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Don’t Know You’re Lost by Miriam

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  Luke 15:3-7 (ESV)

Several weeks ago I went to our zoo’s splash pad with my daughter-in-love, Lindsey, and four of my grandchildren. Technically, I was responsible for two of them — my daughter’s youngest two, Joanna and Willa. We had a wonderful couple of hours letting them splash around. A few minutes before we were going to leave, we let them play in a grassy area in the middle where there were some games to play. Lindsey and I sat on a bench a few feet away watching them. Every few minutes I was counting heads and making sure they were all there. We were both suddenly distracted by a little girl who was trying to get away from her momma. The next thing I know, I look up and can’t find Willa, who was two and a half at the time. I immediately jump up and and start running and screaming Willa’s name. As I ran I was calling out to the Lord to please help me find her. Lindsey was doing the same while also keeping her eyes on the other three children. After what felt like hours, but was actually about 5 minutes (still way too long), Lindsey came walking up to me with Willa in her arms. Willa had a dirty diaper and was trying to find me. I was so relieved and thankful!

Later that night when I was telling my husband what happened, I said, “Willa wasn’t rattled at all, while my heart felt like it would jump out of my chest.” Jim said, “Well honey, she didn’t know she was lost.” He was right. She was just looking for me to change her diaper. 

Too often people are walking around unaware of their lostness spiritually. You see, we were created with a void that only Jesus Christ can fill, but we keep trying to fill that void with other people or things. The Lord is waiting for us to accept His gift of salvation — provided by the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. But we believe what the world tells us — we are good people, we give to the poor, we don’t do anything horrible. But in Romans 3:10 the apostle Paul tells us:  “ as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one…” It doesn’t matter how good we are or how kind or how loving. In John 3:16 we read where Jesus told Nicodemus “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus also told the parable of the Lost Sheep in the passage at the beginning of this devotion. God loves us that much — He sent His only son to die for us and He longs for us to come to Him like a shepherd who searches for his lost sheep (or like a Mimi who runs around like a crazy woman looking for her lost granddaughter).

Have you ever accepted God’s free gift of salvation? If not, I pray that you will — seek out someone who can share with you how you, too, can be found by the Lord. Maybe you accepted His free gift, but you have gotten a little lost since then. Maybe you have stopped reading your Bible or going to church where you can be encouraged and equipped in your relationship with the Lord. Call on the Lord — ask Him to help you find your way again. That doesn’t mean you lost your salvation. It means you just got a little lost from walking close to Him.

Jesus Prays for You by Laura

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). 

If you have belonged to Jesus for any length of time, it is likely that you know He lives to make intercession for you. He prays for you. The writer of Hebrews states this in chapter 7:25. What a profound, life-giving truth to depend on as you live in this fallen world. Do not lose heart. Jesus prays for you! 

To hear specific requests He prays on your behalf, listen to John 17. Hearing the words that come from the heart of Jesus to His Father, His Abba, concerning you, will fill you with hope and bring comfort beyond any possible worldly comfort. Looking up to heaven, knowing His hour had come, our eternal high priest poured out His obedient heart to His attentive, merciful Father and God of all comfort on behalf of those who belong to Him. “…those You have given Me, for they are Yours” (v.9). “I do not ask for these (His disciples) only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (v.20). That’s you beloved! You have been given to Jesus by the Father out of the world and He has given you eternal life. “Yours they were, and you gave them to me…” (v.6). You belong to Jesus for eternity and He prays for you! 

Jesus prays, “I have given them your word…” (v.14). “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (v.17). What a gift! God’s Word is truth given by Jesus for your sanctification as you live in this world where you are hated. Jesus prays, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one” (v.15). You are here on purpose, kept by Jesus to display His glory, love and perfect unity so the world will know Him. It is God’s will that you, as His disciple, be sanctified (set apart for His purposes, for holy service to God) in the truth! How does this sanctification take place? By His Word! The Bible is a powerful, supernatural book, accomplishing God’s work of sanctification in you from the inside out. You have the gift of God’s truth in His Word and Jesus prays for you! 

“Because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf” (Hebrews 7:24-25). Jesus prays to His Abba for you to be sanctified in the truth and He has given you God’s Word to accomplish this purpose. 

How will you respond to this truth? Will you choose to not lose heart as you live in this world? Will you remember you belong to Jesus and He is keeping you? Will you embrace, believe and receive the gift of His sanctifying word of truth? Will you depend on Him as your eternal high priest to live through you and set you apart for His purposes, for holy service to God? Let this profound truth change your life…Jesus prays for you! 

Thy Word by Beth

I was reminded recently of some of the lyrics to the song titled “Thy Word” by Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith: 

“…Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. When I feel afraid, think I’ve lost my way, still you’re there right beside me. And nothing will I fear as long as you are near, please be near me to the end…I will not forget your love for me and yet my heart forever is wandering…” 

The Word of God is needed. The Word of God is enough. The Word of God is understandable. The Word of God is final. 

II Timothy 3:16 reads, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” Hebrews 4:12 reads, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than a two-edge 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. Romans 15:4 reads, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through the perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Also, God’s final word in His Son according to Hebrews 1:1-4 reads, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in the last days has spoken to us through his Son whom He appointed heir of all things through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” 

The Word of God is inerrant! Inerrancy means the Scriptures do not affirm any errors. The Bible is all true and nothing is untrue. It tells history, it tells us actually how it really happened. The Word of God is infallible. Infallibility is the belief that what the Bible says regarding matters of faith and Christian practice is wholly useful and true. It is the “belief that the Bible is completely trustworthy as a guide to salvation and the life of faith and will not fail to accomplish its purpose.” The Word of God is inspired. This is, in fact, the claim the Bible makes for itself. The apostle Paul says in II Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness”. The biblical word for “inspired” means Scripture is “breathed out” by God. God breathed out His Word by using godly men to write down exactly what He wanted them to write.  

Let me encourage you to read the Word of God! Meditate on it, memorize it, and live it out in your daily life. It is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path (Psalm 119:105). It will guide you, challenge you, encourage you, convict you, take hold of you, overwhelm you, satisfy you and bless you. 

Stay on the Path by Laura

Recently I visited Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, SC.  Even though I have lived in South Carolina for 32 years and have traveled to this area of our state often, this was my first time to see this “unique melding of art, nature and history.” (www.brookgreen.org)

Included on the property is a zoo where animals native to the Low Country have either been bred and raised in captivity or have sustained a major disability due to injury.  They are well cared for and protected since they could not survive in the wild.  Careful thought went into the design and layout of this area and I noticed signs all along the path that read, 

“CAUTION:  Please stay on the path.  This area contains sensitive natural habitats with some unstable land surfaces, alligators, venomous snakes & stinging insects.” 

Well, let me tell you, that caught my attention and I made sure I stayed on the path.  Taking a detour risking unstable land surfaces, alligators, venomous snakes and stinging insects was not an option for me!  It seemed I heard a whisper from the sweet Holy Spirit, “Stay on the path, Laura.  There is purpose on the path I have you traveling and most importantly, I am with you on the path.”  Immediately Psalm 119:105 came to mind.  “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” How do I stay on the path?  Only the supernatural Word of God can illuminate “the path” to follow.  It is radiant with truth, exposing the next step to take.  King David knows this path and prays, “Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!” (Psalm 143:10).  On this secure path I follow a trustworthy leader.  As my Good Shepherd, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).  He goes before and behind me and hems me in according to Psalm 139… all for His glory and my good.  Why would I stray from the path?

Have you been tempted to veer from the path?  Are you taking a detour where you have encountered unstableness, predators and danger?  Our hearts are prone to wander.  We want our own way or path and think we know better than God.  He is full of grace and mercy and is greater than our hearts.  Hear the good Spirit saying, “Please stay on the path!”  Trust your leader, follow Jesus, focus on the author and perfecter of your faith!

Cry out like King David, “Let me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths” (Psalm 25:4). “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name” (Psalm 86:11).  “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).  Stay on the path!

Take some time to sit with the LORD concerning this truth and write out a prayerful response to Him.

Do Whatever He Tells You To by Beth

“They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night; a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”  Acts 16:6-10

What I love most about this particular passage of scripture is that within the text Luke describes each person of the trinity directing the steps of these men together as an inseparable work of God. They are “forbidden by the Holy Spirit” and “The Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” Then, notice after the vision, they concluded that God (Father) had called them to preach the gospel in Macedonia. Saints, we don’t always understand how our God is working, and we may not always “see” Him working, but know this, He works. Our triune God (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) is always at work for His glory, His purposes and our good.  

As a believer, I desire to do the will of God in my life as a wife, a mom, a teacher, a sister in Christ, and as a friend. How do I know what the will of God is for my life?  I read the word of God and ask the Spirit to give wisdom and discernment as I read it. I was recently reminded from a sermon I read from a pastor friend of mine, Justin Deeter, that the book of Acts is descriptive of the church and not always prescriptive. In other words, Luke, in this particular passage, is reminding us how God led this mission. He is not telling us that we need to wait for a vision from the Lord before we act in every decision. What we are to do is seek the Word of God in every decision to determine the will of God for our lives.  

There are several verses to consider in seeking what the will of God is for any decision you make. First, God’s will according to scripture is for us to make Christ our priority. Matthew 6:33 reads, “But seek first the kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Is Christ a priority in your life? 

Secondly, God’s will according to scripture is for His children not only to pursue holiness, but to be holy. I Peter 1:14-16 reads, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’” God’s word is clear that God desires us to be holy, sanctified by the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  In every decision, ask yourself does this help me or hinder me in being holy? 

Another verse teaches us that the will of God includes having a grateful heart. We are to always be giving thanks to the Lord in everything. I Thessalonians 5:16-18 reads, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Are you giving thanks to the Lord in all things? 

In closing, let me remind you that often we can use our wrestling over the will of God just to cover up our laziness and disobedience. Do we wait on the Lord for clarity? Yes! However, indecisiveness can cover up a lack of faith in God’s daily working in our lives. We must also guard against impulsive decision-making. I am guilty of this. I often have to confess this impulsive behavior. We can’t spiritualize our laziness or sanctify our disobedience by “cloaking it in the modern Christian parlance of waiting for the will of God”  (Justin Deeter). As John 2:5 reads, “Do whatever He tells you to do.”  

When we become a believer, we submit our lives to Christ’s orders. According to 2 Timothy 2:3-4, we are soldiers, and Christ is our Commander in Chief.   We obey his direction and his call on our lives, being sensitive to the working of the Holy Spirit in what He is directing us to do with our lives. Above all, our desire as believers should be to obey whatever command Jesus gives us. We are to go where He calls us to go and do whatever He asks us to do. May we discern the will of the Lord with wisdom, and in the Spirit, act in faith, trusting in the sovereignty of our glorious King and Redeemer.  

How is the Lord having you respond today?

Chosen to Proclaim by Miriam

Chosen to Proclaim by Miriam

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

As I was preparing to teach on 1 Peter 2:1-12, verse 9 seemed to speak to my heart more than ever before. I’ve read this verse many times, but I think I’ve always focused on who Peter is reminding us we are as believers. However, this time as I studied, the part about what I’m to do because of who I am jumped out at me. You see, because of who we are in Christ — those of us who have accepted the Lord’s gift of salvation through the blood of Jesus — we are called to proclaim Him to the dark world around us.

Now more than ever, the world seems very dark around us. But now, more than ever, we must “proclaim the excellencies of him who called” us out of this dark world. Don’t live in the light alone. It is our mission to share that light. Verse 10 goes on to say, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” We must be ready to share with others how the Lord, through Jesus shed blood, showed us mercy and took us from darkness to light.

The Message paraphrases it this way: But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

My precious daddy went home to be with Jesus on June 20, 2020. As Father’s Day approaches, he has been on my mind a little more. I can’t help but think of him as I ponder verse 9. My daddy was quick to “proclaim the excellencies” of the Lord to everyone he met. May you and I do the same.

EMBRACING JESUS by Laura

“Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” John 18:37

Are you ever tempted to embrace ideas, feelings, traditions and opinions over truth?  This is nothing new.  The New Testament writers warned of these “counterfeits” in their letters to the newly established Christian church.  We would be wise to hear God’s voice through His Word and embrace His eternal truth that brings hope.  We are living in a time where we as believers need to be reminded…Hope has a name…JESUS! 

Truth has a name…JESUS!  

We need hope!  “Crazy” surrounds us as we seem to be going off the deep end in our culture.  It’s shocking, but it shouldn’t be.  Jesus warned us.  Life is full of trouble – Jesus said in John 16.  The world will hate us as it hated Him – Jesus told us in John 15.  James admonishes us to consider it all joy when we encounter trials.  It is God’s opportunity to make us more like Jesus.  A change in perspective will enable us to endure as obedient believers. God’s Word gives us His perspective if we will listen. Even in the crazy, God is at work in you as a believer. He is with you and, when you embrace Him and His Word, you will find hope.  Hope will energize endurance.  Because He is resurrected and is alive, we can be alive now and for eternity with Him!  This hope is found by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  JESUS is hope!  Will you make a daily choice to embrace Jesus in the crazy?  

We need truth!  Did you ever imagine that you would be facing the questions entertained in our day about what a woman is or what a man is?  Think about the absurdity of that!  There IS absolute truth and it is found in God’s Word.  Jesus prayed to His Father in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”  Equip yourself by the power of the Holy Spirit to know what the Bible says about these lies that are being presented as “truth.”  Speak the truth in love and be ready to give an account of the hope that is within you with gentleness and reverence as Peter said.  Jesus, the Living Word said that He is the truth in John 14. JESUS is truth! Embrace Him as you daily surrender to Him as your King.

When you are tempted to embrace something other than Jesus, be sure it is a counterfeit!  Listen for His voice in His Word and embrace Him!

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?