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Victory Over Death

Victory Over Death

Today’s Scripture: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”  I Corinthians 15:26

In this life we face many daunting foes: temptation, grief, discouragement, fear (to name just a few). But none has proven so devastatingly indestructible as death itself.

As children of God, we have all known what it is to fight against sorrow, to war against lust, to battle with depression — and still emerge victorious, through the power of Jesus Christ. But none of us has ever known anyone who has locked horns with that grim enemy Death successfully.

The last enemy, the one whom we all quake to face, is the very enemy that we cannot possibly defeat. But this is the very same foe that Christ has promised to vanquish on our behalf! The last enemy will be His final victory.

Christ, Paul declares, is mighty in the destruction, not only of His own enemies, but of yours as well! In fact, Christ was willing to feel death Himself, so that we might be forever delivered from the power that death had over us.

With death destroyed, what is left for the child of God, but everlasting life? With the last enemy finally conquered, no further adversary could ever be expected to raise its ugly head against us. Beloved, the same inexorable power that is employed in overcoming the enemies of God has been exercised on your behalf, in order to bring death to its own demise!

Jesus Christ will one day bury death. And the triumphant monument that He will raise over its grave will be the everlasting host of His redeemed children.

 

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Fret Not

Fret Not

Today’s Scripture: “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him: Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.”—Psalm  37:7.

IT IS a mistake to be always turning back to recover the past. The law for Christian living is not backward, but forward; not for experiences that lie behind, but for doing the will of God, which is always ahead and beckoning us to follow. Leave the things that are behind, and reach forward to those that are before, for on each new height to which we attain, there are the appropriate joys that befit the new experience. Don’t fret because life’s joys are fled. There are more in front. Look up, press forward, the best is yet to be!

Fret not because your ideals appear to mock you. Every ideal which we cherish is the herald and precursor of a reality which, in a better form than ever we dreamed, shall one day come to our possession. The ancient alchemists spent their lives in the pursuit of the Philosopher’s Stone, which they thought would turn every substance it touched to gold. They never discovered it, but they laid the foundations of modern chemistry, which has been more fruitful in its blessing to our race than the famous magic-stone would have been. Who shall say that those old explorers were deceived? Was not God leading them on, by a way that they knew not, to better things than they dreamed?

Fret not because the future seems dark. After all, the troubles we anticipate may never really befall. It is a long lane without a turning, and the dreariest day has some glint of light. In any case, worrying will not help matters; it can alter neither the future nor the past, though it will materially affect our power in dealing with troubles. It will not rob to-morrow of its difficulties, but it will rob your brain of its clear-sightedness, and your heart of its courage.

Let us turn to God with faith and prayer, looking out for the one or two patches of blue which are in every sky. And if you cannot discover anywhere you are, dare to anticipate the time when God shall make all things work together for good to them that love Him.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, we have been careful and troubled about many things. Forgive us, and breathe into our hearts a great faith in Thee, that doubts and fears may not be able to break in on our peace. Fence us around to-day as with a wall of fire; let us hear Thy voice saying: Fear not, I am with thee. AMEN.

 

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Why Does God Allow Evil?

Why Does God Allow Evil?

Today’s Scripture:  “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17

When Christians discuss how and when evil entered the world, they most often point to the serpent’s temptation of Eve. But in fact, we must go back a bit further to the moment when God planted the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  By offering Adam and Eve a choice between obedience and rebellion, the Lord allowed for evil to enter His perfect creation.

Now, you are probably asking the very question that plagues many people, believers and unbelievers alike: Why does a loving God allow evil? Some unsatisfactory answers have been put forward over the years—for example, that the Lord doesn’t care or that He’s helpless to prevent evil. Such responses contradict what God says about Himself in Scripture (Romans  5:8; Psalm 47:8). The truth is, our loving Father wields absolute authority over this world.

God had a purpose for letting wickedness enter the world. The Tree of Knowledge was a testing ground. Adam and Eve had to choose between rebellion and love, evil and righteousness, disobedience and obedience. Because the Lord desired love from the human beings He created, He had to offer a choice. Genuine love is given freely. The alternatives were either to skip the whole creation process or to program mankind like robots to give Him glory and praise.

The Lord gives two assurances regarding evil. First, His purpose is not for us to sin (James 1:13). He desires that we live with righteous intent so that evil can find no room in our hearts. Second, when we are touched by evil, He will cause the experience to work for our good (Romans  8:28).

 

 

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The Fourth Watch

The Fourth Watch

Today’s Scripture: “And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.” Matthew 14:25

God never sleeps and never gets tired.  He is Spirit.  Therefore, a physical body that grows weary does not limit Him.  He is always awake, alert, and attentive to His children.  He never slumbers, but watches over His children as they rest and sleep (Psalm 121).  Since God never sleeps, He frequently comes to His children in the early morning hours to awaken them for prayer and fellowship in His Word.  In our text, Jesus saw that His disciples were struggling at sea as they attempted to row to shore.  He came to them in their distress, walking on the water in “the fourth watch,” sometime between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.  He made their struggles cease, and gave them perfect peace.

Jesus will come to us during “the fourth watch” as well.  Through the years, the Lord has often awakened me in the early hours before dawn with a desire to pray.  There is something special about those early hours with God.  While on earth, Jesus often prayed during that same time period (Mark 1:35).  King David offered his prayers to God early “in the morning” (Psalm 5:3).  It is said of the great Methodist preacher, John Wesley, that he spent several hours in prayer and Bible study every morning before daybreak.  Indeed, the sun should always rise on some Christian kneeling in prayer.

I often talk with Christians who complain about their hectic schedules.  They simply do not have time to pray.  I tell them about “the fourth watch.”  The house is quiet, the family is asleep, and privacy is at a premium.  Those early hours are for communion with God, not physical exercise.  Go to bed early, and then rise early to meet with the Lord Jesus.  He still comes to His struggling disciples in the early hours of “the fourth watch.”

 

 

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How We are to Respond to God’s Promises

How We are to Respond to God’s Promises

Today’s Scripture: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”  Romans 1:16-17

How are we to respond to the promises of God? His promises are not automatically at work in every life that hears them. Some respond correctly, while others respond improperly. Some enjoy the benefits of God’s promises, whereas others do not. In these two verses, we are given the fundamental response to all that pertains to the gospel of grace. That response is faith. This would certainly include living by the promises of God.

Paul was unashamed of the gospel due to its effective character. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation.” The good news about Jesus Christ is essentially the grace of God proclaimed to man: “the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). This grace is God’s power poured out unto the saving of souls. This power is experienced by all who place their faith in the gospel, whether Jew or Gentile: “for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” The gospel is effective, because it holds forth God’s righteousness to sinful man, if he is willing to trust in the Lord. “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.”

The gospel is referred to in the scriptures as a promise. “And this is the promise that He has promised us – – eternal life” (I John 2:25). The gospel is often stated in the form of promises: “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved . . . whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 15:11 and Romans 10:13). These gospel promises are partaken of by faith. “The just shall live by faith.”

In addition to initial salvation, the good news of God’s grace includes many other promises from God. “I will build My church . . . You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free . . . When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (Matthew 16:18; John 8:32; 16:13). All of these promises are experienced by faith as well, because “the just shall live by faith” – – continually, as well as initially.

O Lord God, I want to respond to Your promises properly. How gracious that You only ask me to trust in what You have promised to do. I do not want to ignore Your promises or doubt them. I want to live by relying upon every promise You have ever made. In Your faithful name I pray, Amen.

 

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When We Ignore God

When We Ignore God

Today’s Scripture: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”  James 4:17

Have you ever felt ignored? Everyone longs for love, acceptance, and attention, but perhaps a friend or close relative has shown little interest in you or what you have to say. Such treatment is hurtful and can lead to feelings of inadequacy.

There’s something even worse, though, than displaying no concern for others: disregarding God. Yet all of us have done this. One way we disregard Him is by failing to obey when we know His instructions. For example, if we are feeling cornered, we can be tempted to justify a white lie, but once falsehood has left our lips, we’ve ignored the Lord. The same principle holds true when we sense His leading but do not follow. And unless we discipline ourselves to spend time with our Father in His Word and in prayer, we are neglecting Him again.

The consequences are painful. For one thing, neglect grieves God because He is
our heavenly Father, who desires closeness with each of His children. We also miss out on the best for our lives. Since connection with the Lord is like being “plugged into” the source of life, ignoring Him will mean missing out on His best for us.  And then we shortchange ourselves out of fulfilling the purpose for which He created us—glorifying Him. And remember, we eventually will be held accountable for our actions.

How are you choosing to live—do you heed what the Almighty says, or are you living with your own set of standards? Your conscious choices affect your walk with Jesus. If you tune your spirit to listen and discipline yourself to obey, you will enjoy great intimacy with the Lord.

 

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Comfort

Comfort

Today’s Scripture: “Be of good comfort…and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” II Corinthians 13:11

This admonition and promise, at first glance, seem to be backwards. It seems as though Paul should first give the promise of God’s presence with us, followed by the admonition to therefore be comforted. But he doesn’t.

Paul actually says for us to be comforted and then promises – subsequently – that the God of love and peace will be with us. The clear implication is that the love and peace of God will only be felt by us after we follow the admonition to “be of good comfort.” Why?

The fact is that Paul is exhorting us to be comforted. We are to allow the transcendent promises of God to flood our hearts; we are commanded to receive the marvelous truths of the gospel and hold on to them and believe them. It is only when we allow ourselves to be comforted, when we give in to the reality of goodness and joy and pleasure in all that God promises to us and purposes for us — it is only then that we can feel the love and peace of God with us. It cannot be in any other order!

We may often wonder why God has not sent comfort our way, why we do not feel the presence of God with us. But the truth is that God has sent countless comforts our way, in His Word, but we have not believed them, have not received them, have not allowed them to infiltrate our doubting and discouraged and deflated hearts.

It is only when we allow ourselves to be comforted by the truth of all that God has promised us that we will then feel the love and peace of God with us. So, believer, be comforted.

 

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The Impact Of Prayer

The Impact of Prayer

Today’s Scripture: “pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

Prayer is the lifeblood of an intimate relationship with the Father. But believers often have questions about its power and effectiveness. Don’t hesitate to take your queries to the Lord, dig into Scripture for answers, and seek the counsel of a trusted spiritual mentor. Prayer is too important to neglect.

Will God’s plans fail if I don’t pray? God is not subservient to believers or dependent upon their prayers. The time we invest in speaking with Him involves us in the work that He is doing in our lives and in the world, but He will carry on without us. Laboring alongside the Lord is our privilege.

Does my prayer (or lack thereof) impact God’s work? I believe that Scripture indicates the answer to this question is both yes and no, depending upon the situation. There are times when God’s purpose is set. He is in control and has determined the best course. In the Old Testament, the Lord often prophesied what He would do and then brought those events to pass.

In other cases, “you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). There are some good things that He holds back until we put out prayerful hands to receive them. But because God is a loving Father, He also pours our blessings that we wouldn’t even think to request.

Believer’s prayers have tremendous impact, particularly on their own faith and life. Do you understand what an awesome privilege it is to kneel before the all-powerful Father and know that He listens and will respond? God loves to be good to His children and answer their prayers.

 

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Jesus Our Example

Jesus Our Example

Today’s Scripture: “He laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 3:16

John 3:16 famously declares the love of God, the giving of His Son, and His purpose that whoever believes on His Son will have everlasting life. But 1 John 3:16 takes this truth a step further.

It is true, John says, that genuine love, perfect love is seen in the death of Jesus Christ for us. From this, however, we are meant to learn that genuine love is a sacrificial love.

You see, John explains, not only did the Father give His Son for us, but the Son gave Himself for us! He laid down his life for us. This was not cosmic or divine child abuse, as some have suggested. The cross of Christ is the ultimate display of the perfect and united love of both the Father and the Son.

Such love, though, is meant, not only to save us from hell in the future, but also to deliver us from selfishness and vanity right now. As we look at Jesus on the cross, His sacrificial love for us should lead us to lay down our lives for each other. In fact, John says, the cross makes us indebted (“we ought”) to love each other.

How has Jesus’ love affected you? Does it lead you to more self-absorption or to sacrificial service? Christ’s love for us includes His love for others, and so our love for Him must include a love for others, as well.

 

 

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Victorious Over Limitations

Victorious Over Limitations

Today’s Scripture: “The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.”—Colossians 4:18.

AT THE close of his dictation, St. Paul took the stylus from the hand of his amanuensis, and appended his signature to the letter, which was awaiting that necessary endorsement. As he did so, he contrasted his irregular and clumsy writing with the flowing current-hand of his scribe, and in excuse, said pathetically, “Remember my bonds!” It was as though he said, “You cannot expect a man who for thrice years has had his wrist fettered by an iron chain to write as well as when he was a student at Gamaliel’s feet!” He makes reference to the same subject in Galatians 6:11, where he speaks of the “large letters” which he had written with his own hand; but in this case it was caused by his failing eyesight rather than the iron fetter.

There are other bonds than iron chains which impose on us their straints and limitations. Many of us, as we review our work at the close of the day, are overwhelmed with the sense of failure. As we kneel before our Lord, we are constrained to say, “Alas, we have inscribed Thy Name on the hearts which lay open to us, as paper the hand, in very clumsy and unworthy style. Forgive us, and remember our bonds.”

Let us accept our limitations as from the Will of God. There is no way to peace or power, save in accepting the Will of God, making no distinction between what He appoints or permits, but believing that in either we are in contact with the Eternal purpose for us. Paul never forgot that he was the prisoner of Jesus Christ. He believed that for every limitation on the earthward side there would be enlargement on the other and spiritual side. Weakness here, added strength there; the being hourly delivered unto the cross, and from the ground the blossoming of endless life.

Let us do all the good we can in spite of fetters. St. Paul could not continue his travels over the world, but there were many avenues of service open to him. He could pray, and he did (Colossians 1:3; 2:1; 4:12). He could influence others (Philippians 1:11-14). He employed his leisure in writing the epistles that have been the perennial solace of sorrowful hearts. There is a door, nearer to you than you think, opening out of your prison, through which God will enable you to render helpful service for Him.

PRAYER

Our Father, we thank Thee Thou canst make no mistakes. We believe that all things are working together for our good, and we trust Thy guiding hand. AMEN.