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Showing posts from October, 2019

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

What Love IsRomans 5:1-8
God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Years ago I asked a young man who was engaged to be married, “How do you know that you love her?” It was a loaded question, intended to help him look at his heart’s motives for the upcoming marriage. After several thoughtful moments, he responded, “I know I love her because I want to spend the rest of my life making her happy.” We discussed what that meant—and the price tag attached to the selflessness of constantly seeking the best for the other person, rather than putting ourselves first. Real love has a lot to do with sacrifice. That idea is in line with the wisdom of the Bible. In the Scriptures there are several Greek words for love but the highest form is agape love—love that is defined and driven by self-sacrifice. Nowhere is this more true than in the love our heavenly Father has shown us in Christ. We are deeply valued by Him. Paul stated, “God d…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Music And Megaphone2 Corinthians 3:17-4:7
We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.(2 Cor 4:7) Christopher Locke buys old trumpets, trombones, and French horns and transforms them into acoustic amplifiers for iPhones and iPads. His creations are modeled on the trumpetlike speakers used in the first phonographs during the late 1800s. Music played through Christopher’s AnalogTelePhonographers has a “louder, cleaner, richer, deeper sound” than what is heard from the small speakers in the digital devices. Along with being interesting works of art, these salvaged brass instruments require no electrical power as they amplify the music people love to hear. Paul’s words to the followers of Jesus in Corinth remind us today that in living for Christ and sharing Him with others, we are not the music but only a megaphone. “For we do not preach ourselves,” Paul wrote, “but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ s…

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ShadowedJeremiah 42:1-12
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Psalms 27:1) Someone was shadowing me. In a darkened hallway, I turned the corner to go up a flight of stairs and was alarmed by what I saw, stopping dead in my tracks. It happened again a few days later. I came around the back of a favorite coffee shop and saw the large shape of a person coming at me. Both incidents ended with a smile, however. I’d been frightened by my own shadow! The prophet Jeremiah talked about the difference between real and imagined fears. A group of his Jewish countrymen asked him to find out whether the Lord wanted them to stay in Jerusalem or return to Egypt for safety because they feared the king of Babylon (Jer. 42:1-3). Jeremiah told them that if they stayed and trusted God, they didn’t need to be afraid (vv.10-12). But if they returned to Egypt, the king of Babylon would find them (vv.15-16). In a world of real dangers, God had given Israel reason to trust Him in Jerusalem. H…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

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Working For The WindEcclesiastes 5:10-17
What profit has he who has labored for the wind?(Ecc 5:16) Howard Levitt lost his $200,000 Ferrari on a flooded Toronto highway. He had driven into what seemed like a puddle before realizing that the water was much deeper and rising quickly. When the water reached the Ferrari’s fenders, its 450-horsepower engine seized. Thankfully he was able to escape the car and get to high ground. Howard’s soggy sports car reminds me of Solomon’s observation that “riches perish through misfortune” (Eccl. 5:14). Natural disasters, theft, and accidents may claim our dearest belongings. Even if we manage to protect them, we certainly can’t haul them with us to heaven (v.15). Solomon asked, “What profit has he who has labored for the wind?” (v.16). There is futility in working only to acquire belongings that will ultimately disappear. There is something that doesn’t spoil and we can “take with us.” It is possible to store up eternal heavenly treasure. Pursuing virtu…

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New To The FamilyLuke 15:3-7
There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.(Luke 15:7) While on a ministry trip with a Christian high school chorale to Jamaica, we witnessed an illustration of God’s love in action. On the day we visited an orphanage for disabled children and teens, we learned that Donald, one of the boys our kids had interacted with—a teen with cerebral palsy—was going to be adopted. When the adopting couple arrived at the “base” where we were staying, it was a joy to talk to them about Donald. But what was even better was what happened later. We were at the base when Donald and his new parents arrived just after they had picked him up at the orphanage. As the brand-new mom embraced her son, our students gathered around her and sang praise songs. Tears flowed. Tears of joy. And Donald was beaming! Later, one of the students said to me, “This reminds me of what it must be like in heaven when someone i…

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

All TogetherPsalms 98:1-9
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. (Psalms 98:4) For years my wife’s piano and my banjo had an uncomfortable and infrequent relationship. Then, after Janet bought me a new guitar for my birthday, she expressed an interest in learning to play my old guitar. She is a very capable musician, and soon we were, together, playing songs of praise on our guitars. I like to think that a new kind of “praise connection” has filled our home. When the psalmist was inspired to write of worshiping God, he began with this exhortation: “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises” (Ps. 98:4). He called for us to “sing to the Lord” with instruments such as harps and trumpets and horns (vv.5-6). He commanded all of the earth to “shout joyfully to the Lord” (v.4). In this mighty orchestration of praise, the rolling sea is to roar with exaltation, the rivers are to clap their hands, …

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First ResponseJames 5:13-16
Be anxious for nothing, but . . . let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God . . . will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.(Philippians 4:6-7) When my husband, Tom, was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery, I began to call family members. My sister and her husband came right away to be with me, and we prayed as we waited. Tom’s sister listened to my anxious voice on the phone and immediately said, “Cindy, can I pray with you?” When my pastor and his wife arrived, he too prayed for us (James 5:13-16). Oswald Chambers wrote: “We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.” At its root, prayer is simply a conversation with God, spoken in the expectation that God hears and answers. Prayer should not be a last resort. In His Word, God encourages us to engage Him in prayer (Phil. 4:6). W…

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Tiny Island
Titus 3:1-7
Speak evil of no one, . . . be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.(Titus 3:2)Singapore is a tiny island. It’s so small that one can hardly spot it on the world map. (Try it, if you don’t already know where Singapore is.) Because it is densely populated, consideration of others is especially important. A man wrote to his fiancĂ©e who was coming to Singapore for the first time: “Space is limited. Therefore . . . you must always have that sense of space around you. You should always step aside to ensure you are not blocking anyone. The key is to be considerate.” The apostle Paul wrote to Titus, a young pastor: “Remind the people . . . to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:1-2 niv). It has been said, “Our lives may be the only Bible some people read.” The world knows that Christians are supposed to be different. If we are cantankerous, sel…

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Clean The ClosetPsalms 139:13-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart.(Psalms 139:23) To this day I can still hear my mother telling me to go and clean up my room. Dutifully, I would go to my room to start the process, only to get distracted by reading the comic book that I was supposed to put neatly in the stack. But soon the distraction was interrupted by my mother warning that she would be up in 5 minutes to inspect the room. Unable to effectively clean the room in that time, I would proceed to hide everything I didn’t know what to do with in the closet, make the bed, and then wait for her to come in—hoping that she wouldn’t look in the closet. This reminds me of what many of us do with our lives. We clean up the outside of our lives hoping that no one will look into the “closet” where we have hidden our sins by rationalization and excuses and by blaming others for our own faults. The problem is that while looking good on the outside, we remain well aware of the mess on the inside. The …

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One Who UnderstandsPsalms 139:7-12
The Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. (1 Chr 28:9) My friend’s husband was in the last stages of dementia. In his first introduction to the nurse who was assigned to care for him, he reached out for her arm and stopped her. He said he wanted to introduce her to his best friend—one who loved him deeply. Since no one else was in the hall, the nurse thought he was delusional. But as it turned out he was speaking of Jesus. She was deeply touched but had to hurry on to care for another patient. When she returned, the darkness had closed in again and the man was no longer lucid. Even though this man had descended into the darkness of dementia, he knew that the Lord was his best Friend. God dwells in the fathomless depth that is our soul. He can pierce the darkest mind and assure us of His tender, loving care. Indeed, the darkness shall not hide us from Him (Ps. 139:12). We do not know what the future holds for us or those …

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Undeserved PraiseLuke 5:27-32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.(Luke 5:32) Even before I could afford a self-cleaning oven, I managed to keep my oven clean. Guests even commented on it when we had them over for a meal. “Wow, your oven is so clean. It looks like new.” I accepted the praise even though I knew I didn’t deserve it. The reason my oven was clean had nothing to do with my meticulous scrubbing; it was clean because I so seldom used it. How often, I wonder, am I guilty of accepting undeserved admiration for my “clean” life? It’s easy to give the impression of being virtuous; simply do nothing difficult, controversial, or upsetting to people. But Jesus said we are to love people who don’t agree with us, who don’t share our values, who don’t even like us. Love requires that we get involved in the messy situations of people’s lives. Jesus was frequently in trouble with religious leaders who were more concerned about keeping their own reputations clea…

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A War Of WordsProverbs 15:1-23 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1) On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in response to the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie. Within 90 days, other European countries had taken sides to honor their military alliances and pursue their own ambitions. A single event escalated into World War I, one of the most destructive military conflicts of modern time. The tragedy of war is staggering, yet our relationships and families can begin to fracture with only a few hateful words. James wrote, “See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” (James 3:5). A key to avoiding verbal conflict is found in Proverbs: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1). A small comment can start a large fight. When we, by God’s grace, choose not to retaliate with our words, we honor Jesus our Savior. When He was abused and insulted, He fulfilled the prophetic w…

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The Right FoundationMatthew 7:24–29 Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock. (Matthew 7:24) “I’ve got bad news for you,” said the builder, who was renovating an old house I had inherited. “When we started to convert the back half of the garage for your office, we found that the walls had almost no foundation. We will have to demolish them, dig proper foundations, and start again.” “Do you have to do that?” I pleaded, silently calculating the extra cost. “Can’t you just patch it up?” But the builder was adamant. “Unless we go down to the proper depth, the building inspector won’t approve it. The right foundation is vital.” The right foundation makes the difference between something that lasts and something temporary. Jesus knew that though foundations are invisible, they are vitally important to the strength and stability of the house (Matt. 7:24-25), especially when it is battered by the elements. He also knew the …

Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

A Genuine Friend1 Samuel 20:32-42
Two are better than one. (Ecclesiastes 4:9) In the novel Shane, a friendship forms between Joe Starrett, a farmer on the American frontier, and Shane, a mysterious man who stops to rest at the Starrett home. The men first bond as they work together to remove a giant tree stump from Joe’s land. The relationship deepens as Joe rescues Shane from a fight and Shane helps Joe improve and guard his farmland. The men share a sense of mutual respect and loyalty that reflects what Scripture says: “Two are better than one . . . . If they fall, one will lift up his companion” (Eccl. 4:9-10). Jonathan and David modeled this principle as well. Circumstances tested their friendship when David suspected that King Saul wanted him dead. Jonathan doubted this, but David believed it to be true (1 Sam. 20:2-3). Eventually, they decided David would hide in a field while Jonathan questioned his father about the matter. When Saul’s deadly intent became clear, the friends wept …

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From Peeker To SeekerJonah 1:1–2:2
I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, and He answered me.(Jonah 2:2) When our daughter was too young to walk or crawl, she created a way to hide from people when she wanted to be left alone or wanted her own way. She simply closed her eyes. Kathryn reasoned that anyone she couldn’t see also couldn’t see her. She used this tactic in her car seat when someone new tried to say hello; she used it in her highchair when she didn’t like the food; she even used it when we announced it was bedtime. Jonah had a more grown-up strategy of hiding, but it wasn’t any more effective than our daughter’s. When God asked him to do something he didn’t want to do, he ran in the opposite direction. But he found out pretty quickly there is no place God couldn’t find him. In fact, Scripture is full of stories of God finding people when they didn’t necessarily want to be found (Ex. 2:11–3:6; 1 Kings 19:1-7; Acts 9:1-19). Maybe you have tried to hide from God, or mayb…

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Mysterious DetoursGenesis 12:1-10; 13:1
Our fathers trusted in You; they trusted, and You delivered them.(Psalms 22:4) Before my wife and I embarked on a 400-mile road trip, I set up the GPS with our daughter’s home in Missouri as the destination. As we traveled through Illinois, the GPS instructed us to get off the Interstate, resulting in a detour through the city of Harvey. After the GPS directed us back to
I-80, I was baffled by this mysterious detour. Why were we directed off a perfectly good highway? I’ll never know the answer. We continued on our way, and we trusted the GPS to get us there and home again. That got me to thinking about detours in life. We may seem to be traveling on a smooth pathway. Then for some reason, God redirects us into an unfamiliar area. Perhaps it is an illness, or a crisis at work or school, or an unexpected tragedy occurs. We don’t understand what God is doing. Abraham faced a mysterious detour when God told him, “Get out of your country, from your family …

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Seeing Upside DownMatthew 8:1-4; 9:9-12
Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.(Matthew 9:12) In India I worshiped among leprosy patients. Most of the medical advances in the treatment of leprosy came about as a result of missionary doctors, who were willing to live among patients and risk exposure to the dreaded disease. As a result, churches thrive in most major leprosy centers. In Myanmar I visited homes for AIDS orphans, where Christian volunteers try to replace parental affection the disease has stolen away. The most rousing church services I have attended took place in Chile and Peru, in the bowels of a federal prison. Among the lowly, the wretched, the downtrodden—the rejected of this world—God’s kingdom takes root. Taking God’s assignment seriously means that we must learn to look at the world upside down, as Jesus did. Instead of seeking out people with resources who can do us favors, we look for people with few resources. Instead of the strong, w…

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Lessons From A FenceMatthew 7:21-29 7:24Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock. —
When a section of fence around our house blew down in a howling March wind, my first reaction was to blame the man who built it for me only a few months before. On further reflection, I knew the fault was mine. As the fence was nearing completion, I told him there was no need to replace four existing posts from the previous fence with new ones set in concrete. “Just attach the new fence to the old posts,” I said. “It will be fine.” It was—until the winds came. Jesus told a powerful story to emphasize the importance of building our lives on the solid foundation of obeying His Word. “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. …