Daily Devotional

  • Life on a Higher Plane – God Is Pouring Out His Blessing - Friday, July 19th

    I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firmHe put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord. How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood. Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders (blessings) which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count. Psalm 40:1-5

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Like the farmer we met at the beginning of the week, we need to withhold judgment concerning the events of our lives because God is in charge and is not through yet in regard to how He will entirely work out and incorporate that those events in the grand scheme of things. Too often, we are like the farmer’s neighbors, quick to pass judgment on the life events that come our way. God is merciful and will help us to do life right. What a great expression this Psalm gives to us and it wonderfully captures what God is calling us to at this time. With the higher plane of God’s perspective and presence coupled with the encouraging support of God’s people we will truly sing a new song, we will not fear, and we will trust in the Lord. This is truly the “blessed” life to which God is calling us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, there really is none to compare with you and my trust is in you alone. Thanks for lifting me out of the pit and setting my feet on a rock. My footsteps are firm and I am singing a new tune. Keep me going forward on this higher plane. Thank you for pouring out your blessing in my life. I love you and worship you, Lord. Amen!

  • Life on a Higher Plane – God Is Accomplishing His Good Purposes - Thursday, July 18th

    Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a sonthen I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut. As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!” “Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord …. And in due time she gave birth to a sonShe named him Samuel, for she

    said, “I asked the Lord for him.” 1 Samuel 1:10-15, 20

    Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-5

    As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” John 9:1-5

    Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So, the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” But when Jesus heard this, He said, This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of Godso that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” John 11:1-4

    And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The course that Hannah took as described above is one that God wonderfully unfolded for her. As a result, Hannah got out of the pit she was in and she had the so-called “misfortune” of her barrenness removed. It is important to realize that there is absolutely no way to attribute anything on Hannah’s part for why she was barren. The bad events in the Luke and John passages above are unequivocally not tied to anything that was done by the people upon whom these misfortunes came. Yes, there can be consequences for the things that we do that are wrong. However, many of the difficult events that make up our lives are solely and surely God at work accomplishing His good purposes even through bad happenings. 

    Like the farmer in our introduction, it is advisable to place a “maybe” after each life event (both good fortune and misfortune) as a reminder that we need to withhold judgment concerning the events of our lives because God is in charge and is not through yet in regard to how He will entirely work out and incorporate that event in the grand scheme of things. God is always at work. He loves to keep us out of the pit as we trust in Him and His sovereign and loving plan. We may not have a reversal of our so-called misfortune like Hannah did, but we always have the opportunity by God’s grace to stay out of the pit or to be lifted out of the pit. May God be merciful!

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I freely admit how prone I am to interpret the events of my life solely in human terms. Help me to always include you in the equation so that I recognize more readily that the difficult events in my life are occasions in which you are solely and surely at work accomplishing your good purposes! I choose to believe that by your grace you will deliver me from the pit and elevate me to the higher plane of your sovereign and loving plan.

  • Life on a Higher Plane – God Is Lifting Us Up through Others - Wednesday, July 17th

    Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat. “Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?” 1 Samuel 1:7-8

    Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:1-5

    But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one anotherjust as you also are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

    Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. Hebrews 3:12-14

    Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    While we might be tempted to read “ego” into Elkanah’s word to Hannah, this would be a far cry from what is really happening here. In the culture of that day, Elkanah’s words could only be interpreted as words of compassion and encouragement because they fly in the face of the conventional attitude and treatment a man of that day would exhibit toward a wife who was barren. So far, we have allowed Hannah’s experience to represent our own struggle with trials and detractors that bring us into the “pit” instead of walking with God on the higher plane to which He calls us as believers.

    And now we will let Elkanah represent the support system available to us from other believers who bring into our lives the encouragement we need to let God lift us out of the pit and onto the higher plane of faith and favor. The four New Testament passages above clearly express God’s plan for how His church takes care of its people by providing the support we need for navigating the Christian life in the midst of difficult events and people that might otherwise derail us so that we find ourselves in the “pit” so to speak. It is always God who lifts us up to that higher plane of His presence and perspective. It is the encouragement of His people that supports us in our pursuit of knowing God intimately and walking with Him victoriously in the midst of life’s obstacles.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I am committed to the pursuit of knowing you intimately and walking with you victoriously in the midst of life’s obstacles. Please connect me with others with the same commitment so that together we can support each other in living on the higher plane you have called us to. Amen!

  • Life on a Higher Plane – God Is Shaping You - Tuesday, July 16th

    There was a man named Elkanah who lived in Ramah in the region of Zuph in the hill country of Ephraim. He was the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, of Ephraim. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not. Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle. The priests of the Lord at that time were the two sons of Eli—Hophni and Phinehas. On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion because the Lord had given her no children. So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children1 Samuel 1:1-6

    In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9

    For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. 1 Peter 2:19-21

    Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready with an explanation for everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. 1 Peter 3:13-18

    Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name1 Peter 4:12-16

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Like Hannah, we are all too familiar with Peninnah-like people who come up against us throughout the course of our lives. We know there is a bigger perspective (like we talked about in the introduction) but when detractors are in our face day after day, the bigger perspective can easily elude us. Our detractors contribute greatly to our struggle with letting life events define who we are. There will always be difficult life events that come our way and God does use them to shape our lives. However, what God seeks to do is very different from the shaping that happens when difficult life events are interpreted by detractors who are allowed to speak readily and frequently into our lives. Carefully go through the four passages above from 1 Peter and let God crystallize in your heart and mind the kind of “shaping” He has in mind for you through difficult life events and difficult people.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Writing out your own prayer to God would be particularly fitting for today.

  • Life on a Higher Plane – God Is Not Through - Monday, July, 15th

    Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion. But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts to do them. The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all. Psalm 103:1-4, 17-19

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    There is a story of a farmer whose horse ran away. That evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was such bad luck. He said, "May be." The next day the horse returned, but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came exclaiming at his good fortune. He said, "May be." And then, the following day, his son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. Again the neighbors came to offer their sympathy for the misfortune. He said, "May be." The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of the broken leg the farmer's son was rejected. When the neighbors came to say how fortunately everything had turned out, he said, "May be."

    Our story places in stark contrast the way the farmer views the events of his life and the way his neighbors do. The farmer’s neighbors immediately wrap up each event into neat little packages of either “good fortune” or “misfortune.” The farmer, however, is not willing to react so quickly and offers his “maybe” response after each event. For me, there is something about this approach by the farmer that rings true and it corresponds well with the way I think I need to view the events of my life as a Christian believer. His “maybe” after each life event reminds me that I need to withhold judgment concerning the events of my life because God is in charge and is not through yet in regard to how He will entirely work out and incorporate that event in the grand scheme of things. Too often, we are like the farmer’s neighbors, quick to pass judgment on the life events that come our way. As a result, we allow these events to define who we are: I am in the pit of despair; I am on a happiness high; or I am too numb to care (because of so many ups and downs). This week’s Devotionals seek to take the farmer’s “maybe” and put it in a framework of understanding that helps us find a higher plane (God redeems your life from the pit) on which to travel through life with its so-called “good fortunes” and “misfortunes.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I know I need more of the “higher plane” and less of the “pit” in my life. I am more like the farmer’s friends than the farmer in how I treat the events of my life. I want to gain a fuller understanding of what is being said and to see a lot of corresponding change in me this week. Please help my life reflect that you are in control and are not through yet with the outworking of the events of my life. Amen!

  • "The Fabric of Life" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, July 14th

    The Fabric of Life

    My life is but a weaving
    Between my God and me
    I may not choose the colors
    He knows what they should be
    For He can view the pattern
    From the upper side
    While I can see it only
    On this the under side

    Sometimes He weaved sorrow
    Which seemed strange to me
    But I will trust His judgement
    And work on faithfully
    It’s He who fills the shuttle
    He knows what is best
    So I shall weave in earnest
    And leave with Him the rest

    At last when life is ended
    With Him I shall abide
    Then I may view the pattern
    Upon the upper side
    Then I shall know the reason
    Why pain with joy entwined
    Was woven in the fabric
    Of life that God designed

  • "The Oak Tree" - An Inspirational Poem for Saturday, July, 13th

    "The Oak Tree"

    A mighty wind blew night and day

    It stole the oak tree's leaves away,

    then snapped it's boughs

    and pulled it's bark

    until the oak was tired and stark.

    But still the oak tree held it's ground

    while other trees fell all around...

    The weary wind gave up and spoke,

    "How can you still be standing, Oak?"

    The oak tree said, "I know that you

    can break each branch of mine in two,

    carry every leaf away,

    shake my limbs, and make me sway.

    But I have roots stretched in the earth,

    growing stronger since my birth.

    You'll never touch them, for you see,

    they are the deepest part of me.

    Until today, I wasn't sure

    of just how much I could endure.

    But now I've found, with thanks to you,

    I'm stronger than I ever knew."

    ~ Johnny Ray Ryder, Jr. ~

    Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

    Ephesians 3:17-19

  • Resiliency in the Face of Troubles – Experiencing God as a Refuge from Struggle - Friday, July 12th

    The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:17-19

    Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4

    How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You, which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, before the sons of men! You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues. Blessed be the LORD, for He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me …. O love the LORD, all you His godly ones! The LORD preserves the faithful and fully recompenses the proud doer. Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD. Psalm 31:19-21A, 23-24

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    One of the most reoccurring words in the Psalms is the word “troubles” and one the most reoccurring themes of the Psalms is God being with and helping His people in the midst of their troubles. I love the image of our lives being hidden with Christ in God. It is not an image of escaping the struggle of our troubles but rather an image of being protected from the unnecessary negative impact of wrongly relating to the presence of troubles in our lives. Psalm 46 says that God is our refuge and strength in time of trouble and that therefore, we will not be afraid. Later, in the Psalm it says that we are to be still and know God as God. This is what it means to seek the things above and live in the reality that our lives our hidden with Christ in God. This is what it means to be sheltered in the secret place of his presence. More and more we can become ones who do not struggle with the fact that life regularly presents us with the challenge of struggles. However, it will also mean that more and more we are becoming ones who experience God as a refuge while we move through the struggles of life and the good things that come from them. May God grant us the grace to be this kind of person as we continue on in the pursuit of living fully for him. Truly this is the hope that he sets before us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I really do feel hopeful. You are so thoroughly involved in my life. You being in me, filling me up with your Spirit, your peace, and your comfort. Me being in you, sheltering me, hiding me, protecting me, and strengthening me. Thank you for being my refuge from troubles and struggle. I love being in the secret place of your presence. Thank you for all you are doing to help me live fully for you. Amen!

  • Resiliency in the Face of Troubles – Finding God’s Peace in Struggle - Thursday, July 11th

    In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; in Your righteousness deliver me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name's sake, You will lead me and guide me …. I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul, and You have not given me over into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a large place. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress …. But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me. Make Your face to shine upon Your servant; save me in Your lovingkindness. Psalm 31:1-3, 7-9A, 14-17A

    Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.  Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:23-27

    Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:6-9

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    When we are in the midst of challenging circumstances our trust must be in the Lord alone and not in the outcomes which we hope He will bring about for us. This is what true faith is all about and this is what should be seen by those around us. People need to see that whether God delivers us from our troubles or not, we will trust Him. Deliverance is one way God impacts the people who surround us as He shows His power and even His actual presence while delivering us from a desperate situation. But God also impacts the people who surround us when they see him sustaining us as we trust him in the middle of desperate situations that doesn’t go away and we speak to them about such faith experiences with God.

    Think of the desperate circumstance of our Savior in the garden of Gethsemene as He faced the cross. If the Father had delivered His Son in response to His prayer to have the cup of suffering removed, where would we be. All of us are a part of that great multitude of sinful people who surrounded our Lord Jesus as the Father delivered Him up on the cross. Where would we be if He had been delivered instead of delivered up. We must trust in the Lord at all times no matter the outcome of things, so that our trust is seen by those who surround us and we have the opportunity to talk about it. God will glorify Himself by delivering or not delivering. But when we trust Him, either way our faith impacts those around us and He is glorified even more.

    Pursuing a faith that proclaims that we will trust God whether He delivers or delivers up will have an amazing impact on us as well. We will find that God has wonderfully helped us to be filled with his amazing peace because we trust Him in all circumstances no matter what. God loves us right where we are in our lives today and He waits to take us by the hand and help us go forward linked with Him more fully than ever before in the exciting and challenging journey of living life fully for him.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I am beginning to see that living the Christian life in this world filled with troubles and struggle is all about resiliency. I also see that having resiliency is intimately connected with consistently letting your amazing peace flood my being. I want to be a person like this for your glory, for my good, and for the benefit of those in the world around me. Amen!

  • Resiliency in the Face of Troubles – Utilizing the Supernatural with Struggle - Wednesday, July 10th

    When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place …. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance …. And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words …. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore, having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear …. Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” Acts 2:1, 4, 12-14, 32-33, 38-39

    Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5

    Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing …. Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:2-4, 12

    In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The Peter we see after the resurrection of Christ is very different than the Peter we see beforehand. This is because of the giving of the Holy Spirit to the church after the ascension of Jesus Christ. Ever since the giving of the Holy Spirit to the church in Acts 2, each person who comes to faith in Christ becomes one who is forever indwelled by the Holy Spirit. It is this initial change at conversion that gives us the ability to face the challenge of struggles and to experience the fullness of transformation that struggles are designed to produce as we yield to the power and presence of God in us through the Holy Spirit. To be ones who exult in our tribulations, consider it all joy to encounter trials, and greatly rejoice when distressed by trials can only be the result of the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit. So, the change that God produces is first a change in how we view our struggles and then the changes those struggles produce in us as we let God use them in our lives for our good and His Glory.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, awaken me to the Holy Spirit who lives within the depths of my soul. Help me to grasp what that means and to envision the amazing difference he can make. Keep me from facing any of my troubles without a full awareness of the Spirit’s presence and his power at my disposal. Help me actually to live in the power of the Holy Spirit in the face of troubles. Amen!

  • Resiliency in the Face of Troubles – Understanding the Role of Struggle - Tuesday, July 9th

    He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us …. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:4, 6

    And it will be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstacle out of the way of My people.” For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:14-15

    The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds …. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite. The Lord supports the afflicted …. The Lord favors those who fear Him, those who wait for His lovingkindness. Psalm 147:2-3, 5-6A, 11

    Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer person is declining, yet our inner person is 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

    For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:14-18

    Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on Me.” For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:1-6

    Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ …. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Galatians 6:1-2, 9-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We have established that we need to stop struggling with the fact that we struggle. The fact that struggle is inevitable helps with this but it is not enough. We need to get to the spot where we truly believe that our struggles are necessary. In regard to God, we learn that it is true that our struggles give us the opportunity to know and experience His presence in ways that we would not know and experience otherwise. God delights to manifest Himself to us in the midst of our struggles. His reviving touch comes to us as He pours into our lives all the comfort and support we need. In regard to ourselves, we learn that it is also true that our struggles prepare us for eternity. The suffering from our struggles here will produce eternal results that when revealed after we are done here will prove that it was unbelievably worth it all. And in regard to others, we learn that bearing each other’s burdens has much to do with our being able to persevere so that we do not lose heart and grow weary. The giving and receiving of encouragement and support from each other is very much a part of God’s plan for how we make it through life victoriously in the face of our struggles and trials.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for faithfully reviving my spirit and heart whenever I get worn down from my struggles with troubles. More and more I am grasping their value and the important role they play in my life. I am not quite ready to welcome them with open arms but I am beginning to see how they prepare me for glory. Knowing you are with me and that you use them for my good really helps. Help me to care about what others go through in the same wonderful way you care about what I go through. I worship and praise you, Lord. Amen!

  • Resiliency in the Face of Troubles – Accepting the Inevitability of Struggle - Monday, July 8th

    Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:30-33

    The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So, they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    One of the pivotal parts of the game of basketball is the foul line where free throws (shots) are attempted by those who are fouled by opposing players. Success at the foul line is almost always a necessity for a team or player to do well. When a player is not known for doing well at the foul line, it will be said of them that they “struggle” at the foul line. Those who “struggle” at the foul line often spend countless hours practicing to overcome their struggle. However, there are some players who never become good free throw shooters. Every once in a while you will see a player who is otherwise a great player who goes on in their professional basketball career and never overcomes their struggle to make free throw shots. I wonder if a significant part of the problem for such players is that they struggle with the fact that they struggle. Now “life” is not a series of uncontested free throw shots. “Life” is often more like an ongoing series of attempts at jump shots with all five players from the other team guarding you all at once. We can understand how a poor free throw shooter might struggle with the fact that he struggles. But life is not uncontested and “struggle” is inevitable.

    Struggling with the fact that we struggle only compounds the difficulty. Success in life will include making highly contested jump shots so to speak. But success in life is more about not being overwhelmed with the fact that our jump shots are so highly contested. Jesus specializes in being to us that which we need so that we don’t struggle so readily with the fact that we struggle. The one who becomes a “planting of the Lord” and is called an “oak of righteousness” is the one whose roots go down deep into Christ. Rooted deeply in Christ they accept that as long as they are in the world there will be tribulation (struggle). Comfort, gladness, and praise prevail over brokenheartedness, mourning, or fainting because Christ who overcame the world with all its struggles and tribulations lives in them and through them. Miraculously, they become ones who exude peace and courage in the face of the resisting forces of life. This is very much a part of living fully for God. Finding insight and help for becoming this kind of person is the focus of this week’s Devotionals.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I do want to become this kind of person. I know there is a lot of becoming needed on my part. Accepting struggle doesn’t come easy. I am so oriented otherwise. But, Lord I am willing. Please help me to trust you and yield to you for the work of transformation you will do in my life going forward. I thank you and praise you. Amen!

  • "The Old Fisherman" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, July 7th

    THE OLD FISHERMAN

    Our house was directly across the street from the entrance of Johns Hopkin’s hospital in Baltimore, MD. We lived downstairs and rented the upstairs rooms to out-patients at the clinic. One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man.

    “Why, he’s hardly taller than my eight-year-old,” I thought as I stared at the stooped, shriveled body. But the appalling thing was his face–lopsided from swelling, red and raw. Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, “Good evening. I’ve come to see if you’ve a room for just one night. I came for a treatment this morning from the eastern shore, and there’s no bus ’till the morning.”

    He told me he’d been hunting for a room since noon but he had no success as no one seemed to have a room. “I guess it’s my face. I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments…”

    For a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me: “I could sleep in this rocking chair on the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning.” I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the porch.

    I went inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready, I asked the old man if he would join us “No thank you. I have plenty.” And he held up a brown paper bag. When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with him a few minutes.

    It didn’t take a long time to see that this old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he fished for a living to support his daughter, her five children, and her husband, who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury.

    He didn’t tell it by way of complaint; in fact, every other sentence was prefaced with a thanks to God for a blessing. He was grateful that no pain accompanied his disease, which was apparently a form of skin cancer. He thanked God for giving him the strength to keep going.

    At bedtime, we put a camp cot up for him. When I got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little man was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said, “Could I please come back and stay the next time I have a treatment? I won’t put you out a bit. I can sleep fine in a chair.”

    He paused a moment and then added, “Your children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my face, but children don’t seem to mind.” I told him he was welcome to come again.

    On his next trip he arrived a little after seven in the morning. As a gift, he brought a big fish and a quart of the largest oysters I had ever seen. He said he had shucked them that morning before he left so that they’d be nice and fresh. I knew his bus left at 4:00 a.m. and I wondered what time he had to get up in order to do this for us.

    In the years he came to stay overnight with us there was never a time that he did not bring us fish or oysters or vegetables from his garden. Other times we received packages in the mail, always by special delivery; fish and oysters packed in a box of fresh young spinach or kale, every leaf carefully washed.

    Knowing that he must walk three miles to mail these, and knowing how little money he had made the gifts more precious. When I received these little remembrances, I often thought of a comment our next-door neighbor made after he left that first morning. “Did you keep that awful looking man last night? I turned him away! You can lose roomers by putting up such people!”

    Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But oh! If only they could have known him, perhaps their illnesses would have been easier to bear. I know our family always will be grateful to have known him; from him we learned what it was to accept the bad without complaint and the good with gratitude.

    Recently I was visiting a friend who has a greenhouse. As she showed me her flowers, we came to the most beautiful one of all, a golden chrysanthemum, bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise, it was growing in an old dented, rusty bucket. I thought to myself, “If this were my plant, I’d put it in the loveliest container I had!” My friend changed my mind.

    “I ran short of pots,” she explained, “and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn’t mind starting out in this old pail. It’s just for a little while, till I can put it out in the garden.”

    She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was imagining just such a scene in heaven. “Here’s an especially beautiful one,” God might have said when he came to the soul of the sweet old fisherman. “He won’t mind starting in this small body.”

  • "A Beggar and a Lady" - An Inspirational Story for Saturday, July 6th

    A BEGGAR AND A LADY

    As a woman walked down the street one day, she spotted a beggar. The man looked pretty old, unshaven and ill-dressed. Every passerby looked at him with contempt; Not like they had anything against him, but merely because of who he was - a filthy beggar.

    But when this particular woman saw him, she was filled with compassion.

    The beggar was improperly dressed for weather so cold. He wasn’t really dressed but wrapped up in what looked like a coat from a very old and not-so-warm suit. She kindly asked the man “Sir? Are you all right?”

    The man looked at the women, who, clearly by her appearance was from a wealthy background. The old beggar thought that she, like every other person, was mocking him. “Leave me alone,” he growled.

    The women did not move. Instead, to his surprise, she smiled at him and gently asked if he was hungry.

    “No, I’ve just come from dining with the president. Now go away,” the beggar replied with a notable sarcasm. The woman’s smile did not fade. She slid her hands under the beggar’s arm and tried to pick him up.

    “Woman, what do you think you are doing?,” the beggar sounded annoyed.

    “Is there a problem ma’am?,” a policeman shouted, walking towards the lady and the beggar.

    “Not at all officer. I’m just trying to get this man to his feet. Will you help me?,” the women replied

    The policeman looked at her with surprise. “That man is old jack and has been here for years. What have you got to do with him anyway?”

    “I am taking him to a cafeteria to eat something and to get him out of the cold for a while,” The women answered.

    “Are you crazy, lady?,” the homeless man resisted. “I don’t want to go in there!” Then he felt strong hands grab his other arm and lift him up. “Let me go, officer. I didn’t do anything.”

    “It’s a good chance to feed yourself jack. Don’t blow it,” The officer advised.

    After a lot of difficulty, the woman and the officer managed to drag jack into the cafeteria. It was past breakfast and too early for lunch hour. The manager strode towards the table and asked “What’s going on here, officer?” “Is this man in trouble?”

    “She brought old jack in here to be fed,” the policeman answered.

    “Not in my cafeteria! People like him are bad for business,” the manager angrily retorted.

    “Now you know why I didn’t want to come in here woman,” Jack said to the lady. “Now let me go. I never wanted to be here in the first place.”

    The woman turned to the cafeteria manager and smiled. “Sir, I reckon you know Eddy and Associates, the banking firm down the street?”

    “Of course I do,” the manager answered impatiently. “They hold their weekly meetings in one of my banquet rooms.”

    “And I guess you make a good amount of money through those meetings.”

    “Why does it concern you, anyway?”

    “Because I am the CEO of the company” the women replied, showing no sign of pride in her statement. “Oh,” was all that the manager managed to say.

    She looked at the officer and said, “Would you like to join us in a cup of coffee and a meal, officer?”

    “No thanks, ma’am,” the officer replied. “I’m on duty.”

    “Then, perhaps, a cup of coffee to go?”

    “Yes, ma’am. That would be very nice.”

    “I’ll get your coffee for you right away, officer,” the manager immediately replied.

    “You served him right,” the officer said.

    “Oh, believe me officer, that was not what I intended. I have a reason behind all this.” She stared at Jack intently, and asked, “Jack, do you remember me?”

    Old Jack examined her face. “Well you do look familiar,” He thoughtfully added.

    “Do you remember a cold and hungry girl who frequently visited this place when you worked here?,” the women asked. “She has perhaps grown old, hasn’t she?”

    The officer looked surprised. He couldn’t imagine this fine looking woman as a poor and hungry girl.

    “I had just graduated and had come to the city looking for a job. Didn’t find one for a really long time. I was running out of cash and had been asked to vacate my apartment too. I lived on these streets for days. It was the cold month of February, I still remember. And that’s when I found this place and walked in hoping to find something to eat my little budget could afford.”

    Jack’s face suddenly lit up. “Now I remember you. I used to be at the counter. You came up and asked me if you could work for something to eat. I said that it was against company policy.”

    “I know,” the woman said. “Then you offered me the biggest roast beef sandwich, a cup of coffee, and a table for me to sit and enjoy the meal. I saw you put the price of my food in the cash register.”

    “So you started your own business?,” Old Jack asked.

    “No, not exactly. That very afternoon I got a job. I worked my way up. Then, I started my own business.” She opened her purse and pulled out a business card. “Please pay a visit to the personnel director of my company. I’ll go talk to him now. I am sure there is something in my office for which we can use your help. We can even pay you a certain amount of your salary in advance.”

    Fighting back the tears, Jack asked,“ How can I ever repay your kindness?”

    “You don’t have to” the woman answered. “Thank Jesus. He led me to you.”

    “Thank you for all your help, officer,” she said to him as they both walked out the door.

    “On the contrary, Ms. Eddy, thank you. I saw a miracle today. And of course, thank you for the coffee.”

    She frowned. “I forgot to ask you whether you used cream or sugar. That’s black.”

    “I do use cream and more sugar than what is good for my health,” He replied.

    “I’m sorry,” she said.

    “Please don’t be. I have a feeling that this coffee is going to taste as sweet as sugar,” He replied with a smile.

  • Lasting Spiritual Fulfillment – Letting God Shelter Us Fully - Friday, July 5th

    From my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a large place. The Lord is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me; therefore, I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:5-9

    The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this, I shall be confident …. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock …. I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:1-3, 5, 13-14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Here is a link to a song that is sung by the Gaither Vocal Band:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsDCH0Y2aiU

    It is called, “I Am The Lighthouse” and it begins with an alternate version of the story that was included in Monday’s Devotional. The song concludes with the words that follow:

    How many years will a man stay blind

    Before he learns to see.

    How many doors will a man kick down

    While I offer him the key.

    And as I begin to light his way

    Will he fail to recognize,

    That I am here to light his path

    Not blind his eyes.

    I am the lighthouse!

    The path you choose is perilous.

    Destruction lies ahead if you delay.

    But if you’ll trust me,

    I will lead you through safely.

    Adjust your course

    And you’ll be on your way.

    I am the lighthouse!

    As was said earlier, God’s light not only reveals the danger of continuing on our present course but it also reveals the course He has for us. Both of these thoughts are captured in the part of the song you just read. I love the words, “Will he fail to recognize that I am here to light his path not blind his eyes.” Perhaps herein is the root of our struggle; we do not recognize that God is for us and not against us and that there is absolutely nothing better, nothing more fulfilling, and nothing more satisfying than being on the course He has for us. But it is not just being on the right course that makes the difference, it is being on the right course “with” him. When we are on the right course with God and stay in the channel of His presence, ways, and purposes, he shelters us, protects us, and shields us all along the way. The Lord is our refuge and help! The Lord is our light and salvation! It doesn’t get any better than this.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, you are my lighthouse, my course, my channel for living life fully. Thank you for your loving care that shelters, protects, and shields me moment by moment as I go about living fully for you. May you be glorified by my life always. I love you, worship you, and praise you. Amen!

  • Lasting Spiritual Fulfillment – Letting God Love Us Fully - Thursday, July 4th

    Happy 4th of July

    May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19

    But You, O God, the Lord, deal kindly with me for Your name’s sake; because Your lovingkindness is good, deliver me; for I am afflicted and needy, and my heart is wounded within me …. Help me, O Lord my God; save me according to Your lovingkindness …. With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the Lord; and in the midst of many I will praise Him. For He stands at the right hand of the needy, to save him from those who judge his soul. Psalm 109:21-22, 26, 30-31

    On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul. All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O Lord, when they have heard the words of Your mouth. And they will sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the humble, but the proud He knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting; You do not forsake the works of Your hands. Psalm 138:3-8

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The cause of our being off course in life is rooted in our pride. We think we can be the master of our own lives. The proud person is full of themselves and leaves little room for God. The humble person is empty of self and gives God a way to be intimately and deeply connected and involved. This is truly a beautiful thing. We must humble ourselves before God and give way to the true Master of life. When we humble ourselves before God in an act of surrender, the changing of our course begins. Our change of course then becomes a matter of our moving from where we are to where God wants us to be.

    It is primarily a change in connection rather than in location. Our connection with God is a connection of love that spills over into all of life so that we are no longer connected to the old pathways, patterns, and people in the way that we were. As we enter more and more into the fullness of God’s love we become more and more complete and whole. As recipients of God’s redeeming and transforming love we become vessels who God uses to touch the old connections with the overflow of His love. One of the marvelous things about being on course with God is that we become ones through whom His light is seen by others to help them see their need for a change in course as well (talk about satisfaction, fulfillment, and significance).

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for your love and the gift of salvation. I know that I would not have humbled myself before you apart from a special work of grace. I am so grateful for the change in course for my life that you have brought about. I pray that you will help me let you love me more fully than ever before so that as fully as possible I become what you want me to become and others are helped to choose the change of course they so desperately need. Amen!

  • Lasting Spiritual Fulfillment – Letting God Purify Us Fully - Wednesday, July 3rd

    People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Proverbs 28:13

    Physical punishment cleanses away evil; such discipline purifies the heart. Proverbs 20:30

    We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. Romans 5:3-4

    How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:1-5

    Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin …. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow …. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:1-2, 7B, 10-12

    It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons …. He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:7A, 10B-11

    Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 2 Timothy 1:8-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    God is a redeeming and restorative God. This means He loves to take things as they are, purify them, and make them into what they can become. And this means that at any given moment we need to be in touch with where we are so that we can acknowledge that reality before Him. This allows God to do the redeeming and restorative work that is needed. This process of discipline that God takes us through increasingly produces His holiness and righteousness in us. This is a holy calling that he purposed for us in eternity before we came into being. Now that is a high calling indeed, beyond which there are no purposes that yield greater significance and fulfillment. We need to understand this and align ourselves with the goal God has of fully making us into pure and holy people. Truly there is nothing more satisfying.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, you redeemed me and made me your own through the gift of salvation. I praise you and thank you for this. But, I know you did this in order to transform my life and I do not want to settle for a life that is anything less than one that is increasingly becoming the pure and holy life you have in mind for me. Lord, I give myself to you freely and fully. Amen!

  • Lasting Spiritual Fulfillment – Letting God Care for Us Fully - Tuesday, July 2nd

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed …. But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 13

    The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:1-4

    I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the Lord; the humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:1-4

    But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the Lord with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God! For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be upon Your people! Psalm 3:3-8

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The change in course God has in mind for us puts us in a place where we are squarely in the center of His care. When we are off course the focus of God’s care is centered on getting us on course and so the fullness of the care that otherwise might be ours awaits the change of course that is needed. There is certainly more to fear in choosing to stay off course and remain in the nakedness of missing care from God than there is in the momentary vulnerability before God and others that comes with acknowledging that we are off course and in need of a course correction. God is waiting for us to respond to Him and to let Him deliver us from all our fears that hinder us from making the change in course we so desperately need.

    Picture a flock of sheep that are under their Shepherd’s care. All their needs are being met as they stay near their shepherd in the pasture where he keeps them and tends to them. Now picture one sheep that goes astray by wandering outside the pasture and away from the care of the shepherd. It will not be until the sheep returns that he will be back under the Shepherd’s regular care. The shepherd will now devote himself to finding, rescuing, and bringing the lost sheep home to his pasture and the regular care he provides there for his sheep. We may think there is satisfaction and fulfillment to be found elsewhere and stray from our Shepherd and his pasture, but in the end our path will be perilous, filled only with pain, misery, and loss. The Lord seeks us when we have gone astray (off course) and he calls us by name. He wants to bring us home and we must let him do so. There is no better place to be but home under the Lord’s full and complete care.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, help me be and stay home with you. I believe the allurements of the world bring anything but satisfaction and fulfillment. I believe my true needs (spiritual and all the rest) are met by you and you alone. Help me adjust my course so that I am fully under your care. I know by being under your full care, I will serve you and live for you fully. Amen!

  • Lasting Spiritual Fulfillment – Letting God Change Our Course Fully - Monday, July 1st

    Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am. Behold, you have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Surely every man walks about as a phantom; surely, they make an uproar for nothing; he amasses riches and does not know who will gather them. And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. Psalm 39:4-7

    Then he (Jesus) said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’” “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:15-21

     

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The rich man in the Luke passage was living fully for himself. Lasting fulfillment only comes from living fully for God and not ourselves. The rich man was all wrapped up in material things and not in spiritual things. The greediness of owning much in the way of earthly riches consumed him rather than having a rich relationship with God. How about us? Following a course where we too, are consumed with the pursuit of earthly riches instead of becoming rich toward God can easily become our plight. The following story further illustrates for us how dangerous it is to continue on the wrong course.

    Know When to Change Course
    From More Sower's Seeds

    A battleship had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities. 

    Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, "Light, bearing on the starboard bow." 

    "Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out. 

    The lookout replied, "Steady, captain," which meant it was on a dangerous collision course with their ship. 

    The captain then shouted to the signalman, "Signal the ship: We are on a collision course. Advise you to change course 20 degrees." 

    Back came a signal, "Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees!" 

    In reply, the captain said, "Send: I'm a ship's captain. Change course 20 degrees, now!" 

    "I'm a seaman second class, "came the reply, "You had better change course 20 degrees, now!" 

    By that time, the captain was furious. He spit out a command, "Send: This is a battleship. Change your course immediately." 

    Back came the flashing light's reply. "This is a lighthouse!" 

    The battleship changed course.

    Getting to the spot where we commit to a change of course is absolutely essential if we are going to respond to God properly. God illumines the course we are on with His light. For some God’s light reveals that their present course will result in destruction on the rocks and that without a complete change of course all is lost. For others God’s light reveals that they have veered from the channel of His presence, ways, and purposes and that unnecessary and unintended rough waters lie ahead without an adjustment of course. While we all need to see clearly the ramifications of our present course, at the same time we need to see clearly the course God has in mind for us. This week’s Devotionals seek to provide the impetus we need for making the change in course that will actually allow us to go forward living fully for God in the channel of his presence, ways, and purposes. A rich relationship with God and not material riches is where truly lasting fulfillment is found.

     

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want to live fully for you. I want you to shine your Divine light on my life so that I can fully yield to you and the adjustments you are waiting to make in the course I have been taking with my life. Deliverer me from living for myself and the pursuit of earthly riches. I know they will be left behind anyway and only serve to rob me of true fulfillment. I choose you and the lasting spiritual fulfillment that comes from being rich toward you. Amen!

  • "Home"- An Inspirational Poem for Sunday June 30th

    Home 
    By Edgar A. Guest 

    The road to laughter beckons me,
    The road to all that's best;
    The home road where I nightly see
    The castle of my rest;
    The path where all is fine and fair,
    And little children run,
    For love and joy are waiting there
    As soon as day is done.

    There is no rich reward of fame
    That can compare with this:
    At home I wear an honest name,
    My lips are fit to kiss.
    At home I'm always brave and strong,
    And with the setting sun
    They find no trace of shame or wrong
    In anything I've done.

    There shine the eyes that only see
    The good I've tried to do;
    They think me what I'd like to be;
    They know that I am true.
    And whether I have lost my fight
    Or whether I have won,
    I find a faith that I've been right
    As soon as day is done.

  • "Outlook" - An Inspirational Poem for Saturday, June 29th

    Outlook


    By Priscilla Leonard

    Forget each kindness that you do
    As soon as you have done it.
    Forget the praise that falls to you
    The moment you have won it.
    Forget the slander that you hear
    Before you can repeat it.
    Forget each slight, each spite, each sheer
    Wherever you may meet it.

    Remember every kindness done
    To you, whate'er its measure.
    Remember praise by others won
    And pass it on with pleasure.
    Remember every promise made
    And keep it to the letter.
    Remember those who lend you aid
    And be a grateful debtor.

    Remember all the happiness
    That comes your way in living.
    Forget each worry and distress;
    Be hopeful and forgiving.
    Remember good, remember truth,
    Remember Heaven's above you,
    And you will find, through age and youth,
    True joys and hearts to love you.

  • The Full Experience of Discipleship – Time and the Journey - Friday, June 28th

    For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason, it says, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:8-16

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    What a simple way to capture all that has been said so far, “walk as children of light” and “be careful how you walk …. making the most of your time.” This is well reflected in the life of 20th century missionary martyr, Jim Elliot, who said, “he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.”

    Also, we need to remember that we are not on this journey alone. As we live out our devotion to intimacy with the Lord and intimacy with faithful others, our lights will shine in ways that unreached others will see and respond to. The cycle of redemption is a glorious thing and we have everything we need to ensure that we will follow through and not “fall down on the job.” Yes, we will make the most of our time here on earth by being ones who truly “live fully” for God in the full experience of discipleship.

     

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, my heart, my will, my resources, and my time are all yours. I am your disciple completely and fully for all the days you give me. May you be glorified fully as I live fully for you, day by day. Keep me steady and sure on the path of genuine discipleship. May your people everywhere walk with you faithfully and triumphantly. Amen!

  • The Full Experience of Discipleship – Influence and the Journey - Thursday, June 27th

    Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king. You who are slaves must accept the authority of your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:11-21

    For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble. 2 Peter 1:4-10

    But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; for I do not know the sum of them. I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone. O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come. For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You? Psalm 71:14-19

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    One of the great evidences that we are going forward in complete follow through with the process of transformation of our lives that was begun when we came to faith in Christ is the impact our transformed lives has on the world around us. What a great description of this we find in the 1 Peter passage above. If we are living our lives in the way described, we will have opportunity to give verbal expression to our faith that we are already demonstrating by our lives (1 Peter 3:15). Getting to this spot is very much a part of our “follow through” and our not being ones who “fall down on the job.” But remember bearing fruit in this way does not take place apart from abiding in Christ whereby He produces the fruit in us and through us.

     

    Once again, we have passages of exhortation and in them we see both the tone of challenge and correction and the tone of encouragement and support. We need the help admonishment and edification provide if we are to be spurred on in our pursuit of living truly fruitful lives. When the fruitfulness of Christ comes forth from our lives it will be both in terms of Divine qualities that others see in us and in words they hear from us that proclaim the awesomeness of God and His gift of salvation.

     

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for redeeming my soul. It is utterly amazing that my heart is now your home. How incredible that within the sanctuary of my heart I am getting to know you, I am being made like you, I am being guided by you, and I being empowered for living life. From all of this, I am becoming a vessel you use to influence, bless, and reach the people in my life. I get it, Lord! I just concentrate on you and you do the amazing work of radically altering my life and using it to touch the world. Amen!

  • The Full Experience of Discipleship – Diligence and the Journey - Wednesday, June 26th

    When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11

    Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Hebrews 5:11-14

    For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:7-12

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    I can’t imagine there being anyone who could say the journey of growing up from childhood to adulthood was an easy one. Often the part of that journey that is the most tumultuous is adolescence. The transition from adolescence to adulthood is complicated and extremely challenging for all involved. Certainly, the same is true for us spiritually. There is an image that can be drawn from the passage above that captures the idea of adolescence. It is the image of one who has physically gown up, is dabbling at adulthood, but hasn’t put away childish things yet. The primary image conveyed from the passage that we want to apply to our spiritual lives is that of a person who sets aside childish things and enters into spiritual adulthood. To be ones who have truly grown up in Christ is the goal, but often we get stuck in spiritual adolescence so to speak. We dabble at the things spiritually grown up people live out consistently and we refuse to put away our favorite childish things. As a result, spiritual adolescence becomes a prison for us and it is a tumultuous thing indeed for everyone involved.

     

    The passages above are words of exhortation. To exhort is to speak into another person’s life that which is needed for their spiritual good. It can have either the tone of challenge and correction or the tone of encouragement and support. If we are stuck in spiritual adolescence we need faithful others who are not afraid to tell us that we have become dull of hearing and are not making the progress that was expected. We also need faithful others in our lives to tell us that they are convinced of better things concerning us and to express the great desire they have for us to make the shift out of our sluggishness into full gear for becoming ones who realize the full assurance of hope until the end.

     

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, how easily I am deceived with thinking I am truly committed to genuine discipleship when in reality I am merely enamored with the idea of spiritual maturity. I need Divine diligence to be no longer one who dabbles at spiritual things but rather to be one who lives them out consistently. I know you will help me “live fully” so that I truly realize the full assurance of hope until the end. Amen!

  • The Full Experience of Discipleship – Nourishment and the Journey - Tuesday, June 25th

    Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment. 1 Peter 2:2

    I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing …. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples …. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain. John 15:5, 8, 16A

    Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. Hebrews 3:12-14

     

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    All journeys have a beginning and there is nothing wrong with being at the beginning unless we are still at the beginning long after we should be on the journey itself. A newborn baby is at the beginning of the journey of human life and the image of the 1st Peter passage above is very real to us. Babies cry out for nourishment and they crave their mother’s milk. As they regularly partake of that nourishment they are soon past the beginning and off to a good start of growing into the full experience of life. Our spiritual beginning comes about when we receive the forgiveness of sins offered us in Christ. Through this forgiveness and cleansing we are made alive spiritually and Christ comes to dwell in our hearts through the Holy Spirit to begin the process of transforming our lives. Christ gives us nourishment through His presence (the living Word) and through the Scriptures (the written Word) and we are launched on our journey with Him and the full experience of spiritual life He has in store for us.

     

    The key words from the passages above are the words abide and partake. The key to our journey is staying close to Christ and drawing our nourishment from Him like a branch does from a vine. This is what it means to abide and it is the only way to be fruitful. Being fruitful (the follow through) is what the journey is all about. In intimate connection with Christ whereby we experience His presence and partake of Him, we have the nourishment we need for being fruitful. If we learn to abide and partake of Christ right from the beginning, we will be in the best position possible for holding fast to Christ throughout the journey from start to finish.

     

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, show me how to abide in your presence and how to partake of the constant nourishment provided in the intimacy of communion with you. I do not want to be a spectator but a full-fledged participant. I give myself to you and the growing, thriving spiritual life you have set before me. I choose to be a complete disciple for your honor and glory. Amen!

  • The Full Experience of Discipleship – Support and the Journey - Monday, June 24th

    You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. 2 Timothy 2:2

    For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Colossians 1:9-12

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We are all familiar with the saying, “fall down on the job.” The saying simply means, “to begin and not follow through.” We are all too familiar with the problem of beginning but not following through. We see it in the lives of others and of course in our own lives as well. There is probably not a day in any of our lives where we are not exposed to situations where the saying, “fall down on the job” does not come into play. It doesn’t matter what area of our lives we pick, we do not want it to be that we “fall down on the job” in that area. It is certainly true that in our Christian lives we don’t want it to be true that we “fall down on the job.” But even though we don’t want it to be true, far too often it is true.

    Jesus addressed this problem in Luke 14 where he speaks of counting the cost before something is started so that once we begin it we are able to follow through with it. Jesus illustrates this by referring to a builder who did not count the cost and then after laying a foundation for a building was not able to finish. With the unfinished structure in full view of other people, the builder who did not follow through became subject to their ridicule and they said of him, “this person began to build but was not able to finish.” If we are Christians, we are disciples and according to Jesus, true disciples are ones who start and follow through.

    The Colossians passage above is a good description of what God wants to bring about in our lives as disciples. We are always a work in progress with the need to be going forward consistently. The 2nd Timothy passage above adds a marvelous element into the mix. We need trustworthy people around us who speak truth into our lives and we need to be one of the trustworthy people who speak truth into the lives of various other people that God brings our way. We certainly needed those people who helped us begin and if we are to follow through and not “fall down on the job” we certainly need those (small groups) who can help us continue on. Just as certainly, God has those people we will help to begin the Christian life and those we will help to continue on.

    So, we began and are on the journey of a transformed life through Christ (We call it “Living Fully”). We do not want to be ones who “fall down on the job” but rather those who follow through with what was begun. The key is a having a mix of people in our lives who speak truth and encouragement into our lives and to whom we speak truth and encouragement into theirs. As a result, our transformed lives will touch the lives of those who have yet to begin the journey and God will use us to help them come to the Master and embrace the journey He has for them. Exploring this cycle more fully and discovering the help we need for being able to go forward victoriously in the full experience of Discipleship is the focus of this week’s Devotionals.

     

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, it is my prayer that you will grant me a full measure of spiritual “follow through” so that I fully “live fully” for you. I want to finish well. I know that gearing up is not the answer. I give myself to you in genuine commitment, surrender, and dependence. Lord, I worship you, rest in you, and count on you. Amen!

  • "Clay Balls" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, June 23rd

    CLAY BALLS

    A man was exploring caves by a seashore when he found a bag with a bunch of hardened clay balls. The balls looked like someone had intentionally rolled the clay and left them out in the sun to bake. “Perhaps some children made them while they were at the beach,” the man thought. They didn’t look like much, but they intrigued the man so he took the bag out of the cave with him.

    As he strolled along the beach, he threw the clay balls one by one out into the ocean as far as he could. The clay balls would fly and disappear into the ocean. The man threw several clay balls in the ocean until he dropped one of the balls and it cracked open. Inside the clay was a beautiful, precious stone.

    This excited the man and he started breaking the remaining clay balls. Each of them contained different types of precious stones. He found thousands of dollars worth of jewels in the twenty clay balls that were left with him. Then it struck him. He had been on the beach for a long time and he must have thrown away many clay balls with hidden treasure into the sea. He could have had a treasure worth of tens of thousands rather than just thousands if he had not thrown the clay balls away.

    Most of the time we look at someone or even ourselves and we see the external clay vessel. The vessel doesn’t always look sparkly and nice, so we never bother to look inside it. We tend to see and judge a person and deem them as less important than the ones who are more beautiful, stylish, well known, or wealthy. We forget to look inside for the unique treasure that each one of us hold.

    May we not come to the end of our lives and realize that we have thrown away a fortune in friendships, love, or any relationship because we did not attempt to look for the gems hidden in bits of clay. Let us all relish the treasures each of us hold inside us.

  • "The Most Beautiful Heart" - An Inspirational Story for Saturday, June 22nd

    THE MOST BEAUTIFUL HEART

    A young man was proud of his healthy and beautiful heart. One day, standing in the middle of the town, he proclaimed that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole valley. A large crowd gathered to have a look at his heart. His heart was smooth, shiny and looked very healthy. Indeed, the man had the most beautiful heart in the valley, everyone agreed.

    The proud young man felt delighted and boasted about his perfect heart which everyone admired. Suddenly, a voice from the crowd said, “Your heart is not as beautiful as mine.” The young man searched for the person behind the voice and an old man appeared in front him.

    “Show us your heart if you believe you’ve got a more beautiful heart than mine,” said the young man. The old man carefully showed his heart. The crowd and the young man looked at the old man’s heart. The heart was beating strongly and healthily but it was not smooth and shiny like the young man’s heart. Instead, it had scars all over it. It had places where some pieces of the heart had been removed and other pieces were put in. The other pieces didn’t fit perfectly and there were several uneven edges. In some places, there were deep gouges where some pieces were missing.

    The crowd laughed at the old man’s heart. “How can he claim that he has the most beautiful heart when it is all scared and uneven,” they thought.

    The young man looked at the old man’s heart and laughed. ”You must be kidding. Compare your heart and mine. My heart looks perfect and smooth and yours is a mess of scars and tears.”

    “Yes, Your heart looks perfect, but I would never trade your heart with mine,” said the old man. “Every scar in my heart represents a person whom I have given my love. I tear a piece of my heart and give to them. Often, my loved one give me back a piece of their heart which fits into the empty place in my heart. Since everyone loves each other in a different way, their piece of heart may not perfectly fit my heart, so you can see some rough edges. These scars and rough edges remind me of the love we shared,” he continued.

    “Sometimes I would give a piece of my heart, but the other person did not return a piece of his heart to me. These are the empty gouges. Although these gouges are painful, these remind me of the love I have for these people too. So do you now see what is true beauty? “asked the old man.

    The young man and the crowd stood silently with tears running down their cheeks. The young man walked to the old man, reached into his perfect young and beautiful heart, ripped a piece out of it and offered it to the man with trembling hands.

    The old man gratefully received his offering, placed it in his heart, and then took a piece from his old heart and placed it in the young man’s heart.

    The young man looked at his heart, it did not look shiny and smooth like it used to. But, it was now more beautiful because he could feel the love from the old man’s heart flowing into him.

    They embraced and walked away side by side.

  • Divine Resources for Human Needs – Living Fully and Kingdom Existence - Friday, June 21st

    The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; he guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house the Lord forever. Psalm 23:1-6

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    It comes down to whether we have experienced the major shift in perspective and focus that God desires so much to see come about in our lives. He wants us to understand that He does not exist for us, but rather we exist for Him. His miraculous provision is for those who get this right. God has special ways and means of caring for those who are seeking to put living fully for Him and His kingdom ahead of having their basic life needs met. Those who are on this track are learning to be content with the absence or abundance of provision and are always grateful for whatever He provides, be it miraculously or by more conventional means. But ultimately it is the joy of giving sacrificially to help meet the needs of others that is the heartbeat of those who are truly engaged in living fully for God by faith.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I know you are fully at work getting me to where I really need to be. Where I need to be has everything to do with my embracing the fact that you do not exist for me, but rather that I exist for you. I understand that you will freely meet my true needs as I seek to live fully for you by walking in faith and joining you in the amazing adventure of serving your Kingdom by engaging in the ministry of meeting the true needs of others. Amen!

  • Divine Resources for Human Needs – Living Fully and Disaster Protection - Thursday, June 20th

    Soon every container was full to the brim! “Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons. “There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing. When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.” 2 Kings 4:6-7

    The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. John 10:10

    He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord .… In the wilderness, he fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. Otherwise, you may say in your heart, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:3, 16-18

    Pray, then, in this way: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew 6:9-13

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Jesus Christ alive in our lives with our full awareness of Him and the kingdom uses He has in mind for us is what living fully for God is all about. Of course, this requires an ever-developing faith and the whole area of needs and physical provision is often the training ground God uses for this. With Christ and His kingdom as our central focus, our developing faith more and more brings us to the spot where, ultimately, we don’t care what happens to our physical provisions. When we are in charge and physical provisions dominate, then our needs and having them met consumes us and we are devastated when we face financial disaster (like the woman in our story). We must learn that handling financial disaster properly is more about what happens to us on the inside, in our hearts and minds, than what happens on the outside. 

    When we have our attachments in the right place (Christ and His kingdom), then there is nothing of true value for the disaster to hit because Christ and His kingdom mission are disaster proof. When this is what we are attached to, we don’t have to worry about disaster; our hearts and minds are secure with no entry point from the outside. But, if we are attached to physical provision which is subject to disaster then we become subject to disaster and there is an entry point to our hearts whereby we become vulnerable to internal devastation. When we live for God and His kingdom, He works at keeping us on target. The meeting of our true needs really is a training ground for our developing faith. His orchestration of basic life provisions is amazing and often there is no explanation for that provision but His direct and miraculous intervention.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, living fully for you is such a high calling. I know it is an upward call that you are increasingly accomplishing in my life. I confess there are times it seems out of reach, though. Help me increasingly to believe in the work you are doing to make me disaster proof. Truly, I am becoming more attached to you and your kingdom mission than to pursuing, having, and maintaining the physical provisions of human life. I love you, worship you, and bless you, Lord. Amen!

  • Divine Resources for Human Needs – Living Fully and Sacrificial Giving - Wednesday , June 19th

    And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.” So, she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. 2 Kings 4:3-5

    Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1

    And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, ”He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, his righteousness endures forever.” Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 2 Corinthians 9:8-10

    If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? James 2:15-16

    But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but indeed and truth. 1 John 3:17-18

    In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The woman in our story exercised faith in God and His word to her through the prophet Elisha by being willing to obey and then by stepping out and doing what was asked of her. She exercised faith before comprehending how God would work or seeing any evidence that He would work on her behalf. God then did act on her behalf and she went from having nothing in the way of earthly resources to literally overflowing with them. She went from being empty to being full because she was willing to act in faith.

     So, in regard to earthly resources, whether we are on empty, have an adequate amount, or are overflowing with them, we must check ourselves to see what kind of attachment our hearts really have with them. We all know how easy it is not to extend ourselves to help others even when we have the resources. But, because God has a great desire for our helping others to become a way of life for us, he specializes in making it possible for us to help others even in those times when we don’t have the resources. Using our financial resources for the benefit of others needs to be the rule not the exception even when we have very little to offer. Expect the unexpected: God loves to stretch what we have way beyond what is humanly reasonable so that He can meet the needs of others through us.

    While God can stretch our resources, sometimes our limited resources for helping others is our own doing. We are called to be stewards of what God gives us and that means that we must use what we have wisely. We must answer the call to be ones who meet needs both on a one to one basis and corporately in conjunction with other believers. This will mean reducing what we spend on ourselves and purposely saving a portion of our resources for meeting the needs of others. We are called to be agents of grace individually and collectively. Even when we seemingly don’t have the means that is needed, we must not be afraid to respond in faith first, in anticipation of God expanding our means. God is so very gracious to us and He is working to extend that grace through us to others on an individual basis and corporately. It is important to realize that God greatly desires to do this at levels way beyond what we have even begun to imagine up to this point in our lives.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want to love in deed and I want to believe indeed. I know that when I get to the place where both are actually true in my life, I will really be a sacrificial giver. Help me to put others first by giving to them generously from either the resources that are mine naturally or by those you provide miraculously, Lord. Amen!.

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