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In step

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Generosity generates
For reading & meditation: Romans 12:9-21

"Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." (v.13)

Today we look at God's third purpose for money: to bless and enrich other Christians. One of the characteristics which God wants to develop in us is that of generosity, for our generosity will determine how much spiritual light we have in our being. Take this verse: "If your Eye is generous, the whole of your body will be illumined" (Matt. 6:22, Moffatt). If your "eye" - your outlook on life, your whole way of looking at things and people - is generous, then your whole personality is illuminated, is lighted up.

If you have a greedy or selfish "eye", your whole being will be filled with darkness. In Acts 11:27-30 we read about a severe famine that caused suffering to many Jewish Christians. The church at Antioch - made up mostly of Gentiles - sent an offering to their fellow believers in Jerusalem, and that offering was an important means of tearing down national and cultural barriers between them, and building bonds of genuine Christian love. God likens generous giving to reaping a harvest: "He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6, RSV).

Perhaps the greatest benefit of generous giving to other Christians, however, is this - it results in "an overflowing tide of thanksgiving to God" (v.12, Phillips). Yes, God will give you much so that you can give away much, and when you take your gifts to those who need them they will break out in thanksgiving and praise of God for your help. Giving to the needs of fellow Christians means that many will thank God and fill His Church with praise.

Prayer:
O God, help be to become a truly generous person, for I see that when I am generous, then my generosity generates generosity in others. I ask this in the peerless and exalted Name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Learning from Pigeons

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."1

You may have read about an experiment where "pigeons were put in cages with one green and one red button. In one cage, if the birds pecked the green button they got food every time. In the other, the green button yielded food erratically and the pigeons had to persist to get enough food. In both cases, pecking the red button did nothing. Both sets of birds thrived, learning what they had to do to survive and ignoring the red button that yielded no food. But when the birds that were used to getting a reward every time were put in the cage that fed them only occasionally, they failed to adapt; they hit their heads against the cage and pecked wildly at everything in sight."2

Birds and animals can be very smart and quickly learn to pursue activities that produce positive results while avoiding activities that don't. Pity we humans aren't always as smart. Too many of us invest our lives in empty, meaningless or even harmful activities and relationships, and have a way of continually hitting red buttons that always result in getting negative responses.

Others, who, like the pigeons that were used to getting rewarded all the time when put in the cage where they were rewarded only occasionally, couldn't cope, so people who, when growing up, were overprotected, spoiled, or had parents that did far too much for them, have a difficult time adjusting to adult life and accepting personal responsibility. Also as adults, when we, other organizations, and/or the government do for others what they CAN and NEED to do for themselves, we keep them over-dependent and irresponsible.

As adults we need to eliminate (overcome) our own red buttons that trigger our unresolved issues from the past, and not purposely hit others' red buttons that never result in obtaining what we need or want.

Furthermore, we need to learn through experience and hard work to accept personal responsibility for every area of our life. True, we were not responsible for our upbringing and early training, but as adults we are totally responsible for our recovery, our actions, our well-being, for who and what we become, and for every area of our life. To expect otherwise is self-defeating and ultimately self-destructive.

Most important of all is that we need to remind ourselves that we are not only responsible for ourselves and what we do, but we are also responsible before God and one day will be required to give an account of our life to him.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you for the gift of life and for all the blessings you have given so freely to me. Help me to see issues in my life that I need to resolve and overcome, to avoid unnecessarily hitting others' red buttons, and help me to accept personal responsibility for every area of my life so that when I stand before you, I will hear your welcoming words, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name. Amen."
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Presumption versus faith
For reading & meditation: Psalms 37:1-26
"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him '" (v.7)

We look now at God's second purpose for money: to confirm His loving direction in our lives. God will use the supply of money or the lack of it to confirm His direction and guidance for many of the decisions we make in our lives. I constantly meet Christians who tell me that one of the biggest lessons they have learned in the Christian life is that of discerning God's guidance through His giving or His withholding of money.

Some years ago, a minister shared with me how he had asked God to guide him over a certain project, and part of his prayer, he said, went like this: "Lord, give me the money to do this, or else it just cannot be done." The money didn't come, so the minister went ahead and borrowed money for the project. A few weeks later, the project got into difficulties and he was declared bankrupt. I said to him: "Do you know what made you go ahead even though God did not provide the money?"

He paused for a few minutes, and said with tears in his eyes: "I had not then learned the difference between presumption and faith." "What is the difference?" I asked. He replied: "Faith is trusting God to achieve His purposes through us, presumption is deciding what we want to accomplish and trying to get God to do it for us." It is so easy to claim that Christ is Lord of our lives, but, as someone put it: "His Lordship is only confirmed when we are obedient to the promptings and limitations which He places on our daily decisions."

Prayer:
My Lord and my God, You know my proneness to "nudge" You when I don't think You are working things out right. Make me sensitive to the promptings of Your Spirit and the limitations that You set upon my life. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Conquered From Within

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord … From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind … he watches all who live on earth … [and] considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength."1

I have read how "in Ancient China, the people desired security from the barbaric hordes to the north so they built the great Chinese wall. It was so high they knew no one could climb over it and so thick that nothing could break it down. They settled back to enjoy their security.

"During the first hundred years of the wall's existence, China was invaded three times. Not once did the barbaric hordes break down the wall or climb over the top. Each time they bribed a gatekeeper and then marched right through the gates. The Chinese were so busy relying upon the walls of stone that they forgot to teach integrity to their children."2 In other words they were defeated from within.

Ancient Israel trusted in its military might but turned from God and obedience to his laws—and was conquered. Ancient Rome trusted in its military might but turning to licentious living they, too, were ultimately defeated and destroyed from within. The same principle holds true for both nations—including the mighty U.S.A.—and individuals. If we turn from God and his way to go our own way, we too will ultimately be destroyed from within.

As God's Word reminds us, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people."3

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me as an individual and us as a nation to see the folly of our ways when we turn from following your ways to go our own self-directed and sinful ways. Please send a great spiritual awakening so that we will turn back to you and make you the Lord of our life and of our nation. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
What is a financial miracle?
For reading & meditation: Malachi 3:1-12
" 'Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven '' " (v.10)

We look now at God's fourth purpose for money: to show His divine power. God is a supernatural God - something Christians seem to forget - and He delights to demonstrate His reality and power among His people. One means through which God has chosen to do this is through His miraculous provision of money.

What is a financial miracle? It is a supernatural event whereby God provides one of His children with the money required to meet a financial need - and usually it involves such precise timing that it cannot fail to point to the Lord's direct intervention. When a Christian prays about a financial need, for example, and an unexpected gift is given to him by someone who knows nothing about the need, the supernatural power of God is demonstrated. In the days of Elijah, the nation of Israel tried to worship God and serve Baal at the same time.

Elijah knew that this would inevitably lead to God's judgment, so he proposed a simple test. The test involved building two altars, one for God and one for Baal, and whichever answered by a display of supernatural power was the one whom they would worship. The prophets of Baal cried out to their non-existent deity all day, but nothing happened.

Then Elijah prayed, and in response to his prayer God sent fire from heaven. One of the biggest of the false gods of this age is money. It has become an idol because people expect from it what only God can give - true security. As the world hankers after money, God wants to prove to those who seek Him that they will not lack any good thing.

Prayer:
O Father, help me to see that I grow into the image of the god that I serve. I don't want to be like money - hard and metallic; I want to be like You - gracious and beneficient. Help me to keep my focus only on You. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Living in the Tension
Set your minds on things that are above,
not on things that are on earth—Colossians 3:2

You can’t be successful in life without compromising. That’s a lie. You can’t get ahead without adopting the values of the places where you live and where you work. That’s not true. Now, there’s tension, of course. Our cities, our workplaces are part of the world, and the ruler of this world is the enemy (John 12:31, John 14:30, 1 John 5:19). That’s why arrogance, greed, and materialism often characterize these places and bring admiration and status, recognition and promotion. There’s tension because, while the enemy may rule the world—for now—he doesn’t rule us (Colossians 1:13). The one who rules us stands for humility, generosity, and love.

The lie is that we should try to ease this tension—that we should, by compromising, try to make things easier on ourselves. It’s from the enemy. It’s one he uses often:

“Go ahead. It's just the way things work in the real world.”
“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to compete . . . to survive.”
“Relax. Everybody does it.”


But we’re “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). To be that is to live in the tension. You see, we’re sent “into the world,” but we mustn’t be “of the world” (John 17:14-19). When we’re willing to live in the tension, and only then, can this broken world feel the full weight of who we really are—who God intends us to be, with him.


This week, when you walk into any situation—into work in the morning; into conversations with colleagues; into the schools your kids attend; into a restaurant with friends—declare ahead of time, in prayer, that you’re bringing the Kingdom of Jesus with you. Then act like it.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
The day you "die"
For reading & meditation: Genesis 22:1-14
"Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love '" (v.2)

Having seen God's four purposes for money, we are now ready to ask: What part does money play in our lives? Does it draw us closer to God, or drive us further away from Him? Is our security in silver - or in the Saviour? Most of us would claim that we are serving God. We would strenuously deny that we have a greater love for money than we do for the Master.

God, however, is aware that what we believe to be the situation is not always so. Sometimes He has to bring us into cramped financial circumstances so that we realise where our true security lies. Although the story of Abraham and Isaac does not have a precise application to what we are saying here, there are certain similarities which I consider do apply. First, God singled out in Abraham's life the thing he most loved - his only son. God often starts His test of our character with the thing that we love the most. Is money one of your greatest loves?

If so, recognise and acknowledge it right now. Second, God pinned Abraham down to a fixed time and place. God's way of doing business always involves a specific time and place. "Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering" (v.2). Let the place where you are sitting now be your meeting place with God. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son. Abraham could never have lifted the knife over his son unless he had "died" to him in his emotions. Without this emotional break, the offering is only a meaningless ritual. This must be the day on which you "die" to the bondage of money.

Prayer:
O Father, Your timing is perfect. Today, by faith, I "die" to all emotional attachments to money, and lay every financial bondage on Your altar. Father, it's done - Im free. Help me now to live out that freedom. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
No Defeat Before the Battle

"Have not I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."1

When she was only nineteen months of age, Helen Keller suffered an illness that left her blind and deaf. Soon she was unable to speak. By the age of seven she was extremely frustrated because of her inability to communicate. Fortunately, her parents were able to hire a twenty-year-old teacher to come and live with them.

The teacher, Anne Sullivan, was a very capable and loving individual and was able to help Helen by teaching her to communicate with the use of her fingers. Helen was greatly encouraged, learned to read by Braille, and then read everything she could lay her hands on.

She desperately wanted to earn a university degree and, passing the entrance exams to Radcliffe, pleaded with officials to allow her to attend and bring Anne Sullivan with her to translate the lectures into her manual code. The following is part of what she wrote to the admission office:

"I realize that the obstacles in the way of my receiving a college education are very great—to others they may seem insurmountable; but, dear sir, a true soldier does not acknowledge defeat before the battle." Helen Keller was a true warrior and a real winner! She "was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree."2

Being courageous doesn't mean the absence of fear. It means acknowledging the fear but not allowing it to control you.

Once you know your God-given life purpose—or your purpose for the present—God's Word to Joshua is also applicable to you and me today: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me the courage to face all the obstacles in my life that would hinder my fulfilling my God-given life purpose—including your will for me today. Help me to always remember that you will always be with me and never leave or forsake me. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Problems? No, prods!
For reading & meditation: 2 Thessalonians 1
"' God ' is using your sufferings to make you ready for his kingdom." (v. 5, TLB)

We pause at this point to remind ourselves of the principle we are seeking to understand, namely that in God's order of things, life is always preceded by death. A grain of wheat has within it the potential of becoming many grains of wheat, but first the solitary grain must fall into the ground and die. It is only after death that its potential is released, and out of the dying comes an abundant harvest.

That principle is not just to be seen as an interesting fact of nature; if our lives are to be fruitful, then we, too, must be willing to die to our own purposes so that we might live to God's. The next sphere of life we examine is the area of obstacles and opposition. Would you like your life to be free of those potentially frustrating situations that block your way or impede your spiritual development?

Then let me say at once, you could be worse off without them. The obstacles and opposition you face can turn out to be prods - prods toward your spiritual growth. A minister friend of mine who was going through a period of great difficulty once asked me to pray with him that God would remove all the obstacles from his ministry. I put my hand lovingly on his shoulder and replied: "If He does, it will make your ministry less effective." He saw the point, and instead asked me to pray that God would help him to die to his own concerns. I did, and from that day to this, his ministry has flourished and become extremely fruitful. And so, my friend, can yours.

Prayer:
O Father, more and more the conviction grows that it is not what happens to me, but what I do with it, that is important. Deepen this conviction within me so that it becomes a controlling one - today and every day. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Blame Game or Wise Choice

"So he [the business owner] called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.'"1

"Two young boys were raised in the home of an alcoholic father. As young men, they each went their own way. Years later a psychologist who was analyzing what drunkenness does to children in the home searched out these two men. One had turned out to be like his father, a hopeless alcoholic. The other had turned out to be a teetotaler.

"The counselor asked the first man, 'Why did you become an alcoholic?' He asked the second, 'Why did you become a teetotaler?'

"They both gave the same identical answer in these words, 'What else could you expect when you had a father like mine?' It's not what happens to us in life but how we react to it that makes the difference. Every human being in the same situation has the possibilities of choosing how he will react, either positively or negatively."2

It is true that children who grow up in a warm, loving, and caring family atmosphere are given a much greater start in life. However, there is no guarantee that they will become model citizens. They, too, like the rest of us, either consciously or unconsciously, make the choice in how they are going to live their life.

If we grew up in a less than desirable home atmosphere, we can choose to feel sorry for ourselves, play the blame game, and limp along in the shadows of life without a goal or purpose—and waste our life. Or, if we so desire, like President Ronald Reagan whom I understand also had an alcoholic father, we can choose to make something worthwhile with our life, grow through our difficulties, and with God's help become the person God envisions for us to be, and, in so doing, invest our life in a worthwhile cause and noble purpose. The choice is ours.

I realize that it can be very difficult to honor a mother or father who is an alcoholic, an abuser, or an abandoning parent. However, I believe the greatest way we can honor such a parent is not to allow our past to determine our future. What an honor it would be for all of us parents should our children rise above their early setbacks to invest their lives wisely in doing good for others.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to overcome any and all setbacks I may have had in the past, and choose—with your help—to invest my life wisely so that, when I give an account of my life before you, I will hear your welcoming words, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.' Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Aquiescence - or control?
For reading & meditation: Philippians 4:10-20
"I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me." (v.13, Phillips)

Day by day, as we unfold this thrilling theme of The Corn of Wheat Afraid to Die, it is becoming increasingly obvious that God gives us a choice - a choice of either to live or to die. We can live for the fulfilment of our own desires, or we can die to our desires and live for His. This is perhaps the moment that we should come to grips with the question which people often ask when this issue of "dying to self" is raised: "Isn't this a terribly passive attitude to life?

And doesn't it tend to diminish personal responsibility and self-control?" John Dewey, the famous American educator, held that view. Once, when lecturing to his students, he drew a line down a blackboard and on one side listed those systems of thought which teach control, and on the other those systems that teach acquiescence. On the "control" side he put "science", and on the "acquiescence" side he put "religion". To be fair, he should have written, "Some forms of religion".

The religion of Jesus Christ does not produce passive and acquiescent disciples, but surrendered disciples - surrendered to God, but surrendered to nothing else. They rise from the dust of self-surrender to lay hold on the raw materials of life - good, bad and indifferent - and use them. Would you describe the early Christians as passive and acquiescent? I wouldn't. Surrendered - yes. Acquiescent - no. Surrendering to God so that He may work in and through us may at first seen passive, but actually it represents the most amazingly positive and active method of dealing with life. Other ways are possible, but no other way is as powerful.

Prayer:
Gracious and loving heavenly Father, I am so thankful that You show me a way of life that doesn't demean me, but develops me. I fall at Your feet, and lo - I rise to new purposes and new achievements. I am eternally grateful. Amen.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Discovering the Will of God for Your Life

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."1

A Daily Encounter subscriber asks, "I am always wondering if I am doing God's will. How can I know if I am going in the direction God wants me to go?"

The will of God has two aspects. First, as committed followers of Jesus Christ it involves our manner of living; that is, are all our actions in harmony with the will of God, the standards of which are clearly spelled out in the Bible, the Word of God. And as today's Scripture points out, this involves living a life of purity; not allowing our life to be shaped by the attitudes and behaviors of those who have no regard for the ways of God; and always disciplining our thinking; for what the mind dwells on the body acts on.

Second, the will of God also includes how we serve God; that is, we need to know what our gifts and talents are; get the best training we can to sharpen these gifts and talents; and use these in a practical way to help others—keeping in mind that we serve God by serving and helping others, and communicating his love and message of salvation to them.

Another subscriber asks, "As the Apostle Paul was called of God to be an apostle,2how would I know if God wants me to serve him as a teaching or medical missionary, a pastor, a chaplain or other form of what is commonly called "fulltime" Christian ministry? As a young man I struggled with this question for several years. The advice I received from my pastor didn't help.

He told me, "If God is calling you into fulltime ministry, you better get into it. If he isn't calling you, you'd better keep out of it." The most helpful piece of advice I received was from Oswald Chambers in his book, My Utmost for His Highest. Chambers wrote, "The call of God is like the call of the sea to the sailor. Only he who has the nature of the sea within can hear that call." That is, a person who is "born or called" to be a sailor will never rest until he launches out to sea. It's the same with the call of God. If God is calling you to Christian service (which doesn't have to be fulltime), you will never rest until you launch or step out to do what God has put into your heart to do. I can personally verify this statement.

Furthermore, doing God's will—overall—is doing that which we find fulfilling. As Jesus said, I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart."3

Furthermore, every morning I pray and commit and trust my life and way to God and trust him to guide me in the way that he would have me go. I've been doing this from my youth and, as I look back, I can see clearly how God has led me—even through my down times. I encourage you to also commit and trust your life and way to God every morning and God will lead you too.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that you have a plan and purpose for my life and are calling me to do what you have gifted me to do. Help me to know what my gifts are, get the training I need to sharpen these gifts, and consistently use these to serve you by ministering in some way to others. I commit and trust my life and way to you and trust you to guide me in the way that you would have me to go. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Rise up and walk
For reading & meditation: Acts 3:1-16
"In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." (v.6, AV)

We said yesterday that when we die to self-interests we rise to meet life, not passively, but actively. In fact, self-surrender is the most amazingly active method of dealing with life. Take, for example, Peter and John. When they met the man asking for alms, they were, as we say, "financially embarrassed" and unable to help in that way.

Most of us would have let the incident go at that, for what can you do if you have no money in a world like this? Not these men, however - they took up this poverty into the purpose of their lives and used it. What do I mean? This: if they had had some money, they might have tossed him a coin and that would have been the end of it - their adequacy on that level would have blocked the higher good. Instead, conscious that they could not minister to him at one level - the financial - they sought to minister to him at another level - the spiritual.

The result was that the obstacle on one level was turned into an opportunity on another. "Rise up and walk," they said to the man - and rise up he did. Nothing passive about that! As one wag put it: "The lame man asked for alms, but instead he got legs!" Forgive me for extending this illustration beyond the bounds of proper biblical exposition, but there are many of us who need to look at the things lying lame around us, and perhaps even within us - higher ministries, spiritual aptitudes - and say to them, "Rise up and walk." Then together we shall walk on into the temple of wider and more effective living.

Prayer:
O God, forgive me for failing to see the opportunities in every obstacle. Help me to understand that when I am blocked on one level, then I can break out on another. Nothing can deter me when my will coincides with Yours. Thank You, Father. Amen.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
The divine - human partnership
For reading & meditation: Colossians 1:15-29
"To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." (v.29)

We spend another day focusing on the question: Does self-surrender mean that we become passive and acquiescent? At first sight, it seems to be so - we surrender to Another. Do we resign ourselves to whatever comes, letting this "Another" do everything for us? We talked a few days ago about John Dewey's suggestion that "science" encourages control, while "religion" encourages acquiescence. Actually, when we surrender to Christ, we experience, not passivity, but a new type of control.

Jesus said: "My Father is always at his work ' and I, too, am working" (John 5:17). In God's universe, there is always work to do - creative work. But what sort of creative work? Listen to this: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28, AV). How can that be? We know that all things do not of themselves work together for good. The Revised Standard Version puts it like this: "In everything God works for good with those who love him."

Note the change - "with those who love him". Not "to", but "with". Can you see the truth underlying this text? Given our consent and co-operation, God is able to retrieve some good out of everything that happens to us. Given our consent and co-operation - ah, there's the rub. In order to achieve good out of bad, God requires us to work "with" Him - this is not acquiescence, but control. Look again at the text for today: "I labour, struggling" - the human; "with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me" - the divine. What a picture - the human and the divine working together - in "control".

Prayer:
My Father and my God, what can I say? I surrender to You, and the next thing I know is that I am taken into partnership with You. It just seems too good to be true - but too good not to be true. Thank You, Father. Amen.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Oops! My Mistake!

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."1

There's a wonderful beach near to where I grew up in Australia. It's called the Forty-mile Beach which stretches North of Noosa Heads in Southern Queensland for 38 miles. It's a wide beach with exquisite fine white sand that is so tightly packed that the beach is actually gazetted on maps as a highway. Cars and vehicles are going back and forth all the time. You just need to be careful to get in and out before high tide.

A few years back when I was visiting family, I rented a small four-wheel-drive and drove the entire length of this beach. Joy and one of my sisters were with me. About mid-way are the beautiful colored sands, which are quite fascinating. There is also a large wrecked ship that got tossed up onto the beach, I presume in stormy weather. It is more than half rusted away.

As we were merrily driving along there was another vehicle approaching us from the opposite direction. Startled, I said to Joy and my sister, "Look at this idiot. He's driving on the wrong side of the beach!" Oops … the idiot was me! I wasn't in California. I was in Australia where they drive on the left side of the road, and I was on the right side. On this occasion right for me was definitely wrong!

I was red-faced!

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to always remember whenever there is a difference of opinion to never jump to the conclusion that I am in the right and the other person is in the wrong, but seriously consider first that I may be the one who is in the wrong. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
There's always the "next"
For reading & meditation: Luke 9:51-62
"' and they went to another village." (v.56)

What are we discovering? We are seeing that nothing is lost when we surrender ourselves to God - indeed, everything is gained. When we lose ourselves, we find ourselves. We throw ourselves at Christ's feet, and end up by sitting with Him on His throne, where He invites us to co-operate with Him in turning chaos into cosmos and bringing good out of everything. What a way to live! I wouldn't change it for anything. When we fully understand what "dying to self" means, we then face obstacles and opposition in an entirely different frame of mind. We see them in the way Jesus saw them - not as obstacles, but as opportunities.

When the Samaritans refused to receive Jesus and His disciples, the account says that, after Jesus had rebuked the disciples for wanting to retaliate, "they went to another village". Life always has "another village". If you are opposed in this one, then you pass on to the next. If there is one lesson I have learned in life, it is this: there is always a "next". And that next village was, in fact, nearer Jesus' final goal. He didn't have to go so far the next day. He advanced toward His goal by way of the snobbery and fear that He encountered among the Samaritans.

Thank God life always has "another village". Is the way ahead strewn with endless obstacles and opposition? Then, providing you have died to your own instinct for self-preservation, you and God are able to team up and make the obstacles into new opportunities. Nothing can frustrate the Christian who has died to himself, and lives out the purposes of Another. Nothing.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You who were never deterred by the blocking of Your plans, help me to approach life with that same attitude. Show me that when one "village" remains closed to me, there is always the "next". For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
It May Be Today

"In my Father's house are many rooms … I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go … I will come back and take you to be with me."1

I remember reading a few years ago about a strange occurrence which I was informed took place in Haiti. A man reported to a gas (petrol/fuel) station owner that he had picked up a hitchhiker who was sitting in the back seat when, as they were driving along, suddenly blurted out, "Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming!" Whereupon the man looked around and his passenger had disappeared.

Even more strange was the response from the gas station owner who said, "You're the third person who has told me the exact same story."

Whether this incident was a strange coincidence, the figment of someone's imagination, or something supernatural I cannot be certain. But of one thing we can be sure, Jesus is coming again. He himself promised he would.

Christ's first coming is an indisputable fact of history. His second coming is just as certain. He said he would come when we least expect it. The important thing is to be ready by receiving him as our personal Lord and Savior. He is coming again. It may be today. If so, are you ready?

For help, be sure to read "How to Be Sure You're a Real Christian" at:http://www.actsweb.org/christian.

Remember, too, "Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, Thank you for the wonderful hope you have given us that Jesus is coming again so we can all be together forever in heaven. I pray today for all who haven't received you as their Lord and Savior. Please use me to help share your gospel message of salvation to others around the world, which is now possible with e-Mail and the Internet. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Victim - or victor?
For reading & meditation: Ephesians 1:11-23
"' the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might '" (vv.19-20, RSV)

Permit me to ask you: What will the obstacles and opposition you meet do to you today? Will they make you bitter, or will they make you better? The last word is not with them, but with you. If your own concerns and interests are well and truly "dead", and you are committed to pursuing God's purposes, then the issue is not so much what your circumstances will do to you, but what you will do to your circumstances.

The Christian who understands this has the power to say to life - do your worst, I have the resources to take every negative and turn it into a positive. Nothing successfully opposes the believer whose life is hidden with Christ in God. Jesus once faced great opposition in His ministry: "They were filled with madness, and began to discuss with one another what they should do to Jesus" (Luke 6:11, Weymouth).

Here was opposition in its most terrifying form. What did Jesus do? Listen again to the Weymouth translation: "About that time He went out ' into the hill country to pray" (v.12). Prayer, that powerful means of communicating with God and controlling, not so much the situation as the outcome of the situation, made Jesus, not a victim, but a victor. One of the major purposes of God seems to be that of producing character in His children. Not their ease, not their happiness - except as a by-product - but their character. And how is character produced? One way it is produced is through overcoming difficulties. So don't groan at the obstacles and opposition that face you today - grow in them. They help to sharpen your character - and your wits!

Prayer:
O God, forgive me that so often I cry to You for tasks equal to my powers. Help me to pray instead for power equal to my tasks. I ask this, not for my sake, but for Yours. Amen.
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
On Being Single-Minded

"A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways."1

It has been said that if you stand for something worthwhile, you will have some people for you and some against you. If you stand for nothing, you will not have anybody against you, but neither will have anyone for you.

In today's society there is tremendous pressure to be open-minded and politically correct. That is, to accept just about every belief except for Christianity—and for what Christians stand for. To agree with the latter means to be identified as narrow-minded, rigid and fanatical.

What many don't realize is that if you stand for nothing, you can fall for anything. Or as E. Stanley Jones put it, "The difference between a swamp and a river is that a river has banks, and a swamp has none—it spreads over everything. Some people are rivers: they know where they want to go, and they confine themselves to the banks that lead to that goal. But some people are swamps: they spread over everything; their minds are so open they cannot hold a conviction."

I'd much rather be a "river for God" and know where I stand and where I'm headed and be labeled narrow-minded than be a swamp for "anything goes" and be politically correct and popular with the crowd.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me to always live to please you and not the crowd. Give me the courage to stand for what you teach as moral and right, and stand against that which you condemn. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name. Amen."
 

RiverOL

Alfrescian
Loyal
Attacked but not injured
For reading & meditation: Matthew 10:5-20
"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (v.16)

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only faith that dares to say to its followers: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves" (AV). It is as if Jesus is saying: "You will have as much chance of escaping difficulties and opposition as sheep have in the midst of wolves." If you are a Christian, you can expect people to oppose you - even hurt you.

Notice what I say: "hurt" you, but not "harm" you. Sometimes God may not protect us from being hurt, but He will protect us from being harmed. One writer puts that same thought in this way: "At times God may suffer His children to be attacked, but providing they are fully abandoned to Him and His purposes, He will never suffer them to be injured." He is using the words "attack" to mean physical or verbal abuse, and "injury" to mean the scarring of the soul. In that sense, no attack from without can injure us; we can only be injured from within by wrong perspectives and wrong choices. Some time ago I quoted a maxim that goes like this: "No man is safe unless he can stand anything that happens to him."

A young student wrote to me and said: "Then there aren't many people who are 'safe' - are there?" I point you now to another verse to lay alongside our text for today: "For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd" (Rev. 7:17, RSV). Christ's being on the throne is the pledge that we, too - somehow, some way - shall pass out of the midst of the "wolves" of people and things, to victory over both.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Master of every situation - even on a cross where You dispensed forgiveness to Your crucifiers - give me this mastery over circumstances. Help me to see I am not beaten until I am beaten within. Amen.
 
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