Wednesday, May 23, 2018

GOD’S STRONG PRESENCE

“Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:10 NLT)

One tribe of native Americans had a unique practice for training young braves. On the night of a boy's thirteenth birthday, he was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then he had never been away from the security of his family and tribe. But on this night he was blindfolded and taken miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of thick woods. By himself. All night long.

Every time a twig snapped, he probably visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. Every time an animal howled, he imagined a wolf leaping out of the darkness. Every time the wind blew, he wondered what more sinister sound it masked. No doubt it was a terrifying night for many.

After what seemed like an eternity, the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of the path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was the boy's father. He had been there all night long.

Can you think of any better way for a child to learn how God allows us to face the tests of life? God is always present with us. God's presence is unseen, but it is more real than life itself.

-- Leonard Sweet in “SoulSalsa"


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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

GOD’S MEDICINE

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.  (Proverbs 17:22 NIV)

Mirth is God's medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it. Grim care, moroseness, anxiety -- all this rust of life -- ought to be scoured off by the oil of mirth.

-- Henry Ward Beecher


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Monday, May 21, 2018

SPIRIT BORN

Jesus says [to Nicodemus], "The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8)

Listen to the wind, Nicodemus.  Listen to the wind.

Again, and again, in both the Old and New Testaments, God's Spirit -- the Holy Spirit -- is described as being like the wind.  Both the Hebrew of the Old Testament (ruach) and the Greek of the New Testament (pneuma) employ a word that can mean wind, breath, or spirit.  When the writer of Genesis explains our divine origins, he tells us that God breathed into the human nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7); that is, God inspirited us.  When the Holy Spirit entered our world in a new way on the Day of Pentecost, one of the manifestations of the Spirit's coming was "a sound like the rush of a violent wind" that filled the house where the believers were sitting (Acts 2:2).  Even so, when Jesus wanted Nicodemus to understand how he could be born from above, Jesus said that it was like the wind.  You might not understand it, and certainly you couldn't control it, but you could feel its reality.

-- J. Ellsworth Kalas in “New Testament Stories from the Back Side”


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Friday, May 18, 2018

CHILDLIKE TRUST

And [Jesus] said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."  (Matthew 18:3, NIV)

I had the chance to play with my two-year-old nephew. He loves to play on a slide, so we borrowed our neighbors' jungle gym, and he made a beeline for the ladder. He got up the ladder all right, but once he sat down on the slide, he realized it was steeper than he was used to. He didn't fuss or get scared; he didn't even try to get down another way. He simply stretched out his little hands to me so I could hold onto him as he slid down.

I didn't think much of it at the time; after all, little ones are constantly asking for help. But later, it struck me that he had been a living example of the kind of trust God asks us to place in Him. There's a reason Jesus admonished the disciples to become like little children. They don't have trouble trusting. It often doesn't occur to them not to trust. God doesn't want us to tackle life's obstacles alone. He wants us to trust Him to see us through them. When we do this, we allow Him to show His strength in our lives, and we allow ourselves to live in the peace He offers.

...Trust [God] and allow Him to give you the victory that comes when we place our hands in His.

-- Laura Hepker, Christianity Online


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Thursday, May 17, 2018

THE VALUE OF SMALL GROUPS

“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  (2 Peter 3:18)

As we shared together our feelings about the study groups, we realized that we were not meeting together each week for an intellectual exercise: something very real and significant was taking place.  We were coming to know that the Christian faith is not primarily an ethic; it is not the struggle to do good or be good, but an encounter with Christ, of which morality and ethical living are by-products.

-- Harold R. Fray, Jr. in “The Spirit Making New” 


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