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In step


Not an Exit - an Entrance
For reading & meditation: Matthew 28:1-15
"... an angel of the Lord ... going to the tomb, rolled back the stone ..." (v. 2)

Was it really necessary for the stone to be rolled away before our Lord could exit the tomb? Christ's resurrection body was able to pass easily through doors, for He came to His disciples when the doors were shut. The stone was rolled away not that our Lord might come out but that the disciples might go in. It was intended not as a means of exit but as a means of entrance.

One preacher put it like this: "God rolled away the stone not that His Son might rise, but that we might know He had risen; that we might steal into the empty tomb and see only the place where they laid Him." My pastor when I was a young Christian said: "Suppose we live in a home that has no electricity and a young nephew comes to stay with us for a weekend.

Suppose also when we put the child to bed there is in the corner of the room a dark curtain which hides such things as traveling cases. And suppose further, when we are about to leave the room taking the light with us, the child falteringly confesses to a fear that on the other side of the dark curtain is someone that might harm him. What do we do? We go to the curtain, fling it aside, flood the gloomy recess with light and say: 'Look, there is nothing to fear.'" To remove the curtain is to remove the dread. That is why God rolled away the stone. It was not necessary for the resurrection, but it was necessary for its proclamation.

Lord Jesus, had You stalled at the last ditch, had You been beaten at the barrier of death, then we would be stalled eternally. But now we go through the barrier with You. Nothing can stop us. Amen.


Casa de Bendición (House of Blessing)

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."1

In her book, Open Heart, Open Home, author Karen Mains "distinguishes between hospitality and entertaining. Entertaining says, 'I want to impress you with my home, my clever decorating, and my cooking.' Hospitality, seeking to minister, says, 'This home is a gift from my Master. I use it as he desires.' Hospitality aims to serve.

"Entertaining puts things before people. 'As soon as I get the house finished, the living room decorated, my house cleaning done—then I will start inviting people.' Hospitality puts people first. 'No furniture—we'll eat on the floor! The decorating may never get done—you come anyway. The house is a mess—but you are friends—come home with us.'"2

Because where we live is reasonably close to the Mexican border many of the streets and places in our town have Spanish names, so we have named our house: "Casa de Bendición" (House of Blessing). Our constant prayer is that God will use our home to be a house of blessing "and of hospitality" to all who enter, and that he will use us to be as Jesus to everyone who does. May he use your home to be a house of blessing and hospitality too.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you for the home that you have given to us especially when there are so many who don't even have a home. We dedicate our home and our lives to you. Please make our home a house of blessing and true hospitality, and use us to be as Jesus to all who enter in. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


I press on toward the goal for the prize
of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus—Philippians 3:14

In some respects, we know the men we’d like to become. For one, we’d like to be courageous for God, not simply surviving these lives, but living boldly in them. Well, we absolutely can (Romans 8:31-39). The thing is . . . it’s hard. We’re easily distracted—by our drives for achievement and advancement and accumulation. And we’re easily made afraid—that we’ll be embarrassed if we act boldly for God; that were not qualified to stand with him; or just that we’ve never done it before and don’t know how to start. Yes, it’s difficult becoming courageous and, actually, it’s meant to be.

God didn’t create two types of men—some cowardly and some courageous. No, he leaves the cowardice/courage decisions to us. That said, we cannot simply choose for courage and instantly become courageous any more than we can instantly become . . . say . . . orators or outdoorsmen. If we want to become either of those, we must practice. We must start small and fail and succeed; we must work and learn. So it is with courage. We become courageous men by practicing courage, by accumulating experiences, small at first, of actually being courageous.

So, there are two types of men, but it’s those willing to practice and those not, resigned instead to lives of safety. The good news, brother, is that becoming the former doesn’t require an inordinate amount of time or a major lifestyle change. It just takes a bit of resolve.

Practice. Do something. Don’t overreach (and set yourself up for failure); but don’t reach too short either (and render your efforts pointless). Choose in the middle—something intimidating, but not overly. Here are some suggestions: face a phobia; spend time with someone the rest of the world avoids; serve in a way you’ve never served before.


Love cannot fail

John 13
"Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love." (v.1)

The love which flows in our hearts when we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit is not a general love but a specific one -- the love of Christ. This love dulls the edge of disappointment and enables us to be invulnerable to many things, not least a lack of appreciation. The poet was thinking of this high degree of love when he wrote: Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove.
O, no! It is an ever fixed mark,That looks on tempests and is never shaken.

Let's follow this thought through a little more deeply. The nine ingredients of the fruit of the Spirit were all exemplified in Jesus' life on earth, and it is the present purpose of the Holy Spirit to engraft them into us as we abide in Christ and maintain a close, day-by-day relationship with Him. When we do this, the very first evidence will be that of agape love.

This is not a give-and-take kind of love, a love that is reciprocal; it is a love that descends from above and is showered on the deserving and the undeserving, the agreeable and the disagreeable. Christians who dwell deeply in God find that they are changed from people who just love occasionally, when it is convenient, to people whose controlling purpose is love. Love becomes the organizing motive and power in their lives. Such love "never fails," for it always finds a way of expressing itself -- and when it expresses itself, it is itself the success.

O Father, I see that in expressing love, I become more loving even if the other person doesn't accept my love. I cannot fail in love even if love seems to fail in accomplishing the desired end. I am so thankful. Amen.


"Lies have short legs"
Luke 12
"There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known." (v.2)

Both the universe and ourselves are made for truth and honesty, and both the universe and ourselves are alien to untruth and dishonesty. The universe is made for the same thing as we are -- namely righteousness. Not only the face of the Lord, but the face of the universe is set against those who live below its standards.

I know that this may sound somewhat hollow in an age which appears to thrive on dishonesty and corruption, but I stand by it nevertheless. The universe is not built for the success of dishonesty and corruption. A lie breaks itself upon the moral universe, perhaps not today, not tomorrow -- but certainly at some point in the future.

The Tamils of South India have a saying: "The life of the cleverest lie is only eight days." The Germans have a saying: "Lies have short legs." During the Second World War, they adapted that saying to, "Lies have one leg." That was because Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister, had one short leg. A passionate antagonist of Communism is reported to have said: "In our fight against Communism we are handicapped by our decency and honesty."

Since when was honesty and decency a handicap? It is indecency and dishonesty that are handicaps; they bring us into bondage -- inwardly and outwardly. Governments, organizations and institutions which practice dishonesty will be broken from within. History has proved that. The Roman Empire collapsed, not from without but from within -- broken upon the rock of its own corruption. Believe me, no one gets away with anything in a moral universe. No one.

Gracious Father, I don't want my moral joints to creak with dishonesty, so dwell deeply within me by Your Spirit and lubricate them with the oil of Your honesty. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.


Promises, Promises, Promises

"Your promises, [God,] have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them."1

Speaking to his father a little boy asked, "Do all fairy tales begin with, 'Once upon a time?'"

His father replied, "Many of them do but not all. Some start with, 'If I get elected, I promise….'"

Here in the U.S., especially during election years, there is no end to political hullabaloo and vainly made promises for the purpose of seeking to get elected. The only way to know how a politician will vote in the future is to know how he or she voted in the past. It's what we do, not what we say, that says who a person really is, and is the measure of his or her character.

As another has said, what is desperately needed in this day and age are not politicians but statesmen/women—leaders with integrity, character, and moral fortitude—who only make promises they genuinely believe they can keep, and should they be elected, stay true to their word and do their utmost to fulfill their pre-election promises.

The important thing for those of us who claim to be Christian—not just politicians but every one of us—is not to make promises we aren't sure we can keep, and to always keep our word and the promises that we do make.

Fortunately for those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior and put their trust in God, we can rest assured in God's unfailing love and eternal promises. God always keeps His promises and His Word. As He said, "So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."2

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me not to be swayed by manipulative silver-tongued orators—be they smooth politicians, business or religious leaders, etc.—but see through phony promise makers and not be swayed by them. Help me to always be true to my word and the promises I make. And thank you for the security I have knowing that you always keep your Word and your promises. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Psalm 119:140 (NIV).
2. Isaiah 55:11, (NIV)


The small dare not be humble
John 13
"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power ... began to wash the disciples' feet ..." (vv.3-5)

Humility is not a cringing, servile attitude -- although, sadly, many Christians seem to view it in this way. Philip Brooks, a great American preacher, once said: "The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is. Stand at your highest, and then look at Christ, then go away and forever be humble."The truly humble are conscious of greatness before they are conscious of humility.

The passage before us today says: "Jesus, with the full knowledge that the Father had put everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from the supper-table, took off his outer clothes, picked up a towel and fastened it round his waist ... and began to wash the disciples' feet" (John 13:3?5, J.B. Phillips). The consciousness of greatness was the secret of our Lord's humility. The small dare not be humble. But Jesus' greatness was rooted in God. Being in God made Him great -- and humble. Great because humble -- humble because great.

A Hindu said to a missionary: "I used to believe in idols but now I don't believe in them at all. I am coming round to believe that I myself am a god." He gave up his idols and made one of himself! When we lose our perspective on God, we lose our perspective on humility. It is as simple as that: no true vision of God -- no true vision of humility.

O God, help me, in my effort to understand humility, always to remember that it springs from a consciousness of greatness. I want my sense of greatness to be rooted in You -- then humility follows as easily as day follows night. Amen.


Building New Gauges
Do not be conformed to this world—Romans 12:2
We men love to measure things. And we have, at our disposal, highly accurate gauges for measuring just about anything, including the progress of our lives. I mean, we never have to wonder which careers are most prestigious; which jobs are most coveted; which neighborhoods are most exclusive; which vacations are most glamorous; which cars are most luxurious. Our culture makes sure its gauges remain well calibrated.

“Listen carefully . . . and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world . . .” (Mark 4:24 MSG).

The problem is, such things are not proper for measuring the progress of any life. There’s nothing wrong with careers or communities or cars, in-and-of themselves. They’re just not appropriate gauges in this context. Using them is like using a thermometer to measure the weight of a steel beam. It doesn’t work. Likewise, improper gauges won’t work for us, for measuring our lives as men. We must create and calibrate new gauges, ones that can properly measure our lives, because they measure the right stuff—like how we’re doing as husbands, as fathers, as friends, as neighbors; and how we’re doing toward becoming the men God intends us to become.
Okay, so what do we do?

Build new gauges for yourself, brother, ones that measure things like . . . how many nights you are home for dinner; or how often you sit down and pray with your wife or girlfriend; or how often you have conversations with your sons or daughters about their dreams or their fears; or how often you meet with brothers in community; or how often you drop what you’re doing to spend time with friends in need. Get practical. Build a simple spreadsheet, for example. Or create a calendar. Do what makes sense for you, but start measuring, today.


The Power of One

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile."1

Have you noticed that whenever God has a work to be done on Earth, he so often chooses an individual to get his work started and achieved? Think of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Mary, Peter, Paul, etc. The good news is that God, today, still chooses and uses individuals to accomplish his work on Earth.

Furthermore, throughout history, one person has made an incredible impact with his or her life. I've shared this before, but as the unknown poet said:

One song can spark a moment,
One flower can wake the dream.
One tree can start a forest,
One bird can herald spring.
One smile begins a friendship,
One handclasp lifts a soul.
One star can guide a ship at sea,
One word can frame the goal.
One vote can change a nation,
One sunbeam can light a room.
One candle can wipe out darkness,
One laugh will conquer gloom.
One step must start each journey,
One word must start each prayer.
One hope will raise our spirits,
One touch can show you care.
One voice can speak with wisdom,
One heart can know what's true.
One life can make the difference,
You see, it's up to you and me.

To get God's work done on Earth, "if it's going to be, it will be up to YOU and ME!"

As Edward Everett Hale so eloquently said, "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do."

Let's never forget how very important you and I are to God in our world. "When many people each do a little, together we can accomplish great feats for God."

Again, most of God's work on Earth has been started by one person. Will you be one that God is looking for today to have a share in doing his work in your world?

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, I'm available. I say yes to you today to be one that you are looking for to use in my world. Please use me to be a part of your plans to help spread the gospel in the world in which I live. Please make me usable and use me to be as Jesus in some way to every life I touch this day. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Romans 1:16 (NIV).


Love must be realized
Luke 23:32-46
"And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him ..." (v.33, NKJV)

How can we ensure that the love which surges in the heart of God surges also in us? We must not strain to love, but allow the love of God to love within us. Dr. W. E. Sangster, the famous Methodist preacher, said that those who best manifest God's love are those who have had a blinding realization of the love of God and whose own love flames in response.

If that is true, then how do we come to have a blinding realization of the love of God? We must go to Calvary. Here the heart of God is unveiled. We may have become used to the phrase "God is love" and after a while it is no more exciting than saying that the sun gives light -- it is simply part of the order of things. There is no wonder in it and no realization either. Then, one day, we stand at the foot of the Cross and the Spirit illuminates the love of God to our hearts in such a way that the scales fall away and we look into the eyes of the world's most aggressive Lover. The thing we knew all our lives -- namely, that God is love -- now takes hold of us and for the first time we realize it.

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you have been blinded by the love of God? If not, this may be the reason why love does not surge in you and through you. Stand at the foot of the Cross today and ask God to give you a blinding revelation of His love. You have known it for so long -- now realize it.

O Father, how can I realize it unless You reveal it to me? As I sit in contemplation before Calvary, let Your love take hold of me afresh. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.


Gotta Get Humble
. . . count others more significant
than yourselves—Philippians 2:3

Let’s first get straight on what “getting humble” is not. It’s not trying to think poorly of ourselves or denigrating ourselves or anything like that. It actually involves taking the focus off ourselves. Getting humble is checking our tendency to think ourselves better than others, or more important, valuable, worthy of time or mindshare or respect. Getting humble is shutting down our tendency to "size people up” and position them on some scale—based on money, title, education, geography, whatever. Getting humble is recognizing all people as the careful works of God, equally worthy of love and sacrifice.

Getting humble is counterintuitive, and it moves against prevailing culture. You see, we men want to feel successful, important—and have others consider us so. Culture trains us, therefore, to promote ourselves; to be strategic with our time and attention; to let positions determine our treatment of others. This training is foolish. It misses the sense and strength of humbleness.

Imagine someone humble. They’re often fearless, able to act on convictions, rather than trying to impress. Their decision-making is often sound, unclouded by insecurity or prejudice. They listen and welcome honest differences. They abide critics, crushed not by their criticism. They’re often magnetic, treating all people with respect. They engender loyalty, camaraderie. King Solomon wrote, “with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2). We want to work with humble people. We want to work for them and have them work for us. We want them as spouses, friends. But, mostly, we should want to get humble ourselves.

Practice getting humble. Choose something this week: initiate a conversation and listen more than you talk; serve in a way that’s mundane or difficult (unpleasant, even); help someone anonymously; give someone the credit they deserve (even if you deserve some too).


God -- the aggressive Lover
1 John 4:7-21
"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us ..." (v.10)

When we perceive how much God loves us, an amazing effect is produced in our personalities -- we begin to love like Him. We cannot help it. Love -- agape love -- is not the fruit of labor; it is a response. When we stand at the foot of Calvary, the place where the love of God is fully focused and caught up, the scales drop from our eyes and our own love flames in response. We love Him because He first loved us.

Teresa of Avila tells how one day, going into her private room, she noticed a picture of our Lord being scourged before His crucifixion. She must have seen it hundreds of times, but in that moment of revelation she saw it as she had never seen it before. She saw God suffering -- suffering for love and suffering for her. The revelation sent her to her knees sobbing in pain and wonder, and when she arose, she was a changed woman. The revelation of Calvary's love was the great divide in her life. She said that she arose with a sense of "unpayable debt" and went out to share God's realized love with others.

Don't try to manufacture love. Linger in the shadow of the Cross. The love of God finds its most burning expression there. Meditate on it. Contemplate it. Remember that heaven knows no higher strategy for begetting love in mortal hearts than by granting us a vision of how much we are loved, a vision strong enough to evoke a response in our hearts -- and by that answering love begotten in us by the Holy Spirit, we are freed and purged and saved.

Gracious Father, I see that before I can love, I must comprehend how much I am loved. Help me be aware that in my heart I have the most aggressive Lover in the universe. I am eternally grateful. Amen.


O Bee, Where Is Your Sting?

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"1

A family on vacation were driving along in their car, windows rolled down, enjoying the cool breeze of the warm, summer's day. All of a sudden a bee darted in the window and started buzzing around inside the car. A little girl, highly allergic to bee stings, cringed in the back seat. If she were stung, she could be in serious trouble.

"Oh, Daddy," she screeched in terror, "It's a bee! It's going to sting me!"

The father pulled the car over to a stop, and reached back to try to catch the bee. Buzzing towards him, the bee bumped against the front windscreen where the father trapped it in his fist. Holding it in his closed hand, the father waited for the inevitable sting. In pain from the sting, the father let go of the bee.

With the bee loose in the car again the little girl panicked. "Daddy, it's going to sting me!" The father gently said, "No, honey, he's not going to sting you now. Look at my hand." He showed her the bee's stinger in his hand."2

And that's exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross. He took the sting of death for us … as the songwriter put it, "You will know him by the nail prints in his hands." And as the Bible says, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that when Jesus was nailed to the cross in my place to die for my sins, he took the sting out of death and gave us victory over it for all eternity. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


Always a reason to rejoice
Psalms 105
"Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice." (v.3)

The second fruit of the Spirit is joy. It is no mere accident that "joy" follows the first, love. Joy is a by-product of love. If you concentrate on getting joy, it will elude you. But if you concentrate on getting love, then joy will seek you out -- you will be automatically joyful.

The nine qualities of the fruit of the Spirit are not natural attributes, but supernatural ones. You cannot manufacture them -- they just appear in our lives as we allow the Holy Spirit to have His way within us. I know many Christians who find it difficult to embrace the fact that the fruit of the Spirit is joy. They not only don't expect joy -- they don't want it. One grim Christian said to me once: "At the heart of our faith is a Cross. This means we ought to be spending our time weeping, not laughing."Well, it is true that there is a Cross at the heart of the Christian faith, and that following Christ involves some rigorous self-denials, but it does not alter -- and cannot alter -- the fact that the fruit of the Spirit is joy. We cannot deny that there is a good deal of suffering in Christianity, but beneath the suffering is a joy that will, if we allow it, burst upward through everything. I am bound to say that if there is no joy, there is no Christianity, for Christianity is inherent joy. The empty tomb takes away our empty gloom. We have an Easter morning in our faith, and that means there is always a reason to rejoice.

Father, I am so thankful that Your Holy Spirit applies redemption right to the roots of my being. Thus I can be glad even when I am sad. Thank You, dear Father. Amen.


Lessons from the Redwood Forest

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."1

Giant Sequoia trees, also known as redwoods, are the biggest living things on Earth. Heights of 300 feet and diameters of 30 feet are not uncommon. They can range in age from 2,000 to 3,000 years—some of which were living when Jesus walked the shores of Galilee. The largest specimen, the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park, is 275 feet tall (84 m), has a diameter of 36.4 feet (11.1 m) at the base, and has been estimated to weigh 2500 metric tons. The Pacific coast redwoods in southern Oregon and northern California range in height from 100 to 367 feet (30 to 112 m)—a size approached only by the eucalyptus of Australia.

What is fascinating about these majestic redwood trees that reach their leafy arms heavenward is that they stand for hundreds of years surviving raging fires, violent storms, and fierce winds. I have also read that they have a comparatively shallow root system which makes their survival even more amazing. So how do they survive? They survive because they live in groves with their root systems entangled with numerous other trees. In other words they support each other. They couldn't survive alone.

Neither can we. We need each other. We were never meant to go it alone. We need the support of one another to make it. One of the major purposes of the Christian church is for the very purpose of encouraging and supporting one another. If you don't belong to such a church, I urge you to do all you can to find one.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that you have designed the church, not only to help us grow spiritually, but also to support us emotionally and socially. Help me to find and be a part of such a church—one that is true to your Word and fulfills your divine purpose in the life of its members. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


Joy -- always there
Psalms 30
"... Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." (v.5)

Joy is a central characteristic of the Christian -- and yet so many know nothing of it. They are under the lash of duty, and not unabashed delight. They are artificial, not artesian. Someone once described such Christians as "creaking in body and soul as they limp along the highway toward glory." They walk the road to glory but they are certainly not walking the glory road.

The word "joy" (Greek: chara) is a strong and robust word. It is not resignation wearing a wan smile. It means a joy that is exuberant and overflowing. The summons to rejoice is sounded no less than seventy times in the New Testament and the word chara occurs close on sixty times.

The New Testament is a book of joy. Dr. William Barclay says that joy is the distinguishing atmosphere of the Christian life. He wrote: "We may put it this way -- whatever the ingredients of Christian experience and in whatever proportions they are mixed together, joy is one of them."Even in the first year after the death of my wife, I was wonderfully conscious of Christ's joy quietly breaking through the layers of my sadness and grief.

Joy is always present in the heart of a Christian. It may not always be felt or recognized -- but it is always there. And eventually it will break the surface, no matter what our situation or our circumstances. I have always maintained that joy is an inevitable part of the Christian life. Now I am sure. Oh, so very sure.

Father, thank You for reminding me that when joy has its roots in You, then its fruits will eventually appear -- no matter what happens. Eternal honor and praise be to Your wonderful Name. Amen.


Mysterious Ways of God

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct [make straight] your paths."1

Patricia Saint John wrote about Mary, an English nurse who at the time was working in a mission clinic in an Arab country. "One morning she and her assistant, Fatima, needed to travel eight miles to another village. They caught a bus that was going in their direction. But after a few miles, the bus driver passed their stop and kept on driving. The bus driver ignored the women's pleas to return to the road that led to their village. Mary became upset, but Fatima remained calm, recalling their morning prayers asking for God's guidance.

"Finally, the bus stopped at the foot of a hill, many miles from Mary's and Fatima's homes. At this stop, there was an old woman with a baby in her arms. She walked up to Mary and presented the baby to her. The poor child had a severe eye infection and needed immediate medical attention to save her eyes.

"Mary asked the old woman how she knew to find help here so far from the main village. The old woman replied that a man had come to her in a dream and told her that the English nurse would be waiting at the end of this road the next day. Mary and Fatima had made no plans to come anywhere near this village. They couldn't have anticipated that a rude bus driver would leave them many miles from their designated stop. Yet God had told this desperate woman where to find them. Mary treated the baby's eyes; within days the infection was gone. Later, Mary and Fatima had the opportunity to give their Christian testimony to many people in that village because of their meeting with the old woman and the baby."2

Years ago I had a similar experience and, though not quite as dramatic, it helped change a major course in my life.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that when I trust in you with all my heart and continually commit my life and way to you, you do direct my path. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


Joy is Jesus

John 15
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (v.11)

The words of our Lord in the text before us today point to the fact that His joy and our joy are not different joys -- but one and the same. He says: "My joy may be in you and ... your joy may be complete." His joy and our joy are not alien, but allied. And you cannot take His joy within you without your own joy being made complete.

We are made in the inner structure of our beings for the joy of Christ; His joy completes ours."All things were created by him and for him" (Col. 1:16). This exciting verse tells us that the stamp of Christ is upon all creation -- we were made by Him and for Him. I sometimes imagine that if we could design an instrument that could look into the human spirit, we would see stamped there the words: "Made by Christ and for Christ."Christian joy certainly awaits us in heaven but we can also experience it as we make our way toward heaven.

Christian joy is a joy that flows out of a sense of well-being, of harmony with the sum total of reality, of direct and immediate contact with His joy. Rendell Harris says; "Joy is the strength of the people of God; it is their characteristic mark." And when that mark is absent, then the characteristic of a Christian is absent. The best definition of joy I have ever heard, one that comes close to the text before us today, was given to me by a thirteen-year-old boy: "Joy is Jesus." What better definition can one want? Jesus!

My Father and my God, help me day by day to come closer to Jesus -- then I will come closer to Joy. Show me any blocks in my life that may be hindering that desired closeness. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.


Words of Honor
Outdo one another in showing honor—Romans 12:10
To honor someone is to build them up, to give them a sense of their worth. Prevailing culture teaches us our worth is weighed by worldly measures. And so, “honoring” becomes hero worship—elevating those good at projecting worldly success and marginalizing those of us with flawed lives, with failures in our past, or who are simply unable or unwilling to devote enough effort to convincing the world of our success. This type of “honoring” is not what God intends. We lead each other astray when we engage in it, because the focus is so wrong.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”(Colossians 3:2).

To honor someone as God intends is to build them up and give them a sense of their true worth. It’s trying to see them as God sees them. It’s pushing right through the confusion of worldly measures—successes, failures, talents, faults, wealth, poverty, titles, appearances—looking for evidence of what God has done in and through them, and what he’s doing currently. And, finally, most importantly, it’s telling them what we see. Our edifying, encouraging words to one another are gifts from God. He allows us to give them to one another . . . and we must.

Ask God to help you see those around you as he sees them. Look for how he’s working in and through them. And . . . then . . . tell . . . them. Tell them what you see. We men tend to struggle with the telling. We can be married for years, or in community with other men for years, and never simply tell those closest to us what we see in them. So, pick someone this week and tell them what you see. Honor them with a glimpse of his/her true worth.


Joy: More Than Pleasure
John 16:17-33
"... I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." (v.22)

One of the reasons why so many Christians do not experience the delights of spiritual joy is because they do not expect to. A woman who came into the experience of Christian conversion: "Strange, but I never associated joy with God before." How sad that many do not expect their faith to make them basically and fully joyful now. They think that joy is reserved for the hereafter. Our Lord pointed out to the disciples that it was for the present.

We can better understand this supernatural joy if we distinguish it from the pleasures of life with which it is sometimes confused. Spiritual or supernatural joy is quite different from pleasure or happiness. A worldling can experience pleasure and happiness but he cannot experience supernatural joy. Indeed, worldly people often pride themselves in knowing how to experience pleasure. Yet pleasure and Christian joy cannot be equated. Look with me at some of the differences. Pleasure depends on circumstances. It requires a measure of health and wealth. It demands that the life conditions be kindly and thus it can be stolen from us by things like lack of money -- or even a toothache.

Christian joy is completely independent of circumstances. It is there in the believer even when "strength and health and friends" are gone; when circumstances are not only unkind but savage. Out of all the miracles I have witnessed in my life, none is more wonderful than the miracle of seeing Christ's exuberant joy burst forth in those who are caught up in pain or persecution. The springs of Christian joy are deep within and can exist, no matter what the circumstances.

O Father, how can I thank You enough for imparting into my sadness Your unconquerable gladness. No matter what happens -- all is well with my soul. I am so grateful. Amen.