows better. While Goliath may look like a giant and act like a giant, in contrast to the living God he is small. David has a right view of God and therefore a right view of the circumstances. He sees Goliath as one who is defying the armies of the living God (1 Sam. 17:26). He confidently appears before Goliath in his shepherd’s clothes, armed with only his staff, five stones, and a sling. His confidence is not in what he has but in who is with him (v.45). What “Goliath” are you facing right now? It may be an impossible situation at work, a financial difficulty, or a broken relationship. With …