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11/22/17 1:13 A

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November 21

Psalms 139:2-24

Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.

Peter and Jeanne had been through a lot together. Peter's wife had died a few years before, and Jeanne's husband had left her. They had spent many long hours talking to each other, pulling each other through dismal times. They had grown so close that they knew each other's thoughts and moods without a word passing between them. In time they decided to marry, and theirs was a match to truly honor God. Their love was a fine example of how wonderful love can be.

We need someone to turn to who knows us and who we can trust. God is that someone. Perhaps we will find an earthly partner who understands us so well, but even if we don't, God will hear us, He will know us, and He will comfort us. He is never too busy for us, and He knows our hearts before we even call upon Him. Talk to the Lord. Take your deepest desires to Him, and rejoice in the blessings He has to give.

Prayer: I need Your counsel, Father. Thank You for knowing me so well, and for being there when I need You. Watch over me, Lord, and fill me with the assurance of Your nearness. Amen.


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11/20/17 3:00 P

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November 20

Psalms 139:1

O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.

Kent really wanted the new security job. The aeronautics company was one of the largest, and was considered to be the up-and-coming industry leader. His job could possible become one of the most important around. He sat down at the desk of his interviewer. The man pulled out Kent's file, which appeared to be about three hundred pages thick. The company had sent a team of investigators to find out everything they could about Kent. Though he knew it was necessary, he couldn't help feeling a little angry and alarmed that they were able to find out so much about him. It was frightening to see someone hold your life's stories and secrets in his hands.

Our Lord holds the complete file on each and every one of us. He knows us much better than we even know ourselves. Yet, that is nothing to be alarmed about. In His infinite love, He has forgiven us for all that we have done wrong, and he is able to help us in our deepest need.

Prayer: It is strange to think that You know me so well, Lord, but I am thankful that You do. Only someone who knows me as You do could possible understand what I go through and what I need. Thank You. Amen.

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November 19

Psalms 138:7

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wil t revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.

Chet and Alex had been great friends since elementary school. Now they were starting together on the high school football team; Alex the star running back, and Chet his number one blocker. Chet opened the holes to let Alex get running room, and Alex took off. Throughout their lives together, things had worked pretty much the same way. Chet was always looking out for Alex, making sure he was okay. Together they were an unbeatable pair.

Life sometimes feels like a football game. We've got the ball, and everybody else is out to flatten us. In that case, we want to have the best blocker in front of us that we can. God will assume that role for us, if we ask Him to. God sticks with us in the midst of trouble. He picks us up when we fall, He reaches out to help us along when we get bogged down, and He clears our way to deal with problems rather than let us be beaten by them. Nothing can harm us so long as God is on our side.

Prayer: There are days, Lord, when I feel like I'm losing ground all the time. I get tired of trying so hard to make things work out and feeling like they just get worse. When I face those times, O God, be with me to lift me up and make me a conquer. Amen.


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11/17/17 6:56 A

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Unresolved Guilt - UpWords - Week of November 17-23, 2017

by Max Lucado

What kind of person does unresolved guilt create? An anxious one, forever hiding, running, denying, or pretending. As one man admitted, “I was always living a lie for fear someone might see me for who I really was and think less of me. I hid behind my super spirituality but this lie was exhausting and anxiety producing.”

Unresolved guilt will turn you into a miserable, weary, angry, fretful mess. In a psalm David probably wrote after his affair with Bathsheba, the king said, “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat” (Psalms 32:3-4 NLT).

As the apostle Paul told Titus, God’s grace is the fertile soil out of which courage sprouts! “God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation is available for everyone!” (Titus 2:11,15 MSG).

From Anxious for Nothing

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November 17

Psalms 138:1

I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.

Linda had the chance to sing before a huge audience. Due to an audition at her college, she had chosen to appear on a well-known television show. All her friends made suggestions about what she should sing, but Linda had ideas of her own. Her grandmother had always loved the song "Amazing Grace" and told Linda that she should always look for ways to let people know what she believed. This was a chance to do just that. Linda would sing her heart out; for her grandmother, and for the Lord.

Perhaps singing is not your talent, but each of us can find ways to proclaim the power of christ in our lives. If God is really important in our lives, we should be excited to let the whole world know how we feel. Praise God with your whole heart, and sing forth His glory always.

Prayer: I cannot express how grateful I am to have You in my life, Father. Help me to share Your love with the people I meet this day. Amen.


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November 15

Psalm 137:8

O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou served us.

"Doesn't God care? Why do evil people get away with all the things they do?"The question is asked almost every day. Evil seems to be having its way all the time. Don't worry. God sees everything, and He will not forget what evil people have done. Our God, though a God of love, is a God of justice. He will reward those who honor Him, and he will punish those who have rejected Him and His ways. We are responsible for the way God will deal with us. If we choose to ignore Him, we cannot hope for good things, but if we pursue God with all our hearts, we will experience blessing and joy beyond measure.

Prayer: I know that You care, and I know that You will do right by all who love You. Give me patience to accept what seems unfair now. Make me deserving Your grace. Amen.

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11/13/17 5:49 A

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November 13

Psalms 137:4

How shall we sign the Lord's song in a strange land?

College was a foreign land for Diane. Even after three years, she felt alienated and alone. Her values just didn't mesh with the values of the people she went to class with. Sometimes she wondered why she even bothered having morals, with all the immorality rampant on campus. She was thankful that she was a Christian, but there were times when even that was small consolation. God was hard to find in a strange place that obviously didn't know Him very well. Face it, Jesus Christ was not big man on campus. It was hard, but down deep inside Diane knew things would get better. She just hoped it would be soon.

It is hard to be in a strange land. That is what we become when we ask Christ into our lives. He transforms us into Kingdom people while we are yet in our earthly existence. What that does is make us homesick for the one true home above. Thankfully, God is ever with His children, and He will hear our cries. In our times of silence we will hear His song, and we will be able t o sing forth ourselves, no matter how strange the land.

Prayer: Lord, hear my prayers. Let me know that I am not alone; that You are truly close to me. When I feel most lonesome, fill me with Your presence. Amen.

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11/12/17 12:33 A

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November 11

Psalms 136:3-13

O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever. . . .To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Tracey sat thinking about her troubles. Her mother kept telling her to pray about them, but she didn't know whether that would do any good or not. She wanted to believe, but it seemed a little far-fetched to think praying would really do anything. She wasn't even sure that her prayers got through.

Doubt is a killer. It kills faith. Our God is the God who freed the Hebrew people from captivity in Egypt. He parted the waters and let the chosen people through before washing away the Egyptian army. If God could handle the trials of an entire people, then He can handle what we lift up to Him. Give thanks to the Lord, and trust Him with your every though. His mercy does endure forever.

Prayer: Hear me, Lord, as I pray for your guidance and help me in my life. I cannot handle all of the problems that come my way, and I need to know You stand with me. Give me that assurance. Amen.

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11/10/17 4:42 P

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November 10

Psalm 136:2, 7

O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. . . .To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Griffin had gone through college as an atheist. No one could get him to believe that there was a God out there somewhere who made everything go. That was before he began working with the space program. The more he saw the scope and majesty of the cosmos, the more convinced he was that there had to be someone out there who authored all the miracles he saw. To see the power of a billion suns shining through millions of miles of space boggled the mind. They couldn't have just happened. Some great mind had to have a part in bringing it all about. Griffin had come far. His briefcase was always packed with pictures and books, but no book was more important than the Bible that never left his side.

People who don't believe in God reject Him, not because they know so much, but because they just haven't learned enough. Even in the most scientific and complex equation, God can be found. Wisdom comes not when we say we know all we need to, but when we admit there is much left to learn. Open your heart and mind to God, and watch the universe unfold.

Prayer: A billion stars pierce the infinite darkness of space. Surely Your light can break through the darkness of my ignorance. Shine the light of true wisdom through me, Lord, and let me share in Your glory. Amen.

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The Grace of Christ - UpWords - Week of November 10-16, 2017

by Max Lucado

Guilt sucks the life out of our souls. Grace restores it. No one had more reason to feel the burden of guilt than did the apostle Paul. He had orchestrated the deaths of Christians--an ancient version of a terrorist. Yet, Paul gave his guilt to Jesus, period. He surrendered it to Jesus! As a result he could write, “I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us” (Philippians 3:13-14 TLB).

What would the apostle say to the guilt-ridden? Simply this: Rejoice in the Lord’s mercy. Trust in his ability to forgive. Cast yourself upon the grace of Christ and Christ alone!

From Anxious for Nothing.

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November 9

Psalms 135:6

Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.

Imagine the fun the Lord had creating all the animals of this world. With the power to do whatever he pleased, He concocted a menagerie of some wonderful creatures. Consider the giraffe, or the baboon, or the frog. What a host of funny-looking creatures. Think of the splendor of the eagle, the grace of the gazelle, the power of the tiger. God put so much into making His creation a good one. The same is true of His children. God went to great lengths to make sure His children were good. He even imparted in each and every one of them His own image. He offered them free will and all the blessings because they pleased Him. Our God is a God of love, and nothing pleases Him more than to be able to share that love. Indeed, we may be God's funniest creatures, but that only makes Him love us all the more.

Prayer: Father, You must have a wonderful sense of humor to put up with children like me. Forgive me for being less than You created me to be. Help me to grow and mature and develop into Your image. Amen.

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November 8

Psalm 135:5

For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.

Brooke had tried everything. She had started in business, done quite well, then the bottom dropped out. Broke and disillusioned, she moved home with her parents. There she began attending church and studying the Word. Then she was offered a job with a large corporation, and she jumped at the chance. It didn't work out the way she expected, nor did the relationship she got involved in with one of her co-workers. Disillusioned once more, she returned to her hometown. Once more she involved herself with the church, and she was amazed to realize who much she had missed it. The problems she'd been having didn't seem so great anymore. Without even realizing it, Brooke had been developing a faith that helped her through. While everything else in her life changed, mostly for the worse, God stayed the same, and He was waiting to embrace His prodigal daughter the minute she returned.

Our Lord is great, and His love is far beyond our comprehension. No earthly temptation that we try to elevate to the status of a god can ever compare with the one true God. He alone can make our lives worthwhile.

Prayer: You have changed my life for the better, Father, and I will never again turn from the blessings You alone can supply. Please let nothing ever come between me and Your love. Amen.

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November 7

Psalm 134:2

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.

It was weird. Jane had never been to a service like it before. All the people murmured the Lord's name during the prayers, raised their hands, and rocked back and forth in the pews. At first, she had been very uncomfortable, but as she got accustomed to the goings-on around her, she began to relax. Suddenly, she realized that everyone didn't have to express their faith the same way. Though she didn't feel comfortable displaying her faith with physical expressions, she found that she readily accepted others who did. The sincerity of the worship and the energy of the congregation excited Jane. A whole new aspect of her faith was opening up to her.

Open-mindedness is the greatest need in our churches today. Somehow we must learn to affirm and respect the other members of the body of Christ who don't choose to function as we do. There is room for any and all honest expressions of love and devotion to our Lord. Whether we approach Him on bended knees deep in the silence of our o wn hearts, or with hearts, hands, and heads lifted in jubilant praise, we can know beyond doubt that God accepts us and is honored by our expressions of worship.

Prayer: Receive me as I am, Lord. I worship You in the best way I know how. Help me to be open to new and different expressions of faith, and teach me to grow. Amen.


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November 4

Psalm 132:9

Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.

Reverend Fields felt very strongly about the matter. If a person was going to be a representative of the church, he needed to live a clean and upright life. Leaders need to lead by example, therefore church leaders ministered to others by the way they lived their lives. If a person wasn't ready to steer clear of questionable activities, then maybe he wasn't ready to step into a key role in the church.

All Christians assume the responsibility of being an example of nonbelievers. It is an awesome task, but one we must assume. Christ call us to a life of perfection. Each day we should strive harder to be more perfect than we were the day before. With God's help, we can clothe ourselves in righteousness, thus sending the message that to be Christian means to be different from the rest of the world. In Christ we are made new. Our newness is a light for all the world to see.

Prayer: Clothe me in Your righteousness, Lord, and make me an example of a new life in Christ. Let me serve You through my actions. Move me onward toward perfection. Amen.

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November 3

Psalm 132:4, 5

I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, Until I find a place for the Lord, and habitation for the migh ty God of Jacob.

Rachel closed the door and hung her head. Three o'clock in the morning. She wondered whether the project was ever going to get done. All she wanted to do was collapse in bed, but first there was something she had to do. She dressed for bed, then took the Bible from her dresser and went to the kitchen table to read and to pray. In all of her adult life, she had never gone to sleep without first spending time with God. She was determined that nothing would ever come between her and this special time. It made no difference how tired she was, God came before sleep.

When days become hectic and full, it is easy to allow God to be pushed aside. We need to protect our time with the Lord and give it top priority. If we will keep the Lord close to us, he will sustain us and give us strength in tough times. Without Him, we can never hope to be our best.

Prayer: Convict my heart with the determination to spend time with You. Let nothing come between us, Lord. When other things demand my time, remind me that I gave myself to You first. Amen.


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November 2

Psalm 131:2

Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.

Thomas got so sick of his sister telling him to grow up and act his age. Sure, he blew his temper sometimes, but so what? Everybody does. Who did she thing she was, telling him to grow up? He was plenty grown-up. It was other people who needed to grow up, not him. Anybody who thought differently just didn't know what he was talking about.

At some point in our lives, we pass from thinking only of ourselves to thinking of others. We become less defensive and more peaceful. We admit when we are wrong, and we affirm others in their opinions. The Apostle Paul says that we must come to a place in our lives where we put aside childish things. Christian maturity comes when we begin to think less of self, more of those around us. There are times in all our lives where the message is clear: We need to grow up.

Prayer: Help me to grow and mature in my faith, Lord. Turn my attention to the needs of others. Turn my selfishness into selflessness. Amen.

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November 1

Psalm 131:1

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

When John had started out, all his superiors told him that he was destined to go far in the firm. Now they all shook their heads in wonder that he had never climbed the corporate ladder. John just smiled to himself. Dog-eat-dog was fine for some, but John was content to just do the work he loved. He didn't care what anyone else thought, he was happy, and that was worth more than all the prestige in the world.

Grow where you're planted, the saying goes. When you find a place of contentment, guard it. Don't be ready to throw it away for what may or may not be better. Too often we get into situations over our heads, and then it is too late to go back. God will not be impressed by your fame or wealth. What pleases the Lord is someone who uses his talents and makes peace for himself in the work that he does.

Prayer: Make my aspiratio ns for myself realistic and worthwhile. Help me to keep my wits about me, to do the things I like rather than those things that are done merely to impress others. Amen.

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October 30

Psalm 130:1

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.

Funny how some people never ask for help until everything comes crashing down upon them. They wait until the last minute, then send out the distress signal. Many people work their relationship with God that way. They call on Him infrequently while things are going well, but when trouble rears its ugly head, they are pounding on His door for help. It is a wise person who learns to include God in everything he does. When God is a full part of your life, you never feel panic when things go wrong. Still, it is good to know that God will hear us when we cry out from the depths, and that He will always come to the aid of His children.

Prayer: Make me to remember You in all times, Lord, not just times of trial. Help me to share my whole life with you and to glory in Your presence. Thank You for staying beside me always. Amen.

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October 29

Psalms 129:6

Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up.

People who live without God in their lives live without the roots that feed and strengthen all life. They have no protection against the storms of life that can uproot and destroy. When troubles increase, they wither like plants in a hot sun. God is the true source of all that is needed to grow. Without Him, we can never reach our potential. Like the seed that falls to the rooftop, sprouts, then soon dies for lack of nourishment, so we, too, will die without the saving power of the Almighty in our lives.

Prayer: Feed me, protect me, nurture me, and make me grow, Lord. Send your life-giving Spirit upon me, and make me the best person that I can be. Amen.

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October 26

Psalm 128: 1, 2

Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways. For thou shall eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.

Jack sat down to supper with his family. Even after twenty years, there was something special about a meal that came from their own farm. Jack could imagine thousands of families sitting down to similar meals of produce from his farm. It made him feel like there was purpose to his life. The work was hard, there were worries about the future, but it was all worth it. The farm was Jack's life. It would never be said that Jack was not fulfilled in his work. He couldn't be happier.

Many people find no satisfaction in the work they do. Their lives lack purpose and meaning. Christians have an alternative source of meaning in their lives. If a Christian does a job, no matter how large or small, to God's glory, then that person will find satisfaction. God doesn't much care what we do, but He is always interested in how we do our jobs. If we do our work without grumbling and with a joyful heart, then we are witnessing to His power in our lives and we are pleasing to Him.

Prayer: Let me be not so concerned with the prestige of my job, or the salary it pays, or what other people think of it. Instead, assist me to always do the best that I can, to Your glory, Father. Amen.

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October 25

Psalm 127: 4, 5

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak wi th the enemies in the gate.

Beverly belonged to a large family. Friends of hers always told her how sorry they were for her being the middle child of nine, but she could never quite understand their sympathy. She lived having lots of sisters and brothers. They were all close, and she never felt lonely or unsupported. Contrary to her friends' belief that there would be less love because it was spread so thin, there was all the more. Beverly couldn't imagine being loved more than she was by her whole family.

God gave families as a blessing. Not only blood families, but church families also qualify as blessings of love. Anyone can belong to a family in God's world, for we are all His family. All it takes is to reach out to others. There is strength, safety, and joy in numbers. The closer we unite, the stronger we will be.

Prayer: Draw me close to my sisters and brothers in Christ, O Lord. Expand my family each and every day. Teach me to reach out to those around me. Fill me with a love that never fails. Amen.


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October 22

Psalm 126:5

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

Just when Amy thought her work might go down the drain, a miracle came through. Working with the poor in Atlanta was the best job and the worst job she had ever had. She specifically worked in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and there was nothing more gratifying than getting someone back on his feet. Yet, for every one that got cleaned up, there were a dozen more in need. Money was tight, and things didn't look good. Amy went home at night and cried for all the work left undone and all the people in misery. Then, the grant came through: Enough money to keep the doors open for a year. Amy felt like God truly did care about what she was doing. All the sweat and tears paid off?Joy that comes to us in times of despair is twice as sweet. When we care intensely about our world and the people in it, we will be moved to tears, and at times we will even feel like giving up.

Thankfully, the tears will turn to joy, for all is in God's hands. He will transform this old world and make all things new. Those who care most deeply will rejoice all the more. Take heart!

Prayer: Help me to see a brighter future for my world, O Lord. I get discouraged when it seems like evil triumphs so much of the time. Show me the good, Father. Amen.


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Rejoice in the Lord's Sovereignty - UpWords - Week of October 20-26, 2017

by Max Lucado

The next time you fear the future, rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty. Rejoice in what he has accomplished. Rejoice that he is able to do what you cannot do. Fill your mind with thoughts of God.

“He is the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Romans 1:25).
“He is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
“His years will never end” (Psalm 102:27 NIV).

He is king, supreme ruler, absolute monarch, and overlord of all history. An arch of his eyebrow and a million angels will pivot and salute! Every throne is a footstool to his. Every crown is papier-mache next to his. He consults no advisers. He needs no congress. He reports to no one. He is in charge.

Sovereignty gives the saint the inside track to peace. Others see the problems of the world and wring their hands. We see the problems of the world and bend our knees!

Taken From Anxious for Nothing


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October 19

Psalm 125:2

As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.

Peggy love the island. Her grandfather had purchased the land and built a cottage on it before the first World War. Now it was hers, and she felt safe and surrounded and at home. Some of her friends thought it would be unpleasant to be completely surrounded by water, but she said it was just like having a private moat. To Peggy, this was a paradise.

For some people, being surround is a great source of security. Our Lord awaits to surround us in His love. From time immemorial, the Lord has gathered His children to Himself, encircling them in His protective care. We are held in that circle today. Rejoice that the Lord is near. He protects and defends us, and will continue to do so forever.

Prayer: Circle me in Your love, Lord. Surround me and keep me safe, I pray, and help me to draw others to You. Amen.


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October 18

Psalm 124:7

Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are expected.

Clifford was a strange man. He served his country in Vietnam and spent three years as a prisoner of war. While a prisoner, he amazed his companions by never complaining about their situation. In fact, when questioned about it, he smiled and said, "I'm not really here, anyway." Once Cliff returned to the States, he shared what he had meant. Each day he sat against the stone wall and began listing in his mind all the places he had ever been that he had loved. He pictured those places, and he selected a different one every day. In his mind he journeyed to the beloved spots and he turned off the reality around him.

As Christians, we need to do the same thing. We're not from here. Our true home is with God in heaven. When the reality around us gets too intense and hard to handle, we should turn our thoughts to God. We can be liberated from the trap if we will only call upon the Lord. God offers us a way to escape the harshness of our earthly life by entering into quiet time with H im. Reach out. His peace awaits.

Prayer: Rescue me from the craziness around me. Be my refuge when life gets too hectic. Lift me out of the race and grant me rest. Amen.

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October 17

Psalm 123:3

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.

The Greens couldn't tolerate the Reds, because the Reds read their Bibles out loud. The Reds couldn't stand the Blues because they sang too many songs and they didn't always sing words the Reds knew. The Blues didn't like the Golds, because the Golds never did any mission work, and the Golds didn't like anybody else, because no one else took in a much money on a Sunday morning.

The things we let divide us! God shakes His head in disbelief at the contempt we hold for others who don't quite agree with us. We live a country where there are almost three hundred different denominations, all claiming to have a special understanding of the Christian Gospel. What is more important than any point of faith is that we love one another, and that we treat one another accordingly. We need to ask God's forgiveness for our bent toward judging others. Each of us has enough to keep us busy with his own faith. When we start pointing fingers at others, that's when we prove positively that our own faith is in serious need of help.

Prayer: Have mercy upon me, Lord. I apologize for all the times I have judged another person's faith, when my own faith is in such need of help. Remove the enormous plank from my own eye, O God, that I might truly begin to see. Amen.

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October 16

Psalm 123:2

Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy up on us.

Ryan had trained dogs for almost thirty years. A lot of people didn't like his tactics, because he demanded that the animals learn respect fast. He never raised his voice, but he was quick to discipline with sharp, painful shots to the rump and muzzle. Within a few short days, his dogs knew what was expected of them and what they could expect if they disobeyed. By the turn of a hand, Ryan was able to make his dogs do most anything.

As we wait upon the Lord, we should think about what is expected of us and how well we are doing what we should. We know what is expected of us, and we know what might befall us in our disobedience. We look expectantly to God, and it is right that we should, but we should also look at ourselves to see that we are doing all we know we ought to be.

Prayer: Have mercy upon me, Lord, in my disobedience. I am trying to learn Your will for my life. Help me to grow in all of Your ways. Amen.

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October 15

Psalms 122:7

Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.

Some people's homes are war zones. Families in conflict abound in our society. So much unhappiness comes from people no longer knowing how to share and give. Too many people are looking out for themselves, and they aren't willing to look out for each other. Mothers fight with daughters, sons with fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, each feeding the beast of hurt and discord. We are lost without a peacemaker, one who knows our hearts and can pave the way to reconciliation. Luckily, Christians have such a peacemaker. Christ came to unite all God's children, brothers, and sisters in the faith. He works in the home to call us to a deep love that is consecrated in blood. If we strive for peace within the walls, then we are one step closer to peace between our nations. God will heal all wounds, if we will only welcome Him in.

Prayer: Christ, You have broken down the dividing walls of hostility, and You are waiting to build bridges of love. Begin with me, Lord, and move forth in love. Amen.


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October 7

Psalm 119:136

Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not they law.

Reverend Hawkins sat at his desk and cried. He had been a good shepherd for his church, and he had given everything he knew to give, but the members of the church had so far to go. In all his years, he had not asked anything special of his congregation, but now he wanted to open their doors as a shelter to vagrants in the area. He was committed to the project to the very depths of his soul, but the church had voted it down by a strong majority. All he had ever tried to teach them was lost. It made him heartsick to think that the Gospel was just a story and not a way of life.

Christian growth comes slowly. Not all Christians operate at the same point at the same time. Very little that Jesus asks or commands in the New Testament is easy. It takes time to learn how to walk the steps of Christ. We may lament that others are not committed in the same ways that we are, but if they are trying their best to follow Jesus, then we need to rejoice at their progress and hope for continued growth in their lives and in our own.

Prayer: I weep for those who have forgotten what it means to follow You, Lord, and I pray that You help me to continue to grow, and that You might use me to help others in their growth. Amen.

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October 6

Psalm 119:121

I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors.

It was never easy giving an F to a student. In fact, if there were any way around it, Jill would have taken it. Most of the time the student was willing to do anything to avoid the bad mark. Garrett was another case. She had offered to tutor him, she had given him extra-credit work to do, and she had taken all kinds of extra time with him. Through it all he had just blown her off, ignoring her attempts to help and mocking her to his friends. He had ripped up notes she had written to his parents, and he forged his parents' signature on his report cards. Jill had contacted Garrett's parents, but they were too busy to come in. Now, however, with a F in hand, the parents were coming, and they were looking to pick a fight.

Doing what is right is not all that easy. When we dedicate ourselves to justice, we must be ready to face the wrath of all those who don't see things the same way we do. God loves justice and righteousness, and we need to remember that He is ever on the side of what is right. He will be with us when we face persecution for righteousness' sake. Rely on Him.

Prayer: Whenever I try to do right, it seems like someone finds fault with me. Help me to ignore the insults and remain true to what I feel You want me to do. Protect me, Lord. Amen.

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October 5

Psalm 119:105

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Nick and Davy thought it would be fun to explore deeper in the cave. When they saw their chance, they separated from the rest of their class and headed down a corridor that was roped off. They walked on through twisting and turning shafts until they were no longer sure how to get back. They stood in total darkness, feeling the cavern close in around them. Just as they verged on panic, Davy looked down and noticed a fine, dim glow. Phosphorescent stone was embedded in the cave floor, and it cast off a dull shine. By following the path of light, the boys made it back to the safety of the well-lit shafts.

Darkness can close in around us quickly in this world today. It seems to be getting darker all the time. However, we are recipients of the light that cannot be put out and will never fade away. The Word of God will guide us through even the darkest times, and He will be close by to comfort us in time of trouble. Rely upon the light of the Lord.

Prayer: Light my way, dear God, and keep me from stumbling down the wrong path. Keep me from my own folly. Amen.

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October 4

Psalm 119:103

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea sweeter than honey to my mouth!

The singer spun a tale of joy and triumph. The audience sat enthralled by the young woman's voice. She painted a picture more lovely than words. The senses came alive as she performed her art. The sights, sounds, colors, smells, and tastes burst forth through her song. She sang from the heart, and her story was shared by many. Emotions connected, and the entire crowd-singer and audience-moved together in a spiritual harmony. The experience was electrifying.

When we are in the presence of truth and beauty, it is undeniable. There is a cord struck within us all. That cord is the image of God in each of us. We connect with the universal rhythm that God set in time long, long ago. The result is a joy, a sensation, a feeling that defies explanation, but assures us of the reality of God. Open yourself to His truth.

Prayer: There are times when I feel Your presence so strongly, Lord. I know that You have orchestrated a masterpiece of which I am a small but important part. Thank You for including me. Amen.

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October 1

Psalm 119:78

Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts.

Paul did chores for his neighbor, Mrs. Bower, each Tuesday after school. He had done chores for her for three years, and no one had said much about it, but for some reason this year was different. All the kids at school had started making fun of him. He couldn't understand why other kids would laugh at him for trying to help someone else. It made him feel ashamed for no good reason. He'd almost gotten into a fight with one boy. Why couldn't people just leave him alone? It wasn't their business anyway.

There is always someone who will find fault with us, no matter what we do. Some people just aren't happy unless they criticize. In times when we feel the most persecution, God waits for us with open arms. He understands well what it is like to be mistreated for no good reason. He went to the cross in just that way. When times get rough, turn to the one who understands best. God will comfort you and give you the strength you need to persevere.

Prayer: It is hard enough when people find fault with me for what I do wrong, let alone when I am trying to do what is right. Make their insults bounce off me like water off the duck's back. Strengthen me in Your will and way. Amen.

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A New Chapter for Your Life - UpWords - Week of September 29-October 5, 2017

by Max Lucado

The anxious heart says, “There’s trouble out there!” So you don’t sleep well. You don’t laugh often. Misfortune lurks... it’s just a matter of time. As a result you’re anxious. You’re not alone. Our society is crippled by anxiety. How can this be? Our cars are safer than ever. We regulate food and water and electricity. Yet if worry were an Olympic event, we’d win the gold medal!

Keep in mind that anxiety is not a sin but an emotion. It can, however, lead to sinful behavior. When we numb our fears with six-packs or food binges, when we peddle our fears to anyone who’ll buy them, we’re sinning. Jesus gave this word: “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighted down with. . .the anxieties of life” (Luke 21:34 NIV).

God made you for more than a life of angst and mind-splitting worry. He has a new chapter for your life. And he is ready to write it!

From Anxious for Nothing


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - September 24

MYSTERY

“He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ…”Ephesians 1:9

Human beings always want to know “why?” and “why not now?” But it’s precisely because we are human we cannot know. That’s why mystery is so important to understand. The entire book of Job is all about the “why” of suffering and in the end God invites Job to see a bigger picture than even his suffering.

Creation is a mistake if all you see is your suffering. But if you lift your eyes wider and let your gaze roam over the whole universe with God, you can also see that creation has even more beauty and grace.

So we are to value mystery because it enables us to feel God’s love…love that was fully revealed in Christ.

Sometimes we get to see “why?” and “why not now?” (one of the good aspects of growing older). Often we don’t because we are the players of life in the universe, not the playwright.

Christine Mallouhi in her excellent book, Waging Peace on Islam, makes this significant conclusion:

The victorious and triumphant Christian life does not conjure up pictures of suffering and death and feelings of abandonment. But this was all part of God's victory in Christ. If this was the path the Master trod why should it be any different for the servants? Jesus cried out "why?" and "where are you?" to God when circumstances were crushing him. God is always greater than our understanding of him and there will always be mystery about him that causes us to fall down in awe and worship. This mystery, which we want to tidily categorize, keeps causing struggles in our life. Every time we get God tidied up like a ball of rubber bands, another end bursts out and the struggle begins over again, until we learn to live in faith with untidy ends. If everything is clear then faith is irrelevant. We are not called to solve the mystery, but enter it.

RESPONSE: Today I will value mystery because it enables me to feel God’s love.

PRAYER: Thank You Lord that though the world around us if full of suffering, it is more full of beauty and grace. Help me to trust You and value mystery.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Anxiety Ain't Fun - UpWords - Week of September 22-28, 2017

by Max Lucado

Anxiety is a meteor shower of what-ifs. The sky is falling, and it’s falling disproportionately on you. Anxiety ain’t fun! One would think Christians would be exempt from worry but we are not. It’s enough to make us wonder if the apostle Paul was out of touch with reality when he wrote in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing.”

Is that what he meant? Not exactly. He wrote the phrase in the present active tense—implying an ongoing state. “Don’t let anything in life leave you perpetually breathless and in angst.” The presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of anxiety is optional. Could you use some calm? Of course you could. We all could! We all could use a word of comfort and God is ready to give it.

From Anxious for Nothing

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Training Children - Standing Strong Through the Storm - Sept. 22

TRAINING CHILDREN

“…do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

A China Bible Woman shares the following situation that helped train her and her children in righteousness while her husband was in labor camp:

One day I said to my children, “The Lord has told me that today I will go to prison for Him. Father is not at home so please behave. Love each other and don't forget to bring food for your mom!”

During that time there were so many prisoners that the government could not provide for all of them so family members provided their food.

The children cried when they heard this. Daniel replied, “But mom, we have only five catties of rice left. How can we have rice and also send you some? When it's all gone, we'll die!”

I told the children, “The Lord can turn nothing into something!” and I reminded them of the story of Elijah and the widow. They had a simple child-like faith and believed that God could provide for their need. So they concluded, “Even though our rice is not enough, we will cook for you too!”

After talking with the children, The Public Security Bureau police came to the door and arrested me. Daniel followed me to the prison to find out which cell I would be in. The younger two children knelt in prayer. As I was taken away, my heart was wrenched as I heard their little voices trailing off.

I was in prison on that occasion for thirty days. All the while Daniel faithfully sent rice for me. When I returned home I asked, “Is there any rice left?”

Daniel's response was, “Mom, our rice container is overflowing!” It really was. Those five catties had inexplicably grown to about forty catties and were literally overflowing the container.

I said, “Praise the Lord! Now we can continue to cook for the other inmates and feed them as well.” The Lord's grace is beyond measure.

RESPONSE: In fulfilling the functions of the church also in each Christian home, we have the great responsibility to train and instruct our children in faith and righteousness.

PRAYER: Lord, help me model today Your love, faith and righteousness before the little ones I am in a position to influence.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm-September 20

PAYING THE PRICE

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” Ephesians 6:19-20

Martha was a young Chinese Christian engaged to be married but decided to postpone her marriage for two years to answer the call of God to deliver Bibles where they were urgently needed in her country. David Wang shares her story:

I recall meeting her once in the city of Xian. We had arranged to meet at 9 p.m., but she did not turn up until about 1 a.m. She was delayed because she had been delivering Bibles in a nearby village. But the local commune leaders discovered what she was doing. They beat her up, robbed her, and threw her on a deserted road. It was a miracle that she was able to make it to our appointment.

I noticed something was wrong with Martha. She was thin as a wire and her face was bloated. I asked, “What is the matter with you? Did they beat you up?”

“Oh, no,” she said, “I've had this problem for some time now.” Then she rolled up her pants to show me legs covered with stings and mosquito bites. As she traveled in the remote countryside of China, often she had to sleep in deserted huts or even out in the fields. She was literally eaten up by bugs and mosquitoes.

“Tomorrow we must go to a doctor,” I urged her.
“No, no,” she said, “I have to catch an early train tomorrow to go to Inner Mongolia. Where are the Bibles?” Her only concern was to get Bibles delivered!

In August 1983, Martha disappeared - as though she had just vanished into thin air. That was during China’s ‘Anti-Crime Campaign’ when many people were arrested and executed throughout China. We became concerned for Martha.

Later we got a letter from her through her friends. It was not really a letter - just a little piece of paper. She had been arrested and charged for distributing “superstitious materials” in the People’s Republic of China.

The little note read: “I don’t know what the penalty will be, but please pray for me.” She quoted Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:19-20. A few weeks later, we received word that 24-year-old Martha had been executed. She paid the price.

RESPONSE: Today I will pay the price in serving Jesus in my area regardless of the risks.

PRAYER: Lord, Martha’s story humbles me. Help me love and serve You as much as she did.

-A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - September 19

BOLDER AND FEARLESS

“And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” Philippians 1:14

The Apostle Paul indicates that another reason why the Gospel was actually advancing during his imprisonment was the bold courageous witness of other believers who had lost their fear.

Two Chinese itinerant evangelists who carried Christian books with them were arrested in Anhui Province during their ministry. The Public Security Bureau (PSB) put them in jail and beat them. The guard beat the face of one until it bled and then took his shoes away in the cold of winter. Then they poured cold water on him throughout the winter. He became deformed from the harsh treatment. Both were kept in jail for six months.

They had led two people to the Lord in that prison location before they were arrested, and when they were released from jail after six months, there were over one hundred new Christians in the area from the seeds that these men had planted. The two people that they led to the Lord spread the message to others. The work grew even while the itinerant evangelists were in prison.

We shared earlier about Pastor Tu in Vietnam—leader of the fastest growing house church network. Pastor Tu spent three years in prison for his evangelistic ministry. When he was released, he found his house church network had grown three hundred per cent during his imprisonment years.

I received a Christmas card from him the following year that read: “…God greatly gives our church 20,203 more new believers this year. Hallelujah!”

RESPONSE: God’s kingdom will advance when I overcome my fear and become a bold and courageous witness to the power of the Gospel.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to trust You fully and become a dynamic force in boldly advancing the growth of Your church.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - September 18

ADVANCING THE GOSPEL

“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” Philippians 1:12

The Apostle Paul writes these words from prison but he assures his readers that prison in no way hindered the spread of the gospel, but actually advanced it. Then he states in the following verses that he is chains only because of Christ and because of his imprisonment, others have become bolder and fearless in sharing their faith. And the gospel advances!

A Vietnamese brother, we’ll call Daniel, was led by the Lord to the minister in the north where he soon found himself in the midst of a revival. The inevitable soon happened and Daniel was sent to prison, his “training school,” for three years. He shares his experience in prison:

After my arrest I was put in solitary confinement and chained to the ground for six months. This was a very hard time for me. The cell was only 2 x 3 meters, there were no lights in the cell and I only had one bowl of rice and salt a day. A piece of bamboo was stuck between my crossed legs and chained to the ground. My hands were chained to the ground behind my back and whenever I had to go to the toilet I was offered only a plastic bag.

I felt totally deserted. I asked the Lord to take my life. It was too much for me. I prayed a lot but thankfully the Lord did not do what I asked.

One night in my prison cell, chained to the ground, I saw a vision of the Lord. He did not speak a word. He just placed his hand on me and I felt how new strength filled my body. I cried and repented before the Lord. Then I knew the Lord was saying to me that He would not allow me to leave this world defeated, that when He takes me “home” it would be victoriously. The next day the police came and took me to another cell but I could not walk. After one year I could walk again.

Today I can see why God allowed this difficult time. After three years in prison there is a church in every area where I spent time and more than 200 inmates came to know the Lord. Three other prisoners who came to know the Lord also started churches in prison.

When I was released, I found that my village church had grown to 500. I know that God has a good plan. He sent me to prison to preach the Gospel and so that I may become a strong warrior for Him.

RESPONSE: Today I will pray differently for brothers and sisters in prison for their faith.

PRAYER: Help me Lord to always trust Your plan – even when it seems difficult and overwhelming.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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A Small Price to Pay - UpWords - Week of September 15-21, 2017

by Max Lucado

When you recognize God as Creator, you will admire Him. When you recognize His wisdom, you will learn from Him. When you discover His strength, you will rely on Him. But only when He saves you, will you worship Him.

Before your rescue, you could easily keep God at a distance. Comfortably dismissed and neatly shelved. Sure, He was important, but so was your career...your status. Then came the storm and the ripped moorings. Turn to your career for help? Only if you want to hide from the storm--not escape it. Lean on your status for strength? A storm isn’t impressed with your title.

And from that moment on, He is not just a deity to admire or a teacher to observe--He is the Savior. The Savior to be worshiped. A season of suffering is a small price to pay for a clear view of God!

From In the Eye of the Storm


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - September 13

THE PERSECUTED

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

”Matthew 5:10-12

With our hunger and thirst for righteousness comes the promise of persecution for those who take a stand for God. We have not been called to safety and comfort but to serve in the midst of conflict. Persecution is not to be strenuously avoided, for it is the result of righteous living. To avoid it, one would have to cease living righteously.

The early church went through much persecution for their faith in Christ. It affected their livelihood. They had to ask themselves, Should a Christian craftsman create idols for the temples? Or should a tailor sew robes for heathen priests?

Persecution affected social and family life. Most feasts were held in the temple of some god. A common invitation would be dining at the table of such a god. Even an ordinary meal in a home began with a cup of wine poured out in honor of the gods, like grace before a meal.

Could a Christian share in such a meal like that?

Severe persecution meant being flung to the lions, burned at the stake, or being wrapped in pitch and set alight to provide light for Nero’s palace gardens. Or it meant being sewn in animal skins and set upon by Nero’s hunting dogs. Christians were tortured on the rack; scraped with pincers; had molten lead poured on them; had red-hot brass plates fixed to the most tender parts of their bodies; had eyes torn out; had limbs cut off and roasted before their eyes; had hands and feet burned while cold water was poured over other parts to prolong agony.

Most of us have never in our lives made a real sacrifice for Jesus. To have to suffer persecution is to walk along the same road as the prophets, the saints, and the martyrs. To suffer persecution is to make things easier for those who are to follow. To suffer persecution is to experience the fellowship of Christ, as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did in the furnace (Daniel 3:19-25). It is not always so dramatic, but it is nevertheless real. Most of us enjoy the blessing of liberty today because men and women in the past were willing to buy it for us at the cost of their own blood, sweat and tears.

RESPONSE: I will accept persecution, whether mild or hot, which comes as a result of righteous living.

PRAYER: Lord, encourage those today who are experiencing severe persecution for Your name.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- September 10

THE PURE IN HEART

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”Matthew 5:8

As our mourning to God begins the transforming process of our new life in Christ, so our lifestyle of purity amid the impure can become the beginning of reconciliation.

This Beatitude necessitates the strictest and most honest self-examination. We are to do everything with pure, unmixed motives. This demands the death of self and the springing to life of Christ within the heart.

So, blessed are those whose motives are unmixed and who operate in purity. They shall be given a vision of God Himself. As we draw closer to Him through purity, we shall see Him more clearly, love Him more dearly and follow Him more nearly. Thus:

Blessed are those whose motives are absolutely pure and whose life is characterized by purity, for they will be able to see God.

The area of moral purity is one major concern of Muslims. Great stress is laid on modesty in dressing and purity of relationships between the sexes. But Christians seem so nonchalant about such issues. Is it because we do not care about purity? No. The difference is in our starting points. In the Muslim view, purity is from the “outside in.” For the follower of Jesus it must be from the “inside out.” Thus, Muslims seek to cleanse themselves knowing they are in need of cleansing, whereas we know Christ has already cleansed us.

But we tend to disregard the danger that dirt can pose to us and we become careless. What is important to realize is that a careless disregard for even the “appearance of evil” will lead people to wrong conclusions and cause them to stumble. It is not enough to say we are pure. We must be seen to be pure.

A co-worker in China was teaching a class of believers in which two antagonistic-looking groups of students sat across from each other, looking as if they were facing enemies. As he was sharing, some students started crying and others were repenting. He told them that if they needed to apologize to others, they should sincerely ask the Holy Spirit to work, and to move them, and to give them the courage to admit their wrongs to others. He said that God delights in pure hearted children, and He wants to use submissive, humble people. Everyone was hugging and crying. Everyone was confessing his or her sins to each other. The cleansing brought purity to their relationships.

RESPONSE: Today I will seek to live my life in true purity before God with good motives.

PRAYER: Lord, I can only live this way if I listen and respond positively to the reproving of Your Holy Spirit. Help me to be sensitive to purity issues.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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The Mark of a Disciple - UpWords - Week of September 8-14, 2017

by Max Lucado

The mark of a disciple is his or her ability to hear the Master’s voice! The world rams at your door, but Jesus taps. Voices scream for your allegiance, but Jesus softly and tenderly requests it. Which voice do you hear? There is never a time during which Jesus is not speaking. Never. There is never a place in which Jesus is not present. Ever. There is never a time when He is not tapping gently on the doors of our hearts--waiting to be invited in.

Few hear His voice. Fewer still open the door. But never interpret our numbness as His absence. For amidst the fleeting promises of pleasure is the timeless promise of His presence. “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). There is no chorus so loud that the voice of God cannot be heard. . .if we will but listen!

From Eye of the Storm


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God's Far-Reaching Grace - UpWords - Week of September 1-7, 2017

by Max Lucado

Seems to me God gives a lot more grace than we’d ever imagine. We could do the same. I’m not for watering down the truth or compromising the Gospel. But if a fellow with a pure heart calls God Father, can’t I call that same man Brother? If God doesn’t make doctrinal perfection a requirement for family membership, should I?

If God can tolerate my mistakes, can’t I tolerate the mistakes of others? If God can overlook my errors, can’t I overlook the errors of others? If God allows me with my foibles and failures to call him Father, shouldn’t I extend that same grace to others?

One thing is for sure. When we get to heaven, we’ll be surprised at some of the folks we see. And some of them will be surprised when they see us!

From God Whispers Your Name

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Standing Strong Through the Storm-September 1

DEAD ALREADY – AND HIDDEN IN CHRIST

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3

Kefa Sempangi was pastor of the large Redeemed Church of Uganda. Easter Sunday 1973 was his first serious brush with death at the hands of Idi Amin's goons. After an all-day worship service he went exhausted to the vestry to change clothes—too exhausted to notice the five strangers (government secret police goons) following him into the room:

They stood between me and the door, pointing their rifles at my face. For a long moment no one said anything. Then the tallest man, obviously the leader, spoke. “We are going to kill you,” he said. “If you have something to say, say it before you die.” He spoke quietly but his face was twisted with hatred.

I could only stare at him. For a sickening moment I felt the full weight of his rage. We had never met before but his deepest desire was to tear me to pieces. My mouth felt heavy and my limbs began to shake. Everything left my control. They will not need to kill me, I thought to myself. I am just going to fall over dead and I will never see my family again.

From far away I heard a voice, and I was astonished to realize that it was my own. “I do not need to plead my own cause,” I heard myself saying. “I am a dead man already. My life is dead and hidden in Christ. It is your lives that are in danger; you are dead in your sins. I will pray to God that after you have killed me, He will spare you from eternal destruction.”

The tall one took a step towards me and then stopped. In an instant, his face was changed. His hatred had turned to curiosity. He lowered his gun and motioned to the others to do the same. They stared at him in amazement but they took their guns from my face.

Then the tall one spoke again. "Will you pray for us now?" he asked. I thought my ears were playing a trick. I looked at him and then at the others. My mind was completely paralyzed. “Father in heaven,” I prayed, “you who have forgiven men in the past, forgive these men also. Do not let them perish in their sins but bring them into yourself.”

RESPONSE: Realizing I am dead in Christ brings boldness to proclaim truth even in fearful situations.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to trust You in times of fear and challenge and allow Your Spirit to take control of every situation.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 30

NEVER FAILS TO BEAR FRUIT

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream……and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8d

Trees were not plentiful in Israel and most grew by sources of water like an oasis or a stream. Jeremiah’s simile indicates a person with confidence in the Lord is like a deep-rooted tree by the stream (see Psalm 1), that bears fruit faithfully year after year in all circumstances of weather.

The most remarkable report I’ve heard from China is about a Christian lady in prison during the "anti-spiritual pollution campaign" in the mid-eighties. She spent her time in prison hand carving Scripture verses in miniature lettering with a sharpened end of a toothbrush on the walls and even on the frame of the cot in her cell. Years later she actually met another person who subsequently spent time in the same cell and came to Christ through reading those verses over and over.

One year when visiting Christians in the north of China, I asked the whereabouts of Aunty Mei Bo. This short octogenarian medical doctor, I was told, was away on a missions outreach in spiritually needy Tibet. The next summer she was home and very anxious to hear of our group experience in Tibet - the rooftop of the world - since she was planning another mission trip there soon. She concluded, “Jesus is saying, ‘Hurry up and get the job done so I can come back again!’”

Aunty Mei Bo often stored Bibles from foreign couriers in her home where she lived alone. One day the Public Security Police raided her home and confiscated all the Christian materials they found. Later in the day she found a JESUS video they had missed. So off to the police station she headed with the video.

The young lady at the desk looked askance in her direction. “I want to talk to the Chief of Police!” Mei Bo demanded firmly. “Today his men were at my house and they did not see this,” she said waving the video tape in the air. The receptionist ushered Mei Bo into the police chief’s office. He acted oblivious to her arrival yet grunted a question of intent.

“Sir,” Mei Bo began slowly. “Earlier today your men raided my house and took all the Bibles I had stored there. I understand that they were just doing their job. But after they left, I noticed that they missed this video tape. I need to know from you if this is acceptable material or not. Would you and your staff check it for me?”

“Very well, come back in two weeks,” he muttered dismissing her with a wave of the hand. Mei Bo almost skipped out the door with overflowing joy as she headed toward home. “Thank you Lord! How else could I get the Beijing chief of police with his staff to watch the JESUS video?”

RESPONSE: I want to be a tree that bears fruit without fail, regardless of age and weather conditions.

PRAYER: Lord, may my deep rootedness in You cause me to never fail to produce lasting fruit.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 29

NEVER FAILS TO BEAR FRUIT

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream……and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8d

Trees were not plentiful in Israel and most grew by sources of water like an oasis or a stream. Jeremiah’s simile indicates a person with confidence in the Lord is like a deep-rooted tree by the stream (see Psalm 1), that bears fruit faithfully year after year in all circumstances of weather.

The most remarkable report I’ve heard from China is about a Christian lady in prison during the "anti-spiritual pollution campaign" in the mid-eighties. She spent her time in prison hand carving Scripture verses in miniature lettering with a sharpened end of a toothbrush on the walls and even on the frame of the cot in her cell. Years later she actually met another person who subsequently spent time in the same cell and came to Christ through reading those verses over and over.

One year when visiting Christians in the north of China, I asked the whereabouts of Aunty Mei Bo. This short octogenarian medical doctor, I was told, was away on a missions outreach in spiritually needy Tibet. The next summer she was home and very anxious to hear of our group experience in Tibet - the rooftop of the world - since she was planning another mission trip there soon. She concluded, “Jesus is saying, ‘Hurry up and get the job done so I can come back again!’”

Aunty Mei Bo often stored Bibles from foreign couriers in her home where she lived alone. One day the Public Security Police raided her home and confiscated all the Christian materials they found. Later in the day she found a JESUS video they had missed. So off to the police station she headed with the video.

The young lady at the desk looked askance in her direction. “I want to talk to the Chief of Police!” Mei Bo demanded firmly. “Today his men were at my house and they did not see this,” she said waving the video tape in the air. The receptionist ushered Mei Bo into the police chief’s office. He acted oblivious to her arrival yet grunted a question of intent.

“Sir,” Mei Bo began slowly. “Earlier today your men raided my house and took all the Bibles I had stored there. I understand that they were just doing their job. But after they left, I noticed that they missed this video tape. I need to know from you if this is acceptable material or not. Would you and your staff check it for me?”

“Very well, come back in two weeks,” he muttered dismissing her with a wave of the hand. Mei Bo almost skipped out the door with overflowing joy as she headed toward home. “Thank you Lord! How else could I get the Beijing chief of police with his staff to watch the JESUS video?”

RESPONSE: I want to be a tree that bears fruit without fail, regardless of age and weather conditions.

PRAYER: Lord, may my deep rootedness in You cause me to never fail to produce lasting fruit.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 28

NO WORRIES IN A YEAR OF DROUGHT

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream……It has no worries in a year of drought…” Jeremiah 17:7-8c

Trees were not plentiful in Israel and most grew by sources of water like an oasis or a stream. Jeremiah’s simile indicates a person with confidence in the Lord is like a deep-rooted tree by the stream (see Psalm 1), which has nothing to worry about even when a whole year goes by with no rain.

A young Christian boy in Iraq shares this insight after the bombing of his church in late 2010:

I always imagine having a special cape, like superman wears, as I run in and out of my sister’s bedroom. The cape is gold with red print just like the curtains in our dining room. I think of myself as a protector of the royal realm and my sister as a princess to guard – well, ok, when she isn’t making me mad.

I used to play outside, but when the war started we had to play inside all the time. When we do go outside we take the car, but I help my dad check under the car first for bombs. We are always checking things around the house and everyone is very nervous when we travel even short trips around the city. We even have some suitcases stuffed with things in case we have to leave in the middle of the night. I wonder if any of my toys will fit in those bags.

A really, really bad thing happened at our church and I lost a lot of my friends. They were all killed. I didn’t see it, but I heard most of the stories. I think lots of things will never be the same and that I need to take the role of protector and guardian of the realm. If I have this special cape I can protect my family.

At night before my sister goes to bed my parents pray with her. I can hear my sister now. She is praying, “God help that they don’t bomb another church and that there are no car bombs, stop the blood.” She has been very scared since the bad thing happened in the church and my mom often comes to her at night to pray with her again after nightmares. She didn’t used to have these things.

Then my dad comes to pray for me. He tells me that Jesus will take care of us and I mustn’t worry. He tells me that God even loves the people who hurt us. He tells me that Jesus is love - and that it is something like my special cape.

RESPONSE: Today I will place my trust and confidence only in God asking Him to bear my worries.

PRAYER: Lord, give courage, peace and confidence to those of our family living in areas of violence.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 26

NO FEAR WHEN THE HEAT COMES

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes…” Jeremiah 17:7-8

Trees were not plentiful in Israel and most grew by sources of water like an oasis or a stream. Jeremiah’s simile indicates a person with confidence in the Lord is like a deep-rooted tree by the stream (see Psalm 1) that is not afraid of heat.

Samuel Lamb is a well-known house church pastor in southern China in the city of
Guangzhou. He spent time in prison for his faith as a young pastor on two occasions totaling almost twenty years. He was forced to work in a coal mine where the work was hard and dangerous. He is convinced that God’s protection is the only reason he survived.

Upon his release after the second imprisonment, he returned home to find out that his dear wife had just passed away. Now in his seventies, he threw himself fully into the ministry again opening an unregistered house church on the second and third storey of his home while the local police utilized the ground floor for their office. His congregation grew rapidly.

He could pack in two hundred sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the third floor where he preached and another two hundred listening via a speaker system on the second floor. Soon he had to have five services a week to get everyone in. Each person had to walk past the police to climb the stairs to his meeting.

He soon became the best-known unregistered house church pastor in China. United States President Ronald Regan sent him a monogrammed pen set. Billy and Ruth Graham visited the location with many photos taken.

Because of his refusal to register with the government Three Self Patriotic Movement Church, the authorities were constantly irritated. Unhappy with his boldness and the growth of his church, they harassed him repeatedly and often threatened to return him to prison.

Each time this threat occurred, Samuel Lamb would hold up two fingers and say, “I’ve been to prison twice already. My bag is packed and I’m ready to go again!” Intimidation would not work against him as he had no fear and his trust was completely in the Lord. And each time the authorities would leave to consider what other tactics they could use against him.

Pastor Lamb continues his unofficial, growing church ministry to this day. He does not fear when the “heat” comes.

RESPONSE: Today I will trust completely in the Lord and rely on His wisdom when pressures arise.

PRAYER: Pray other Pastors in China will have the fearlessness and church growth of Samuel Lamb.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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When God Whispers Your Name - UpWords - Week of August 25-31, 2017

by Max Lucado

I’ve never been surprised by God’s judgment—but I’m still stunned by his grace! David the psalmist becomes David the voyeur, but by God’s grace becomes David the psalmist again. Peter denied Christ before he preached Christ. Zaccaeus, the crook… the cleanest part of his life was the money he’d laundered, but Jesus still had time for him. The thief on the cross…hell bent and hung-out-to die one minute, but heaven-bound and smiling the next.

Story after story. Surprise after surprise. It seems that God is looking more for ways to get us home than for ways to keep us out. I challenge you to find one soul who came to God seeking grace and did not find it. Search the pages. Read the stories. Find one person who came seeking a second chance and left with a stern lecture. I dare you! You won’t find it!

From When God Whispers Your Name

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 24

VICTORY – ENTRUSTING COMMITMENT

“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” Luke 9:23

On the basis of certain facts, a relationship has been established between two parties. Now there must be actual evidence to prove that one has made that commitment. This is the aspect of entrusting oneself to that second party. In our Luke text, we see two phrases that reflect this entrusting aspect of commitment, “deny yourself” and “take up your cross daily.”

Deny Yourself:
The commitment we have made costs something. The word “deny” literally means “say no to oneself” or “renounce self—leave self behind.” The biblical concept of commitment calls the servant-soldier to “deny oneself” not self-denial. This is not to deny something, but a more complete and total denial of oneself in which one no longer seeks for what pleases self.

This is in direct contrast to the normal way of life where everyone is out for himself or herself. The basic sinful nature of the world, whether communist, capitalist or revolutionary is the same. It desires the promotion of self at the expense of someone else.

Jesus says his followers will be known as those who deny themselves.

Take Up Your Cross Daily:
The second part is even more extreme. Commitment also calls for the taking up of the cross. In commitment to Jesus, you deny yourself even to the point of willingness to go to your own execution! We only commit ourselves to the point of willingness to die when we understand that the present life ends up in death anyway and the One who has promised us forgiveness and eternal life can really deliver.

In Jesus Christ, the believer has found real life. Therefore the denying of self and the way of the cross are only logical steps for him or her to take.

A young man who had recently become a Christian was returning home to a country where the punishment for conversion to Christ was death. He was asked whether or not he was afraid to go back. He replied, “I have already died in Christ!”

Jim Elliott, a missionary who was martyred in Ecuador, said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

RESPONSE: Today I will commit to entrust myself to Jesus by denying self and taking up my cross.

PRAYER: Lord, I entrust myself to You and purpose to live the rest of my life to the fullest in ways that only You decide.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 23

VICTORY – RELATIONAL COMMITMENT

“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” Luke 9:23

The relational aspect of commitmentis found in the phrase, “Whoever wants to be my disciple…” There is a desire on our part that causes us to want to come to Jesus to be His follower. It is a relationship that you seek to establish with Him. But what is the origin of this relationship? We do not have anything in us that is good enough to be offered to God. It is God Himself who has committed Himself to us. It is He who has taken the initiative that makes it possible for me to respond in commitment to Him.

We see God’s commitment in His creation. He made humankind in His image. And we see His true commitment when we messed up in the fall of humankind. Thus began God’s plan for salvation, the redemption story that culminated in the coming of Jesus Christ. God’s commitment to us is one of total love. This caused Him to not even spare His only Son from the cruelty of the cross to redeem us from the curse of sin.

In addition, when Jesus was on earth, it was He who took the initiative. In fact, when there were some who wanted to volunteer their services prior to their understanding of the true nature of discipleship and the commitment that is required of them, they were discouraged from doing so:

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18–22)

This is the relational aspect of commitment; one in which we desire to follow Jesus because God first committed Himself to us and calls us to follow Him. We who have experienced His love and grace desire to respond to Him.

RESPONSE: Today I commit to a relationship with Jesus in being a true learner and follower.

PRAYER: Lord, I respond to Your love and grace today and desire to become a fully devoted disciple.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm- August 21

THE CHURCH – EVANGELISM IN NORTH KOREA

“I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”Acts 20:2

Left in China, North Korean Gyeong Ju Son, who we first met yesterday, was adopted for a while by the family of a young pastor, and it was their love, care, compassion and protection that made a deep impression on her. When they left for America she was given the opportunity to go to South Korea.

While staying at the Korean Consulate in Beijing, waiting to go to South Korea, the young girl’s life was dramatically and irrevocably changed when Jesus came to her in a dream. She says:

“He had tears in His eyes. He walked towards me and asked ‘Gyeong Ju, how much longer are you going to keep me waiting? Walk with me. Yes, you have lost your earthly father, but I am your heavenly Father and whatever has happened to you, was because I love you.’”

Praying to God for the very first time, she gave Him her heart, soul, mind and strength, asking that she would be used at His will. A deep love for the lost people of North Korea and the need to bring the love of Jesus to them, has subsequently become her life purpose.

RESPONSE: Like Paul and Gyeong Ju, today I commit to use my energy and focus to share Jesus’ love with others.

PRAYER: Lord, help me pray like Paul that my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it to complete the evangelism task You have committed to me.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 19

THE CROSS – ACCEPTING THE AWFULNESS AND THE FILLING

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” Psalm 42:1-3

Ron Boyd-MacMillan writes in his epic volume, Faith That Endures:

I remember interviewing a former Muslim extremist in Egypt. He had converted to Christ in his early twenties and led a Church for Muslim converts. This is illegal in Egypt, and the fellowship was betrayed to the police. Soon this young man found himself in prison. He was tortured. An electric cattle prod was pushed into his mouth. He was whipped and hung from the ceiling with his hands tied behind his back. But all this paled into insignificance compared to what other prisoners called "the experience". He was pushed into a stone box, a cube about five feet square. No light. No latrine. And he was left there for a month, food being passed through a grate every few days. Most prisoners went mad as a result of "the experience"—but not him.

He found Christ there, and the words he used to describe his experience are still the most brilliant description of the process of how persecution actually delivers more of God:

“In great suffering you discover a different Jesus than you do in normal life. Normally we are able to hide from ourselves who we really are and what we are really like. The ego is well defended. But pain changes all that. Pain and suffering bring up to the surface all the weak points of your personality. You are too weak to mount the usual defenses, and you just have to gaze at what you are really like. I was a wreck in that cell. I was reduced to tears all the time. Crying, weeping, sobbing, wailing in the never-changing utter darkness.

I came face-to-face with how awful I really was. I saw all the horrible things I had done, all the horrible things I was. I kept seeing myself again and again. But just as I was about to collapse into complete despair and self-loathing—and probably die—an incredible realization burst into the cell like an exploding star. It was this: ‘Jesus loved me even right then, as I sat in my own filth, weak, helpless and broken, empty and sinful. Even in that state, He loved me, and Christ rushed in and filled me, and the filling was so great because I was so empty.’”

RESPONSE: Today Jesus will be the one on whom I “fix my eyes” to accept my awfulness and His filling.

PRAYER: Lord, I want more of You in my life and I’m willing to be broken to make room for You.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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What God is Doing - UpWords - Week of August 18-24, 2017

By Max Lucado

Changing direction in life is not tragic--but losing passion in life is! Something happens along the way. Convictions to change the world downgrade to commitments to pay the bills. Rather than make a difference, we make a salary. Rather than look outward, we look inward. And we don’t like what we see!

But God is not finished with you yet. Oh you may think he is. You may think you’ve peaked. You may think he’s got someone else to do the job. If so, think again! The Bible says, “God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again” (Philippians 1:6 NCV).

Did you see what God is doing? A good work in you! Did you see when he will be finished? When Jesus Christ comes again. May I spell out the message? God ain’t finished with you yet!

From When God Whispers Your Name


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Standing Strong Through the Storm- August 18

THE CROSS – POURED OUT LIKE A DRINK OFFERING

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.” 2 Timothy 4:6

On the last day of an Open Doors seminar in South Africa, students shared how they thought the church should prepare for persecution.One man shared his son’s story and its impact:

It was at the time when the pupils rioted, burning schools, churches, shopping centers, town councilors’ houses and mercilessly attacking anyone whom they regarded as a ‘sell-out.’

Each morning his sturdy, neatly dressed, thirteen-year-old Christian son wound his way through the mounds of rubble towards school, amidst the mocking of other youths wandering the smoke-filled streets. Later he would walk home, while the teachers, frightened by the threatening mobs, locked themselves in their homes.

One particular morning, after the family devotions, his parents watched as he walked off to school. At the school grounds, a mob blocked the gate. He walked undeterred through the gate and greeted them with a nod and a friendly smile.

He was in the center of the mob when they closed in around him blocking any further progress. One older gang leader, tall and powerfully built, grabbed the strap of his school bag and pulled him to a standstill. He glared at him and growled, “As a Christian you have always been on time for school, never late, never missing a day. You have always been praised by those ‘sell-out’ teachers for knowing and doing your school work in spite of our revolutionary slogan, ‘liberation now, education later’…Today, you will have to decide for our revolution or else.”

“I have decided to have nothing to do with your revolution,” the boy replied unwaveringly. He remembered what his father taught on compromise in times of persecution.

With a curse the bully pushed him backwards into the mob. Blows rained on him and he tried in vain to ward it off, then a knife flashed in the sun, a second, and a third...Hours later, a policeman knocked on the door of his parent’s home.

The father still lives in that house and preaches the love of Christ to the same community. Peace has returned to the township, but hardly a day passes without a passer-by, or a message scribbled on the garden wall, reminding him of that day.

The father says, “I greet them and smile at them in the hope that the testimony of my life and my willingness to forgive will eventually carry the light of Christ into their hearts, replacing the spirit of bitterness darkening their lives. I know by going back there to train the church leaders I am at risk of my life being ‘poured out like a drink offering’ just like the apostle Paul.”

RESPONSE: Today I will not live in fear nor compromise my faith no matter what Satan throws at me.

PRAYER: Pray for courage for those whose lives today may be poured out like a drink offering.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 15

THE CROSS – TRANSFORMING INITIATIVES

“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Matthew 5:39-41

When we read these verses about non-violent resistance we usually think this is a defensive directive of Jesus. For example, a leading church bishop in Nigeria, amidst severe Muslim-Christian conflict, has repeatedly been quoted in the press as saying, “We have turned the other cheek so many times, we have no more cheeks to turn!”

Palestinian Christians involved in peace, reconciliation and non-violence movements have helped me see this teaching differently. When Jesus teaches about “turning the other cheek,”it was an offensive—not a defensive—act of peace using a culturally relevant example of His day. A person who slapped another on the cheek normally used the back of the right hand as an act of insult by a superior to an inferior. Thus, by turning the “other” cheek, the one hit (the perceived powerless person) takes an initiative to force the aggressor to now return the swing and hit his face a second time. This time the “hit” must be with an aggressive open palm or fist thereby transforming the nature of the relationship.

The Christ-like response of turning the other cheek says the person does not assume the inferior place of humiliation the striker had in mind but views himself as an equal. The supposedly powerless person has redefined the relationship and forced the oppressor into a moral choice: escalate the violence or respond with repentance and reconciliation.

Other transforming initiatives are to give your cloak when sued for your tunic and to carry a load for two miles for a person who can legally demand that you carry it for only one mile.

We all must seek “transforming initiatives” within our own particular context.

RESPONSE: As a peacemaker for Jesus, I will seek out “transforming initiates” wherever I see conflict.

PRAYER: Lord, give me the attitude of Your peace and Your methods of not resisting an evil person that will prompt repentance and reconciliation.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- August 14

THE CROSS – NO ORDINARY LIFE

“And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:40-42

An Open Doors co-worker shares this personal experience from the Middle East:

The serenity of the pastor walking beside us seemed to calm the hustle and the bustle of the small village. He suddenly came to a stop, carefully looked around and then said, “Some time ago, exactly on the spot where you are standing now, a Christian brother was slaughtered to death because of his faith. He was abducted and brought here to be executed. Life in a mid-east village like this is not easy if you confess Jesus to be the Son of God. It could cost you your life.”

I looked at this servant of Christ and asked him the obvious question “Why do you choose to live here? Why do you choose to follow Christ under such severe circumstances?”

Without hesitation he looked at me and his reply became a challenge and guideline for my walk with the Lord, even if it is in the safety of my home. He replied “I refuse to live an ordinary life in Christ.”

As Christians we are called to refuse an ordinary life in Christ. We are commanded to reject worldly standards, to reject mediocrity, to reject compromise and to value people more than possessions, even more than our own lives.

To truly follow Jesus means His will is more important than my life. As well, while alive, I must adopt a lifestyle that puts people ahead of possessions, even one of my most valuable possessions—time! We tend to cherish stuff and comfort more than souls. In the Shepherd of Hermes, an early church writing, we are urged, “Instead of fields, buy souls that are in trouble according to your ability.”

RESPONSE: Today amid the comforts of my environment I will refuse to live an ordinary life but seek to be more like Jesus.

PRAYER: Lord, I want to live the Jesus way, valuing people more than things even to the point of sacrifice. Help me to escape the bonds of the ordinary Christian life.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- August 11

TRAINGING – TAKOOSH LEARNS FORGIVENESS

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

Hatred of her enemies is something Takoosh Hovsepian, the wife of an Iranian pastor murdered in 1994 no longer has. She says; “I’ve learned a lesson at God’s University about how to love your enemies.”

As a teenager, Takoosh prayed that she might be allowed to marry a pastor, so that she could spend her life in the service of God. Her wish was fulfilled, but the way would not be easy.

Her husband, Pastor Haik Hovsepian, was forty-eight years old when one day he did not come home. After twelve days, it became apparent that he had been killed at the behest of the Iranian government. About that time, four other Iranian pastors were also murdered in a cowardly way. They refused to sign an official declaration that they would not evangelize among Muslims.

In Iran, ninety-eight percent of the population is Muslim. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in particular, the problems for Christians became increasingly great.

Takoosh says, “During the revolution, hundreds of people threatened to set fire to the churches, which fortunately did not happen. The Islamic government does not want Muslims to go to church and evangelism among them is forbidden.”

Pastor Hovsepianheld important positions in the Iranian Church. On various occasions, he stated that he was willing to go to the utmost for his faith and for the church. His wife reflects, “Haik repeatedly said, ‘We don’t have to be afraid. We must trust in God.’ But in my heart, I was afraid. Haik was full of love for people, even for his Muslim neighbors. They were welcome at the church; they knew that he would help them even in times of difficulty.”

The day that Haik leftto collect a friend from the airport and never came back is deeply engraved on the memory of the widow and her children. At the police station, the eldest son, Joseph, was only shown a photo of his father. According to the police, the body of Pastor Hovsepian had been found in an alleyway in Teheran.

Takoosh says, “I only had hatred in my heart, hatred for my enemies who had murdered Haik. I was not able to forgive them. I prayed with my lips, ‘God, give me the strength to forgive,’ but before I prayed, in my imagination I saw myself throwing mud at them. But one day a miracle happened. God taught me how I could forgive my enemies. I was asking for something which on the deepest level I did not want to ask for. But gradually, in a process of ups and downs which took months, God gave me the strength to pray more and more with my heart for those who had murdered my husband. God answered this prayer.

“Then I was no longer prayingonly with my lips, but from the depths of my heart. I had learned not only to trust in God and to lean on Him, but also how I can forgive my enemies.”

RESPONSE: Today I will forgive offences against me so God will forgive my sins.

PRAYER: Pray for many Christian brothers and sisters of the persecuted church who have difficulty forgiving those who hurt them or their family.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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