Tag Archive | Jesus Christ

The Choice Is Ours

 

The Choice is Ours
Rachel Olsen

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” 1 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

I watch Samantha Brown, Travel Channel host, as she explores Old Town in Ecuador’s capital city of Quito. Watching her experience the charming hotels, mouth-watering food, and tropical adventures there, I’m slightly envious. But as she points out the sights of this South American city, my mind wanders back in time.

I’ve been to Quito. Not to enjoy the food or see the architecture, but to visit people there who Jesus loves.

As the camera pans over Samantha’s head, I’m looking for the spot where I visited a single mother, Maria. She and her baby lived in one room smaller than my home office. She had a twin size bed, a chest of drawers, and a small electric stove.

On the stove she fried plantains for me. I had trouble at first with the idea of eating them, knowing they were from her very limited food supply. As Maria happily served me, I wondered if I would choose to share my food so freely if it were as scarce for me as it is for her.

Maria told me she had received Jesus, and was now receiving training in child care, nutrition and child development through Compassion International. She’d received these South American bananas from them too. I noticed Maria had a visible hope that her life and her child’s life were now on a better path.

Around the corner from Maria lived a young boy who has also been touched by Jesus. He is a sponsored child. When we met, Eduardo told me he hopes to be a pastor. He quoted scripture to me from memory—he was eight.

Our meeting wasn’t planned, he just happened to stop by Maria’s door while I was there. After talking with us briefly, Eduardo reached into his back pocket, pulled out a small New Testament and handed it to me. Said he wanted me to have it. And he wanted me to read it.

Said he hoped it would remind me of him, so I would pray that he could become a pastor.

I didn’t tell him I have plenty of full-size Bibles at home. Or I wouldn’t be able to read much of that one in Spanish. Instead I took the small red book, said “gracias,” and prayed over him and his future ministry. He smiled a smile full of possibility and disappeared out the doorway.

I’m certain that around the corner from Maria there are other single moms and young boys who don’t have this hope. They feel trapped, depressed, maybe hungry and short-changed.

It is my prayer they will find “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3).

Samantha Brown discovered Ecuador’s luscious fruits, famous hat-making trade, and its romantic colonial architecture. Here’s what I discovered:

• We always have a choice between hope and despair – no matter what circumstance we are in.

• We always have a choice between fear and faith – no matter how bleak things look.

• And we always have the choice to give and serve – no matter how little we own.

It’s Jesus – and His church at work on the Earth – that affords us these choices.

Honestly, I wouldn’t trade my trip to Ecuador for Samantha Brown’s any day. Even if she did get to visit the stunning cloud forest. I’m thinking we’ll have cloud forests in heaven to enjoy. And I’d like to see as much of the Ecuadorian population there as possible.

I think my eight year-old friend would like to see that too. I’m certain he will do his part toward that end – will we also do ours? We have that choice to make.

Dear Lord, thank You for living hope. Thank You for living water that quenches our eternal thirst. Anoint young Eduardo to share this hope with others in Ecuador. Show me how I can share it with others too. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Compassion International has helped Maria, Eduardo and thousands of others. Visit here and click on the tab “Rescue Babies & Mothers” – choose a set to pray for or to support today.

Visit Rachel’s blog for a chance to win a copy of her book It’s No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know

Reflect and Respond:
What can you give or share today?

What can you do to tell or show others about Jesus today?

Power Verses:
John 4:13-14, “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'” (NIV)

© 2012 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

 

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Listening to God in the Little Things

 

Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth
“He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back” (Isaiah 50:4-5 NIV).

Friend to Friend
One of my favorite devotion books My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  On October tenth, he wrote, “All God’s revelations are sealed until they are opened to us by obedience. You will never get them open them through philosophy or thinking.  But once you obey, a flash of light comes immediately. …Obey God in the thing He shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up…God will never reveal more truth about himself until you have obeyed what you already know.”

We must never fall into the trap of thinking that God will always give us “big” things to do.  Jesus…took a towel and …began to wash the disciples’ feet…” (John 13:3-5). Through his act of servant leadership, he demonstrated the obedience we should have on a daily basis in the mundane activities of everyday life. Yes, he raised the dead, but he also washed the feet.

One evening Steve and I were on our way to dinner. Just before we arrived, I saw three teenage girls walking into another restaurant in the same area where we were going to eat.  One of the girls had been in a small group I had led for two years. I felt God nudging me to go into the restaurant and pay for their dinners.

“Steve, there’s Christine,” I said. “I believe God wants me to pay for those girls’ dinners.”

Steve, being a man who listens to God, whipped the car around and headed toward the door.

“Hi girls,” I said as I walked up to them in line.

“Hi  Mrs. Jaynes. What are you doing here?”

“May I take your order?” the cashier interrupted.

“Go ahead girls,” I urged. “You go first.”

Each girl ordered and then the cashier turned to me.  “And you ma’am.

“Oh, I’m not having anything. I just came in to pay for these girls’ dinners.”

The threesome were very surprised and very appreciative. I ran back out to our car, feeling a warm sense of listening and obeying.

The next day, Christine called. “Mrs. Jaynes,” she said “thank you so much for paying for our dinners last night. My friends were so touched. No one has ever done anything like that for any of us before. See, last night, they wanted to go out to dinner, but I told them I couldn’t afford it.  So they were going to pay for mine. Then you came in and well…thanks.

Obeying God only cost me $19.95, but the lesson to Christine, and her two friends was invaluable. Jesus said, “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).

Obeying God begins with heeding the simply nudges. Don’t be afraid! Many people are afraid to obey those nudges because they aren’t absolutely sure it is God’s voice. I’ve decided that if the inner prompting lines up with Scripture and is consistent with God’s character and ways, then I’d rather err on the side of obedience that the side of caution.

“We all have those times when there are no flashes of light and no apparent thrill to life, where we experience nothing but the daily routine with its common everyday tasks….Don’t always expect God to give you His thrilling moments, but learn to live in those common times of the drudgery of life by the power of God….I must realize that my obedience even in the smallest detail of life has all the omnipotent power of the grace of God behind it” (O. Chambers June 15). “If I obey Jesus Christ in the seemingly random circumstances of life, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God” (O. Chambers November 2).

My prayer is that I will be able to say like the prophet Isaiah, “He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back” (Isaiah 50:4-5).

Let’s Pray
Dear Lord, I’m listening. Speak to me. Nudge me. I will not be rebellious. I will not draw back.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn
Today, I encourage you to pay attention to any way that God might be nudging you to be His hands and feet.

Then join me on my blog page, look for this devotion’s entry, and tell me what happened. I can hardly wait. Don’t feel uncomfortable telling me. Don’t feel like you’re tooting your own horn. I just want to toot my party horn in celebration of your obedience!

More from the Girlfriends
One of my greatest passions is to become a woman who listens to God. If you would like to sharpen your God-listening skills, check out my book, Becoming a Woman who Listens to God.It is not a matter of whether or not God speaks. It is a matter of whether or not we will listen.

 

Mistaken Identities

 

Karen Ehman

“He who belongs to God hears what God says.” John 8:47 (NIV 1984)

I poured a cup of coffee and logged on to my laptop to peek at a friend’s Facebook page.

When I tried hopping over to see her latest pictures, I couldn’t get her name to appear in the search bar. I was puzzled. This had always worked before. Glancing at the top of the screen, I realized I wasn’t logged in to my own account. My son had forgotten to sign off when he’d been on earlier so I was actually logged in as him instead.

I couldn’t get where I wanted to go because I had mistaken my identity.

With a quick click of a mouse I switched accounts and used Facebook as “me.” Under the right identity I was free to view pages, leave comments with ease, and get where I wanted to go.

Sometimes in life we encounter the same issue—we don’t realize we have mistaken our identity. We log into our day and encounter wrong thinking that makes us forget who we really are. This may happen when a voice from our past or our own negative self-talk urges us to forget our identity in Christ. When we do, we’re blocked by doubt and can’t get where God is calling us to go: to a life lived with our security and value rooted deep in His thoughts toward us.

Instead we hear:
“You can’t do that. You aren’t good enough.”
“You’ll never change.”
“Why can’t you be more like your sister?”
“If only you were more ____________ instead of so ___________.”

When statements of self-doubt seem to scream and discouragement sets in, we need to log out of the lies we believe and log into God’s truth. It’s the only way we will know and live in our true identity so that we can navigate our lives according to God’s Word.

Here are some truths we can tell ourselves to remember our who we are:
I am the daughter of the Most High God.
I am loved, redeemed and renewed.
I am chosen, blameless and holy.
I was bought at a great price.
God knows me thoroughly and yet loves me completely.
He has plans for my future that include hope, not harm; blessings, not banishment.
I belong to Him.

John 8:47a tells us, “He who belongs to God hears what God says.” We need to listen to His Word, let it take root in our minds, and allow it to eradicate any untrue, destructive thought patterns. Replacing the negative chatter with assuring scriptures will gently, but firmly, remind us who we are as children of God.

Yes, if we “belong to God” we will hear what He says. As we log into His truths daily, no longer will we mistake our identity. We will know the confident reality of who we are in Christ.

Dear Lord, when I am tempted to think of myself in a way that is neither healthy nor true, remind me both of who I am and to Whom I belong. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

For more on this topic, including 5 Ways to Prevent Mistaken Identity and a chance to win a copy of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope, visit Karen’s blog.

A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Live in the Security of God’s Promises by Renee Swope identifies lies we mistakenly believe and equips us to overcome them so we can take hold of our true identity and live confidently in the truth of who God says we are.

Reflect and Respond:
What are some counter-productive or self-doubting thoughts that race through your mind at times? The next time you sense this happening, find a promise to replace each doubt. Find more strategies on Karen’s blog today.

Power Verses:
Romans 1:6, “And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (NIV 1984)

1 John 3:1a, “Consider this: The Father has given us his love. He loves us so much that we are actually called God’s dear children. And that’s what we are.” (GW)

© 2012 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

 

In His Eyes Part 2

Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:14-15, NIV).

Friend to Friend
God can set you free to be all He created you to be. A healthy self-image is not rooted in pride, and it does not exalt self above others. Success comes when we learn to accept God’s evaluation instead of our own and when we give Him permission to make us what He created us to be. Yesterday, we examined the first two steps we can take to understand who we are in His eyes. Today, we will look at four more steps.

Step three: Be yourself.
We should always be looking for something new to learn, an area where we can grow and changes that need to be made. Sit down with your mate or close friend and ask for a realistic evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses. Constantly search for gifts and abilities on which you can work. Don’t be afraid of change. It is a sign of life and growth. Change what needs to be changed, accept what you cannot change and quit whining about it! Don’t waste another minute trying to be someone you were never created to be. Stop questioning God’s design for your life. When an old man from the mountains of North Carolina was asked how he created such extraordinary wooden carvings of dogs, he replied, “Well, I just take my knife and a piece of wood and carve away everything that doesn’t look like a dog.” Learning to see your-self through the eyes of God is like “carving away” everything that is not part of the original design – God’s plan – and then learning how to accept what remains.

Step four: Guard your mind.
We are bombarded on all sides by the media, family and friends, co-workers and even enemies who have a certain identity they want to assign to us. We have a choice. No one makes us feel inferior without our permission. We will become what we allow our heart and mind to dwell on. An old adage says it well: “You can’t keep a bird from flying over your head but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.” It is impossible to avoid destructive thinking entirely. We will be tempted. We will have negative thoughts and temptations, but we do not have to allow them to dwell in our minds. God has given us a “garbage disposal” for the mind.

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

We once lived in Miami, Florida, a place where ships come from all over world. However, before a ship is allowed to dock, an inspection team goes aboard with one assignment. Find every bit of contamination on board that ship. If contamination of any kind is found, the ship must be quarantined until it is cleaned up and inspected again. The ship is then allowed to dock. We need to control our thought life in the same way.

Step five: Control your tongue.
Our words either build up or tear down. Scripture tells us not to curse others because they are made in the image of God. So are we. As a mom, I constantly warned our children about the danger of critical words. I wanted them to learn how to encourage others with their words as well as have a healthy picture of who they are. One day, while standing in front my bathroom mirror, I began berating myself for something I had done. I didn’t see our son who was quietly standing in our bedroom door where he could hear every word I said. “Mom, who are you talking to?” he asked. I sheepishly replied, “I was talking to myself.” He thought for a moment and then offered a convicting observation, “Boy, if I talked like that, I’d be in big trouble!” I was immediately reminded of the words in Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Words are like seeds. What we plant will grow. If we sow destructive, critical words, we will reap a life that is negative and critical, but if we sow words of truth, we will reap a life of peace and purpose, knowing who we are in His eyes.

Step six: Be Patient
Weeds spring up overnight but it takes years for a mighty oak to grow. Today, you can take the first step toward gaining a new perspective of who you are in Christ. Our Father says it this way in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.”

Let’s Pray
Lord, I want to know You more and learn to see myself as You see me. Please help me recognize and guard against anything or anyone who would chip away at Your truth working in my life. I believe You love me and cherish me as Your daughter. Help me to walk in that value and worth and then lead others to do the same. I praise You for validating my very existence as part of Your heart’s plan. I love You, Father.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn
Here is your assignment for the week. Read Psalm 139 at least one time every day. In your journal, write each verse in your own words. At the end of the week, set aside time to celebrate who you are in Christ. Have a praise party – just you and God – or invite a few girlfriends to join you in celebrating how special you are to Him.

More from the Girlfriends
I pray that these devotions have helped you catch a new glimpse of just how precious you are to God. If you were never wanted or planned by human heart and mind, rest assured that you were wanted and planned by God Himself. He is with you and for you, girlfriend. He believes in you and has a plan that will prosper you and give you hope. Turn to Him. Trust Him. You are special in His eyes.

Are You Really Bible Based?

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. JOHN 15:1

This may seem like a shocking thing to say, but I firmly believe that most Christian marriages are actually patterned after the world, with a few threads of Christianity woven in. Couples know certain Bible verses, but few really practice the Word of God and use it as the defining standard for their lives.

Here is a litmus test: Could you lead a group of couples through a Bible study for several hours on what the Scriptures have to say about marriage and family issues—everything from raising children to God’s blueprints and purposes for marriage? Most churchgoers couldn’t last more than a few minutes.

But the very fact that you’re reading this book today at all is a testimony to your desire to know more of God’s Word and apply it to your lives. If you want your marriage to become all that God intended, then I hope this inspires you to keep digging deeply to His truth and let it become the “source” of your lives together.

Jesus painted the picture when He declared Himself the vine, with us as the branches. He said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). The word “abide” here is used to describe drawing the source of life from Jesus, like a branch draws its life from the vine. It means to make Jesus Christ and His Word the source of your convictions, decisions and mission in life. Just as branches draw their nutrients from the vine, so too we are only able to grow spiritually when we’re firmly attached to Christ, drawing our life from the source of all truth.

DISCUSS

Talk honestly about your values, convictions and mission. How much are these shaped by abiding in Christ and His Word? Talk about how you can help one another do a better job of abiding in the Word.

PRAY

Pray for one another that you will grow spiritually together as a couple by abiding in Christ.

From death to life

 

‘The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.’ 1 Samuel 2:6

Suggested Further Reading: John 14:4–11

I heard the other day a trembling woman—I hope she will yet be rejoicing in the Lord—I heard her saying she was afraid she never should be saved, and I told her I was afraid so too, for she would not believe in Christ, but was always raising questions, and doubts, and peradventures. Well, she said, she did not know whether the Lord had begun a good work in her. I told her I did not know that either, and that I did not enquire about it; I knew what the gospel said, and that was, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ But she said, perhaps it was not God’s time.

I said, ‘Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.’ Ah! she said, but she could not believe. I asked her why she could not believe. Could she not believe what Christ said? Was he a liar? Could she dare to say that she could not believe her God? Well, she did not exactly mean that, but then there were her sins. But, said I, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ Well, she said, she hoped she should have the strivings of the Spirit, and that one day she should get right. ‘My sister,’ said I, ‘I charge you before God, do not get any hope out of that; your business is to come to Christ and to come to Christ now; but if you stop anywhere short of that, in any sort of feelings or experience, then you will never get to your journey’s end.’ A believing sinner’s business is with Jesus and not with the Spirit’s operations. The Spirit works salvation in him, but he is nowhere bidden to look to the Spirit for salvation. No man can come to the Father but by Christ.

For meditation: The fact that we cannot ‘save ourselves’ but have to ‘be saved’ is no excuse for anyone to sit back and hope for the best. God has revealed to us the way to be saved—by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 16:16; John 3:16–17; Romans 10:9; Ephesians 2:8) —and that step of faith is commanded, not suggested (Acts 16:30–31).

Sermon no. 523
26 July (1863)