Such Faith! by Beth

“And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent his friends, saying to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore, I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘do this,’ and he does it.’” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’ And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.” Luke 7:6-10 ESV 

Centurions show up rather frequently in the Gospels and in Acts (Luke 7:2; 23:47; Acts 10:1). What is surprising is that these representatives of Roman occupation are portrayed in a positive way in the New Testament and here in Luke 7. They often end up responding to Jesus and His kingdom message with faith. This particular centurion is a Gentile who seeks Jesus out for healing of his slave. He sends his friends (Jewish elders) to speak on his behalf. He then sends his friends to keep Jesus from coming to his house. He expresses with confidence and with an analogy from his own role in the Roman army that Jesus, this Jewish healer, is able to heal from a distance (7:6-8). This centurion knew some truths about Jesus. His illustration of his earthly authority revealed that He understood that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Jesus – including authority to speak the Word and healing be accomplished. 

Do you have this kind of faith?  The kind of faith that believes and understands Christ’s authority and sovereignty over all things. Do you trust the Word of God? Do you believe that it is the very words of God written down through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? I find myself sometimes crying out for this kind of faith and like the young dad in Mark 9 who said, “I do believe, but help me with my unbelief.” 

Take a few minutes today and ask the Lord for great faith. Ask him to help your unbelief—in believing that Christ can do what He says He will do. May we, too, cause Him to marvel at such great faith in us. This can only be accomplished by the Spirit’s work in our lives! Trust Him!  

Immanuel in You The Hope of Glory by Laura

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

Immanuel- God with us.  When we read the story of Jesus’ birth, we are confronted with miracle after miracle.  The virgin shall conceive!  The Son of God is born in human form!  God comes to earth to be with us!  Immanuel!

From C.H. Spurgeon’s book Morning and Evening

“Let us go down to Bethlehem in the company of wondering shepherds and adoring Magi.  Let us see Him who was born king of the Jews.  By faith we can claim an interest in Him and can sing, “Unto us a Child is born.  Unto us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).  

Jesus is Jehovah incarnate, our Lord, our God, our brother and our friend.  Let us adore and admire Him…our Savior, though truly man, was the Holy One of God.  Let us pray that He may be formed in us as the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).” 

Spurgeon encourages us to go in our minds eye to the manger.  To see with the eye of faith, Jesus, who became God with us.  He then challenges us to pray that Immanuel may be formed in us as the hope of glory! Miracle of miracles that Christ would come to live in me.  Paul describes Him in Colossians 1.  God’s beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin. He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.  All things have been created by Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He brings salvation and rescues the lost.  Do you know Immanuel?

God chose to make known to His saints, this mystery…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  As a believer you are in Christ and Christ is in you by grace alone through faith alone.  Immanuel, God With Us, in the Believer.  Immanuel in you.  Immanuel in me. This is the miracle of salvation!

Before He left the earth to go back to the Father in glory, Jesus said, “…I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  You know him for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14)

During this Advent season pray that Immanuel may be formed in you as the hope of glory!

An Eternal Perspective by Laura

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man in being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

The truth is, we are all growing older day by day, but by the ever-renewing grace of God, we are inwardly growing younger all the time!  This is a beautiful paradox of the believer’s life; of the righteous person.  We have an outer life and we have an inner life.  A temporal view and an eternal view.  Paul is calling us to embrace an eternal perspective as we age physically.  This can be challenging as we live in a culture that views aging as something to be avoided at all costs.  And those costs can be exorbitant.

If you and I are going to live Biblically as followers of Christ, we need grace to embrace an eternal perspective on aging. And it is a work of God’s grace that the Spirit is doing in our inner person. He always works from the inside out. The Bible tells us that we have spiritual eyes (Ephesians 1:18) so we ask the Lord to open the eyes of our hearts and show us through what lens we are looking. These lens determine our perspective and the conclusions we draw about everything in life.  

It seems that the culture’s view is “me”- centered and temporal.  Focusing on the outer life.  I would call it the “Me Lens”:  the selfie, self-focused, all about me, my needs, my plans, my kids, my money, my house, my stuff, etc.  This lens is implanted at birth.  It is the human default lens.  It’s all about ME!  Self absorption!  

The Biblical view is “grace”- centered and eternal.  Focusing on the inner life.  It is the “Grace Lens”: the life-giving lens; clear, clean, has a divine focus, all about the best interest of the one being viewed rather than the one viewing, full of kindness and love.  This lens is implanted at re-birth.  It’s all about JESUS!  His righteousness! He is the One who can do “surgery” on the eyes of our hearts and give us the lens of grace so that as we grow older, we thrive, bear fruit and give Him glory!  (Psalm 92:14) We grow older gracefully!  

No matter what your age, your perspective will affect how you age.  Examine your own spiritual sight to determine if you are viewing life from the temporal “Me Lens” or the eternal “Grace Lens” and submit to the work of the perfect eye surgeon.  He made your eyes and knows even the intent of your heart.  Ask Him for the Biblical, eternal perspective that will change everything about how you age!   Will you depend on Him as he renews you day by day?

Choosing Joy Day After Day by Miriam

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”
Galatians 5:22

Ten years ago this month, I turned 50. I decided to begin a 52-week devotional entitled Choosing Joy by Angela Thomas the day after my birthday — June 11, 2012. At that point in my life we were two and a half years into caring for my mother-in-love in our home. She had Alzheimer’s Disease. Things were getting very difficult.

As the weeks progressed in my time with the Lord and this devotion on choosing joy, God reminded me that He is our source of joy. As the scripture above states, “…the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives…joy…”. You see it isn’t about my circumstances — which over the past 10 years have been both good and not so good — it is about a choice. I choose daily to submit to the Lordship of Jesus in my life. As I do, the Holy Spirit works in my life producing His fruit.

This month I turned 60 (on June 10th). Over the past 12 years our family has experienced deep lows and some amazing highs, as well as all the in between things. My precious mother-in-love and my precious daddy went home to be with their Savior in 2014 and 2020, respectively. We gained a son-in-love and another daughter-in-love, and we have been blessed with nine grandchildren in these years as well. We had some hard things as we struggled with where the Lord had us in ministry and where we felt He was leading.

Some days it is much easier to choose joy than others, but 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says, “Rejoice always,”. It doesn’t say to rejoice only when things are going great. If you read on to verse 17 it says, “pray continually,” (or some translations say “without ceasing”). Verse 18 goes on to say, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

These past 10 years I have found it a little bit easier, as the years go by, to choose joy. It isn’t easier because I have arrived—far from it. It is easier because I have learned the only way to make the choice to be joyful is to lean deeply into Jesus. I’ve asked the Lord to convict me quickly when I start to go down the grumbling path (it is easy to do). He has been faithful to do just that. I talk to the Lord often throughout my day (pray continually) and I thank Him in all the seasons (easy ones and hard ones).

What will your response be? Will you choose joy today?

The Powerful Word of God by Laura

“…when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” I Thessalonians 2:13

From a young age, I was taught to believe, read, memorize and love the Bible.  In third grade, God worked His salvation in me and I received the gospel and accepted the Bible for what it really is, the Word of God.  I was encouraged to study and memorize scripture and to love God’s Word and believe it as supernatural truth meant to transform my heart and life. 

I still love God’s Word and even now, experience the supernatural power it has to transform me from the inside out.  Each time I read and study God’s Word it’s an opportunity for Him to open up page after page of life-giving, truth, meant to make me more like Jesus.  I pray that you have the same belief, but it is increasingly obvious that we live in a culture that is at war with the God of the Bible and His Words!

Our culture does not share this love for God or His Word and most definitely does not accept the truth of what HE has said in His Word.  Some have declared war with God as they have denounced what God says about marriage and gender in Genesis!  He is clear about His design in creation and His purpose for a man and a woman in marriage.  

So how do we engage our unbiblical culture who is at war with the God we love?  How do we speak truth in love to unbelievers?

We become “living Bibles”!  Since only God has the power to save and transform, and He uses His Word to do this, we as Christians must believe what He says and trust HIM to work in us to impact our culture.  Read, memorize, meditate on and love HIS WORD! Believe that it is inspired: God breathed – (II Timothy 3:16-17, II Peter 1:21), infallible: incapable of error – (Romans 15:4) and inerrant: does not deviate from the standard of truth – (Psalm 119:160).  He will work in you as you expose your heart to His Word, and when He provides opportunities for you to speak, choose to speak words of truth from HIS Word and know that HE will use HIS Word to do HIS work!! 

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)  

This sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) is our weapon of truth in the culture at war with the God we love and He will use His Word to perform its work in you who believe so that you will be a “living Bible” to your culture. 

Your response:

Ask! Wait! Watch! Listen! Obey! by Beth

“When the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek out David; and when David heard of it, he went down to the stronghold. Now the Philistines came and spread themselves out in the valley of Rephaim. Then David inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You give them into my hand?’ And the Lord said to David, ‘Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.’ So David came to Baal-perazim and defeated them there; and he said, ‘The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like the breakthrough of waters.’ Therefore he named that place Baal-perazim. They abandoned their idols there, so David and his men carried them away. Now the Philistines came up once again and spread themselves out in the valley of Rephaim. When David inquired of the Lord, He said, ‘You shall not go directly up; circle around behind them and come at them in front of the balsam trees. It shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then you shall act promptly, for then the Lord will have gone out before you to strike the army of the Philistines.’ Then David did so, just as the Lord had commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer. (2 Samuel 5:17-25 NASB)

I love how David inquires of the Lord what to do in this passage. “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You give them into my hands?”  I love how specific the Lord is with David. “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.” Look what the Lord did! He defeated the Philistines — all for His glory, His purposes, and David’s good. “Now the Philistines came up again…” Wait, did we not just read that David inquired of the Lord, the Lord gave instruction, and David followed what the Lord said do and there was victory? Yet, the enemy comes again. What does David do? What he knows to do. He inquires of the Lord again. The Lord once again is very specific with David, “You shall not go directly up, circle around behind them and come at them in front of the balsam trees, it shall be when you hear the marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then you shall act promptly, for then the LORD will have gone out before you to strike the army of the Philistines.”

Like David, may we never move forward without inquiring of the Lord and may we trust the instructions He gives us — no matter how unusual or foreign they may seem. Isaiah 55:8 says, “His ways are not our ways and His thoughts not our thoughts.”  May we be listening for the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees knowing our Lord has gone before us.

What is my take away from this passage?  As a child of His, I am to ask, petition and seek His counsel and will for my life. Then, I am to wait on Him. He is always at work. I am to watch for Him. He is moving! Then I am to listen and obey whatever He tells me to do.

What is your take away?

The Help of His Presence by Laura

“Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become restless and disturbed within me?  Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” Psalm 42:5 AMP

Self-talk!  I do it all the time and so do you.  We all do it, and the words we speak to ourselves influence our thoughts, attitudes and actions.  

Words are powerful!  Matthew records Jesus’ words, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (12:34)  Our spoken words reveal what is in our hearts.  James writes, “but no human being can tame the tongue…from the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” (3:8,10)  Throughout the scriptures we read about words and the influence they can wield.  When spoken they become weapons for cursing or instruments for blessing.  How should we respond to the unspoken words in our minds?  

In Psalm 42:5, the Psalmist is speaking to himself (self-talk).  He asks himself why he is feeling certain emotions and then abruptly speaks truth (fact) to himself about God and the help of His presence.  He seems to do an “about-face” or to repent mid verse.  

From question to answer!

From self-focus to God-focus!

From feelings to facts!  

Read the verse aloud…

“Why are you in despair, O my soul?  

And why have you become restless and disturbed within me?  

Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” Psalm 42:5 AMP

Overwhelmed with his negative feelings, the Psalmist seems to command himself to “hope in God”!  He remembers His God; Yahweh is unchanging!  He is Sovereign!  He is his only hope!  He tells himself to “wait expectantly for Him”.  This type of waiting is like sitting on the edge of your seat with anticipation and eagerness to see what God will do.  He says “I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence”.  It sounds as if he has done this before!  

This verse provides a Biblical pattern to follow when our self-talk screams feelings over facts.  The Lord is teaching me to repent (turn to Him) from my feelings to the truth about Him, allowing that inner dialogue or self-talk to become prayer. He is there to help me!

Prayer provides the help of God’s presence!

What are the Psalmist’s feelings?  

Despair – the complete loss or absence of hope.  

Restlessness – being unable to rest or relax.  

Disturbed within – anxiousness.  

These feelings are strong influencers indicating stressful circumstances.  You may be experiencing the same.  Paul wrote from prison (not great circumstances) to the believers in Philippi, “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6)   

God’s presence becomes our help as we turn to Him in prayer.  He is omnipresent which means everywhere at the same time.  He has no boundaries, no limits, and is not bound by time as we are…He Is Eternal!  

King David tells us in Psalm 139 

we cannot escape God’s presence.  

Jesus tells us in John 14 

the Holy Spirit (His presence) will be with us and in us.  

Paul teaches in Romans 8

that His presence will empower us and live through us.  

Galatians 4:6 “…because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  

It is His presence (the Holy Spirit) in us enabling us to pray!  

How beautiful, gracious, merciful and loving that Our Father has provided a way for us to experience the help of His presence…PRAYER!

Your response…

Jesus Will Provide by Beth

I love reading through the gospels—especially the Gospel of John. I have spent some time recently reading back over the Gospel of John, especially during these quarantine times we find ourselves in due to the coronavirus. We read in John 21:1-14 that the disciples find themselves waiting, afraid, a little confused, and anxious. Are you experiencing these kinds of feelings today? For the disciples, they were not yet appointed to preach the resurrection of Jesus. As Matthew Henry describes it, “Their commission was in the drawing, but not perfected. The hour for entering upon action was to come. It was probable that their Master had directed them to say nothing of his resurrection till after his ascension, not till after the pouring out of the Spirit, and then they were to begin in Jerusalem.” Here in John 21:1-8 we read of a third time Jesus manifested himself to a group of the disciples early one morning, after a very unfruitful night of fishing:

“After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will also come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.

But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you do not have any fish, do you?’ They answered Him, ‘No.’ And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.’ So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.”

There are several things I want us to glean from this passage. First of all, Jesus knows what’s going on in our lives. He knows all that we are going through and He stands victorious in it. He knows where we are, what we are doing, and what our need is. He sees us. He is intimately acquainted with all of our ways. He has not left us to fend for ourselves. Even though our feelings may dictate how we respond in this pandemic, it has not caught our Lord by surprise. Our relationship with Jesus is not based on how we feel. It is based on the Person of Jesus Christ.

Secondly, not only does Jesus know, He also cares. He cares deeply. James 4:5 says, “…He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us.” He desires deeply to take care of us because we who are IN Him are HIS. We are his children, and He loves us with an everlasting love. Jesus is going to take care of his children. It may not look the way we think it should look, but He is going to take care of us because we belong to Him. The disciples had been fishing all night and had not caught one fish. Not one! As a small-time (very small-time) fisherman, I know the defeat of not catching anything. Jesus knew the disciples had not caught anything all night. They were defeated and tired. “…Jesus said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.’”

“Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.” John 21:11

Oh sweet friends, Jesus wants us to trust him in this season. There is victory in this season. Because of the finished work of Christ on the Cross, we are victorious. So we operate in this season from a place of victory. Jesus knows what is going on in your life and mine. Let me encourage you to read His word. He speaks to us through His word. He gives us instruction on how to navigate through every season of life just like He did for the disciples that morning. Jesus is at work. He knows. He cares. He sees. He has a plan. He will provide.

What Matters Most by Laura

JESUS SAID… to his disciples,

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.

INSTEAD, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”
Luke 12:22-31

Are you anxious about your life? Jesus says, don’t be! These last weeks in the midst of this pandemic have been extremely different from any we have ever lived. The Spirit has whispered these lyrics in my heart and mind over and over. “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” We hear this biblical truth in Jesus’ words. His words are truth and as I look out my window and consider the birds and the flowers, I see that truly, God does feed and clothe them. Of how much more value are you than the birds, He asks! Do not be anxious about your life, He commands! Your Father knows your needs, He reminds.

God meets the needs of every living thing. (Psalm 145:15-16)

Jesus tells his disciples that life is more than food and the body more than clothing. He is pointing them to the heart of the matter as He always does. He desires that we live from the inside out. His instructions are, not to worry but instead, to seek His kingdom. How is the Kingdom of God defined in scripture? “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Our focus should not be on this physical life but on the spiritual life we will live forever. Your true life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3) It is referred to as the hidden person of the heart (I Peter 3:4). Jesus tells us to stop worrying about the physical things in this temporal life. INSTEAD seek God’s Kingdom and the physical needs will be added.

Be encouraged by these words from Jesus about what matters most in these unique days. Seek His kingdom – righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. How do we do that? Be still before Him, acknowledge the truth that He is God. Ask Him to speak to your heart, to examine your heart as you read and meditate on His Word and listen for Him. Consider what He says to you about His kingdom and write it down. “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Luke 12:23).

Don’t Let Mildew Take Over by Miriam

I’m reading through the Bible again this year. In the past, every time I get to Leviticus and Numbers, I’ve always struggled to see how it applies to me. Of course, the more I’ve read God’s word and studied it, I’ve come to realize the Bible is about God. The more I read His word, the deeper I come to know Him. As a result of this, the more I’ll know about myself.

As I’ve read through the first few books of the Bible, each year I learn more and more about the Holy God we serve and why He gave the instructions He did to the Israelites. So this year, as I read through Leviticus 13 where God is giving Moses and Aaron instructions for the Israelites, I came to verses 47-52 where God is telling them what to do if their clothing gets contaminated with mildew. In verses 51 and 52 it says, “On the seventh day he is to examine it, and if the mold has spread in the fabric, the woven or knitted material, or the leather, whatever its use, it is a persistent defiling mold; the article is unclean. He must burn the fabric, the woven or knitted material of wool or linen, or any leather article that has been spoiled; because the defiling mold is persistent, the article must be burned.”

As I read those words a lightbulb went off — it was like the Lord was saying to me, “Miriam, sin is like this in your life. If you don’t deal with it right away, it is persistent and will get its roots deeper in you until it ruins something.” I wrote at the top of the page in my Bible, “Sin in our life is like a destructive mildew. Deal with it immediately!”

Over the years I have prayed and asked the Lord to convict me quickly of sin and help me to confess it and not allow satan to have a foothold in my life. This passage in Leviticus was such a great reminder of why this is important. How about you? Are you allowing the “mildew” in your life to take over? Don’t give it one more “article of clothing” or one more “wall in your house.” Confess it to the Lord. Ask Him to forgive you. He will. 1 John 1:9 says, “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”