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God's Search for a Man
"But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee." - 1 Samuel 14:14 If summer camp was a tradition as a kid, then you ought to have an arsenal of pranks up your sleeve. One of my personal favorites is disguising toothpaste as the creme between two Oreo cookies. Fooled by the similar appearance, an unsuspecting victim accepts your kind but deceitful offer of free cookies, only to gag with disgust at the taste of toothpaste! It looks good on the outside, but creamy filling is awful. This accurately describes the reputation of the first King of Israel, Saul. He failed as a leader. Succumbing to doubt, insecurity, and fear, one compulsive decision cost him the privilege of leading the nation of Israel. Like the axe that falls the fruitful tree, so his disobedience toppled his blessed position. God was done with a leader that only looked good on the outside. He wanted a king who passionately pursued his Lord. God is still looking for people with a heart for Him. He quickly looks over an impressive title, a profound set of abilities, or a charming personality. He desires a man or woman who humbly walks after His commands and passionately pursues godliness. David was that kind of man: Psalm 119:11 "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." Psalm 119:20 "My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times." Psalm 119:47 "And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved." Every person in the body of Christ has the potential to lead others, because God calls us to influence others towards Himself. We have been given a powerful message by a powerful God. If we content ourselves with our usual routines that bears little fruit, we will be sorry when we stand before our Savior. As the Spirit of God investigates the hearts of men, what does He find when He comes to you? Does He see an impressive shell on the outside like King Saul, or does He find an inward sincerity to pursue God? If unsure, consider taking a spiritual inventory. Examine the following aspects of your Christian faith: 1. Your Bible reading -- Has this become a routine, or are you regularly finding inspiration for your day? Sometimes we just have to paddle through some rough waters, but we should never allow ourselves to go too long without some fresh enlightenment from God's Word. Pray as David did, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." 2. Your prayer life -- Is this the part of the day you look forward to most, or is it just another Christian duty? When was the last time you felt broken before God about a sinful practice you've noticed? If you're like me, there are times you simply need to acknowledge your apathy for prayer and ask God for a fresh fervency. 3. Your perspective -- Do you see God at work while enduring a hard-nosed boss? Are you claiming His promises when bearing the pain of a physical illness? Do people see you as a positive person to be around, or do you drape a wet blanket on the day? A heart for God is inspiring to be around. An empty shell of Christian faith can fake for awhile, but eventually the negativity wins every time!
Peace of Mind Part 5 - Relinquish Your Cares
"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:6-7 Two friends decided to go on a hike together. Ted was an incredible runner for his school’s track team and grew up venturing the wilderness with his family. Dave was more of the bookworm type and not nearly the outdoorsman as his companion. By some miracle, Ted managed to convince Dave to accompany him on a “short” hike. Since the outdoors wasn’t Dave’s forte, he was a bit lost on how to pack. So he decided to bring everything he could imagine would have some use. Ted tried to warn him that the pack would exhaust him on the trip, but Dave was adamant that he needed everything he brought. So off they went. At first, Dave felt pretty good. The sun provided a nice warmth to complement the touch of chill from the fall wind. The outdoor aromas of nature filled his senses with feelings of freedom and carelessness. A smile spread across his face as he thought that maybe hiking could be a hobby after all. His smile began to melt away after the first mile. Discomfort started spreading across his shoulders. Soon his feet began to complain about the excess pressure his stuffed backpack gave to each step. Ted eyed his buddy with amusement. He could tell that the weight was beginning to affect Dave’s endurance. If he didn’t find a way to lighten the load, they would have to cut their hike short. “Maybe you could leave some of your things inside the hollow of that tree over there.” “But what if I need it?” Dave objected. “I doubt we’re really going to need everything you packed inside there. Besides, we’ll be coming through here again on our way back. I know these trails like the back of my hand. We’ll stop by the tree, collect your things, and walk the final mile home. I don’t think you want to carry that pack for another two miles.” The words “two miles” stung Dave’s ears. Already he could feel the wave of exhaustion that would inevitably hit him if he ignored Ted’s advice. So he relented. Ted helped him decide that a week’s worth of food and water wasn’t necessary for a one-day hike, in addition to the pile of books Dave planned to read when they stopped for a break. Needless to say, Dave’s pack felt much lighter as they went the rest of the way. Many liken the Christian life to a pilgrimage or a hike. 2 Peter 2:11 calls us strangers and pilgrims. Like Abraham, we nomadically travel this earth, keeping our eyes on that heavenly kingdom promised in Christ. As we walk along that pathway, negative circumstances try to weigh us down. Worries of the world begin to flood our souls when finances get tight, the job seems unstable, or a loved one contracts a serious illness. The more we think on these things, the more we become pack mules for our problems. Weighing down our heart is essentially weighing down our peace. Philippians 4:6-7 gives us a way out. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the most common psychological disorder among U.S. adults is anxiety. An estimated 18% suffer from this disorder. Another source proposes that one out of every thirteen people fit into this category. A Sinful Action Anxiety is a sin. Contrary to the modern views of psychology, worry goes against the command of God’s will for His children. When the believer chooses to consume his mental energies on things he really can’t control, he robs God of His place of authority. On the surface, he may pray here and there for God to give aid and respond in frustration as his needs still aren’t being met. God doesn’t work for us. We work for Him. God has no obligation to intervene in a situation we try to control. Because anxiety is a matter of choice, believers find hope in knowing God can help them obey His commands. What we do in human effort makes them impossible. To depend on the Holy Spirit’s transformational power enables the believer to be finally free from the chains of worry and anxiety. A Proper Response To “be careful for nothing” could be said this way: “Don’t worry.” Worry is defined as “[giving] way to anxiety or unease; [allowing] one's mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.” Our minds are professionals at replaying the record player of a particular situation without end. Thinking ourselves to be solution oriented, we will try to look at the problem from every possible angle, trying not to look at the internal stress meter breaking max capacity. “Forget sleep,” we’ll say to ourselves. “I just can’t get this problem out of my mind.” The proper response to trials is not to dwell on the obstacles. It’s to communicate our needs to God. “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Instead of looking to ourselves to be the solution, we look to God to be the Savior. Turning to God as a first response goes against the grain of our humanity. There is nothing surprising about this. We know eating junk food is unhealthy, yet still we’ll come home from the grocery store with a box of doughnuts. We know that unless we get the proper amount of sleep, our bodies will eventually give out on us. Still the workaholics push crazy sixty-hour weeks to meet a deadline. To be human is to be a poor responder. Prayer is arguably the most challenging discipline for a Christian to develop. It may also be one of the most important. The Lord Jesus committed hours at a time for prayer (Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Luke 6:12, Mark 6:46, Luke 9:28). For most of us, we identify with Matthew 26:41. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” If your prayer life is not a regular discipline, don’t expect it to be a regular response. To experience peace, we must be in consistent conversation with the Prince of Peace. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly (Matthew 6:6).” The extent of your anxiety is the extent of needed prayer. Better to spend all night in prayer to God for spiritual strength than to wrestle with worry. Psalm 50:15 says, “And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” In Psalm 86:7 we find this promise: “In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.” There is no greater response to anxiety than prayer. A Humble Heart To be careful for nothing is to give up control. The pride of man tries to hold onto every burden as his responsibility. Humility lays those burdens at the feet of Jesus. The sooner man acknowledges his inability to God, the sooner he is free from anxiety. E. M. Bounds put it this way: “Nothing more truly shows us our helplessness than when trouble comes. It brings the strong man low, it discloses our weakness, it brings a sense of helplessness. Blessed is he who knows how to turn to God in ‘the time of trouble (Bounds 35).'” God educates us in 1 Corinthians 6 that we are bought with a price. When the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, and we responded in repentance and faith, He claimed absolute ownership. If it is true that God owns every aspect of my being, then He also owns my problems. A parent takes responsibility for the messes her toddler makes. Even so does God take responsibility for our messes. This does not remove our obligation of repentance and doing our part in making it right. It is, however, freeing to know that no matter how deep I dig my hole, God will draw nigh to me if I draw nigh to Him. One author pointed out how easy it is for us to enjoy the promise of 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” He wisely pointed out how often we ignore verse six, which says, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” To relinquish your cares is to come to God and to say, “I can’t. I can’t control the outcome of this situation, and I leave it to You.” It's time to give God your burdens. Stop gritting your teeth and tricking yourself into believing you can handle your problems. Lay them before the feet of Jesus. He invites to do so: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30)." To experience peace, you must Resolve to Stand. Choose today to do what is right no matter the circumstance. You must Remain in Unity. Be right with others so that you may be right with God. Rejoice in the Lord. Remember to praise God for who He is and what He is able to do in your situation. Restrain Your Heart. Surrender your heart's emotions to the control of the Holy Spirit. Now it's time to surrender the worries and fears plaguing your heart. Relinquish Your Cares.
Peace of Mind Part 4 - Restrain Your Heart
Anyone who enjoys fast driving on a jet ski knows that the faster you go, the harder it is to control your vehicle. If a skier is really zooming and catches glimpse of an obstacle ahead, the wise response would be to slow down to keep control of the turn. This illustrates what God means when we are to let our moderation be known unto all man. Moderation is a test of your character. It is a willingness to say "no" to yourself despite how you feel. When we allow our emotions to dictate our reaction to problems, odds are we'll choose the wrong response. Worry, anger, or fear will trample our peace of mind without the restraint of the Spirit of God. This, in part, is why Paul urges readers to "walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Moderation is testimony for others. While many of us would rather not care what others think, this verse shatters that thinking. A core essential to Christian faith is influencing others. General Douglas MacArther understood the power of influence in leadership in World War I. In France, he gave a battalion commander special orders before daring the charge. "Major, when the signal comes to go over the top, I want you to go first, before your men. If you do, they'll follow." According to accounts, MacArther then placed the Distinguished Service Cross from his own uniform to the commander's. As one writer said, "He had, in effect, awarded him for heroism before asking him to exhibit it." What were the followers' response when they saw their commander lead the charge? They followed behind. They accomplished their goal (Maxwell, 121). When we choose to keep under the Spirit of God in difficult circumstances, those watching are motivated to do the same. Remember our first principle, Resolve to Stand? We mentioned how in Philippians 3:17 Paul commanded that we watch those who have a good testimony in . Your testimony can be a lighthouse, helping a storm-driven Christian navigate through his own storm. Moderation is a work of God. Understanding that the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, we know that no human ability is very weak. Only God, who searches and tries the heart, is capable of keeping it under the control of the Holy Spirit. The ending sentence, "The Lord is at hand," is both a challenge and an encouragement. Because Christ could come at any moment, we ought to reflect a temperate spirit in the midst of difficulty. However, we are not alone! God is near and willing to tame our radioactive attitudes when we submit them to His sovereign rule. You cannot experience peace without proper control of your heart. That control is a test of testimony and a matter of character. Others are watching and only God can do the work. Keep your heart in check because others look to you as an example. Give your heart to God because His coming is nigh, and He is an ever-present help in time of need. Where to go from here? 1. Confess any negative responses you have shown in your current difficulties. Are you harboring bitterness? Are you taking it out on others? Whatever it is, get it out in the open with God and with those you have wronged. 2. On a regular basis, pray for the Holy Spirit to help you respond like Christ to your situations. Admit to God that you are incapable of keeping control of your peace and that you are depending solely upon His strength and grace. 3.. Do a character study on those who have endured tough storms in the Scriptures. What was Job's response when he lost everything? What was David's response when He lost his child? What was Paul's response when God denied his request in 2 Corinthians 9? Allow the testimonies of faith heroes to motivate you to press onward. 4. Identify the people in your life affected by your testimony. These would include your family, friends, coworkers, and even neighbors. If you allow yourself to lose restraint, what are the consequences? What are the possible outcomes if you submit to the Spirit of God? Resources: - Maxwell, John C. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
Peace of Mind Series - Rejoice in the Lord
Philippians 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice" Our first principle was Resolve to Stand (Philippians 4:1): You cannot have the peace of God until you resolve to stand for what is right. The second principle, Remain in Unity (Philippians 4:2-3), taught us that if our relationships with others are not peaceable, we ourselves cannot experience peace. Today we will see what God says about the third principle, Rejoice in the Lord. Peace and joy share many similarities: Neither of them are feelings, though they are very involved with our emotions. Both are actionable. While peace is my decision to be right with God, right with others, and right with my circumstances, joy goes deeper. It's praising God in the midst of my situation. Notice that our text doesn't make joy an option: it's a command. "Rejoice in the Lord alway." According to God, there is never a valley so dark that I cannot shed the light of His praises. A diagnosis may threaten to destroy my body, but it is my choice whether or not it destroys my joy. I can still praise God that He is able to heal if He wills. If He chooses to take me home, then everything I have been waiting for as a Christian will become a reality. How do you handle your problems? Is your first response to praise God for His goodness and acknowledge that, no matter how disappointed you may feel, you can still look to Him? If you're anything like me, that's not your first response. I tend to throw myself a pity-party. I vent. I complain. I disobey this clear command. As a result, I lose my peace of mind. Notice I'm not saying to thank God for the bad. Many people misunderstand the wording of 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." Notice it doesn't say, "For everything give thanks“; it says, "In everything give thanks". God doesn't expect us to rejoice in the evil that others may do unto us, but He does expect us to be thankful in the situation. If someone has hurt you, you can thank God that He never leaves you nor forsakes you. If your body is in continual discomfort, you can thank God for the perfect body you will one day own. If your finances are tight and you don't know where the next meal is going to come from, you can thank God that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. To rejoice in the Lord is to test your faith. Is God really who you say He is? This is why James 1:2-4 commands us to "count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." No matter the season, God commands us to have joy. Having joy strengthens our faith. Rejoicing in the Lord establishes our peace of mind. It's the Christian's war cry: "This trial will not defeat me! My God is greater than my pain." Are you finding yourself in a difficult season and joy seems so far away? Here's a practical exercise Pastor Marc Monte of Faith Baptist Church of Avon, IN suggests: get a journal and every day, thank God for four things: 1. Thank God for what you have had - past blessings 2. Thank God for what you have now - present blessings 3. Thank God for what you will have - future blessings 4. Thank God for what you don't have - God's mercy You ultimately choose whether or not your situations rob you of peace and joy. You cannot have God's peace without giving God praise. This is the third principle in our series, Rejoice in the Lord.
Pray for the Childs Family
We have much to praise God for when thinking of the Childs family. in 2018, their deputation journey had 19% support. Our Lord multiplied that figure to a whole 39%. That's more than double of what they started with last year! God has additionally kept them safe through their 25,338 miles of ministry travel. As we feature them as our missionary of the week, please pray for the following blessings: - A full calendar of church meetings - More solid, encouraging churches with whom to partner for their mission - Safety for travel - More laborers to answer the call for South Africa.
Peace of Mind - Remain in Unity
Philippians 4:2-3 "I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life." Verse one of this passage commands us to "stand fast in the Lord." We called that principle, "Resolve to Stand." For the second principle, we will see that in order to live with biblical peace, you must "Remain in Unity". The first principle deals with us being right with God. The second deals with us being right with others. According to this devotional's text, there was a conflict brewing between two ladies, Euodias and Syntyche. It is impossible to have peace in your heart if you have conflict with others. Notice that Paul doesn't even mention the cause of the conflict. Apparently, it wasn't important enough for God to put in His Word. That should tell us that the cause behind our conflicts is not as important as having the unity. Romans 12:18-19 commands us to "live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mind; I will repay, saith the Lord." We lose the sweetness of our peace with God when we live in conflict with others. If you are a breathing human, odds are someone has wronged you in the past. They sinned against you. They slandered you. They gossip about you. We as sinful beings crave self-justification. We stew about the wrongs others have done against us, allowing them to morph into the dark clouds that rain on our day. These thoughts become the booms of thunder that keep us awake at night. You will never experience true peace of mind until you choose to remain in unity. God places the responsibility on you to as much as possible, live peaceably with all other people. This is especially important if the person who has wronged you is a believer. I pity the heart who values their self-righteousness more than the sinner's soul. Praise God that was not His attitude when He saw His only Son being mocked, scorned, and ultimately crucified for sins He never committed. Our forgiveness of sins meant more to God than His very life. "But what about the wrongs they've done! I can't just forget that." You're right. You can't. But you can delegate it. Choosing to hold the thoughts of bitterness and self-righteousness is robbing God of His place as Judge of all the earth. Plead your cause to Him alone, then leave it there. It's His responsibility now. James 4:11-12 says, "Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" It's not our place to judge the evildoer. It's God's. Is your heart in constant turmoil because of relationships you know aren't right? Have you done your part to live peaceably with as much that lies within you? Have you given God their wrongs and slanders in exchange for His peace and justice? You cannot have peace and bitterness in the same Christian. You cannot be right with God and wrong with others. To have peace, you must resolve to stand. Determine today to do right despite the consequences and despite how you feel. Second, you must remain in unity. Do your part to forgive, to love, and to live peaceably with all men.
Pray for the Wrights
Mount Zion Community Church is featuring the Wright family to Greenland for this week's Missionary Update. Here's how you can pray for them right now! - Pray for their language learning. Language acquisition for any missionary takes time. The Wrights need our prayers for God to open their minds and tongues to grasp the native language of their area. Although they are making progress, we as their prayer support want to be sure that the word of God as "free course." - Pray for their relationships. The Lord of the harvest and the servants of the harvest must work in tangent. You can help guide the Wrights in their Gospel efforts by asking God to give them favor with the people, help them meet their perceived needs, and open doors to share the Gospel. - Pray for their children. Raising a family on a foreign field comes with its own set of challenges. Ask God right now to bless the Wrights with wisdom in shepherding the hearts of their children.
Pray for our PA Senators
This week we are featuring our Pennsylvanian senators as the focus of our political prayer requests. Let's obey God's command for us to lift our nation's leaders to the throne of grace. Senator Bob Casey Jr. Religious affiliation: Catholic Wife: Terese Children: Elyse, Caroline, Julia and Marena Senator Pat Toomey Religous affiliation: Catholic Wife: Kris Children: Bridget, Patrick, Duncan *Photo of Toomey provided from Wikipedia
Peace of Mind Series - Resolve to Stand
"Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved." Philippians 4:1 As we embark on our Peace of Mind Series through Philippians 4, we see the first clearly stated in verse one: "so stand fast in the Lord". Before you can expect God's peace to dwell within your heart, you must first resolve to dwell with God. What is mankind's natural reaction when trouble invades our expectations? We worry. We doubt. We get angry with God and others. We complain. Sometimes, we permit excessive and frequent pain to encourage us to throw in the towel altogether. There may be an unpleasant diagnosis. There may be that loved one's betrayal. There may be that job loss. From the moment of Adam's transgression, sin and death flooded this world with the suffering she now bears; and still Paul tells us under God's inspiration that we are to "stand fast in the Lord". Did he not know that the Philippians were facing poverty? Did he not know that the cost of being a Christian was increasing in severity? He did. And he understood. Writing from his prison cell, he commands them under God's direction to resolve to stand - don't give up! This command is reinforced by the first word of the verse, "therefore", which references thoughts from chapter three. When you're ready to throw in the towel, when peace seems impossible, you must remember that this is not the end. Philippians 3:13 "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before." Whatever the trial we face today, it will not be with us when we stand before Christ. The day will come when Jesus shall establish His reign forever upon the earth. Pain and suffering will be no more. To give up now is to miss out on hope for the future. When we consider all that God has in store for those who love Him and serve Him, the dark times are but light afflictions. The tears of agony you may shed today will be tears of joy in heaven. A second reason we must resolve to stand is because judgment is coming. Philippians 3:14 says, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Though the apostle himself was in prison, he did not dare allow his present circumstances to detract him from his coming reward. All of us will stand before the Lord Jesus and give an account of what we did for Him. A third reason for our steadfastness is found in verse fifteen: "Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample." You must stand fast in the Lord because you set an example. We like to think we are not influenced by the choices other people make, but that is unfortunately not how human nature works. We are influenced, and greatly so. When you choose to stay standing, a weaker brother or sister in Christ may see your "ensample", and be encouraged to do the same. Children learn by watching others. So do God's children. So how does this relate to peace? When you give up on living for God, you forfeit your peace. The natural reaction for many is to give up on spiritual things when they start to become costly. My friend, that is the opposite of how God expects us to react. Peace - that virtue whereby we are right with God, right with others, and right with ourselves - cannot exist apart from the Lord Jesus. He is the Prince of Peace. Though the storms overwhelm you, keep sailing. Jesus can calm the storm. If the hill seems to high and strenuous, keep climbing. Faith moves mountains. If the foes seem too powerful, keep fighting. You're on the winning side. The Philippians 4 journey to peace begins with a resolution between you and God: no matter what, I will still do right. I will still stand.
Peace of Mind Series - Introduction
"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:7 You're at McDonalds. Despite all the YouTube videos and online articles that herald the health disasters of this franchise, here you are standing in line. Oh, did I mention that you're running late for work? That would explain the shifting of your feet as you wait for your food. Your eyes dart from your watch, your smartphone, to the McDonalds employee who wants $15 an hour for needing your order repeated three times. With schedules filled with places to be, people to meet, and things to do, the inner peace God desires for us becomes a fairytale. On top of our bursting agendas lies the unknown of the future, hurts of the past, and other challenges today brings our way. Thinking of Jesus as the Prince of Peace is an idea completely foreign to your way of living. Over the next several weeks, we will be looking at key thoughts from Philippians 4. You will not only learn what peace is, but that it is indeed possible to have. It's not a dream or a fantasy. God meant you to live a life of peace. Perhaps one of my readers is a soul troubled with anxiety over some difficult trials. The pains press upon your heart from the moment you wake up till the time you go to bed. You too can learn how to live in peace. Your problems may not disappear, but you can stop them from robbing your rest and confidence in God.
"There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years." - Luke 1:5-7 The Christmas story recorded in Scripture contains quite the collection of unexpected people who received celestial news. Before the angels proclaimed glad tidings of the coming Christ in chapter two, we find Gabriel giving Zacharias glad tidings in chapter one. So confounded was he at the news that his doubt clouded his faith. After all, he was old. he and his wife both were old. Sure, God did a miracle for Abraham, but that was a long time ago! If we were honest, many of us find these whispers of doubt in our own hearts when we consider the promises of God. Philippians 4:19 promises that God shall supply all our needs, yet we find ourselves concerned about balancing the checkbook. God promises to never leave us nor forsake us, yet often we believe that we are alone with our problems. We, like Zacharias, struggle with dumbstruck faith. God in His mercy chose to still use Zacharias and his wife as part of the greatest miracle of the ages. He may still have mercy on us and do great wonders in our eyes today. How much the more would God do in the lives of His people if they but had more faith? What mountains could be moved? What strongholds could be conquered? How much more could we do for the one who did it all for us if we but believed in His power? How sad that good Christian people rarely see a miracle because of weak faith. May God help us to trust in His promises and do great things as a result.
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations" James 1:2 Flat tires, financial struggles, relationship conflicts, and tragic losses make up only some of life's many pitfalls. Temptations are a reality. When Christ taught His disciples, He warned them continuously that their experience living for God would come at a great cost. Yet with this in mind, James gives us this Scriptural command to consider the struggles as a joy! Commands imply that we have a choice. Commands also imply that our choices will have consequences. God rewards blessings to His obedient children. Conversely, He delivers chastening to rebellion. Regardless of natural thought, the best attitude one can have in the midst of trials is to consider it all joy. This will protect the relationship one has with his God while allowing him to remain in a position of spiritual blessing. Commands also imply ability. Christians have the ability to do something that those without Christ cannot - receive our troubles as joyous. A lost man cannot claim the promise of Romans 8:28, knowing that God works all things together for the good of those that are called by His name and give Him their love. Because joy is commanded, joy is possible. Your heart may say, "I'm ready to quit." God says, "I'm ready to help." Commands imply purpose. God has a purpose for every command, all of them tracing to His ultimate glory. When you choose to obey God's command, you thereby give God glory. God, in a sense, becomes visible when His children choose to wear the Spiritual glow of joy in response to troublesome times. When Satan and his tactics are met with a Christian's joy, the world witnesses a powerful message. You become a testimony to sinners that God satisfies deeper than one's situation. God satisfies the heart. You are pretty much guaranteed that life will be a struggle. You are also guaranteed that when struggles come, you can still have joy. This is a Christian virtue, blossoming from a trust in God. All pain comes to an end. Your reward for obedience lasts forever. So my brethren, count it all joy!