The Parable of the Sower…

Jesus poses this question to His followers: What kind of soil are you?…

Are you hard soil, rocky soil, soil that is overgrown with thorns and thistles, or are you a healthy and nurturing type of soil, that’s ready to accept the seeds that are sown in you?

The human heart is like receptive soil to the seed of the Word of God.

The soil that the seed fell on represents four different categories of hearers’ hearts, measured by the four different reactions to the Word of God: the hard heart, the shallow heart, the crowded heart, and the fruitful heart.

The Parable of the Sower

The first thing necessary in order for us to respond positively to God’s offer, in the salvation of our souls through the gospel message, is for us to recognize the value of what He is offering.

What plain truths about Jesus, His Cross, and God’s kingdom reveal divisions among people, and why?

Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-19

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Truths: samples include (Jesus) is fully God and fully human;

He is the Messiah, our Savior, and King;

Belief in Jesus’ substitutionary, sacrificial death, burial, and Resurrection is the only way to be reconciled with the Father and to receive the Holy Spirit;

There is no other way to enter God’s presence than through the shed blood of Jesus Christ;

God’s kingdom is for those who live by grace through faith, now and forever;

Those who ultimately reject Jesus prefer the kingdom and rule of Satan over repentance and submission to God.

Divisions:
People’s responses to these truths show differences in outlook, worldview, and orientation.

Only God knows the ultimate responses each person gives to Jesus, but we divide at different points and times based on who we say Jesus is and what He does.

So who do you say Jesus is?

Jesus said of Himself, in John 14:6…

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

His name is Jesus (Savior), and in the Book of Acts we’re told…

Acts 4:11-12

11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’

12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

This is your invitation:

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)

Come join the Adventure!

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The Sovereignty of the LORD in Creation and History…

Praise to the Almighty Creator…

Quote:

“The sovereignty of God is that golden sceptre in his hand by which he will make all bow, either by his word or by his works, by his mercies or by his judgements.”
— Thomas Brooks

Psalm 33:1-22

Unbroken and incessant praise should characterize the lives of God’s people.

At the heart of this worship should be a clear declaration of God’s sovereignty over everything.

In this song of thanksgiving, the psalmist called upon the righteous to sing to the Lord for His absolute control over all the earth.

Specifically, he had in mind God’s rule over all the Gentile nations.

A specific occasion unknown to us prompted the writing of this psalm, one in which God delivered Israel from the threat of an invading nation.

Perhaps it was written following a great national victory like what Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 20) or Hezekiah (2 Kgs. 19) experienced over an encroaching nation.

Whatever the historical background, this psalm is an anonymous hymn of praise, one of only four psalms in Book I (Pss. 1-41) without a superscription.

The other untitled psalms are 1, 2, and 10.

This psalm is perfectly symmetrical, beginning with a three-verse introduction (vv. 1-3) and climaxing with a three-verse conclusion (vv. 20-22).

The main body is divided into two equal sections of eight verses each (vv. 4-11,12-19).

The twenty-two verses of the psalm, it has been suggested, were determined by the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

The psalmist calls upon the righteous to praise the Lord for His mighty Word, perfect attributes, and faithful deeds.

(vv. 1-2) The call to worship goes out to Israel in the first seven verses, then to the Gentiles as well in verse 8.

Praise is so beautiful and so compelling that the sweetest and finest possible instrumental accompaniment should be utilized—the harp and an instrument of ten strings.

(v. 3) The new song is the song of redemption. It follows the forgiveness of sins (Ps. 32) and belongs to all who have been cleansed by the precious blood of Christ.

But this song will be sung in a very special way by redeemed Israel at the outset of the Millennium (Rev. 14:3).

The new song celebrates the Word of the LORD and all His work.

His Words are absolutely true and righteous, unchanging and trustworthy.

All His works are done in faithfulness.

This is seen in creation—“seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night” (Gen. 8:22).

It is seen in providence. “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

And it is seen in redemption—“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

(v. 5) God is not only upright and faithful, upholding righteousness and justice, but the evidences of the goodness of the LORD are everywhere.

The greatness of God is seen in that He created the heavens and their starry host by no greater expenditure of energy than by speaking the energizing Word.

Just this easily did He confine the oceans within appointed limits.

Some see these two utterances as a poetic veiled reference to Israel as the stars of the heavens (Gen. 15:5) and to the Gentile nations as the raging seas, bottled up at last by the Lord Jesus at His Second Advent.

(v. 8-9) In any case, God is so great that all mankind should reverence Him and show Him the deepest respect.

His Word was the sound energy which became matter.

By His command all creation came into being.

(v. 10-11) Throughout human history the ungodly nations have collaborated to thwart God and to ruin His people.

But, as Burns said,

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley,” or, as we would say, they often go haywire!

God ultimately frustrates the cleverest plots hatched by His opponents. And nothing can hinder the accomplishment of His purposes.

He will always have the last word, and whatever He plans will come to pass.

(v. 11) “The LORD’s plans stand firm forever.”

Are you frustrated by inconsistencies you see in others, or even in yourself?

God is completely trustworthy—His intentions never change.

The Bible promises that good and perfect gifts come to us from the Creator who never changes (James 1:17).

When you wonder if there is anyone you can trust, remember that God is completely consistent.

Let Him counsel you, and then rely on His plans for your life.

(vv. 12-15) Only those people who align themselves with God and His revealed plans will know the fullness of His inheritance.

As God carries out His plans, it is with the full knowledge of our lives, circumstances, and needs.

From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind.

From His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth.

With penetrating gaze God observes every person on the earth.

No one escapes His perfect vision (cp. Heb. 4:13).

God who forms the hearts of all rules over all things in accordance with His own sovereign purposes.

So the pathway of our blessing lies in cooperating with God.

Happy is the nation that acknowledges Jehovah as its God. This is the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.

(vv. 14-18) God’s watching over us has two dimensions:

(1) He sees and understands our thoughts and motives.

The psalmist explains here that God made the human heart and therefore completely understands people.

John the apostle said that Jesus knew exactly what human nature was like, so no one can fool God (John 2:23-25).

(2) God watches over us with love and protection.

Knowing this should help us prioritize getting in tune with Him each day.

God knows what we are doing, and He guides us toward the right path if we listen to Him.

(vv. 16-17) The image of a warhorse represents military strength.

Because God rules and overrules every nation, leaders should never put their trust in their physical power.

Military might is not the basis for our hope.

Our hope is in God and His gracious offer to save us if we will trust in Him.

(vv. 18-19) This is not an ironclad guarantee that all believers will be delivered from death and starvation.

Thousands of Christian believers have been beaten to death, whipped, fed to lions, or executed (Romans 8:35-36; Hebrews 11:32-40).

God can (and often miraculously does) deliver His followers from pain and death; sometimes, though, for purposes known only to Him, He chooses not to.

When faced with this harsh reality, we must focus on the wise judgments of God.

The writer of this psalm was pleading for God’s watchful care and protection.

In times of crisis, we can place our hope in God.

(vv. 20-22) Whatever the circumstances, the people responded in faith to what they had heard in this call to rejoice.

The phrase We wait in hope for the LORD reaffirms their confident commitment to the Lord.

This they can do because He is our help (cp. 20:6) and our shield (cp. 3:3).

In this God the people trust (Heb. batach, “to attach oneself, depending upon”) because He is in control.

The psalm ends with a petition by the people, May your unfailing love rest upon us,

O LORD. He would sustain and support them through every crisis as they put their hope in Him.

Such hope is well-placed and will never disappoint the believer.
____

Max Lucado’s LifeLessons:

In Psalm 33, we can delight with the psalmist in a God who not only created everything, but whose plan for this world will stand forever.

Praise God whose plans stand forever and who triumphed over Satan at the cross.

Remember, Satan cannot penetrate the walls of the Great House of God.

Is it still hard to imagine how your struggle could lead to any good?

Still hard to conceive how your disease or debt or death could be a tool for anything worthwhile?

If so, then I’ve got one final example.

While not wanting to minimize your struggle, I must say yours is a cakewalk compared to this one.

A sinless Savior was covered with sin.

The author of life was placed in the cave of death.

Satan’s victory appeared sure.

Finally, the devil had scored on the right end of the court. And not only had he scored, he’d slam-dunked the MVP and left Him lying on the floor.

The devil had blown it with everyone from Sara to Peter, but this time he’d done it right.

The whole world had seen it.

The victory dance had already begun.

But all of a sudden there was a light in the tomb and a rumbling of the rock; then Friday’s tragedy emerged as Sunday’s Savior, and even Satan knew he’d been had.

He’d been a tool in the hand of the gardener. All the time he thought he was defeating heaven, he was helping heaven.

God wanted to prove His power over sin and death, and that’s exactly what He did.

And guess who helped Him do it?

Once again Satan’s lay-up becomes a foul-up.

Only this time, he didn’t give heaven some points, he gave heaven the championship game.

(From The Great House of God by Max Lucado)

Where are you struggling right now?

Is there some area in your life where you are experiencing defeat?

Remember the Cross and God’s ultimate victory over Satan, sin, and death.

Turn defeat into victory by praising and thanking God and trusting in Him.

As it is with the nations of the world, so it is in each of our individual lives, that God holds it ALL in the palm of His hands

Psalm 31:15
“My times are in Your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.”

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
____

Tuesday July 5, 2022
Worthy Brief

RESTORATION OF A NATION!

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.”
— Psalms 33:12

Throughout the United States yesterday, everyone celebrated the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence — a document through which leaders of the colonies in the New World broke free from the King of England.

The declaration begins:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

While revisionist historians are working hard to remove any trace of Christian/Biblical ideals from the foundations of America, today’s celebration finds its basis in a foundational document which appeals to the authority of a Divine Creator, one whom most of the founding fathers fully believed to have been the author and main subject of the Holy Bible, and who was the guarantor of certain “inalienable rights”.

So the Fourth of July – more than just a celebration of independence, ought also to be a day which recognizes God’s participation in the nation’s birth.

I’ve read and heard all kinds of advice about how America ought to be transformed, while a simple recognition of God’s covenant offer to a nation goes ignored.

The words found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 could be claimed and applied to any nation, but particularly one whose foundational documents and institutions have drawn their inspiration substantially from Biblical monotheism.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

IF we truly want to see healing brought to any nation, then this conditional covenant is for US and the restoration of our land will require our part in the covenant: humility, prayer and repentance, so that God can forgive our sin and heal our land!

True restoration and healing only comes through true repentance and God’s grace!

With so much work to be done — may restoration begin with us!

Your family in the Lord with much agape love,

George, Baht Rivka, Elianna & Obadiah
Baltimore, Maryland
____

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Jesus warns us about the narrow way…

Jesus speaking in Matthew 7:13-14:

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

So which path are you choosing to take?

Let God’s Word be a Lamp unto your feet.

It all starts with the wisdom and knowledge of God…

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov 9:10).

Proverbs 1:1-33

Solomon the son of David was the wisest, richest, and most honored of the kings of Israel (1 Kgs. 3:12, 13; 4:30, 31).

He spoke three thousand proverbs, but only some of them are preserved in this book.

These extend from 1:1 to 29:27.

(vv. 2–6) tell us why he wrote these proverbs. In brief, they provide practical wisdom for the living and management of life.

Here people may learn shrewdness and receive the kind of instruction that provides know-how.

Here they may learn to perceive the words of understanding, to discern between what is good and evil, profitable and worthless, helpful and harmful.

Here men are schooled in what is wise, righteous, proper, and honorable.

By listening to these proverbs the simple develop prudence or “savvy,” and young people gain insight and sanctified common sense.

Wise men will grow wiser by heeding these proverbs, and a man of understanding will learn how to guide himself and to advise others as well.

Is it not significant that a book addressed primarily to youth should announce at the very outset,

“A wise man will hear?”

That is what is meant by a wise person in the book of Proverbs.

It is one who is teachable. He is willing to listen and not do all the talking.

He is not an insufferable know-it-all.

The book is designed to enable a person to understand a proverb and an enigma, i.e., the lesson which often lies beneath the surface.

It helps him to grasp the meaning of wise sayings and the hidden truths contained in them.

(v. 7) Having stated his purpose in writing the proverbs, Solomon now gives his first and perhaps most important piece of instruction.

The beginning point for becoming a wise person is the fear of the LORD.

To fear the Lord does not mean to be frightened of Him.

Rather, it means to revere Him, to honor Him, to give Him the proper place in one’s life.

If a person does not start out at the right place, he cannot expect to end up at the right place.

Fearing the Lord is the place to begin in gaining wisdom to live life skillfully.

In contrast to the person who is wise and discerning because he fears the Lord, Solomon spotlights the fool.

Fools despise wisdom and discipline.

To despise means “to hold in contempt, to belittle, to ridicule” (Num. 15:31; Neh. 2:19).

If anyone holds God in contempt, he will never be a wise person, and he will tend to live his life in violation of God’s will.

This will bring trouble into his life.

As a man sows, that shall he also reap.

A person cannot break the laws of God. He can only break himself against them when he violates them.

Solomon is giving us an implicit choice: fear God or be a fool. There seems to be no middle ground.

In this present age of information and technology, we have plenty of head knowledge at our fingertips.

But true knowledge—what the Bible calls wisdom—is all too scarce.

Wisdom means far more than simply knowing a lot. It requires a basic mind-set that affects every aspect of life.

This mind-set is characterized by an eager desire to learn from God, from experience, and from others.

The foundation of true knowledge, or wisdom, is to fear the Lord, which means to revere, honor, and respect Him, to live in awe of His power, and to obey His Word.

Doing so will affect your identity, your attitudes, your actions, and your future.

Keep drawing close to God—learn who He is, why He created this world, and what He wants you to know.

Then you will be truly wise.

One of the most annoying types of people is the know-it-all, the person who has a dogmatic opinion about everything, is closed to anything new, resents discipline, and refuses to learn.

Solomon calls this kind of person a fool.

Don’t be a know-it-all. Instead, be open to the advice of others, especially those who know you well and can give you valuable insight and counsel.

Discover what others have to teach you; learn how to learn from others. Remember, only God knows it all.

(v. 8) Actions do, indeed, speak louder than our words.

This is especially true in the family.

Children learn values, morals, and priorities by observing how their parents act and react every day.

How they understand the world is shaped by how their parents go about their daily living.

If parents and grandparents exhibit a deep reverence for and dependence on God, children will catch these attitudes.

If you have children in your care, let them see your respect for God.

Be an example of godly living by praying, worshiping, and reading the Bible with them and with others.

Make sure they see how you act out your faith in a way that’s consistent with God’s Word.

Proverbs places the responsibility for raising children to become wise adults squarely on fathers and mothers.

Parents must bring their children up to honor God and know His Word.

If you are a parent, rely on God for help every day.

Read the Bible and seek wise Christian counsel on how to disciple your children.

If you are living at home with your parent or parents, ask God to teach you through them.

(vv. 10-19) Sin can often be enticing because it cloaks itself in the disguises of fun, pleasure, happiness, riches, comfort, popularity, and fame.

Sin convinces us that we deserve these things at any cost.

When we refuse to listen to and live by God’s truth, our appetites become our masters, and we’ll do anything to satisfy them.

Sin, even when attractive, is deadly.

We must learn to make choices not on the basis of flashy appeal or short-range pleasure but in view of the long-range effects.

Wisdom for this is clearly outlined in God’s Word.

Sometimes this will mean steering clear of people who want to draw us into activities that we know are sinful.

We can’t be friendly with sin and expect to remain unaffected.

So go ahead and enjoy the life God has given you, but enjoy it within the boundaries articulated in His Word.

Eventually, sin will always lead to devastating consequences.

Being “greedy for money” is one of Satan’s surest traps.

He sets the bait when he plants the suggestion in our minds that we can’t live without something.

Then the desire for it fans its own fire until it becomes an all-consuming obsession as we move closer and closer to getting it, oblivious of the trap where it rests.

Ask God for wisdom to recognize any greedy desire before it closes around you and won’t let you go.

If that happens, it is exceedingly difficult to get free.

If you daily seek God’s wisdom, you will have more discerning eyes to recognize and avoid the traps in front of you.

As Ravi Zacharias said,

“Sin will always take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”

(v. 20) The picture of wisdom calling aloud in the streets is personification—a literary device used to make wisdom come alive for us, speaking and acting as if it were a real person.

Wisdom is not a separate being; it is the mind of God revealed.

One way to see wisdom in action is to read the stories about Jesus in the Gospels, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

When Jesus, the Son of God, lived a human life on earth, He lived it perfectly.

He is the perfect model for what wisdom in action looks like.

So to understand how to become wise, we should listen to wisdom calling and instructing us in the book of Proverbs and study wisdom in action in the life of Jesus.

For a New Testament call to wisdom, see James 1:5.

In the book of Proverbs, those who are simple or fools do not have a mental deficiency but a character deficiency.

Foolish people are not dumb or stupid, but they are naive to God’s way of living and unable or unwilling to tell right from wrong or good from bad.

(vv. 23-28) God gladly pours out His heart and makes known His thoughts to us.

To receive His words, however, we must be willing to listen.

Not paying attention to God, refusing to listen to Him, ignoring His advice, and rejecting His correction are all evidences of pride.

Pride is thinking more highly of our own ideas and courses of action than God’s.

If we think that we know better than God or that we have no need of His direction, we are showing that foolish pride has a grip on our hearts.

And pride is so dangerous because it hardens our hearts against the only one who can help us see what is really true and help us live in a way that is truly free.

(v. 31) Many proverbs point out the consequences people experience (the “bitter fruit of living their own way”) for the destructive choices they make.

Faced with either choosing God’s wisdom or persisting in rebellious independence, many decide to go it alone.

The problems such people create for themselves will destroy them.

Don’t ignore God’s advice, even if it is painful for the present. It will keep you from greater pain in the future.

Paul in Romans 6:23 warns us…

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
____

Max Lucado’s Life Lessons (Proverbs 1:1–33)…

Proverbs provide wisdom and guidance for living an obedient life. Simple words and common sense give us guidelines for daily life.

The Proverbs contain many instructions to help steer readers away from sin.

Listen to this advice and grow in wisdom. God’s wisdom is superior to all others.

Inspiration Peter announced:

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Many recoil at such definitiveness.

John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 sound primitive in this era of broadbands and broad minds.

The world is shrinking, cultures are blending, borders are bending; this is the day of inclusion.

All roads lead to heaven, right?

But can they?

The sentence makes good talk-show fodder, but is it accurate?

Can all approaches to God be correct?

Islam says Jesus was not crucified.

Christians say He was.

Both can’t be right.

Judaism refuses the claim of Christ as the Messiah.

Christians accept it.

Someone’s making a mistake.

Buddhists look toward Nirvana, achieved after no less than 547 reincarnations.

Christians believe in one life, one death, and an eternity of enjoying God.

Doesn’t one view exclude the other?

Humanists do not acknowledge a creator of life.

Jesus claims to be the Source of life.

One of the two speaks folly.

Spiritists read your palms.

Christians consult the Bible.

Hindus perceive a plural and impersonal God.

Christ-followers believe “there is no other God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4).

Somebody is wrong.

And, most supremely, every non-Christian religion says, “You can save you.”

Jesus says, “My death on the Cross saves you.”

How can all religions lead to God when they are so different? . . .

Every path does not lead to God!

Jesus blazed a stand-alone trail void of self-salvation.

He cleared a one-of-a-kind passageway uncluttered by human effort.

Christ came, not for the strong, but for the weak; not for the righteous, but for the sinner.

We enter His way upon confession of our need, not completion of our deeds.

He offers a unique-to-Him invitation in which He works and we trust, He dies and we live, He invites and we believe.
(From 3:16 by Max Lucado)

Today you may be bombarded by people giving advice—talk show hosts, psychics, psychologists.

Take more time to listen to God than to television.

At the end of the day, assess which words of wisdom you applied (or should have).

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
____

Monday, July 04
Today in the Word
Wisdom from Above

A FATHER’S WARNING

Proverbs 1:10-19

10 My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent.

11 If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;

Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;

12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;

13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,

We shall fill our houses with spoil;

14 Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse”—

15 My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;

16 For their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed blood.

17 Surely, in vain the net is spread
In the sight of any bird;

18 But they lie in wait for their own blood,
They lurk secretly for their own lives.

19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;

It takes away the life of its owners.
____

For centuries, parents have warned their children not to fall in with the wrong crowd.

They worry that the bad behaviors of other young people will influence their children.

This can even be true later in our lives; the people we choose to spend our time with can have a profound influence on us.

In today’s Proverb, a father talks to his son about the dangers of following “sinful” men (v. 10).

One commentator compares these sinful men to a modern-day gang.

The gang offers protection and invites the young newcomer to join them (v. 10).

They promise that if he goes along with their evil schemes to hurt and steal, he will get rich (vv. 11–14).

The father’s warning is clear.

“My son, if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them” (v. 10).

The father sees beyond the immediate lure of their promises.

Nothing that this sinful group does will prosper. In fact, they will bring harm down on themselves and on his son.

“Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it” (v. 19).

This passage can be interpreted not only as a relationship between a father and son, but as God speaking to His people.

In Proverbs, the covenant relationship is explored using poetic language.

Here, Solomon paints a vivid picture of the dangers of murder, theft, and covetousness, clearly referencing God’s commands given to His people:

“You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13),

“You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15), and

“You shall not covet” (Ex. 20:17).

With compelling imagery, the author shows the dire results of breaking God’s commands.

We must listen to the guidance given by our heavenly Father. He truly knows best.

It is easy to let other voices talk us into doing things we know are not right, things that break God’s commands.

We may justify our behavior because it produces pleasing short-term results.

The warning is clear: be careful of the company you keep!

Pray with Us
Lord, sometimes we have the wisdom to recognize what is right, but we lack the nerve to follow through. Today we ask for the discipline to choose wisdom above personal gain or man’s good opinion.
____

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The importance of having communion with God at the start of each day, and having our work periods interspersed with rest periods…

God always multiplies back to us whatever we give Him, and by giving Him our time at the start of each day there will be dividends that we will receive as a result of that investment.

George Mueller said regarding the importance of prayer in his ministry:

“I get more accomplished in 4 hours that is preceded with One Hour of Prayer, than I ever would have accomplished in the 5 hours without the prayer!”

As Christians, we also need to learn how to follow Jesus’ example and intersperse rest periods in our very busy schedules.

Mark 6:30-32
The Message

Supper for Five Thousand
30-31 The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.”

For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.

32 So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place by themselves.
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(vv. 30-32) When the disciples had returned from their mission, Jesus took them away to rest.

Doing God’s work is very important, but Jesus recognized that to do it effectively we need periodic rest and renewal.

Jesus Needed Rest and So Do We!

Learning to set boundaries around our time.

As we study the Bible, we find Jesus Himself setting boundaries around His time.

Mark 4:35-40

“That day when evening came, Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat.

There were also other boats with Him.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.

The disciples woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He then said to His disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’”
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Here’s what is so great about this passage:

Jesus sees that there is work to be done. He sees the crowd. He knows people need to be healed, demons need to be cast out, and lessons need to be taught.

But He still tells His disciples to get in the boat, and once there, He falls asleep.

Yes, the needs of the people are urgent, and their requests (or cries) for healing must have been compelling, but Jesus knows that He needs to stop and rest.

If even Jesus needs to stop and rest in the midst of a chaotic world, with all of the important things He has to do, don’t you think we need rest too?

I think we need to follow Jesus’ example and set boundaries on our time, in order to live lives full of what we were meant to do, not what we think we’re supposed to do.

God’s pattern in the Bible is one day in seven for rest, where we take at least one day out every week and give it to God.

We need to follow Jesus’ example and schedule our work, but also schedule our R & R periods.

We need to have balance in our lives, and so we need to learn, not only how to work hard, but we also need to learn how to play hard too, as we see that Jesus did with His disciples, in Mark 6:31.
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Sunday, July 3
The Winning Walk
by Dr Ed Young

SOLITUDE AND REPLENISHMENT

Some people never really rest. They are so busy with the activities of life that they appear to be a blur: always on the way to somewhere; never slowing down.

Jesus did not have that problem. He purposely sought solitude for spiritual replenishment.

He seemed to know just how important such times were for “re-charging” His spiritual battery, and He took advantage of them at every opportunity.

What about you? How long has it been since you were quiet and still in the presence of God, with no agenda other than a desire to sit at His feet?

Many view solitude as a negative prospect, and are alone only if, and when, it is absolutely necessary.

But solitude rightly pursued and experienced energizes our interaction with others, and nurtures our soul.

When Iowans Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey became the parents of septuplets (that’s seven babies, folks!) they were exponentially overwhelmed with the responsibilities faced by every new mom and dad.

Seven to rock, seven to feed, seven to change, seven to bathe and cuddle and hold…what a challenge!

But this young, Christian couple said, while they appreciated the outpouring of help they received, they looked forward to the time they could be “alone” with their young family for an entire evening.

Once, after bringing the babies home, this husband and wife reported that they got in their car, drove to a nearby grain silo, parked behind it, and cried and prayed together.

They instinctively knew that stepping out of the fray for a few stolen moments away would strengthen them for the task at hand.

All of us have demands on our time and become weary of life’s grind.

Time alone with God without phones, pagers, prayer partners, portable cd players or other human or technological distractions, is critical for allowing His Spirit to fill us.

In solitude, we can receive from God His life-giving breath, emerging with renewed sensitivity and compassion for others, and intensified love for Him.

This is true replenishment from the source of all strength and truth.

Memory Verse

Mark 6:31
And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest awhile.”
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When push comes to shove and you have no place to turn to except to God…

Christina Baker’s Testimony…

From Hope in 60 Seconds
by Christina Baker

UNDER ARREST

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.
— Psalm 139:7–10

I’M NOT SURE HOW MUCH TIME HAD GONE BY BEFORE

I noticed the red and blue lights flashing behind me. My first thought was, Why am I getting pulled over? followed quickly by, I have drugs in the car; what am I going to do!

I tried to get rid of the pot I was smoking before I pulled the car over into the parking lot of a bank.

I had just gotten off work at the university and was making a quick stop at my dealer’s house before going home.

The officer came up to the driver’s side, and I lowered my window, just a crack.

Smoke from the weed seeped out of the open window into the officer’s face. It was unmistakable. “What’s the problem, Officer?” I asked.

“Ma’am, your registration is expired. Are you aware of that?” “Nope.”

It was the truth. I was forgetting a lot of things lately; paying my bills was the last thing on my mind.

He could tell I was high. “Ma’am, I’m going to ask you to step out of the vehicle.”

“Officer, why? What did I do?” I asked him.

“Here’s my license,” and I started looking through my purse.

“Step out of the vehicle, ma’am.” I opened the door, and more smoke came out.

“Why are you pulling me over, Officer?”

I asked again as I stepped out of the car. “Ma’am, put your hands behind your back,” he said firmly.

“Why? What’s going on?”

“You’re under arrest.” He put me in handcuffs, then walked me back to his cruiser.

He opened the back door and gestured me inside.

I’d had many close calls before, but this was the first time I’d been caught.

The police had stopped me before and searched my car, but I had somehow managed to throw all the drugs out the window before getting pulled over.

The officers had searched the whole car but found nothing and had to let me go.

After that, I felt untouchable. I was sure the officer would release me at any moment.

“Is there anything in the vehicle I need to know about?” he asked. “Nope,” I lied.

I wasn’t belligerent; I was just playing the fool. I knew better than to admit any guilt whatsoever.

He walked back to my car, and I leaned over to watch him through the windshield.

I saw him pull out my purse from between the front seats. The drugs were in plain sight, along with other drug paraphernalia.

I had at least a half dozen prescription bottles in there, some with the labels ripped off, all full of pills I had obtained from several doctors and pharmacies all over town.

He walked back to the cruiser—his hands holding prescription bottles, a bong, and the drugs he found in my purse—then placed everything on the hood of the car.

Looking at me from outside the police car, he said, “Miss Cabrera, do you know why you are going to jail tonight?”

“Nope.” Still playing the fool. Still feeling untouchable.

“Okay, then.” He got into the front seat, closed the door, and began writing up the report.

“Am I really going to jail?” “Yes, ma’am,” he replied without even giving me a glance, “you are really going to jail.”

The handcuffs dug into my wrists. Suddenly, I no longer felt untouchable.

There was no getting out of it this time. He had found everything.

The jig was up. I felt a surge of anger. I looked up and prayed what may have been my first “prayer.”

“Why are You doing this to me?”

Like my father, I was a self-proclaimed atheist, but even as I sat in the back of the police car, it was as if I had this sense that I wasn’t alone.

I blamed God. Even acknowledging Him was something new.

What have I ever done? I said silently,

Who will take care of my son?

I was breaking. I had just been arrested for driving high with drugs in my car, but I was the victim.

I blamed God for all of it—everything bad I had ever gone through raced through my mind, a litany of punishments He’d given me.

This is all Your fault.

Except, I didn’t believe God existed. Did I?

“You are putting me through something else,” I whispered to, well, to whatever was out there listening.

We drove in silence. Occasionally, a noise would come over the radio, and the sound would make me jump, but the officer said nothing.

It was a clear but very humid night as we drove along a remote, dark road in Houston, Texas.

I felt the cruiser slow down and pull to the shoulder, then stop.

Now I was scared. I was still high, and I had no idea why we had stopped in the middle of nowhere with no one around.

The officer got out, opened my door, and said, “Who do you want to call to let them know you are going to jail?”

“My mom,” I blurted out.

Evan was with my mom. She took care of him while I was at work.

The officer had possession of my cell phone along with everything else.

He opened my flip phone, looked for my mom’s name, typed it into his phone, then dialed her number.

He let me lean outside the car, and he put his phone on speaker.

It was a little after midnight. My mind flashed back to earlier that morning when my mom had told me,

“Cristina, I have a bad feeling; please don’t go anywhere this evening.”

As usual, I ignored her, but now she was about to get a call from a police officer in the middle of the night.

Every parent’s worst nightmare. My mom answered. “Hello?”

“Good evening, ma’am. This is Officer Jackson. I have Cristina here with me, and I wanted to let you know that your daughter will be going to jail tonight.”

My mom let out a cry I will never forget.

Pure anguish. He positioned the phone near me.

“Mom?” I said. She was weeping; I could feel her grief on the other end of the phone.

“Cristina, I told you not to go anywhere tonight. I told you something bad was going to happen!”

She just kept sobbing. “Mom, I’m so sorry,” I interrupted.

“I’ll be okay, Mom. I’m so sorry for everything I’ve put you through.”

My heart broke as I listened to her weeping.

My mom knew what kind of life I lived and had tried desperately to help me. She knew I was on drugs. She knew I was an alcoholic.

She knew about my double life, and as time passed, it became very clear to her that I may not make it out alive.

Her tears flowed with deep sadness, grief, and disappointment.

“Ma’am, I just wanted to let you know that your daughter is okay. She is safe. She is not injured in any way, but she will not be coming home tonight.

She is going to the Harris County Jail.”

“Thank you, Officer.” Her voice cracked.

“Thank you for letting me know.” He hung up and looked at me.

“You seem like a nice girl. Why are you living this kind of life?”

“I don’t know,” I said miserably.

This wasn’t the first time an officer had asked me that.

When I lived in Florida, a police officer had asked me the same question.

Why am I living this kind of life? I thought to myself.

I could feel the officer’s kindness toward me, even though I had been cocky, rude, and dishonest with him thirty minutes before.

Looking back now, any officer could have pulled me over, but the one who did was compassionate and gentle.

I have no idea what he saved me from that night.

Perhaps I would have gotten into an accident. Maybe I would have hurt someone.

I’ll never know, but today I look back on that moment full of gratitude.

This moment was a divine intervention. A moment when heaven and earth collided to save the life of a lost, drug-addicted girl.

I am grateful that this officer patrolled that road on that night and arrested me.

We pulled into a parking garage with all the other police cruisers, and I had no idea what to expect.

There were other people there, also arrested for driving under the influence.

I was taken inside for processing and pictures, and I started sobering up as everything became very real.

We all waited inside a holding cell for our bails to post, and reality hit me like a ton of bricks.

Are you going to continue to live like this?

What are you doing with your life?

I wasn’t sure if I asked myself that question or if another voice asked it of me.

But I just kept seeing Evan’s face—the face of my precious son—and deep inside I knew something in my life had to change.

Will I ever get out of this? Will I ever change? Someone help me.
____

Cristina Baker
“Hope in 60 Seconds: Encountering the God of the Impossible”

Available on Kindle: $11.99
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Deliver us from Evil…

How to prepare each day for the battle ahead…

Satan and his minions are ever present to try to discourage us and keep us from following God’s path.

With that in mind, we must begin each day by putting our heads on right, and thereby prepare for each day’s challenges.

In order for us to do this God tells us to put on our spiritual armor daily.

Lord deliver us from Evil…

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus is instructing His disciples how to pray, and in verse 13 he says,

DELIVER US FROM THE EVIL ONE.”

Each of God’s people is a target of Satan’s opposition and attack.

On our own, we cannot overcome or even resist his evil purposes.

For this reason, we must rely completely on God, praying constantly for wisdom and strength to defeat the devil’s schemes.

In the prayer that Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17, we learn that the world is a tremendous battleground where the forces under Satan’s power and those under God’s authority are at war.

Satan and his forces are motivated by bitter hatred for Jesus Christ and His forces.

Jesus prayed for His disciples, including those of us who follow Him today.

He prayed that God would keep His chosen believers safe from Satan’s power, setting them apart and making them pure and holy, uniting them through His truth. This all happens when we are born-again.

How do we get eternal life?

Jesus tells us clearly here—by knowing God the Father Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Eternal life requires entering into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

When we admit our sin and turn away from it, Jesus’ love lives in us by the Holy Spirit.

Before Jesus came to earth, He was one with God.

At this point, when His mission on earth was almost finished, Jesus was asking His Father to restore Him to His original place of honor and authority.

Jesus’ resurrection and ascension—and Stephen’s dying exclamation (Acts 7:56)—attest that Jesus did return to His exalted position at the right hand of God.

Listen to what Jesus says in John 17:10-12..

10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I AM GLORIFIED IN THEM.

11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name.

Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
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What did Jesus mean when he said “I am glorified in them?”

We glorify God when we reveal His presence and character in the way we live.

The lives of Jesus’ disciples reveal Jesus’ character and by our operating and walking in His character (in His name) we show the world that He is present in us.

And in verses 15-19 Jesus says:

15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.

16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

17 Sanctify them by Your truth.

Your word is truth.

18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.

19 And for their sakes I SANCTIFY Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
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To “Sanctify” means to make holy (i.e., morally and spiritually pure, whole, separated from evil and dedicated to God) and to separate or set apart (for God’s purposes).

The evening before His death, Jesus prays that His disciples will be a holy people.

He prays for them to be separated from evil in the world for the purpose of worshiping and serving God and fulfilling His purposes on earth.

They must be set apart in order to be in a close relationship with a holy God, to live for Him and to be like Him.

The Holy Spirit accomplishes this process of sanctification as Jesus’ followers devote themselves to living by the truth revealed to them by the Spirit (cf. 14:17; 16:13).

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
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Thursday, June 30

God At Eventide
by Two Listeners

IMMUNE FROM EVIL

Evil was conquered by Me, and to all who rely on Me there is immunity from it.

Turn evil aside with the darts I provide.

1. Rejoicing in tribulation is one dart.

2. Practicing My Presence is another.

3. Self-emptying is another.

4. Claiming My Power over temptation is another

You will find many of these darts as you tread My Way and you will learn to use them adroitly, swiftly.

Each is adapted to the need of the moment.

Now unto Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
— Jude 1:24-25
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The Righteous and the Wicked Contrasted…

The Way of the Righteous and the End of the Ungodly…

Psalm 1:1-6

Life offers two roads to travel—the way of the righteous or the way of the wicked.

God provides for, protects, and nourishes the righteous.

The Way of the Godly (1:1-3)…

The godly are abundantly blessed because they do not live according to the sinful philosophies, practices, or associations of fallen men but are deeply rooted in God’s Word.

1:1a. This psalm begins with the emphatic declaration that God’s abundant favor will rest upon the person who lives a truly God-centered life.

In the original language, blessed is repeated. This is the Hebrew method of indicating the plural, intensifying its meaning.

Thus, the phrase should read, “O, how very happy” or “the happinesses!”

In reality, this soul satisfaction is pleasure found in the Lord himself.

This promise of blessing is precisely what Jesus announced in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12).

True happiness is the experience of all who trust in the Lord (cp. Pss. 16:11; 21:6; 34:8).

The righteous are genuinely satisfied in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). 1:1b,c,d.

This God-blessed life is first described negatively, or what the godly person does not practice.

First, He does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, meaning he refuses the secular philosophy and humanistic values of the godless.

He refuses the worldview that places man at the center of the universe and entices him to live by his own standards of morality and pursuits of pleasure.

Second, neither does the righteous person stand in the way of sinners.

This infers that his personal behavior resists the lure of the crowd to participate in their carnal activities and sensual living.

Third, the godly person does not sit in the seat of mockers, meaning he refuses to associate with those who scoff at God.

He avoids close relationships with blasphemers, infidels, and atheists, no matter how prosperous they may be, because “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33).

1:2. Positively, the delight of the godly is in the law of the LORD.

The person who knows genuine joy reads and relishes God’s Word.

This hunger for the Bible is a clear indication of the new birth as his new nature longs for the truths of God.

This new appetite for God’s truth leads him to meditate upon the Word day and night.

He constantly sets his mind on the truths of the Bible, throughout the day focusing on Scripture because it reveals the glory of God and His supremacy.

(vv. 2-3) These two verses hold simple wisdom: The more we delight in God’s presence, the more fruitful we will be.

On the other hand, the more we allow those who ridicule God and faith to affect our thoughts and attitudes, the more we will be cut off from our source of nourishment.

We must engage and welcome unbelievers if we are to witness to them, but we must not adopt their sinful behavior and scornful sarcasm.

If you want despair, spend time with cynics and critics; if you want God’s joy, spend time with those who love God, His Word, and His people.

We can learn how to follow God by meditating on His Word.

This has become difficult in an age of soundbites and banner headlines.

Meditating means spending time reading, thinking, marking, and reviewing what we have read.

It means asking how we must change and grow so we will live as God wants.

Meditating on and understanding God’s Word are the first steps toward applying it to your everyday life.

If you want to follow God more closely, you must take time to know what He says.

This “law of the LORD” refers to ALL of Scripture.

In it God reveals to us His will, His absolute truths, His love for us, and His divine nature.

The more we know of the whole scope of God’s Word, the more resources we will have to guide us in our daily decisions.

The phrase They prosper in all they do does not mean that God’s people have immunity from failure or difficulties.

Nor does it guarantee health, wealth, or happiness.

What the Bible means by prosperity is this: When we apply God’s wisdom, the fruit (results or by-products) we bear will be good and will receive God’s approval.

Just as a tree soaks up water and bears luscious fruit, we are to soak up God’s Word and produce actions and attitudes that honor Him.

To achieve anything worthwhile, we must have God’s Word in our hearts.

(V. 4) Chaff is the outer shell (or husk) that must be removed to get to valuable kernels of grain.

In the ancient world, chaff was removed by processes called threshing and winnowing.

After plants were cut, they were crushed by a threshing sledge, and then the pieces were thrown into the air.

Chaff is very light and would be carried away by even the slightest wind, while the good grain would fall back to the earth.

Chaff is a symbol of a faithless life that drifts along worthlessly without direction.

Good grain is a symbol of a faithful life that God can use.

Choose His direction, and your life will be fruitful.

(V. 6) What joy to know that God is watching the paths we walk each day.

We may feel like He keeps His eye on us in order to criticize us for what we do wrong along the way, but this is not true.

God sees us with loving eyes, protecting us, caring for us, and keeping us from stumbling on the journey (121:3-5).

Look for signs of His care for you today, and bask in the thought that He is guiding and helping you on your daily journey.

And so let us follow the faithful road.

God’s rewards supersede the benefits of the wicked; and He alone can give you Shalom-peace so that you can lay down and sleep and awake refreshed and sustained.

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
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Wednesday, June 29
The Spirit Filled Believer
Written by Dick Mills

A SCRIPTURAL CUTTING EDGE
Part Three

“He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water”
— Psalm 1:3

The word planted in this verse is the Hebrew word shatal (shaw-thal’). In his concordance, Dr. James Strong uses a succinct and terse expression to define this root word: “to transplant.” Thus this verse is a description of our new status as Christians.

As subjects of the kingdom of God, you and I are “transplanted” trees.

Looking back over the past three days’ lessons, we read:

1) “Now is the ax laid to the root of the trees.” This verse had to do with severing genetic weaknesses from our lives.

2) “If the tree is cut down, there is hope that it will sprout again.” We are promised a reviving and a renewal after our family tree is pruned.

3) “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.” After our pruning, we the righteous will be like transplanted trees drawing directly from the rivers of divine life.

In these verses, the Lord is telling us that as new creatures in Christ, our renewed family tree will be better than ever. It will have plenty of moisture. It will be fruitful, and its foliage will not wither away.

All of us can go through this threefold process. Let’s allow the Lord to:

1) cut away anything in us that is detrimental to our Christian witness,

2) renew and revive our lives, and

3) manifest the fruit of the life of Christ in us as we draw from the water of life.

Our new transplanted life will result in abundant health, happiness, and harvest.

Source: The Spirit-Filled Believer’s Daily Devotional by Dick Mills
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Hang on…

Help is on the way…

Hebrews 10

In OT times the people were kept at a distance; now in Christ we are brought near through the blood of His cross.

Therefore we are encouraged to draw near. This exhortation assumes that all believers are now priests because we are told to have boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.

The common people during the Jewish economy were barred from the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place; only the priests could enter the first room, and only the high priest could enter the second.

Now that is all changed. God has no special place where only a special caste of men may approach Him.

Instead, all believers may come into His presence by faith at any time and from any place on earth.

Our approach is by a new and living way.

New here may have the meaning of “newly slain” or “newly made.”

Living seems to be a reference to Jesus in resurrection, therefore, to a living Savior.

This way was opened through the veil, that is, His flesh. This clearly teaches that the veil between the two compartments of the tabernacle was a type of the body of our Lord.

In order for us to have access into God’s presence, the veil had to be rent, that is, His body had to be broken in death.

This reminds us that we cannot draw near by Christ’s sinless life, but only by His vicarious death.

Only through the mortal wounds of the Lamb can we go in.

Every time we enter God’s presence in prayer or worship, let us remember that the privilege was bought for us at tremendous cost.

We not only have great confidence when we enter the presence of God; we also have a great High Priest over the house of God.

Even though we are priests (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6), yet we still need a Priest ourselves.

Christ is our great High Priest, and His present ministry for us assures our continued welcome before God.

Let us draw near.

This is the believer’s blood-bought privilege. How wonderful beyond all words that we are invited to have audience, not with this world’s celebrities, but with the Sovereign of the universe!

The extent to which we value the invitation is shown by the manner in which we respond to it.

There is a fourfold description of how we should be spiritually groomed in entering the throne room.

1. With a true heart. The people of Israel drew near to God with their mouth, and honored Him with their lips, but their heart was often far from Him (Matt. 15:8).

Our approach should be with utter sincerity.

2. In full assurance of faith. We draw near with utter confidence in the promises of God and with the firm conviction that we shall have a gracious reception into His presence.

3. Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.

This can be brought about only by the new birth.

When we trust Christ, we appropriate the value of His blood.

Figuratively speaking, we sprinkle our hearts with it, just as the Israelites sprinkled their doors with the blood of the Passover lamb.

This delivers us from an evil conscience.

Our testimony is:

Conscience now no more condemns us, For His own most precious blood

Once for all has washed and cleansed us,

Cleansed us in the eyes of God.

—Frances Bevan

4, And our bodies washed with pure water. Again this is symbolic language.

Our bodies represent our lives. The pure water might refer either to the word (Eph 5:25, 26), to the Holy Spirit (John 7:37–39), or to the Holy Spirit using the word in cleansing our lives from daily defilement.

We are cleansed once for all from the guilt of sin by the death of Christ, but cleansed repeatedly from the defilement of sin by the Spirit through the word (see John 13:10).

Thus we might summarize the four requisites for entering God’s presence as sincerity, assurance, salvation, and sanctification.

I’m verse 23 we find the second exhortation is for us to hold fast the confession of our hope.

Nothing must be allowed to turn us from the staunch confession that our only hope is in Christ.

For those who were tempted to give up the future, unseen blessings of Christianity for the present, visible things of Judaism, there is the reminder that He who promised is faithful.

His promises can never fail; no one who trusts in Him will ever be disappointed.

The Savior will come, as He has promised, and His people will be with Him and like Him forever.

Let us remember that we have significant privileges associated with our new life in Christ:

(1) We have personal access to God through Christ and can draw near to him without an elaborate system (10:22);

(2) We can grow in faith, overcome doubts and questions, and have deepening relationships with God (10:23);

(3) We can inspire and cheer one another on as believers (10:24); and

(4) We can worship together (10:25).

To neglect Christian fellowship would mean giving up the encouragement, motivation, and help of other Christians that we need.

We gather together to learn from each other, refresh our faith, and strengthen one another in the Lord.

As we get closer to the day of Christ’s return, we will face many spiritual struggles, and perhaps times of severe persecution as evil forces grow in strength.

Difficulties, disillusionment, or busyness should never be excuses for missing church services.

Rather, they should motivate us to make an even greater effort to be faithful in meeting with other believers and participating in mutual encouragement.
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From Max Lucado’s LifeLessons:

Once the author told that Jesus’ death surpassed any earthly sacrifice, he encouraged the Hebrew Christians to have confidence.

Jesus’ death not only provides salvation, but also great confidence for Christians.

We can step boldly before the Lord in prayer, and boldly into the world in service and witness.

Jesus has already won the battle!

Picture it this way. Imagine that you are an ice skater in competition.

You are in first place with one more round to go.

If you perform well, the trophy is yours.

You are nervous, anxious, and frightened.

Then, only minutes before your performance, your trainer rushes to you with the thrilling news:

“You’ve already won!

The judges tabulated the scores, and the person in second place can’t catch you. You are too far ahead.”

Upon hearing that news, how will you feel?

Exhilarated!

And how will you skate? Timidly? Cautiously?

Of course not. How about courageously and confidently?

You bet you will. You will do your best because the prize is yours.

You will skate like a champion because that is what you are!

You will hear the applause of victory. . . .

The point is clear: the truth will triumph.

The father of truth will win, and the followers of truth will be saved.

(From The Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado)

If you are a child of God, claim your victory over sin!

Be confident. Nothing can ever take you out of God’s hand. No one can ever take away your salvation. No matter what happens, you are always His.

And Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 about Striving for a Crown…

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?

Run in such a way that you may obtain it.

And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.

Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.

Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty.

Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air, but I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
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Tuesday, June 28
The Cutting Edge

HELP IS ON ITS WAY
by Larry Ollison

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
— Hebrews 10:23

God’s Word tells us to hold tightly and not release the confession of our hope.

We must believe that God is willing and able to meet our every need. We must never doubt His promises and we must never doubt that His promises are for us.

A lady in my church approached me with a problem. She wanted prayer. She wanted deliverance from the problem that had entangled her for years.

After explaining the problem to me in great detail, she looked at me and said,

“Do you think there is any possibility that God can solve this problem?”

At that point I showed her a promise in God’s Word that pertained to her situation.

When she saw God’s promise in His Word, I could see her countenance change.

All of a sudden, she had hope that help was on its way.

When the world approaches us with a problem, we must give them hope.

We must instill in them God’s answer to their problem. And God’s answer is found in His Word.

When we speak His Word and give them hope, then they will feel like help is on its way.

They may not be in faith, but they have hope and if they continue in their belief and confession of hope without wavering, then their confession of hope will become rhema in their heart and faith will be born.

Romans 5:5 tells us that hope does not disappoint.

This is a principle in God’s Word that we must remember as we witness to the world.

Hope brings peace and is an anticipation of the deliverance that is on its way.

Hope will encourage and give joy and strength to the oppressed.

When someone’s back is against the wall and it looks like there is no way out, hope delivered by a man or woman of God will bring freshness and peace to the heart of the oppressed.

We must always remember that hope is a godly quality and is a result of His promise spoken to the hopeless.

— Larry Ollison Ministries
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Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves…

Give me Jesus…

Salvation comes to us as a gift, free of charge; but it did not come cheap.

It cost God everything!

In order to Avail yourself of this gift you have to receive it, and that happens as you obey the gospel message and receive Jesus as both your Lord and Savior.

As Covenant children of God, followers of Christ, we follow Jesus’ example and this is what the God kind of love looks like, as we become the distributors of God’s LOVE and LIGHT into all the dark corners of this world.

When James Calvert went out to the cannibal island of Fiji with the message of the gospel, the captain of the ship in which he traveled tried to talk him out of going.

“You will risk your life and all those with you if you go among such savages,” he said.

Calvert’s magnificent reply was, “We died before we came here.”

In that sense it is possible to be dead even though you are alive.

Corrie Ten Boom’s life offers a modern example of this principle.

Her remarkable story is told in the book The Hiding Place.

She lived with her family in Holland just before World War II broke out.

The Nazi military machine was beginning to press in on European Jews like the jaws of a vice. Jews who had any chance were fleeing Germany and other neighboring countries, but the German military machine was on the alert to capture any fleeing Jews.

In response, an underground railroad was formed among compassionate people to assist the Jews to escape.

Corrie Ten Boom’s home was part of the underground system.

Eventually, she and her sister were arrested and condemned to a German concentration camp for their part in assisting Jews.

Her life in the concentration camp was terrible beyond belief. In any civilized country, not even animals would be legally treated the way she and the thousands of other people in the camp were treated.

Her sister, of weaker constitution than Corrie, died in the camp.

Though on any given morning when she awoke, she was breathing and her heart was beating, Corrie, herself, was as good as dead.

Only a short time stood between her and the gas chamber.

Then one day, due to a clerical error, she was inexplicably freed.

Snatched from the jaws of death, she was given her life back again.

Winston Churchill once said that there is nothing quite so exhilarating as being shot at and missed.

That must have been how Corrie Ten Boom felt. Death shot at her but missed.

In that sense we’ve all been shot at. We have all died, spiritually; but God has given us a second chance.

While we are dead, we may respond to His gift of life and receive new spiritual life.

Chapter 2 of Ephesians tells the story:

“I must die or get somebody to die for me. If the Bible doesn’t teach that, it doesn’t teach anything. And that is where the atonement of Jesus Christ comes in.”
— Dwight L. Moody

In chapter 2, Paul tells the Ephesian Christians:

“You were once spiritually alienated from God; but now, because of God’s grace, you have been spiritually united with him.”

As Gentiles, you were once spiritually alienated from Israel, but now you have been spiritually united with them into a living spiritual temple of God.

It’s God’s grace that gives you life and unites you with Him and also with people from whom you are alienated.

2:1-2 Immediately after his prayer, Paul reminds the Ephesians of the reality of personal sin.

Like them, we must never forget our pasts, the conditions from which Jesus saved us.

Those memories, though sometimes painful, will inspire us to thank Christ for all He has done on our behalf.

2:2 Paul describes Satan, the devil, as “the commander of the powers in the unseen world.”

Paul’s readers believed that Satan and evil spiritual forces inhabited the region between earth and sky.

Paul pictures Satan as ruling an evil spiritual kingdom, directing the demons and those who are against Christ and the rule of the Kingdom of God.

When Jesus was raised from the dead, He was victorious over the devil and His power because He demonstrated His own power even over death.

Therefore, Jesus Christ is the permanent Ruler of the whole world; the devil is only the temporary ruler of the part of the world that chooses to follow him.

The fact that all people, without exception, commit sin proves that everyone has a sinful nature.

We have not loved God with our whole hearts, and we have not consistently loved our neighbors as ourselves.

We are lost in sin and cannot save ourselves.

Does this mean only Christians do good things? Of course not—many people do good things for others because all people are made in the image of God, whether they acknowledge it or not.

On a relative scale, many people are moral, kind, and law-abiding.

Comparing these people to criminals, we would say that they are very good indeed.

But on God’s absolute scale, no one is good enough to earn salvation (“dead because of your disobedience and your many sins”; 2:1).

“Subject to God’s anger” describes those who will experience God’s judgment because they have rejected Christ.

But God offers to unite us with Christ’s perfect life so that we will be considered good in his sight.

We become Christians through God’s unmerited grace, not as the result of any effort, ability, intelligent choice, or act of service on our part.

Out of gratitude for this free gift, however, our hearts should overflow with a desire to help and serve others with kindness, love, and gentleness.

While no action or work we do can help us obtain salvation, God intends for our salvation to result in acts of service.

We are not saved merely for our own benefit but to serve Christ and to build up the church (4:12).

When someone gives you a gift, do you say, “That’s very nice—now, how much do I owe you?”

No, the appropriate response to a gift is “Thank you!”

Yet how often Christians, even after they have been given the gift of salvation, feel obligated to try to work their way to God.

Because our salvation and even our faith are gifts, we should respond with gratitude, praise, and joy.

We are God’s masterpiece (work of art, workmanship).

He alone masterminds our salvation. He works powerfully and creatively in us.

He uses us as His canvas.

If God considers us His masterpiece, we dare not treat ourselves or others with disrespect or as inferior work.
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From Max Lucado’s LifeLessons:

The Ephesians forgot what God did to save them and to make them a part of His body.

God’s mercy plucks us from the destruction of our countless sins and places us in Jesus Christ’s righteousness.

Alan and Penny Mcllroy . . . have two adopted children [which] is commendable but not uncommon.

The fact that they have adopted special needs children is significant but not unique.

It’s the severity of the health problems that sets this story apart.

Saleena is a cocaine baby. Her birth mother’s overdose left Saleena unable to hear, see, speak, or move.

Penny and Alan adopted her at seven weeks.

The doctor gave her a year. She’s lived for six.

As Penny introduced me to Saleena, she ruffled her hair and squeezed her cheeks, but Saleena didn’t respond.

She never does. Barring a miracle, she never will.

Neither will her sister.

“This is Destiny,” Penny told me.

In the adjacent bed one-year-old Destiny lay, motionless and vegetative.

Penny will never hear Destiny’s voice.

Alan will never know Saleena’s kiss.

They’ll never hear their daughters sing in a choir, never see them walk across the stage.

They’ll bathe them, change them, adjust their feeding tubes, and rub their limp limbs, but barring God’s intervention, this mom and dad will never hear more than we heard that afternoon—gurgled breathing.

“I need to suction Saleena’s nose,” Penny said to me.

“You might want to leave.” I did, and as I did, I wondered, what kind of love is this?

What kind of love adopts disaster? What kind of love looks into the face of children, knowing full well the weight of their calamity, and says, “I’ll take them”?

(Destiny has since gone to heaven.)

When you come up with a word for such a love, give it to Christ.

For the day He left Nazareth is the day He declared His devotion for you and me.

We were just as helpless, in a spiritually vegetative state from sin.

According to Peter, our lives were “dead-end, empty-headed” (1 Peter 1:18 MSG).

But God, “who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4, 5,).

Jesus left Nazareth in pursuit of the spiritual Saleenas and Destinys of the world and brought us to life. (From Next Door Savior by Max Lucado)

Ask yourself: Are there some people around you who slip through the cracks unnoticed?

Is there a lonely widow? An insecure junior-high student? A struggling single mother?

Pay these people a visit—bring flowers or another gift; invest some time in their lives.

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
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Sunday, June 26
The Berean
Daily Verse and Comment

Ephesians 2:2

“…in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,”

A major characteristic of the human spirit is that it is habitually self-centered rather than God-centered.

A simple example illustrates how it became this way.

In Genesis 1:31 God takes satisfaction in all He had made, declaring it “very good.”

Included in this is Adam and Eve’s nature, as they were already created by this time.

Thus, at the beginning, mankind’s nature was not corrupted by contact with this world.

Genesis 3 records the episode of their confrontation with Satan that began the evil transformation of their basic nature. God did not create their nature as evil, but

it became evil through the influence of another spirit that they chose to follow without any intervention from their Creator.

The same process continues to this day, as each of us is born into this world and comes under the influence of the same spirit that influenced Adam and Eve to turn from God.

We are all born with a slight pull toward self, but not with the evil that eventually develops and manifests itself in our conduct.

Evil is not – cannot be – passed on through procreation, but it is fashioned anew by the spirit of the age into which each person is born.

It is a converted parent’s responsibility to God and to his children to ensure the right spirit dominates his home so the children can be properly nurtured.

People in the world understand this to some extent when they observe with maxims like,

“The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree,” “Like father, like son,” or “Like mother, like daughter.”

This world’s Christians, to avoid responsibility for their evil, have blamed God for creating us this way. But God did not make us this way.

Mankind, represented by Adam and Eve, chose to become this way, and all of their descendants, including us, have chosen the same path under the influence of the same evil spirit who offered Adam and Eve the choice.

This accounts for the course of this world.

Jeremiah 17:9 shows us how evil God judges the source of our unconverted motivations to be:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”

The Revised Standard Version translates this as, “The natural heart of man is desperately corrupt; incurably sick.”

It is so bad, so evil, it cannot be salvaged by repairing it!

It must be completely replaced.

This is what the conversion process – our calling, repentance, justification, and sanctification – accomplishes.

We need to understand more completely why this aspect of God’s command to flee Babylon is so important.

We can be easily deceived about it, misunderstanding why God says the human heart is incurably sick.

In Luke 11:13, Jesus makes an easily overlooked comment:

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

The way He says this implies that those before Him were thoroughly, not partly, evil.

He flat out calls them evil! There is no equivocation, no modification of this verse in the heart of the sermon on the mount. Jesus Himself was called “good” in Matthew 19:16, but He immediately corrects the speaker, saying, “No one is good but One, that is, God.”

This is God’s assessment of human nature, not man’s.

Jesus is saying that, just because human nature knows how to and actually does some good things, it does not alter the fact that it is still incurably evil.

Our pride tends to blunt God’s assessment, rising to defend us from the condemnation of what we are compared to, the standard – God.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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How should we then pray?

In our covenant relationship with God, we must first decide to follow Him each day of our life, and to learn His ways and thoughts

How do we put on the mind of Christ?

To put on the mind of Christ means that we must first decide to follow Jesus everyday, and then through our daily immersion in His Word and in the Spirit, we are then putting on His mind (see 1 Cor 2:16 and Php 2:5), and are thereby learning His ways and thoughts, which are much different from ours.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28-30…

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

In other words, God is giving us an invitation here to allow Him to partner with us in our life, and in taking His yoke upon us He will carry the brunt of the load; and our part, in this relationship, is to learn His ways and thoughts, as we are daily immersing ourselves in His Word and in the Spirit, and then by doing so we are putting on the mind of Christ and are learning His ways of doing things (see Mat 6:33).

Isaiah tells us that God’s ways and thoughts are much different from ours.

Our first step in entering into relationship with Him is that we must seek Him diligently with all our heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart”

And Isaiah in chapter 55:6-9 tells us to,

6 Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.

7 Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;

Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor 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.
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Isaiah tells us to call on the Lord while He is near.

God will never move away from us, but we often move far from Him or erect barriers of sin between ourselves and Him.

Don’t wait until you have drifted far away from God to seek Him.

Later in life, turning to Him may be far more difficult.

Or God may come to judge the earth before you decide to turn to Him.

Accept God’s generous forgiveness now, while you can, before it is too late.

The people of Israel were foolish to act as if they knew what God was thinking and planning.

His knowledge and wisdom are far greater than any human’s.

We are foolish to try to fit God into our mold—to make His plans and purposes conform to ours.

Instead, we must strive to fit into His plans.

It is a big mistake for us to try and judge the LORD by our own thoughts and ways, because He thinks and acts in ways that transcend anything man could ever imagine, and to try to keep God in this little box, inside our mind, quenches the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

We should always give room in our thinking for God to do things in ways and by means that we’re not even looking for or expecting, because most of the time when God does answer our prayer His answers generally come at 90° angles from where we’re looking and expecting.

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
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Friday, June 24
Beliefnet

THE GUIDE TO ASKING GOD FOR A MIRACLE

To pray for a miracle, you may need to change your mindset.
by Wesley Baines

With God, anything is possible. Even a quick look at His works in the Bible reveals that He has healed the sick, granted wisdom, and even resurrected the dead.

And because God does not change over time, we can still count on Him to do these things today.

All we have to do is ask.

But sometimes, we just don’t know how to pray to God for the things we most desperately need, and it can seem as if God is ignoring our pleas.

If you’re in need of divine intervention and just aren’t sure how to ask, read on—we’ll show how you, too, can experience a miracle in your life.

How to Prepare

God answers prayer—of this, there is no doubt.

In Matthew 7:7, Christ tells us, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

But before we knock, we must prepare ourselves to talk to God.

If you have unconfessed sin in your life, now is the time to ask forgiveness from God.

In John 9:30, the blind man who was healed by Christ proclaims that –

“We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does His will.”

Even more tellingly, In Isaiah 59:2, we find out that sin is a barrier between us and God.

“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”

So, before you pray for a miracle, pray for forgiveness.

Examine your heart and give up whatever sin you find there, be it idolatry, hypocrisy, pride, a lack of faith, or anything else—these things warp your mindset so that you are incapable of asking God for a miracle.

Once you’ve prepared yourself through God’s forgiveness, it’s time to get praying for your miracle.

Let’s find out how to do it properly.

Know How to Pray

James 4:2 tells us that…

“You do not have because you do not ask.”

In order to receive a miracle, you must pray for it, but praying with the correct mindset is vital if you want God to answer.

Consider this. God always does what is best for us—even if, from our limited human perspective, it doesn’t seem that way.

When we pray from the wrong mindset—out of greed, for example—if God were to answer that prayer, it would feed that greed and bring ruin to us the long run.

And so praying from the correct mindset means we have to pray for things that are within God’s will.

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus Christ shows us exactly how to do this, and it is here that we can begin to understand how to correctly ask for a miracle.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Let’s examine this perfect example of prayer.

Here, Christ isn’t saying we have to replicate the Lord’s Prayer each time we pray.

He’s showing us how to think about prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer begins with an acknowledgement that God’s will is best, and that His will is what we want.

That’s incredibly important, as our selfish, human desires can sometimes cloud our judgment concerning what we pray for.

When asking for a miracle, always ask for that which God would approve of.

Next, the prayer mentions “our daily bread.”

This simply means asking God to take care of you, and to supply you with what you need.

Now, no one needs a new Mercedes or a six-digit bank account, or fame.

What you need are things like food, water, shelter, good health, and love.

God will supply these things, even miraculously. But if the miracle you’re asking for is a brand-new four-story house, you may need to re-think the motivation behind your request.

The remaining portion of the Lord’s Prayer is all about forgiveness and deliverance, and are a reminder, as you’ve now learned, that we must both be willing to forgive and to ask forgiveness regularly.

Follow God’s own example of how to pray, and you can’t go wrong in asking for a miracle.

Live Out Your Faith

Even after you pray for God’s intervention in your life, your task is not finished—you must keep sincerely living out your faith as best you can.

You’re not perfect. No one is. And God isn’t going to remove His hand from your life because of your mistakes. But the key is this: keep trying. Don’t give up.

Living out your beliefs is about more than just avoiding sin—Christianity is an active faith, and God calls each of us to aid the poor, to treat others with kindness and respect, and to serve God using whatever gifts He has given you.

God is here for you, but if you’re not living out your faith, it is difficult to have the right mindset with which to ask for a miracle.

Do your best to live for Him, though, and He will answer your prayer.

Don’t Give Up

If God seems silent, at first, don’t give up.

Continually keep yourself prepared, pray as Christ prayed, and live out your faith, and God will answer you.

Keep in mind, though, that the miracle you seek may not come in the form of fire from heaven or instantaneous healing.

Your miracle may come in the form of a doctor’s visit or a bonus at work or the arrival of a friend who is willing to help you.

Your miracle may even be in the form of a renewed relationship with God as you pray for the miraculous on a daily basis.

Keep praying, and keep your eyes open for His work. If you follow these steps and pray with the right mindset, He’ll answer.

[Wesley Baines is a graduate student at Regent University’s School of Divinity, and a freelance writer working in the fields of spirituality, self-help, and religion]
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