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Friday, March 23, 2018

A Double Promise

It's the end of the week has we take a moment to reflect on this past week lets take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom to keep us encourage Read: Isaiah 25:1–9 Bible in a Year: Joshua 13–15; Luke 1:57–80 In perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.—Isaiah 25:1 Since she suffered with cancer several years ago, Ruth has been unable to eat, drink, or even swallow properly. She has also lost a lot of her physical strength, and numerous operations and treatments have left her a shadow of what she used to be. Yet Ruth is still able to praise God; her faith remains strong, and her joy is infectious. She relies on God daily, and holds on to the hope that she will recover fully one day. She prays for healing and is confident that God will answer—sooner or later. What an awesome faith! Ruth explained that what keeps her faith strong is the secure knowledge that God will not only fulfill His promises in His time, but will also sustain her until that happens. This was the same hope that God’s people had as they waited for Him to complete His plans (Isaiah 25:1), deliver them from their enemies (v. 2), wipe away their tears, remove their disgrace, and “swallow up death forever” (v. 8). In the meantime, God gave His people refuge and shelter (v. 4) as they waited. He comforted them in their ordeals, gave them strength to endure, and gave them assurance that He was there with them. This is the double promise we have—the hope of deliverance one day, plus the provision of His comfort, strength, and shelter throughout our lives. —Leslie Koh Thank You, Lord, for Your wonderful gift of hope. You have promised to save me and to walk with me every day of my life. Trusting God’s faithfulness can dispel our fearfulness. INSIGHT: Are the hopes we have for ourselves and others realistic? Isaiah and the people he loved were living under conditions of social violence, economic injustices, and a looming Assyrian invasion. Yet God gave him a confidence that enabled him to look beyond conditions of inequality, insecurity, and disgrace. For the weak, the troubled, and the dying, he wrote as if the plans and promises of God are something worth living, waiting, and even dying for (Isaiah 2:1-5; 66:20). Mart DeHaan

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Art of a Grateful Heart

The weekend has come to an end and we are starting the new week off with only 1 more week to go before we head into the fourth month of the New Year which is April WOW! time is moving so fast but lets just take a moment to reflect on these words of wisdom Read: Psalm 118:1–14, 26–29 Bible in a Year: Joshua 1–3; Mark 16 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.—Psalm 118:1 On our wedding day, Martie and I gladly vowed to be faithful “in good times as well as in bad, in sickness as well as in health, for richer or for poorer.” In a way it may seem strange to include vows about the bleak reality of bad times, sickness, and poverty on a cheerful wedding day. But it underscores the fact that life often has “bad” times. So what are we to do when we face life’s inevitable difficulties? Paul urges us on behalf of Christ to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As difficult as that may sound, there is good reason why God encourages us to embrace a spirit of gratitude. Gratitude is grounded in the truth that our Lord “is good” and “his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1). He is present with us and strengthens us in the midst of trouble (Hebrews 13:5-6), and He lovingly uses our trials to grow our character into His likeness (Romans 5:3-4). When life hits us with hard times, choosing to be grateful focuses our attention on the goodness of God and gives us the strength to make it through our struggles. With the psalmist, we can sing, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:29). —Joe Stowell Lord, I realize that focusing on my troubles causes me to forget that even in the midst of trials You are good. Teach me the art of a grateful heart. Thanksgiving is a virtue that grows through practice. INSIGHT: The writer of Psalm 118 knew about the struggles of living in a fallen world. Even when surrounded by enemies, the psalmist’s confidence in the Lord remained strong (vv. 8-9, 13-14, 28). Note the opening and closing verses. Despite the dangers he faced, the psalmist begins and ends by choosing to praise God: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Are you in the midst of a trial? Meditate on the Lord’s goodness and His enduring love. J.R. Hudberg

Friday, March 16, 2018

Wonders in Focus

Wrapping up the end of the week YES! we have made it to FRIDAY! with the words of wisdom so you can take a moment to reflect on Read: Job 38:1–18 Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 28–29; Mark 14:54–72 For from him and through him and for him are all things.—Romans 11:36 Some of us are inclined to look at the world and see only what’s wrong. DeWitt Jones is a National Geographic photographer who has used his profession to celebrate what’s right about the world. He waits and watches until a shaft of light or turn of perspective suddenly reveals a wonder that had been there all along. He uses his camera to find beauty in the most common faces of people and nature. If anyone had reason to focus on the wrongs of the world, Job did. After losing all that had given him joy, even his friends became his accusers. Together their voices taunted him for not admitting that he was suffering for sins he was hiding. When Job cried out to the heavens for help, God remained silent. Finally, from within the chaos of a whirlwind and the darkness of a storm, God asked Job to consider wonders of nature that reflect a wisdom and power far beyond our own (Job 38:2-4). Would He now ask us? What about something as natural as the ways of a dog, cat, fluttering leaf, or blade of grass? Could a shaft of light, or a turn of perspective, reveal—even in our pain—the mind and heart of a Creator who has been with us and for us all along? —Mart DeHaan Father in heaven, we’ve spent too much time thinking only about what is wrong and broken with our world. Please help us to see evidence of Your presence in the wonder of what only You could have done. In the faces of nature there are wonders that never cease. INSIGHT: Job had heard many “answers” to the problem of his pain, but he wanted to hear from the Lord. When he did, God asked Job a series of questions that revealed His infinite superiority. And His questions pointed to the wonders of creation. All creation points to God. A key way He speaks to us is through that creation. How refreshing to commune with our Lord as we enjoy His handiwork! Tim Gustafson

Monday, March 12, 2018

Three-Lettered Faith

Just coming off a restful Spring Break starting the New Week refresh with these words of wisdom to help us power through this week with Read: Habakkuk 3:17–19 Bible in a Year: Deuteronomy 17–19; Mark 13:1–20 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in God my Savior.—Habakkuk 3:18 With a tendency toward pessimism, I quickly jump to negative conclusions about how situations in my life will play out. If I’m thwarted in my efforts on a work project, I’m easily convinced none of my other projects will be successful either, and—even though utterly unrelated—I will probably never be able to touch my toes comfortably. And, woe is me, I’m an awful mother who can’t do anything right. Defeat in one area unnecessarily affects my feelings in many. It’s easy for me to imagine how the prophet Habakkuk might have reacted to what God showed him. He had great cause for despair after having seen the coming troubles for God’s people; long and arduous years lay ahead. Things really did look dismal: no fruit, no meat, and no creature comforts. His words lure me into a pessimistic bed of hopelessness until he jars me awake again with a small three-letter word: yet. “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord” (Habakkuk 3:18). Despite all the hardships he anticipated, Habakkuk found cause for rejoicing simply because of who God is. While we might be prone to exaggerate our problems, Habakkuk truly faced some extreme hardships. If he could summon praise for God in those moments, perhaps we can too. When we’re bogged down in the depths of despair, we can look to God who lifts us up. —Kirsten Holmberg Lord, You are the reason for all my joy. Help me to fix my eyes on You when my circumstances are painful and hard. God is our cause for joy in the midst of despair. INSIGHT: We don’t know much about the prophet Habakkuk. Not even his father, tribe, or hometown is provided. Yet he is believed to be a temple musician-prophet because he had his own stringed instruments (see Habakkuk 3:19). He was likely a contemporary of the prophets Nahum, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah. He prophesied in a period of violence and political chaos that began in the context of Assyria’s upheaval, continued during the Babylonian victory over Jerusalem (597 bc), and ended in Babylon’s fall to the Persians (539 bc). He would have felt the impact of the death of good King Josiah, who had brought Judah back to God for a short time. Before and after Josiah’s reign, Judah had turned away from God and been characterized by moral and spiritual decay that included the worship of other gods. No wonder Habakkuk was in despair! In his little book he questions (complains to) God out of his burdened heart, and God answers. In the end, the prophet has a deeper understanding of God’s justice. When has God given you joy in the midst of pain?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Phone Zone

So here we are we have step into the 3rd month of the New Year Welcome to March YES! we have also made it to the end of the week OMG! It is FRIDAY! Let's just STOP and take a minute to reflect on ALL God's Grace and Mercy as we reflect on these words of wisdom Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:16–24 Bible in a Year: Numbers 26–27; Mark 8:1–21 Pray continually.—1 Thessalonians 5:17 One of the benefits of cell phones is that we now have virtually unlimited access to others. As a result, many people talk on the phone or text even while driving—sometimes resulting in terrible car crashes. To avoid such disasters, many areas of the world have made distracted driving illegal. In the United States, highway signs are popping up to remind drivers of special cell phone zones where they can pull off the road to safely talk and text to their heart’s delight. While it is a good idea to restrict mobile phone communication for drivers, there is another kind of communication that has no restrictions: prayer. God invites us to call on Him whether we are coming, going, or sitting still. In the New Testament, Paul’s words advise each person who wants to communicate with God to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Paul brackets this divine open-door policy by encouraging us to “rejoice always” (v. 16) and to “give thanks in all circumstances” (v. 18). God calls us to joy and thanksgiving—expressions of faith in God through Christ anchored in continual prayer. God is available for our quick cry or for a lengthy conversation. He welcomes us into a relationship with Him, a constant and endless sharing of our joys and gratitude, needs, questions, and concerns (Hebrews 4:15-16). We are always in the prayer zone. —Bill Crowder I’m grateful, Lord, that You want to hear from me. I need You today. Access to God’s throne is always open. INSIGHT: As in today’s text, we find helpful teaching on prayer in Luke 18:1-8. The parable of the persistent widow contrasts the widow’s plight and a believer’s privilege. In this parable, the widow perseveres in getting an unjust judge to give her the justice she needs. Like the widow, we’re desperately helpless. But unlike the widow, who is a stranger to the judge, we’re God’s beloved children (Romans 8:16). The widow went to a court of law claiming man’s laws, but we approach the throne of grace claiming God’s promises (Hebrews 4:14-16). The callous judge didn’t care, but our heavenly Father cares deeply for us (1 Peter 5:7). She didn’t have easy access to the judge, but we have unhindered “access to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence” to talk with our Father and to ask for His help any time (Ephesians 3:12 nlt). How does knowing we can talk with God “face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11) encourage you in your prayers? K. T. Sim