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It's February already!  The month that everyone seems to focus on, "love."  As good as human love is, it can never match the love of God for His children.  Human love does not have the power to restore broken lives, broken emotions, broken relationships, and broken bodies.  God's love has all of that and more.  Listen to what His love can do for you, no matter how low you have fallen.  On the wings of His love you can fly higher than you've ever been.

Hear, "Higher Than I've Ever Been"

Feeling down this morning?  Need a lift?  Listen to "Deep Well" and know that you, too, can go to where the living water swells and drink from the Heavenly flow!  It will never run dry!! Run to Jesus this morning. Just click below on DEEP WELL!



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1 John 4:19 (AMP)
19 We love Him, because He first loved us.


I will confess that I have always had the feeling that I really didn't know how to love God the way He wanted to be loved.  I so identified with the song from "Jesus Christ, Superstar," "I don't know how to love Him."  I have prayed and asked God to help me know how to love Him.  I have never quite received or been able to hear a definite answer.  Until today.  As I was listening to a sermon these words jumped out at me.  "I love You too."  Pretty simple!  The idea is that we really could be saying, instead of saying, "I love You, Lord," is "I love You too."  A simple response to the Word we have heard from Him.  God has spoken His love to us throughout His Word and the outstanding thing is this; He loved us first.  We could not love Him at all, had He not loved us first and given us the love that we can give back to Him!  When Adam and Eve were in the garden and they had sinned, God did not stop loving them.  He was disappointed but He still loved them enough to call out to them.  "Adam, where are you?"  Genesis 3:8-9 (NLT)  8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”     God knew exactly what Adam and Eve had done and He knew exactly where they were.  But, in love He called out to them, letting them see His love in action, showing them that He would not leave them.  His love would drive Him to go after them even though they had disobeyed Him!  He loved them enough to cover up their shame by sacrificing an animal, the way He would later sacrifice His own Son for you and me.  Genesis 3:21 (NLT)  21 And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.  What better words could Adam and Eve have uttered after that but, "We love you too"?

No matter how many times I may have ignored the Lord or turned away from Him, He has not stopped loving me!  The same is true for you.  We cannot stop God's love by our sin.  We only reject His love when we determine to be disobedient.  He loved us so very much that while we were still sinners, before we got cleaned up, He sacrificed His own perfect son for us.  Romans 5:6-8 6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  While we were still steeped in our sin, God showed His great love for us!  He gave His best for our worst!  It makes me think of a song with the following lyrics:   "All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife but He made something beautiful of my life."  Have you ever wondered if you loved God enough?  I realized today that, when we wonder that, we are actually thinking more of ourselves than we should!  Did I actually think I was so great that, in and of myself, I could love God as He should be loved?  I guess I did!  Now, I realize that God has set me free.  He has loved me with a great love when I did not deserve any love.  He has poured His love into me so that I might say back to Him, "I love you too."  1 Timothy 1:14 (NIV)  
14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

In the New Living Translation and some other translations, 1 John 4:19 is translated like this:  19 We love each other because he loved us first. The point is that you and I cannot love anyone else with a pure love unless we have first received the love God has given us. I have also been keenly aware of my inability to love others the way God wants me to love.  Now I realize that it is impossible!  That is, unless I realize that I can only love from the storehouse of love God has first given me!  I can also say, "I love you too," to you because God loved me so much that I can now risk loving others.  Love involves obedience which is a process in all of our lives.  1 John 2:4-5 (NLT)  4 If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. 5 But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him.   We learn as we go along and walk in the revelation God gives us.  Our love will grow more and more perfect as we become more and more obedient to His Word.  1 John 4:17 (NLT)  17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. When we are attracted to someone, we usually start liking the things they like and doing the things they like to do just to be with them.  That's the way it is with us and God, only on a much higher level.  When we realize the immense love He has for us, we are attracted to Him.  We begin to love Him because He has first sought us out and loved us.  We begin to love others because He loves them.  1 John 4:20-21 (NLT)  20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.  I am now learning that all my striving to muster up enough love with which to love God was in vain.  All I really had to do was to fully receive His love and return it to Him.  What He wants to hear from you and me in response to the many times He has assured us in scripture that He loves us is, "I love You too!"  Then, we can go that next step and love our brothers and sisters with His love!  What a simple thought!  Maybe too simple, because it has nothing to do with my ability and everything to do with God's love.  It has nothing to do with my feeble attempts to figure out how to love and everything to do with receiving God's love so I can offer it back to Him and spread it to those around me.  Four simple words are really all that's needed!  Out of awe, reverence and gratitude I can say to the Lord, "I love You too!"  And our Heavenly Father is just as pleased (or more so) as you and I are when our little child looks up and says, "I love you too!" 

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Proverbs 16:9 (AMP)
9 A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure.

Have you ever been confidently going down the road and found that dreaded sign, "Detour?"  You have made your plans and are following them.  You have plenty of time to reach your destination, in your estimation.  Everything is perfect.  Almost.  If you noticed that you did not receive Morning Manna in the last two days, please note that I had one of those, "detours," a couple of days ago.  My husband and I were completing a two-week driving trip to California for his business.  We had calculated the trip well, making our plans to be home so he could be back in the office this past Monday morning.  However, God had other plans.  It's very hard to understand why God sometimes interrupts our seemingly good plans and puts a detour in the way.  However, we must never forget that His plans and thoughts are much higher than ours.  And, because His plan must be fulfilled, He will "rearrange" ours to fit His.  Isaiah 55:9 (ASV)  9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Although we get set in our own plans which may even be good, God's plans are always the best.  Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)  11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. So, whether it is in a specific situation or a detour in the plans of our life, God will step in.

On Saturday night after a long drive, we stopped at the hotel we had reserved for the night.  I was in some pain while driving but felt that if I could get into bed and relax it would go away.  It did not.  It got worse.  I was having severe chest pain and difficulty breathing.  Last September the Lord snatched me from death's door when I had a pulmonary embolism (for those of you who don't know what that is, it is a blood clot hitting the lung.  I had a shower of blood clots that hit both lungs).  So, because the pain was much the same and I could not get any relief from medication, my husband called 911 and I was whisked away once more to the hospital; in a strange city, with doctors I did not know.  Detours are not only inconvenient, they can be downright uncomfortable and very scary!  It is in those detours of life that we have to know that we know that we know that Jesus has promised never ever to leave us.  Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)  5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  Wherever we find ourselves, we must be content with our circumstances, knowing that God is with us.  My husband's plans for getting back to work on Monday were dashed.  I was unable to write the Morning Manna.  But, the important thing is that God had not deserted us!  When we find ourselves in a detour of life, it's good to remember the words that the Lord gave to Joshua during a difficult time in his life.  Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV  The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.

If you want to know the truth, I was afraid.   I thought that the results were going to be more blood clots.  Praise God, that was not the report!  If you want to know the truth, I do believe my husband was discouraged.  His plans for getting to the office were delayed and he never misses a beat at work.  We had some things to learn during this detour and, if God has placed a detour in a situation in your life, He may have some things to teach you too.  The important thing is that we do not take our eyes off of Him, even if we find ourselves slipping into the arena of fear and discouragement.  That would be playing right into the hands of our enemy who wants us to fear.  Romans 8:15-17 (NLT)  15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”  16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. If you are tending toward fear or discouragement at this moment because things are not going as you planned, put your trust in the one who has delivered you and set you free from these emotions and cling to the knowledge that you are His child.  You can cry out to Him, "Abba Father," and He will hear you.  We will not go through this life without a few detours but, if we are trusting God, they will be divine detours!  He has a better plan.  They may not be comfortable detours because we may need to share in some of His suffering.  But, we have the assurance that this sharing will not even be an inkling of what He went through to free us from our sin.  Hebrews 12:3-4 (NLT)  3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. As I was being released from the hospital, a nineteen year old boy was in charge of taking me to the door in a wheelchair.  We began to talk about the Lord and I was encouraged by the fact that he was a Christian.  He wanted to be a youth leader and help other teens who are going through the challenges of growing up in this sinful world and staying out of trouble.  He confessed that he had gone astray but was thankful that Jesus didn't come for the righteous.  He came for sinners, with whom He sat to eat and loved into the Kingdom of God.  What an encouraging encounter!  I am encouraged because there is such a need in the younger generation and so few that are seeing it and doing something about it!  I had the privilege to talking to someone who was called of the Lord.  A young person who may make a great change in this world for Christ.  If that detour in my life would not have taken place, I would not have that encouragement. I hope I have encouraged him too.  I think his name was Josh.  Maybe I met the Joshua of the upcoming generation!  I do not know what else God may have been doing in that detour but I know that He works everything for good.  (Romans 8;28)  We need to be careful not to get too set in our own plans.  James 4:13-16 (NLT)  13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.  When we find a detour in our lives, if we are truly believers in Christ, we can know that it is a divine detour.  Even if it is the enemy trying to block our way, God is the one who turns everything into good!  We won't always be comfortable, but we're called to be content.  And, contentment is possible when we remember that our steps are directed by the Lord.  We may not understand the "whys," and "wherefores," of our detours but we can trust that God's ways work the best and be joyful in the fact that He is leading us.  Proverbs 20:24 (NLT)  24 The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?  With divine detours, come divine opportunities to see things we have not seen before and meet others that we would not have met in our life's journey.  Nothing is lost because God is in control! 

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Genesis 16:7 (AMP)
7 But he Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness on the road to Shur.


Being on the road is tiring but it can also be exciting!  There are many occurrences in scripture where people have had life-changing experiences while being, "on the road."  Willie Nelson wrote lyrics that seem to indicate that he was an "on the road again," type of guy.  Some of us are and some of us would rather not be on the road.  I'm one who would probably not voluntarily get on the road but my husband is just the opposite.  As I sat in the passenger seat of the car after having riden more than three thousand miles in a two week period of time, I decided to check out the scriptures on the subject of "roads."  There's lots to be said about being on the road!  Willie Nelson writes about being on the road with the best of friends making music.  The road is not a bad place to be if you are with your best Friend is Jesus and you are singing His praises!  

The first example I found of being on a road was when Hagar was on the road to Shur.  She was not on a pleasure trip!  She was running away from Sarai (Abram's wife).  Genesis 16:8 (AMP)  8 And He said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where did you come from, and where are you intending to go? And she said, I am running away from my mistress Sarai. Hagar had been mistreated by her mistress, Sarai and she decided to run away.  She was on the road to Shur when the Angel of the Lord found her.  She was in the wilderness and she most likely thought that no one could find her there but God never loses track of where we are!  Have you been running away from something that is bothering you in life?  Have you ever wanted to run away from a painful situation?  That's just what Hagar did but God showed her that He cared for her enough to find here there in the wilderness on the road to Shur.  The Angel of the Lord met Hagar on the road to Shur and gave her some pretty painful instructions.  He told her to go back to Sarai.  Genesis 16:9 (AMP) 9 The Angel of the Lord said to her, Go back to your mistress and [humbly] submit to her control.  I can imagine that Hagar was probably not too thrilled with the instructions to go back and submit to Sarai's control!  I know I wouldn't be. Nevertheless, the Angel had cared enough for Hagar to find her and give her a promise.  Genesis 16:10-11 (AMP)  10 Also the Angel of the Lord said to her, I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be numbered for multitude. 11 And the Angel of the Lord continued, See now, you are with child and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Ishmael [God hears], because the Lord has heard and paid attention to your affliction.  God cares just as much for you and me as He did for Hagar and, on this road of life, He meets us and gives us challenges; and promises too!  If you have been in a situation where you are afflicted, God has heard your prayers.  A blessing will be ahead if you will follow His instructions to you and believe His promises!

Hagar must have been something like Willie Nelson.  Soon, we find her, "on the road again."  This time she has seen God fulfill His promise to her and she has her son, Ishmael with her.  She is not running away from Sarai this time.  By this time, God has changed Sarai's name to Sarah.  Sarah, knowing that her son, Isaac, was Abraham's true heir, told Abraham to kick Hagar and her son, Ishmael, out.  Genesis 21:9-10 (AMP)  9 Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking [Isaac]  10 Therefore she said to Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son, for the son of this bondwoman shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.  And so, we find Hagar on the road again.  Eventually she had no water left for she and her son.  Genesis 21:14-15 (AMP) 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a bottle of water and gave them to Hagar, putting them on her shoulders, and he sent her and the youth away. And she wandered on [aimlessly] and lost her way in the wilderness of Beersheba. 15 When the water in the bottle was all gone, Hagar caused the youth to lie down under one of the shrubs. Unlike Willie Nelson, I don't think Hagar was happy about being on the road again this time!  But, once again, the Lord was watching out for her.  She thought that surely her son would die from lack of water so she sat down and wept.  Ishmael was weeping too and God heard them!  Genesis 21:16-17 (AMP)  16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about a bowshot, for she said, Let me not see the death of the lad. And as she sat down opposite him, he lifted up his voice and wept and she raised her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the youth, and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven and said to her, What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the youth where he is. Hagar may have forgotten about her previous road trip.  She sat there broken and weeping unable to imagine any provision out on the lonely road.  Then the Angel of God called to her from heaven with the assurance that God had seen and heard her.  He now gave both Hagar and Ishmael another promise, along with His provision.  Genesis 21:18-19 (AMP)  18 Arise, raise up the youth and support him with your hand, for I intend to make him a great nation. 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the [empty] bottle with water and caused the youth to drink. Hagar was so impressed that, after the first visit from the Angel of the Lord, she declared the following:  Genesis 16:13 (AMP)  13 So she called the name of the Lord Who spoke to her, You are a God of seeing, for she said, Have I [not] even here [in the wilderness] looked upon Him Who sees me [and lived]? Or have I here also seen [the future purposes or designs of] Him Who sees me? Yes!  Road trips can be a time of new experiences whether we're actually physically on the road or whether we are just walking the pathway of life.  We can know, just like Hagar, that God see's everything we go through and makes a way on the road in the wilderness.  Are you being challenged on the road of life?  Has God given you some difficult instructions to follow?  We all have a whole Book of promises that God has given us for our trip through life.    When we seek the Kingdom of God first and make Him our traveling partner, we also have the promise that God will provide for our every need on every road we travel!  Here is how the writer of "The Message," paraphrases  Matthew 6:32-34 (MSG).  32 People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works.  33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34 "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.  Do you find yourself on a lonely road, with doubts as to whether you can make it?  Do you wonder if God sees where you are?  Do you worry about provision?  Be encouraged!  Let's remember Hagar and know that God is the God who really sees our every move and will make provision for every road on which we travel along our journey of life!

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Psalms 84:11 (NLT)
11 For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.

What a good Heavenly Father we have!  He won't keep anything from us that is good for us!  However, we have a part to play in that.  He won't withhold anything good from those who do what is right!  While it is not our deeds that will reserve a place for us in the courts of Heaven, when we are walking by faith, we will be doing what is right!  Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)  8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.   9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  We were created to do right and when we do what He has called us to do according to His purpose, He will work all things together for our good!  Romans 8:28   28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Because God will withhold nothing good from us, it is natural to want to be right where He is!  The Psalmist declared that he fainted with longing to enter the courts of the Lord!  Psalm 84:1-2 (NLT)  1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 2 I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.  We know that we have a place to go when this life on earth is over and that's reason enough to shout joyfully to the Lord.  If we have followed God and done right, great reward awaits us.  Great joy is promised for those who can live in the house of God and who are always singing His praises!  Psalm 84:4 (NLT)    4 What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises. Interlude  Thank God that, if we are believers. Jesus lives in us!  We are already in His presence!  Joy is ours and that is why we can continually sing His praises!

Strength and joy really do go together.  There will be times when we walk through the Valley of Weeping.  That's just the way life is.  Psalm 84:6 (NLT)  6 When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. Maybe you are walking through that valley right now.  Our joy comes from knowing that the Lord has promised to walk through every valley with us, even the valley of death.  Psalm 23:4 (NLT)  4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  Even if we happen to be in the Valley of Weeping, the Lord is with us and He is our strength.  Psalm 84:5  5 What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. As Christians, we are on a journey to the New Jerusalem where there will be no more weeping.  We walk in the strength of the Lord and carry His joy with us, even through our tears.  God has a way of turning our fears and tears into good. Psalm 84:7 (NLT)  7 They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.  As the Psalmist declares, we will grow stronger and stronger, able to reach our destination.  Hebrews 12:1-4 (NLT)  1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.  If you are in that Valley of Weeping, remember that God promises to make it a place of refreshing springs!  Do not grow weary or become faint hearted!  Galatians 6:9-10 (NLT)  9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up  10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Focus on your Savior and your destination!  Psalm 84:8 (NLT)  8 O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, hear my prayer. Listen, O God of Jacob. Interlude  Continually let your prayers rise to the One who listens to every one of them and always be joyful, knowing that God has promised not to withhold anything good from you, as you do His will.  

1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 (NLT)  16 Always be joyful.  17 Never stop praying.  God has good things in store us.  All we have to do is remember that He has promised the following. If we will do right, keep running the race, stay joyful in all circumstances (notice that I said, "in" all circumstances - not "because" of all circumstances),  and pray constantly, we will find refreshing streams are just ahead! God will not withhold any good thing from us!

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Isaiah 55:12 (NLT)
12 You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!

This morning I am looking over a very peaceful piece of property that my mother and father left for my sister and I.  There are rolling green hills as far as you can see and numerous live oak trees with their branches lifted to the sky as if in worship.  There is no noise except for the dogs barking joyfully and the ducks quacking happily.  Once in a while the blind cow moos nicely even though she cannot see a thing.  She is happy where she is, knowing that someone has taken her in and cares for her.  She can't see but she can hear and she follows the voice of the ones who care for her.  I'm thinking that we can't see Jesus in person but we do know that He cares about every detail of our lives.  1 Peter 5:6-7 (AMP)  6 Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you, 7 Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.  We're kind of like the little blind cow.  We can't see the One who cares for us but we can hear His Words of love to us.  We can know that we are cared for and that He watches over us at all times.  The cow has to trust that those who are caring for her will do a good job, even though she can't see what they are doing.  Have you ever known that God is doing something in your life but you don't know what it is?  You can't see Him with your eyes and you don't know what He is moving and arranging so that you will be safe, but you just know He is doing it!

The Lord, our Shepherd and caretaker, takes care of us spiritually blind sheep just like my sister and her husband take care of that blind cow.  He gives us food to eat, both spiritual and physical.  He also gives us seed to sow so that we will be able to continue to eat in the future.  Isaiah 55:10 (NLT)  10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.    Have you sown any of the seed of His Word recently?  If so, it will grow into a harvest of blessing.  Here is an example of how God wants us to sow what He has sown into us, taken from "The Message":  Hosea 10:12 (MSG)  12 Sow righteousness, reap love. It's time to till the ready earth, it's time to dig in with God, Until he arrives with righteousness ripe for harvest.  God's Word never fails.  When He sows it into you and me, it never comes back void.  Isaiah 55:11 (NLT)  11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.  Have you soaked in His Word this morning?  It will accomplish so much in our lives.  It prospers everywhere God sends it!  He even sends it to us for spiritual, emotional, mental and physical healing!  I know that is true because I have been snatched from the door of death at least three times that I know of!  However, since we cannot see everything God is doing, none of us know how many times His unfailing Word has been sent to keep us from destruction!    Psalm 107:20 (NLT)   20 He sent out his word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death.  Yes!  The Word He speaks always brings life!

As I gaze out over the serenity of hill after hill covered with trees raising their branches upward, I am reminded that the earth was not always this way.  At first the earth was a big mess.  It was without form and void.  Genesis 1:2 (NKJV)  2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Isn't it wonderful that God cares about everything He creates!  It didn't look too good but He loved it so much, He could not bear to leave it the way it was.  His Spirit gently hovered over it like a new mother over her precious child.  Then He sent His Word and began to heal it!  Genesis 1:3  (NKJV)  3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.  And so, the process began.  God worked for six days to bring order and beauty to the earth He had created.  His Word was what created everything and His Word was what brought order out of chaos and fullness to what was once void.  He does that in our lives also.  Certainly, we are born with a sinful nature.  Romans 8:7-8 (NLT)  7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. Many times we fall short of God's glory!  Romans 3:23 (ASV)  23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;  A perfectly holy God, although He loves us dearly, cannot look upon our sin.  So, because, He loves us so much, He sent His Word to bring order and holiness into our lives.  Like the world looked at first, we were all pretty much looking like a mess.  Many of our lives were filled with thorns and brambles.  Isaiah 55:13  (NLT) 13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up. Then God spoke.  He spoke through His Son who is the Word.  Hebrews 1:2 (TLB)  2 But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything and through whom he made the world and everything there is.  The same Holy Spirit that brooded and hovered over the chaotic new world hovers and broods over our lives.  He speaks through Jesus.  John 1:14 (AMP)  14 And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth. That Word comes into our lives, even into our being and dwells there restoring broken, torn, painful chaotic lives and filling them with His love and power!  No wonder that God says the trees of the field will clap their hands!  No wonder Jesus said that, if the disciples didn't cry out in praise, the very rocks would sing His praises!  Luke 19:37-40 (NLT)  37 When they reached the place where the road started down the Mount of Olives, all of his followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for all the wonderful miracles they had seen. 38 “Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!” 39 But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!” 40 He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”  When the Word of God speaks, chaos is dispelled and we are filled with the joy of the Lord which becomes our strength for life!  The Word contains so much joy and strength that it says, even the trees will clap their hands.  Gazing out at these trees with uplifted branches, I can almost see them begin to clap because the Word has spoken this morning and there is peace!  Does anyone want to clap their hands and sing out with joy?  If not, the Lord is able to make even stones and trees have that pleasure!

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Matthew 10:16 (KJV)
16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

Isn't it interesting that Jesus sends us right into the midst of messes?  He sends us forth as sheep in the midst of wolves!  Sometimes I wonder why He would send us right into the storms of life.  Are you in one of those storms right now?  Before we blame everything on the devil, let's think about this for a moment.  The One who holds us in the palm of His hand will sometimes send us into a storm to increase our faith in Him.  One evening, after ministering to multitudes of people, Jesus sent His disciples into the midst of a raging storm.  Matthew 14:22 (NLT)  22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. An even stranger thing than this is the fact that the disciples were probably already tired and spent.  Just before ordering them to leave in their boat without Him, He had increased their faith by having them learn that they needed to put some effort into feeding a multitude of people.  They had to perform a task that was impossible.  Matthew 14:15-16 (NLT)  15 That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.”   Now, what would we have done if we were those tired disciples and Jesus told us to feed well over five thousand people in a remote area?  What if we had only five loaves and two fishes?  Jesus is looking into our eyes and telling us to feed that multitude but we basically have nothing.  Oh, here are only five loaves and two fishes.  What can we possibly do with them?  That's not even enough for us!  I'll bet the disciples were hungry too!  They knew those five loaves and two fishes were as good as nothing but Jesus said, "Bring them here."

What do you have that seems like nothing to you?  Will you be humble enough to hand it over Jesus when He's put you in the midst of an impossible situation?  Will you let Him increase your faith and realize that when you are the weakest, with nothing much to offer Him, He will make you strong and increase your nothingness to more than enough?  Matthew 14:19:20  (NLT)   19 Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. 20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. The tired and hungry disciples only had five loaves and two fishes to divide among themselves, yet when they gave the little they had to Jesus, five thousand men and even more women and children ate until they were all full and then there were twelve full baskets of food left over so that each disciple had a full basket to eat until they were full too.  Jesus had put them in the midst of an impossible situation that could have turned into chaos as a giant group of hungry people turned into an angry mob.  But, because Jesus was in the midst of that mess, everyone was fed until their cup was overflowing.  Psalm 23:5 (NLT)  5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.     Here were the disciples in a crowd of thousands of people and not all of them were there because they were believers.  Some were there to find ways to bring accusation to Jesus and to persecute Him.  All of them were fed anyway.  What could have been a mess was turned into a message because Jesus was in the midst of His disciples and His disciples were in the midst of that crowd.  But it doesn't end there.

Don't you just want to sit back and enjoy it when Jesus does something powerful in you and through you?  Sorry.  No time to sit back.  At least not for the disciples that night.  As filled with food and with the Word of God as they were, they were still tired.  Instead of telling them to go get some rest, Jesus sends them to the other side of the lake alone, knowing they will be caught in another mess.  (Matthew 14:22)  So, the obedient disciples set out in their boat perhaps thinking it will be a glorious trip because Jesus sent them.  Surprise, surprise!  It's the middle of the a very dark night and the wind starts blowing.  Soon they are in the midst of another mess!  Have you ever felt that way in your life?  Do you think God is against you and playing tricks on you?  No! He is using the storms of our lives to increase our faith.  Taking us from faith to faith and glory to glory!  Romans 1:17 (KJV)  17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.   As we give back to Him whatever we have, no matter how small, right in the midst of the storms of our lives, He moves in to make us more like Him, as He frees us from all bondage.  2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (KJV)  17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Jesus sent the disciples into a place where He already knew they would be in the midst of another mess.  Just when it was the darkest, in the middle of the night, the disciples fought the angry waves of a storm-driven sea.  Jesus was not surprised.  He had sent them into that storm alone on purpose.  He was about to show them that in the midst of our worst storms, He will come to us.  He will meet us right where we are.  Matthew 14:25-27 (NLT)  25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.  26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”  We may not even recognize Him at first.  The disciples didn't.  All they had within them was fear!  Fear will blind our eyes from the presence of the Lord.  But, Jesus reassures you and me, even today, that we don't need to fear.  We can take courage and be strong in our faith because He is in our midst.  If you are a, "Peter," you may be so excited at recognizing the Lord walking on the waves of your life that you want to jump right out of the boat and walk on them too.  That's perfectly acceptable in the Lord's sight.  He encouraged Peter to come to Him and Peter did.  He did so well.  Until He took His eyes off of the one who was in the midst of the waves and found himself in the midst of another mess!  Matthew 14:28-31 (NLT)  28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”   Sometimes we run ahead of ourselves, thinking that we can do anything.  We can.  Unless we take our eyes off of Jesus.  Then, we too, will find ourselves sinking.  "Help Lord!"  Have you been there and done that?  Do you remember that the Lord graciously extended His hand to you and brought you through?  There are two kinds of people.  The ones who stay in the boat and observe and those who take a risk and get out of the boat.  Peter got out and found that the Lord needed to do more work in His life.  He may have seemed a failure at that moment but God continued to work with him until he became one of the most powerful men of God that ever lived!  The ones in the boat observed this example and learned from it.  The Lord helped Peter and they both got back in the boat.  When Jesus was finally fully in the midst of them, the winds died down.  Matthew 14:32 (NLT)   32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.  When He was fully in the midst of them and it was evident to them that He was the Son of God.  They worshipped Him.  Matthew 14:33 (NLT) 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.  So, whether the devil has tripped us up or whether God has placed us right in the midst of storms, it doesn't really matter.  The point is that God wants to be in our midst.  He wants all of our worship.  He wants us to know that He is with us through the good times and the bad times.  He will actually send us into the midst of a wild world filled with wolves because He is making us more and more like Himself.  More and more able to effect a change in our world because we are wise with His wisdom and we are as meek as His Spirit which is represented by a dove.  If you are in the midst of a mess, know that He is with you in that mess and He will surely use it as a message to those who are looking on.  Whether you are the "Peter," who gets out of the boat or the other disciples who learn from observing, the Kingdom is at hand and the King is in the midst.  Don't be afraid.  Just fix your eyes on Jesus and don't look at the storm.  Let Him into the boat of your life and soon you will find that the winds have died down.  Your faith will have increased.  You will be more like your Savior and ready to go on to bigger and better times of testimony and ministry!  Matthew 14:34-36 (NLT)  34 After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret.  35 When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed.  36 They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.

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Matthew 18:20 (NLT)
20 For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”



You know, as much as I like to sing solos, I'm thinking that God is not really into solos!  I see that all through scripture.  Abraham was a friend of God.  James 2:23 (TLB)  23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say, that Abraham trusted God, and the Lord declared him good in God’s sight, and he was even called "the friend of God." God declared Abraham His own friend because Abraham chose to believe in and trust God.  He had faith.  As a friend of God, Abraham was able to do good things but He didn't do those things alone.  Abraham did not sing a solo.  He did a duet with God.  Genesis 12:2-3 (NLT)  2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.  3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”  As believers and children of Abraham, by faith, you and I can make a difference in the world.  We can bless those around us but we, for sure, are not doing it solo!  God blessed Abraham and made Abraham a blessing to others.  God blesses you and me, and it is because of His blessing, that blessing will fall on those around us.  It's a duet!  As we are obedient and we walk with God as friend with Friend, we will be able to go the places He wants to go and meet the people He wants to bless.  When we carry His Words of mercy, grace, compassion, comfort and healing in our hearts, He will pull them out at just the right time.  Our tongue will no longer have a mind of it's own, it will bring forth blessing from God that will fall on others.  We can never really sing a solo in life.  If we try to go it on our own without allowing God into the music, the devil will certainly move in and grab the chance to sing that duet with us!   The writer of, "The Message," paraphrases it this way:  Proverbs 18:21 (MSG)  21 Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit—you choose.  We can choose with whom we will sing the song of life.  Will it be with the giver of Life or the one who is only out to steal, kill and destroy?  John 10:10 (NLT)  10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

I have also noticed that Jesus did not send any one disciple out by himself.  He sent them out two by two.  Luke 10:1 (NLT)  
1 The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit.
As I wrote this to demonstrate how God enjoys duets, I saw the end of
Luke 10:1.  I noticed that he sent the disciples out two by two to the places where He planed to make a visit.  I have just experienced that as I arrived to visit my sister and her husband.  When we arrived, we found that my brother-in-law had not been sleeping at all for months.  I, also, have been having to take medication at for extreme lower back pain.  When we all got up this morning, we found that Jesus had made a visit here.  My brother-in-law slept all night!  I did not have to take any pain medication and I slept without pain.  As we travel in pairs, carrying the Lord with us, He does His work in us and in others.  Like Abraham, we are blessed to be a blessing.  Two is good and a duet is beautiful but when God steps in as we follow His Spirit, it becomes a trio!  And, a cord of three strands is not easily broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)  12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. When a group of believers get together, even if it is only two or three, Jesus has promised to be right there in the middle of it all!    Luke 10:5-9 (NLT) “Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ 6 If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you. 7 Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay. 8 “If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you.  9 Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’  These pairs of disciples went forward as followers of the King of Kings, making way for Him to come after them.  They were members of His Kingdom and you and I are too.  As we go, under the direction of the King, the Kingdom of God is near to those we visit.

As Jesus sends us out with His Word, most of the time it is two by two.  As others receive and are blessed, they too begin to fan out and spread more blessing.  At first we have a duet, then it becomes a trio and soon it evolves into a whole choir!  Having the Lord in our midst gives us great cause for singing and rejoicing.  At some point, when the King of Kings rules the earth, there will be a great choir singing and rejoicing because He is welcomed into His rightful place right in the midst of us!  Zechariah 2:10 (KJV)  10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD. For now, it is never a solo for us.  God joins those who belong to Him in a song of life.  Even if we find ourselves feeling alone, there will always be a duet.  As we sing our praises to God, He moves into our lives and sings back to us!  Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)  17 For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”  Our mighty Savior actually sings over us, bringing us delight!  Can you hear Him now?  He is in the midst of us, even as we read His Word together, calming our fears and bringing us reassurance.  He is soothing and quieting us with His love song!  Listen for His voice.  Join in singing praises to Him as He rejoices over you with His joyful songs!  Are you singing yet?    There is a song with the lyrics, "He started the whole world singing a song."  It starts with a duet between us and God and develops into the time when the whole world will sing His song!  Because Jesus is among us, why don't we just join together and start singing His song right now!

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2 Corinthians 1:10 (NLT)
10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.

There's no doubt about it.  We're going to have our share of trouble as long as we live in this world.  John 16:33 (NLT)  33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  Think of the things you have faced in your life.  It may have been natural disasters or it may have been disaster brought about by your own unwise decisions.  It may be a rebellious child or an abusive or unloving spouse.  It may be financial and it could be emotional.  It may be the grief of losing a loved one or the grief experienced by rejection or loss of a job.  There is a whole host of troubles in this world and Jesus never promised us that we would be exempt just because we are believers.  I remember that song, "I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden."  That is surely the case when we live in this world.  While it's true that we will see the beauty and smell the fragrance of roses while walking this earth, we will also feel the thorns as we brush by them and get pricked.  When Jesus walked this earth, He was not exempt from troubles and trials!  Isaiah 53:3 (NIV)  3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

One of the greatest Christians of all time, the Apostle Paul, was not exempt from troubles either. In fact he suffered more than most of us will ever suffer in our lifetimes.  Still, Paul gave praise to God.  One of the reasons being that God, our Father is full of compassion and He truly is the God of all comfort.  2 Corinthians 1:3 (NIV)  3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, Do you sometimes wonder why you are going through a particular trial even though you have done your best and you can't figure out why you are having to suffer?  First of all, this world is full of sin and we have an enemy that is constantly trying to send trouble our way.  But, we also have the Word of God that tells us that all things work together for the good if we love God and are called according to His purpose.  Notice that I said, HIS purpose, and not our own!  Romans 8:28 (NIV)  28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  This is difficult to remember when we have been handed the stem end of a rose!  However, God takes the bad in our lives and uses it for good if we will just lean on Him and trust His heart, even when we can only seem to see the hand of the enemy.  When we go through  tough things, and the key word is "through," God will take that mess and turn it into a wonderful message that will help someone else along the way.  As we go, "through," God comforts us.  He does that so that we can then be a comfort to others later on in life who are going through what we went through.  2 Corinthians 1:3-11 (NIV)  4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.    We can comfort them with the comfort that God once gave us and remind them that, they too, can get through.  While we do that, using something that was difficult for us in the past to help someone in the now, God is conforming us more and more to the image of His Son!  Romans 8:29-30  (NIV)  29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.  As I read over this paragraph, I see a clear picture of how God uses our trials to give us testimonies.  Testimonies of how He can comfort us and see us through.  Testimonies we can use to help others get through too.  Can you?


Now, getting back to the title of this Morning's Manna, "He Did, He Will, and He Will Continue."  We will continue to have seasons of trouble and suffering in this sinful world.  Just like Jesus did.  2 Corinthians 1:5  (NIV) 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  But, these troubles will not destroy us; they will make us more like Jesus.  With suffering and struggling, comes the compassion and comfort of a Heavenly Father who loves us enough to want to help us to be just like His own perfect Son! As Paul described his own sufferings, he just felt as though he would die!  Have you ever felt that way?  2 Corinthians 1:9 (NIV)  9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. I see that, although Paul felt as if he would die, he realized why all of these things were happening.  He realized that God was going to use it for good.  When we are in a struggle, we have three choices.  We can do nothing and remain unchanged in our pity pit.  We can run from God because we blame Him for all of our troubles.  Or, we can run into the arms of the God of all compassion and comfort.  We can admit that, in and of ourselves, we are at ground zero.  We can confess that our desire is to quit relying on ourselves and rely on Him.  When we make the right choice to stop relying on our own understanding and rely on God, He is free to step into the picture and rescue us.  He did this in the past for me and I'm sure you can relate your own stories of when God did it for you in the past.  Right now, in whatever struggles and trials we may be in, God is still there and He will rescue us when we admit we cannot rescue ourselves.  And, guess what!?!  Best of all is the fact that He will continue to rescue and deliver us when trials come our way.  Even though the trials may be difficult and we may feel some pain, God will use that pain to bring us gain!  As we trust Him, we will become more and more like Jesus.  We will have opportunities to spread the compassion and comfort of God to many around us!  All because God did rescue us in the past and we can draw on those experiences.  We can know that because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, that He will rescue us from whatever it is we are going through now.  Then, we do not have to fear the future, no matter what people are saying or what we see going on around us because our God of compassion and comfort will go through it with us and He will continue to deliver us.  I feel better now, knowing that I'm completely covered and able to help cover others!  I hope you do too.

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Luke 15:1-2 (NLT)  1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.  2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!


I have been amazed recently at the love and detailed care of my Savior.  Right now, I have a lot of things on my mind and I have been somewhat forgetful.  I will put something down somewhere and then forget where I put it.  When I need that particular thing, it's easy for me, and has been my pattern in the past, to get frustrated and start complaining and fussing.  That only makes things worse, especially if I'm around anyone else!  However, I have had so much trouble with this particular problem of misplacing things and even losing them that the Lord has spoken, even through those situations.  He has urged me to lean on Him and to remember that nothing is lost to Him.  He knows where everything is!  How close are we walking to Him?  How much are we communicating with Him?  When we suddenly realize that we have lost something, are we in close enough communication to say, "Lord, I can't remember.  I can't find this thing by myself.  But, You know exactly where it is.  Will You tell me or show me where it is?"  Even in the little things of everyday life, Jesus is calling us to recognize that we can do nothing without Him. John 15:4 (NLT)  4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

When I am frustrated at the fact that I cannot find something that I need, I get distracted and, if I do not quickly take my focus off of the lost item and look to Jesus, I cannot be fruitful in any way!  Lately, I have started to instantly ask Him where things are if I have lost them.  Although this may seem hard to believe and some may be a bit skeptical, He does show me or tell me where the lost item is!  The other day, I had misplaced a check.  It had somehow gotten stuck between the folds of another letter that was in my pile of things to do (and it's a big pile).  I started to panic because I needed to deposit that check.  I doubted my own self by thinking that I threw it away with the trash.  Then, I remembered that the Lord was with me.  I had just asked Him to show me where it was when I picked up another letter out of the pile and out floated the check from between it's folds!  There was no way I could doubt that He had heard me and answered my prayer.  Things like that have happened a lot lately and I can hardly keep from just bursting forth with praise.  If anyone was in the house with me, they would probably think I was crazy hearing the way my out-loud conversation with the Lord goes!  He is such a good Friend.  He cares about every little and big thing in my life - and yours too!  He even gave us a parable about a woman losing a coin in her house to demonstrate that He is interested in lost things.  Luke 15:8-9 (NLT)   8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’  Jesus gives another example about a man losing a sheep.  Luke 15:4-5 (NLT)  4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.

While it is extremely wonderful to remember that Jesus has promised to be our Friend and that He cares about every lost thing in our lives, it is even more wonderful to remember why He gave us the illustrations of people being able to find things that they had lost.  He tells us those things to point us to the fact that people are lost!  Without Jesus, we are all lost but our Father knows exactly where we are even if we don't even know where we are ourselves.  He is just waiting for us to "come to ourselves," as the prodigal son did and realize that we need to stay under the covering of His care.  Luke 15:17-1817 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’   Perhaps you are a believer and have prodigal children.  Children who have been running from the Lord and perhaps even running from you.  Let me tell you, this same Jesus, who finds things for us that are lost, will hear our prayers and find those prodigal children making a way for them to come home to their Heavenly Father and be reconciled to their families here on earth.  Jesus looks for and saves our children and hears our prayers when we cry out for their souls.  He came to look for and save our lost children!  Luke 19:10 (NIV)  10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." If you find that you, yourself, are that prodigal child, the Father is waiting for you to come to yourself, turn around, and come back to His arms.  He's waiting and looking for you from the porch of Heaven with open arms if you will make a decision to come home to Him.  Luke 15: 20 (NLT)  20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. Your Father is waiting for you to come to Him with these words: ........ ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’  (Luke 15:21)  I am privileged to have just been asked to teach our grand daughter to sing, "Amazing Grace."  It is because of God's amazing grace that He is always looking for those who are lost!  As the song says, "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see."  You would think that our Heavenly Father would be angry with someone who was lost but it is not His desire that any one of us are lost.  The writer of "The Message," puts it this way:  2 Peter 3:9 (MSG)  9 God isn't late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn't want anyone lost. He's giving everyone space and time to change.  Not only that, there is a party in Heaven when even one lost sinner is found!  Luke 15:7 (NLT)  7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!  Yes!  Our Heavenly Father is just waiting for that one lost child to come home to Him.  Luke 15:22 (NLT)  22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.  If that child happens to be you, come on home right now.  If you are still praying for your lost children, do not give up!  Keep on praying to the One whose specialty it is to find the lost!  James 5:16-18 (NLT)  16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. 17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. Never give up on praying for anyone who might be lost!  It may take years but God hears our fervent prayers!  Won't it be wonderful when we reach Heaven to find that we have been partners with the Lord to bring our lost children back to Him?   Not only our lost children but the many lost children in this world who will never know how to come home unless we follow Jesus, look for them, reach out to them, and pray for them.    

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Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)
1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.


There are three things that will last for eternity.  1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)  13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. The thing is that, as far as I can see, you can't have any one of these things without the other.  I have a treasured prayer that a long time friend wrote and graciously copied for me.  In it, he wrote, "Help us to understand that our uplifted hope begins with our faith in you."  That's true.  The Apostle Peter tells us why we can have "uplifted hope."  It is because of what God has done for us in raising Jesus from the dead.  1 Peter 1:18-21 (NLT)  18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days.  21 Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. Living in a world that is full of corruption and violence would seem like a useless existence if we did not have hope.  But, hope by itself, is not much comfort.  It is only when we realize that our uplifted hope begins with our faith and trust in the Lord.  Without faith and trust in the Lord, our hope would be empty.  Simply a "wish upon a star," with no power to allow us to see the manifestation of that hope.  That's the difference between wishing and hoping.  Hope is fueled by our faith.

What is your hope built upon?  There is an old song written by Edward Mote way back somewhere between 1797-1874 called, "My Hope is Built on Nothing Less."  It's lyrics give us the Biblical perspective that we can build our hope on nothing but the following:   "My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand".  For centuries men and women have put their hope in Christ, the solid Rock.  Even when things seem to turn sour and life feels hopeless, they have turned to God and we can do the same.  We can look past the circumstances surrounding our lives with uplifted hope!  Here are more lyrics from that same song.  " His oath, His covenant, and blood support me in the whelming flood; When every earthly prop gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand."  If you are going through a time of overwhelming floods in your life where all your resources seem to have come to an end, look up with uplifted hope in the One who is with you and the One who will help you to stand when all the ground about you seems to be sinking sand. 

It's not always easy to lift our heads to the Lord when trials and troubles surround us.  And there will be times that this will happen.  But, Paul has given us some good advice in the area of hope.  1 Thessalonians 5:7-8 (NKJV)  7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. The covering for our head is the hope of salvation.  Do you have your helmet of hope on today?  Is the hope of salvation the thing that covers you and allows you to trust the Lord and keep your faith?  It is not always easy to be patient in times of turmoil and troubles either but Paul tells us in Romans 5:4 that as our patience develops, our character will become stronger.  That will help us to trust God more and more.  Finally our hope and faith will be strong and even steady.  Romans 5:1-5 (NIV)   Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.  5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Uplifted hope will never disappoint us!  Will you say with me the following verses written by the Psalmist?  Psalms 33:20-22 (NLT) 20 We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.  22 Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.

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Matthew 10:18 (NLT)
18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.


As believers, we are not exempt from great tests.  God makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust.  Matthew 5:44-45 (NLT)  44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. Testings will come from both people and from things like natural disasters.  The people on the west coast of California are suffering great damage to their property during the current storms that are ravaging the area.  But, I am most touched by those in Haiti who have suffered testing like most people will never experience in their lifetimes.  Several things come to mind as I see the devastation that has come upon Haiti by the recent earthquakes.  One thing that stands out is that experts are tending toward giving up the search for survivors because it has been many days and those still buried in the rubble have had nothing to eat or drink.  According to the experts, one cannot go without water for more than three days without dying.  Mankind is very intelligent and all of that intelligence comes from God, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.  He is the source of all intelligence.  But, our own intelligence and logic is not enough for us to make snap decisions about life!  Our lives are all in His hands and He will do with us what He wills.  Psalm 66:8-9 (TLB)  8 Let everyone bless God and sing his praises; 9 for he holds our lives in his hands, and he holds our feet to the path.  There will be tests along the way but, the greater the test, the greater the testimony for those who yield to the Lord and come out singing!

I say, "come out singing," because I was impressed when they pulled a woman out of a demolished building after many days of her being trapped there and even crushed between two metal poles.  According to the, "experts," she could not live that long in that condition and without food or water.  It was way more than just three days!  However, she did live!  The experts are not in charge of how long God gives life to a human being.  He can do anything He wants to do.  No matter what happens to us, if He is not finished with us yet, we will still be here on this earth to give Him the glory.  I know that because I have faced it up close and personally in my life.  However, not as up close and personal as this woman who was pulled from the shambles of destruction.  Guess what?  If you didn't see the film clip, let me tell you what happened.  As they pulled her out, she broke into a loud song of thanksgiving to God!  This should not have been possible in her weakened condition.  But, God knew her heart.  He knew that if He gave her a great test and an even greater miracle, she would immediately burst forth in song, no matter how her crushed and bruised body felt!  She had been tested greatly but, all the while, she had known in whose hands she had been and she gave Him glory as she came through!  Great testing will bring a great testimony if we are determined to lean on and trust in God even when everyone else says, "it's impossible." The following words could probably have been heard from this woman's heart:  Psalm 56:12-13 (TLB)  12 I will surely do what I have promised, Lord, and thank you for your help. 13 For you have saved me from death and my feet from slipping, so that I can walk before the Lord in the land of the living. God surely saved her from death and, if she did nothing else, she praised Him on worldwide television!  She had no idea she would be placed in front of rulers and, virtually in front of the whole world.  She had to go through a great test before that happened!  But, she came out singing and everyone knew that God had wrought a miracle!

It is obvious that this woman had determined to pray as long as she had breath!  Psalm 116:1-2 (TLB)  1 I love the Lord because he hears my prayers and answers them. 2 Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I breathe! It is obvious that she trusted that God heard her prayers and would answer them.  He would literally bend down and listen.  She believed that; and that is exactly what God did!  Do you believe that God is listening to your prayers and that He will answer, no matter how large or small your test is?  God will do that; but we have to believe that He will even in the midst of great testing.  Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)  6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  It could be that you are going through great testing this morning.  Some may tell you that your situation is impossible.  Do not listen.  If you are on the Lord's side and He is on your side, nothing, but nothing, can ultimately do you in.  Romans 8:31-32 (AMP)  31 What then shall we say to [all] this? If God is for us, who [can be] against us? [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?] 32 He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things?  As believers, nothing is impossible in our lives!  I have seen this with my own eyes in my own life.  It is probable that you have too.  When things look bad, we must remember those words that, if we have God, nothing is impossible. Luke 1:37 (AMP)  37 For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment. Just when the experts say, "it is impossible," God will step in if we truly believe His Words to us.  He does His best work in the midst of testings where we hear our enemy, Satan, whispering, "Just give up, you're not going to make it."  I'm sure this woman buried under cement and metal was tempted by that old devil; but she kept her faith.  You may not be buried in a mound of concrete and metal today but you might feel buried by the cares of this life and situations going on in your life that seem impossible.  Like they say when they break into TV programs, "This is only a test."  The greater the test, the greater will be your testimony and the more glory your Father will receive!  We never know just how God will position us to be able to speak to rulers and to the world.  It just might be that we will have to be buried beneath an impossible situation, receive a miracle from God, and come out singing His praises!  Are we willing to believe against all odds that God is more than able to bring us out of great testings with a great testimony?  And, bring us out singing His praises?!?

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2 Corinthians 1:8 (NIV)
8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.


As I am sitting here thinking about the pressures in my own life and hearing about the pressures in the lives of others, I realize that, although we might be hard-pressed, God gives us the strength to press on!  A song, entitled, "Press On," keeps running through my head.  I am so glad for songwriters who write songs we can sing in our hearts, and out loud, to encourage ourselves to go on, despite the fact that we may feel so pressed that we are pretty much flat!  When olives are pressed, oil comes out.  That oil is healthy for us.  When we are pressed, does the oil of the Holy Spirit come out bringing health to us and those around us?  What does come out when we are pressed?  Sometimes things will come out that we didn't know were in us!  We may be ashamed of what comes out of us during one of God's, "pressings."  However, even if something comes out that is less than godly, it is still a mercy from God!  For, it is then that we have the opportunity to instantly repent and allow God to clean us up so we can press on!  1 John 2:1-2 (TLB)  1 My little children, I am telling you this so that you will stay away from sin. But if you sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. His name is Jesus Christ, the one who is all that is good and who pleases God completely. 2 He is the one who took God’s wrath against our sins upon himself and brought us into fellowship with God; and he is the forgiveness for our sins, and not only ours but all the world’s.  So, being pressed is not a bad thing, although I readily admit that it feels really bad!  Even the Apostle, Paul, was so hard pressed that he  didn't think he was going to make it.  This pressing happened to Paul several times in his life.

Have you ever felt like you were being pressed just way too hard and even from many different angles?  And, have you ever felt like there was just no way out and you were about to go under?  Paul felt that way too but he let it drive him closer and closer to God where, regardless of the pressing, he found the strength to press on!  What is pressing you this morning?  Are you walking through a deep valley?  Psalm 23:4 (NLT)  4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.   If so, no matter how dark that valley is, you can find the strength to press on because the Lord is with you there. Even though God may be allowing a pressing to take place in your life, He is right there beside you to protect and comfort you, giving you the strength to go through.  It may be that you seem to be on an uphill climb and the road is steep and jagged with threatening sheer cliffs all along the road.  God has promised that His very Words will be a light to your path.  Psalm 119:105 (AMP)  105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  When we trust in Him, He has promised to direct our steps and keep us from falling.  Jeremiah 10:23-24 (NIV)  23 I know, O Lord, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. 24 Correct me, Lord, but only with justice-- not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing.  When we are on a pressing uphill climb in our lives along the uneven mountain paths, God will give us hind's feet with which to make the journey safely.  Psalm 18:33 (NLT)  33 He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. There are all sorts of things that press in on us.  It could be that you find that you are in a season of physical challenge.  Or perhaps you are facing the problems of an aging body.  Your body is weak.  It just doesn't do what it used to do.  This can be very pressing.  However, be encouraged!  God has promised help in that area also.  He offers healing and strength.  I know.  I have experienced this several times.  If you have experienced it too, stop and thank God for all the times He has stepped into the middle of your "pressing," with His healing Word and given you the strength you needed to "press on."  Psalm 107:20 (NLT)  20 He sent out his word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death.

Maybe none or all of the above things are pressing you today.  It could be something else.  Maybe you have stumbled and fallen, emotionally, spiritually, or even physically.  It doesn't matter.  The fall has pressed you and threatens your wellbeing.  Take heart this morning.  The Lord is right there waiting to help you!  Psalm 145:14 (NLT)  14 The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. Whatever has caused you to fall and in whatever way you may have fallen, God wants to be your help.  He will lift you up even in the midst of being pressed and you will be able to stand up straight and press on!  It could be that you are pressed by having to make some very hard choices in life.  Do you remember that we can trust God to help us make those choices?  While we may feel strongly pressed, we know that, if we look to the Lord, He will help us with His own counsel.  Even in the "night seasons," of our lives when it is difficult to make the proper choices, God is there to counsel us and instruct our hearts.  Psalm 16:7 (NIV)  7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.  There are times when we might become battered and scarred.  Not a pretty sight and it leaves us pretty much pressed as far as you can press anyone.  However, even then, if we turn to the Lord, we will find the strength to press on.  He paid the price for our bruises and scars to be healed.    Isaiah 53:5 (NLT) 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.  And, what about being pressed because we've given all we can give and spent all of our resources only to find that it looks like there is just no way we're going to make it?  Even then, we can remember that God makes a way where there seems to be no way.  We can remember the story of the woman with the issue of blood.  She had spent all of her resources on doctors and was even worse off than before.  This woman was pressed but she kept on pressing.  She was weak.  She had nothing left.  Instead of giving up, she pressed through the crowd and found healing by just touching the hem of Jesus's garment!  No matter what things are pressing in on us this morning, we too must press on.  If you are pressed, keep pressing!  The Lord calls us to go forward and it is in His strength that we "press on."  Philippians 3:12-14 (ASV)  12 Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I could not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, 14 I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  As the song says, "In Jesus Name, we press on.  Dear Lord, with the prize clear before our eyes, we find the strength to press on." 

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Psalms 5:11-12 (NLT)
11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. 12 For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.

I just had a wonderful day!  A reminder that the joy of the Lord is our strength!  Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT)  10 And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”   I was blessed to spend the afternoon in the presence of an elderly man who has received a host of honors for all of the things he has done during his life.  He could have been snobbish or haughty but he was humble and willing to share with my husband and I the experiences of his lifetime.  Although he said he was not a student of the Bible, his humility was much like that of Jesus.  He was gentle when he could have been arrogant.  He shared with me a prayer that he had prayed in his church and it was filled with dependence on the Lord as he spoke of the importance of joy.  Although this man has had health problems, the grief of his wife passing away, and the challenge of advancing years, he is still very much involved in his work.  He is determined to make a difference in this world using the gifts God has given him; and he does it joyfully, lovingly, and graciously!  Although he is obviously a man of influence and power, I felt accepted and valued in his presence.

I do believe that our gracious friend has the joy of the Lord and that is what keeps him vibrant in his experiences and desire to change this world for the better.  The Bible has so much to say about joy.  It is surely an essential part of our makeup, as believers.  Not only should we display the joy we have in our Lord Jesus, we should be bringing joy to others.  Job, in his description of his blessings before his severe trials, said this:  Job 29:13 (NLT)  13 I helped those without hope, and they blessed me. And I caused the widows’ hearts to sing for joy. It is so important that our joy overflows to make life better for those who have lost hope; for those who are walking this life after having lost a companion.  Are we spreading that joy of the Lord that is constantly giving us our strength?  Yes, the scriptures tell us to be filled with joy.  When that happens, it will naturally overflow to those around us!  Philippians 4:4 (NLT)  4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!  Can everyone see that we are considerate in all we do because we are so filled with joy?  Philippians 4:5 (NLT)  5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. It is not always easy to be considerate in everything we do.  People and situations will get on our nerves.  We may even feel like people around us are insensitive to our needs and even insensitive to the Lord.  No wonder it is so important to be full of joy!  Instead of lashing out at people, we are to be considerate and even display joy!  That must be why Paul prayed that we would be strengthened by the glorious power of the Lord.  Colossians 1:11-12 (NLT)  11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.

Paul knew about real joy.  It is ours even through heartache and trials.  I need to learn more about the joy of the Lord because, it is oftentimes not my first thought to give out of joy when I am hard pressed by stuff going on around me.  2 Corinthians 8:1-2 (NLT)  1 Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia.  2 They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.  Yet, that's what the people from Macedonia did because they were filled with joy that caused them to freely give what they had to help others.  Paul, himself, gives a very long list of hardships that he suffered.  He ends that list this way:  2 Corinthians 6:10 (NLT)  10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. My heart may ache and your heart may ache but, like Paul, we have joy if we are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)  22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,   23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!  In speaking to His disciples before He was crucified, Jesus said the following:  John 16:22 (NLT)  22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. Since that time, Jesus was crucified, buried and rose again.  The sorrow that the disciples felt when He was crucified was turned to rejoicing when He appeared to them after His resurrection.  No one could rob them of that joy.  It is now recorded for us in the scriptures.  We will have some sorrows and troubles in this life too but, because Jesus died so that we could have the gift of His joy, no one can take it from us.  We can give it away or refuse to accept it but no one can rob us of it.  No matter what happens around us, are we walking in the fullness of His joy?  If not, let us turn to the Lord who will show us exactly how to do that and bless us with the joy of His own presence!  Psalm 16:11 (NLT)  11 You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.

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Matthew 7:27 (NLT)  27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Driving down the California coast can be very beautiful, but it can be a bit scary too.  There are reminders there about the power of God and the Word of God.  The houses along the coastline are very big and very beautiful.  But, as you drive along, you can see these mammoth homes built on the hillsides over looking the ocean and then you see the hillsides covered with great sheets of plastic to try to keep the dirt and sand from sliding down the hill because of recent rain.  While it looks very inviting to build a luxurious home right there on a hillside on the ocean, it doesn't look very inviting when you realize that, in one moment of time, with enough rain, everything you invested in could slide down on the highway and into the ocean!  Jesus once said that a wise man will build his house on a rock.  I do believe that Jesus was talking about building our lives on Him.  He is the Rock.  Romans 9:33 (TLB)  33 God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said, "I have put a Rock in the path of the Jews, and many will stumble over him (Jesus). Those who believe in him will never be disappointed."  However, I am so amazed that God does not leave us clueless.  If we look around us, we will see things in the natural that help us to really, "get," His Word.  A truly wise person will not invest a lifetime of earnings to build a fine house upon sand that can slip away when it rains.  Likewise, a spiritually wise person will realize that the only sure thing on which we can build our lives is Jesus! 

Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)  24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”  Upon seeing these massive homes precariously perched on sandy hills and watching more and more rain fall, I am thinking of the sound of the great crash if these homes should fall.  The owner would lose everything of value inside that house!  These people are wealthy people and surely they have many valuable things inside those homes.  Besides that, they may have children or others who live there with them.  Can you imagine what it would feel like to have people you love physically hurt or killed if your home crashed down a sandy hill in the rain?  That's what happens if we don't choose to listen to and follow the teachings of Jesus.  Anything we might build will be in danger of being lost.  Even our loved ones will suffer in the process.  We might try to patch up the shaky ground on which we have built like they do along the coast in California with the plastic sheeting they place over the sandy hills.  However, at some point, that plastic is not going to hold.  Depending on how much rain falls and how hard the wind blows, they will soon be unable to hold back that hillside! 

We might try to cover up what we have built on to keep it together.  We can do all kinds of things to make it look like we've got everything held together.  We can look good.  We can get a great job.  We can create a "House Beautiful," home.  We can go to church every Sunday.  We can keep a Bible sitting out on the coffee table.  We can even learn all the right things to say that make us "sound," like we've got it all together.  But, the fact is, that if we are not listening to Jesus, we are foolish.  If we don't follow His teachings, our lives are built on sinking sand!  Today, it was very windy and rainy on the coast of California.  There will be seasons when it will get very windy and rainy in our own lives.  With every storm like that, there is a danger of losing everything we have if we have not built our lives upon the Rock.  As the song says, "That Rock is Jesus; yes, He's the one."  The song goes on, staying very true to scripture when it says, "That Rock is Jesus, the only one."  John 14:6-7 (NLT)
6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 7 If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”  
What a vivid picture I saw of those beautiful houses up on the sandy hillsides in the rain!  How sad that such beauty could collapse into shambles in a moment of time.  God has created you and I in a marvelous way. 
Psalm 139:14 (NIV) 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  He has made us beautifully in His image.  Genesis 1:27 (NLT)  27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Right away, Adam and Eve chose to turn away from God's Word.  Their house came crashing down.  It was a beautiful home but they did not build on the Rock.  Instead they listened to the enemy.  Now God has given humanity a second chance.  A chance to build our lives in and on Him.  Even on the Rock, who is His Son!  Life seems to be bringing lots of rain and many storms these days.  There are lots of self-help books and gurus that will give us advice on anything and everything.  Are we listening to and following the Words of Jesus instead?  Anything else we build on will send us crashing down with a very painful crash when the rain and storms of life come upon us.  If we have built our lives on the Rock, we can stand secure through every storm!  Proverbs 10:25 (NLT)  25 When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.

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Psalms 55:6-7 (NLT)
6 Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest! 7 I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness. Interlude

I recently had the experience that David wrote about in Psalm 55:6-7.  "Oh, I wish I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and rest in peace and quiet.  I'd fly far away and enjoy the silence of the wilderness!"  I wonder if you have ever had that experience?  And, if you are a believer, perhpas you felt guilty for having such a thought!  I am comforted by the fact that David, a man after God's own heart, had the same feeling!  As I read through Psalm 55 again, I realized that he had many reasons for having such a feeling.  You and I may have some or all of the same reasons for wanting to fly away and find peace in the solitude of somewhere quiet!  Sometimes, when I am overwhelmed, all I can do is ask God over and over again to please help me with whatever it is that I am struggling with (and lots of times it is many things at one time). Can you relate?

David did the same thing.  He begged God to listen to him, and not to ignore him.  To notice that he was overwhelmed by his troubles!  Psalm 55:1-2 (NLT)  1 Listen to my prayer, O God. Do not ignore my cry for help! 2 Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.  Have you ever just laid in your bed calling out for God to notice what is happening to you and respond?  The thing is that He has noticed already, although He doesn't mind listening to us again when we just feel that we cannot go on.  David was surrounded by enemies who shouted at him, troubled him, and angrily hunted him down.  We, too, are surrounded by the enemies of the prince of darkness.  They may appear to us through a human being, but we are not fighting other human beings.  Ephesians 6:12 (TLB) 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.  The truth is that we do have an enemy who is angrily trying to hunt us down.  1 Peter 5:8 (TLB)  8 Be careful—watch out for attacks from Satan, yoIur great enemy. He prowls around like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart.  Look at David's words:  Psalm 55:3 (NLT) 3 My enemies shout at me, making loud and wicked threats. They bring trouble on me and angrily hunt me down.  It could be that you are overwhelmed today by actual people shouting insults at you or you may be in a spiritual battle, listening to the voice of Satan telling you there's no use to try any more.  You, too, may just want to fly away to a place of quiet and safety.

When I looked up Psalm 55:6, I could not find many verses in the Bible that talked about wings of a dove.  However, the Lord reminded me just a while ago and confirmed it through another's words, that God has something better for us than the wings of a dove, as sweet and soft as they might be.  He offers us a ride on the wings of the great eagle!  Exodus 19:4 (NLT) 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Long ago, the Israelites were overwhelmed by their enemies.  They suffered greatly as slaves under the hand of their enemy.  I am sure many a slave wished to fly away and find relief.  God eventually did bring them relief and the Bible says He reminded them that He carried them on eagles' wings to Himself.  You know, He's still the same God today as He was then!  Why wish for the wings of a dove when God, Himself, will carry us on eagles' wings?  We may at times find ourselves surrounded by enemies and they may even be those who have been closest to us.  Look how the writer of The Message interprets Psalm 55:12 -14.  12 This isn't the neighborhood bully mocking me—I could take that. This isn't a foreign devil spitting  invective—I could tune that out.  13 It's you! We grew up together! You! My best friend!  14 Those long hours of leisure as we walked arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation.  We can't always just walk away from those closest to us who have hurt us deeply.  But God!  He says that if we will wait on Him, we won't need the fragile wings of a dove to fly off into the distance.  He will give us wings like eagles!  He will help us keep running and, surprisingly, we will not get weary.  He will help us keep putting one foot in front of the other and, even though we may feel like we're going to faint sometimes, He will keep us going until we've finished the race!  Isaiah 40:31 (NLT) 31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.  David started out his prayer in Psalm 55 by going to God.  He poured out his feelings to God.  God did listen and He will listen to you too.   Psalm  5:22 (TLB) 22 Give your burdens to the Lord. He will carry them. He will not permit the godly to slip or fall.  By the end of David's prayer in Psalm 55, God had reassured him that He is a just God and that He sees everything.  Those that refuse to follow Him will get their just desserts.  But, those who trust Him and wait for Him will be given eagles' wings on which to soar above their troubles.  Why ask for doves' wings when God so willingly supplies and carries us on eagles' wings?  We don't have to run away.  We can soar on eagles' wings!

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Genesis 30:43 (TLB)  43 As a result, Jacob’s flocks increased rapidly and he became very wealthy, with many servants, camels, and donkeys.


Although I am not good at all with math and numbers, I sometimes encourage myself in the Lord with numbers.  Today, I am remembering that there were sometimes when it seemed God didn't understand math.  Yet, He's the One who created numbers so, obviously, He totally understands.  He's not confined to our intelligence.  He is all-intelligent!  I was reading about Jacob, who was badly treated and even tricked by his father-in-law, Laban.  You can read all of Jacob's story in the book of Genesis.  Laban was a wealthy man with many sheep.  Finally, Jacob could not deal with the mis-treatment he was receiving even though he had faithfully served his father-in-law for many years.  Genesis 30:25-26 (TLB)  25 Soon after the birth of Joseph to Rachel, Jacob said to Laban, "I want to go back home. 26 Let me take my wives and children—for I earned them from you—and be gone, for you know how fully I have paid for them with my service to you."  Even though Laban's character was not the best, he was smart enough to have realized that, while Jacob had been living with him, he had been blessed.  As believers, we will be blessed.  That's just the way God is.  And, that blessing will flow to those around us.  That's what God told Abraham.   Genesis 12:2-3 (NIV)  2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."  Since Jacob was a descendent of Abraham, this applied to him also and Laban could readily see that.  Although he may not have had a close and loving relationship with Jacob, Laban did not want Jacob to leave because he most likely feared that, when Jacob left, God's blessing would leave too!  You and I are descendants of Abraham by faith and we are blessed of God to be a blessing.  Wherever we go, His blessing will be upon us and on those around us.  Romans 4:16 (AMP) 16 Therefore, [inheriting] the promise is the outcome of faith and depends [entirely] on faith, in order that it might be given as an act of grace (unmerited favor), to make it stable and valid and guaranteed to all his descendants—not only to the devotees and adherents of the Law, but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, who is [thus] the father of us all.

Yes, for sure, God had blessed Laban because of Jacob's presence.  Even the demons knew that because Laban had consulted a medium.  Although he had rebelled against God by seeking advice from a fortune-teller, the advice he got told him what he had already seen with his eyes.  Jacob carried the blessing of Abraham.  Genesis 30:27-28 (AMP)  27 And Laban said to him, If I have found favor in your sight, I pray you [do not go]; for I have learned by experience and from the omens in divination that the Lord has favored me with blessings on your account.  28 He said, State your salary and I will give it.  All of a sudden, Laban was willing to pay Jacob whatever salary he wanted.  In the same way, although you and I may have to go through some trials in life and suffer some injustice from others, it will eventually be noticed by others that, when we're around, the blessings of God are flowing.  After some discussion Jacob agreed to stay for a while longer but only if Laban would let him remove all the spotted and speckled lambs to keep for his own.  Genesis 30:22 (AMP)  32 Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted animal and every black one among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and such shall be my wages. And so, Laban's flock was divided, the spotted and speckled ones going to Jacob and the white ones staying with Laban.  Still, Laban was determined to cheat Jacob.  But, God gave Jacob wisdom and direction in making his spotted and speckled sheep multiply.  (Genesis 30:37-42)  In the end, Jacob received the blessing of God, despite all of Laban's efforts to keep them from him.  Genesis 30:43 (AMP)  43 Thus the man increased and became exceedingly rich, and had many sheep and goats, and maidservants, menservants, camels, and donkeys. You may have noticed along your life's journey that some people will be upset and jealous when they see that God's favor is upon you even though, in the natural, you don't deserve it.  That happened to Jacob.  Genesis 31:1-2  1 JACOB HEARD Laban’s sons complaining, Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s; he has acquired all this wealth and honor from what belonged to our father. 2 And Jacob noticed that Laban looked at him less favorably than before.   Finally, Jacob heard the Word from God that he could leave Laban.  God had shown Jacob that by dividing, things could be multiplied.  Jacob had suffered during his tenure under Laban but God was giving Jacob back more than he lost.  When Laban's flock was divided, the part that went to Jacob multiplied against all odds.  God may have allowed something of ours to be divided but, because we carry the promise of Abraham, just as Jacob did, God will restore what has been divided from us if it is good for us and if it will bring Him glory.  Joel 2:25-26 (AMP)  25 And I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten—the hopping locust, the stripping locust, and the crawling locust, My great army which I sent among you. 26 And you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord, your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you. And My people shall never be put to shame.  There are many ways that God can use division to accomplish multiplication!  One sure way is when He sent Jesus to die as a sacrifice for our sins.  He divided our sin from us and now has given us abundant and multiplied life!

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John 4:6 (MSG)
6 Jacob's well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.

The above scripture verse is a paraphrase from The Message.  It tells us at least two things.  Jesus went on trips.  Jesus got tired.  I have to admit that traveling is not my favorite thing to do.  I suppose I wouldn't mind it as much if I didn't have to do the packing, carrying, etc., and if there was plenty of provision and time to do it at my leisure.  I suppose that could be translated, "if I could travel like a queen."  However, there are times in life when I have to travel.  We all have to take journeys in life.  Some of them are literal and some are emotional and spiritual.  What I sometimes forget is that each journey has an underlying purpose.  If we are believers and following the direction of the Lord, the purpose will always be good.  Romans 8:28 (NLT)  28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  Even though our journeys have a purpose, they aren't always pleasant and sometimes they make us weary.  We have a high priest who knows exactly how we feel!  And, in all of our journeys, He is gently conforming us to His image.  Romans 8:29-30 (NIV)  29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.  At the end of this journey of life, we are promised glory!


Jesus went on journeys throughout His life.  One time He needed to go from Judea to Galilee.  John 4:1-3 (NLT) 1 Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did). 3 So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.  For various reasons, you and I go on journeys.  If we are walking by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be directed.  It may not be in a logical way or in a way that we might choose to go.  Jesus apparently knew He had to go from Judea to Galilee through Samaria.  Samaria was a place that Jewish people liked to avoid even if they had to go out of their way to get to their destination.  They did not get along at all with the Samaritans.  John 4:4-5 (NLT)  4 He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.  In our life's journeys, we may find ourselves in difficult places.  Places that may not be understandable by others.  We may not even understand them but, in all of our journeys, we are promised that God will not leave us.  Hebrews 13:5 (NLT)  5 Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”  Knowing that God has promised never to fail or abandon us should not only make us content in all of our journeys, but actually give us joy!  

I am always hesitant to take journeys.  I'm not the easiest person to live with while getting ready.  I'm even harder to live with during the beginning of a journey.  You would think I would learn to be content and even enjoy the preparations and the beginnings of new journeys since God always makes His presence very evident even in the midst of my complaining and fussing.  Just as Jesus had a purpose for having to go through Samaria, there is a purpose for each journey you and I will even take.  We don't know who we will meet or who's life we will affect.  We don't know how our lives will be affected by what we see and those with whom we come in contact.   We do know that Jesus thought it necessary to go through a place others would not want to go and we do know that He got tired on the way.  John 4:6 (NLT)  6 Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.  Whether we are on emotional, spiritual, or physical journeys, we will get tired.  Jesus did.  So He sat down.  Every once in a while, you and I have to sit down too.  Then Jesus admitted that He had a need.  John 4:7-8 (NLT)  7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”  8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. Oh my goodness.  The Son of God admitted that He was tired and thirsty.  He, as the Son of Man, had needs just like we do.  He was humble enough to admit His need!  In whatever journey you may be in right now, it will be good if you sit down for a moment when you get tired and admit that you have a need if you are thirsty!  Not only did He humble himself, He humbled Himself before a woman!  Very unheard of at that time.  Not only a woman; a Samaritan woman!  John 4:9 (NIV)  9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)  In my journeys, I am learning that, the Lord is with me and He will have marvelous surprises in store for me if I will just stop when I get too tired, humble myself before others, and admit my needs.  I am learning to enjoy the journeys.  Why?  Because God always shows up right in the middle of them!  I am also now remembering that the joy of the Lord is my strength and yours too.  Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV)  10 Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."  When we begin to grow weary in the journey, the joy of the Lord will help us make it through!  Because Jesus chose to take that journey, allow Himself to get tired, sit down, and humble Himself before an outcast, nearly a whole town received salvation!  John 4:39-42 (NIV)  39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did."  40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. 42 They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."  Even though Jesus was weary during His journey, I believe He had joy over the results!  Does that make you wonder how many people might know that He is Lord if they saw us enjoying our journeys in spite of the fact that we might get weary sometimes? 

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Acts 13:22 (NLT)
22 But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’


Have you ever met someone who said they didn't believe in God?  A good answer for that person is, "Well, God believes in you!"  God made each of us in His image and He knows that we have the power to be like Him.  That is, if we want to.  There was once a man who had an awful time controlling his family.  This family was the epitome of dysfunction.  By the letter of the law, this father was not a perfect father.  Not even close.  There were consequences because of that too.  One of those consequences was that his own son rebelled against him.    This same man had a problem with lust.  When he should have been out fighting a war, he was home with time on his hands and happened to see a beautiful lady bathing next door.  I wish I could say that he looked the other way and did not yield to temptation, but that is not the case.  As if all of this was not enough, this same man had the woman's husband killed in battle.  This man was the instigator of a murder.  This man, so imperfect in many of his actions, was described by God like this:  ".....a man after my own heart.  He will do everything I want him to do."  God then made David King!  How could God make a statement like that about someone who would make so many mistakes?


What mistakes have you made?  Maybe you think you have done just too many things wrong to be able to be used by God.  That is something the devil would like you to believe but, as usual, the devil is trying to get you to believe a lie.  You see, no matter what you have done, God still believes in you!  There is always forgiveness for sin if we are willing to confess our sin and move ahead in obedience.  It boils down to an issue of the heart.  As humans we will make mistakes and miss the mark but God is interested in the bent of our heart.  The fact that King David made so many mistakes should not become license for us to live shoddy, disobedient lives.  But, it does give us a perspective on God's ability to use those who are not perfect but have a heart  toward Him.

I can see a couple of things that might qualify someone to be a person after God's own heart.  One was that David was a worshiper.  As a young shepherd, he used to sit in the fields, tending the sheep, and sing songs of praise from his heart to the Lord.    God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.  John 4:23-24 (NLT) 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”  This leads to another thing that seems to have endeared him to God's heart.  When confronted with His sin, He was humble and honest enough to confess it.  He accepted the consequences because he was fully aware that the fault was his.  No passing the buck.  2 Samuel 12:1-14 (TLB)   1 So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor.  2 The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. 3 The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter.  4 One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.” 5 David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die!  6 He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.” 7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. 8 I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. 9 Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife.
10 From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own. 11 “This is what the Lord says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view.  12 You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.” 13 Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. 14 Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the Lord by doing this, your child will die.”
Now, what about us?  Are we true worshipers, worshipping God in spirit and in truth from a heart filled with love for Him?  Are we also willing to admit our sin when it is revealed to us, ask for forgiveness, accept the consequences and walk on in obedience?  Could God say of us, like He said of David, "This is a person after my own heart.  Someone obedient to my Word."? 

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Job 16:3 (NLT)
3 Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air? What makes you keep on talking?

First of all, let me say that, "shut up," is not a nice thing to say!  But, don't we get tempted to say it when someone keeps on babbling?  Especially about things they cannot, or are not willing to, change?  It certainly looks like Job was exasperated with the constant "blowing of hot air" by his so-called "friends."  I am wondering today if God does not feel like yelling, "Won't you just shut up! Stop your blowing of hot air!"  I am wondering that because today, even though I was by myself, I found myself in a spiritual battle.  I was doing my best trying to make some plans.  I even got a ton of God's favor making them!  Then, wouldn't you know it!  The enemy moved in.  All the time I spent and the planning I did looked like it was going to be for naught.  And, don't you know it, I started talking out loud to the Lord.  I said such things as, "I was doing the best I could, what happened?"  "Lord, I don't want to do this any more."  "God, I just want to run away and never come back."  I didn't stop there but I won't bore you with all the stuff I was talking to the Lord about, even shouting things like "why?"  You know, in the midst of all my ranting, I thought I heard Him say, "I know your heart. You don't need to go on and on talking.  Be still."  I was talking so loudly, He could have even had to say, "Shut up!"  Anyway, I got the picture! 

Of course!  Why didn't I think of being still in the first place?  Although I had done my best, I am not God!  I needed to be still and know that He is God!  Psalm 46:10 (AMP)  10 Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!  Not only that, it is He, who will be exalted in all the earth.  Not me!  Even if all the work I have done is right, it's not about me.  It's about Him.  The One who strengthens me and is my refuge.  Psalm 46:11 (AMP)  11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge (our High Tower and Stronghold). Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!  I've got to shut up, pause calmly and think about how God has never left me alone, how He has strengthened me to do all the things He has called me to do, how He has given me wisdom and knowledge and how He knows my heart and has seen everything I have done today!  I've been writing about these, "Selah," verses and now God is testing me.  Ouch!  Are you being tested today in some area?  It could even be an area where you thought you were doing pretty well.  Have you done your best and still it doesn't seem good enough?  Well, let me tell you - it is good enough, if you have been in constant fellowship with the Lord asking for His guidance!  He is in control and, although we might not feel like it, He is doing a good work in us and through us when we are depending on Him, knowing we can do nothing without Him! 

If you are in a situation where you are fretting about how your efforts seem to be unfruitful or unnoticed, stop, calmly remember Who your Savior is!  Remember everything He is to you.  Think about it.  Renew and refresh your mind in His Word and not your own plans!  If you have been fretting out loud, either to the Lord or those around you, stop it! Psalm 37:8 (NLT)  8 Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm.  Take a moment to reflect upon who He is and all He's done for you in the past.  Start speaking His Word and agreeing with it.  I am not preaching this.  I am attempting to practice it!  We will have tests along the way.  The Lord never tempts us; but He does test our faith sometimes.  And sometimes, the test is difficult.  Look how God tested Abraham's faith.  Genesis 22:1-2 (NIV)  1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. 2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."  Stop and thank God that He is not testing you as rigorously as He did Abraham that day!  Whatever situation we may find ourselves in, God's Word is always right!  We may be right or wrong but He is always right.  And here's what His Word says:  Lamentations 3:26 (NLT)  26 So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.  Although we can't readily see the Lord in every situation in which we find ourselves, He's definitely good to those who will quietly look for Him, even if they have to wait longer than they want to for His deliverance.  Lamentations 3:25 (NLT)  25 The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. He's good to those who depend on Him instead of on their own ideas!  Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)  5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.  While we may not see His presence with our physical eyes or even feel His presence in certain situations, we do not walk by sight or feelings.  We walk by faith.  2 Corinthians 5:7 (AMP)  7 For we walk by faith [we regulate our lives and conduct ourselves by our conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, with trust and holy fervor; thus we walk] not by sight or appearance.  For me, it's still time to, "Selah."  And that means that I have to "shut up."  If you find yourself in a confusing or highly challenging situation, could it be that it's time for you to be still too?  After all, if we keep on talking, how will we hear God when He talks? 

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Psalms 3:2 (ASV)
2 Many there are that say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah

There are so many naysayer's in the world today.  I wondered exactly what a, "naysayer," was after I wrote the word.  So I looked it up.  It is someone who denies, refuses, opposes, or is skeptical or cynical about something.  As Psalm 3:2 says, there are many that say to our souls that there is no help for us in God.  Not only do we hear those naysayer's in the media, we hear them in the spirit realm too whenever the evil one whisper's to us, "There's no hope, there's no use to try."  Are you thinking what I'm thinking right now?  Anyone who says that there is no help for us in God certainly does not believe that God is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him!  Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)  6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. And what does the Bible say about those who think there is no God?  God calls them fools!  Psalm 53:1 (NLT)  1 Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good! Now, I have to ask myself, "Why would I want to listen to the opinion of a fool?"  And I need to stop and think about that for a while!  Whether it is the media, the devil, or even those close to us who do not have faith, it's good to remember that, when we believe God and seek Him, He is always there to help! Psalm 53:2 (NLT) 2 God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God.  In fact, God is looking down just to see if anyone is wise.  If anyone at all is looking for Him.  Unfortunately, most are not and that was the sad conclusion of the Psalmist.  Psalm 53:3 (NLT)  3 But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!  In fact, the Psalmist said that not a single one was seeking God and that all had become corrupt.

It's true that we are all corrupt before Jesus steps in and brings renewal.  2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)  17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  If we have received Christ into our hearts and really know Him, we are new persons.  Persons with the capability of truly seeking the Lord and finding help in Him.  Have you become a new person in Christ?  You can do that right now if you just admit that you are naturally corrupt.  Romans 3:23 (NIV)  23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  We may do good deeds and try to live a moral life, but without Jesus, we're still corrupt!  All of us.  However, God is not a naysayer.  He tells us the truth about the bad news and then He tells us the good news.  Romans 6:20-23 (NLT)  20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. 21 And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom.   22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Even if we have been walking with Jesus for a very long time, it's good to remember the basics and worship Him for how He has changed our lives.  It's good to remember the many times that God has proven the naysayer's wrong by helping us.  Sometimes just in the nick of time.  We may not see God's help exactly when we want or expect it but He is never late in giving it to us!

Are you in the position of needing God's help this morning?  Quite frankly, whether we realize it or not, we're all always in the need of God's help!  Jesus said we can do nothing without Him. We would be like the fool if we thought we could!  Is there something in your life that you are trying to do without the help of Jesus?   John 15:5 (NLT)  5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. So, what did Jesus mean when He said that we could do nothing without Him?  Nothing means exactly that.  Nothing.  When I looked up the meaning of the Greek words that comprise nothing, the negatives covered everything you could think of!  Yes, there are many who might be saying of us, "God will not help her or him."  As we stop and think about that, we may be telling ourselves that awful lie too!  But, we should neither listen to our own negative self-talk, nor to the spirits that taunt us to doubt, nor to other people who do not have the faith to believe that God will help us. Anyone who tells us that God will not help us is a liar; because His Word says that He will help.  That He will deliver His people. Psalm 3:8 (NLT)  8 Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people. Interlude  Another of the "Selah," verses in the Psalms says that victory comes from the Lord.   I'd say that was help, wouldn't you?  Another version says "Salvation comes from the Lord."  I like that kind of help!  A paraphrase says "Real help comes from God."  If I need help, I surely want it to be "real help."  I wouldn't be surprised if you felt the same way!  We all need real help for the very real problems in our lives!  The enemy wants us to think there is no help so he can keep us from being everything that God made us to be and cause us to give up.  But, God wants us to "Selah."  To stop and calmly think about who is saying what and then decide to believe Him.  No giving up for us!  No listening to naysayer's!  No!  We will encourage one another to remember that, without Jesus and His help, we can't do a thing.  On the other hand, with Jesus and His help, we can do all the things He has called us to do!  Philippians 4:13 (TLB)  13 for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power. It doesn't matter what anyone else says.  When you agree with God's Word, you and God are a majority!  As I close, I am still thinking about that!  I am so thankful for God's help!  You too?

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Psalms 32:7 (NIV)
7 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah

Life happens.  Sometimes we just want to hide.  Is that okay?  Another of the "Selah," verses in Psalms seems to say that it is okay.  In fact it's a good thing!  That is, as long as God is the place where we run to hide!  There are lots of hiding places to which people run these days.  Some hide behind the fact that they have suffered abuse.  They hide behind that, using it as an excuse to remain unchanged.  Of course abuse is wrong but it is not a good place to hide if it has happened to you.  Maybe you are that person.  You cannot get over it.  It is too painful.  So, you hide somewhere behind it becoming a victim hiding in the dark, rather than running to the correct hiding place and becoming the victor God made you to be.  Some of us hide behind work.  If we keep on working and never stop to, "Selah," about our real hiding place, we will never be at peace.  Besides that, those around us will never be at peace either, having to put up with our constant activity.  And yes, we can even use the organized church as a place to hide.  We can look really good as we busy ourselves there.  But, even that is not a high enough hiding place.  While it is good, we've got to look higher.  We need to find our hiding place in the Lord who is the head of His Church.  There are any number of places in which we can hide and even make it look like we're not hiding at all!  I'm sure you can think of lots of places to add to the three I've mentioned.  But, there is only one place that is truly a safe hiding place.  It's not in a place at all - it's in a Person.  Is the Lord our hiding place?

When life happens, storms do arise.  We all need a safe hiding place to which we can run.  The best place is right under the Lord's wings.  Because I love to sing, I think in songs sometimes.  In the song, "Under His Wings," the lyrics talk about the storms of life still raging.  And, whether or not we are believers, the storms will still rage in this life.  But, in the Rock of ages, we, as believers, can rest warmly under our Lord's wings.  A great hiding place!  And, I might add, a place where we will be surrounded by songs of victory!  The Living Bible paraphrases Psalm 32:7 like this:  7 You are my hiding place from every storm of life; you even keep me from getting into trouble! You surround me with songs of victory.  If our lives are filled with songs of "woe is me," instead of songs of "victory," maybe we're hiding in the wrong place!  When we have trouble, we need to remember that God will hide us if we turn to Him.  And, it's okay to hide there with Him.  Psalm 27:5 (NIV)  5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.

We will all need a place to hide from the circumstances of life at some point.  Some of us, it seems, more than others.  We do have an enemy that is constantly watching us to see if he can distract and destroy us.  (John 10:10)     When we run out of strength, we need to hide for a while and God has promised Himself to us to be that place where we can go to be safe.  More lyrics from, "Under His Wings," are these:  "And the enemy still looks for me but what he can't see is that I'm under my Lord's wings."  The climax of that song says, "And now I can sing.........."  We've all heard the phrase, "come out swinging," referring to fighting an opponent.  When we've found our hiding place in the Lord and heard His songs of deliverance, we can come out, "singing" instead of "swinging!"  That may not appear to be a fighting stance but, believe me, when we come out singing God's praises in spite of our troubles, the enemy won't have a leg to stand on.  The fight will be over and we will have the victory!  All because we have been hiding.  Hiding in the right place.  Where is your hiding place?  Let's stop and think about that.  Selah!

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Psalms 61:4 (AMP)
4 I will dwell in Your tabernacle forever; let me find refuge and trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!


This morning, as I was speaking to the Lord, it was as if He said that I could be as close to Him as I want to be. The flip side of that is that He will not force me to be close to Him.  He won't come any closer than I want Him to come.  How close do you want to be to the Lord?  The Psalmist wanted to dwell in God's house forever.  He also knew that there was safety in staying close to God.  A mother hen will keep her chicks safe and warm under her wing.  That's about as close as you can get!  So, God has urged the Psalmist to tell us that we can find a place of security very close to God.  In fact, in the shelter of His wings!  This is another one of those, "Selah," verses.  When you stop to think of it, it's almost unbelievable that the Creator of this earth would invite us to be that close to Him!  But, that's the kind of love He has for you and me.  Enough love to allow us to get up close and personal and enough love to give us the freedom to keep Him at bay.  Admittedly, I have often chosen not to draw closer to Him or invite Him to come closer to me.  For the life of me, I can't figure out why!  Except that sometimes I don't really want to know what He wants to do and, if I stay that close to Him, I've got to be doing what He wants to do - not what I want to do!

Here's something else to pause and think about.  To weigh in our minds.  If we find shelter and security close to God, even under the shadow of His wings, what do we find when we choose not to be that close?  I think the answer is obvious.  We leave ourselves open to the devil and His evil tricks.  It is only when we are close to God that we, with His strength, can resist the devil.  We've got to humbly acknowledge that, unless we are close to God, we can not resist the devil.  James 4:7 (TLB)  7 So give yourselves humbly to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. As I was saying, the only reason I would not want to be close to God is because I want to do what I want to do instead of what He wants to do.  Now, between me and God, who is always right?  And, who has the propensity to sin instead of walking a Godly life?  Certainly it would be me and not God!  But, God says that if I will draw close to Him, He will draw close to me.  He'll draw close to you too, if you start taking steps toward Him.  James 4:8 (TLB)  8 And when you draw close to God, God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and let your hearts be filled with God alone to make them pure and true to him. I just need to wash my hands of those things I might want to do that God does not want to do, fill my heart with Him!  If I have sinned, I need to be truly sorry for that sin even if no one else has seen the sin.  Being sorry if we're found out by others is not true repentance.  It is just being sorry that we got caught!  God wants us to have clean hands and a pure heart and He will give us just that if we confess our sins and repent. 

I am remembering the story of the prodigal son.  (Luke 15:11-32)   He decided to take his, "stuff," which was really stuff that his father had worked for all his life.  He decided to take the stuff and run far away from his father.  Just the opposite of what God is calling you and me to do.  Being far away from his father, the son found out the hard way that he had placed himself in a place of lack and a place of insecurity and danger.  He finally came to himself and decided to draw close to his father again.  Guess what?  His father had been standing on the porch looking down the road every day waiting for his son to return!  As the son walked toward home that joyful day of drawing close to his father again, his father ran to meet him with open arms.  I used to sing a song about the only time we ever saw God run.  It is when we make the decision to draw close to Him.  As we take stumbling, fumbling steps toward our loving Heavenly Father, He runs to us.  He takes us under His wings and makes us secure again.  How close do we want to be to our Father?  It's up to us.  He invites us to come so close that He can literally, "squeeze," us!  Think of that!  We used to sing a hymn in the "olden days," called, "Close to Thee."  Some of the lyrics are these:  "Thou my everlasting portion more than friend or life to me. All along my pilgrim journey Saviour let me walk with Thee "  Now, isn't that exactly where we want to be?  It's where God desires us to be.  Still, He is gentleman enough to give us the choice.  What would we give to have fullness of joy?  Joy unspeakable and full of glory?  What would we give to have pleasures forever more?  We don't have to give anything.   Psalm 16:11 (AMP)     11 You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.  These are gifts to us from our Heavenly Father if we will make the choice to draw close to Him.  Is that a hard choice?  The writer of "The Message" interprets Psalm 16:8 this way:  Day and night I'll stick with God; I've got a good thing going and I'm not letting go.    Stop and think about that!  Not a bad choice!

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Psalms 3:4 (KJV)
4 I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

Upon beginning to write this, I suddenly realized that I didn't know what to write about!  Of course, that happens a lot, but as I sit down and ask the Lord for direction, He speaks to me and what I end up writing is not usually what I started out to write.  Most times, it is something that I, myself, need to learn and I tell the Lord, "I can't write this because I don't have it mastered."  God is good to use us in spite of ourselves.  He assures me that I do, indeed, need to work on what He is telling me but that others might need to hear what I'm hearing too.  Now I have begun to trust Him more to just work through my fingers and mind as I sit here talking to Him and to you each morning.  Today is different though.  I have lots and lots of things on my mind but, as I sat down to type.  He just said, "Selah."  So, that's what I'm passing along to you this morning.  Our lives have become very complicated these days with demands and stresses coming from many directions.  Our knowledge has increased exponentially.  People are more in a hurry than ever before.  It's a hurry up and anxiously wait society we live in.  Daniel 12:4 (NLT)  4 But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.”  It's interesting to note that God said this would happen a very long time ago!  That's something to stop and think about!  With many thoughts running through our heads, sometimes it's just time to sit down, be quiet and think about what we already know.  To settle our minds.  To be still and know that God is God and we are not.  Psalm 46:10 (NLT)  10 “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”  If we don't get everything done today that we planned to do, perhaps we have not bothered to ask God what His plans are.  He has plenty of time to accomplish His purposes and He has given us plenty of time and energy to accomplish what He wants us to do too.  And, in peace, without stress!  Selah!  That's what God has told me to do right now and perhaps He is speaking that to you too!

What does, "Selah," mean?  It actually means a suspension in music.  A pause.  Can you imagine what a song would sound like if there were never a rest or pause between phrases?  It would just keep on going and going, never allowing the singer or player to take a break and never allowing the listener to have time to pause, ponder and enjoy what was last heard!  Always going, never stopping, it would wear the musician out and force the listener into a driven state of mind.  I once heard the phrase, "a pregnant pause."  Just today, I am beginning to get the full impact of that phrase.  When we pause and allow what we know God has said to really sink in, our minds become renewed.  Creative ideas are conceived that will soon be birthed into something tangible that will make a difference for the good in our world.  Knowledge will turn into understanding.  Proverbs 4:7 (AMP)  7 The beginning of Wisdom is: get Wisdom (skillful and godly Wisdom)! [For skillful and godly Wisdom is the principal thing.] And with all you have gotten, get understanding (discernment, comprehension, and interpretation). With everything that calls for our attention these days, wouldn't it be good to be grounded in discernment?  Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to comprehend completely God's ways and incorporate them into every situation in our lives?  These things do not come about by accident and certainly not from a fly-by-night way of living.  They come about when we take the time to pause and think about what God has said.

Do you have any pauses in your life?  Or, is every moment taken up by some activity?  These activities may even be good activities.  You may be doing wonderful things but when we keep going and going without pausing, the music in our lives becomes something that drives us to distraction rather than soothing our weary souls.  God, in His wisdom, has given us many places in the book of Psalms where His instructions are to, "Selah."  The one that stands out to me right now is Psalm 3:4.  Here it is, as written in the Amplified Bible. 4 With my voice I cry to the Lord, and He hears and answers me out of His holy hill. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!  As I sat down to write, I didn't feel quite right.  I said, "Lord, what did I do wrong?"  That's when He said, "Selah," and I was lead to this verse.  Believe me, I needed His help.  I called to Him and He heard and answered me!  Now, I am stopping myself from all the busyness of my mind and allowing myself to calmly think of that!  Isn't it awesome that God would hear our cries and answer us, even when we may have forgotten to stop ahead of time and ask what His plans were for us for the day?  The word, "Selah," really means to weigh things.  When we stop to weigh what God has said, it will calm us!  Think of it.  There's not a single trouble in my life or in yours that we cannot take to God.  In His mercy He hears us.  He graciously answers too!  Is there something that's troubling you today?  Or, are you just so driven by the demands of this world that you are distracted and even depressed?  Cry out to the Lord.  I just did.  He will hear and answer you.  He has just done that for me!  And now, get a cup of tea or your choice of a soothing beverage, sit down and, "Selah."  God is right there and He enjoys your company!  When you come away, you will be refreshed and that thing that God directed you to think about will change your life and the lives of those around you.  His peace will be yours! 

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 Isaiah 49:1 (NLT)
1 Listen to me, all you in distant lands! Pay attention, you who are far away! The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name.


Are you going through something?  Something difficult?  God never fails but sometimes we fail to remember that He has a specific purpose for each of us.  If you're not going through a challenge now, you will at some point.  And, perhaps you know someone who needs your encouragement from the Lord's Word this morning because they are in a season of challenge.  We are all called from the womb for the unique purpose for which God made us.  A purpose that God has created just for us to fulfill at a such a time as this.  Just like Queen Esther.  Esther 4:14 (AMP)  14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion? As I think of this, I am reminded that Esther's purpose in speaking out for the Jewish people was not an easy task.  She was an orphan.  She had no status.  But, God had a plan for her to carry out and she made the choice to follow His plan instead of her own, even though it did not seem possible.  And it was pretty scary.  Esther 4:16 (AMP)  16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me; and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I also and my maids will fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.  When Esther heard and agreed to God's plan for her life, impossible as it was, God moved in and made a way for her where there was no way.  Esther had gone through some, "stuff," in her young life but she listened to what God said about her and operated in the anointing that God placed on her for that situation.  Esther went from going through lots of "stuff," to being Queen Esther!  Why?  Because nothing is impossible with God and, when we walk in the specific purpose for which He called us from the womb (and I might say that He doesn't make mistakes because He calls us by name), His anointing will establish us and make us victorious. 

Each of us is also called for the exact same basic purpose and that's to be conformed to the image of the One to whom we belong.  Romans 8:29 (AMP)  29 For those whom He foreknew [of whom He was aware and loved beforehand], He also destined from the beginning [foreordaining them] to be molded into the image of His Son [and share inwardly His likeness], that He might become the firstborn among many brethren.  As far as our specific and individual purpose for being here on earth is concerned, sometimes we miss it.  Not because we're purposely trying to miss it.  Just because we are living according to our own choice and purpose instead of asking God what His perfect purpose is for us and then following.  His choice for us; and not our own.  Proverbs 3:5 (AMP)  5 Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. There are some of us doing things that our parents decided we should do.  Although their intentions were for our good, unless they had God's purpose in mind, their decisions and direction for us may have missed God's perfect mark.  His choice for us.  Since we are not forced to do anything, we can now ask God, "Am I walking in Your chosen path for me and my life?"  "Am I accomplishing what you created me to do?"  Then, are we willing to listen for His voice and follow what He says?  If you are in some sort of trial, could it be that God is using that trial to groom you and gently nudge you into that divine appointment and purpose He had for you before you were even born?

God called each to be His servant just like He called others in the scripture.  Isaiah 41:8-10 (NLT)  8 “But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend, 9 I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.  10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Each is called for a specific purpose and, though some have failed to find that purpose early on and some have gone astray, God has never changed His mind!  Romans 11:29 (AMP)  29 For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.]  If you haven't found that place within God's perfect purpose for you, be encouraged.  He has not changed His mind about choosing you and He will not throw you away.  In fact, He wants us to be bold in finding and walking in His specific purpose for us and promises to hold us up with His victorious right hand!  We may be doing some good things right now but if they are not what God purposed, we will experience strife and troubles.  No peace.  It may seem totally illogical to move into what God is telling us to do.  But, when God calls, He provides.  We saw this in the story of Jesus's birth and childhood.  In order to spare His Son from an early death and make sure His purpose was completed, God told Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to take a trip to Egypt and stay there for some time.  They didn't plan that trip and they probably didn't have the finances; but God had a plan.  He always does!  At just the right time, enter the wise men from the East!  God had led them to find Jesus and moved them to pour out their treasures before Him as they fell to their knees in worship.  God provided the finances for the trip and their stay in Egypt!  There's no time this morning to go into the story of how the wise men arrived and how totally unexpected and overwhelming this must have been to Mary and Joseph.  God is still the same today!  If He calls us to do something, He will provide and many times it will be in totally unexpected ways.  After all, the glory must all go to Him.  If we can take credit for anything, the thing we're doing is just too small.  God is the God of the impossible!  If you're going through a trial, listen to God.  Follow His purpose.  While your choice may be a good choice, it will not succeed like God's choice for your life.  Perhaps something that you are going through could be God showing you the way to His anointed choice for your life.  It is never too late to follow God completely.  If we do, others may not understand.  We may even think His plan is pretty crazy if we compare it to the world's ways.  But, included in  God's calling is supernatural provision, peace and even prosperity.  If you are struggling now, are you willing to call on God and change direction if He shows you His perfect way?  Will you choose to remember the many stories in His Word that show us that, after each trial, there was a promotion?  A rising to a new level?  Not because of the characters in the stories, but because of the great God of great purpose that they served and that you and I serve too.  Yes, we're all called from the womb (even by name) to be right here where we are for such a time as this, doing specifically what God has purposed and planned for us to do.  We have all been called, by God, from the womb, by name.  Are we walking in His perfect, specific, and  anointed purpose and calling? 

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 Deuteronomy 30:15 (NLT)
15 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster.


With all my ups and downs in life, I'm so glad that God is always the same!  He does things that are new to us, but His character never changes.  His power never changes.  His Word never changes.  He gives each of us the choice to change or not.  There may be some areas we need to change.  I know that there are many areas in my life that don't really conform to God's consistently good ways.  Isn't it great to know that we have a choice?  God will not force us to do anything we don't want to do.  That makes us partners in this life with our Lord.  We have equal say as to whether we will follow what He says or not.  However, I'm not sure why I have not changed more by this time!  Considering that the things we do will either result in life or death, the choice shouldn't be too hard.  And, if I had to choose between prosperity and disaster, I'm not sure why I would even consider disaster!  Yet, there are times when my actions might indicate that I am choosing death and disaster.  Maybe you have had some times in your life like that too.  Choices are important.  Every choice we make is important!  Every choice you and I make will either bring life and prosperity or death and disaster into our lives!  So, how do we make those good choices that will bring us life and prosperity?


 The first thing we must do is a command.  Now, it is difficult to be commanded to love someone but that is what God is commanding.  He says we must love the Lord.   I don't know about you, but I have been on a lifelong quest to know how to love the Lord.  I have always felt inadequate in that area.  I can really relate to the song from "Jesus Christ, Superstar," where the lyrics say, "I don't know how to love Him."    Deuteronomy 30:16 (NLT)  16 For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.  Loving someone that you can't see is difficult for some of us.  God doesn't leave us in the dark about how to love Him though.  He says that we need to keep His commands and walk in His ways.  Now you may say, "But, you are reading out of the Old Testament."  That's true but Jesus said that He did not come to destroy the law.  Matthew 5:17 (NLT)  17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. God's laws (or boundaries) have always been for our good.  When we choose to operate outside of those boundaries, He is grieved because we have chosen death and disaster.  We have chosen to place ourselves outside of His safety zone.  Jesus came to accomplish the purpose of God's commands.  He came to let us know how to love God and be assured that God really loves us with an intimate love.  John 14:23 (AMP)  23 Jesus answered, If a person [really] loves Me, he will keep My word [obey My teaching]; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home (abode, special dwelling place) with him.

God's command to love Him and walk in His ways will surely prompt us, in some way, to change.  I don't think that there is a person reading this who has it totally together when it comes to loving God and walking in all His commandments.  I know I don't, so I'm on a mission to change some things, starting today and hopefully continuing through this year and all the days the Lord has given me to stay on this earth!  I heard a preacher say, "Change isn't change until you change."  That's very true!  We can talk about change and resolutions and never do anything about it.  I'm famous for buying books about diet's, make-over's, home decorating, etc.,  Somehow I guess I think if I have the books, everything will be different.  Nothing changes except I have more "stuff," in my house to move around.  I don't get thinner and healthier because the diet book sits on the shelf.  I don't look better because I haven't read the make-over book and tried their suggestions.  My house is not "house-beautiful," because it is still decorated with clutter - part of that clutter being my home-decorating books!  If any change has taken place, it hasn't been for the good, it has only cluttered up my life!  We can do that same thing with God's Word.  Most of us have a Bible (some even have many Bibles).  Most of us know a fair amount of His Word but has it changed us?  Are we living out that Word in our everyday situations?  His Word doesn't change but we have the option to let it change us.  Jesus, who is the Word, sits at the throne of the Father making intercession for us all the time.  Hebrews 7:24-25 (NLT)  24 But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. 25 Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.  I wonder if He ever gets tired of interceding for us in the same way because we have not chosen to change.  Is He having to intercede for us, working overtime, because we continually go outside the boundaries of His Word?  I wonder if He is still praying that prayer, "Father, forgive them because they don't know what they're doing."  What changes do we need to make to choose life and prosperity?  What changes do we need to make to be pleasing to God, showing by our actions that we truly love Him (and maybe give Jesus a little break from having to intercede so much for us)?  If we do not know His Word, we need to read it and get it down into our hearts.  Having only head-knowledge will not make the changes that heart-knowledge will!    If we know some of the Word, we may just need to work the Word that we know, letting it change our lives.  We all need to work on our love walk with our Lord and Savior.  How do you love God?  Obedience seems to be the mode of God's choice.  I'm so glad that God is not a control-freak.  He's not out to harm us or keep good things from us.  All of His commands are so that we can have life and prosperity.  He gives us a choice but He doesn't force that choice on us.  He desperately hopes that we will choose life and prosperity.  Satan knows that.  That's why He's out to try to get you and me to turn from God's Word and from obeying it.  John 10:10 (NLT)  10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.  It's our choice to follow the devil's temptations or to change and become more like our Lord by loving Him and following His commands.  What changes do you want to make in your life, starting now, to insure that your life will be the life God desires for you?  An abundant and prosperous life! 

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Proverbs 3:9-10 (NLT)
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.  10 Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.

Today is the seventh day of this new year.  We have been in this new year one week and I have been thinking of foundational principles that we can take into the new year as a part of a new lifestyle.  One that will allow us to get to know our Savior better and have a closer walk with Him.  If you are reading this, the chances are that you, too, want to know Him better, love Him more, and stay in step with Him.  This morning is a morning that I may touch on something with which some will take issue .  But, please read to the end and then make your own choice, based on the Word of God.  What I'm talking about is a foundational principle from God's Word.  Many people criticize the church for asking for money.  However, there isn't a country or a kingdom, here on earth, that can be run without resources.  God's Kingdom is no different.  And, we can see from Proverbs 3:9-10 that God was the first one to ask for our money, or our treasure.  Even though God asks for something, He promises something in return.  Something that we could not count on if we were doing things in our own strength or understanding.  He promises to fill our barns with grain and our vats to overflowing with wine!  He promises to provide!  Whatever we have is ours solely because God has given us the power to obtain it.  Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (NIV)  7 You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. When we have times of financial success, do we pat ourselves on the back and say, "Look what I did!"?  Or, do we remember that, no matter how hard we have worked, it all belongs to God anyway?  We couldn't have done what we did unless God had given us the ability to produce!

Now, I would agree, and you probably would agree too, that, when we give, our seed should be sown into good ground.  Those who feed us  and serve us spiritually should receive from us.  1 Timothy 5:17-18 (AMP)  17 Let the elders who perform the duties of their office well be considered doubly worthy of honor [and of adequate financial support], especially those who labor faithfully in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain, and again, The laborer is worthy of his hire. Our local church should receive the first of our best gifts if they are providing our spiritual food and serving us by helping equip us to go out and minister in the world.  When we give, we should give as though we were giving to the Lord and, if we are sowing into a ministry that follows Christ, we are doing just that.  Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)  11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.  Our first thought, when we get our first paycheck this year should be to give at least ten percent right of the top of the gross amount of that check to the Lord.  Can we do that freely and cheerfully?  Will it be our first thought?  Or will we be thinking of what bills we must pay or those new shoes we saw that were on sale?  God is not interested in our giving because we "have to."  Look what He says:  2 Corinthians 9:6-11 (NIV)  6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

I notice in 2 Corinthians 9:6 that if I sow sparingly, I will not reap much.  God gives me the choice as to how much I give and He doesn't want me to be reluctant or do it because I'm on a guilt trip.  That's not what God wants from us.  He doesn't want to control us.  He wants us to want to give back to Him, first of all because we realize that it all belongs to Him anyway, and secondly, because our hearts are full of gratitude for all that He has done for us.  Then we come to that part of 2 Corinthians 9:6 that tells us that if we sow generously, we will reap generously,  that is the icing on the cake.  That's just how God is.  We can never out-give God.  He loves to give good gifts to His children; but He also wants His children to be just like Him - generous givers!   As parents, we do not give our children harmful or ugly things when they ask for something good.  Matthew 7:9-10 (NLT)  9 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead?   10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!   No!  We're inclined to give our children the best that we can give.  Why should we doubt that our Heavenly Father won't be a thousand times more willing to give His children the best?  After all, we're not perfect parents.  But we have a Heavenly Father who is a perfect parent!    Matthew 7:11 (NLT)  11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. That being said, I don't think our motivation for giving should be just so that we can get something in return.  We get because it is God's character to give.  As we are more and more conformed to His image, we will also become conformed to be givers for the sheer delight of giving to a God who has given so much to us.  We will love giving to those who have helped us along spiritually.  We will enjoy giving to ministries that feed the poor, give medical help to those who have none, bring relief to war-ravaged places, and any ministry that does what Jesus would do; all in the name of Jesus!  Is one of your first thoughts this first week of the new year to gift the best off the top of your first pay?  Is your first thought to be so grateful that you would love to give God ninety percent and live off of the other ten percent?  There is more to God's promise if our hearts are inclined to want to first give before we spend.  Look at 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 again!  You see, God is not trying to take anything from us.  He's trying to provide us with seed and bread.  Seed so we can sow even more and receive a reward of righteousness and bread so that we will have our daily bread to eat!  This is not too hard for God.  He has way more than enough in resources.  He doesn't even need what you and I have but He is interested in seeing if we are being conformed to His image when it comes to giving.  He gave His best when He gave His Son to die for our sins and bring us into right relationship with Himself.  Something that we could never have worked enough to receive.  Something that we could never give enough to receive!  It was His best gift!  Will we give of our best out of this week's paycheck and then out of every paycheck thereafter?  Our Father in Heaven deserves all that and more!  Besides that, I will guarantee you, on the authority of God's Word, that this year will turn out to be a good one because we have thought first of giving back to the Lord. 

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Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.


As this new year began, I began thinking about all the things that might be foundational in starting the year out right.  Today I was reminded of putting first things first.  In the first week of this new year, I have thought of several things to review so that I might make this year a better year than the last one.  I want to walk a closer walk with my Lord.  How about you?  I believe that my latter days can be much better than the former.  I believe yours can too.  It could be that some of us have gone through a time of testing this past year.  We have to remember that nothing happens to us by chance.  Everything that comes into our lives can, and will be, used by God for good if we are loving Him and called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28 (NLT)  28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  I'm not saying that everything will feel good.  But according to God's never-failing Word, He will work good out of everything.  That is, if we put first things first.

The man, Job, was tested greatly.  If you have the time, read through the book of Job.  You'll find that, in all of his testing, Job did not forget to put God first.  As a result, God blessed Job's latter days in a greater way than he was blessed in his former days.  And his former days were not all that shabby in the blessings department!  Job 42:12-13 (AMP)  12 And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. 13 He had also seven sons and three daughters.  Job came out of a time of great testing, after having lost everything, without becoming bitter.  Instead he became better because He kept God first in his heart and mind.  If you have gone through times of testing and hardship this past year, know that, by putting God first in your life and seeking His Kingdom and righteousness first, you can depend on His promise to provide for your needs.  He did it for Job and He'll do it for you and me too if we will partner in His ways and purposes.  The testing has been for our good and, if we will keep God first, it will refine us.  

Will we take the promise of Jesus seriously?  The promise that He will provide for all of our needs?  This promise that all things will be given to us is not unlike other promises in the scripture.  In order to receive the promise we have to do our part.  In this case, our part is putting first things first.  Seeking, first, His kingdom and His righteousness.  Where can we find His Kingdom?  Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is within us.  Luke 17:20-21 (NIV)  20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."  Although the following quote from, The Message, is not a literal Biblical translation, I think the writer has the right idea here.  When we allow Jesus to move inside of us, receiving His salvation. He will instill His Kingdom in us.  Luke 3:16 (MSG)  16 But John intervened: "I'm baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I'm a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.  If you have never received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you can put first things first in this first week of the new year.  For those of us who are already walking with Jesus, our walk can be even closer this year than it was in years past if we remind ourselves that we carry His Kingdom and the King within ourselves.  If we will listen to Him, He will help us set our priorities.  He will help us to put first things first!  We will be able more and more to hear His voice within!  I am reminded that I must remember, first, that this body that I live in belongs to God.  Romans 12:1 (NLT)  1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. I see, from Romans 12:1, that I cannot even truly worship God unless I have first given my body to Him.  And then, I can know that I can set priorities in my life according to His perfect will!  And so can you!  Romans 12:2 (NLT)  2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  By seeking His Kingdom and righteousness first (which is within us if we have received Jesus), we can know that the rest of the year we will find His provision, as He promised.  We just have to put first things first! 

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1 Peter 5:8 (AMP)
8 Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.

In the world we live in, balanced lives are far from the norm.  And, mention boundaries, if you dare.  Most people are under the impression that boundaries are to keep us from doing things and having things that would be enjoyable.  I have fallen into the trap of being unbalanced when it comes to taking on too much to do.  I wonder if anyone can relate to this?  Of course, we have good intentions and we want to do lots of good things. The many things we want to do are good things.  They may be very good things.  But, they may not be the best.  Especially if we have not been told by God to do them.  Isn't it interesting that the enemy can get us unbalanced by getting us to buy into doing everything good for everybody!  In doing so, we become unbalanced, fatigued, and are easy prey for the enemy who is looking for someone to devour.  God has created certain good works for you and me to do.  Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)  10 For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].   When we try to do more than He has asked us to do, we become unbalanced.  If we are not living balanced lives, we are not really receiving the abundant life that Jesus offers us; and we are in danger of being pounced upon by our enemy, the devil.  

God has, on purpose, given us power, love and a sound and disciplined mind with which to live a well-balanced life.  He has given us His commandments and principles as boundaries to keep us safe and secure.  When we remain in His Word, we are fortressed against the dangers of the world that is outside of His Word.  All good parents create boundaries for their children.  Whether the children realize it or not, the boundaries are for their good.  To keep them safe from harm.  That's just the way it is with our Heavenly Father.  All of His boundaries are good for us.  He's not trying to keep anything that is good from us; only to keep us from being sucked in and destroyed by what is not good!  There is fear associated with being in an unsafe place.  There is no worse fear than living a life that is unbalanced and tottering close to collapse.  God has not given you and me this spirit of fear but has given us the tools to live a well-balanced life.  An abundant and peaceful life.  2 Timothy 1:7 (AMP)  7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. 


We can look back at Daniel and his friends who were in captivity in a foreign nation but chose to remain within the boundaries of God's Word.  As it turned out, when the king looked for well-balanced judgment, he found that Daniel and company had a lot more of that than all of his trained wise men!  Daniel 1:20 (TLB)  20 And in all matters requiring information and balanced judgment, the king found these young men’s advice ten times better than that of all the skilled magicians and wise astrologers in his realm.  Today, it is fashionable to some to mock those who are determined to live within God's boundaries and live balanced lives.  However, God's Word will stand true today, just as it did in Daniel's day.  Watch this!  1 Corinthians 1:26-27) AMP  26 For [simply] consider your own call, brethren; not many [of you were considered to be] wise  according to human estimates and standards, not many influential and powerful, not many of high and noble birth.  27 [No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.  Living a balanced life and staying within the boundaries of God's Word may look foolish and weak to the world but those who will choose to do it will confound the wisest of worldly people!  Not only that, we will enjoy abundant life and find ourselves safe from the devil's wiles.  Will you and I choose to live, to the best of our ability and with God's guidance and direction, a life with boundaries and balance for this new year?  Jude 1:20-21 (TLB)  20 But you, dear friends, must build up your lives ever more strongly upon the foundation of our holy faith, learning to pray in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. 21 Stay always within the boundaries where God’s love can reach and bless you. Wait patiently for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you.

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Genesis 1:1 (NLT)
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

In the very beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  At that time the earth was pretty chaotic.  Genesis 1:2 (NLT)  2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Some of the past years of our lives may have been chaotic too.  We may have lived through lots of darkness in our life.  But God.......  When God saw how chaotic the word was, He said, "Let there be light."  Genesis 1:3 (NLT)  3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God said the light was a good thing and He separated it from the darkness.  Genesis 1:4 (NLT)  4 And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. When God looks at the chaos in our lives, He knows that we need to have light, so He offers the Light that will send the darkness in our lives fleeing!  John 8:12 (TLB)  12 Later, in one of his talks, Jesus said to the people, "I am the Light of the world. So if you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, for living light will flood your path." If this past year has presented challenges for you and have been disturbed and confused, you can determine in this new year that you will let more of His light shine into your heart and life.  You and I can start anew, as many people determine to do with their New Year's resolutions.  I just heard today that, those who make New Year's resolutions keep them on the average of two and one half weeks.  Pretty sad. 

Could it be that New Year's resolutions are not kept because people try to go it alone?  They make some kind of attempt to do a new thing in a new year but they remain in the dark!  There is only one way that we can make a new beginning and that is by the mercy and grace of the God of second, third, and infinite chances for a new beginning.  Chances for us to repent, depend solely on Him and walk in His Light.  John 15:5 (NLT)  5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. In fact, God's mercies are new each morning.  The writer of Lamentations has had some hard times, just as some of us have had this past year.  Some of us can relate to these words:  Lamentations 3:19-21 (NLT) 19 The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. 20 I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.  21 Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:  Yes, so many this year have suffered financial loss.  I know of many who have had loved ones pass away.  These losses are real, and must be grieved for a time,  but the writer goes on to say this:  Lamentations 3:22-24 (NLT) 22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. 23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.  24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”   He reminds himself that God's faithfulness is greater than we can imagine.  Greater than any problem we have faced or will face in the future.  He can dare to hope and so can we.  God's mercies begin afresh each morning.  I love it!  I have a pillow that sits on the bed in my guest room with these words on it:  "God's promises are new every morning because we mess up every day."  Isn't that the truth!  We are now on day four of a brand new year.  We have three hundred and sixty-one days left in this year to remember each morning that God's mercies are new!  Will this be the year that we remember that every morning, thank God for His faithfulness, and dare to keep on hoping? 

We have just started a new year in which, I believe, God is going to do a new thing.  Isaiah 43:19 (AMP)  19 Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Maybe last year was tough and not exactly as we expected but we can choose to let it go and look forward instead of remembering what happened or what we wish would have happened.  Isaiah 43:18 (AMP)  18 Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. God is the God of new beginnings.  That's why the Apostle, Paul, said that he chose to forget the things of the past, both good and bad, and press on toward the goal.  Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)  12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. As stalwart a man as Paul was, he knew that he needed to keep looking forward.  He knew that he had more new beginnings before he reached the end of the line.  Last year may have been a year when some of us were disappointed in ourselves.  Perhaps our walk was not as good as we intended.  If we fell in some way, we can know that it is not the end.  The enemy would like us to think it is because then he could keep us down and prevent us from being everything God created us to be.  1 John 2:1 (NLT)  1 My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. What confirmation!  God's mercies, through our Lord Jesus Christ, are new whenever we need them!  That is, of course, not to say that we should be lax about the way we live and sin just because grace is available.  Romans 6:1-2  (NLT)  1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?  However, it is to say that our Father is always watching for us to turn around, repent, and receive a new beginning from Him if we have made a wrong turn in life.  In the beginning, when the world was in chaos, the Spirit of God hovered over it bringing it a new beginning.  Organizing and setting things in order.  Shedding light on it. That word, "hover," actually means to, "brood over."  This new year, the Holy Spirit is fluttering over you and me, working in those who will let Him, to set things in order and eliminate any areas of chaos.  This new year, His Spirit will give us a new beginning if we will open our heart to Him, look for and pay attention to that new thing He is doing, and let Him have His way. 

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Acts 11:23 (TLB)
23 When he arrived and saw the wonderful things God was doing, he was filled with excitement and joy, and encouraged the believers to stay close to the Lord, whatever the cost.


As I review the past year of my life, I want to see how I did when it comes to drawing closer to the Lord.  There are some indicators that I can look at.  One of the questions I can ask myself is whether I have been consistently listening to the Lord through His Word.  How much of what I heard with my spiritual ears actually was demonstrated in my life?  How close was I to the Lord last year by studying and meditating on His Word and how can I get even closer this year?  It is obvious that if we did not study, reflect upon, and meditate upon His Word last year, we will have taken some wrong turns along the way.  Why?  Because His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.  Psalm 119:105 (NLT)  105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. How can we stay on the right pathway if we're in the dark?  God has written His love, mercy, grace and instructions to us in His Word.  If someone we loved had gone away and the only contact we had with them was the letters they wrote to us, do you think we would lay them on the coffee table to collect dust?  To remain unopened?  Or, would our love for that person, and our desire to connect with them, cause us to read those letters over and over again?  My guess is that those letters would be read so many times that the paper would begin to wear thin!  My seriousness about my relationship with the Lord will be evident by how much I read what He has written to me.  I can't see Him with my physical eyes but I can know Him from reading and re-reading His Word until it becomes a part of me and I become closer and closer to Him. 

Not only has God written of His love, mercy, and grace toward us, He has also written instructions for us and He will hold us accountable as to whether we have followed those instructions.  There are so many evil and false things going on in our world today and many of us overlook them or have fallen into the trap of being "tolerant."  That's not what God's Word implies.  If we really want to be close to the Lord, we will want to learn what it is that He likes and make that a priority in our own lives.  His instructions are not to keep us from anything good, but to protect us from evil.  He loves us that much!  Psalm 119:104 (NLT)  104 Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life. Reading and meditating on His Word will give us understanding.  When we have understanding, we can be tolerant of people; but we will not be tolerant with false and evil ways of life.  We can't be close to God and be close to the world's ways too.  This is the third day of a new year.  If you have never made a deliberate and resolute choice about whom you will serve, today is the day to do it!  Joshua 24:15 (NLT)  15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”  If we were lax in serving God last year, it's not too late to begin right now - this year! 

Reading is good and we should do that every day.  As we read, we can communicate with the One who wrote to us through prayer.  We can ask Him to open our eyes to the truth in His Word.  The Psalmist knew that his eyes needed to be turned from things that were not edifying to God's Word.  God's Word is our life preserver too!  Psalm 119:37  (NIV)  37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.  When we pray as we read, His Spirit will shed light on what we are reading and it will become life to us.  Was last year a year of communicating with God in prayer?  Would you like to be closer to God in that way this year?  I know I would!  After all, if you really love someone, you can't wait to talk to them, can you?  And, we most often only share our deepest longings and needs with our best friend - right?  Who is your best friend?  Who are you the closest to?  Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)  14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our  weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.  This year we can hold firmly to what we believe by remembering that Jesus wants to be best friends with us.  John 15:15 (NIV)  15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  These first few days of this new year, as we look back on how we lived our lives last year,  we can get a new view.  Did we really take time to go boldly before the throne of God last year?  With every large and small detail of our lives?  When you were so tired at the end of a work day and you had to stop at the market for a loaf of bread, did you tell Jesus?  Did you ever find that He gave you a front parking space?  When you or a loved one faced a grave illness, did you go boldly before God's throne and find the grace and mercy you needed to get through that difficulty?  This year God will do a new thing for us in our lives if we will get a new view of Him.  How close do you want to be to Him?  Close enough to take time each day to read His Word?  Psalm 119:130 (NLT)  130 The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.   Close enough to pray to Him without ceasing?  1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)  17 Never stop praying.  As we take a short review of last year, let's remember that the closer you get to someone, the better the view!  How close will we choose to get to God this coming year? 

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James 4:8 (NLT)
8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

How was your year last year?  We can take these first few days of this new year to review last year and determine to renew our minds this year so that they conform to God's will and purpose for us!  Romans 12:2 (AMP)  2 Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. It could be that last year, about this time, we decided to do that and then perhaps slipped away, drawing closer to the ways of the world.  Or, it could be that we did very well in continually renewing our minds, changing our ideals and proving what God's perfect and acceptable will is for us.  Either way, a good review and a re-commitment is a good thing with which to build our foundation for this new year!  It's becoming harder and harder to keep our loyalties solely aligned with God's Kingdom when we are bombarded from every direction, and even from our own families, with the ever-increasing, evil ways of this world. 

I am reminded that, when we began this new year yesterday, I was one day closer to the day I would die or one day closer to the day in which Jesus will return.  Whichever comes first.  On the day that we meet Jesus, He will have some things to say.  The good news is that, to those who have constantly renewed their minds and focused on Him, He will say the following.  Matthew 25:34 (AMP)  34 Then the King will say to those at His right hand, Come, you blessed of My Father [you favored of God and appointed to eternal salvation], inherit (receive as your own) the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Oh, what a glorious day that will be for those who have drawn closer to God throughout their lives!  The bad news is that, to those who refused the Lord's gracious hospitality, he will say the following:  Matthew 25:41 (AMP)  41 Then He will say to those at His left hand, Begone from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels! As I read the, "in-between," news, I was encouraged to know that we can show, by our actions toward others, that we are drawing closer to God!  It is when we love what He loves.  It is when we do for others what He has done for us, as though we were doing it for Him.  Matthew 25:35-40 (AMP)  35 For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you brought Me together with yourselves and welcomed and entertained and lodged Me, 36 I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me with help and ministering care, I was in prison and you came to see Me. 37 Then the just and upright will answer Him, Lord, when did we see You hungry and gave You food, or thirsty and gave You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger and welcomed and entertained You, or naked and clothed You? 39 And when did we see You sick or in prison and came to visit You? 40 And the King will reply to them, Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least [in the estimation of men] of these My brethren, you did it for Me.

There are members of the Kingdom of God all over this world.  They don't always look like we do or have the same customs.  Some are not looking too good right now and need a helping hand up.  Some are in prison.  Many are hungry.  Many do not even have a cup of clean water to drink.  Some are without shelter.  There are those who don't even have the clothes needed to keep them warm this winter.  Because we live in a country of abundance, for the most, part, these people who are in need, and even suffering, are strangers to us.  We don't usually find them walking down the street or even in the local mall.  But, they are all around us, nonetheless.  They are in homeless shelters.  They are in nursing homes.  They are living in cardboard make-shift homes under bridges where no one usually looks.  They are in other countries where starvation, disease, persecution, and death reign over the land.  They can even be behind the walls of our next door neighbor's home, where the need has been hidden and, thus, ignored.  There are so many ways, this year, that we can give to Jesus, Himself, by being more aware of those in close proximity to us and those around the world.  We can draw closer to God by giving as though we were giving to Jesus, Himself.  What can we give during this coming year?  Maybe we're not blessed at the moment with great financial abundance.  But, everyone has a smile.  If we are reading the Word of God and encouraging ourselves in the Lord, we have the Word of God to help another face a new year with hope.  Whatever it is that we have is worth sharing with another who has not.  I experienced a very loving mini-back, rub along with an encouraging word from my daughter a couple of days ago.  It went a very long way to comfort me and I do pray that Jesus will give the back generously to her because she took time to stop and think of me!  Of course, if we do have the financial ability to give in that way, Jesus readily welcomes that too.  Remember the wise men who gave generously to Him just before He and His family left on their journey to Egypt?  How nice that there were wise people tuned in to God's giving methods.  They were able to provide the way for the Savior's stay in Egypt!  We can all do something each day for someone in some kind of need.  We can give whatever it is we have to give with no strings attached, knowing that we are giving to Jesus.  When the time of judgment comes (and it will come), may we be among the ones who have received salvation and then helped and given to others!  If this was the day we had to stand before Jesus, what would we hear?  The bad news or the good news?  That depends upon whether we have listened to the "in-between" news and drawn closer to God by drawing closer to people, giving to them as though we were giving to Jesus, Himself.  Upon reviewing how we spent our lives last year, we can probably all say that we can be more sensitive to God's leading this year and more sensitive to the needs of others. 

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Habakkuk 3:2 (NLT)
2 I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy.

Wow!  This is the very first day of a brand new year!  It seems like the past year flew by and we are now moving into the unknown of a new year.  I'm moving to the new year remembering a few things.  The first is that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He was the same last year (and in years before that), as He is, right now - today!  He'll be the same forever too which means that every day of this brand new year, He will remain the same in His power, majesty, and character.  We can count on Jesus!  As Habakkuk stated in Habakkuk 3:2, the Lord will help us just as He has done in years past.  We wouldn't be experiencing this new day of a new year unless the Lord had helped us in years past!  Think about some of the things you experienced last year and look with awe at God's amazing works in your life!  We have probably all experienced some times of deep need in the past year and we will probably experience some of those times in this new year.  But, like Habakkuk, we can call on the Lord to help us when things don't look good and know that He will do it, just as He has done in years gone by!  

As much of the world refuses to acknowledge God, it may be that He is angry.  He has a right to be angry!  Let's just think about how we would feel if we were God!  Much of the world forgets that it is only the clay.  It tries to tell the Potter what to do!  Or, worse than that, many completely disregard the Potter.  Jeremiah 18:1-6 (NLT) 1 The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 2 “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” 3 So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel.  4 But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. 5 Then the Lord gave me this message:  6 “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.  Pretty scary!  I would think the Potter would be quite angry  looking at the world today who seems to be trying to crowd out its Creator.  So, I'm going into the new year thanking the Potter that He knows best about what to do with this little lump of clay.  Thanking Him that He has great mercy on those who seek Him!  Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT)   11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen.  13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.  If we will seek the Lord the first thing, this new year, and do it wholeheartedly, we will find Him!  There's no better way to walk through a new year than when you walk with the One who is The Way!

We have no idea what each day in this year will bring.  Some days may be challenging.  It is on those days that we can call upon the One with whom we are walking.  We can call on the Lord and He will show us things we have never known before!  Even great and mighty things!  Jeremiah 33:3 (NLT)  3 Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come. If we remember that it is in the Potter that we live and move and have our being, we will have a great foundation on which to build a year of joy and triumph!  Acts 17:28 (NLT)  28 For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’  If we will go into this new year knowing that nothing is impossible with the One with whom we walk, we can face anything a new day will bring, whether it be joy or trial!  His Word will never fail!  Luke 1:37 (NLT)  37 For nothing is impossible with God.”  When we come to a desert season, we can know that God is able to make streams in that desert if we will trust Him!  Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)  19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. If our path seems to become blurred or even blocked, our God can make a way where there seems to be no way.  He's done it in years past and He'll do it again!  Besides that He has already gone before us into this new year.  Just as He did in years past for Joshua, He will do it this year for those who will trust Him.  Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT)  8 Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”   The Lord not only has gone before us into this new year, He is also our rear guard if we are trusting and obeying Him.  Isaiah 58:8 (NIV)  8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  If you and I are willing to let go of the past and just let God be our rear guard, He will help us not to take any past baggage into this new year that He has created for us!  The Apostle, Paul, worked toward this very thing and so can we, beginning right now.  Today.  The very first day of a new year!  Philippians 3:13 (NLT)  13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  We can look forward with anticipation because, although it is a process, we are pressing on for the perfection and the spiritual maturity, which is the plan of Jesus for us.  Philippians 3:12 (NLT)  12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  I have to confess that, when I began writing this, I was a bit depressed.  My family had visited for the Christmas holiday and they have gone back home today.  I was a bit apprehensive about the coming year too.  But, now, I am encouraged and I hope you are, as well !  This year we can press on toward the important things that God has planned for us.  Philippians 3:14 (NIV)  14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. We can press on confidently knowing that we have a higher goal than just the things of this world.  2 Corinthians 4:15-18 (ASV)  15 For all things are for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God.  16 Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.  We can go forward with joy because God has promised that, if we seek His Kingdom first, all the other things we need will be provided.  Matthew 6:33-34 (NLT)  33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. We can let go of the past and march confidently into this new year knowing as Habakkuk did, that God will help us again in this year, as He has done in years gone by!  We're sure to be filled with awe, once again, as we see God work mightily in our lives!

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1 Peter 1:23-25 (TLB) 23 For you have a new life. It was not passed on to you from your parents, for the life they gave you will fade away. This new one will last forever, for it comes from Christ, God’s ever-living Message to men.  24 Yes, our natural lives will fade as grass does when it becomes all brown and dry. All our greatness is like a flower that droops and falls; 25 but the Word of the Lord will last forever. And his message is the Good News that was preached to you. 

If you have not received a new life, you can receive one today.  Just in time for a new year!  A new life for a new year and one that will last forever!  All we have to do to receive a new life is to ask.  Jesus has promised to give us a new life in Him if we will confess our sins.  Romans 3:23-24 (TLB)  23 Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal; 24 yet now God declares us "not guilty" of offending him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in his kindness freely takes away our sins. God has promised to give us gift of, not only a new life, but eternal life!  Romans 6:23 (TLB)  23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  This new life will not fade away like the lives our parents gave us.  2 Corinthians 5:1 (NLT)  1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. For those of us who have already received a new life in Christ, it's a good time to remember how blessed we are.  He has brought us through another year and He will take us from faith to faith and glory to glory in the coming year.  It's a good time to do a heart check and get rid of anything that will hold us back in the new year.  Things such as jealousy, bitterness, and pride.  It's a good time to ask God to show us those things that would hinder us and ask forgiveness. 

If you have already received the new life in Christ, you will be encouraged to remember that, although tough times may come upon us on this earth, we do not face these times alone. We have the Lord who walks with us and He has promised never to leave us.  Hebrews 13:4-5 (NIV)  4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."   Of course, God's promises usually have a condition to be met by us.  So, with the coming of a new year with possibly many financial changes and challenges, we can prepare ourselves by learning to be content with what we have, whether little or much.  Amy Carmichael has aptly said, "No one knows what this next year will bring, but one thing is sure.  He will be with us and He is enough for every difficulty that will arise."  It could be that we will face some difficulties in the new year, as we have all faced this past year, but we don't have to fear because we have the promise that God will be with us!  Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)  6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."  He will not leave us as long as we desire Him to stay with us!  Even when we push Him away and are unfaithful, He remains faithful!

God, although His character never changes, is always doing something new in our lives.  This new year is a year that He will do the same thing.  Isaiah 43:19 (AMP)  19 Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. With the times changing rapidly and new challenges arising, there's not a one of us who doesn't need the Lord to do some new things in our lives.  We may have gone through this year with some stresses that threatened to take us down.  But God.........  He is always willing to do a new thing in our lives.  Something that will surprise us and help us make it through when we think we just can't do it.  This coming year will be no different.  Look around.  He says, "Behold, I am doing a new thing!"  Then He asks if we can perceive it, know it, and give heed to it.  Can we?  This coming year, I am asking Him to open my spiritual eyes to the new thing He is doing.  To let me perceive it.  And, most importantly, to let me give heed to it?  Will you ask the same thing of Him?  He says He will make a way in our wilderness and place rivers in the desert places of our lives!  I can hardly wait to see the ways that God will do that in my life and in yours in this coming new year!  He's able to do ever so much more than we can even think about or begin to believe!  Ephesians 3:20-21 (TLB) 20 Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.  21 May he be given glory forever and ever through endless ages because of his master plan of salvation for the Church through Jesus Christ. Are you ready for a new life in a new year?  You can have it because God is always ready to do a new thing in your life.  He not only makes a way where there is no way, He  has given us His Son who is the Way.  John 14:6 (ASV)  6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.  It's time to let God do a new thing in our lives in the new year! 

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Psalms 119:55 (NLT)
55 I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord; therefore, I obey your instructions.

I am blessed because today is my birthday.  This affords me the opportunity to reflect on what has happened this year and to thank God for the many times that He has shown me mercy and grace.  Since it is so close to the new year, I can reflect on this past year and think of ways to be resolute in the coming year of my life and in the coming new year!  First of all, in my reflections, I remember who the Lord is and what that means in my life.  It's good to be quiet in the evening as the Psalmist did and reflect on who the Lord is.  When I do that, I am reminded that it is my desire to obey His instructions.  (Psalm 119:55 (NLT)  I know that, in His instructions, I find real life!  I was recently sharing with a friend that I have a tendency to be stubborn.  She reminded me that there is nothing good about being stubborn, so she chose to call me, "resolute."  How gracious my friend was and how I hope to live up what she has declared me to be!   1 Samuel 15:23a (NLT)  23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols....... My friend was right about the stubbornness!  As we reflect on the past year and look forward to the New Year, we should be resolute about not being stubborn!  And, resolute about following Jesus!  What are you going to be resolute about in the coming year?  Instead of just making "New Year's  resolutions,"  let's just be resolute about following Jesus.  Everything else will fall into place.   

God, being Who He is, desires our obedience.  As we reflect on the past year, do we see times where we have slipped in the obedience department?  It's good to reflect on those times, learn from them and determine to be resolute in our obedience in this coming year!  1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT)  ... “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. What has God called us to do in our lives?  Are we resolutely in the center of His will?  We see an example in the life of Jesus when He resolutely set His face like flint and went to Jerusalem where He would face the cross.  Isaiah 50:7 (NKJV)  7 "For the Lord God will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.  Because Jesus was resolute in His obedience to His Father, we can now enjoy life and life more abundantly.  (John 10:10)  Whether or not it is your birthday at this time of year, all of us have the opportunity to start anew with the first day of a new year.  As we reflect on what God has done for us, we'll see that it is much more than we can remember!  Psalms 40:5 (NKJV) 5 Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works Which You have done; And Your thoughts toward us Cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, They are more than can be numbered.  Even though we cannot possibly count the many things God has done for us, we can reflect on those things we remember and be encouraged that He will continue to be with us during the coming year.  Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)  8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

In my New Year and birthday reflections, I remember that I am wonderfully made.  And so are you!  Psalm 139:13-16 13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.  God saw each of us before we were ever born.  He also saw that we would need to be re-born.  John 3:3 (AMP)  3 Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God.  I am reflecting on the fact that, because of the sin nature in all of us, I needed to be remade and God did that for me by sending His Son to make me a new person!  He did that for you too!  Ephesians 2:8-10 (TLB)  8 Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. 10 It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.  I'm going into the new year reflecting on all that God has done for me and being resolute in continuing to follow Him, making every effort to be of help to others.  How about you?  These last few days of this year, may we all do as the Psalmist did and think about God's instructions, using them as our guide for the new year.   Psalm 119:97-98 (NLT) 97 Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long.  98 Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are my constant guide.  As we reflect on His instructions, let's be resolute in our decision to obey them and follow Him!   

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Matthew 2:1-2 (NLT)
1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

I went with my husband to his company's Christmas party before Christmas.  The head of the company had made a "Christmas Quiz," with lots of questions about Christmas, only a few of them being about the real reason we celebrate.  Among the questions was one about the wise men.  It was a multiple choice question asking who the wise men really were.  Among the answers to choose from were: kings, astronomers, magicians, and those wise enough to follow the star.  Although, the answer I chose was not the one they wanted, I chose, "those wise enough to follow the star."  Since then, I heard a sermon that made me know that my answer could have been included in the "right answers." 

The wise men who visited the child, Jesus, were not kings, although they were men of high political influence.  They were astronomers because they watched and studied the stars.  They were also magicians who sometimes dealt with the occult.  They were called magi in the scriptures and that is where we get our word, "magic."  However, these wise men had perhaps heard the story of Jehovah God and His coming Messiah told by Daniel, long before Jesus was born.  It is possible that the wise men who visited Jesus had ancestors wise enough to pass down the prophetic words of Daniel.  In any case, the wise men did follow a star that God had put in the sky and so found the Christ Child.  They followed the star because they had open eyes.  Do you have open eyes today?  Their spiritual and their physical eyes were at work.  In their spirits, they were following, as the preacher I heard declared, "the prophetic instead of the pathetic."  With their physical eyes, they watched the signs of the time they were living in.  They put those two things together and found Jesus!  Are our physical eyes and spiritual eyes open today?  Are we open to the prophetic, applying it to the times we live in?  Or, are we just open to the pathetic, taking in all the bad news we hear in the media?  They also focused on an open Bible.  They went to the scribes and the chief priests to find out more about where they might find Jesus.  Unfortunately, even though these high synagogue officials could spout off the right answers in scripture, they had missed the Jesus of the scripture!  They knew where to find Him, but they did not bother to look for Jesus!  Matthew 2:1-6 (ASV)  1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Wise-men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 2 Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we saw his star in the east, and are come to worship him.  3 And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ should be born.  5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written through the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, land of Judah, art in no wise least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come forth a governor, who shall be shepherd of my people Israel. While it is important that we memorize and are capable of reciting scripture, we need to be careful that in all of our knowledge, we don't miss the point of the scripture.  The Person of the scripture.  Jesus!

The wise men also had open hearts.  Their desire was not just to find something or someone spoken of in the scriptures.  Their desire was to worship Jesus!  Is that our desire today?  Or, do we read the Bible thinking we are giving something back to the Lord or making Him more pleased with us?  Is it our desire to worship Jesus and not just know about Jesus?  (Matthew 2:1-2) These wise men not only had open eyes, open Bibles, and open hearts.  They opened their treasures!  To us, this might mean opening our wallets or our check books.  As a part of their worship of Jesus, they gave of their most valuable things.  Matthew 2:9-11 (NIV)  9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.   11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Are we wise enough to have open eyes, an open Bible, an open heart and an open wallet?  When God provides direction, even though it may seem odd, such as the star that appeared to lead the wise men, do we follow?  Are we willing to take a long journey, at God's leading, as the wise men did?  Do we have the faith to believe that we will find Jesus if we follow God's leading?  When we do see Jesus in the midst of our journey, do we rejoice like the wise men did?  And, if God suddenly warns us to change course in the middle of our journey, do we trust Him enough to do it?  Matthew 2:12 (NIV)  12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.   I surely do think that one of the characteristics of the wise men, part of who they really were, was that they were wise enough to follow the star!  The were also wise enough to open their hearts to the Jesus spoken of in scripture they heard and to bow in worship before Him, opening up their treasures and giving of their best.  Wise men and women still do those things.  As we go into the new year, will we be consistently wise in following the example of the wise men of old? 

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Listen to Cradle In The Shadow



Luke 2:6-7 (NIV)
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

I was just imagining what it was like for God the night Jesus was born.  For all of time, God had been with His Son in Heaven.  They had done everything together, including create the world and all that is in it.  Being a parent, I know what it is like to have to leave my children and move away.  Even though my children are grown, I still think of them every day, wonder what they are doing, and pray for them constantly.  I had only their young years to be with them constantly and do things together with them but God had been continuously with His Son from before the creation of the world.  When I was a young mother, I would not leave my babies with anyone!  I had to be with them every moment.  To tell you the truth, I didn't trust anyone with them.  I felt that only I, their mother, could nurture and soothe them in the way they needed.  As I thought of that, I thought of the night that God chose to look down upon His Son.  He chose to trust His perfect Son into the hands of sinful, earthly human beings.  Can you imagine how our Father felt as His son left the halls of glory to become a tiny baby, born into a world that He created.  How could God watch His precious Son be placed into a manger in a stable because there was no room for Him in the world He, Himself, created?  You would think that the world would welcome with great pomp and circumstance, its Creator.  I sure wonder how God felt when no one even noticed that He had come to earth!  Everyone was busy about their own affairs.  The world's rulers were so concerned with their own kingdoms that they did not notice that The Kingdom and its King was among them!

Only the shepherds in the field were quiet enough to hear and see the angels who told the great news that the Savior of the world had been born.  Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)  8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."  God looked down that night and saw His Son become a helpless and needy infant in a cruel world that would only become more cruel as time went on.  While the shepherds came to worship Him, the only others present on the scene were probably the animals.  Some of the lyrics from, "Just A Cradle In The Shadow Of A Cross," say, "And how the little lambs were all trying to see the Passover lamb born in a manger, just to give his life for little sheep like me."  Yes, God, the Father, looked down that night and saw His perfect, only Son be placed in a manger and begin to grow up so He could give His life for little sheep like you and like me!  Psalm 100:3 (AMP)  3 Know (perceive, recognize, and understand with approval) that the Lord is God! It is He Who has made us, not we ourselves [and we are His]! We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Although we are all sinful and, so to speak, black sheep, God loved us so very much that He sent His own Son to be the Passover Lamb for all time, for everyone who would receive Him.  I cannot imagine having to look down on my child, giving up my rights as a parent into the hands of inexperienced, sinful people.  I cannot imagine, as a parent, knowing that my child would grow up to be nailed to a cross to die for people who had turned against Him and against me, even though I was giving them the most precious thing to my heart!  But, God did that!  For you and for me.  And, for whoever will  receive Him.  John 3:16 (AMP)  16 For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.  God chose to watch His Son from infancy to manhood be rejected and mocked until finally this tiny Jesus, whose cradle was a manger, would become the Savior hanging from a cruel cross.  1 John 3:1 (ASV)  1 Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this cause the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.  Yes!  God watched His perfect Son as He was laid in a cradle that was overshadowed by the cross.  But, it didn't end there.  God had a bigger and better plan.  Jesus rose again and now sits on the throne beside His Father again, always interceding for us little sheep.  Romans 8:34 (NIV)  34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. And, there's even more good news for us!  Jesus is coming back one day to claim us for His own - forever!  Have you received Jesus as your Savior, Lord and King?  If not, you can have a whole new beginning that will keep you for eternity.  As we finish out this year and consider all that God has done for us, let us consider what we have done for Him.  Have we made room for Him in our lives and are we living in a way that will help others finally recognize and receive His Son? 

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Exodus 3:14 (ASV)
14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.


Did you know that a very long time ago, in the days of Moses, God identified Himself as, "I AM?"  You probably did know that but it's good to reflect on it during the Christmas holidays.  The One who called Himself, "I AM," sent Himself to earth in the form of His Son and walked among us!  John 14:8-11 (NLT)  8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”  9 Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. 11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.  The songwriter, of "Mary Did You Know?", Mark, Lowry, finishes up the song by asking, (you guessed it!) several more questions such as, "Mary did you know that your baby boy was Lord of all creation?"  I'm not sure if Mary knew this or not; but you and I can go all the way back to Genesis and see that Jesus was, indeed Lord of all creation.  Genesis 1:26 (NLT)  26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like ourselves. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”  We cannot separate the Father from the Son or from His Spirit.  When God said, "Let us make.........," Jesus was there, along with the Holy Spirit.  We can know this because later on in the scripture we read the following.  John 1-4 (NLT)  1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.   2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.  How totally awesome is that?  That the Lord of all creation would permit Himself to be a helpless baby in the hands of a young and inexperienced girl from a small town?  How awesome is that?  The Lord of all creation has make Himself available to live in your heart and mine, changing our lives from the darkness of sin to the light of His own Kingdom?  John 1:5 (NLT)  5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. Mary, obviously, did not know all that we know about the Lord of creation!

The songwriter then asks, "Mary did you know that your baby boy will someday rule the nations?"  Again, I'm not sure if Mary knew all the details, but she had heard some clues from her own mouth as the Holy Spirit filled her with her song of praise sung in the home of her relative, Elizabeth.  Luke 1:51-52 (NLT)  51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. 52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble.  You and I know this will happen because we can read what God has promised many places in scripture.  1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NLT)  15 For at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.  16 He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen.  It's for sure!  We can know that Jesus will one day rule the nations!  Revelation 19:15-16 (AMP)  15 From His mouth goes forth a sharp sword with which He can smite (afflict, strike) the nations; and He will shepherd and control them with a staff (scepter, rod) of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath and indignation of God the All-Ruler (the Almighty, the Omnipotent).  16 And on His garment (robe) and on His thigh He has a name (title) inscribed, king of kings and lord of lords.  As believers, you and I have something totally wonderful to look forward to!  When Jesus rules, He will rule in righteousness!  No more corrupt politicians or cruel world leaders!  Jesus, our Savior, will rule and we will no longer suffer any oppression from unrighteous rulers!

The last two lines of, "Mary, Did You Know?", ask two last questions.  Did Mary know that the Baby she was holding was Heaven's perfect lamb?  I don't know.  But she, as a mother, certainly knew that He was her little lamb!  John, the Baptist, would point that out and identify Jesus later just as He started His public ministry.  John 1:29 (NKJV)  29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  Jesus was, indeed, Heaven's perfect Lamb because only a spotless Lamb could remove the sins of the world once and for all!  Hebrews 7:26-28 (NIV)  26 Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.  28 For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.  I wonder if Mary knew that her little Son would be the Lamb of God and also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah!  We know that!  And, we know that, if we're having a struggle with the Devil, all we have to do is say to him, "Behold the Lamb!"  Who would think that a demonic creature as strong and powerful as Satan would have to run from a lamb?  But, he does because Jesus is the Lamb of God.  Behind that gentle and soft looking little Lamb is the dynamite power of the Lord of all creation!  Last question.  Mary, did you know that the child you were holding was the great, "I AM?"  If Mary didn't know that when Jesus was born, she certainly began to know it as she watched her Son grow in wisdom and stature and show Himself able to be the "I AM," of whatever it was that people around Him needed.  From making wine out of water, to raising people from the dead.  And, everything in between.  And, the greatest miracle of all - offering forgiveness, salvation - eternal life!  As believers, we are blessed to have His Spirit living in us; but one day, and perhaps soon, we will see Him again face to face and in person!  Mary truly was holding a Child who was the great "I AM."  Revelation 22:12-13 (NIV)  12 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  Until He does come back, the question is, "Do you and I know, right now, today, that He is the great "I AM," of whatever we might need?  He's the "I AM," of the smallest need or concern, to the largest one, and everything in between!  And, if you have received Him as your Savior, this great "I AM," lives and moves in you and you in Him!  Acts 17:28 (NIV)  28 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

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Isaiah 61:1-3 (TLB)
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to captives, and to open the eyes of the blind.


In the song, "Mary, Did You Know," as the songwriter asks Mary more and more questions.  It seems like he gets to the point where he is so excited that he wants to tell Mary of all the things we have seen Jesus do in the past.  Who, but our Savior and Lord, could do such amazing things!  Long before Jesus was born, the prophet, Isaiah told us about Jesus.  He would be our Savior in all ways.  In fact, He would be our everything!  Isaiah said that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jesus.  Isaiah tells us that the Lord anointed Jesus to bring good news to people who were suffering and afflicted.  Good news to the poor people of this world.  Both the poor in spirit and the poor who don't have what it takes to provide for themselves.  The songwriter wondered if Mary knew that Jesus would encompass all those things, and even more.  Could she know that Jesus would make blind people see and deaf people hear?  Even that He would raise up the dead to life?  Did she know that He would cause people who could not walk to jump and leap?  And that those who had never uttered a word would start speaking and praising Her Son?  She did not know all those details when she first held her newborn Son.  Oh, but you and I do know those things and we know that we can turn to Jesus for help and answers no matter what our situation happens to be!  No wonder the songwriter got so worked up in the middle of his song!  As my grandmother might say, "This is really more than tongue can tell."

We can know all of these things because God has given us His Word to encourage us and let us know that, truly, nothing is impossible with God!  Luke 1:37 (NKJV) 37 For with God nothing will be impossible."  It's true!  The blind did see at the Word and touch of Jesus.  John 9:17 (AMP)  17 Accordingly they said to the blind man again, What do you say about Him, seeing that He opened your eyes? And he said, He is [He must be] a prophet!  When Jesus began to show the world around Him that He could open blinded eyes just as the scripture had foretold, they couldn't believe it.  They kind of tried to figure it out for themselves and thought to themselves that Jesus must be a prophet.  Oh, Jesus was a prophet, all right.  He was that and everything else anyone might need!  He could heal blind physical eyes and open the eyes of those who were spiritually blind!  Do you need His touch this morning?  Were there really deaf people that had their ears unstopped by Jesus?  Yes!  And, since He is the same today as He was then, He can and does still do all of these things today!  Hebrews 13:8 (NIV) 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Jesus has no favorites, so what He did for others, He will do for you if you have the faith to believe Him.  Acts 10:34 (AMP)  34 And Peter opened his mouth and said: Most certainly and thoroughly I now perceive and understand that God shows no partiality and is no respecter of persons, Whether you are having trouble with your physical ears or having trouble hearing Jesus with your spiritual ears, He is right here with us waiting for us to call upon Him.  His healing powers are waiting to flow for those who can believe what Isaiah said about Him and what He proved when He walked this earth.  Mark 7:32-35 (ASV)  32 And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to lay his hand upon him. 33 And he took him aside from the multitude privately, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat, and touched his tongue; 34 and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. 35 And his ears were opened, and the bond of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.  What is it that you need today?  How do you need the touch and Word of Jesus to heal you?  Nothing is impossible for Him!

Why, even the dead live again!  John 11:38-44 (NIV)  38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 "Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."  40 Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"  44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."   Jesus came to bring us life and, not just life, but life more abundantly.  John 10:10 (NIV)  10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Jesus is in the business of bring dead things to life.  It could be a thing or it could be a person!  It could be physical life or, best of all, it could be bringing a spiritually dead person back to life by granting forgiveness of sin and salvation!  There is no way the songwriter of, "Mary, Did You Know?", could cram all of the things Jesus would do in this one song.  Mary was probably awed and in wonder of her own Son's power as she sometimes watched Him set people free and sometimes heard the stories from the disciples!  Are you in awe of Jesus this morning?  Do you believe that, no matter what it is you need, He cares?  1 Peter 5:7 (AMP)  7 Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.  Whatever it is that you need in your life, Jesus is able!  You don't have to carry all your cares around all by yourself.  He invites you to cast them upon Him, no matter how big or how small they are!  As the songwriter says, "The dumb will speak."   Whatever it is in your life this morning that may be making you sad or sullen and perhaps unwilling to talk about it can be handled by our Savior, our Lord, our King - Jesus!  He will lift up your head, bring relief and you will speak!  You will not be able to keep from speaking.  What a wonder when we are touched in some way by the Lord of Lords and the Lamb of God.  When we speak, the only words that seem to come out are praises to this Lamb of God who works wonders in the lives of those who will trust Him and ask!  Mary may not have known all of these things about her Baby Boy; but, the question is do you and I know?

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Mark 10:51-52 (NLT)
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”   52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.

In the song, "Mary Did You Know," the songwriter is asking, "Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?"  I don't think Mary knew that when she first held her newborn Baby.  Later on, she would find out.  But, I wonder if we know that nothing is impossible with Jesus.  Blind Bartimaeus hoped against all hope that Jesus would be able to give him physical sight.  He believed that Jesus had this power.  He believed so much that when he heard that Jesus was passing by, he began to shout!  Mark 10:46-47 (NLT) 46 Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road.  47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Of course, this irritated the people around him, many of whom were just curious about Jesus, not really believing that, because He was the Son of God, He could do anything.  There are times when we must get desperate like blind Bartimaeus.  Whether our problem is physical blindness, spiritual blindness or some other thing that binds us, we need to passionately call out for Jesus!  When we do, Jesus takes notice just like he did in the case of Bartimaeus.  The others around him rebuked him and basically told him to "shut up."  Mark 10:48 (NLT)  48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”   But, Bartimaeus lost neither his faith, nor his passion.  In fact, he just shouted louder!    

Do you have a situation in your life that is requiring you to stretch your faith and shout louder so that Jesus will come and do for you what He did for Bartimaeus?  He has no favorites and He always responds to faith and passion that is bent upon seeking Him!  Acts 10:34 (AMP)  34 And Peter opened his mouth and said: Most certainly and thoroughly I now perceive and understand that God shows no partiality and is no respecter of persons, Even though those around us may think we are strange to have faith and passionately seek Jesus for something we desperately need in our lives, Jesus responds to usMark 10:49-50 (AMP)  49 And Jesus stopped and said, Call him. And they called the blind man, telling him, Take courage! Get up! He is calling you.  50 And throwing off his outer garment, he leaped up and came to Jesus.  It could be that God will use the very people that try to squelch our passion to bring us closer to Him.  That's what happened in Bartimaeus's case.  The same people that were criticizing Bartimaeus were perhaps surprised when Jesus sent them to tell Bartimaeus that He wanted to see Bartimaeus!

Mary could not possibly have known about this incident and the many others that would come about during Jesus's earthly ministry.  She could not possibly have known about the times Jesus still comes to the aid of a faithful and passionate person who is calling for Him.  In your life, it may be a physical ailment such as blindness or some disease.  It could be a mental or emotional, or spiritual problem for which you see no answer.  Whatever it is, Jesus is not only our Savior, but He is also our Healer.  1 Peter 2:24 (NKJV)  24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed.  Did Mary know when she held Baby Jesus that He would give sight to a blind man and heal so many others of so many things?  I doubt it.  But, you and I know.  We know that we can call on him in the storms of our lives.  The songwriter asks if Mary knew that Jesus would calm a storm with His hand.  (Mark 4:39)  She probably did not know of all the times Jesus would calm storms, both weather related and the storms of our lives.  But, we know!  The songwriter then questions, "Mary did you know that when you kissed your little baby, you kissed the face of God?"  I think Mary knew that (in part) because she had been given some clues by the angel, Gabriel when she conceived the Baby by the Holy Spirit.  Can you imagine how it must have felt to kiss Immanuel, "God with us?"  We don't know how that felt.  But, we do know that Jesus had walked where angels trod.  He left that place in the throne room of Heaven to be born so that He could be, "God with us."  Whatever you and I are facing today, His face is turned toward us.  He is with us still by the power of His Holy Spirit.  Even though this day is a day of celebration for some, it is a hard day for others.  If you are one of those people facing the impossible; if you are someone who is enduring a storm of life, you can remember today that, because Jesus came to earth, God stooped down to become "with you."  He still responds to the faithful and those who passionately call on Him.  We can't kiss his face like Mary did but we can meet Him face to face, by faith, in prayer.  As the song says, "When I call on Jesus, all things are possible."   A big part of the Christ-mas story is this.  With God, all things are possible and God is with us!  Mary did not know all of these things.  She learned them as she watched her Son grow and minister to those around Him.  But, you and I know!  We have His Word with so many examples of how He healed, touched, loved, showed compassion and mercy, forgave the unforgivable, and did the impossible!  Whether this is a carefree time for you or a hard time, Jesus deserves our praise, trust, and passion today.  It is because of Him that we have hope.  It is because of Him that we have the joy of the Lord which is our strength!  Joy to the world and to you.  The Lord has come.  He is with you.  Will you receive your King!

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Matthew 1:21 (NIV)
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

Yesterday, we were talking about the song, "Mary Did You Know," and the questions the songwriter was asking Mary.  Let's keep asking those questions.  There may be something we don't know or something we may have forgotten when it comes to living out the Word of God in our lives.  The second question the songwriter asks is this, "Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?"  When the angel Gabriel made a visit to Mary to let her know that she would have a child by the Holy Spirit, he told her the baby was to be named, Jesus.  Luke 1:31 (KJV)  31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.  What does the name Jesus mean?  It means, "Jehovah is salvation," according to Vine's Dictionary.  It means "is the Savior."   Then, an angel told Joseph that Mary would give birth to a son and that Joseph should name Him Jesus, because He was going to save His people from their sins.  (Matthew 1:21)  I'm sure Joseph must have told Mary what the angel said!  God is good at confirming His Words and directions through others! 

I'm not sure Mary knew the whole impact of how Jesus would save His people from their sins, nor that He would also save the Gentile people.  Acts 11:18 (NLT)  18 When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”  I doubt that Mary realized that her act of willing obedience to the Lord would bring about such change in our world.  Did she realize that her Son would save every person that ever lived, if that person was willing to receive His gift?  John 3:16-17 (NLT)  16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life  17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. Did she realize that God had your sons and daughters in mind when He sent Jesus to be born in a manger bed?  Do we realize that God loves our children so much more than we can love them and that He sent Jesus to save them all from their sins and give them eternal life?  Do we realize that, although some of us may have some wayward sons, daughters, and grandchildren, Jesus is that Good Shepherd who goes looking for the lost sheep?  Luke 15:3-7 (ASV)  3 And he spake unto them this parable, saying, 4 What man of you, having a hundred sheep, and having lost one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and his neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7 I say unto you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine righteous persons, who need no repentance. As some of us celebrate Christmas, do we know that Jesus is the greatest gift ever given?  God is not willing that any of our sons or daughters should go without eternal life, so He sent Jesus for them!  All of them! 

Finally, the question, "Mary did you know that our baby boy had come to make you new?  This child that you delivered will soon deliver you."  As good as Mary was, and she was good, she could not deliver herself from her sins.  What a miracle that the baby she would deliver would make the way for, even Mary, to have eternal life.  Her Son would become her deliverer!  As the years passed by and she watched Jesus grow and mature, God made that more and more clear to her.  Did you know that you need to be delivered from your sins?  No mater how good of a person you are, if you have not received Jesus and His deliverance, you are lost for eternity.  Titus 3:4-5 (NLT)  4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.  Can you see, this morning, that God chose to send Jesus as a baby to live and die for your sins so that you could have eternal life?  Glance at the baby in the manger, then remember His agony on the cross.  Ask Him, right now, "Are you real Jesus?  Did you come to save me?"  Listen carefully with your spirit.  You and I are just some of those sons and daughters that Jesus came to save.  Will we receive that gift right now, today, and begin to let Him lead and direct our lives from this day forward?  Acts 5:31 (AMP)  31 God exalted Him to His right hand to be Prince and Leader and Savior and Deliverer and Preserver, in order to grant repentance to Israel and to bestow forgiveness and release from sins. You are either a son or daughter of someone and Jesus came to save you!  Go ahead receive the greatest Christmas gift you have ever been given!  If you are one of those sons and daughters who have received the Gift, won't you remember that someone else's son or daughter may not have the gift yet?  Will your walk and your talk cause someone else to know that Jesus came to save and deliver them?  You never know who might see Jesus in you!

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Luke 1:34 (TLB)
34 Mary asked the angel, "But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin."


I am very fond of singing and listening to the Christmas song, "Mary, Did You Know?," written by Mark Lowry.  As I thought of that song this morning, I stopped to think that the questions in the song for Mary could still be asked today.  They could be asked of you and me.  If you are already a believer in Christ, some of the questions will encourage you to remember what you know about Him.  If you haven't yet put your trust in Him, you can think about some of these questions and I am sure you will be convinced that He is the Savior of the world and the soon coming King.  He will take your life of sin and heartache and give you the joy of His salvation.  That's the best Christmas gift exchange I've ever heard of!  Let's get started with the questions now.  "Mary, did you know that your baby boy would someday walk on water?"  Matthew 14:25-27 (NLT)  25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.  26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”   I'm sure Mary did not know about the future events that would cause Jesus to come to the aid of his frightened disciples, walking on water!  Mary couldn't even figure out how she was going to have the Son of God, since she was a virgin and remained that way until after the birth of Jesus.  Matthew 1:22-25 (NLT)  22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”  24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.  25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus. I'm pretty sure that Mary did not know that her Baby would grow up and be able to walk on water!

God doesn't always give us the, "why's," and "wherefore's" when He gives us a promise for our lives.  Just like Mary, we may be surprised at events that take place because of one act of obedience on our part (or, on the negative side, just one act of disobedience).  We do know that our lives will have purpose in God's plan if we have put our trust in Him. His Word will never return void or fail.  It will accomplish a great deal in our lives and down through generations to come.  Isaiah 55:11 (AMP)  11 So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.  Mary did not yet know about the disciples that Jesus would choose.  She certainly could not see into the future and know that they would be caught in a storm at sea in the middle of the lake.  I imagine she marveled at the stories later told to her by the disciples of their fear - and then at seeing Jesus walking toward them to rescue them from the storm.  Matthew 14:22-26 (NIV)  22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. Mary did not know that her Son's words, "Don't be afraid," would have so much comfort for these tired, terrified disciples.  Matthew 14:27 (NIV)  27 But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."  Mary did not know that Her Son would give His disciple, Peter the opportunity to walk on the water too!  Matthew 14:28-31 (NIV)  28 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."  29 "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"  31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"   And, Mary would not probably know the outcome of the story until it was told to her by some pretty awe-stricken disciples who had just experienced the joy of knowing they were in the presence of the true Son of God!  Matthew 14:34-33 (NIV)  32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

The question to you today, and to me, is "Did you know?"  Do you know now?  First of all, do you know that Jesus is truly the Son of God?  When the disciples had their experience on the lake in the storm, their eyes were opened to the fact that Jesus was the Son of God.  No one else could walk on water!  Peter tried, but he failed because He didn't have faith enough to keep his eyes on Jesus instead of looking down at the overwhelmingly threatening waves.  Why is it so important to know all of these things about walking on water at a time when we are celebrating the birth of Jesus?  Because, we all have storms in our lives when the waves threaten to overwhelm us.  Jesus was born, not only to be our Savior, but to bring us calm in the midst of our storms!  We all experience fear and even panic.  This happens many times during the holidays.  Some get so panic-stricken and fearful that they take their own lives around the holidays.  Stress during the holidays make others develop physical illnesses.  It doesn't have to be that way.  Because of the birth of Jesus (which would not have taken place as it did without the obedience and trust of Mary), we can now know that Jesus is the Son of God.  That He is able to comfort us in all of our fears.  We can know that He will come to us, walking on top of the waves of our hard situations.  On top of the threatening circumstances of our lives.  All those threatening circumstances are under His feet as He comes toward us to go with us through whatever challenges we are facing.  When Jesus steps on something, it doesn't survive.  He may even let us stretch our faith a bit like Peter did.  He may allow us to step out on the waves and do the impossible.  Sometimes, if we have our eyes on Him, He will do something great through us during the stormy times of our lives.  Peter could have kept walking on those waves if He would have been totally focused on Jesus!  Are we totally focused on Jesus today so that we don't even pay attention to the waves in our lives?  If we're like the other rain-soaked and trembling disciples in the boat, Jesus will step into the boat and bring us comfort and relief from fear.  Did we know that?  If we are experiencing a difficult storm in our lives, do we know that we know that we know all of these things right now?  Do we know the end of the story concerning the storm and the disciples?  When Jesus got into the boat, the winds subsided!  Did you know that you can let Jesus into the boat of your life this morning?  Do you know that He is, right now, walking toward you on the high waves of your life, making a way for you to survive the storm?  Look up and catch a glimpse of Him, by faith!  I hope you are encouraged by this one little story that Mary had no way of seeing when she went through the pain of delivering the Son of God.  Will you come back tomorrow and ponder with me another question that perhaps Mary did not know?  Will you thank God with me this morning that we can know and put all these things together because God has given us His Word.  His written Word and His Son who is the Word in the flesh!  I hope you are as encouraged as I am right now about what Mary did not know, yet she chose to walk in faith and obedience.  Are you trusting Jesus like Mary did even though you don't know everything?  Is Jesus in your boat of life helping you through today's stormy waters?  You can know that He wants to be there.  But, you have to be willing to let Him in!  Is there room in your "inn" this season for the One who walked on water? 

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Luke 2:19 (AMP)
19 But Mary was keeping within herself all these things (sayings), weighing and pondering them in her heart.


Have you ever seen someone sitting quietly and wondered, even asked, "What are you thinking about?"  I have.  Often, I am surprised at the answer.  The two most surprising answers are, "I don't know," and "Nothing."  Oh my, to me, those are sad answers.  There are lots and lots of things we can think about.  There are things that are stressful to think about, such as financial struggles, relationship problems, health issues, school challenges, career changes; you name it.  There's just a whole host of things we can think about with regard to the everyday, practical issues in our lives.  When we try to sort out some of these practical things, it's important that we ponder on them.  In that sense, we can take a lesson from Mary.  She pondered all that was happening to Jesus, herself and Joseph.  I don't know if she said much.  There are not a whole lot of her words recorded in scripture.  But, one thing we do know is that she was a reflective person who treasured things in her heart and pondered them.


Just what does it mean to ponder?  Although I sometimes think, "out loud," either talking to myself or hashing out things with another trusted person in my life, pondering doesn't indicate talking.  What it does indicate is putting different things together in our minds and thinking about them.  It means to put one thing with another and consider them together. It is not bad to speak or get counsel or encouragement from another but it may be better to be quiet and reflective, at least for a time.  Just like Mary did.  The situations in her life, although many times glorious, were confusing.  Some were startlingly sudden.  Some seemed beyond comprehension.  She certainly had a hard time seeing a big picture when she was right in the middle of each of the events in her life.  Isn't that the way it is with us?  Life brings surprises and not all of them are pleasant, nor can we understand them at the time.  However, God is working in our lives, just as He was working in Mary's life.  He has a big plan.  That plan includes you and me!    Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)  10 For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]. You and I don't always see the "big picture," or how individual events in our lives fit into that big picture.  Mary didn't either.  That's why she pondered.  She put all the events she was experiencing into her heart and compared them, considered them, mulled over them and began to see the big picture.  She really had given birth to the Son of God.  God was really confirming all of this in the events of her life through shepherds, wise men, government leaders, temple officials, children, aged people.  Maybe even the animals in the stable!

While pondering and reflecting is important, what we ponder and reflect on makes all the difference in the world - and sometimes for eternity!  Proverbs 23:7a (AMP)  7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he......... In Proverbs 23:7, the writer is speaking of someone who does not think correctly.  But, there is a flip side to that coin.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, shows us that it is entirely possible to think and ponder correctly.  As we think, so we are!  Mary could have turned out to be a complaining, nagging, bitter woman with all of the discomfort and disrespect she encountered in her journey of life.  She could have turned away from God after delivering the Son of God into this world, only to see God allow Him to be crucified ruthlessly on a cross.  Instead, Mary pondered all the events of her life and all the messages she had received from the Lord.  She pondered the power and plan of God.  When our lives are in upheaval and we hardly know which way to turn; when we seem to have to run from one thing to another, putting out the fires that crop up in different areas of our lives, what are we thinking about?  What are we pondering?  Are we like the person in Proverbs 23:7 who thought about only himself?  Or, do we look around and see, not only the big things, but even more importantly the little things God is doing in and for us every day?  Then, do we collect all those big and little things in our minds and ponder them, asking God to show us a bigger picture?  His picture.  With all the things vying for our attention in the world, this may not be an easy task.  That being said, let me say that it is a worthwhile task!  For one thing, those things on which we ponder and dwell upon will, at some point, come out of our mouth.  What do you want to come out of your mouth?    Matthew 15:18 (AMP) 18 But whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this is what makes a man unclean and defiles [him].  If you are a believer, you want something that glorifies God to constantly come from your mouth!  Psalm 19:14 (AMP)  14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my [firm, impenetrable] Rock and my Redeemer.  You want good things to come from your mouth but they can't unless good things are stored in your heart.  What if we took the following verse from scripture and worked on it, putting everything in it together with the events of our individual lives?  I wonder what we would all be saying?  Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)  8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. One thing I notice immediately is that the peace that Jesus promised would invade our lives.  Our speech would be wholesome because our thoughts would be right with God.  While we need to reflect and ponder on worldly problems, using Godly wisdom and knowledge to solve them, our reflections and pondering's should be much higher.  There is not a single problem here on earth that is bigger than our God!  So, if your mind is cluttered with negative stuff that you constantly ponder, use the filter of God's Word.  When a big problem threatens, ponder and reflect upon the fact that God is bigger than that problem.  I'll bet that's what Mary did.  She knew in her heart that each event was a part of God's perfect plan.  She trusted that He would fulfill His plan.  We can do the same thing.  We are no different from Mary.  Mary made a choice to be reflective and to ponder and consider and put together all the events in her life, taking them before God.  Will we take some time each day to ponder and reflect on God's love for us?  His Christmas gift of salvation?  His mercy?  His grace?  His ability and willingness to work everything for the good in our lives if we love and follow Him?  Maybe Mary knew the principle behind the following scriptural passage.  Ecclesiastes 5:2 (NIV)  2 Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. Maybe this is a good day for you and I to begin to develop the habit of pondering and reflecting, allowing God to reveal His bigger plan and picture to us, instead of getting hung up on the small stuff.  What are you thinking?

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Proverbs 3:5 (AMP)
5 Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.


We live in a time of change.  Young people want change.  Governments need change.  Not only that, God is also in the business of change.  Change is needed to help us keep growing and maturing.  Of course, I'm talking about change for the better and not the other way around!  Many of us pray fervently for miracles when we need a change in our lives.  Rightly so!  God is still a miracle-working God!  Most of us, if the truth be known, pray for that miracle that will suddenly take us from a place of chaos and trouble instantly to a place of peace and prosperity.  Sometimes that's how God works His miracles; and our faith must be large enough to believe that.  Matthew 15:28 (NLT)  28 “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed. I have seen God do these awe-inspiring, sudden miracles.  There is nothing that God cannot do!  Moses experienced that word from God long ago when he found himself in a very troubling situation.  Numbers 11:23 (NIV)  23 The Lord answered Moses, "Is the Lord's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you."  God has not changed since He proved to Moses that He was able to do anything needed in the lives of His children.  That said, how many times do we look for the big, sudden miracles and miss the smaller ones that don't always feel so good at the time, but produce great results?

When God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream, that was a miracle!  The thing is, though, that God disturbed Joseph's sleep!  How many of us long for a good night's sleep and wait and wait, tossing and turning in the bed without relief?  When we finally do get to sleep and all of the many troubles of this world fade into deep sleep, how many of us want to be disturbed?  If God wakes you up in the middle of a deep sleep to talk to you, that doesn't always feel like a miracle.  But, it is!  God did that with Joseph.  Sometimes He does that with us.  After all, it could be the only time we are tired enough to be quiet and listen to Him!  So, the next time you awake in the night, don't be frustrated.  Instead, as they say, stop counting your sheep and start talking to the Shepherd.  He just may want to discuss a miracle with you!  Matthew 1:18-21 (NLT)  18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.  19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.  20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  God may want to lead you in the right direction or give you a warning about your life.  Matthew 2:13 (NLT)  13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”  Joseph, Mary's husband, seemed to hear well from the Lord in the night.  Matthew 2:19-20 (NLT)  19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”  He listened carefully to the Lord and instantly obeyed. 

Joseph could have prayed to be transported, without delay, along with Mary and Jesus, to the land of Egypt.  God could have done that!  Joseph could have asked for a big miracle in this case.  Joseph had God's Son with him.  He might have felt that he had great influence with God.  After all, it would be a long, uncomfortable journey for Joseph.  And especially for Mary and Jesus.  You would think that a good Father in Heaven would not let His children suffer such a journey.  That He would protect His Son from the rigors of such arduous travel and the dangers lurking along the road.  In retrospect, it looks like Joseph, Mary and Jesus could have used a miracle here so they would not have to suffer any hardship in doing the will of God.  Have you ever thought that way?  While all things are possible with God, He doesn't always do things the way we would like or the way we expect.  His plans fit into a much bigger picture than we can wrap our human brains around!  God did not deliver His Son from difficulty.  He walked with Him through the difficulty.  That is a miracle!  The Creator of the earth walked with His Son through difficulty.  He still walks with His children through difficulty today!  When the angel told Joseph to marry Mary, who was already pregnant by the Holy Spirit, Joseph went ahead and did it.  He could not possibly have known how it was all going to work out but He trusted God and did it anyway.  That is a miracle!  When we don't know how things are going to work out and we trust God anyway, that is not natural.  That is supernatural.  That is a miracle.  And, that is pleasing to God.  Jesus had agreed with the Father ahead of time to come as a helpless baby into this world to save us from our sins.  Fully human (and still fully God, although He emptied Himself of His deity for His time here one earth), Jesus had to experience the hardships, the struggles, the challenges and the growth stages in life that you and I do.  He did it.  But, unlike us, He did it without sin!  That is a miracle. How did He do that?  He did it just like we must do it.  He trusted His Father!  Then He obeyed.  I wonder if, when Jesus was finally hanging on the cross, He felt like it was a miracle........  It doesn't seem like it, since He cried out to His Father who seemed to be looking the other way at the time.  Mark 15:34 (NLT)  34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  Jesus, as a human being,  had to be trained by great suffering and hardship to trust His Father.  Hebrews 5:7-9 (TLB) 7 Yet while Christ was here on earth he pleaded with God, praying with tears and agony of soul to the only one who would save him from [premature] death. And God heard his prayers because of his strong desire to obey God at all times. 8 And even though Jesus was God’s Son, he had to learn from experience what it was like to obey when obeying meant suffering.  9 It was after he had proved himself perfect in this experience that Jesus became the Giver of eternal salvation to all those who obey him.  His life included the challenges and changes that we encounter in our own lives.  Changes like being pulled from His cradle in the middle of the night to travel two hundred miles in dangerous territory.  Our lives, like His are interspersed with "suddenly" miracles, along with those "process," miracles.  We, too, are being conformed.  Conformed to His image.  That is a great miracle.  Romans 8:29-30 (NIV)  29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.  Are you feeling the miracle of being conformed to His image this morning?  Has God asked you to do something difficult but that will change your life for the good?  Maybe, it's only to wait for Him.  Maybe, it is to move out of your comfort zone and go to the place He tells you to go.  Most likely, you can't see how this could turn out well.  However, God is working in your life and in mine.  Conforming us to the image of His Son.  What could be better than that?  Trusting God during extreme changes and challenges in our lives is definitely not the easiest thing to do!  But, He has given us His Word to lead and guide us through these times.  He has given us His Word which will change us during times of circumstances changing in our lives.  He is for us and not against us, not matter what we may feel like!  Romans 8:31 (AMP)  31 What then shall we say to [all] this? If God is for us, who [can be] against us? [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?]  We can't always see how it will work out.  But, as the song says, "When you can't see His hand, trust His heart."  When you can't see how things are going to work out in your life, just keep on obeying and trust God!

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Matthew 2:8 (NLT)
8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

When Jesus was born, it was a time of cultural and civil upheaval.  Not everyone in that day heard about His birth, but those who did definitely were not neutral.  They all had a specific response of some sort.  Today, the mention of Jesus also usually causes a response that cannot go unnoticed.  At first glance, when we read Matthew 2:8 (see above title), the statement made by Herod looks very good.  Upon meeting with the wise men from the east, Herod was sure that they knew where to find Jesus.  He said wanted them to come back and tell him where Jesus was.  What he told them was that he wanted to worship Jesus.  What was really in Herod's heart, though, was envy, pride and destruction!  Can you imagine anyone wanting to kill a baby?  Herod was threatened by this Baby, Jesus.  Just the thought of the wise men mentioning that a new King was born was a threat to Herod.  Herod was already a very vile, vindictive, and vicious man.  Even the thought of someone else having any power in his life provoked murder in his heart.  He had already ordered the murder of his wife and three of his sons.  He also had previously ordered mass executions.  He hated Jesus the moment he heard of His birth and, to top it off, he was deceitful!  In order to try to eliminate this new-born King, Herod, during his brief visit by the wise men from the east, told them that he wanted to go and worship Jesus.  Not!  What he really had in mind, was to kill Jesus!  I doubt if that is your response to Jesus if you are reading this today.  But, that is the response of many still, in our world today when it comes to the mention of Jesus.  It is even the response of people who think of themselves as religious.  Many churches and religious groups today have been seeking to kill the real Jesus!  They disregard all of his deity, his virgin birth, his message of salvation, etc., etc.  Not only do they do that, but they try to teach it to others seeking, whether purposefully or ignorantly, to kill the real Jesus and present another Jesus who does not claim to be the ONLY way to the Father.  John 14:6 (NKJV)  6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Herod didn't want any other kings in the area.  He wanted to be the way!  He was willing to kill to keep what he thought was his own power.  There are still those in our world who do that today.  Many Christians are being beaten, tortured, persecuted and killed by those who hate Jesus and want to eliminate the Jesus in others.  We may not think we fit into this category of unsavory, murderous people but, if we have not believed, and accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and our King, we have eliminated the real Jesus from our lives. 

Many religious people in Jesus's day responded too but their response was different when Jesus was born.  When the Savior entered the world, the scribes and priests didn't seem to care or notice.  His birth was inconsequential to them because they were engrossed in their daily discussions of religious rules and regulations.  Have you ever attended a church that was so engrossed in the rules and formalities that they didn't seem to even notice that Jesus was standing right there waiting to be noticed?  Before we get too hard on these religious communities and their leaders, let's remember that being complaisant about Jesus is not hard to do.  We, as people, have taken bits and pieces of God's Word and then tried to wrap our own agenda around it.  Instead, we should see God's agenda, even it is in the form of a Baby-King and let Him wrap His agenda around our own, letting ours become His.  If you have ever been a leader in a church or a teacher or a music person, you can know that the everyday necessities of bringing something to the table for God's people can easily become just another thing you do.  You can lose the close relationship you had with Jesus because you are concerned about creating something that will hold the attention of the people.  At that point, we have become people-pleasers and not God-pleasers.  At that point, we have become indifferent to the very One we purport to worship and follow.  Do you go to church when the doors are open?  That's wonderful!  Do you go out those doors thinking you have done your duty and live the rest of your days during the week in indifference to Jesus?  Do you stop each day and pray and meditate on Him?  Do you read His Words of love in the Scriptures and apply them to your life?  If not, you may need to make some changes in your life, ask His forgiveness and return to your "first love."  We cannot be indifferent or complaisant about Jesus, no matter how the tide of the world is turning!  That is an order from Jesus, Himself!  (Revelation 3:15-19 (NLT)      15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!  16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!   17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.  18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.  19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.

Finally, we are coming to the correct response to the Baby Jesus, the Savior, Jesus, the Lord, Jesus, and the King of Kings, Jesus!  The magi came from the east because they had learned that a Messiah would be born at approximately the time of Jesus's birth.  Some believe that these magi were descendants of the magi of which Daniel became a part in his Babylonian captivity.  They believe that, although the original magi were deeply into the occult and astrology, that Daniel had taught some to believe in the one true God.  They had all seen how God had given Daniel miraculous power to interpret dreams and how God had favored Daniel above all of them.  These men were not kings, but rather men of very high stature and they were led by an exquisite entourage of soldiers on the finest horses in the world of that day.  It was quite a picture when they traveled and not many were privileged to get a visit from them.  However, these particular wise men had learned, they were led of God to worship Jesus.  Today, God is leading you and me to be wise too.  He is leading us to worship Jesus.  The wise men did go worship Jesus and they gave of their best gifts.  Today God is calling each of us to be wise.  To know His Word.  To worship His Son.  To bring our best gifts.  Somehow God had revealed to the wise men that Jesus was not just an ordinary baby.  He wasn't even just a new-born King.  He was Emmanuel, God with us.  Have we lost the wonder today, with all of our brightly colored decorations and celebrations, that Jesus is still Emmanuel?  That Jesus is still with us, personally!  Hebrews 13:5 (AMP)  5 Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]  God is looking for those who will worship Him today.  He sees the power-hungry and cruel world leaders like Herod.  He sees the religious people that have created their own version of His Son and their own petty kingdoms.  But, He's looking for wise people who will still fall down and worship Him, being willing to give whatever it takes to further His Kingdom.  He's looking for those of us who will humble ourselves, seek Him, follow Him, love Him with all of our hearts, and serve Him faithfully.  He's looking for people who are willing to give Him gifts so that others can know Him too.  The very first gift we need to give is our own heart.  That seems like a very large and scary gift to give.  But, God never takes a gift from us but what He gives us back something better.  If our hearts are hardened like Herod's or if they are indifferent like the scribes and priests, it doesn't matter.  When we give them to the Lord, here is what He will do.  Ezekiel 36:25-26 (NLT)  25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.     Into which category of responses to Jesus do we fall?  May it be that we give Him, in worship, the gift He treasures most - our hearts and lives!  Wise people still do that! 

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Luke 1:19-20 (NLT)
19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news!  20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”


We ponder the birth of Jesus during this season, but there were several other things, besides the birth of Jesus, that were happening around the time that Jesus was born.  Some of these things get pushed to the background because our focus is on the birth of the Baby Jesus.  Being focused on Jesus is a good thing!  But, the plans of our Father in Heaven were so precise.  So detailed.  If we don't stand back from the close-up of the Baby in the manger, we can miss a lot of what God is showing us in the story surrounding Jesus's birth.  We can miss lessons that we might need to learn and put to practical use in the here and now.  God doesn't waste any of His Word!  We can learn from all of it and we can see Jesus in all of it.  No wonder!  Jesus is the Word! 

We're in the season of celebrating that the Word became flesh.  John 1:14 (NLT)  14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.   He dwelled among us.  Some people living on earth actually saw the Word in the flesh!  I imagine that they might have come away from His presence singing that beautiful song of today, "I've Just Seen Jesus."  Look at some of the lyrics and take a fresh look at the Word becoming flesh!   "I've just seen Jesus.  I tell you he's alive.  I've just seen Jesus.  Our precious lord alive."  Just think!  If you were living in those days, you might have had the privilege of seeing Jesus, our precious Lord, alive - in the form of a baby!  Even as we celebrate His birth today, many times our whole countenance changes.  For a moment, a short season in time, we become more like Him.  We can relate to Him because He is a helpless baby in a manger of hay.  He has begun His journey to go through all the trials and testings of life that we have to go through.  And He was willing to do it as a gift for us!  Check out the next lyrics in, "I've Just Seen Jesus."  "And I knew, he really saw me too,  as if till now, I'd never lived.  All that I'd done before won't matter anymore.  I've just seen Jesus and I'll never be the same again!"  Don't you imagine that all those that were privileged to peer into the manger and look into those tiny eyes saw something more than an ordinary baby?  I imagine that when Jesus looked back at His visitors, they were changed forever.  They had been in His presence and they knew that He saw them too!  Jesus sees you today!  No matter what you are going through, He knows your fears, your pain, your scars.  And, He's felt them all too.  And, if you take a very good look at Jesus, like the writer of the song says, you'll never be the same again!

The story we read about Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth can help us to see that sometimes we may miss the mark in believing what God has said.  For instance  look at this verse:   Ephesians 1:1  (AMP) 1 PAUL, AN apostle (special messenger) of Christ Jesus (the Messiah), by the divine will (the purpose and the choice of God) to the saints (the consecrated, set-apart ones) at Ephesus who are also faithful and loyal and steadfast in Christ Jesus:   God tells us, if we have received Jesus, that we are saints.  Now for some of us, our lives may look more like we are sinners!  No doubt about it, we were sinners.  We may still feel like sinners.  But Jesus!  Romans 5:8 (NLT)  8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. When we try to wrap our minds around the fact we are saints, called so by God, even though we still feel like and sometimes act like sinners, we might find a twinge of unbelief!  That is impossible!  True!  But, God is the God of making the impossible, possible!  Yes!  Part of the Christmas story is to let us know that, with God, nothing, He said, "nothing," is impossible!  Luke 1:36-37 (NLT)  36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”  Zechariah had been told by an angel that he and his barren, aged wife would have a baby.  A child that would prepare the way for the Messiah.  Somehow Zechariah couldn't quite wrap his mind around that.  Luke 1:18 (NLT) 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”  Wow!  What a promise!  But, Zechariah said, "How can I be sure it will happen?"  Zechariah, even though he was a priest, had a moment of unbelief!  Have you ever had one of those moments?  As our pastor indicated yesterday in a great sermon, maybe Gabriel did Zechariah a favor, although it seemed more like punishment.  Luke 1:19-20 (NLT)  19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”  All I have to say about that is that it's a good thing Zechariah was a man!  I think a woman would go stir crazy if God kept her from talking for nine months!  Especially if she had just come through such an exhilarating experience as being visited by an angel!  Zechariah couldn't talk about his experience until the promise was fulfilled.  All he could do was stand by and watch God work out what He had promised.  Have you ever asked God to show you something or fix a problem in your life and then not ceased to talk about it constantly, if not out loud, in your own mind?  Is your own voice keeping you from hearing God and distracting you from seeing God at work in that very thing you have asked Him for?  Do your negative thoughts (your self-talk), sometimes keep you from seeing and hearing God fulfilling His promises in your life?  Do we, like Zechariah, need to take some time, not only during this Christmas Season but throughout our everyday lives, to be quiet so we can hear what God is saying and so we can focus on what He is doing?  The scripture tells us that God sometimes speaks in almost a whisper.  1 Kings 19:12 (NLT)  12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.  You know, the kind of voice you might use when standing over the cradle of a new-born baby.  While peering into the manger this Christmas, can we stop talking long enough to be able to hear God's gentle whisper to our lives.  Zechariah had no choice; but we have a choice.  We can take time, even right this minute, to quiet our voices and thoughts and listen to God whisper His unending promises over our lives.  We can hear Him.  We really can!  But, first we need to allow some blessed quietness into our lives!  He is even now whispering His love over you and me, reminding us of all His promises.  Shhhh.........  Do you hear what I hear? 

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Hebrews 13:2 (NLT)
2 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!

The words we find in Hebrews 13:2 were penned long after Mary had lived on the earth and given birth to Jesus, the Son of God, in very much less than comfortable circumstances.  Yet, we find that Mary, being a humble servant of God, practiced these words of hospitality even she was confused.  Even when she was tired and perhaps in pain.  Even when she had unexpected guests.  Even when the "house" was not clean and decorated with the finest.  All the scriptures indicate that Mary received guests graciously.  Even strangers.  One guest was startling, even scary.  Others were not the guests that one might expect to come to their home after having a new baby.  Today, not many of us have angels appear in our homes unexpectedly.  And, today, we have visitors many times in the nice clean hospital where the mother is laying comfortably in a nice clean bed, sometimes having been given medications to ease her pain.  After we come home, visitors may come to see our new born baby.  But, they are not usually strangers!  In fact, a young mother with a new born baby in her home would probably not choose to answer the door if she looked out and a stranger was standing on the other side!

Mary's first recorded visitor was a formidable creature, inspiring awe, and perhaps a little fear in her.  I doubt if Gabriel knocked on her door or even gave her the chance to decide not to answer it.  Gabriel just showed up.  A stranger, very much different looking than all others.  A stranger with some very flattering and encouraging opening words.  Luke 1:28 (NLT)
28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”  This Gabriel was a stranger to Mary and she was confused by his words. 
Luke 1:29 (NLT) 29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.  This stranger who had just appeared, perhaps in Mary's home, had even more strange news for her.  She was going to become the mother of the Son of God in a very miraculous way.  Have you ever had a stranger come to your door promising you the world if you would just buy into his sales pitch?  Most of the time, we already know that the stranger at our door is promising things that can't really be delivered; at least in the way he is promising.  Gabriel was promising Mary something impossible too.  She would be impregnated by the Holy Spirit and deliver the Savior of the world!  This delivery would be all that God had promised!  Mary could have been startled to have her day interrupted by this stranger.  She could have been afraid and tried to run away.  But, Mary chose to be hospitable.  Although she didn't completely understand the words of the angel, she graciously acknowledged that she was the servant of the Lord and accepted what the Lord had told her through Gabriel.  Luke 1:38 (NLT)  38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. You and I might never be visited by an angel in our homes.  But, then again, we might!  When we are met by a stranger on the other side of our door, do we ever remember the words of the writer of Hebrews?  We just might have an opportunity to entertain an angel without even knowing it!

Mary had more visitors right after the birth of Jesus.  She was not in a comfortable bed with caretakers all around.  She was either sitting or laying on the floor of a stable, a cave, where animals were kept, trying to take care of a brand new baby.  It surely did not have that antiseptic smell or the sweet smell of baby powder.  It, likely, was pretty stinky.  This was her hospital and her home away from home as the Baby, Jesus, was born.  I don't know about you, but I don't think I'd be in the mood for guests at a time like that!  Especially if during the last week, I had traveled many uncomfortable miles.  I think I would have just wanted everyone to stay away and leave me alone to rest, maybe even have a little pity party!  Not Mary!  This home away from home was not a home to be proud of.  Not a home "suitable," for entertaining guests.  At least in our way of thinking!  But, nevertheless, guests came.  They were not the most savory of characters and they, too, didn't smell too good having been out in the field tending sheep.  I doubt if there was a door on the entrance to the stable, since it was really a cave.  So, perhaps the shepherds didn't knock.  They just appeared at the entrance!  Mary did not turn them away.  She must have welcomed them.  Even in her tiredness, she listened to this excited bunch tell about the angel who had visited them in the field, letting them know where to find the Savior.  Luke 2:18-19 (NLT)  18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,  19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.   Mary could have turned these visitors away and we probably would have understood but, instead, she was hospitable.  She listened to their outlandish story.  Then, long after they were gone she thought about all that they had to say.  If a stranger comes to our house today, would we take time, during all of our holiday activities, to show hospitality?  Would we allow them into our homes if they didn't look like we do?  Would we, if we had a brand new baby, let these people be around our new-born baby?  While we have to be wise in who we let into our homes, we never know if that stranger will be an angel.  We never know if the stranger will come telling stories of confirmation to what God has already promised us!  Mary had good reason to send visitors away when the shepherds showed up.  She was tired and maybe a bit stressed.  In all of our holiday preparations, do we get so tired and stressed that we forget why we are making all the preparations.  Do we get so engrossed in our holiday projects that wear us out that we forget to show hospitality even to those who live right in our house.  Are we so busy, "doing," that we have no time to be hospitable to those around us.  I just heard a story yesterday that touched my heart.  It seemed as if a little child was wanting to have some time with his mother, who was busy about "making preparation for Christmas."  When he tugged at her for attention, she pretty much snapped back, "Not now!  Can't you see I'm getting ready for Christmas?!?"  Later that evening, as she stood by her son's door, she saw him kneeling by his bedside saying the Lord's prayer.  When he got to a certain point, his tongue got a bit tied and he spoke these words, perhaps from his little boy heart, "Forgive us our Christmas's as we forgive those who Christmas against us."  Oh my! what if you were that mother?  Of course she had to apologize to her little son who had so needed her hospitality, her attention.  Do we all need to apologize to The Son?  Do we need to apologize to the Son of God for turning Him away many times because we are "preparing for Christmas?" 

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Luke 2:7 (NLT)
7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.


Whether you are a high-powered executive who is surrounded with people who have questionable work ethics or whether you're a stay-at-home Mom with a gazillion things to do and nobody in the house seems to want to pitch in and help, you can feel as though you are all alone.  You can feel the burden of having to be saddled with every task.  When that happens, it is very easy to fall into self-absorption.  The, "poor me," syndrome.  There are many tasks that you and I do that no one notices but they are important tasks that would leave a gap somewhere if they were not done.  So many times, we hunger for recognition while it seems to us as if we are invisible and unappreciated.  It is at those times that we need to remember Who we are living for, Who we are working for, Who we really want to notice us and Who we really want to please.  Colossians 3:23-24 (NLT)  23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.  When those times come that we feel unnoticed and unappreciated and heavily burdened, we need to look up because God is not missing a thing.  He is the God who really sees and He appreciates and has rewards for those who will remember that, no matter what difficulties they face in life, He will be with them.  A very long time ago, another young woman who was in dire straits realized that God is the God who really sees.  He sees everything!  And He cares about everything and everyone.  Genesis 16:13 (NIV)  13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me."

It could be that you are feeling alone this morning.  You may be feeling unappreciated, especially during this holiday season when we place more burdens upon ourselves than we really need.  You may feel like you are the invisible one that no one notices.  Although you may feel invisible as far as those around you are concerned, your insides certainly do not feel invisible.  The stress is beginning to have an effect on all your organs and you may be feeling fatigued and depressed.  Why so?  This is supposed to be a season of joy and hope!  That's why Jesus was sent to earth.  To bring joy, hope, and, above all peace!  Luke 2:14 (NIV)  14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Jesus was sent to earth to bring glory to God and peace to people upon whom His favor rests.  His favor may rest on people but, if they don't receive it or choose to ignore it, His peace will not be fully enjoyed!  What is keeping you from being at peace this morning?  What troubles are you having in which you are feeling all alone, invisible, unappreciated, and over-worked?  If you have received Jesus as your Savior, He has given you favor!  Just like Mary, you are highly favored because He has a plan for your life that will bring glory to God and peace and joy to you!  Luke 1:28 (NIV)  28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."  Just like Mary, the Lord is with you!

Consider Mary for a moment.  In just one small verse in our Bible, God says a lot about Mary.  We know from previous verses that she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit.  That she was destined to birth the Son of God.  We know that she was probably very stressed during her pregnancy.  Then, a census law, caused her to have to travel eighty or ninety miles, either on foot or by donkey in the last week of her pregnancy.  She had Joseph with her but she had no one else.  Finally, she makes it to Bethlehem where there she is turned away from the inn and relegated to a stable (which was really a cave) to have her child.  Jesus, the King of Kings, lowered Himself to be born in an out of the way cave among animals in order to be our Savior.  But, what about Mary?  In those days, I have read that the inn we often speak about was really a place with no privacy.  In the center was probably a fire to keep the place warm and families slept on benches all around the perimeter of the building.  At first glance, it would seem that being turned away from the inn may have been cruel.  But, God had another plan.  They had a private place, a stable, a cave, in which Mary would give birth.  However, they were alone in the cave, or so it seemed.  Mary had good reason to feel all alone.  She had just come through nine months of what seemed like unending problems and struggles and now she was giving birth to her first child - all alone.  She was the one who gave birth.  There is no recorded evidence that anyone was there to help her.  No midwife.  No nothing.  She did it.  Then she wrapped Jesus in strips of cloth.  Then she laid Him in a manger to sleep.  She did this all alone!  Are you feeling like you have to do everything this morning and do it without any recognition, to boot?  I wonder how Mary felt.  She could have felt unappreciated.  She could have felt that she was all alone.  It was her choice.  I believe she chose to remember her own words of response to the angel's announcement to her.  Luke 1:38 (NIV)  38 "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.  Long after the awesome presence of the angel had left Mary, I believe she chose to remember, though she didn't understand why she felt alone and without notice, that she was the Lord's servant.  It seemed like she was alone, there in that cave.  I'll bet that even Joseph was having trouble figuring out what he could do to ease Mary's situation.  But, they were not alone!  The Son of God was with them, right there in that cave!  It was His strength, although just a newborn baby, that kept them from going stir-crazy in such an unthinkable situation.  It was their knowledge and trust in Him as their own Savior that led them out of the cave to care for and introduce the Son of God into the world as the next years would go by!  You, too, have the Son of God with you today.  You, too, whether you feel unobserved, neglected, alone, or stressed, have the power of Jesus with you!  You can do all that He has commanded you to do!  Philippians 4:13 (KJV)  13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. No matter how Mary might have been tempted to feel all one, she was not alone.  It was the very baby, Christ Jesus, within her that gave her the strength to get through all of her hard years.  It is the very Christ Jesus within us today who sees everything we do for Him.  Who strengthens us to go on when all seems hopeless!  Who gives us strength to introduce Him to the world around us!  We are not alone.  He is with us.  Matthew 1:23 (AMP)  23 Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel—which, when translated, means, God with us.

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Luke 2:1 (TLB)
1 About this time Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the nation.

In Luke's account of the birth of Christ, just before mentioning the birth of the King of Kings, Luke mentions Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor.  It appears that Caesar Augustus was a very unlikely candidate for ruling the whole world.  He was just a nineteen year old boy, according to one author, who was the great-nephew of Julius Caesar.  He had been serving as one of Julius Caesar's staff officers.  Then Julius Caesar was assassinated.  Although this young Gaius Octavius was inexperienced in government leadership, he was named the sole heir in Julius Caesar's will, according to the author I was reading.  So, in the time of Jesus's birth, an inexperienced fairly young person was the world leader!  Although he was young, he proved that he could get ahead and resorted to cunning and cruelty to avenge his great uncle's death.  Marc Antony partnered with him to do this and then Octavius turned on him too, Thus, Octavius became the ruler of the whole Roman empire.  As if that's not bad enough, the senate couldn't see through the evil in Octavius, or else they just excused these character flaws for their own private reasons to maintain influence and power. They all felt that he was bringing peace to the empire.  Of course, they didn't consult the common people to see if this was really true or not!  Octavius was granted great honor and power.  They even gave him the title of Augustus.  Apparently this was a title which carried great authority.  They made him emperor!  He became Caesar Augustus.

Luke apparently wanted us to know what kind of a world greeted the Son of God.  What kind of government.  How would you like to have a child in the middle of Pakistan, or Iran, or Iraq?  Just like it is now in many places in the world, the government was full of violence.  Extortion minded terrorist war lords and mini-dictators oppressed the people.  They, by dishonest laws and means, emptied the people of their hard-earned cash.  The people were without means of protest because the penalty was a beating or even death.  In many places in our world, this is exactly how people live today.  Even in the free places of this world, we are seeing constant change in that direction.  Mary and Joseph lived under these conditions and because General Pompey, a Roman general, had conquered the area in which they lived.  They had to acknowledge the Roman government and obey its laws.  Even though it was a great hardship on Mary and Joseph, they had to go to Bethlehem to take part in the Roman census that Caesar Augustus had implemented.  It is said that one of the reasons Augustus was taking a census was that the subjects he had conquered were multiplying faster than the Roman citizens.  It seems he may have wanted to implement population control or at least manipulate the growth of the population.  Another big reason was that he wanted to count everyone so he could get every last penny out of them in taxes.  Sound a lot like our world today?

While reading all of this can be very discouraging, we find that we become encouraged when we get our focus back on God and the fact that He watches over those who trust and obey Him.  We can know that, even uncomfortable and oppressive situations, are not the final dictators of our lives.  God has promised, to those who will seek Him diligently, a hope and a future.  He has promised that He is not out to harm us.  Jeremiah 29:11-13 (TLB)  11 For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest.  I imagine that Joseph and Mary, being educated in the Word of God throughout their younger days, knew the scripture we find in Jeremiah 29:11 and the story behind it.  Yes!  Even in the most oppressive situations, God has plans for us!  They are for good!  Sometimes they feel uncomfortable; but, in the scope of God's loving plans, they are good.  Romans 8:28 (TLB)  28 And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.  Like Joseph and Mary, we may not understand the ways in which God is working in our lives, but He is working!  His work is always good! Joseph seems to have had a pretty hard time, at first, believing Mary's story about her pregnancy.  Even after he was convinced by an angel, he still had to endure the unbelief, and most likely being shunned, from society in general.  Mary made a trip of about eighty or ninety miles, either on foot or on the back of a donkey during the last week of her pregnancy.  But, in all of this discomfort, God had plans for good.  She was about to birth the Savior.  Her own Savior and our Savior.  The Savior of the world!  Now, that's good!  Sometimes we may feel oppressed.  Government leaders may try to run our lives down to the last detail.  They may think they are in control.  Caesar Augustus thought he was in control.  He thought that census was his brilliant idea!  No!  It was God's idea.  It was God orchestrating everything (even the uncomfortable events of Joseph and Mary's lives) to fulfill His Word which was spoken by the prophet Micah six hundred and fifty years before Caesar ever thought of taking a census!  Jesus, God had said, would be born in Bethlehem.  Micah 5:2 (TLB)  2 "O Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are but a small Judean village, yet you will be the birthplace of my King who is alive from everlasting ages past!"  In the days when Jesus was born, Caesar Augustus thought he was in control of the world.  While it is true that he was oppressive and manipulative, power-hungry and greedy, his power was no match for God's power.  Not a single scripture could be thwarted by this one who thought he ruled the world!  God even used Caesar Augustus to carry out His own plans and Caesar was completely oblivious to it!  God rules in the affairs of men!  Conditions in our world today may be very much like the conditions into which the Baby, Jesus, was born.  He and His earthly parents had to obey people who thought they ruled the world.  But Mary and Joseph knew better!  And, we know better too!  Jesus came unnoticed by these power-crazed world leaders; but in a manager of hay, in an out of the way stable, lay the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  The Son of God!  We may feel unnoticed and even oppressed today because of world conditions.  Jesus knows how we feel.  He has lived through it!  Not only does He know.  He cares!  One day, when it is just like it was when He was born, He will make His presence known on the earth again!  He will come to finally end oppression, sin and death forever!  He won't look like a baby any more.  This time we will see Him in all of His glory as the reigning King of Kings and Lord of Lords - forever!  Oh, hallelujah!  This time He won't be ignored or relegated to a lonely stable.  No one will be able to miss Him!  Just like it was then, when He was first sent to the world, He will come again!  As we notice the world becoming just like it was then, do we often stop to ponder, "Will today be the day that Jesus comes again?"  And, most importantly,  are we ready, unlike the first time He came, to welcome Him?  John 14:28-29 (NLT)  28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am.  29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.

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Proverbs 3:5 (AMP)
5 Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.


As I read the Christmas story from the Bible once again, I am finding the characters come more and more alive for me.  More real.  Take Joseph, for instance.  Joseph was a righteous man.  He followed the laws of God.  Matthew 1:19 (AMP)  19 And her [promised] husband Joseph, being a just and upright man and not willing to expose her publicly and to shame and disgrace her, decided to repudiate and dismiss (divorce) her quietly and secretly.  Within this word, "just," is the meaning of being "equitable." Joseph was equitable in his character and certainly equitable in his actions following some of the most disturbing news a husband might hear from his wife.  Joseph was innocent, so to speak, not expecting the mind-blowing news he would hear from Mary when she returned from her three month visit with Elizabeth in the hills of Judea.  Mary had been gone three months.  Don't you think that Joseph must have missed her?  They were engaged to be married.  But, engagement in those days meant that the marriage had already been pre-arranged and it was a sure thing.  They were considered married during the engagement period of one year.  The engagement period was a time of purity between the engaged couple and would be sealed on the actual wedding day.  In the case of Joseph and Mary, several months had gone by during the engagement period and they had kept their relationship pure.  Neither had been unfaithful to the other.  At least that's what Joseph thought!

Can you imagine Joseph's delight when Mary returned after three months of being away?  He probably had much to tell her about.  How he had missed her.  How his carpentry business was going.  Perhaps some of the plans for the wedding day.  But, no!  Mary was about to tell Joseph something that would make his world quake!  Joseph, the righteous man, was about to be told by his bride-to-be that she was pregnant!  This was just not done in that day.  Joseph knew that he had been faithful to her during this time and he knew that he had not touched her.  So, what was going on?  It appeared, at first, to Joseph that his trust in Mary had been unfounded.  His first thought was divorce.  Matthew 1:19 (NIV)  19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.  How many times has that thought come to one spouse or the other in a marriage where there seems to have been a breach of trust?  Trust is an important issue in life.  We like to feel like we can trust the ones closest to us.  We feel betrayed when we find that we trusted someone and they weren't trustworthy.  Joseph was no different.  Yet, Joseph still loved Mary.  It is possible to suffer betrayal and still love the one who betrayed you.  Because of Joseph's love for Mary, he planned to divorce her quietly so she would suffer as little disgrace as possible.  This was Joseph's plan.  But, Joseph's plan would change because of that very issue that made him consider divorce.  The issue is trust.

Mary certainly wondered how she would keep Joseph's trust.  In the song, "A Baby Changes Everything," some of the words go like this.  "The man she loves, she's never touched.  How will she keep his trust.  A baby changes everything."  Yes, the baby Jesus was about to change everything!  But, Mary had trusted God with all of her heart when she was visited by the angel with the news that she would be the mother of our Savior.  She couldn't understand it all but she trusted God.  Luke 1:38 (TLB)  8 Mary said, "I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to do whatever he wants. May everything you said come true." And then the angel disappeared.  In our own perplexing situations, some perhaps even including betrayal, the most important thing we can do, and the first thing we should do, is trust God.  There are so many situations in life and in marriage that defy human understanding.  Joseph was about to lean on his human understanding and divorce Mary.  Are there things going on in your life where you need to stop leaning on your own understanding and trust God? God didn't wait long before He sent an angel to let Joseph know that he needed to put his trust in God's plan.  Just as Joseph was about to make the mistake of getting a divorce, God showed Him differently!  Matthew 1:20-25 (TLB)  20 As he lay awake considering this, he fell into a dream, and saw an angel standing beside him. "Joseph, son of David," the angel said, "don’t hesitate to take Mary as your wife! For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit.  21 And she will have a Son, and you shall name him Jesus (meaning ’Savior’), for he will save his people from their sins.  22 This will fulfill God’s message through his prophets—   23 ’Listen! The virgin shall conceive a child! She shall give birth to a Son, and he shall be called "Emmanuel" (meaning "God is with us").’ "   24 When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel commanded and brought Mary home to be his wife,   25 but she remained a virgin until her Son was born; and Joseph named him "Jesus."   I imagine that Joseph woke up from his dream a relieved man.  Joseph loved Mary.  He was willing to trust the message from the angel of the Lord.  He was willing to trust Mary that she had also received a message from the angel, Gabriel.  In all of his human understanding, none of this was believable or even possible.  There are situations regarding trust in our own lives that seem way beyond repair and impossible.  But, with God, nothing is impossible.  From then on, Joseph and Mary had to walk a life of trust in the Lord.  To the outside world, they appeared to be crazy.  But, to God, they were His trusting and obedient children.  Their delight was not in each other as we think of newlyweds during those first months of marriage.  It was in the Lord.  They had to commit everything they did to the Lord.  They had to trust Him to help them.  And He did that.  Although, to the world, they seemed guilty and even worthy of death, God made their innocence clear to everyone.  When we are able to put our trust in God, despite circumstances that defy human understanding, like Joseph and Mary, He will vindicate us.  He will bring justice.  The Savior that Mary birthed after a pregnancy that would make any woman cringe, will shine down on us as from the noon day sun.  May the Son shine on you and may God give you your heart's desires as you delight yourself in Him, committing everything you do to Him, trusting Him to help you do it!  Psalm 37:4-6 (TLB)  4 Be delighted with the Lord. Then he will give you all your heart’s desires.  5 Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him to help you do it, and he will. 6 Your innocence will be clear to everyone. He will vindicate you with the blazing light of justice shining down as from the noonday sun.  As we remember, Joseph's first desire, upon hearing the news of Mary's pregnancy, was to divorce her.  Just like Joseph, our first desires upon hearing troubling news, may be to do what our human understanding tells us to do.  God may want to change our desires into His desires!  Do we trust Him?  For Joseph, it was a matter of trust and it's still a matter of trust for us!

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Luke 1:39-40 (NLT)
39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town  40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth.

Have you ever picked up the phone and found a frantic friend on the other end?  Or, maybe you have even answered a knock on the door and found a bewildered and struggling friend on the other side of the door.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, had just had the most astounding experience of her life.  An angel had visited her.  That would have been frightening enough.  But, the news that the angel brought to her, although glorious, was confusing to her.  She was told that she was going to have a baby but she had not yet been married and had never been with a man.  Has God ever told you to do something that was illogical by the world's standards, but you just knew it was Him speaking and you had to do it?  Did you understand it all at the time?  Mary certainly didn't understand this news and she asked a question.  Luke 1:34 (TLB)  34 Mary asked the angel, "But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin." When we know the Lord has called us to do something, do we sometimes ask, "How, Lord, how?  This thing you want me to do seems impossible?"  The angel was not put off my Mary's question and he gave her all the information she was going to get about that particular question.  Luke 1:35 (TLB) 5 The angel replied, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of God shall overshadow you; so the baby born to you will be utterly holy—the Son of God.  But, he also brought her news of her relative, who was way past child-bearing age and who was also pregnant.  Luke 1:36 (TLB)    36 Furthermore, six months ago your Aunt Elizabeth—’the barren one,’ they called her—became pregnant in her old age!   This news was astounding, but confirmatory to Mary.  God could do anything He wanted to do in the affairs of men and women!  Luke 1:37 (TLB)  37 For every promise from God shall surely come true."  Yes! The Word of God didn't fail Mary and it didn't fail Elizabeth and it won't fail you and me!  It is full of God's promises of power for our lives.  The most wonderful thing, besides our salvation, is the fact that nothing is impossible with God!  When we know that, like Mary, we want to blurt out some words of committal.  Luke 1:38 (TLB)  38 Mary said, "I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to do whatever he wants. May everything you said come true." And then the angel disappeared. This morning, can we utter that same prayer with thankfulness and determination to carry out our commitment?

God is so good.  He will confirm the Word that He has spoken to us through other people.  In this case, Mary had been told about Elizabeth, who was much older and wiser than Mary was.  Don't you think young Mary needed somebody with skin on to talk to?  After all, she had just received life-changing orders from an angel.  I doubt if she knew anyone else in the village of Nazareth who could say the same. Who would believe her?  Except maybe another person who had experienced a great miracle of God.  It was Elizabeth.  As the old song says, "You need someone older and wiser telling you what to do......."  Not only did God work this set of miracles out so that Mary knew of someone she could go to for help and advice at this time, it was someone she had trusted all her life.  It was someone older and wiser.  It was another woman of God.  If I were Mary, I think I might have done the same thing she did.  Get out of where she was and run to someone who could give her wise and sound advice about becoming a mother. Even the mother of the Son of God!  Someone with whom she could, without reservation, tell her whole story.  Someone who would not put her down by disbelieving the whole, entirely impossible (in the natural) scenario..  Really!  An angel came to you?  You are pregnant by the miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit?  After the angel disappeared, Mary must have almost run into the hills where Elizabeth lived to find solace and advice from an older and wiser relative.  Luke 1:39-40 (TLB)  39 A few days later Mary hurried to the highlands of Judea 40 to the town where Zacharias lived, to visit Elizabeth.  Let me tell you, Mary made haste to get up those hills!

I was reading about a man the other day who was very close to God.  As He grew in his relationship, he realized that his thought had always been this:  the closer to God you are, the less you need people.  But, in God's timing and in His grace, this man realized that it was just the opposite.  The closer to God we get, the more we need people!  First of all, we're not just here to develop a relationship with God (although that is our first priority).  We are here to know Him better so we can relate to His children better and know how to bring the lost into the Kingdom.  We are here to know Him better so we can encourage one another.  We are here to know His comforting power so that we can comfort others who may have gone through or being going through the same things we are. 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)  4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.   All of that was accomplished when Mary ran to the hills of Judea and met up with her relative, Elizabeth.  Our relationship with the Father also includes accountability. We are to hold others accountable to God's Word.  Others who have this wonderful relationship with the Father, through Jesus, are also to hold us accountable.  I saw a cute card the other day with several puppies in a cup.  The saying on the card was, "We are all in this together."  Yes! We are all in this world together.  Many do not know the Lord and we can interact with them right where they are and endeavor to usher them into His Kingdom.  As far as Mary and Elizabeth are concerned, are you that older and wiser person who can comfort and confirm a younger follower of Christ?  Be ready!  Are you that young follower of Christ who has become confused and even maybe scared to do what God has told you to do?  Seek out that older and wiser person.  They will bless you.  They will uphold you, just as Elizabeth did for Mary.  It may take a while.  Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months!  (Luke 1:56)  When we have Jesus, we need people!  We need to be around people in order to introduce to them our Best Friend.  We need to be around other people of God to be encouraged and spurred on to the good works God has called us to do.  To be comforted and to comfort.  To be accountable and to hold others accountable.  To fellowship and sing praise.  There was a lot of praising going on during Mary and Elizabeth's visit, even though they both had reasons to be afraid.  They had joy!  Do we want joy?  It involves, not only having Jesus, but being with others.  The "J" in joy is for Jesus.  He comes first.  The "O" in joy is for others.  They come next. And, finally the "Y" in joy is for yourself.  You come last.  Not a very acceptable statement in this "me first," generation.  However, remember that scripture that says the last shall be first?  If we put God first, others second, and ourselves last, we will end up with the great blessing of joy!  We can't leave others out of this mix!  

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Luke 1:26-27 (NLT)
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,  27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.

God sent an angel to visit a very young girl, by the name of Mary, in Nazareth.  If you noticed the title, you will see that I am asking why Nazareth?  And, why Mary?  I was reading about some of the history of Nazareth and it does seem like a very unlikely town to command the presence of an angel.  Perhaps an angel of judgment would have been more appropriate.  Perhaps an angel of much less rank than Gabriel.  But, no, God chose to send Gabriel to Nazareth.  Apparently it was a fairly backward village and it was on the fringes of the Roman Empire.  It was already supposedly famous.  But, it wasn't famous for anything good.  Small, though it might have been, it was big on sin!  It's location was four miles from the Roman garrison at Sepphoris.  The Roman soldiers, it seems, would often get some leave, along with some bonus pay.  They headed off to Nazareth where they could find some cheap wine and women who could be bought just as cheaply.  As I read the history further, it was pointed out that it could have been called the, "red light," district of the area.  In fact, it was also said that this fact might have fueled a recent critic of Christianity to accuse Mary of having a child by a soldier!  So, why Nazareth?  Even as Jesus began His ministry and was gathering his followers, one of them, Nathaniel, asked, "What good can come from there?" John 1:46 (NIV)  46 "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip.

Now, why didn't God send he angel, Gabriel to another, besides Mary?  Mary's roots seemed to be simple.  Why didn't God send Gabriel to a prominent Jewish family or one of those living in Jerusalem, close to the temple?  Out of all the women in the world, who was Mary anyway?  Her ancestry was good and she was apparently raised in a home where she learned to read the Word of God and follow the ways of the Lord concerning all the holy days and Sabbaths.  She was young but she was well grounded in God's Word and was probably taught obedience and reverence for Him in her home.  Could we be raising a, "Mary," in our home?  Are our homes filled with the teachings of obedience and reverence for God.  Do we spend time in His Word, teaching our children and grandchildren to do the same?  Do we talk about Him all the time, whether at home or on the road?  Deuteronomy 11:18-20 (AMP)  18 Therefore you shall lay up these My words in your [minds and] hearts and in your [entire] being, and bind them for a sign upon your hands and as forehead bands between your eyes. 19 And you shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you rise up. 20 And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates,  We don't know for sure exactly where Mary was born and raised but she found herself living in Nazareth when she was approximately thirteen or fourteen years old.  No matter where she was raised, it is evident that she was raised to keep God's Word in her heart, deep within her inner being.  In Nazareth, a sinful city, she was able to keep herself from the corruption around her because she had her foundation in the Lord.

Now what about you and me?  Where do you live?  Do you live in a center of corruption?  A place where there are such things as "adult" stores within view?  Are there more places of entertainment and debauchery than not?  How about our country?  Have we pushed God aside for the pleasures of doing whatever feels good and whatever will make money?  What about our own living rooms?  Does the TV blare away with foul language, sending suggestive, even pornographic messages to our eyes?  Whether you or I live on the streets, in a project, in the suburbs or in a downtown city, God is willing to send an angel to speak to us there.  To protect us from the evils around us.  To help us live out His Word, if we're willing followers of Jesus.  You and I might never see the angel, as Mary did.  Nevertheless, the angels are surrounding us right now if we are working out our salvation with fear and trembling.   Hebrews 1:14 (NIV)  14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? 

Mary was an ordinary young girl, living in a challenging locality.  But, her foundation was what she had been taught.  She had received all that she had been taught.  She was working out her salvation as best she could through what God had already revealed to her.  We now have the Light of the World because Mary was devoted to the Father, even with incomplete information about the Savior of the world.  Are we doing the same?  Philippians 2:12-13 (NLT)  12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Mary, an unlikely candidate in the worldly view, was visited by the angel, Gabriel, in an unlikely place.  She was out of the way of the workings of the temple and the government.  She was obscure until that moment when the blazing light of the angel shown around her.  We are all ordinary people, but each known personally by the God who created us.  He's not interested in whether we're among the rich and famous.  What He is interested in is whether we have a heart bent toward Him, no matter where we live or what challenging and uncomfortable situations we might be struggling with.  He can do miraculous things with the most common of people and places!  What may appear to be foolish to our world today will confound the wisest of worldly thinkers!  1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (NLT)  26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. You may feel out of the way and obscure in this world but if you are following the Lord, He is  you.  He will visit you just like He visited Mary if you, like Mary, have a servant's heart.  If you, like Mary, have meditated and pondered His Word and are living it out with all that has been revealed to you.  You may never see that angel that visits you - on the other hand, God may just allow you to see it!  Why Nazareth?  Why Mary?  I don't know.  But, this I do know.  God is present with you and me wherever we live and He is not one that favors one believer over another.  He picked Mary out of Nazareth and He has also picked you out of wherever you live.  He wants to use you for His purposes just as He used Mary for the purpose of bringing His Son into the world!

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Luke 2:20 (NIV)
20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

When we have an true encounter with Jesus, things change!  The shepherds in the field were not always well thought of in their society.  They were considered the lowest of the low in their profession.  Isn't it interesting that those who are considered fairly worthless in society will live up to it!  We really don't know what those shepherds spoke of in the fields or just how coarse their conversation and behavior was.  But, we do know that when they saw the Good Shepherd up close and personal, they were changed.  They could do nothing but glorify God!  All they could do was praise!  When they got back to the fields, nothing had changed about their profession.  Nothing had changed about the long, cold nights, trying to keep warm around a fire.  Nothing in their situation had changed but they had changed!  

Sometimes, don't we have glorious encounters with the living Christ?  We see Him operating in big ways and in small ways in our lives.  We know He is very close to us and we experience the glory of being in His presence.  There are times when we are in corporate worship that we feel His presence so deeply that we don't want to move.  We don't want to leave that presence.  Yet, like the shepherds, we have to return to our station in life.  Our situations may be cold.  A marriage as cold as the cold nights the shepherds had to sit through to do their job.  Our financial situation may be complicated and seemingly impossible.  Some people may think of us in derogatory ways and dismiss us as worthless.  When we come out of those times of worship or of having seen God do a great and wonderful thing in our lives, we have to return to the same-old, same-old.  Just like the shepherds did.

But, wait! No!  It is not the same-old, same-old.  It may look the same to people on the outside.  But, we know it is different.  Our situation has not changed.  But, we have been changed by our encounter with the living Christ!  The One who was born a tiny baby in a difficult situation.  The One who lived a lonely and disappointing (in the natural) life.  The One who died a cruel death.  Just so He could be God with us, Immanuel.  Matthew 1:23 (AMP)  23 Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel—which, when translated, means, God with us. The One who would go to the source of what makes us tick and change us.  The One who could identify with each and every one of our situations and let us know that He knows how we feel, but more than that, He can change things.  Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)  14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.  Yes, He is even able to change situations!  But, what He really wants to do is change us!  2 Corinthians 5:17 (TLB)  17 When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun! It is Monday morning.  Another week of the same-old, same-old, with nothing seeming to change?  Did you worship with your fellow believers this past weekend?  Did you spend time this morning in prayer or in the Word of God, asking to see Him.  Like the shepherds, did you look for Him until you found Him?  He still reveals Himself to those who will seek Him.  Jeremiah 29:13 (MSG)  13 "When you come looking for me, you'll find me. "Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, Like the shepherds, once we truly see Him for who He is, we will not be able to be quiet, not even in the same-old, same-old, that may look disappointing and desperate.  Like the shepherds our hearts will burst in praise.  We will glorify God.  We will be changed!  The shepherds returned to their everyday work but they were not the same as when they were before they went and saw Jesus.  Will you take some time this morning to stop running to and fro and run to find Jesus and sit a moment at His feet?  You don't have to make an appointment.  He's available to you 24/7.  Hebrews 13:5 (MSG)  5 Don't be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, "I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,"  I guarantee you that, once you do that, you will be changed!  You will return to your earthly work and responsibilities, changed and able to glorify God and praise Him even in the most difficult situations!  And, you know what?  If you invite Him, Jesus will go with you! 

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Luke 2:19 (NIV)
19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.


Perhaps, at this Christmas Season, we find ourselves busied with writing Christmas Cards, decorating the house, planning or going to parties, looking for just the right gifts for those we love.  Could it be that, because of all the increased activity around the holidays that we forget to stop and ponder the small things?  Maybe you have just been going through some challenging times.  Let us remind ourselves that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had just gone through nine months of being taunted and misunderstood because she was pregnant without being married.  Who, in their right mind was going to believe that she saw an angel and was given the astounding message that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her so that the Son of God would be born from her womb?  Who would think that God would even show up and have fellowship with a common woman!  That was the way it was in those days.  It could be that you can relate to Mary's pain of rejection.  Rejection that was compounded by the ever changing condition of her body.  Just when things should have been better for her, the census was taken and she had to ride a donkey to Jerusalem, leaving the comfort of her own home.  I don't think there are many of us women that would want to ride a donkey on a long journey, being nine months pregnant!  Or, for that matter, to leave our home and support system! 


Finally, reaching their destination, Mary started having labor pains.  The streets were filled with noise and crowds.  People looking for a nice comfortable place to stay, perhaps pushing and shoving, just as we sometimes find at the Black Friday sales that are supposed to usher in the season of "peace and good will!"  Everyone wanted comfort for the night.  If they had to be there, they certainly wanted to be warm and well-fed!  Don't you suppose that Mary wanted some comfort and warmth too?  How would it be to be having labor pains in the middle of crowded, noisy, dirty streets and not have a hospital to go to for help?  How would it be if you saw your husband frantically knocking on the doors of inn after inn and constantly being turned away.  Meanwhile, you were doubling over with the pains that tell you the time is soon for your baby to be born?  Wait, you were promised that this is the Savior of the world.  "God, are You sure this is supposed to be happening this way?"  Would you cry?  Husbands, would you be angry?  What would you do?  Finally, one inn-keeper tells you that you can stay in the stable with the animals.  Well, at least you can get out of the streets and into a semi-private place to have your child.  Not very warm or comfortable, but at least private!


Our Savior chose to make Himself known in an out of the way stable where the animals looked on.  Don't you wonder what animals think about?  I wonder if they were pondering the little thing that appeared in the manger.  He certainly didn't look like food - but He was the Bread of Life.  Mary, of course, had been told that she would bear the Savior of the world but it doesn't look like she was told all the details.  I doubt if she knew that she would be lying in a stable on that blessed day.  I doubt if she could have known the pain she would endure during her long journey to Jerusalem or the wondering if she would have that child in the middle of a dirty street.  We don't know the details of our lives either.  We do know that God has promised us abundant life.  We know that His plans for us are good and not to harm us.  We know all of this.  But, along the way, do we get discouraged when the details feel less than comfortable?  When we have the urge to be angry or just crumble in a corner and cry ourselves into oblivion?  No matter how hard things get in this life (and we will have troubles), we need to watch the events going on and ponder.  Just like Mary pondered.  There was Jesus, Mary and Joseph in a stable with the newborn Savior of the world.  Suddenly, their privacy was breached by shepherds.  Dirty shepherds who had been out in the fields watching their sheep.  If you were Mary and Joseph, would you have welcomed company at a time like that?  Certainly these shepherds were not dressed in their Christmas go to party clothes, nor had they stopped to take a bath!  The shepherds told of how God had sent His angel to the fields to announce the birth of the newborn King.  Mary listened.  She watched what was going on.  She pondered every little thing that was said and done, putting it all together with what God had already told her.  She must have found confirmation there.  She was not in a church listening to a good sermon in a comfortable pew.  She was in the ragged throws of life, probably still uncomfortable, physically and certainly very tired.  Yet, she welcomed the shepherds (an unlikely crew evangelists) and pondered everything in her heart.  Every little thing.  Meanwhile, the little One that would change the lives of Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and you and me was lying in a manger instead of in a palace waiting to live out a human life and then give that life for you and me.  He was only a little thing.  But, many times God uses the little things in our lives to confirm that He is definitely with us and working on our behalf.  Even in the midst of holiday celebrating or definite financial, physical, and emotional problems, will you start pondering the little things?  One person calls them, "God sightings."  Some say that the best gifts come in small packages.  The night Jesus was born that was definitely true!  One small package changed everything.  He wants to change you and me today!  Let's be more aware of the little things God is doing in our lives and ponder them just like Mary pondered.  God is with us!  We often find Him in the little things! 

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1 Peter 2:25 (NRSV)
25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.


Do you know what it means for a sheep to be heafed?  While reading the other day, I came across that word and found comfort and security in it, as well as freedom and focus!  As Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:25, we were all going astray like most sheep do.  Sheep that have not been heafed.  Even the shepherds who are supposed to lead God's sheep here on earth were going astray!  I know the following passage is long, but if you have the time, read it!  Even our spiritual leaders can go astray because they are also, only sheep.  This has been proven many times over in our day!  Ezekiel 34:1-20 (NIV)   1 The word of the Lord came to me:  2 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?  3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.  4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.  5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.  6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.   7 "'Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:  8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock,  9 therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:  10 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.  We must continually pray for those who lead us!

When I learned the meaning of being heafed, I realized that the Good Shepherd has done that for me.  And you too, if you have listened to His voice and followed Him.  Apparently, in parts of England, sheep roam the hills. It appears that they going wherever they like.  They search for and find food.  These sheep are very hardy.  They stay out in all kinds of weather.  It looks, at first glance, as if the do not have a shepherd.  However, if you talk to a local shepherd, He knows exactly where His sheep are.  The stay within the bounds of a certain hill and they do not wander!  He only brings them down for dipping worming, lambing, and shearing.  Why don't they wander?  The local shepherd will tell you that they are heafed to his hill.  No fences or barriers to keep them in.  It seems that the mother sheep from each generation teaches her lambs where they belong and they stay there.  Oh my, there are so many directions we could go this morning with this information!  However, I am thinking of the shepherds in the field that night when Jesus was born and about our own proneness to wander.

After the angels had ministered to the shepherds and given them the message of the Good Shepherd being born, those shepherds got all excited and didn't waste a minute getting to the stable where they would find, not only The Shepherd, but also the Lamb of God!  Luke 2:16 (NIV)  16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. Looks like the "heafing" process had begun with the shepherds!  They weren't forced to go to find Jesus.  They could have sat in the fields pondering what they had just seen and wondering what it was all about.  But, they didn't. They took the voices of the angels seriously and hastily obeyed what they had heard!  Then they ended up telling everyone they found about finding the Good Shepherd!  The one who would heaf them and the rest of us, down through the ages, to Himself and into His Kingdom.  The One who would call us in, yet set us free.  John 8:36 (NLT)  36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. He has not fenced us in, but rather has given us the freedom to stay within the bounds of His Kingdom and find safety and care under His watchful eye!  When we start to wander, He is the One who, like the mother sheep of the English flocks, helps us find our way back to the safety of the center of the flock.  Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) 6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.   He helps us not to cross the borders of the Kingdom of Light into the kingdom of darkness.  Isaiah 66:13 (TLB)  13 I will comfort you there as a little one is comforted by its mother."   Whether or not you consider yourself a shepherd or not, we are all still just one of the sheep.  In all practicality, we have already been, or are now, shepherds of a sort.  Every parent has had children to lead.  Some now have grandchildren that they are privileged to lead.  Sunday School teachers, public school teachers, nurses, doctors, politicians and preachers.  All shepherds!  But, the question is, do we all still know that we are not The Shepherd!  Do we keep in mind that we need to be heafed to Him and His Kingdom in order to receive continuous care and enjoy the freedom that has been granted to us?  Being heafed is a privilege not to be taken lightly.  It brings joy, comfort, care, freedom and focus.  Because the Shepherd does not want robotic sheep, we are still free to wander away from His hill, but He is pleased when we make it our choice to stay close to Him!  How sweet it is to be heafed to the Good Shepherd!  Are you heafed?  And, if so, are you leading others to the Good Shepherd? 

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Luke 2:8 (NLT)
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.

What are you doing this morning?  Do you have a nine to five job that is pretty much the same old, same old, every day?  Are you a stay at home wife or mom who has dishes in the sink, laundry to do, errands to run, children to care for?  Maybe you're in that "sandwich," season where you are caring for children and grandchildren as well as elderly parents.  Every morning we wake up and do mostly the same things we did the day before.  That's what life was like for the shepherds in the field the night that their lives suddenly changed forever.  Luke 2:9 (NLT) 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,  The Lord allowed them to see something they had never seen before.  Drowning out the light of the glorious stars that they must have studied and pondered each night as they sat in the fields, was a light that they had never experienced.  It was the light of the very glory of God!  It literally surrounded them.  They were about to be changed forever.  They were afraid.  Aren't we, many times, afraid when events of our lives cause us to be changed forever?

The shepherds were doing what they were hired to do.  They were doing just what we should be daily doing.  Taking care of the things God has given us to do.  Taking care of our "pastures," and those entrusted to our care.  Sometimes doing these things day after day can seem tedious and maybe even downright boring.  But, I am reminded that it was "while" the shepherds were staying in the field and guarding their flocks of sheep, an angel of the Lord appeared among them.  Angels are real beings.  Oh, not the sort of pretty little things we think of and picture as angels.  They are formidable creatures.  Beautifully powerful and fearful to behold.  They are sent to minister to those who will receive salvation and that's just what the angel of the Lord did that night in the fields for the shepherds.  The angel announced to them that the Good Shepherd was born.  It was something they could relate to.  The Good Shepherd had become a Lamb.  Something the shepherds of the field could also relate to.  The angel told them just how they could find the One who would become their own Shepherd!

It could be that, even today, while we are going about our daily earthly business that something will happen that will change our lives forever.  It is for certain today, that if we have met the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God, that we can expect to find Him there with us in the simple tasks we do each day.  Are you bored today with the same list of things to do that you had yesterday?  Even though you are bored, are you afraid to put that list down and look up?  What if the Lord is trying to get your attention, like He got the attention of the shepherds in the field?  Sometimes the Lord will get our attention through something that looks scary.  Something that feels terrifying.  Something that is going to change the way we live forever.  Like the shepherds we might be terrified at first but the angel of the Lord gave the shepherds wise advice that night in the field.  Luke 2:10-12 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”  First of all, has Jesus been born, not just in Bethlehem (which He surely was), but in your own heart?  Have you recognized Him, not just as a baby who would grow up to feel and experience everything you experience, but as your Savior?  As we go about hearing the Christmas story each year, we know that "unto us was born a Savior."  But, we must invite Him to be our Savior.  Secondly, while we are going about our business each day, things will come into our lives that will change them completely. The shepherds had no idea that angel was going to appear out of nowhere!  If we have invited the Savior that was born long years ago to be our own Savior and Lord, we do not have to be afraid of change, even change that may look negative and be unexpected.  This Savior has promised us that, if we love Him and are the called according to HIS purpose, ALL things will work out for the good.  Romans 8:28 (NLT) 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. This fearful experience worked out for good for the shepherds long ago and we can know that things will work out for good for us too!  This is because God, in His infinite knowledge, knew those shepherds beforehand and He knew us before we were ever here on earth.  He has chosen us to become like His Son.  Romans 8:29 (NLT)  29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. He has chosen us, just as He chose those shepherds!  He has called us to Himself and made us right with Him, because of Jesus.  And, He has given us His glory - that same glory that shown round about in the fields where the shepherds were just "doing their job."  Romans 8:30 (NLT)  30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. Today, as you do what you have to do, know that while you are doing that the Lord is with you.  His ministering angels are all around you.  If something comes that seems like it will change your life forever, know that it is ultimately going to be good if you are trusting in the Savior.  Know that God has good plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11)  His plans were so good that He gave us the ultimate Christmas gift.  His own Son.  And Jesus keeps on giving!  While you keep watch over what God has given you, He is keeping watch over you.  His angels are surrounding you.  I can tell you that as a certainty, not only from His Word, but from experience! May the Christ of Christmas be your experience also, not just at the time we have chosen to celebrate Christmas but while you are going about your everyday life! 

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1 Kings 8:6 (NIV)
6 The priests then brought the ark of the Lord's covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim.

Do you think the above verse seems out of place in the story of the birth of Jesus?  Somehow, I am seeing Jesus in the way the ark of the Lord's covenant took it's place in the inner sanctuary of the temple of old.  Overshadowing the ark of the Lord's covenant were the wings of the cherubim.  That picture moves my mind to what happened the night that Jesus was born. In thee fields nearby, shepherds were doing their job, just like on any other night.  Luke 2:8 (AMP)  8 And in that vicinity there were shepherds living [out under the open sky] in the field, watching [in shifts] over their flock by night.  Back to the cherubim.  The cherubim were figures that had wings, something like angels.  They stood sheltering the ark of the Lord's covenant.  The Lord's presence would overshadow the mercy seat which was just under the wings of the cherubim. Exodus 25:22 (AMP)  22 There I will meet with you and, from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the Testimony, I will speak intimately with you of all which I will give you in commandment to the Israelites. As I read the story of the shepherds in the field watching their flocks, I am amazed at the mercy of God!  Shepherds were not really well thought of by society in general.  Many were crude and uneducated.  Yet, a miraculous thing happened on an ordinary night when they were at their posts and doing what they were supposed to do.  The presence of the Lord, His glory, filled the air.  He spoke intimately with them through His angel.  Right there in the middle of a field of sheep!  Are we all not the sheep of the Lord's pasture?  Psalm 100:3   (KJV)  3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

What must it have been like for these unsuspecting shepherds to suddenly see the manifest presence of the glory of God?  Such mercy shown to the lowest of the low of society!  A glory that we had not previously seen, except in the temple of old where God had promised to meet with men from above the wings of the cherubim which were covering the mercy seat.  Unfolding before me, I see the fields of the earth and the common people like you and me becoming God's mercy seat.  He has sent His Son, the human manifestation of His mercy, into the world.  And who, but  to simple shepherds, does He first reveal this!  Luke 2:9 (AMP)  9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened. Of course they were afraid!  This giant heavenly being was standing before them with wings spread over the earth!  I am reminded here that it is truly is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, even to be allowed to see one of His angels!  Those who have not repented have reason to be afraid because God may send an angel to bring punishment.  Hebrews 10:30-31 (TLB) 30 For we know him who said, "Justice belongs to me; I will repay them"; who also said, "The Lord himself will handle these cases." 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  Don't you wonder what these shepherds were feeling at first?  Maybe they were not the most spiritual people.  There they were caught off-guard in the middle of the fields facing an angel of the Lord and experiencing God's glory, firsthand.  Isn't it wonderfully odd and quite appropriate that the Great Shepherd would first introduce Himself to the common shepherd!

They were very afraid, as you and I might also be if we were suddenly face to face with a giant heavenly being and surrounded by the glory of God!  Yet, this was not a visit to bring punishment, but rather to bring mercy.  The fields this earth had become the mercy seat and the shepherds were there "under the cherubim," in the presence of the glory of God!  These common, ordinary men were the first to receive the extraordinarily, merciful message that would bring joy and good tidings to their fearful hearts and to the fearful hearts of everyone who would receive it down through the ages!  Luke 2:10-11 (TLB)  10 but the angel reassured them. "Don’t be afraid!" he said. "I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone!  11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem!  12 How will you recognize him? You will find a baby wrapped in a blanket, lying in a manger!"   When the angel reported the birth of the Christ child, all of  Heaven could not keep quiet and these lowly shepherds experienced the exquisite choirs of heavenly angels!  Luke 2:13-14 (TLB)  13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: 14 "Glory to God in the highest heaven," they sang, "and peace on earth for all those pleasing him."   Yes!  The mercy seat had been opened up to the common, ordinary shepherd.  It was opened up to, as one writer has put it, "the poor and the wealthy, the disabled and the robust, the downtrodden and the acclaimed - thieves, abusers, and sinners of all descriptions." (Taken from "Grace For All," The Upper Room Devotional Guide)  It has been opened up even to you and me!  The Mercy-Giver was wrapped simply and laying in a manger which the shepherds would soon see.  Right there in the common and ordinary things of life, work and babies, God showed up to bring mercy through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus comes, still today, in the common and ordinary things of our lives to bring His mercy.  In our regular, sometimes seemingly mundane, daily chores and challenges, we can still hear the angel's voice saying, "Don't be afraid."  For those who will follow Christ, peace is promised!  John 14:27 (AMP)  27 Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]    I hope this promise of God's peace is joyful news to you this morning!  As Luke 2:10 says, this news is for everyone.  But, only those who choose to receive it will receive it's benefits.  His mercy is available to you and me right now, no matter what we've done, said or thought.  The angels, sent to guard and protect those who will receive salvation, are hovering over you and me today, even though we may never see them manifest themselves to us.  Hebrews 1:14 (AMP)  14 Are not the angels all ministering spirits (servants) sent out in the service [of God for the assistance] of those who are to inherit salvation?  If we quiet ourselves before the Lord this morning and receive those glad tidings of joy and peace, we just might imagine those heavenly choirs singing praise to god.  Praise, because Mercy has come to live within us.  Within these bodies that God has chosen to be His temple!  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (AMP)  19 Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, 20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body.  As the hymn says, "Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight over all the earth.  Ye who sang creations's story now proclaim Messiah's birth."  Here are the words for you and me this morning - "Come and worship, come and worship....................."  The same angels that sang creation's story and then proclaimed Messiah's birth probably now sing with joy every time one sinner repents and receives mercy!  Luke 15:7 (NLT)  7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!  This is so fantastic.  Why don't we just begin singing along with the angels today! 

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Psalms 130:6 (AMP)
6 I am looking and waiting for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, I say, more than watchmen for the morning.

I oftentimes find myself waiting.  If I call the doctor or the appliance repair person, I am, more often than not, put on hold for a very long time.  Not being as well off in the patience department as I should be, it irritates me.  In fact, sometimes I get downright angry!  How about waiting in lines at the grocery store?  That doesn't please me either!  Last night, I was struck with what must have been a stomach virus.  I was really waiting for relief.  It was hard to wait.  However, in all of our waiting, there is opportunity to see Jesus!  There is also opportunity to be an ambassador for Him.  Everyone else around us is having to wait for something too.  No wonder the world is filled with angry people!  Those people, on the other end of an under-staffed doctor's office or answering service for the appliance repair service, just may be waiting for some relief.  They may need an encouraging word from us.  In all of our waiting, unexpected events can take place.  Some of them may be challenging; but in all of them, we can see Jesus if we're waiting for Him!  Once, at a gas station in New Jersey, where I had to wait a long time because you are not allowed by law to serve yourself, I started to become a bit more than irritated.  When the service attendant finally got to me, he was also very rude and agitated.  For once, I listened to the Lord's urging and gently asked the man if he was having a bad day.  My goodness! The Lord had me waiting in that line so that hard, gruff man could pour out his life's troubles to me.  What a blessing it was just to be able to share his burdens and be the Lord's ear to listen to his troubled heart.  He was smiling when I left and so was I!  Waiting is not a bad thing, if we are looking for Jesus and waiting on Him in all of our earthly waiting!

The psalmist declared that he was waiting expectantly for the Lord.  He was, not only waiting expectantly but he was putting His hope in the Word of the Lord.  Psalm 139:5  (AMP)  5 I wait for the Lord, I expectantly wait, and in His word do I hope.   Are we content to sit, or stand, or kneel or lie on our face, and wait for the Lord in this busy world?  Is our hope really in His Word?  Do we look at every waiting situation for a chance to see Jesus?  He is there in every situation and He's waiting for us to recognize Him.  Are you waiting because you have a health situation in your life that needs a touch from the Healer?  Are you waiting for relief from a financial crisis for your Provider?  Are you waiting in some emotional stress for your Prince of Peace?  In all these situations, and in every situation, Jesus is there.  His Name covers it all and His Word stands true.  Today we can wait, like the Psalmist, expectantly for the Lord.  Our hope can be placed in His faithful Word.

A long time ago a young, virgin woman waited.  She was expecting.  She was expecting the Lord.  Her name was Mary.  I'm sure that she had to put her hope in the Word of God!  Everything about her pregnancy was unexpected.  Nothing matched the norms of this world.  She waited for nine long months probably enduring sneers from her peers for being pregnant out of wedlock.  Really, by the law in those days, she should have been stoned to death.  Most every event in the past nine months of  her life was probably very unexpected.  How would you feel if you saw an angel?  How would you feel if you found out that your body was doing something impossible by the power of the Holy Spirit?  What if the one you loved was about to desert you because they didn't believe what you said?  What about the event that lead to the coming of the Lord for Mary?  Usually, new parents have a sort of, "nesting," time before the birth of a new baby, creating a nice, warm, clean place for the baby to be born.  I wonder if Mary, after many months of pregnancy expected to be lying in a cold stable to give birth to the Savior of the world.  How sad it was that the greatest Gift ever given was overlooked by the noisy fervency of people looking to find a comfortable place to stay because of a required census!  Luke 2:1-4 (NLT)  1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.  4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.    What are we waiting for today?  Are we merely on hold on the phone or standing in long shopping lines being irritated, frustrated, and angry?  Or, are we waiting on the Lord for an opportunity to see this mad, mad world through His eyes of love?  Are we really waiting on the Lord in every situation in our life?  Jesus is standing at our heart's door in every unexpected event in our lives.  Revelation 3:20-22  (AMP)  20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me. 21 He who overcomes (is victorious), I will grant him to sit beside Me on My throne, as I Myself overcame (was victorious) and sat down beside My Father on His throne. 22 He who is able to hear, let him listen to and heed what the [Holy] Spirit says to the assemblies (churches).      He is knocking.  He's making a, perhaps unexpected, personal visit to you and me!  Will we open the door and let Him in?  Or, will those words from long ago ring true?  "There is no room here."  Luke 2:7 (AMP)  7 And she gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn; and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room or place for them in the inn.  Let's pray together, either for your first time, or for a renewal of the open door of your heart, "Oh, come to my heart, Lord Jesus.  There is room in my heart for you." 



Luke 1:56 (NLT)
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.

This past Sunday the Advent Season began, when Christians all over the world begin the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  Although we know that Jesus was not actually born on the twenty-fifth of December, this can be a time of reflection and the giving of thanks for God sending the Savior to a sinful world.  As it turns out, the way we seem to celebrate Christmas these days is with frantic movement, from party to party.  From store to store.  Baking and cooking.  Decorating and cleaning. Who is this party for anyway?  Just whose birthday are we celebrating?  Has the guest of honor been ignored?  Maybe so.  It is something we all need to think about.  God once spoke to the Israelites whose lives looked great on the outside.  What they said was right, but there was a big problem.  Their hearts were all wrong.  How are our hearts this morning?  Are they close to Jesus or far from Him in the frantic frustration of festivities?  Matthew 15:7-8 (AMP)  7 You pretenders (hypocrites)! Admirably and truly did Isaiah prophesy of you when he said: 8 These people draw near Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts hold off and are far away from Me.

Just how much are we honoring the Savior during this Advent Season, or is it all about us?  How much time are we spending shopping, decorating, etc., compared with the time we spend in relationship and conversation with the One that we say we are celebrating?  I recently was challenged in a sermon, to spend just fifteen minutes a day being quiet before the Savior, having conversation with Him through His Word and through the speaking and listening of prayer.  It's a great challenge!  Will you be challenged today to do that every day of the Advent Season and through to the New Year?   Psalm 46:10 (AMP)  10 Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!  I guarantee you that, once you sit down and be quiet for fifteen minutes with your Savior, you will not want to leave!  It really is all about Him and He's the most exciting, compassionate and loving Friend you will ever find!

As many of you know, the Lord allowed me to be slowed down recently and I have not written the Morning Manna since September twentieth.  I will write more on that later and how the Lord has worked in and through it all.  There are times and seasons in our lives when we need to slow down and ponder what the Lord is doing and saying to us.  I suspect that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had a time like that when she visited her relative, Elizabeth.  This visit was soon after Mary was told by the angel that she was pregnant, by the power of the Holy Spirit, with the Savior of the world.  She went to the hills to Elizabeth's home and stayed there for three months!  What do you suppose they talked about?  Elizabeth was pregnant too, even though she had been barren all her life.  In her old age, I suppose she slowed down too because of her pregnancy!  And, don't you think that she and Mary spoke of the Lord and His power to create?  To do things that were impossible?   Luke 1:37 (AMP)  37 For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment. Will we slow down this morning for just fifteen minutes (but you will surely desire more minutes with Jesus if you do) to talk to Him about what He is doing in this world and what He wants to do in and through us?  Will we take time to thank Him for coming to earth as a helpless baby, instead of the conquering King that He is?  Will we remember that He came as a child and went through everything we have gone through from infancy to adulthood?  Do you wonder what Mary and Elizabeth talked about?  I think they talked about the wonder of God and about children.  Specifically about the children they were about to bear - John the Baptist and Jesus. Let's determine to take time each day to slow down, stop moving too fast, and sit with Jesus pondering the wonder of the Christ Child being born to save whoever will come to Him!  Jesus, I come! 

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Psalms 107:20 (KJV)
20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.

I am writing, first of all, to encourage you with the fact that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever and that He still sends His Word and heals us and delivers us from things that threaten to destroy us.  That being said, I want to let you know that I was taken to the hospital on an emergency basis on Sunday night where it was determined that I have blood clots in my lungs stemming from a larger clot in one of my legs.  For the time being I will remain hospitalized and have been instructed to remain as still as possible.  So, I am trusting that in God's timing I will be getting the Morning Manna out to you again.  And, hopefully shortly.  I appreciate your patience and your prayers.  Feel free to email me at beabecker@verizon.net and I will read them and get back to you when I am able.

Hoping to meet you in the spirit in the word until such time as I can begin to write on a regular basis again.  If you are dealing with physical problems or any other challenging situations, let us encourage one another that God truly does send his word to heal us and deliver us from the attacks of the enemy. 

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1 Kings 4:16  (NLT)     16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.


This morning some of you reading this may have everything you need and even more. You may have your needs as well as a number of  extras.  Some may not even know where their next meal is coming from.  I am in awe of the fact that God speaks to us, one and all, in whatever position in which we find ourselves this morning!  I am reminded of four stories with the scripture that help me to see once again, that it's not about what we have or don't have.  It's about God's ability to provide and our decisions as to what we will do with what He provides. 

One story may be found within the verses of 1 Kings 17:8-16 (NLT)    First of all, we find that God told the prophet Elijah that he was to go to Zarephath because He had instructed a widow to feed him when he got there.  This is interesting in that God told Elijah that He had already instructed this widow to feed him.  More interesting is that when Elijah got there, this is what the widow said, in reply to his request for a bite of bread.  12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”  Have you ever thought you heard the Lord's still small voice of instruction telling you to do something that you knew you could not accomplish because of a lack of resources?  Have you turned that Voice off because of the impossibility involved in God's request?  This woman was just about to do that when God spoke through Elijah.

"Don't be afraid."  Isn't that just like God to urge His children not to be afraid in the face of situations that look dreadful?  1 Kings 4:13 (NLT)  13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”  Are you facing a situation (or situations) in your life where things look impossible?  At the risk of seeming harsh in a time when you probably need some comfort and assurance, that is exactly the place where things are most possible!  It is when we come to the end of ourselves and our own resources that God is able to begin to show His power in and through our lives .  His strength is made perfect in weakness!   2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT)  8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in  my  weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. And, when it's all said and done, the glory can go to none other than God!  The widow in this story was down to nothing.  She was gathering up sticks for the last meal for herself and her son.  She seemed to be on a "Mission Impossible."  However, God didn't see it that way!  I am stealing this next quote from a sermon preached by a very wise and caring pastor.  When God is involved, our, "mission impossible's," turn to "Mission Possible!"  The widow may not have thought she was really hearing from God when he had before instructed her to feed Elijah.  How could she feed another when she had nothing left for her son and for herself?  But God used Elijah to comfort her and calm her fears.  Then, she obeyed.  May it be that God is comforting people and removing all fear so that obedience will be the end result.  When the widow obeyed by doing something that seemed completely illogical, the miraculous occurred.  She took the little that she had.  She did with it what God instructed her to do.  She believed God's promise against all odds.  1 Kings 17:14   14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”   This took faith, mixed with obedience.  This morning, I pray that we, too, in our missions which may seem impossible, will mix our faith in God's promises with a determined obedience to His commands.  Walking by faith takes some practice.  A lot of practice.  But, the rewards can't be measured.  We can never out-give a God who loves to give His children good gifts.  We will always, in the end, receive so much more than we gave, even when we give out of our own need if God asks us to do it.  1 Kings 17:15  15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.  Having lived in many types of situations in my life, I can testify to the fact that God has never left me (even in spite of my failings and wanderings).  He has always been my Provider (even when I either didn't listen to His voice).  Whatever your need is today, won't you listen to God's voice, do what He's asking you to do, and have faith in His unfailing promises?  Just one of the four stories I had in mind has been told here.  When you get into God's Word, He opens up so much that there isn't room to contain it, so come back tomorrow for more on these challenging and encouraging stories from scripture!  And walk this day and always in faith and obedience!  God is your Provider.  And, He will always fulfill His promises!  

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Genesis 12:2-3 (NLT)
2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.
3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

What do you have?  There are so many places in scripture that remind us that it's not how much we think we have that makes the difference, but how thankful we are for what we have.  It's not how much we give, but our motivation for giving it.  It's not whether we give out of our abundance but whether we give out of our faith in the One who provides abundance!  In these days of hardship for many, as the world economy is on a roller coaster, and many seem to be on an endless trip down, what do we have and what are we doing with what we have?  One thing that might help us get things back into perspective is that we are blessed to be a blessing.  That doesn't mean that we will have all the latest of everything this world has to offer.  But, it does mean that we are blessed by a Father who loves to give good gifts to His children.  Matthew 7:11 (NLT)  11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. Not gifts to hoard and use to impress those around them, but gifts to share and bless those around them.  God promised to bless Abraham, our father in the faith.  But, sometimes we forget to remember that within that promise was the fact that God would also make Abraham a blessing.  Genesis 12:2 (AMP)  2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you [with abundant increase of favors] and make your name famous and distinguished, and you will be a blessing [dispensing good to others].  Yes!  God's purpose for blessing Abraham was so he could dispense good to others!

I am reminded then, of Moses.  God had placed a great call on his life.  But, instead of being willing to believe God, Moses began to make excuses for not having enough to obey God.  Exodus 4:10 (AMP) 10 And Moses said to the Lord, O Lord, I am not eloquent or a man of words, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and have a heavy and awkward tongue. Perhaps that was just Moses' perception of himself because later on we read the following:  Acts 7:22 (AMP)  22 So Moses was educated in all the wisdom and culture of the Egyptians, and he was mighty (powerful) in his speech and deeds.  So, how do you and I see ourselves?  As God sees us?  Fully designed and equipped by our Creator to do what He asks of us?  Or do we focus on what we think we don't have to do the job?   Moses seemed to be filled with excuses when God sent him out on a mission.  Exodus 4:1 (AMP) 1 AND MOSES answered, But behold, they will not believe me or listen to and obey my voice; for they will say, The Lord has not appeared to you. Finally, on this occasion, God showed Moses that even the little things we have can become great when we give them to God.  Exodus 4:2-4 (NLT)  2 Then the Lord asked him, “What is that in your hand?” “A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied.  3 “Throw it down on the ground,” the Lord told him. So Moses threw down the staff, and it turned into a snake! Moses jumped back. 4 Then the Lord told him, “Reach out and grab its tail.” So Moses reached out and grabbed it, and it turned back into a shepherd’s staff in his hand.

Can't you just picture Moses in the desert leaning on that old shepherd's staff and pouring out excuses to God as to why he was not equipped to answer God's call on his life.  I can relate!  So, what is it that small thing that you and I are leaning on while we complain or make excuses to God?  Are we willing to pray, "Lord, show me what You want me to throw down?"  God doesn't fail to answer open and honest prayer.  But, when He does answer, it may seem like a very little thing that He wants us to throw down so He can give it back to us in a much more powerful way!  His answer may seem totally backward and illogical in terms of what the world tells us to do.  And, even in terms of what our own feelings tell us to do.  What is it that God wants us to give back to Him so He can use us to bless others?  It might be a very small and insignificant thing to us but be the very thing that will accomplish great and mighty things for God and in the lives of others.  On the other hand, if God has blessed us in abundance, He may ask us to live on ten percent of what He has given us so that we might bless others, using the ninety percent to help meet their basic needs.  No matter what, you and I are blessed to be a blessing!  A smile.  A hug.  A letter.  Forgiveness when it is totally undeserved.  Or, a million dollars.  What is in our hands to give back to God and to bless others?  Will we dare to ask God?  And when He shows us, will we do it?

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Psalms 57:1 (NLT)
1 Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I look to you for protection. I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by

Sometimes it is appropriate to hide.  There are things that happen to and around us from which we need to stay as far away as possible.  Psalm 57 was probably written by David when he was hiding in a cave from Saul.  David was a warrior but even warriors need to know when and where to hide.  David knew that Saul was wrong but David had purposed in his own heart not to overcome evil with evil.  In this case, the brave one who had killed bears and lions with his bare hands and stopped a giant with just a slingshot and a pebble, was not out on the front lines.  He was hiding.  As he hid, He called on God more than once for mercy.  There are times in our lives when we have to stop fighting, be still and call upon God's mercy.  Where we hide makes all the difference!  Some of us may have tried to hide behind a bottle of liquor in our lives.  Some have tried to hide in illicit relationships, hoping against all hope that this would be "the one."  Some hide behind things that look good, like a successful career or in work for the Lord.  There are a vast number of places where you and I can run to find safety until the threats in our life pass by.  However, there is only one true place of safety.  And, that is in our Lord.  Right under His wings!


In our world, self-sufficiency is considered a  good quality but we are not in any way, or form, self-sufficient.  Nor, were we created to be that way.  We all need the Lord and we need one another in order to survive and prosper.  David might have been put down in our day and even mocked.  Some might have said, "Come on, David, fight!  After all, weren't you the one who killed those lions and bears and even Goliath?"  As I write this, I am thinking of Jesus.  They mocked Him too when He knew His time for fighting had ceased.  As He hung on the cross, those below scowled and spit at him while telling him to come down from the cross if He was really who He said He was.  Instead, we heard words from Jesus that weren't exactly fighting words, as this world considers fighting words.  We heard words like, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing."  And, we heard these words, "Father into Your hands I commit my spirit."  Could Jesus have come down from the cross and saved Himself.  Sure He could.  But He didn't.  He was obedient to His Father and trusted His Spirit into His Father's hands.  He stayed there agreeing to fulfill the purpose God had for Him.  Could David have come out of that cave and killed Saul.  I imagine he could have orchestrated that also.  But, David knew better than to go against God's ways just to gain a victory. 


Does today find you in some situation where you need to be still before God and wait for Him to strengthen you?  Do you need to be quiet and confident instead of running around like most of those around you trying to do things in your own strength and ability?  Can you see beyond your difficult circumstances to the purpose God has for your life and know that He will send help from heaven to rescue you and bring to nothing those who are causing you grief?  Psalm 57:2-3 (NLT)  2 I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me. 3 He will send help from heaven to rescue me, disgracing those who hound me. Interlude My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.  Have you taken a safe seat under the wings of the Lord and, even though you might be surrounded by awful circumstances and even some people who torment you, are you able to confidently say, "Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens!  May your glory shine over all the earth!  (Psalm 57:5)    That's what David did.  It may be raining cats and dogs all around you, but, if you're in that safe place under God's wings, you can find rest from the weariness that comes from being constantly distressed.  Psalm 57:6 (NLT)  6 My enemies have set a trap for me. I am weary from distress. They have dug a deep pit in my path, but they themselves have fallen into it. Interlude  There in that place of quietness, safety, warmth, and rest, we can be confident that our enemies will fall into the very pit that they meant for our demise!  If you read the remainder of Psalm 57, you will find that David finds confidence from being in his place of hiding.  He finds the confidence to let his heart sing again!  His distress has turned to delight and his circumstances have not changed at all!  He's still in the cave waiting patiently for the Lord to fulfill His purpose in his life.  David's circumstances have not changed but, because He has been hiding in the shadow of the Lord's wings, David has changed.  He has a new perspective.  He sees God more clearly than ever before.  He is able to look beyond his circumstances to God's unfailing love and faithfuless.  It is then that David is prepared to go forward.  Sometimes you and I just need to take a while to hide.  Is there someone or something in your life that you need to stop fighting in your own strength and just run under those welcoming wings of God where you can hide and be revived?  It may be tempting to try to hide in  the stuff around us that only makes our situation worse. The perfect place to hide is in the shadow of our Lord's wings.  When the enemy comes seeking us, He will not be able to find us! There, under the shelter of His wings, we will find healing and strength to continue victoriously on this journey through life!  Psalm 91:4 (TLB)  4 He will shield you with his wings! They will shelter you. His faithful promises are your armor.  Is it time for you to hide for a while? 

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Psalms 55:21 (NLT)
21 His words are as smooth as butter, but in his heart is war. His words are as soothing as lotion, but underneath are daggers!


Many people have experienced a very unfortunate and deeply painful experience in their lives.  You may be one of those people and, if not, you will certainly meet some in your lifetime.  These people have been wounded emotionally to the point that they may feel unable to return to any sense of normalcy in their lives.  Some have been battered and scarred physically also, making the emotional wounds much harder to overcome.  I know this is true.  I have lived through it with my own sister and am still living with the effects of what can happen when a person that you trust betrays your trust and deals a blow that will change your whole future.  David had this happen in his life too.  Look at how David laments over his situation.  We know that people who claim to be our enemies are prone to want to harm us in some way.  What we never expect is that those closest to us will do the job!  Psalm 55:12-14 (NLT)  12 It is not an enemy who taunts me— I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me— I could have hidden from them.  13 Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend. 14 What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.  Yes, it could be that the one who hurts us most deeply is one with whom we have even experienced time in church!

My mother used to pray a prayer similar to the following prayer when my sister and I were small.  "Lord, don't let your prophecy that the children will turn against the parents and the parents against the children be fulfilled in our home."  My sister and I really had no idea of what she was talking about at that young age.  However, she was referring to the following prophecy by Jesus.  Luke 12:51-53 (AMP)  51 Do you suppose that I have come to give peace upon earth? No, I say to you, but rather division;  52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided [among themselves], three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  Seeking to follow Jesus will bring unity with others who are truly seeking to follow Him.  But, it will also have the opposite effect and bring division when one is trying to follow Jesus and another refuses the great offer of salvation and discipleship.  As with David, the results can be ugly and heartbreaking.  David could have decided that he was not going to trust anybody after that devastating experience.  He could have doubted God's faithfulness and trustworthiness because it was someone who apparently claimed to know God.  If you have been through a similar experience, you may find it difficult to trust anyone too, including the Lord!  We might not say that we don't trust the Lord, but sometimes our other words and actions prove otherwise.  It is not easy to trust again when your trust has been violated, especially by one so close to you.  Jesus knew that firsthand.  It was those closest to Him that betrayed and abandoned Him.  It was the ones to whom He had given the most of His time and teaching.  So, if you are suffering this morning from having difficulty trusting the Lord because of the actions of some who have claimed His Name and then shamed His Name, know that God has not changed - He's still the same!  Trustworthy. Yesterday, today, and forever.  Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)  8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I am of the opinion that forgiveness is a must.  We don't really free the one who hurt us and betrayed our trust.  We free ourselves from bitter emotions that will bring about our demise if we don't let them go.  Someone once said that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.  Forgiveness is a must because Christ forgave us when we were still His enemies.  Before we got cleaned up.  When He forgave us, He asked us to follow Him.  One of the things He does is to offer forgiveness.  So, if we're going to follow Him, we must learn to offer forgiveness also.  He did have some rather hard words to speak to those who would follow Him though.  He said that we were not worthy of being His follower unless we put Him first and obeyed His commands.  Matthew 10:36-38 (AMP)  36 And a man’s foes will be they of his own household.  37 He who loves [and takes more pleasure in] father or mother more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves [and takes more pleasure in] son or daughter more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me;  38 And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conforming wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also] is not worthy of Me.  The gift of forgiveness was not given to us by Jesus in a sloppy, sentimental way.  The gift came with a responsibility.  We needed to prove to Him, by our obedience, that He could trust us with the gift.  When we forgive someone, that may not change the one we forgive.  But, it will change us.  If we see that one continuing in a pattern that goes against the Lord's principles, we can know that the best way to live peaceably with those around us may be to stay as far away from that one as possible.  Romans 12:17-19 (NLT)  17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Although it is not easy to do this, we should choose to refrain from constantly dwelling on the pain that has been caused us by another.  Our wanting to, "get even," only gets in the way of what God has planned for those who totally refuse to repent.  Notice what David says about the Lord.  Psalm 55:23 (NLT)  23 But you, O God, will send the wicked down to the pit of destruction. Murderers and liars will die young, but I am trusting you to save me. We can count on the fact that God will bring destruction on those who totally refuse to turn from their wicked ways.  That being said, I don't think that anyone with a heart after the Lord, would want to see that sort of destruction come upon even their worst enemy.  Jesus tells us what to do.  If we have no way of avoiding those who have hurt us, we must do the following.  Romans 12:20-21 (NLT)  20 Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”  21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.  Admittedly, some people will not respond to the love of the Lord.  But, we will have been His obedient children.  And the rest is up to Him.  As far as trusting people who have betrayed us, if we have to be in close proximity to them, they need to know that they need to show us that they can be trusted again.  I recently read the following quote.  "Gaining trust is like filling a bucket one drop at a time."  ~Todd Duncan  It takes a very long time to restore trust if we have proven to be untrustworthy.  But, thankfully, God is trustworthy and has never proven otherwise, nor will He.  So, if we have been hurt badly because someone else proved to be untrustworthy, we can know that there is One in whom we can always trust.  After recounting all the pain and suffering that He went through and all the trouble that still surrounded him, David said, at the end of Psalm 55, "But, I am trusting You (God) to save me."  Have you been betrayed by another, even someone who should have been your protector?  Right this minute, you can turn to God and know that He is worthy of your trust.  He will not fail you.  He will bend down and save you.  Like David you and I can say, even in the middle of some pretty challenging struggles, "But, I am trusting You to save me."

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Psalms 40:1 (NLT)
1 I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.


David makes a very powerful statement here at the very beginning of Psalm 40.  When things just don't look as though they are going to pan out, and we have done everything we know to do, sometimes we just have to wait patiently for the Lord!  If you are facing circumstances this morning over which you have no control, you can pray this prayer!  Psalm 5:3 (AMP)  3 In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; in the morning I prepare [a prayer, a sacrifice] for You and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart]. I am praying that prayer this morning, myself!  The many uncertainties of life and the many injustices can cause us to faint within ourselves when it looks like we have done everything and there's just no way out.  This morning and every morning, whether we face challenging circumstances or whether we are in a season of smooth sailing, we must remember that the Lord hears our voice (that is, if we are taking the time to speak to him).  We, like the Psalmist can prepare a prayer and a sacrifice of praise for the Lord and then watch for Him to move in our lives and listen for Him to speak to our hearts, all the while, having the confidence that, as Psalm 40:1 states, He will turn to us and hear our cry!  The key is to patiently wait.  My trouble has often been, in the past, that I didn't want to wait!  And, to be certain, I was not patient.  I had some ideas about how to fix the situations in my life and I wanted God to go my way and help me do what I wanted to do.  The trouble is that I did not have the proper perspective.  While my own ideas may not have been bad in themselves, they did not fit in with God's bigger picture.  There were times that I didn't wait on God!  Every time I go it on my own, I make a mess of things!  Of course, because God loves you and I so much, He is willing to take our messes and make messages out of them.  (Romans 8:28)   But, that usually requires us to make some admission of the fact that we were wrong.  Wouldn't it be better to wait patiently for the Lord knowing He is hearing our cry and that He is in the process of turning to us?  Speaking from lots of experience, I will say "yes," and "amen," to that!

What was the root cause of my not waiting patiently at times?  Looking back, I would say that it was because I was lacking in my trust of a perfectly trustworthy God.  Being a lover of music and one who likes to sing, I am encouraged by what David says in Psalm 40:3 (NLT)  3 He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.  When you and I get into desperate situations, it's not all about us and our feelings and discomfort.  God has a bigger plan in mind.  He wants to give us lots more to sing about!  In Psalm 40:2-3, David tells us what God can and will do for the one who will patiently wait for Him to work.  David found that God was faithful to lift him out of a miry pit and set his feet on solid ground!  How wonderful to be lifted from the pits in which we find ourselves trapped!  But, this is not the greatest thing out of the whole situation.  God then gave David a new song to sing!  He gave David a hymn of praise to Himself!  Why did God do all of that?  Sometimes our pits in life, as uncomfortable as they may feel, are to help others!  They are to show others around us how to put their trust in the Lord when they fall into a similar pit.  What are we like when we find ourselves stumbling over a pot hole, or even worse, in a pit of life?  When there is nothing we can do on our own to get out of that situation, do others see us patiently waiting on our God?  Do they see us demonstrating a trust in God that just won't quit?  The Lord did not leave David in the pit but the pit was there for a purpose. (Or, maybe God had several purposes).  One purpose was for David's testimony to shine, even during the hardship.  One purpose was for people around David to see that God would, indeed, lift him from the pit at just the right time.  David would have a new song to sing because of God's deliverance.  An old song says this:  "If I never had a problem, I wouldn't know that God could solve them and I'd never know what faith in God could do."  That's a very true statement.  Not only would we be devoid of the realization that God can solve any problem, others around us would not know either!

God wants everybody to know that they can trust Him.  Psalm 40:4 (NLT)  4 Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols. He wants everybody to have those joys that come from putting our confidence in Him rather than in ourselves or the world's system.  While we live in this world, we are called to come apart from it when it comes to where we place our trust and confidence.  Those around us have perhaps never been taught of the Lord.  Maybe they have never visited a church.  Perhaps they have never even opened a Bible.  But, one thing is for sure, they experience problems, pot holes and pits in life!  The trust and confidence that they see in us may be the only time they can get acquainted in the Savior and Deliverer.  Our patience and trust is not just about our own comfort in life and about building ourselves in spiritual things.  It is about those who are watching us when we get into situations which appear to have no way of escape.  There are those times when others might need to see us fall on our faces before the Living God and declare some things like this:  Psalm 40:11-12 (NLT)  11 Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me. Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me. 12 For troubles surround me— too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage. Patience and trust requires humility.  When we humble ourselves before God, we relinquish the right to take care of things in our own way.  We acknowledge our deficiencies and inability to solve everything.   In doing that, we give God the opportunity to bring about His good plans for our lives.  1 Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)  6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,  7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. The trust that God will bring us out in His time is crucial.  Confidently knowing that He is able to and wants to take on all of our cares is of utmost importance when it comes to trusting God and being an example to others that God is truly trustworthy.  While it is okay with God that we express ourselves honestly to him as David did in Psalm 40:13, it is also essential that we develop a pattern of patience and trust as we, after having done all we know to do, be still and wait on Him.    Psalm 40:13 (NLT)  13 Please, Lord, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me.  It is in our being still before God and knowing that He is God that we find the confidence to trust Him.  Psalm 46:10 (NLT)  10 “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” It is there that we know that all things are possible with Him.  How do we know this?  Psalm 46:11 (NLT)  11 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude   It is in that place of patience and trust that we can expectantly wait for Him to come quickly and help us!  And, not only will we see deliverance, but others will see that same deliverance, giving them the courage to put their trust in God, as well.   

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Psalms 31:14 (NLT)
14 But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!” 


David, the Psalmist and future King of Judah, had more than his share of problems.  He was constantly in communication with the Lord and didn't hesitate to lay out all of those problems before Him.  In Psalm 31, David was going to the Lord for protection.  There are many instances in which you and I need to admit our need for protection and talk to the Lord about it.  David asked the Lord not to let him be disgraced.  (Psalm 31:1)  He asked the Lord to listen to him and rescue him quickly.  (Psalm 31:2)   It could be that some of us are in situations where we appear to be at a dead-end.  Those situations might be in the area of finance, health, relationships, and a host of other places in our lives.  No matter where and how we might feel threatened, the principles are still the same.  Like David we need to lay ourselves before the Lord and ask for Him to be our rock of protection.  Our fortress where we will be safe.  Psalm 31:2 (NLT)  2 Turn your ear to listen to me; rescue me quickly. Be my rock of protection, a fortress where I will be safe.

Today, no matter where we might be tempted to fear, we can begin to declare, like David did (right after his request that God be his rock of protection) that, indeed, God is our rock and our fortress!  Psalm 31:3 (NLT)  3 You are my rock and my fortress. For the honor of your name, lead me out of this danger. We need to remember that, if we are believers, the Lord has given us His name, for the honor of His name, He will do mighty works in our lives.  We need to remind ourselves that our protection from whatever challenge and attack, is from God alone.  (Psalm 31:4)  And, like David we can then trust our spirit into the capable hands of our faithful God.  (Psalm 31:5)  It may be that we have been trusting in this world's ways for deliverance.  If so, we need to remember that we do not belong to this world's system with its worship of worthless idols.  If our trust has temporarily been misplaced, we need to ask for forgiveness and  once again, place that trust in the Lord.  Psalm 31:6 (NLT)  6 I hate those who worship worthless idols. I trust in the Lord.

Are you going through some difficult and scary situations in your life?  I have plenty that present themselves in my life.  It's not always easy to trust the Lord.  But, it gets so much easier when we take some cues from David.  He determined to be glad and rejoice in God's unfailing love.  He remembered that God had seen all his troubles and that God cared dearly about what was troubling him.  He remembered that God had not handed him over to his enemies, but instead set him in a safe place.  (Psalm 31:7-8)  David didn't hesitate to state the details of his difficulties.  He was in distress.  He couldn't even see correctly because of the many tears in his eyes.  His body was affected and so were his emotions.  He felt as if grief and sadness were causing him to die an early death.  He suffered from sin that had drained his strength.  That could have been a combination of the sin of others around him and his own failings.  Many times our situations in life are a combination of both.  He found himself without friends and despised by most people.  People talked behind his back but loud enough for him to hear what they said.  He never knew what was coming next leaving him in a state of terror.  His enemies were constantly trying to figure out how to kill him.  (Psalm 31:9-13)    Many of these things I just described can be applied to situations in our own lives.  Distresses, tears, grief, failing health, unstable emotions and sin can put a drain on all of our lives in one degree or another and in many situations.  Not knowing who we can trust, or if we can trust anybody, can cause us to think in negative ways.  David made a choice.  He poured out all of the above complaints and distresses to the Lord.  Then, he deliberately chose to say this:  "But I am trusting You, O Lord, You are my God."  This is a choice that you and I must make every day, even before those challenging situations come about!  My sister and I like to say, in the face, of very difficult trials, "But God............."  There are so many situations in scripture and in each of our own individual lives that point to the fact that everything was about to collapse around us.  But God........  God stepped in somehow and protected us.  He saved us and brought us through.  Of course, He did, we're all reading this now!  Our job, in the midst of troubles, is to say, "But I...."  To make that choice from what we know about our God and what we have seen Him do. To say, "But I am trusting You, O Lord, You are my God."  We can't remind ourselves and each other enough that He is truly worthy of our trust! 

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Psalm 56:10 (NLT)  10 I praise God for what he has promised; Yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.

It is certainly more difficult to trust God when we have a big problem (or many problems) in our lives.  These days in which we live are filled with problems of all kinds.  They seem to fly at us from every direction.  David was familiar with that feeling.  He had to acknowledge his fear to God more than once!  And he talked to himself more than once, reminding himself of the reality of his situation.  He knew he had problems.  But, he also knew that God's promise was always greater than any problem!  What do we focus on when times get difficult?  The problems?  Or, God's promises?  Twice in only thirteen verses of Psalm 56, David had to speak to himself and decide to praise God ahead of time for the promise that would dissolve his problem.  Before David saw his problems wiped away by God's promises, he chose to give the sacrifice of praise to the Lord.  Psalm 56:12 (NLT)  12 I will fulfill my vows to you, O God, and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.  David chose to do this right in the midst of his problems.  He didn't wait until he got out of them.

You and I, too, can remember to focus on God's promises rather than our problems when it becomes difficult to trust Him.  We can remember promises like the following:  Romans 8:31 (KJV)  31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?  David was right in the middle of his problem in Psalm 56 and his enemies were threatening to take him down.  You and I, if we are believers, are in a constant warfare with spiritual forces of evil that try to take us down and sometimes work through unknowing people around us.  We must not become complaisant.  1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)  8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.   Yet, like David, we must be confident in the fact that, in Christ, we are more than conquerors!  We do not become conquerors by living in a world without problems.  We become conquerors by living victoriously in the problems and knowing that God's promises are greater!  The Apostle, Paul, testified to this himself.  Romans 8:34-39  (NIV)  34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?   36 As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Basically, the Apostle, Paul, was saying what David said in Psalm 56:9.   9 My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help. This I know: God is on my side!  Both David and Paul clung to God's promises and their words encourage us to do the same.  David was not quite over his fears by the time he wrote verse 11 in Psalm 56.  A third time, he asked himself why he should be afraid.  He asked himself what people could do to him.  Psalm 56:11 (NLT)  11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? There is nothing wrong, and everything right, in going to God and admitting that we are being tempted to fear.  Denying that would be dumb, to put it mildly, since God knows everything anyway.  And, He's not surprised by what may surprise us.  Like David, we must humble ourselves before God admitting our weaknesses and temptations.  It's the only way.  1 Peter 5:6-7 (NLT)  6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.  It worked for David.  He admitted his weaknesses to himself and to God and traded his fears, cares, and problems for God's promises!  Later on he became King and a key person in the line of our Lord and Savior!  God has good things in store for you and me too if we will just get with His principles and His program!  A couple of last thoughts on how David handled it when it was difficult to trust God.  He was able to offer a sacrifice of thanks for God's help before he saw it in this particular situation because he remembered what God had done for him in the past.  Psalm 56:13 (NLT)  13 For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light. Hindsight can be good if we are looking back on our lives and seeing the times when God has rescued us from what could have been a disaster.  If we really want to try to realize just how many times God has rescued us from death and kept our feet from slipping, we can think about all those times, He doesn't even show us what He's doing.  For example, we may come out in a hurry to go somewhere only to find out we have a flat tire.  We may be very angry because our agenda has been compromised.  But, just what if, God had allowed that flat tire so we would not be on the road at the time the enemy had prepared that deadly accident to wipe us out?  Well, David saved the very best for the very last part of the very last verse in Psalm 56So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.  What a victorious statement.  What a grounded statement, considering David was still in the midst of his problem!  Even in the midst of the serious problems David was facing here, he could walk in God's presence and in God's life-giving light!  We can do the same thing today by focusing on God's promises instead of on our problems.  By constantly reminding ourselves of what God has done in the past.  By remembering that our tears and sorrows of today are being safely taken care of by the Lord.  By being honest with ourselves and with the Lord in humility.  And, by making a decision to praise God and give an offering of thanksgiving right in the very center of the problem.  David worked through his problem in thirteen short verses here in Psalm 56.  He went from being fearful of his problem to walking in victory in the presence and light of the Lord.  How many verses might we have to write for us to do the same  thing this morning?  It is possible and we have a loving Heavenly Father who is just waiting for us to take an example from David! 

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Psalms 56:3 (NLT)
3 But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.

Certainly there are things in life that threaten to spark fear in all of us.  It could be any number of things that cause us to fear.  In the case of David, in Psalm 56, his enemies had seized him and they were using all kinds of tactics to try to bring him down.  David had to talk to himself constantly.  He had to continually remind himself that he trusted in God.  He did this three times in the thirteen short verses of Psalm 156!  The first was in Psalm 56:3, the second in Psalm 56:4   
4 I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?   And, the third is in Psalm 56:11.  11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? David had the Philistines to contend with in his day.  You and I also have powerful and destructive enemies to deal with in our day.  We are defending ourselves and fighting against unseen evil rules in high places.  Of course, we must do all of this all in the Name of Jesus.    Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)  12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. While it is true that these evil spirits many times take control of those around us who are not willing to surrender to the Lord Jesus, the people are not the ones we need to be worried about.  It is the spirits that drive those people to do destructive things that we need to contend with.

Like David, you and I are in a war.  There will be battles that we seem to win and some that we might appear to lose.  The bottom line here is that we win the war!  Under our Captain, who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we have the victory, even if we have not seen it manifested in our lives yet.  That's what trusting God is all about.    1 Corinthians 15:57 (AMP)  57 But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory [making us conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ.  The very first thing we need to do is to trust God when He said that He gives us the victory through Jesus and that He is making us more than conquerors!  That is probably why David spoke to himself three times in thirteen verses about trust in God.  It is not always easy to trust in God.  David didn't find it so and we may not always find it so.  There will be things in our lives that will baffle us and sorely tempt us to give up trusting in the Lord.

In David's case, his enemies taunted him and attacked him all day long!  I've had days like that and I'm sure you have too when one temptation after another seems to present itself and I feel pretty battered and very tired!  Psalm 56:1  1 O God, have mercy on me, for people are hounding me. My foes attack me all day long. When those days come, we need to remember that God is merciful and that we can, and should, stop to and ask him for His mercy; even in the midst of the fiercest battle.  When things come against us furiously, we need to remember that David also decided to praise God for what He has promised.  Sometimes we get tired of waiting for the promises of God.  The enemy, by his unrelenting attacks,  threatens us by trying to get us to believe that God will not do as He promised.  But, He will!  1 Corinthians 1:9 (AMP)  9 God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Because David knew this, he chose to praise God ahead of time, before He saw the victory!  And we can do that too!  Psalm 56:4 (NLT)  4 I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?  Maybe you have experienced or are now experiencing a time when people turn the things you say in sincerity and truth against you by, as they say today, putting their own "spin" on them.  Psalm 56:5-7 (NLT)  5 They are always twisting what I say; they spend their days plotting to harm me. 6 They come together to spy on me— watching my every step, eager to kill me.
7 Don’t let them get away with their wickedness; in your anger, O God, bring them down.
This is a very hurtful situation and it can cause us to dwell on the injustices that are coming against us.  But, I see David remembering that our God keeps track of every sorry and tear, collecting those tears in a bottle and recording every sorrow in a book. 
Psalm 56:8 (NLT)  8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.  David doesn't try to "tough it out," before God.  He admits that he has tears and sorrows and even fears.  Then He satisfies himself in the fact that God is taking care of all of those things.  Is this a day that something in your life is causing you to be tempted to fear?  Is that a day when trusting God is a bit difficult?  Already in Psalm 56, we have seen some very good suggestions to help us in those times as we watch David in the midst of a serious situation.  We can constantly remind ourselves that God is in control and we do not have to succumb to fear.  We can remind ourselves that all of God's promises are true and He will come through for us.  We can also assure ourselves that He has promised to take care of all of our tears and sorrows.  And then we can take our thoughts off of the problem and choose to thank God ahead of time for the promise!  While one devotional is not long enough to get through the thirteen verses of Psalm 56, there is enough here to get us started down the path of victory! We can begin the journey right now by trusting God when we are afraid!

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Job 29:21 (NLT)
21 “Everyone listened to my advice. They were silent as they waited for me to speak.

When you and I are given the opportunity to speak to friends and neighbors, how might they feel about what we say?  I was reading about Job.  Job was a righteous man.  Job 1:1 (AMP)  1 THERE WAS a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who [reverently] feared God and abstained from and shunned evil [because it was wrong]. God was pleased with Job and considered him a good servant.  God knew that He could trust Job, in whatever circumstances Job would find himself.  Job 2:3 (AMP)  3 And the Lord said to Satan, Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who [reverently] fears God and abstains from and shuns all evil [because it is wrong]? And still he holds fast his integrity, although you moved Me against him to destroy him without cause. When Satan went before God, desiring to bring Job down, God had the fullest confidence in Job.  Now, we see this man, Job, suffering greatly, not knowing that there was a higher battle going on.  Not understanding why so much pain and loss came upon his life.  How many times have we done the best we could and then found that the expected results did not come, but instead something that was hard?  How many times has God called on us to trust Him even when things don't look right?  Reading the book of Job is always helpful to bring reality back to our perspective of life.  God had blessed Job with many blessings of children, friends, material things, not to speak of good health.  But, Satan, in his attempt to prove that man would only worship God if he had all the outward blessings, wanted use Job to make his point.  For reasons that are probably higher than you or I could put our minds around, God allowed Satan to remove all the outward blessings from Job's life, knowing that Job loved Him enough to remain His loyal servant.  Can He trust us that much?

As I was reading some of Job's answers to his, "friends," who did nothing but discourage him, I read the following.  Job 29:21 (NLT)    21 “Everyone listened to my advice. They were silent as they waited for me to speak. I see that, when Job would speak, people would listen.  Combining this with the fact that God describes Job as being a righteous person who abstains from all evil, and holds fast to his integrity, I realized once again that our speech, the words we use, will be a reflection of what is in our heart.  Because Job had obviously kept his heart guarded and filled with Godly characteristics, the words he spoke were respected and listened to by those around him.  In fact, his words stopped the mouths of others.  His words rained down on those around him like the much needed rain on a newly planted field in the spring.   His words were refreshing words of wisdom and life.  Job 29:23 (NIV)  23 They waited for me as for showers and drank in my words as the spring rain. I began to think about the words I say.  Do my words, and your words, refresh everyone around us?  Do they leave people speechless because they are so full of wisdom, character, and Godly principles?  Does the way we talk show that we are prudent and understanding?  Proverbs 16:21 (NLT)  21 The wise are known for their understanding, and pleasant words are persuasive.  It would appear that Job's words were exactly that way.  After all, Satan figured, Job would be like that because Job didn't lack anything.  He was fully blessed by God.  But Satan also, falsely, concluded that Job would speak differently if all those blessings were removed!  Are the words we use the same words, both in situations of challenge and hardship, as well as in times of great blessing?  Do our words change with our circumstances?  When we're blessed, are we quick to throw out words of praise?  And when we find ourselves in difficult times, are we just as quick to throw out words of complaint, which are really just words that say, "God, I don't think You know what you're doing."  Are we as kind to those around us when we are suffering as we are when all is comfortable in our lives?

Job was going through more pain and loss than most of us will experience in a lifetime.  But, his words always agreed with the Word of God.  Proverbs 16:24 (KJV)  24 Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. Reading these words from Proverbs, I was moved to check out the original meaning of the word translated, "pleasant."  It means, "agreeable."  The very first One we need to agree with, before we speak a word, is God.  Do the words we speak agree with His Word?  No matter what situation in which we find ourselves?  Mine do not always do that but, like you, I am a work in progress and this is definitely an area in which I need to progress!  Agreeable words are sweet to the soul.  When the words agree with God's Word they are refreshing to the soul.  And, as an added benefit they bring health to the bones!  If anybody ever needed restored health, it was Job!  Job 2:7 (AMP)  7 So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with loathsome and painful sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. There was Job, disfigured beyond recognition and in great pain, not really knowing why.  His friends could hardly look at him.  Job 2:12 (AMP)  12 And when they looked from afar off and saw him [disfigured] beyond recognition, they lifted up their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe, and they cast dust over their heads toward the heavens.  To top it off, Job's wife, at least for that moment, took sides with Satan.  Her words were less than pleasant to Job.  They did not agree with God's Word.  And, they certainly did not promote healing!  Job 2:9 (AMP)  9 Then his wife said to him, Do you still hold fast your blameless uprightness? Renounce God and die! It could be that some of us have experienced some unwise words from those closest to us.  But Job did not receive the unwise words, not from his wife and not from his friends.  His heart remained full of Godly character and integrity.  His words agreed with the Word of God.  Job 2:10 (AMP)  10 But he said to her, You speak as one of the impious and foolish women would speak. What? Shall we accept [only] good at the hand of God and shall we not accept [also] misfortune and what is of a bad nature? In [spite of] all this, Job did not sin with his lips. I notice here that what Job said could be construed as harsh and belittling to his wife.  Yet, I also notice that, in spite of all that Job was going through, he did not sin in the way he spoke.  God was apparently pleased that Job stood up for Him and opened his mouth to tell his wife the truth.  This may not have seemed very agreeable to his wife at the time.  But, is it better to agree with the Word of God or agree with the sometimes negative words of those around us?  I think the principle is clear here.  When push comes to shove, our agreement must always first be with God.  Acts 5:29 (NLT)  29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. Because Job was righteous and kept his heart guarded, even in the midst of the worst of times, God was faithful to send His Word.  Job spoke only God's words and God then sent His Word and, in the end, healed Job!  Psalm 107:20 (NLT)  20 He sent out his word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death. Just in case we're thinking about how many times we've failed God in the area of our speech and how good Job did through all of his suffering, we can take note of the fact that the above verse from Psalm 107:20, was spoken about people who had failed God by their own bad choices.  Psalm 107:17 (NLT)  17 Some were fools; they rebelled and suffered for their sins. This helps us to know that God is not about looking for ways to destroy us, but to give us abundant life.  (John 10:10)  We may not have always been like Job, speaking words that agree with God's word.  But, from this day forward, we can seek to do that because our hearts are filled with the gratitude of knowing that God's Word is worthy to be trusted and relied upon.  It is a healing Word, even if we have brought about our own suffering through poor choices.  It is a Word that is always appropriate and one with which we can all agree.  It is the Word that eventually rewarded Job for being agreeable with God through all his suffering and for his faithfulness to pray even for those friends that had missed the mark with their speech.  Job 42:10 (NLT)  10 When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! The words we choose to use do make a difference in every area of our lives.  In everything Job went through, he did not sin against God with his words!  Could it be that this morning God wants to start a new project in our lives and help us to learn to stay in agreement with Him with our words? 

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Psalms 19:14 (TLB)
14 May my spoken words and unspoken thoughts be pleasing even to you, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.


In the past few days, I have turned my thoughts to the words that we use and listen to every day and how they affect our lives.  We have probably all heard that the Word of God says that the power of life and death is in the tongue.  The Words we think about most, listen to, and use, will make all the difference in the world in our lives.  They will bring life or death into every situation and circumstance we face.  Proverbs 18:21 (AMP)  21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life].  What challenges are you facing in your life this day?  How can you change those circumstances, and more importantly your attitude regarding those circumstances, by the words that roll off your tongue?  The Word of God indicates that we can create life, or destroy it, in every situation.  I want to partner with God in creating life, not destroying it!  If we choose to speak negatively, we can usher death into a situation that otherwise might turn out to be okay.  Proverbs 15:4 (AMP)  4 A gentle tongue [with its healing power] is a tree of life, but willful contrariness in it breaks down the spirit.  Are our tongues gentle with those around us, even if we have to speak a hard truth?  Moreover, do we use a harsh tongue in our own self-talk?  How do we think about those around us and about ourselves?  If we, or others, fail, do we use words like, "stupid," "dumb," etc., because of our preconceived ideas about failure?  Or do we think about the fact that God is a God of second chances when we admit our mistakes and receive forgiveness?  Whatever we think about in our hearts regarding such things as failure will be the very thing that comes out of our mouths in the event of failure.  Our thoughts will cause words of healing to flow or words that make a bad situation much worse!  How does your speech measure up?  Looking around you, what do you hear coming out of the mouths of others?  What you hear can and will affect you.  What you hear will be a good indication of the thoughts in the hearts of others.  What you choose to listen to consistently could very well become the thoughts of your own heart.  Life and death, begins with the thoughts of our hearts.

I am thinking of the man, King David.  He was a man after God's own heart, even though he had many failures in his life.  1 Samuel 13:14 (AMP)  14 But now your kingdom shall not continue; the Lord has sought out [David] a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince and ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you. God chose David to be the King of His people, and the forerunner to the Messiah, when King Saul decided to do things his own way instead of following the Lord.  God chose David even though He knew that David would fail in many ways.  God is not surprised when His children fail.  It is probably not His perfect will that we fail but, when we do, He is not quick to call us a "failure."  Even God does not speak death over us when we fall.  He continues to speak words of life.  He continues to call us to repentance and assure us of forgiveness.  One of the things about David, as described by the following passage from scripture reminds me of the importance of our words and why God may have chosen David to be King, even though he would miss the mark sometimes, even many times, during his lifetime.  1 Samuel 16:15-18 (AMP)  15 Saul’s servants said to him, Behold, an evil spirit from God torments you. 16 Let our lord now command your servants here before you to find a man who plays skillfully on the lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.  17 Saul told his servants, Find me a man who plays well and bring him to me.  18 One of the young men said, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who plays skillfully, a valiant man, a man of war, prudent in speech and eloquent, an attractive person; and the Lord is with him.   When King Saul got so full of himself that he neglected to follow God, the Spirit of God left him and an evil spirit began to torment him. His servants felt that, if they could find a person to play healing music for him during these times of torment, he would once again be well.  One of the young men in Saul's court remembered David, the young song of Jesse.  He remembered several things about David, which he reported to those looking for a suitable person to play for Saul.  Among these things was the fact that David was prudent in speech and was eloquent.  Of course, the defining characteristic was that the Lord was with David. 

That makes my mind wander in the direction, once again, of just how important the words are that we store in our hearts and that roll off of our tongues.  Just as they say that the eyes are the window of the soul, my thought is that the mouth is the floodgate of the heart.  David was a boy who constantly meditated on the Lord, filling his heart with good and Godly thoughts.  There were no TV's, movie theaters, or i-pod's out there in the sheep fields, spewing words of death in his direction.  However, I'm sure that David had quite a few opportunities to meet with other shepherds who were probably not nearly so interested in the things of the Lord.  I would imagine that their speech was not so gentle and prudent as young David's speech.  Since David's heart was bent toward God, I think we can safely assume that he tried to steer clear of the unwholesome speech that might have gone on in the lives of the other shepherds that he may have come in contact with.  Who do we prefer to hang out with?  People that we can touch and see, but sometimes speak death into our lives?  Or the One we know and speak to by faith?  The One who is always speaking life, and even abundant life, over us?  (John 10:10)  David was a person that chose to guard his heart (from which all of his words would flow).  That is most probably a true assumption since he was known to be prudent in speech.  What does it mean to be prudent in speech?  Very simply put, it means to be able to discern between right and wrong words!  Since words begin in the heart, David appeared to have known how to guard his heart, at least in those early days, as we are urged to do in Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)  Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.  The very next piece of wise advice we see in Proverbs 4:24 (NLT) is this:   Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech.  How can we avoid all perverse talk and stay away from corrupt speech?  By guarding our hearts, where our speech has its origin.  And, by choosing to walk away from people and media who insist on speaking death into and over us. Instead, we must make a conscious effort and choice to move toward those who speak the words of God, bringing life into our situations and circumstances and healing into our bodies, souls, and spirits!   

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Proverbs 25:11 (NIV)
11 A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

There are many more ways to help others build Godly lives, using words, than we could discuss in this short morning devotional.  We have been given so much and we have God's Word within us, if we have made Jesus the Lord and Savior of our lives. We now have much to give to a world around us.  A world that is being bombarded with words, the majority of which are negative and destructive.  We might want to start by remembering how Jesus used words. Luke 4:22 (NIV)  22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked. He amazed people with His Words.  They couldn't believe that such words were flowing from a carpenter's son!  They didn't completely understand that this was not just a carpenter's son.  They were hearing from the Son of God and the Son of Man.  You and I may not consider ourselves to be the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to using words.  People may not expect words from us that will encourage, rebuke, and edify them.  But, God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.  1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NLT)  27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.  28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.  So, for those of us who think we are inadequate in the use of words to help others to build more Godly lives, we can know that our own inadequacy is just what God wants to choose to show His power.  And, when we see the results that God will bring about, we won't be able to brag about anything, except the fact that God is almighty and able!

Jesus appeared before the world as plain and ordinary but He was not anything of the kind.  Things are not always as they look and, as I like to remember, God uses cracked pots from which to let His Words and light flow out to the world.  If you are a cracked and somewhat broken pot, you are a prime candidate for God to use in helping those around you find and build a more Godly lifestyle.  What we do need to remember in all of this is that we need to open our mouths and let God fill them with His Words.  Jesus is our  wisdom and He is right here inside of us waiting to operate through us.   1 Corinthians 1:30 (NLT)  30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.  He has promised that when we are in difficult situations, He will teach us what we ought to say!  .” Luke 12:11-12 (NLT)  11 “And when you are brought to trial in the synagogues and before rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how to defend yourself or what to say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said."  How much more will He teach us what to say when we are out and about our everyday lives with opportunities to help others find His way of living?  We just have to keep in step with His Spirit and we'll be fine!  Galatians 5:25-26 (NIV)  25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

While it should not be our objective to provoke another with our speech, oftentimes our speech that is seasoned with salt will convict another.  Colossians 4:6 (AMP)  6 Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome), seasoned [as it were] with salt, [so that you may never be at a loss] to know how you ought to answer anyone [who puts a question to you].  While our answers and suggestions to others must always be gracious, they must also always reflect the truth of God's Word.  I am reminded that the words of Jesus did not always appear to be gracious.  Matthew 3:7-8 (AMP)  7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee and escape from the wrath and indignation [of God against disobedience] that is coming?  8 Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance [let your lives prove your change of heart];  However, it can never be said that Jesus ever failed to walk in the Spirit of His Father.  To some people, a more direct approach is the only thing that will move them.  Stephen, a truly faithful and gracious man, had words that appeared to be less than gracious too. His face shown as the face of an angel to the evil people surrounding him.  (Acts 6:15)  The words he used caused those against him to be infuriated.  (Acts 7:54)  Of course, Stephen was killed for speaking words of truth that those around him were not willing to receive.  We may come up against those who do not want to receive words of truth also.  They may seek to hurt us because we are speaking truth.  Nevertheless, we must tell the truth, with our words, in love.  If the motivation of our heart is right, the Holy Spirit will speak through us to sometimes encourage, sometimes rebuke, and sometimes edify those within hearing distance.  There are lots of words floating around out there.  Many are not true, nor are they spoken in love.  They are there to kill us and to kill others.  (Ephesians 4:14)  Speaking the truth, not matter how hard it is, in love, is not always easy.  Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)  15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Although the truth may be difficult to speak at times, we don't do those around us a favor if we keep quiet just to avoid conflict.  If your house was on fire and your loved one was sleeping peacefully, would you avoid conflict by quietly slipping out of the house because you didn't want to disturb them?  I don't think so.  You would open your mouth and, literally scream, "fire."  In each situation in our lives, we need to depend on the Holy Spirit to fill our mouths with words that will encourage, rebuke, and edify those around us and, in do doing, help them avoid the firefight of evil words that would try to burn their houses down.  Our words can help rescue others and help them to build a more Godly life.  How are we doing? 

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Job 12:11 (AMP)
11 Is it not the task of the ear to discriminate between [wise and unwise] words, just as the mouth distinguishes [between desirable and undesirable] food?


As we know, God created the world with His words.  (Psalm 33:6)  We also know that we are created in His image and words have a profound effect on our lives.  They can change the atmosphere in our spiritual lives, depending on how we discriminate between wise and unwise words.  The words we allow to come into our ears can create both good and evil, depending on how many times we listen to them and whether we receive them or not.  There are people today who say that they can continually listen to music that is riddled with evil words and it will not change them.  Others say that they can watch movies and TV programs filled with vile and crude words and not be changed by that.  I don't believe that is true.  Otherwise the Word of God would not tell us that our ears are for discriminating between wise and unwise words!  In Job 12:11, Job is answering his "friends," and all of their words.  They are determined to get Job to admit guilt so they can have a nice tidy package with which to prove that Job is being punished for living an ungodly life.  Meanwhile, Job knows, down deep in his heart, that he has not gone against God, even though he has not understood why all the calamity has come down in his life.  Job's words prove this.  Job 13:15 (NKJV)  15 Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.  Even in Job's weakened state, he realized that it was the task of his ears to discriminate between wise and unwise words.  His friend's words sounded wise and they even included some scriptural truths.  Despite the discouragement his friends threw at Job with their words, Job had apparently decided that he would spit those words out of his life just as he would spit undesirable food from his mouth.  He didn't ingest words into his heart that would tear down his life any more than you or I would knowingly eat something that was poisonous.    In another place, Job declares that he has not forgotten the commandment of God's lips.  He has not pushed the good food of the Word of God away.  Instead, even among trials that you and I will probably never endure, Job esteemed and treasured the words coming from God's mouth, even more than the physical food needed to keep his body alive.  Job 23:12 (AMP)  12 I have not gone back from the commandment of His lips; I have esteemed and treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.

Job was in a very hard place.  Those closest to him were constantly bombarding him with words that, in his heart, he knew were evil and wrong.  Even his wife said the following.  Job 2:9 (NLT)  9 His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.”   You and I do not know the heart of Job's wife but, if the words of our mouth are fruit that is coming from our hearts, we might see those words as poisonous fruit.  Not fruit to build Job's life; but to stomp it into the ground when he was at his weakest!  Yes, it may be that the ones that are closest to us will be the ones who, knowingly or unknowingly, begin to tear us down with their words or the words they allow into our homes through the media.  Like Job, we may find ourselves feeling weak and unable to change the current situation in which we live.  But, like Job, it is not wrong to let our words to those around us reflect the fact that Godless speech is foolish.  It is not life-building, but life-destroying.  Here's what Job said to his wife.  Job 2:10 (NLT)  10 But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. If we find ourselves inundated with ungodly speech, we have to choose whether we will stay close by and take it all in or prove, by our actions and our words, that we are seeking to build our life and the lives of others in a Godly fashion.  Of course, we cannot make choices for those around us; but we can explain why we can't participate in the listening to and speaking of ungodly words.  We, then, also have the opportunity to let those, who may not understand,  know that it hurts us to see them allowing words of death and destruction into their own lives when it is God's will to give them His abundant life (John 10:10).

Unfortunately, in the days in which we live, there will be people among us who will not really be, "of us," as believers.  They will be in our places of work, in our churches, and yes, even in our homes!  Some of the characteristics of these people who have the potential to lead us away from truthful words are as follows:  Jude 1:16 (NLT)  16 These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want. As I read Jude 1:16, I don't see a direct reference to words.  However, I notice four characteristics that we cannot really detect until we hear their words.  They grumble.  They complain.  They brag loudly about themselves.  They flatter others to further their own agenda.  You can't grumble, complain, brag loudly about yourself, or flatter others without using words!  If you and I listen to grumbling, complaining, bragging and flattering, we will be taken in by words of destruction.  If we do not examine ourselves as to whether we are grumbling, complaining, bragging loudly or using flattery speech, we will be in danger of bringing death and destruction, not only upon ourselves, but upon those who might have to listen to us!  Rather, we can build ourselves up and toward a more Godly life and build those around us by the choice of words to which we  listen;  as well as to the careful choice of the words we speak.  Ecclesiastes 10:12 (TLB)  12 It is pleasant to listen to wise words, but a fool’s speech brings him to ruin. Since he begins with a foolish premise, his conclusion is sheer madness.  Our ears were made to discern between wise and unwise, or foolish, words.  God is a God of life and not death.  Words create life or they create death.  What will we choose to listen to and what will ultimately come our of our mouths as a result of how our ears discern and decide between the multitude of words around us?  The Word of God says that a fool's words bring him to ruin (or destruction).  It tells us that the fool begins with a foolish premise.  How does one develop a premise?  I think we do this by listening to others.  If we choose to listen to unwise things, we may start out with a foolish premise.  The result?  As The Living Bible phrases it, "sheer madness."  "Sheer madness" is translated "mischievous madness," in the King James Version, denoting evil folly.  No matter how you cut it, none of that depicts the building of a Godly life or the contribution of building Godly lives in those around us!  The words we listen to and the words we speak do make a difference.  They can build Godliness or they can build up the evil that comes so naturally to the unregenerate man.  With all that is within us, we should allow our ears to function as God meant them to function.  We should, every day, make an effort to discern between life-giving words and those that bring destruction.  We need to choose to listen to wise words which will build and nurture our lives and, like Job, turn away from words that foster sheer madness! 

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John 1:4 (NLT)
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.

In the very beginning, God spoke everything into existence by His Word.  Psalm 33:6 (NLT)  6 The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. Our Father and the Creator of this world simply spoke, and things were created.  That's very good reason, as His Word says, for us to be in awe of Him and of the power of the spoken Word.  Psalm 33:8-9 (NLT)  8 Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him.   9 For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command.  You and I were created in God's image.  Genesis 1:27 (AMP)  27 So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them.  If we have made Jesus our Lord and Savior, we have also been re-created, by His Word, from a life of sin and darkness to God's masterpiece with His works placed within our hearts.  Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)  10 For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].  Part of the work He has for us will most likely involve words. 

Jesus had an ongoing exchange with the Pharisees of His day, the religious leaders of His time, about words.  We might want to remember the principle involved in His arguments with them.  The principle I am thinking of is that words do not just "pop out," of our mouths.  They are a direct result of what we have stored in our hearts.  Matthew 15:18 (NLT)  18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you.  In the case of the Pharisees, their words defiled them.  But, it can be different for you and me.  That helps me to remember that the bottom line concerning winning the battle with words is making sure that my heart is filled with good, and creative, words that will bring life to me and others around me.  There is a popular saying, "You are what you eat."  That is pretty much true about our physical bodies and those of us who are not careful to slow down on the fats and sweets are aware of it, as evidenced by the extra baggage we carry around and, sometimes, by diseases stemming from our poor choices.  But, there is something even deeper at work here.  What we read, listen to, and think about in our hearts is what is going to eventually come out of our mouth.  The "fruit," of our mouth will be a display to everyone around us of what is in our heart.  Will it be sweet, life-giving fruit?  Or will it be sour, poisonous fruit?  What spiritual food are we taking into our hearts and minds?  While God is a Spirit, so is our enemy, a spirit.  There are a variety of spiritual foods out there that are available to us, just as we have many choices of physical food to eat.  Eating the wrong physical foods will cause disease and impurities in our bodies and can even lead to death.  But a worse death is spiritual death because we do not eat the spiritual food that God gives us, but instead, partake of the abundance of dark spiritual food that is so cleverly and entertainingly shoved in our direction.  What do we think about?  And do those things that God tells us to think about fit perfectly with our choices of people to be around, our choices of music to listen to, our choices of TV and movies to watch, and our choices of reading materials?  Let's check it out.  Is what we read, watch and listen to true?  Is it honorable?  Is it right?  Is it pure?  Is it lovely?  Is it admirable?  Can it be said to be excellent and worthy of praise?  Philippians 4:8 (NLT)  8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. I am already convicted, and encouraged, to try to keep my heart in check by making better choices of the words I hear!  As they say in the computer business, "Garbage in, garbage out."  If we really want to serve the Lord and please Him, we won't want garbage coming out of our mouths to pollute the spiritual atmosphere any more than it already is!  But, if we let the garbage into our hearts, it will eventually come out of our mouths!

Often in court cases, because of a lack of concrete evidence, it will be said, "It was one party's word over the other party's word."  In that case, a resolution and verdict is very hard to come by.  In the case of God's Word over the words of the enemy, we, who are believers have the advantage.  God's word always trumps the word of darkness.   God's Word never returns void.  It never fails.  It never goes out without changing the atmosphere and creating something good!  Isaiah 55:11 (NLT)  11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. When we hide that Word in our hearts, instead of filling our hearts to the brim with all the garbage out there, we have light and direction in our lives.  Psalm 119:11 (NKJV)  11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!  Armed with that Word, and living in a world that is a garbage-pit of crude speech and mockery, even of our Lord's name, we can make a difference.  We have the creative power of our God within us and words are what we can use to change the atmosphere around us and create an atmosphere of peace.  If we keep our hearts clean by, as much as possible, staying away from those people and media places who use words to pollute the atmosphere, we can avoid the possible contamination of our own hearts.  (Psalm 1:1)   If we then choose to choose words from the storehouse of God's Word in our hearts, we will constantly be speaking things that will not fail to make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of those around us.  Crude and evil words cut to the heart of a true believer.  King David had that problem too.  He took it before the Lord.  Psalm 59:7 (NLT)  7 Listen to the filth that comes from their mouths; their words cut like swords. “After all, who can hear us?” they sneer. If we look at the media, it would seem that the majority of this world is speaking as though they think the Lord will not hear them.  Even in our own homes, those professing to be followers of Jesus, can create an atmosphere of destruction with the words that come from their hearts because of the poor choices they have made to listen to things that are ungodly.  But, we know that the Lord hears everything and sees everything.  He not only hears every word we speak but He sees the condition of our heart.  This morning, I am asking myself, and others, what sort of words (spiritual food) have we chosen with which to fill our hearts?  If we have made some poor choices, have we found that we sometimes have trouble keeping things we don't want others to hear from coming out of our mouths?  According to Jesus, it will only be a matter of time until what is really in our hearts emerges from our mouths.  This morning, do we need to re-evaluate our lives in the area of what we choose to read and listen to?  Do we need to seek forgiveness in these any of these areas and turn from some poor habits?  Then, do we need to resolve to fill our hearts with God's Word so that we can be true agents of change in this evil world as we speak the Words of life?  We can, through God's Word and His grace, win the battle with words! 

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Matthew 6:7 (NLT)
7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.

We live in a time when tons of words are flying through the air in the media, being published in magazines and books, and spoken be each and every one of us.  There is an old adage that says, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."  If we think that names or other words used will never hurt us, we've been sadly misled.  Every word that is spoken or heard by us has an effect on our lives.  In the abundance of words out there today, we may have succumbed to a complacency that leaves us open for attack, and if not curbed, could lead to death.  Each and every word carries with it life - or death Proverbs 18:21 (NLT)  21 The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.  I wonder how many of our words carry death instead of life to the listener.  I wonder how many of us let words into our homes through movies and TV programs, even radio programs, that let the evil one in to wreak havoc in our lives.  I am deeply distressed by the fact that most movies and TV programs contain language and the vain use of our Lord over and over again.  In no way would I become intimate friends with people and invite them constantly to my home who used such words!  Many use those words today without even thinking that there might be a consequence.  Yet, the Lord tells us there is a consequence.  And the more of those words we use, the more the consequences. Every single one brings consequences!    Matthew 12:36-37 (NLT)  36 And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. 37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” 

"Well," we might say, "I avoid idle words and I certainly don't use crude words or take the Lord's name in vain."  That is a good thing!  But, we're not quite, "off the hook," so to speak, in the battle with words.  What words do we allow ourselves to listen to?  What choices do we make when it comes to reading and listening?  Have the movies and the TV become our companions?  Do we watch whatever is there, listening to words that bring a spirit of death into our homes and minds simply because there is nothing else to entertain us?  That is totally against what God tells us to do in His Word. Proverbs 1:10 (NLT)  10 My child, if sinners entice you, turn your back on them!   Just because we can't personally see the people in the movies or those speaking profanities into our homes does not mean that the words are somehow, "clean."  Just because we are interested in a plot or a story, does not mean that the benefits of watching a program outweigh the risk of allowing words of death to enter our minds and homes.  If the TV or other entertainment forms have become our companions, we need to turn our backs on them if the words they use are enticing us to enter into a vicarious lifestyle that is displeasing to God.  It is a principle of scripture that, sinners must suffer consequences if they do not repent.  It is also a principle that those who approve of what they do will suffer consequences. Romans 1:28-32 (NIV)  28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;  31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.  Do the things that entertain us include anything in the scripture from Romans 1:28-32?  Do the words that you and I listen to include such things that promote any of the behaviors we see in Romans 1:28-32?  Are we paying to hear those words funneled into our homes and minds?  If we are, I wonder if the Lord would consider us among those who approve of such things as described in Romans 1:32.  

It has been said that God gave us each two ears and only one mouth for a good reason.  We are to listen twice as much as we speak.  I have to confess that I have lots of work to do in that area.  In much speaking, we can prove ourselves to be foolish.  Ecclesiastes 5:3 (NLT)  3 Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool.  I once had a teacher who told me that it is better to keep our mouths shut and have people wonder if we are fools than to open them and remove all doubt. The words you and I choose to use and listen to can make all the difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  Words can be just as violent, and even more so, than sticks and stones.  Proverbs 16:29 (NLT)  29 Violent people mislead their companions, leading them down a harmful path. Do the words we choose, and the words we listen to, contain violent things that will lead us down a harmful path?  Do we continue to listen to companions (radio, TV, movies, music) that are leading us down the path to death instead of down the path of righteousness in which the Lord promises to lead us?  (Psalm 23:3)  It is our choice.  There will be rewards for making the right choices and consequences for making poor choices.  When we're dealing with life and death, in this case, why would we even go near death?  There is a Word that brings life.  All of our words should reflect that Word.  Psalm 119:37 (NLT)   37 Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word.  The Lord is faithful to speak words of life to us and give us those words of life to speak to others.  However, we live in a time quite similar to Jeremiah's time when the people were rebellious and would not hear the Word of the Lord.   Jeremiah 6:10 (NLT)  10 To whom can I give warning? Who will listen when I speak? Their ears are closed, and they cannot hear. They scorn the word of the Lord. They don’t want to listen at all. What would you and I rather listen to today?  The Word of the Lord, or the words of death that flow so freely from the people and media around us?  None of our words should be idle words, especially the words we speak in prayer to the Lord.  We live in a challenging time.  A time when many repeat words over and over again; but they are just idle words.  They do not come from the heart.  Could that be because we have been in a battle to tune out words that do not please God (even though some of us have not made the choice to eliminate every possible source of these words in our lives)?  Words are powerful.  Powerful enough to bring life or death into our lives and the lives of those we love.  What choices are we making today to see that God's Word dwells in us so richly that we do not want to hear anything else?  When we pray, "Lead us not into temptation," are those just idle words proven by the fact that we walk right into temptation by our choices of people and entertainment we choose to listen to?  Then, do we wonder why we go around putting our foot in our mouths or saying something crude that we never thought we would say?  Is it time to get back to basics when it comes to the war with words?  Psalm 19:14 (TLB)  14 May my spoken words and unspoken thoughts be pleasing even to you, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.

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Ephesians 3:16 (NLT)
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.

If you have just read Ephesians 3:16, maybe you are wondering how this verse regarding power to have inner strength through God's Spirit fits in with the title of this morning's manna.  If you're like me, you desperately need God to empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.  The world we live in is filled with things that have a tendency to deplete inner strength if we are not careful.  Many people today do not feel empowered and have very little inner strength.  Some try to, as my Dad used to say, "pull themselves up by their bootstraps."  I have tried that myself.  It only serves to make me tired.  I'm much to heavy to pull myself up.  I only come away with sore arms and a depression caused by failure.  The Apostle, Paul, prayed that you and I would receive inner strength, not of ourselves, but from God's glorious, unlimited resources and through His Spirit.  I am reminded of that verses: Zechariah 4:6-7 (TLB)  6 Then he said, "This is God’s message to Zerubbabel: ’Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty—you will succeed because of my Spirit, though you are few and weak.’  7 Therefore no mountain, however high, can stand before Zerubbabel! For it will flatten out before him! And Zerubbabel will finish building this Temple with mighty shouts of thanksgiving for God’s mercy, declaring that all was done by grace alone."  As soon as we remember that it's not about our limited resources and our own inner power, but by the Spirit of God that we can be empowered, we are on the right track.  You and I are limited in our humanity but God's Spirit is never limited and the great thing about it is that He works best in our weakness!  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)  9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  It is only when we admit our own human weakness, and fully rely on God's power through His Spirit, that we can be vessels containing the perfect strength of God!

You may still be asking, "So, what does this have to do with knowing how much I'm loved?"  As I read further in Ephesians, Chapter 3, I read this:  Ephesians 3:17 (NIV)  17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  We need to be rooted and established in love.  My sorely lacking attempts at establishing myself with the love I find only within my human capability is not enough to make me very rooted and established!  I fail all the time at loving God and loving others when I try to do it my own way!  Many times I do not even love myself in the healthy way that God wants us to love ourselves.  And here's where the importance of understanding how much we're loved comes in.  The Apostle, Paul, goes on to say:  Ephesians 3:18 (NLT)  18 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. God knows that, as humans, we are deficient in the ability to love unconditionally.  So, it is His desire that we should continue to comprehend His great love for us, not only that we might be an example of that love, but that we should be grounded and stable, having a foundation to stand on.  That foundation goes deep and is strong.  God's love is long and patient.  God's love is higher than we can totally understand on this earth.  It involves a lifelong quest for understanding and deeper revelation.  Ephesians 3:19 (NLT)  19 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. It is the understanding of God's love for us that gives us thee power to live in the fullness of the abundant life that He has promised us.  (John 10:10

For most of my life, I have been like the woman, Mary Magdalene, in the musical, "Jesus Christ, Superstar," who sang, "I don't know how to love Him."  I have sung in my prayers before the Lord, "I don't know how to love You."  Poor Mary, she had become entrenched in the world of men and of earthly love.  She was fearful because now she had been changed and moved by Jesus and she couldn't figure out how to react.  Many of us have been disappointed and even devastated as we looked for love from others.  A love that would be life-changing, unconditional,  and forever.  The point here is that Mary, at least the character of Mary in the musical, didn't understand God's love.  She couldn't figure out how or why Jesus had changed her.  She didn't even know exactly why she loved Him or what to do with that love.  He was not like the other men that had manipulated her and whom she had been able to manipulate.  She had come into contact with the God of the universe, who is love.  1 John 4:16 (AMP)  16 And we know (understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and by experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on) the love God cherishes for us. God is love, and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God, and God dwells and continues in him.  Yesterday, I read something that touched my heart in this regard.  It was pointed out that it's not that we don't love God enough, but that we don't fully understand His love for us.  As I looked through the scriptures, I was amazed at how many times God urges us to understand how much He loves us!  While He does ask us to love Him, it is not a demand for which He has not already given us the resources to fulfill.  Learning about God's love for us is a lifelong journey of understanding and revelation.  But, when it comes right down to it, it's really not all about us.  It's not how much love we can muster up in ourselves for Him.  That would be so miniscule that it would really probably not make any change in our lives at all.  It's all about Him.  We probably are all familiar with the following verse.  1 John 4:19 (NKJV)  19 We love Him because He first loved us.  Some versions of the scripture read, "We love because He first loved us."  Very simple and yet, like God's love, very deep!  Have you ever felt that your love was lacking when it came to loving God?  How about loving others unconditionally?  I now realize that what I feared about my own love was frightfully true.  It is totally lacking.  But, the more I understand God's love for me and receive it, the more I will be able to love Him back and risk loving others with abandon, even if I am hurt.  I know that God will never harm me.  His plans for those who follow Him are for good and for a future.  To prosper us.  (Jeremiah 29:11)  He will continue to love us, no matter what.  People may turn against me, but, if I really understand God's love for me, I will not be offended or want revenge.  I will only want them to understand His great love for them and pray in that direction.  The realization that we do not have to come up with our own version of love for God and for others is totally freeing.  It leaves us with only the responsibility of continuing to search the scripture and ask the Spirit for more revelation and understanding of God's love for us.  As we grow in that understanding, our roots go deeply into the soil of His love and we are free to love others, knowing that when God plants us in His love, and plants His love in us, nothing can uproot us!  Therein lies the power to really live!  Do we really understand how much we're loved? 

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Proverbs 28:13 (NLT)
13 People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.

I will start out by confessing that I have always wanted to do things in the fastest possible way.  I, like the Apostle, Peter, am impulsive by nature and don't like to mince words when, "I'm on a mission."  Unfortunately, there are times when Peter and I should probably have "KMS," as a dear friend of mine says.  What is KMS?  It is "keep mouth shut."  When I started kindergarten at the age of four, I felt I should get there fast, so I asked my mother where my car was.  As usual, I was getting way ahead of myself!  Without a car, I started down a long steep hill of roughly paved asphalt to meet the bus at the bottom of the hill.  I was dressed in a dainty dress, as little girls did in days of long ago.  I was running, banana for my snack in hand, when I slipped and began to slide down that rough hill on my hands and knees, losing that banana to, who knows where, and losing lots of skin from my bare little legs and arms.  I had fallen!

Since that time, I have had more crashes in life.  More than I care to remember.  When I finally did get my first car, I crashed it twice within about six months.  Why?  Because I didn't wait until all oncoming traffic had stopped before making a left turn.  Twice!   Of course, there are many worse crashes that I have had in life that involve relationships and even my relationship to the Lord.  Perhaps you can relate.  Maybe you've fallen at this point in your life and feel like you can't get up and get going again.  For the longest time, I was angry with my mother.  When I fell on that dreadful day, she was standing at the top of that hill screaming at me, "Get up.  Get up."  I didn't feel like I could pick up my bruised and bleeding self.  I wanted her to come and pick me up.  She, on the other hand feared that I had broken a bone and she was watching closely to see if I could stand.  Later, she said she knew that if I couldn't stand, she would know that I needed medical attention.  This may or may not have been the best approach a mother could take, but she was doing her best.  Now that I recall, it may have been that she had told me not to run down that hill because it was dangerous.  I may have decided to run because I wanted to get to my destination in a hurry.  Instead of possibly focusing on the fact that I was running when I shouldn't have been, I chose to stay angry with my mother!

Have you ever fallen or crashed in life?  If you say, "never," I will wonder if you have ever done anything at all!  In all of my falls and crashes in life, it has been easy to blame someone else.  Many times I have done that, only making things worse.  More and more, I am realizing that falls and crashes are usually, at least in part, my own doing!  You may realize the same thing about your failures in life.  Does that mean that we are worthless to the Lord?  Not at all.  He's the God of second chances.  All we have to do is look at Moses, Jonah, and many other Old Testament characters to see that principle in operation.  God wants you and me to prosper and He has shown us the way to push forward and break out (as the word, "prosper," means in the original Hebrew).  He lets us know that we can get up from a fall, if we will not always blame those falls and crashes on others but take responsibility for our own part in them.  We can't cover our mistakes and failures if we want to prosper in the way God has in mind for us.  That will only lead to our inability to get up and go on.  If we confess those sins (mistakes and failures)  and forsake them, taking God's direction, we will receive His mercy, which includes His love, compassion, and pity.  Getting back to the Apostle, Peter.  He fell and crashed so hard that he probably thought he would never be able to get up.  As my sister likes to say, "But God......."  Yes, God is for us and not against us.  Romans 8:31 (NLT)  31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Even when we fall or crash.  When Jesus rose from the dead and the angel met the women at the tomb, a special message was given to the one disciple who fell the hardest.  The one who really bombed.  Crashed and, without the tender care of Jesus, would have burned. The angel singled out Peter and told the women to be sure that Peter knew that Jesus had risen from the dead.  Mark 16:7 (TLB)  7 Now go and give this message to his disciples including Peter: " ’Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died!’ "  Jesus specifically mentioned and included Peter, the one, among all the other disciples, who had fallen the hardest.  The one whose spiritual knees and arms were bruised and bleeding!  As we all know, God had a good plan for Peter within His Kingdom.  He has a good plan for you and me also, if we will admit our part in our falls and crashes, stop blaming others, turn from our erroneous ways, and look to Him for forgiveness and a new start.  Have you fallen.  You can get up and Jesus is right there to help you! 

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2 Corinthians 6:1 (TLB)
1 As God’s partners, we beg you not to toss aside this marvelous message of God’s great kindness.


Each time I look into God's Word, I am amazed at the depth and wealth of wisdom, guidance, and encouragement that can be found in just one tiny verse!  We can never plumb the depths of God's Word because it is living.  It does not change but it meets every need we have for every day, in every situation!  Paul is speaking of being partners with Christ in 2 Corinthians 6:1.  How awesome is that?  Partners with the creator of the world and the Savior of our souls!  When I read this same verse, as translated in the King James Version, it reads like this:  2 Corinthians 6:1 (KJV)  1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. In reading this passage, I am particularly drawn by two words;  "grace," and "vain."  Because you and I, if we have made Jesus the Lord of our lives, are workers together with Him, we have not only a privilege, but a responsibility!  From Paul's words, it appears that it is possible to receive God's grace but take it very lightly.  Even in vain.

I am reminded once again that God's grace is a precious gift.  We can't earn it but He freely gives us a very costly item.  2 Timothy 1:9 (NLT)  9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. You and I did not deserve anything but to be tossed aside and destroyed.  Yet, God wanted to give us His grace!  And He did!  Just what exactly did He give us when He gave us such a marvelous gift?  Again, His word is so deep that it would be impossible to know the scope of His grace and all that it includes.  There is one aspect that particularly catches my attention this morning and that is that grace is, according to Strong's Concordance, "....the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life......"  Of course, grace includes such things as favor, acceptance, benefit, joy, etc.  But, when I stop to think about being partners and co-workers with God, I realize that His divine influence on my heart is of utmost importance.  How can you work effectively with someone unless you are working in unity?  John 17:21-21 (NLT)  20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.  As a partner with the Lord, we need to be in unity with His purpose which is that the world will believe.  If we receive His grace, but only certain aspects of it, such as favor, benefit, etc., we will be taking that grace, at least in part, in vain.  He offers divine influence upon our hearts and the opportunity to reflect and act upon that influence, but He does not force it upon us.  It is influence, not something that forces us to act.  It is our choice to listen to and heed His influence - or not. I have felt that influence, that tugging at my heart, at times and yet not followed it.  Maybe you have too.  When we do such a thing, we have received God's grace in vain.

As I looked into the word, "vain," I found that it means, "hollow," or the "absence of anything that might be otherwise possessed."  This is according to Vine's Dictionary.  God's grace is so rich and it is offered so freely but we have the choice to accept it or let it be absent in us.  It can be fully possessed but there is a possibility that we choose not to possess it fully!  This same word, translated, "vain," in 2 Corinthians 6:1, is also used in the following verse coming from the epistle of James.  James 2:10 (NLT)  20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? James speaks of the foolishness of saying we have faith if that faith doesn't prompt us to step out and use it in practical ways.  I see the same principle at work here that Paul is speaking of in 2 Corinthians 6:1. If we take God's divine influence on our hearts lightly and do not act upon that influence, we are missing out on everything He has to offer to us.  We are living lives that are empty and hollow.  Empty and hollow lives are useless.  They don't have an impact on the lives around us which is the very thing that God is about!  What kind of life are you and I living?  Are we receiving the abundant life, as much as has been revealed to us by God, (John 10:10) or are we living useless and empty lives that will have no lasting impact on the world or on His Kingdom?  We have the choice today to respond to God's divine influence on our hearts and do whatever it is He is prompting us to do, or not to do.  Will we take that precious influence in vain?  Or, will we step out by faith and let our works show that we have listened to His influence and walked in obedience?  I am not preaching.  I am just sharing what God is talking to me about.  I have failed many times to heed His influence.  Maybe you have too.  It's not always logical, according to the world's ways of thinking but it's always good.  We don't need to beat ourselves up about not following in the past.  If we know of certain instances, we need to confess them to God and ask for forgiveness, knowing that He has promised to forgive us.  Now, we can make every effort, going forth, to walk in His Spirit and keep in step with His divine influence!  Galatians 5:25 (NIV)  25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  One of the benefits to us is that, instead of living hollow and unfulfilling lives, we will live the full and abundant lives that the Lord intended for us.

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1 Samuel 17:16 (AMP) 16 The Philistine came out morning and evening, presenting himself for forty days.

Sometimes you and I may get irritated with the attitude of teenagers.  Sometimes with good reason.  Their actions many times indicate that they think they will never get hurt or die.  While, this sort of attitude can be a lack of wisdom, it is not something that we want to turn off completely in our lives.  I see that as I look at a very young David.  Probably a teenager.  His brothers had all gone out to fight the Philistines while he remained at home with his father to care for the sheep.  Obviously, he was not considered, "qualified," to be a warrior.  1 Samuel 17:13 (AMP)  13 [His] three eldest sons had followed Saul into battle. Their names were Eliab the firstborn; next, Abinadab; and third, Shammah. David was the youngest of the sons of Jesse.  He went back and forth from the battlefield and cared for his father's sheep.  But, he must have seen what was happening on those trips back and forth.  1 Samuel 17:14-15 (AMP)  14 David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul,  15 But David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. It seems to me that David, who was prone to be a, "thinker," had lots of time to think about the events he saw and heard about, as he traveled back and forth.  He had at least heard about Goliath, a formidable enemy of the Israelites.  1 Samuel 17:4-7 (AMP)  4 And a champion went out of the camp of the Philistines named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span [almost ten feet]. 5 And he had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of mail, and the coat weighed 5,000 shekels of bronze. 6 He had bronze shin armor on his legs and a bronze javelin across his shoulders. 7 And the shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; his spear’s head weighed 600 shekels of iron. And a shield bearer went before him.

Although, at least on one occasion, David had seen the giant, just like the other Israelite soldiers, it appears that David did not dwell on the giant, himself.  Only the fact that the giant was mocking God and his people.  Whether David had actually seen and heard Goliath on previous trips to the battleground, I don't know.  But, on a particular morning, when he had gone to deliver supplies to his brothers, he saw and heard Goliath.  1 Samuel 17:23 (AMP)  23 As they talked, behold, Goliath, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, came forth from the Philistine ranks and spoke the same words as before, and David heard him. The whole of the Israelite army was paralyzed with fear at the immensity of Goliath and his booming voice.  1 Samuel 17:24 (AMP)  24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, terrified. These terrified men were seasoned warriors on the battlefield and, among them, was Saul, the King of Israel!  We all have giants of some sort or another in our lives that attempt to paralyze us with fear and keep us from living out the life God has purposed and promised for us.  Like Goliath, they may present themselves, in arrogance, every morning for many days.  We have two choices.  One, we can become paralyzed with fear and stay a safe distance away like those "seasoned" warriors under Saul.  Or, two, we can take a risk and, in the name of our Lord, go against those giants.  When we have been Christians for a while, we may get used to the favor and blessings of God and decide that, when a giant presents himself, it's just better to stay safely, and comfortably,  far away, just like all of those brave warriors did in Israel.  But, I think God wants to revive our spiritual youth and make us strong warriors who will defeat the giants that keep us and those around us from all that God has for us.  Psalm 103:5 (NIV)  5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. If we are followers of Jesus, we will have trouble in this world.  There will be scary looking, and sounding, giants.  John 16:33 (NIV)  33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  We need not be surprised or intimidated when we come up against one of those giants.  Our Lord has overcome the world and every giant in it!  The giants we battle may be great, but there is One who is greater and He lives in us!  1 John 4:4 (NIV)  4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

What kinds of giants are you facing today?  Addictions?  Wrong thoughts?  Persecution on your job?  Bullies at school?  Children who turn from the Lord?  Bad attitudes?  Controlling worldly spirits?  Troubled relationships?  Your giant (or giants) can be any number of things that come against you, as a child of God. Whatever giants we face, we should neither dwell on them, nor allow them to hold us back.  Young David was still filled with so much zeal for the Lord that he wasn't about to stand by and see some giant defy God's people.  1 Samuel 17:26 (AMP)  26 And David said to the men standing by him, What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?  David did not dwell on how big Goliath was, although he had seen and heard him with his own eyes.  David was looking at God.  David was dwelling on how big God was and still is.  Even though others around him tried to dissuade him and prevent him from fighting the giant, David maintained that youthful attitude of many teenagers.  1 Samuel 17:32 (AMP)  32 David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of this Philistine; your servant will go out and fight with him.  David was ready to fight the giant so that he and his countrymen could be set free.  Are we that ready to fight our giants, or do we let them intimidate us.  Do we listen to those around us who tell us we can't do it and give us their reasons why?  1 Samuel 17:33 (AMP)  33 And Saul said to David, You are not able to go to fight against this Philistine. You are only an adolescent, and he has been a warrior from his youth. May I take this opportunity to encourage you this morning, as I encourage myself?  Although the giants, and those around us, may try to tell us something is impossible for us ,for one reason or another, nothing is impossible with our God!  Luke 1:37 (KVJ)  37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. David knew that and, even in his adolescence, he was smart enough to know that the battle was not his.  All he had to do was step forth in the name of the Lord with whatever he had in his hand.  One small stone in the hands of a boy destroyed the giant that was keeping all of Israel paralyzed!  1 Samuel 17:46-47 (NLT)  46 Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel!  47 And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” David did not take time to dwell on the size and history of this giant.  He did not compare himself with the giant either.  He simply knew that the battle belonged to the Lord.  Instead of hesitating to take time to think about the impossibilities, he took what he had and ran against Goliath!  1 Samuel 17:48-50 (NLT)  48 As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.  49 Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground. 50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword.  Has some giant in your life been holding you back?  Do you resemble the soldiers of Israel who dwelled on the giant so long that they were frozen in fear?  Maybe you lack some things you think you need to succeed.  Education?  Worldly influence?  Money?  The right clothes?  Whatever!  You see, David had no sword; but he had the Lord!  And so do we, if we've given Him first place in our lives!  Whatever giant you and I may be facing today will be defeated if we keep our eyes on the Lord and use what he's given us, no matter how ridiculous it may look to the giant or those around us!  Who are you dwelling on this morning, your giant (or giants); or your God who towers far above all giants?

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Philippians 1:10 (NLT) 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.
Barbara Streisand wrote some lyrics to a song entitled, "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?"  Written obviously as a love song from one human to another, the words can lead us into the importance of what we do with our lives and who we spend our lives with.  The first words of her song ask, "What are you doing the rest of your life? North and south and east and west of your life?"  Do we often think of how we are spending our time?  Do we realize that our time on earth is extremely limited in light of eternity?   That's probably not a topic that we think about each day in the hustle-bustle of every day life.  We just strive to get through each day hoping that we can get enough done to survive.  If we don't get it all done today, many times we count on tomorrow.  Sometimes we even put off today what we think we can do tomorrow.  Maybe because that thing is hard or unpleasant.  James 4:14 (TLB)  14 How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? For the length of your lives is as uncertain as the morning fog—now you see it; soon it is gone.  The trouble is that we don't know for sure that we have tomorrow!  How many regrets would we have if tomorrow never came?  If we hadn't made that call to a loved one to check on them.  If we hadn't let someone else know that Jesus cares about them?  If we hadn't made that trip to the hospital to see someone with a terminal disease?  If we hadn't stopped to take time to talk to the Lord?  I can imagine that Jesus is asking the same question of us that Barbara Streisand asked.  "What are you doing the rest of your life?"  What are we doing with the north's, south's east's and west's of our lives, as the song goes on to ask?  She continues by saying, "I have only one request of your life, that you spend it all with me."  We have a Savior, who is declaring the same thing.  He wants us to spend all of our lives with Him; and then eternity, as well.  Although Jesus is loving and kind, He does not mince words.  Matthew 10:38-39 (NLT)  38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
So, what are we doing with our lives?  Are we in fellowship with the One who so graciously calls us, "friends?"  John 15:14-15 (NIV)  14 You are my friends if you do what I command.   15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. If we have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He has called us His friends.  You can't have a friend in a higher place than that!  He has shared intimate and important details with us about His Kingdom; but He has also qualified this statement with the words, "if you do what I command."  That's why the Apostle, Paul, reminds us of the importance of knowing what really matters in life.  If we keep those things that really matter in mind, we will be able to live lives that make a difference in this world and that continue to make a difference when we are no longer here.  I read a quote by Alan Sachs.  To be quite honest with you, although I have tried to research who this man is, I have not been able to find out.  Nevertheless, it caused me to think deeply about spiritual things.  "Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives. - Alan Sachs"  No matter who this man is, or what larger piece this quote is taken from, he has a point.  Everyone that lives on earth is going to die if our Savior doesn't return first and take us Home.  1 Corinthians 15:51 (NLT)  51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed!   Those who have received Christ will be changed from the bodies we now inhabit one day.  It will either happen when we have finished our course here on earth as individuals or when Jesus returns.  This promise that we will all be transformed is for those who have accepted the Friendship of Jesus.  Apart from His return to gather us all up to be transformed, we will all die.  These earthly tents will be discarded.  (2 Corinthians 5:1)  The truth is that many will die having never really lived!  Refusal to receive "The Life," which is Jesus, leaves a person with an existence only here on earth and no hope of eternity.  That is not life.  That is just waiting for death.  Today, you and I are offered, not only life, but abundant life!  (John 10:10)  We can risk living and giving because Jesus died for us! 

What are we doing with this abundant life that Jesus paid such a high price to give us?  When we are gone, will it be as though we had never lived?  Never brought about changes for the better in this world that will live in?  When we realize that our time here is limited, we might want to pray the prayer of he Psalmist.  Psalm 90:12 (NLT)  12 Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. My grandfather used to say, "Time is money."  Getting past the idea of the money we use here on earth to do business, I am reminded that time is a form of currency.  God has given each one of us a set amount that we can spend.  When it runs out, there is no way to recover it.  What a gift!  But, with every gift, comes a responsibility.  What will we do with that gift.  God has also given us the gift of making the choice as to how we will spend our "currency," or time.  How have we spent it so far?  Maybe we have squandered it as the prodigal son did with His inheritance.  (Luke 15:11-32)  Because you and I are reading this right now, we still have some currency left.  The wise choice, if we have not made previously wise choices, would be to return to our Father, who is lovingly waiting for us to figure out that we have gone the wrong way.  To repent and to begin using what we have wisely.  What would we do this minute if we knew that we would not have the next minute?  If our currency suddenly ran out, what would we be found doing?  Would we be ashamed or at peace?  Would we be found to be worthy of that longed for statement from our Lord, "Well done, good and faithful servant," or would we be hearing something more negative?  What matters most to you in your life?  The Lord?  The people He has blessed you with in your life? Do we understand, like the Apostle, Paul, is saying what really matters in life?  In light of eternity, we are but a miniscule speck.  On our tombstone will be two dates.  The day we were born and the day we die.  The only thing in the middle will be a small dash.  Although that dash is so tiny, in comparison to all of eternity, what we do in it can make a difference now and for all of eternity!  A difference in our own lives and in the lives of others.  What are you doing for the rest of your life?

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2 Peter 3:17 (NLT)
17 I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends. Be on guard so that you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing.


All of creation declares the glory of God.  (Psalm 19:1)   Have you noticed?  Have you ever looked out on a landscape that looked pure because it was covered with a bright, white blanket of snow?  If you have ever done that, has it reminded you that, sinful as we are, God has promised to make us whiter than that beautiful snow?  Isaiah 1:18 (AMP)  18 Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.  The Lord is gracious in showing Himself through His creation and giving us word pictures to help us understand how He works in our lives.  God is so very gracious that, even if we didn't have His Word, He has made Himself intelligible and clearly discernible through the things He created.  Romans 1:20 (NLT)  20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. There are so many things that remind us of the different attributes and character of God in creation.  Way too many to discuss in one morning devotional.  But, I challenge you to think of something that is particularly interesting or beautiful to you in creation and ponder how it got to be here, why God gave it to you, and what He is saying to you through that thing.  I imagine each of us could do that every day and never run out of things created that bring glory to God!

Since, as Romans 1:20 says, mankind has no excuse for not knowing God, simply because of what we see all around us, how could anybody think he or she has an excuse for not knowing God if He also sent His own Son to us as a sacrifice for our sins?  How can anyone fail to bow to the Lord and give Him glory when God has given us creation and His own Son to reveal Himself to us?  Not only has He shown us Himself through creation and shown us Himself through the earthly life of His Son, He has given us the written word.  No wonder we are without excuse to know God.  If we don't know Him, it is because we neglect to develop a relationship with Him.  The writer of Hebrews tells us the following:  Hebrews 2:1-4 (NLT)  1 So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. 2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. 3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? 4 And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose. Now, we see that, added to the wonder of creation, the gift of His Son, and the written Word, God has sent His Spirit to continue to show us things that we would not normally see.  Many times, in our worst situations, the Spirit of God will step in and change things.  Sometimes suddenly.  Other times, through a process.  All of this is definitely supernatural!

The Apostle, Peter, in the last verses of his second epistle, once again gives us a reminder that we need to be on guard against people who deliberately choose to misconstrue and twist God's Word.  The writer of Hebrews says the very same thing in Hebrews 2:1.  I could list many other places in scripture where we find the same message over and over again.  Being a parent myself, I'm aware that I repeated myself time and again to my children about certain dangers in life.  I really wanted them to "get it."  As the Perfect Parent, God wants us to get this picture too.  There will be false teachers in the world, for sure.  Unfortunately, they will also be scattered through our churches.  The devil is too smart to stay away from church.  He's already got the world under His control.  What he really wants is to take control of God's property.  Lest this seem to be getting too negative, we know that God's Word says that the Lord in us is greater than the devil that is in the world.  1 John 4:4 (AMP)  4 Little children, you are of God [you belong to Him] and have [already] defeated and overcome them [the agents of the antichrist], because He Who lives in you is greater (mightier) than he who is in the world.  Yes, God has already given us the victory but He also told us that we would have some trouble as we received that gift and lived it out in a world that wants to shut it down!  John 16:33 (NIV)  33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  Peter lets us know again that we've got to do something in order to keep the precious gifts of victory we have received.  We have to grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord.  (2 Peter 3:17)  If we fail to do that, we will be weak and easy prey for that one who is looking around for someone he can easily devour.  1 Peter 5:8 (AMP)  8 Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Being devoured by the enemy certainly does not bring any glory to God!  If all of creation brings Him glory, how much more should we, whom He has chosen to call His friends and His family?  Why bother to read the Word, meditate on it and on the glorious aspects of creation?  Why bother to remember the miracles we have seen?  Even those small miracles like getting a front parking space in a totally filled parking lot when you are so tired you feel as though you can hardly even get out of the car?  Why bother to be on the lookout for people who want to lead us astray by distorting the Word of God?  The bottom line is this:  2 Peter 3:18 (AM) 18 But grow in grace (undeserved favor, spiritual strength) and recognition and knowledge and understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (the Messiah). To Him [be] glory (honor, majesty, and splendor) both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (so be it)! We will bring glory to God!  His glory will shine through us.  We, like the rest of creation, will be agents on earth through which others can know that He is real and even catch a glimpse of Him as we live out our lives!  Philippians 1:11 (NLT)  11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.  These words from Philippians were penned by the Apostle, Paul.  They are said many times and in many ways by different writers throughout the Bible.  We are all created as a part of His-story and He deserves all the glory! 

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2 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT) 15 And remember, the Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— 16 speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.

You and I probably come from very different backgrounds.  We do not, for the most part, know each other personally.  We are each unique creations of a marvelous and loving Creator.  Psalm 139:13 (NIV)  13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. God didn't just have one mold for females and one mold for males, turning out good, but boring creatures.  No!  He knit each one of us together in our mother's womb, with the thread and fabric of His own choosing.  Not a one of us is exactly like the other.   Psalm 119:14 (NIV)  14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  We, like the Psalmist, can praise God because we have each been fashioned by the Master Craftsman.  Each of us has a purpose in God's plan.  Ephesians 2:10  (NIV)  10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Peter and Paul were very different creatures.  They, like you and me, had very different experiences with the Lord Jesus.  Each was created by Jesus uniquely and marvelously.  Each had works to do within the Kingdom.  I would imagine that they didn't always agree on every detail and perhaps their personalities clashed a bit sometimes.  Yes, they even clashed in public!  Galatians 2:11 (TLB)  11 But when Peter came to Antioch I had to oppose him publicly, speaking strongly against what he was doing, for it was very wrong. Can you imagine that happening in one of our churches today?  I can smell a "church-split," in the air.

Have you ever thought about, "church-splits?'  I was just thinking that it is an impossibility.  The Church that God talks about in His Word is the body of His Son.  Colossians 1:18 (NLT)  18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. How many of us are intelligent enough to know that human beings cannot split the body of Christ?  Christ is the head of His own body.  He is first in everything.  His physical body was broken once on the cross for us in order to bring us to redemption and allow us to be a part of His everlasting body.  1 Corinthians 11:23-24 (AMP)  23 For I received from the Lord Himself that which I passed on to you [it was given to me personally], that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was treacherously delivered up and while His betrayal was in progress took bread,  24 And when He had given thanks, He broke [it] and said, Take, eat. This is My body, which is broken for you. Do this to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance. Now both Peter and Paul (who wrote these words from 1 Corinthians 11:23-24) were strong men.  They each had a past full of failure.  But, through the grace, forgiveness and love of Jesus Christ, they rose up in the Kingdom and brought many souls into the body of Christ.  Their purpose was to build up the body even though they didn't always agree.  Perhaps their disagreements were a fulfillment of the words we find in Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)  17 As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.  As strong as these men were, they both knew that they were not the "head," of anything.  They both acknowledged that Jesus was the Head of all of the church.  They both had to be humbled by the Lord sometimes in order to remember that.  So, you and I - and everyone that is in ministry must humble ourselves before the Lord and, if we are to be exalted, He will do it in His time, for His purposes.   Watch this!  Matthew 23:8-12 (NLT)  8 “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. 9 And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father  10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah.   11 The greatest among you must be a servant.   12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

While it is quite human to get "too big for our britches," when successes come in ministry or even in our career's, the one thing that will prevail is the Word of God.  All else will pass away.  The thing that Jesus prayed fervently for is this.  UnityJohn 17:21 (NLT)  21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.  Does that mean that we will never disagree with one another on some points?  I don't think so.  There have always been disagreements among God's people.  None of us have all the answers down perfectly.  If we did, we would not be on earth, but in Heaven.  If we think we do, we are dangerously close to the original sin of Satan, thinking we can be exactly like God!  Isaiah 14:12-14 (NKJV)  12 "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! 13 For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;  14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.'   The Apostle, Peter, could have been in "competition," with the Apostle, Paul.  He could have even held some of their disagreement resentfully against Paul.  But He didn't.  As a matter of fact, Peter had a bigger picture in mind.  A picture of you and me reading the scripture today.  A picture of unity.  Not unity through any one man, no matter how glorious that man's experiences with the Lord have been.  The unity Peter saw was unity through the Word.  Unity through Jesus, who is the Word.  John 1:14 (NLT)  14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. Instead of ragging on Paul because Paul had a different writing style and because his words may be difficult to understand sometimes, Peter spoke of Paul as having written with the wisdom from God.  (2 Peter 3:15)  Both the focus of Peter and of Paul was on the Lord.  On His Church.  Not their church.  They both wanted us to know the patience of God in bringing everyone who will come, into salvation.  Into a Church that no devil in Hell can split!  God is interested in our salvation.  He is not eager for the destruction of anyone.  However, we bring about our own destruction when we pick apart each other and tear down the good that God has placed in others.  The following words are not from a literal translation of the scripture but from a paraphrase writen by Eugene Petersen.  They do, however, capture the heart of God when it comes to His Church and the salvation He so longingly desires to give to each one of us.  1  Thessalonians 5:9-11 (MSG)  9 God didn't set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ.  10 He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we're awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we're alive with him! 11 So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it.   In all their differences, Peter and Paul were in agreement on the only thing that is important for this life and for the next.  Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only Head of the real Church. They were about building His church which is His body.  That's you and me!  All of us, no matter what our station in life may be,  could be  what we call here in the United States, "community organizers."  Although some reading this may interpret that phrase negatively, you and I are here to help bring people to the Kingdom of God.   We're all under the direction of one Master.  Like Peter and Paul, despite our differences, varied past experiences, personality types, and unique gifts and talents, have we chosen to be in agreement and walk in unity?  Are we partners in building The Church,  under the strict supervision of  our Lord, seeking and praying for salvation for everyone?  Are we in agreement and unity on the fact that Jesus is the Head of the Church and not ourselves?  Hopefully so, because both Peter and Paul warn against believing twisted versions of the Word which bring destruction upon us.  The pure Word of God will bring about unity and agreement and the salvation and abundant life that God wants for you, me and anyone who will receive it!  Psalm 119:140 (KJV)  140 Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

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2 Peter 3:15 (NIV) 15 Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.


The Apostle, Peter, has given us so much to think about in his second epistle.  A few things stand out, which he seems to emphasize over and over again.  Obviously, the Lord is interested in our bearing some things in mind as we continue our walk here on earth.  One of those things is patience.  God's patience.  While you and I may get discouraged because we see injustice and trouble on this earth, God is bearing that in mind.  He has not missed a thing.  I am recalling that Jesus said He did not come to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through believing in Him.  John 3:16-28 (NIV) 16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. What God wants you and me to bear in mind is that His patience means salvation.  Jesus proved that in some of His last words when He asked God to forgive those that were mocking and torturing Him.  Luke 23:34 (NLT)    34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.  Now, if I were God (and everyone should be glad I'm not), my patience would have run out completely just about the time I saw those soldiers pick up the dice and gamble for my Son's clothes, even after they heard Him ask for their forgiveness.  God did not do that.  That's what I call patience!  We don't know if any of those soldiers later on received salvation, but it is entirely possible, all because of God's patience.

Then I am reminded of the incident just following this total disregard for the words of forgiveness by Jesus on the cross.  Next to Him were two criminals, also hanging on crosses.  Perhaps they were even murderers.  They were being crucified for their law-breaking.  Justly so, I would suppose.  Luke 23:39-43 (NLT)  39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” 40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  Jesus demonstrated, in the most cruel of circumstances, God's patience in waiting for the last sinner to repent.  One of these criminals did repent. The other did not.  While God is patient and will, at times, let us go our whole lives in sin with a death-bed repentance, we should not put it off and try His patience.  Today is the day of salvation for anyone who will choose it.  Today, you and I need to make the right choice.  2 Corinthians 6:1-2 (NLT)  1 As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. 2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. God will not force us to make that choice, but He will give us every opportunity to do so!  The unrepentant thief made the wrong choice.  He played the fool in the presence of a God who had been patient with him all of his life.  In essence, he disregarded the fact that he was in the presence of Almighty God that day.  That he had one last chance to repent.  He lived out the description of what God calls a fool.  Psalm 53:1 (TLB)  1 Only a fool would say to himself, "There is no God." And why does he say it? Because of his wicked heart, his dark and evil deeds. His life is corroded with sin.  The criminal, with his last breath, lived out his foolish belief that God did not exist.

Peter wants us to bear in mind that God is patient and He is not willing that anyone should die without repenting.  2 Peter 3:9 (TLB)  9 He isn’t really being slow about his promised return, even though it sometimes seems that way. But he is waiting, for the good reason that he is not willing that any should perish, and he is giving more time for sinners to repent. Each morning our patient and loving Lord renews His mercies and presents them to us because He doesn't want anyone to be consumed by His wrath.  Rather, He would like us to receive the love and forgiveness He pours out on us and turn from any ungodly ways that are within us.  Lamentations 3:22-24 (NLT)  22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.  23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”  While God is a just God, He is not that angry God in the sky with a big hammer just waiting to smash His creation when they deviate from His ways.  If that were so, all of us would have been smashed long ago.  Lamentations 3:33 (NLT)  33 For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow. Like any good parent, our Father will allow some hurt or sorrow into our lives, but not for the purpose of harming us.  Just the opposite.  So that we might look again to His love, repent, and find forgiveness.  That is His-story from the beginning of scripture to the end.  Peter assures us that he is speaking on this subject in unity with the Apostle, Paul.  Paul, not only preached God's patience with people, he lived it.  He wrote the following words while being chained in prison for preaching and living out the gospel.  2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV)  10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. As we live through some challenging days, we need to bear in mind the patience of our God. We need to constantly thank Him for His patience with us.  And, we need to mirror His patience to others.  We do not know when the last chance for repentance will come but we do know that God is not willing to let anyone perish without every last opportunity to receive forgiveness and eternal life.  God is not about destruction.  That is the agenda of the enemy.  John 10:10 (NIV)  10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  Our God is patient and willing to give full and abundant life, both now and for eternity.  It's His great desire to give it to everyone.  Do you and I have appreciation for this patience, and because we have been the recipients of so great a patience, are we willing to demonstrate it with our lives?  It's something to bear in mind!

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2 Peter 3:14 (NIV) 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

As believers in Christ you and I have so much for which to look forward.  (2 Peter 3:12)  No wonder we are admonished to forget the past and press forward to the things which are to come.  Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT) 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Each of us, today, are reminded that our lives here are not permanent.  We have just experienced the passing of a prominent world figure, Teddy Kennedy.  As powerful as the Kennedy family is, they could not stop the forward progression of God's plan.  None of us knows whether we will be here on earth when the heavens and earth are folded up to make way for the new heavens and new earth; but we do know that we will not remain, as we are, forever.  We will all be changed.  1 Corinthians 15:51-52)  (NIV)  51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  Some of us are familiar with the current popular rhetoric that calls for, "change."  Change is sometimes difficult, but it is necessary and inevitable.  God has plans to change things.  Unlike some of our human ideas about change which may, or may not, cause some negative consequences, God's plans for change can only make things better.  If we are serving Him, no matter what we see happen here on earth, we can hang on to this:   Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)  11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Yes, God has some wonderful plans to give those who serve Him a hope and a future.  A future that's filled with prosperity.  Today, if you are not following Him, it's time to make a choice.  If you want the change that you experience in your life to be positive in every way, choose today to receive the gift of salvation that Jesus purchased for you.  2 Corinthians 6:1-2 (NLT)  1 As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. 2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.  The human race, as a whole, has miserably failed a holy God.  We have all turned from our Creator but, in His unfailing love and compassion, He has made a way for us to return to Him and be accepted.  He has given us the gift of salvation.  There has never been so great a gift given to so large a group of unworthy recipients!  Ephesians 2:8-10 (TLB)  8 Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. 10 It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others. When you give someone a gift, I'm sure you are happy when they use that gift and take care of it.  While we should not give, "with strings attached," it is always a blessing when we find that the recipient of our gift treasures it, uses it according to what it was made to do, and takes care of it.

You and I have, not only the gift of salvation, but the gifts of faith, hope and so much more.  Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)  1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. These gifts of salvation, faith and hope are precious gifts.  They require that we make an effort to use them, treasure them and care for them.  Philippians 2:12-13 (KJV)  12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.  It is God, Himself, who chooses to dwell within us and work through us to do His good pleasure with the gifts He has given us.  Peter is so right in admonishing us to be diligent in making sure we are found to be spotless, blameless and at peace with our Lord!  Peter is telling us to speedily, promptly and earnestly make an effort, studying and laboring to be found in such condition before the Lord.  This morning can you and I say that we have made speedy and laborious efforts to be sure we are unblemished in body, soul and spirit?  Are we spotless?  Can we say that we have been studying and earnestly living in such a way as to be without blame?  These things take quite a bit of effort.  We are given great gifts but those who have been given great gifts are also given great responsibility.  Luke 12:48 (TLB)  48 "But anyone who is not aware that he is doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, for their responsibility is greater. You and I are called to make diligent and earnest efforts to be spotless and blameless.  And to be found by the Lord to be in peace.  That is to be at one with Him and with one another.  To be joined together.  The implication here is rest and quietness.  It is prosperity.  Perhaps not the same kind of prosperity we hear preached so much today, although our God is truly a generous giver to His children in every way.  Being at peace with God will allow us to risk being at peace with one another even when we might not agree on everything.  That will allow us to be quiet and at rest on the inside.  We can and we must make an effort to live lives that are spotless, blameless and filled with peace!  After all, we're looking forward to living in a place where those things rule and reign.  We should get started now so that we'll be ready and able to enter into that glorious future that the Lord is preparing for us!  While we're looking forward and putting forth effort to prepare, we might just bring a little bit of Heaven to this earth and find that others want to join us in the journey!  John 14:1-3 (KJV)  1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

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2 Peter 3:13 (NKJV)  13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

I like the Apostle, Peter, because he doesn't mince words.  In the whole of 2 Peter, he has given us some challenges and some things to store in our memories so that we do not get caught up in false teaching.  These things can also serve as a check-list for our own lives so that we will not be found to have walked outside of the way of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)  5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test? Peter went through some hard times in his own Christian life.  He failed miserably but the Lord did not give up on him.  The Lord did rake Peter over the coals a bit to see if he was really repentant.  To me, that proves that Peter is a wonderful vessel to speak some hard, but loving words to you and me.  John 21:15-19 (NIV)  15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." 16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." 17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. 18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"  We may have failed miserably at times ourselves.  We may have been deceived by some false teaching.  We may have even spread some false teaching.  We may have fallen by the wayside.  But, God's love is not hindered by that.  He works through Peter to lay it all out for us so that we can choose the straight and narrow way.  Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT)  13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.    If we've gotten off the path, today is the right day to look up and see the Lord waiting for us to return.  We can come back.  We can get back into His Word.  We can renew our minds, even when His word reaches down to the sore points in our hearts.  Hebrews 4:12-13 (NLT) 12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.  13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. We can live holy lives through His strength!  Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)  13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. That's what He wants more than anything else.  Yes, we can! 


If we have been walking with the Lord as closely as we know how, and even if we haven't, we can remember His promise.  Our behavior is not going to change His promises.  Numbers 23:19 (NIV)  19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?   God's promises are good for those who will come to Him and not so good for those who will not.  After giving us many challenging and hard-to-swallow words, Peter says, "Nevertheless......"  We know there will be people who will try to lead us astray.  Matthew 7:15 (NLT)  15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. We know that the heavens and earth, as we know them today, will not last.  2 Peter 3:10 (NLT)  10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.  So, Peter encourages us to look forward.  Nevertheless, look forward, according to God's promise.  Look for new heavens and a new earth.  Wouldn't we love to live in a world where there were no prisons?  That's the world we have to look forward to.  No prisons will be needed there because only righteousness will dwell there!  That includes the prisons of our own minds which hold us back because we are locked in that place of pride or greed or unforgiveness or bitterness, addiction, lust, or some other such thing. 


When Peter says, "according to His promise...," he's not speaking lightly.  God, unlike many of us, has never failed to keep a promise!  And He never will!  2 Samuel 23:31 (NLT)  31 “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.   So, when Peter tells us to look forward according to God's promise, He's not asking something outrageous of us.  He's not asking us to trust someone who has made promises in the past and failed to keep them.  It doesn't take a whole lot of faith to look forward to this wonderful place to live, where only righteousness will dwell, if we go through the Bible and check out God's promises in the past.  History proves that every one of them has been fulfilled.  God has a magnificently perfect track record!  While you and I may have some things in our past, good or bad, that tempt us to look back, either longing for them or wanting to seek revenge on people who have hurt us, the Lord says, "look forward."  We may be enduring some really hard circumstances, even today, and feel like we're stuck in some sort of pit from which there is no escape.  But, God says, "look forward."  Yes, we have come through all of those hard things in the past by the grace and mercy of God.  We are going through this day by that same grace and mercy.  We are urged to now, "look forward."  There is a better day coming.  It will be brought about by the unwavering will of God, according to His promise!  All of His promises are, "Yes," and "Amen!"   2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV)  20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.

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2 Peter 3:11-12 (NIV)
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives  12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.

There are a variety of lifestyles that we can observe in the world today.  They range from complaisant to the very perverse.  Where do you and I fall in that range of styles?  The Apostle, Peter, has shown us, all through his second epistle, the characteristics of some who lead lifestyles of greed, self-centeredness, and luxury, all the while claiming to be operating under the power of God.  (2 Peter 2:1-3)    Peter has shown us that what we see is not always what we get.  It will get so bad that even the very elect will have to be led solely by the wise discernment of the Holy Spirit in order not to be deceived.  Jesus, Himself, took the time to warn us of this.  Mark 13:22-23 (NLT)  22 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. 23 Watch out! I have warned you about this ahead of time!   In fact, in the kingdom of God, it is not what we see with our natural eyes that we will get, but what we see with our eyes of faith.  2 Corinthians 5:7 (AMP)  7 For we walk by faith [we regulate our lives and conduct ourselves by our conviction or belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, with trust and holy fervor; thus we walk] not by sight or appearance.

Since you and I are living in the days where our choices of beliefs and lifestyles are many and varied, how will we choose to live?  As we make that choice, it is good to remember that the things we see and touch in this world will all vanish one day.  What am I hanging on to and taking time with that is going to instantly vanish?  2 Peter 3:10 (AMP)  10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will vanish (pass away) with a thunderous crash, and the [material] elements [of the universe] will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.  Is what I spend my time, energy, and money on today worth it?  Is it contributing to a personal lifestyle that shows others and the Lord that I have my priorities set correctly?  I know that I have much work to do in this area.  These are hard questions. 

Here are a few things that I am going to ponder and meditate on, bringing my life before the Lord.  Peter says that, in the meantime, before everything on earth will pass away, we should have consecrated and holy behavior.  We should exhibit devout and godly qualities.  This earth is, and has been, in a progressive state of dissolution.  We don't know when it will be completely dissolved.  We only know how God wants us to spend our lives in the meantime.  2 Peter 3:11 (AMP)  11 Since all these things are thus in the process of being dissolved, what kind of person ought [each of] you to be [in the meanwhile] in consecrated and holy behavior and devout and godly qualities,  You and I, by living holy lives can help bring that day to pass when the old will pass away and the new heavens and earth will be established.  Revelation 21:1-4 (NLT)  1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.  2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”   Today, you may be in a confusing situation and you don't know the way out.  You may be suffering grief at the loss of a loved one, a job, or a ministry.  You may have challenging health problems and be unable to find the medical care you desire and need.  You may be in financial straits so that you don't even know where your next meal will come from.  You may be perplexed by children or a spouse who is not walking with the Lord.  You may even be fighting an addiction or some wrong thoughts in your own life.  We will always have to endure these things from time to time on the earth as we know it now; but it will not always be that way for us.  We can look forward to that day when there will be no more sorrow, suffering, pain, or distress.  If today is challenging for you and me, we can and should look forward2 Peter 3:13 (NLT)  13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. Do we tend to live in the past, longing for the "good old days?"  Or, are we stuck in the mire and problems of "today?"  As believers, we know that all of these things will pass away and we are encouraged to live lives that don't cling to anything too tightly here on earth.  The more we set our eyes on what is not seen, the more we will live out those holy lives God desires and the more we can live in joy now, no matter what the circumstances may be.  We look forward to the new heavens and the new earth that God has promised for those who will persevere in righteous living.  How should we be living?  Peter is asking a rhetorical question.  The answer is clear but Peter spells it out for us anyway.  We should be living peaceful, pure and blameless lives in the sight of our Lord!  Are we?

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2 Peter 3:9 (AMP)
9 The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance.

In these days where, in our world, wrong is right and right is wrong, some of us may long for the return of Jesus.  We would like to live in a place where righteousness reigns and love prevails.  That's a good thing to long for!  And, it will come!  Jesus will come back and, if we have been following Him and looking for Him, we will find ourselves in that perfect world we all desire.  Those who find all their fulfillment in this world, and have forgotten the true word of God,  may deny the fact that Jesus is ever coming back again just because He has not done it yet.  It can appear that way if we look only at what we can see.  But you and I have chosen to live by faith.  2 Peter 3:3-4 (NLT) 3 Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. 4 They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”  If we happen to hear anything that, in any way, demonstrates the attitude of those described in 2 Peter 3:3-4, we will know to stay away from them and reject their teaching!

If you're like me, you like to do everything fast.  You want things done now!  That can be a good thing but it can also have a negative aspect.  Through the scriptures, we find that the Lord does seem to do things suddenly sometimes.  But, we don't really know what went on before that "suddenly," was manifested.  Our Lord is a God of purpose.  (Romans 8:28)   He doesn't just haphazardly look around and decide to do a random act of kindness.  Our God graciously works in the hearts of men to bring them to repentance, if they will.  Habakkuk was disturbed about all the violence in his world.  It seemed that God was slow in reacting to the injustice.  It may seem that way in our world too.  Habakkuk asked his question of God and then proceeded to listen to God and discern His answer.  Habakkuk was ready to stand corrected if need be.  (Habakkuk 1:1, 2:1)  The Lord did answer.  He told Habakkuk to write down His answer.  God's answer was that His purpose would come at the appointed time.  Although we might feel like it is slow, it will surely come and it will not tarry!  (Habakkuk 2:2-3)  Justice will prevail and everyone will be affected, both those who walk by faith and those who choose not to walk by faith.  (Habakkuk 2:4 and following)  Those who think they are "getting away with murder," as they say, will find that if they do not repent, they will be destroyed.

But, God is so patient and gracious.  Because he is not constrained by time as we know it, He is not pressured to change things at a moment's notice.  He is interested in you and me and in every person who has ever been born.  He demonstrates this in Isaiah when He offers Judah His help and they reject it, going their own way instead.  He desired to let them find their strength in the quietness and confidence of their faith in Him.  But, they pushed Him aside because they had "a better way."  Isaiah 30:15 (NLT)  15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.  Are you and I ever guilty of pushing God's quietness and confidence away in favor of getting something accomplished in our own timing and in our own way?  Do we willingly live a life of stress when we could rest in the Lord?  If I was God, I'd take immediate action!  Not God.  He said, "I must wait for you to come to me."  Isaiah 30:18 (NLT)  18 So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. Yes, the God we serve even waits on rebels because of His great desire to show them His love and compassion!  I know.  He's waited on me several times!  You see, God is not happy when the wicked die.  He does not say, "good riddance," like some of us might be tempted to think or say.  He says this:  Ezekiel 33:11 (NLT)  11 As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die? He said that in Ezekiel's time and He's still saying it today.  2 Peter 3:9 confirms that fact.  Our God is so full of grace and compassion that He'll wait till the last minute to give each and every one of us a chance to repent of anything that is displeasing to Him!  Jesus has not returned yet so that some of our loved ones can turn to Him before it's to late.  You and I may even have some things in our lives that He would like us to remove before we see Him!  Romans 2:4 indicates that, even though God is patient, we shouldn't take His patience for granted and think we have all the time in the world.  Jesus will come suddenly but He has been planning it all along.  That plan made provision for sinners to repent and saints to grow in their walk with the Lord.  If things seem to be too slow in your life, look around and let God show you how He's patiently working out His purpose in your life and in the lives of those you love who may not have given their hearts to Jesus yet.  It really is to our benefit that God sometimes seems slow!

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2 Peter 3:8 (NLT)
8 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.

In these days of lists, we might want to make a list of things that the Apostle Peter tells us to remember.  I am reminded that false teachers, prophets, and scoffers abound today.  I am also reminded, by Peter, of how they got that way.  They forgot the important things in life.  They deliberately chose to forget God's word through His prophets and apostles.  (2 Peter 3:5)  When we choose to forget that God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, we've lost it!  Revelation 1:8 (NLT)  8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”

In my family, I have the dubious title of "the only one who knows anything,"  because I once told a friend that I couldn't go away for an extended period of time because no one else in the house knew anything about where things were and how to take care of them.  Hopefully, I do not think of myself as that way and, if I am doing it all, I need to delegate or at least train others in the family to take over in the case of an emergency.  I was impressed with a billboard I saw on a long drive home yesterday.  It said, "I'm the only One who knows everything - God."  Needless to say, it brought back the memories of being labeled, "the only one who knows anything."  False teachers and prophets purposefully forget that God is the only One who knows everything!

Because things don't happen fast enough for them, they think that God is asleep at the wheel or that He didn't really mean what He said when He said that Jesus would return.  They assume things about God that are just that - assumptions.  On top of that, they are false assumptions.  God is not slow nor does He show up late.  His timing and His ways are different than our ways.  Isaiah 55:8-9 (AMP)  8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.  Basically, our version of time is dwarfed compared to God's version of time.  In fact, there is no "time," as you and I see it in God's view of things.  He sees the beginning and the end.  He is not bound by our clocks or calendars, even though those things are necessary to keep order on earth.  No, with God, a day can last a thousand years or a thousand years can last a day, according to our understanding of time.  That's why we should never take it for granted if we sin and think we're getting away with something just because the consequences don't appear instantly.  More encouraging is the fact that we should not become dismayed when we don't see God's hand move instantly at our cry for help in some situation.  As usual, in the Kingdom of God, things look differently than they look to us here on earth.  Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 (KJV) 16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. 17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. So, despite our fears or assumptions, God's timing is perfect.  Both for judgment and for deliverance.  When we have trusted in Him and received His Son as our Savior, His plans for us are good.  They are for a hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)  11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.   "Future," speaks of time.  We are assured that since God is the same, yesterday, today and forever, we can leave the issue of time in His hands.  Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)   Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Peter tells us to remember that God's timing is exactly that.  God's timing.  He can make a day long or short.  He can make a short day long.  He can stretch or compress time, according to His purposes.  (Isaiah 38:8)  As we stop and ponder that, we should live holy lives as if time, as we know it, will end the next second. On the other hand, we should work as if time will last another thousand years,  spreading the light of the gospel in our world to make it a better place and bringing more and more souls to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ!

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2 Peter 3:5 (NLT)
5 They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water.


Earlier in 2 Peter 3:1-2, Peter is calling you and I to remember the words spoken of by the prophets of old and the commandments of the first apostles of the Lord Jesus.  Now Peter describes how what he has termed, "scoffers," come to be scoffers.  They forget.  They don't just have senior moments.    They don't just get distracted for an instant.  They willingly forget.  The deliberately ignore.  They become willingly ignorant. that, by the word of God, the heavens and the earth were created.  In doing that, they probably also forget that, apart from Jesus, nothing could exist.  Revelation 4:11 (NIV)  11 "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."

Because they forget the beginning, they are not prepared for the ending.  According to Peter, they have forgotten that God once destroyed the world by water.  2 Peter 3:6 (NLT) 6 Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. The very same God that created the world out of water, used the water to destroy that creation because of the sin of mankind.  Genesis 6:17 (NIV)  17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. God told Noah that He was going to destroy the earth with water.  God has also told you and me that He will eventually destroy the earth as we know it now by fire.  2 Peter 3:7 And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.  Ungodly men and women who have chosen to deliberately forget, ignore and make themselves ignorant of God's word will be destroyed.  Although that is not the most pleasant thought, we need to remember it!

It will not be that way with us if we will remember!  Remembering God's word is a choice.  We have to be pro-active.  We do have an enemy running around who tries to distract us from remembering.  The devil still tries to twist God's word to hopefully make us ignorant of its truth.  In Noah's time, when the earth was destroyed by a flood, God made a way for Noah and His family.  Genesis 3:18  18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark--you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. They entered into the ark and were safe.  God made a covenant with them.  But, God did not just plop the ark down on the earth and say, "Okay, here it is, get in and I'll save you."  No!  Noah had to build the ark, by faith in a society that thought he was not playing with a full deck!  He had to go against the flow of his time.  Safety was there and promised but he had to "do something!"  The ark represented Jesus, our place of safety.  But, today, it is not easy to remember everything Jesus said.  It is easy to remember some of the ways the world twists His word.  It is not easy to live by faith, remembering that what we see is not what we're going to get.  That's why Peter calls us to remember and shows us what happens to those who choose to willingly forget!  We live under a covenant with God also, if we have received Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Hebrews 7:18-22 (NLT)  18 Yes, the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and useless.  19 For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God. 20 This new system was established with a solemn oath. Aaron’s descendants became priests without such an oath, 21 but there was an oath regarding Jesus. For God said to him, “The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow: ‘You are a priest forever.’”  22 Because of this oath, Jesus is the one who guarantees this better covenant with God.   A covenant is between two parties.  Both parties agree to do something.  If Noah would not have built the ark and worked out his part of the covenant, he and his family would not have been saved from the flood.  But, Noah took God at His word and did something about it.  He remembered what God said in spite of the way things looked around him.  He was most likely laughed at and scoffed at because of his determination to remember what God said and follow His orders.  Although you and I are participants in a new and better covenant, we are still called to, "remember."  One of the last things Jesus said was this:  1Corinthians 11:24-29 (NKJV)  24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new cove