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6/29/16 3:45 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- June 28-29

GOD IN CONTROL

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”Psalm 118: 22-23

Ron Boyd-MacMillan writes in his epic volume, Faith That Endures, “Your life’s purpose may remain a mystery to you, as may the events of your world, but that’s okay. God is in control. We are relieved of the responsibility of understanding everything and the need to change it.”

R. J. Thomas was a Welsh missionary with a burden for the xenophobic hermit kingdom of Korea in the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1865, while in China, the opportunity he had been waiting a lifetime for arrived. An American ship, the SS General Sherman, was going to steam up the Taedong River to the capital, Pyongyang, in hopes of luring the Koreans into trade. Thomas bought a berth on the ship, hoping to meet some scholars in Pyongyang who spoke Chinese, and took as many Chinese Scriptures with him as he could carry on board.

When they reached Pyongyang, they were not welcomed. They got stuck on a sandbank and the ship was set afire. As they waded to shore, they were killed by the waiting Koreans. Thomas also waded to shore. Before he could speak, a club swung with murderous force dashed his brains into the water, but his killer noticed he had emerged with books. He picked up a couple of the sodden books. Drying them off, he separated the leaves and saw that they were nicely printed. He could not read but decided to paper the outside of his house with the pages, as was the custom at the time. Imagine his astonishment when he returned from the fields a few weeks later to find a clutch of scholars earnestly reading his walls. One of these scholars became a Christian by reading a Gospel portion plastered onto the wall. A generation later his nephew assisted in the first translation of the New Testament into Korean in Shenyang, China under the supervision of another little-known missionary, John Ross from Scotland.

R.J. Thomas never lived to see the fruit of his labor. He died, his life’s purpose unfulfilled, his potential unrealized. For anyone aware of Thomas’s death, his life was a mystery for years afterward.

But his life was not in vain. The meaning of life does not consist in what we make of it, but in what God makes of it. Success is not about achievement or what we make of ourselves. It’s about placement, or what God makes of us. We take the lesson from the Persecuted Church that it is okay to die quite unaware of our life’s meaning. We can rest in trust that God, in His mercy, has used us to help build His eternal kingdom.

RESPONSE:

Today I leave my placement, my purpose, my potential in the hands of a good God.

PRAYER:

May I ever realize that You are in control and thus truly allow You to be Lord of my life.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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6/28/16 1:19 P

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Today’s Scripture
“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”
(Psalm 5:3, NIV)

In the Morning
In the Bible, David was called a man after God’s own heart. He knew God and saw amazing miracles throughout his life. But notice in this verse what David did. He set the tone for his whole day by spending time with the Lord in the morning. It didn’t matter what was going on in his life, David had his priorities set. Even though he was mistreated by his family, manipulated, made fun of, hunted down by King Saul, and even made some major mistakes on his own, David realized that each morning held the promise of new hope.

Just like David, if you’ll make spending time with God a priority in your life, you will see Him move mightily on your behalf. Make it a habit to seek Him first every single day no matter what is happening. Set the tone for your day and set your course for victory!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, I choose to put You first in everything that I do. I choose to set the tone for my day by starting it with You. Draw me close to You and empower me by Your Spirit to fulfill the dreams and destiny that You have placed within me in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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6/27/16 4:13 P

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- June 27

THIS IS GOOD

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

A tribal king had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) as well as the lives of others and remarking, “This is good!” He based it on two scriptures; one that says that it is God’s will that we be thankful for ALL circumstances and Romans 8:28 which assures us that God can turn every situation (good or bad) into ultimate good. The king loved his friend’s positive outlook and took him with him wherever he went.

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. As the king fired his gun at a pheasant that flew up from the long grass, the rifle backfired and blew off his right thumb. Looking at the king’s bleeding hand; his friend remarked as usual, "This is good!"

The king was angry and replied, "No, this is NOT good!" and proceeded to send his friend to jail for his insensitivity.

About a year later, the king was hunting all alone in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, and were going to cook him in a big pot. As they set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb on his right hand. Being very superstitious, cannibals never eat anyone who is less than perfect. So releasing the king, they sent him on his way home.

Walking home he kept staring at his right hand without a thumb. “This IS good!” he said out loud. He was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his shabby treatment of his friend. So he went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend.

"You were right," he said, "it was good that my thumb was blown off." And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. "And so, I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this."

"No," his friend replied as usual, "This is good!"

"What do you mean, 'This is good'? How could it be good that I put my friend in jail for over a year?"

"Well,” replied his friend, “if I had not been here in jail, I would have been out there with you!"

In our SSTS seminars we share this story early in the sessions and for the rest of the time holding up four fingers on the right hand (with a hidden thumb) communicates clearly the message: THIS IS GOOD!

RESPONSE:

Today I will focus by faith on the potential good that God wants to bring out of the negative challenges I face in my life.

PRAYER:

Pray that all persecuted Christians will respond to their daily challenges with this faith perspective.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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6/23/16 2:22 P

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- June 22-23

A NEW DIRECTION

“Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways.” Proverbs 20:30 TEV

Here is one of five ways God uses problems and persecution in your life. God uses problems and persecution to DIRECT you.

Idris Nalos was an African animist converted to the Christian faith in southern Sudan. Soon after his conversion he became an evangelist. He went out preaching in the remotest places. Within a few years, he planted three churches. Soon considered as dangerous because of his activities, he was arrested by the Islamic authorities and put in prison. There he suffered torture to make him deny his Christian faith. Beaten for hours every day, he was also totally deprived of sleep.

About to collapse, Idris prayed, “Lord, prevent me from being like Peter. I am about to give up, help me.”

And God answered in giving Idris a vision where he saw all those to whom he had preached the Gospel and who, in turn, proclaimed the Good News to other people.

“I saw those who were saved,” he said. In this vision, he realized that even if his life was taken, others had already taken up the baton. From this moment, Idris was no longer afraid for his life. After three weeks of ceaseless torment, his torturers released him without explanation.

To avoid another arrest he immigrated to Khartoum in the north, where he founded three new churches in a fundamentalist Muslim territory. He had learned how to trust and wasn’t afraid anymore. God showed him where to go and what to do.

Sometimes God must light a fire under us to get us moving. Problems and pressures often point us in a new direction and motivate us to change. Is God trying to get your attention?

RESPONSE:

God is at work in my life—even when I do not recognize it or understand it. It is much easier and more profitable when I cooperate with Him. This is the way to victory!

PRAYER:

Lord, point me in the direction of Your will. May I not need problems and persecution for You to get my attention.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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6/15/16 2:48 P

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Standing Through the Storm- June 15

THE CROSS – SUFFERING pt 2

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria…Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Acts 8:1, 4

Again and again we see that in many countries, right before persecution comes, the church grows rapidly. This happened in northern Korea one hundred years ago just before the Japanese occupation and persecution.

It is helpful to remember this theme from the book of Acts: persecution does not necessarily cause church growth but church growth appears to cause persecution!

Church leaders among the many house church networks in China (the fastest growing church in the world) repeatedly share that suffering for Jesus often brings about a greater harvest of souls.

Sariman was a young student preparing himself to serve the Lord among the 30-million-strong Sundanese of Indonesia, the largest unreached people group in the world. During a violent attack on the Bible school, Sariman was killed and many other students were wounded. Sariman bravely assisted his friends although he could have saved himself. Before his death he was tortured and other students testified how Sariman was slaughtered. He was hit with a bar of wood and iron, then hacked, stabbed and his mouth was cut from the left cheek to the right cheek.

Upon hearing yet another testimony of martyrdom, many questions arise. “Why this tragedy,Lord? How long will you allow this to continue? This is such a terrible loss for this wonderful ministry. What is the sense in all of this?”

Then the Dean of the Bible School completes the testimony and indirectly answers ourquestions:

“The victory in this tragedy is that only ten days after the murder of Sariman we had ten new applicants to study atthe Bible School. Today, sixmonths after the incident, we have 98 new students who are willing to go where Sariman would have gone. The blood of the martyrsis indeed the seed of the Church.”

Paul clearly warns the Church in Galatia (Galatians 5:1) to stand firm in the midst of freedom. Freedom is not a time to relax. Freedom often creates a new kind of slavery. There is a price tag attached to freedom and we need to count the cost. It is time to open our hearts to the valuable lessons that we can learn from those that follow Christ in restricted countries—even to their death.

RESPONSE:

Today I will accept the biblical teaching and the many church growth examples that suffering often brings about a greater harvest of souls.

PRAYER:

Lord, we pray today for Your fast-growing suffering church around the world. May they be encouraged as they see many more souls added to Your kingdom.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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6/13/16 6:02 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 13

NO GREATER LOVE THAN THIS

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Jesus says the ultimate test of true love is the willingness to die for others. Of course, He personally demonstrated this Himself in giving His life on the cross for you and me. And today he continues to call those who follow Him to make this sacrifice as well.

The mortar rounds landed in an orphanage run by missionaries. The missionaries and one or two children were killed outright and several more children were wounded including one girl about eight years old.

The medical staff who arrived to help soon realized that the young girl was the most critically injured. Without quick action she would die from shock and loss of blood.

When explained to the other children that a blood transfusion was imperative, the request for a blood donor met with wide-eyed silence.

Then one small hand went up and a young boy volunteered. He was quickly laid on a pallet, his arm swabbed with alcohol, and the needle inserted into his vein.

Through the ordeal, he lay stiff and silent but continued to sob later turning into steady, silent crying. The medical team kept asking if it was hurting but he would shake his head and continue to cry.

After a while the boy stopped crying, opened his eyes and looked questioningly at the nurse who took the needle out of his arm. When she nodded, a look of great relief spread over his face.

The boy had all along thought he was dying. He misunderstood, thinking that he was to give ALL his blood so the other little girl could live. And she was his friend.

RESPONSE:

Jesus calls me today to show sacrificial love—especially for those I consider friends.

PRAYER:

Pray that this depth of love will become a reality in the church of Jesus Christ and in your life.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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6/13/16 2:36 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- June 12

ECHOS OF SUFFERING

“At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.” 2 Timothy 4:16

The Apostle Paul knew exactly what it was like to be alone, to be deserted by all who called themselves “brothers” and “sisters.” A colleague who has done considerable travel among the persecuted says, “It is hard to believe that Christians are the largest persecuted group in the world today. But it is even more difficult to believe that this is so seldom mentioned in our gatherings and church services. More Christians know the names of their favorite actors than their fellow believers who are in prison.

“With every trip something in my heart breaks as I hear the echoes of suffering:

• I remember the echoes of an Egyptian mother as she shared how her young boy was stuck in a haystack because she refused to deny Jesus

• I remember the sounds of weeping as fellow students in Indonesia shared how Sariman, their co-student, was hacked to death.

• I remember the cries of anguish as we walked from church to church that was burned to the ground on the island of Lombok

• I remember the tears of Rebecca in Iran as she showed the picture of her father who was stabbed to death for sharing the gospel

• I remember the voice of Pastor Daniel in Vietnam as he shared how he was chained to the ground for six months

• I remember the fear of Grace from Sudan as she shared how her church was attacked and her friend was shot through the head

• Oh, I remember the cries of Caleb in Eritrea as he shared with tears how his two dear friends were executed in front of him because of their faith.

• And I remember the tears of Joy in the southern Philippines as she shared how her fiancé was shot to death in their Church in Mindanao

• But, most all, I remember the deafening sounds of silence every time I return home.

RESPONSE:

How can I be silent today? How can I not speak on behalf of those who suffer? How can I desert those that belong to the same body that I belong to and who desperately need the encouragement of my intervention on their behalf?

PRAYER:

Lord, broaden my awareness of the needs of my suffering brothers and sisters. May I not be known for my silence.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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6/10/16 7:50 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- June 10

PERSISTENT AND PATIENT PRAYER

“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.”
1 Samuel 12:23

An important aspect of prayer is to pray patiently. God meets our needs “at the proper time” (Galatians 6:9). Too often Christians weary of praying, and give up. This is often justified on the basis that God's failure to answer means the request is not according to His will.

Remember, God can:

1. Deliver- whatever we ask in His name;

2. Delay- to fit His perfect timing (only He sees the end from the beginning);

3. Deny- and say ‘No’ because we ask amiss or give a

4. Differentand better answer.

Jesus urges us to be persistent in prayer (Luke 11:5-8). This does not mean that God does not want to meet our needs and that we need to try to persuade Him. It simply means that only God, who completely understands the whole situation, can know when and how to answer. Only when we have assurance in our hearts from the Lord, should we remove a matter from our prayer list.

Many times Christians lose heart in prayer because they do not recognize when the Lord does answer their prayers. Sometimes this is due to the fact that they did not pray specifically enough and sometimes because they have decided in advance how God must answer. Perhaps they think that only a great miracle can meet their need.

But the Lord may change the circumstances so that the need seems to be supplied “naturally.” Mature believers will recognize that the events of everyday life also come from the Lord. Our daily bread and safety are miracles of God in this troubled world Let us not presume to tell God how to answer, and let us praise Him for His daily care.

RESPONSE:

Today I will acknowledge God gives His best to those who leave the choices to Him.

PRAYER:

Lord, help me to be patient and persistent…and leave the answers to my prayers in Your hands.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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6/6/16 3:26 P

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 6

INTOLERANCE

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men…” Hebrews 12:14

Other religious groups are one of the most threatening tactics Satan uses against the Church of Jesus Christ. In the book of Acts we see over and over that the primary opposition to the spread of the gospel in the early church was from religious groups. Again we must never view these groups as the enemy. We know who our real enemy is. In some parts of the world, the small percentage of extremists among Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims have encouraged mob violence and other forms of persecution against Christians. Our attitude toward them should be as one acronym for ISLAM suggests: I Sincerely Love All Muslims.

The tactic that our enemy uses in these major religions of the world is the same. It comes from his character of deceiving and lying. Some people are able to perceive elements of truth within the major religions of the world, but their essential teachings are deceivingly false.

Wherever possible, missionaries of cults and other religions do whatever possible to encourage Christians—usually those who are Christian in name only—to convert to their religion. Unfortunately, in countries such as Egypt, a significant number do convert to a cult or to some other religion. The lure to convert can be marriage, money, employment, social acceptance, and any other similar attraction.

Hardini was born to a devout Muslim family in Indonesia where everyone must go to the mosque every day to pray. Her father had strict rules for everyone in the family. One rule was that Hardini should never associate with Christians. Despite Hardini’s devotion to Islam, her heart was heavy and she longed for inner peace. A Christian with a great sense of joy and peace befriended Hardini.

Hardini had the courage to tell her new friend about her spiritual hunger, and the friend offered to pray for her in the name of Jesus. After the Christian girl prayed, peace filled Hardini’s heart and her life radically changed.

When Hardini’s family discovered she had become a Christian, they spent hours and hours trying to entice her with force to recant her new faith. Hardini remained steadfast. Finally her parents made a painful decision—they totally disowned their daughter. That left Hardini with the choices of either recanting her faith or fleeing from her home and family. She chose to flee.

RESPONSE:

Today I will pray for believers like Hardini who experience religious intolerance.

PRAYER:

Lord, help me to sincerely love all Muslims and people of other faith systems.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- June 3

MERCHANTS AND MOBS

“But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.” Acts 17:5

The next two groups of external tactics Satan used in the New Testament are merchants and mobs. Merchants or businessmen represent the economic establishment and are often opposed to Christians purely because Christians are a threat to their business.

The two clearest examples of opposition from businessmen in Scripture are when Paul visits Philippi and later Ephesus (Acts 16 and 19). In Philippi, Paul and Silas ended up in jail because of the actions of the owners of a demon possessed slave girl who was healed. Seeing their source of income disappearing because of her conversion, her owners pressed a false case against Paul, and had him jailed for “disturbing the peace.” But the Scripture makes clear their economic motive, “when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone…” (Acts 16:19).

Then when Paul gets to Ephesus the impact of his preaching is so great it causes the former members of the Artemis cult to hold a bonfire of their trinkets and shrines. A shop steward called Demetrius, on behalf of the silversmiths of the town, figures anything that reduces the appeal of the temple of Artemis is going to be bad for business. He stirs up a riot and Paul has to hurry out of the city.

Mobs play a major role in persecution, often when an elite group cannot induce the government to do their dirty work for them. Mobs are manipulated. They can be believers swayed by the heady rhetoric of clerics, or ruffians ready to commit grievous bodily harm for the sake of money.

Christians in Pakistan and Indonesia face the constant threat of annihilation of their property by mobs. A news agency journalist said, “I am amazed at how quickly a mob can get going in Pakistan. It just takes three phrases from a mullah at Friday prayers, and five minutes later thousands are streaming out into the streets bent on inflicting injury or even killing Christians.”

RESPONSE:
Our enemy, Satan, uses every tactic possible to come against those in the Kingdom of God.

PRAYER:
Pray for Christians in areas noted above that they will be protected from Satan’s arrows.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm- June 2

SINGING IN THE BATTLEFRONT

“After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.’ As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” 2 Chronicles 20:21-22

The overflow of singing praises amid great difficulties has tremendous spiritual power for helping to win the spiritual battle. Paul and Silas set the biblical pattern in the prison in Philippi. Pastor Jack Hayford enjoys sharing the story as told by his favourite black preacher. Paul and Silas' prison cell singing was heard all the way to the throne room of God. He began to tap his toe to the music. And since heaven is his throne and the earth is his footstool, that toe tapping created an earthquake!!!

Ivan Antonov spent twenty-four years in Russian prison camps for preaching the Gospel. He later shared how he survived.

I would sing hymns. I was really glad that I knew so many. I had memorized about one hundred seventy hymns, and in order not to forget them, I reviewed several every day. So over a time, I sang through all of them. I want to emphasize to my young friends that you should worship God with songs and poems and memorize them. They will come in handy...I sang hymns every morning and at night before going to bed...In those quiet [morning] hours, I would go outside in the fresh air and sing hymns of praise to God and pray.

Then I went in for breakfast with everyone else.

China's notable pastor Wang Ming-dao shared upon his release from prison that he frequently sang praises to God to buoy his spirits. The songs that meant the most to him were "All The Way My Saviour Leads Me" and "Safe In The Arms Of Jesus." His contemporary, Allen Yuan shared with me two songs which he repeatedly sang aloud throughout his twenty two years in prison. One was "The Old Rugged Cross" and the other "Psalm Twenty-Seven" from the Chinese Psalter. It was always an emotional highlight to hear him sing these songs.

RESPONSE:

Today I will sing praises to the Lord my God.

PRAYER:

Lord, help me to rejoice and sing praises to You, especially when I feel the challenges of spiritual warfare.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 1

SINGING IN THE BATTLEFRONT

“After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.’ As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” 2 Chronicles 20:21-22

The overflow of singing praises amid great difficulties has tremendous spiritual power for helping to win the spiritual battle. Paul and Silas set the biblical pattern in the prison in Philippi. Pastor Jack Hayford enjoys sharing the story as told by his favourite black preacher. Paul and Silas' prison cell singing was heard all the way to the throne room of God. He began to tap his toe to the music. And since heaven is his throne and the earth is his footstool, that toe tapping created an earthquake!!!

Ivan Antonov spent twenty-four years in Russian prison camps for preaching the Gospel. He later shared how he survived.

I would sing hymns. I was really glad that I knew so many. I had memorized about one hundred seventy hymns, and in order not to forget them, I reviewed several every day. So over a time, I sang through all of them. I want to emphasize to my young friends that you should worship God with songs and poems and memorize them. They will come in handy...I sang hymns every morning and at night before going to bed...In those quiet [morning] hours, I would go outside in the fresh air and sing hymns of praise to God and pray.

Then I went in for breakfast with everyone else.

China's notable pastor Wang Ming-dao shared upon his release from prison that he frequently sang praises to God to buoy his spirits. The songs that meant the most to him were "All The Way My Saviour Leads Me" and "Safe In The Arms Of Jesus." His contemporary, Allen Yuan shared with me two songs which he repeatedly sang aloud throughout his twenty two years in prison. One was "The Old Rugged Cross" and the other "Psalm Twenty-Seven" from the Chinese Psalter. It was always an emotional highlight to hear him sing these songs.

RESPONSE:

Today I will sing praises to the Lord my God.

PRAYER:

Lord, help me to rejoice and sing praises to You, especially when I feel the challenges of spiritual warfare.

-A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- May 30

BATTLEFRONT

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

A Filipino pastor, who is a former Muslim, lives on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. He was a notorious gang leader and spent years in prison for robbery and murder. But there in prison he met Jesus Christ.

After his release, he was so effective in leading Muslims to Jesus back home in Mindanao that Muslim extremists in his area kidnapped his fourteen-year-old daughter. They would only return her, he was told, if he stopped preaching about Jesus and returned to Islam.

He and his wife prayed intensely about this and felt they could not give in to this blackmail. He continued to preach faithfully for three years with no definite news about his little girl.

He concludes, "Despite the terrible things they have done to my daughter, I fear no one but God alone! Pray for my daughter and that I will continue to preach Christ."

Three years later, he received a letter from his daughter. She shared with her parents that she had been sold into prostitution in neighboring East Malaysia. But God had helped her escape. She was then taken in by a sympathetic Malaysian family and hidden for her safety. And then she fell in love with a young man and married him. She and her parents planned to visit together in a safe place.

Spiritual warfare is the cosmic conflict that rages between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Remember we are not talking about two equal kingdoms battling-it-out for victory. Satan is only a created being. Christ has all authority and power. Satan's power was broken at the cross. The Apostle Paul records for us in Colossians 2:15, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." So the only power Satan has today is the power to deceive the people of the world - to blind them from seeing the glory of God (II Corinthians 4:3-4).

Satan's primary strategy is to divide and conquer. His key tactics include accusation, deception, and the interruption of our relationships with the Father and with each other. He is actively leading mankind to defile the land, which is God’s, in order to keep humanity in darkness. This is one reason unity in the Body of Christ is so critical for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Why would someone lost in the chaos of the world want to be part of a fellowship of people that is disorderly, dysfunctional, and even destructive? The Church of Jesus Christ must be ruled by love. We must be a refuge, a place of safety!

RESPONSE:

I will be alert to Satan’s spiritual warfare tactics today without getting distracted from the Lord’s primary ministry directions.

PRAYER:

Pray for witnessing brothers and sisters on the frontlines who experience Satan’s greatest fury.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks



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Standing Strong Through the Storm- May 26

COMPLETELY FORGIVEN

“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Revelation 12:11

On the cross Jesus conquered forever the worst that sin and evil could do to Him. He met the full assault of evil and overcame it. Those who have entrusted their lives to Him share in that victory over evil.

In the context of this verse, Satan is noted to be the “accuser” of the brethren. It is also through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (the blood of the lamb) that sin is forgiven. When we receive by faith what Christ has done, our sins are wiped out. We are cleansed by faith in Christ’s blood. His saving grace and a willingness to receive us as sinners saved by grace is the key to this principle, not our feelings of worthiness.

And when we are forgiven there is nothing for which we can possibly be accused by Satan. There is no possible accusation he can make against one who is completely forgiven! Thus we overcome him first, by the blood of the lamb.

Charles Wesley wrote about it in this verse in one of his beloved hymns:

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

RESPONSE: Today I will overcome my enemy, Satan, by faith in the shed blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

PRAYER: Thank You Lord for providing all I need to be an overcomer.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - May 21

HEALING HURTS

“…to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Ephesians 4:12

Another function of the church is ministry. As Christians we need to be aware of the spiritual needs of others and sensitively seek to help them at every opportunity—both fellow-believers and non-believers. A word of encouragement or a small act of kindness may be the deciding factor in whether or not a struggling friend is able to stand against the enemy.

in a tribal area of northeast India, the poor Christians of one tribe made great sacrifices and took great risks to aid and encourage the new believers in another tribe after their leader, his wife and ten-year-old daughter were killed for their witness.

Ministry is demonstrating God’s love to others by meeting their needs and healing their hurts in the name of Jesus. Each time you reach out in love to others you are ministering to them. The church is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.

A co-worker and his family were visiting in the southern part of the Ukraine. As they entered the hotel after a tiring day in the streets, their daughter came sobbing into their room. “I saw a man today begging for money. He had no legs and was sitting on a skateboard. He looked so poor and lonely.” The tears rolled down her cheeks. She truly felt compassion for a sight that they didn’t even notice.

“I think Jesus wants us to give him a Bible when we see him again,” she commented after they prayed together.

The following morning early, as they started their journey through the streets of Odessa, it wasn’t long before she saw him. They knew that there was a certain amount of risk involved in handing out Bibles in the streets and thus didn’t want to make it too obvious. He opened the Bible and slowly started paging through it. He reached down and took all the money in the handkerchief next to him and offered it to them.

They suddenly realized that he must be under the impression that they were selling the Bible on the black market and therefore the offer of all his savings. “Nyet, gift, gift,” and they pushed back his hand with the money. He took the Bible, pressed it against his chest and then tears started rolling down his cheeks. He opened the Bible spending several minutes reading and paging through a book that he had obviously heard about but had never seen. They left him with hearts overflowing with gratitude.

Jesus made ministry so simple. It can be as easy as offering a thirsty person a glass of water in His name!

RESPONSE: Today I will look for opportunities to minister to needy hearts in Jesus’ name.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I ask You to show me today those to whom I can minister in Your name.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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A Big View of God - UpWords - Week of May 20-26

by Max Lucado

Exactly what is worship? I like King David’s definition in Psalm 34:3, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” Worship is the act of magnifying God, enlarging our vision of him, and observing how he works.

Of course his size doesn’t change, but our perception of him does. As we draw nearer, he seems larger. Isn’t that what we need? A big view of God? Don’t we have big problems, big worries, and big questions? Of course we do. Hence, we need a big view of God. Worship offers that. How can we sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy” and not have our vision expanded? How can we sing these words and not have our countenance illuminated? A vibrant, shining face is the mark of one who has stood in God’s presence. God is in the business of changing the face of the world! Let him begin with yours!

From Just Like Jesus

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- May 20

ARE YOU WORKING OR FUNCTIONING?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Matthew 28:19

Johan Companjen, past President of Open Doors International, was travelling in the Philippines. Finding it extremely hot in his hotel room, he called for a staff person. “Is the air-conditioning not working?” he asked. “Oh yes sir,” the man replied, “It’s working. It’s just not functioning!”

Jesus Christ ordained five functions for His church to be involved in for Him. We are to evangelize (Matthew 28:19); to disciple or train those who are evangelized (Matthew 28:20); to minister or serve people demonstrating God’s love (Matthew 22:39; Ephesians 4:12); to fellowship together (Ephesians 2:19; Galatians 6:10); and to worship together (Matthew 4:10; John 4:23). In the Bible, there is not necessarily a priority order for these five purposes. They are all equally important.

Evangelism is one primary function. If we really have come to know Christ as Lord and Savior, we will want to share this wonderful experience with those we love. It sometimes seems hard or embarrassing to share the Gospel with our friends and relatives. But if we really love them, and if we really believe that without Christ they will suffer for eternity separated from God, we will tell them no matter how oppressive the culture or the political situation may be.

Restrictions on the church cause new creative means of evangelism to arise. In a restricted country of Asia, one such creative method is to hire a bus and invite relatives and friends to a free outing to the beach. Once in the bus, the pastor with a hand-held loudspeaker starts preaching to his “captive audience” about the love of Christ. At the beach the sharing and fellowship continues…as well as a water baptism for new believers.

In Soviet Russia, a group of Christians took advantage of the funeral of a small daughter of one of the members to present a public evangelistic witness. On the way to the cemetery, they stopped every few hundred meters to sing triumphant songs of praise. The father of the dead child also gave a clear message of salvation in Christ. Many listeners along the way were deeply touched.

In Vietnam, Pastor Ho Hieu Ha spent over six years in prison for pastoring a growing church right under the noses of the unhappy authorities. But he felt that his imprisonment was not a waste because he used the time to witness to others who were also in prison. When he was released, he had led 96 people to Jesus and discipled them.

RESPONSE: I am committed to sharing Christ’s love with others. It is a primary function of the church.

PRAYER: Pray for those in restricted environments as they creatively find ways to witness about their faith.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - May 16

FLY TO JESUS

“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” Hebrews 12:10

Christmas is a time of peace and joy for those who are fortunate enough to celebrate the birth of their Savior in freedom. For Marko and his two fellow believers it was the fifteenth Christmas that they had to celebrate behind the bars of a prison cell in a Muslim country.

The next day some colleagues felt they had to visit Marko and his friends as an encouragement and confirm to them once again the love of Immanuel—God with us.

Even though they often heard the saying that a prison cell in the Middle East is the closest to hell that you will experience on earth, nothing prepared them for the sense of hopelessness that they experienced in that waiting room of despair.

As the prisoners entered, it was not difficult to recognize Marko and his two friends. Beaming eyes and smiling faces immediately assured them Marko and friends knew they had not been separated from the love of God.

Tears flowed freely as they shared how lonely they were on Christmas day and how joyful they were to know that they were not forgotten.

“It was so difficult yesterday.” Marko spoke softly. “Apart from being Christian prisoners in a Muslim prison, it was also a fast day of Ramadan. We were not allowed out of our cells and we were not allowed to talk to anyone. Fortunately, a week ago the three of us got hold of pieces of a cake and we hid them underneath our cushions especially for Christmas day. Yesterday, when the fast was broken, we simply walked to one another, held the slices of cake together and said “Merry Christmas!”

The visiting hour flew past and soon it was time to say goodbye. Before being marched back to his prison cell, we looked at Marko and asked him a final question. “What are you going to do when you get to your cell and are once again all alone?

Marko smiled and answered, “I will simply spread the wings of my spirit and fly to Jesus.”

RESPONSE: Today I will seek to understand the biblical principle that suffering makes our lives more holy.

PRAYER: Lord, help me, like Marko, to keep my eyes fixed on You regardless of my circumstances.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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5/13/16 12:25 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - May 12

JESUS, HELP ME

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

Corrie ten Boom often thought back over the horrors of Ravensbruck prison camp and realized that it was hard to find forgiveness in her heart—the true Christian attitude for the former Nazis that would reveal through her the Spirit’s goodness. Where was love, acceptance, and forgiveness in a horror camp where allegedly more than 95,000 women died? How could she ever forget the horrible cruelty of the guards and the smoke constantly coming from the chimney of the crematorium?

A few years later, Corrie was speaking in a church in Munich, and when the meeting was over she saw one of the cruelest male guards of Ravensbruck coming to speak to her. He had his hand outstretched. “I have become a Christian,” he explained. “I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, will you forgive me?”

Conflict raged in Corrie’s heart. The good Spirit of God urged her to forgive. The spirit of bitterness and coldness urged her to turn away. “Jesus, help me. I can lift my hand. I can do that much.” As their hands met it was as if warmth and healing broke forth with tears and joy. “I forgive you, brother, with all my heart.” Later Corrie testified that “it was the power of the Holy Spirit” who had poured the love of God into her heart that day.

Philip Yancey gives a pragmatic reason why we must forgive that seems very foundational. Forgiveness alone can stop the cycle of blame, pain as well as vengeance and violence. The meaning of the New Testament word “forgiveness,” he says, is literally “to release, to hurl away, to free yourself.” The only way to break the chain or cycle of hurtfulness is to stop and ask forgiveness. This allows a relationship to start over and begin anew. The Russian writer, Solzhenitsyn, believed this forgiveness is what truly makes us different from animals. Only humans can perform that most unnatural act of forgiveness that transcends the relentless law of nature.

The only thing harder than forgiveness is the alternative. A teacher once told each of her students to bring a clear plastic bag and a sack of potatoes to school. For every person they refused to forgive in their life's experience, they chose a potato, wrote on it the name and date, and put it in the plastic bag. They were then told to carry this bag with them everywhere for one week, putting it beside their bed at night, on the car seat when driving, next to their desk at work. The hassle of lugging this around with them made it clear what a weight they were carrying spiritually, and how they had to pay attention to it all the time to not forget and keep leaving it in embarrassing places…Too often we think of forgiveness as a gift to the other person, and it clearly is for ourselves as well!

RESPONSE: Today I will give myself the gift of forgiveness. Is there someone I need to forgive?

PRAYER: Father, I pray today for the power of Your Holy Spirit to enable me to release any cycles of hurtfulness in my life by forgiving others.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - May 9

FORGIVENESS

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

A Spanish father and son were estranged. The father later went to search for his son. When he could not find him, the father put the following ad in the Madrid newspaper.

"Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.”

Saturday noon, 800 Pacos showed up at the office looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful actions that Christians can perform. The world does not understand the ability or reasons to do this because it is most unnatural in a dog-eat-dog world. There is also pain to be overcome because behind every act of forgiveness lies the wound of betrayal; but there is far more pain and emotional, social, physical damage done when we do not forgive.

An Asian Christian apologist says, “If I am asked what separates Christianity from other religions, or ‘what’s different about Christianity, aren’t all religions the same when you get down to it?’ one of the first things that I would say is bound up in this one beautiful word: forgiveness.”

Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a brother who sins against him. He thinks he is magnanimous and suggests seven times! Jesus makes his famous reply, “…not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22).

Jesus then shares a parable about a man who, after much pleading for mercy, was forgiven for much and yet would not forgive another person who owed him little. In the parable, the master throws the man into jail to be tortured until he pays back his large debt. Then comes the conclusion, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

RESPONSE: Today I will forgive others who hurt me because God has commanded it and because my own forgiveness depends on it.

PRAYER: Lord, give me a spirit of forgiveness toward others who hurt me, just as You have forgiven me.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - May 7

PRAY FOR THOSE WHO MISTREAT YOU

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28

In Luke chapter six, Jesus defines persecution with four verbs: hatred, exclusion, insult and rejection (Luke 6:22). But later in the chapter Jesus gives much more emphasis on how you and I are to respond to persecution that comes our way.

One of the great lessons from the Persecuted Church is praying for those who persecute you. This is a parallel principle with loving your enemies. Multiple examples can be shared how God has honored this principle of prayer.

Noskie was a former Imam in the southern part of the Philippines. He was a devout Muslim and one who generated respect from that little community in which he lived. Coming home from a fishing expedition one day, he was shocked to discover that his two daughters had converted to Christianity. He was well aware of the shame that this would bring to the whole community.

In his anger, he mercilessly beat them hoping that they would renounce their new faith. But the daughters remained faithful. They loved their father and knew that nothing was impossible with God so they started praying for their father’s conversion.

Sometime later, while fishing, Noskie felt a sudden piercing pain in his stomach. As the pain intensified, his belly began to balloon. He writhed in unbearable pain. He prayed but nothing happened. In desperation he cried out to the God of his daughters, Jesus Christ, and was instantly healed.

Noskie emerged from the experience a new person. He submitted his heart and surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Today he faithfully serves the Lord as a lay pastor. His daughters help in the ministry.

RESPONSE: I am committed to respond to persecution with non-violence as Jesus taught.

PRAYER: Lord, I realize today that when I pray for my enemy and love my enemy, he is no longer my enemy. Help me to always respond this way.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - May 4

FREEDOM TO CHERISH THE BIBLE

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. “ 1 Peter 1:22-23

The Bible has always been an important resource to those who have not had access to it… especially those in prison. Christian singer, Helen Berhane shares how she smuggled a Bible into a shipping container prison in Eritrea and later was moved to another container which already held eighteen Christian women who had refused to give up their faith. She writes in her book, Song of the Nightingale, how the word of God impacted her and the other women.

“We were very overcrowded, but I was happy to join a Christian group again. Since I was the longest serving prisoner, I took charge. I wanted to help them as much as I could, because I knew they would be comforted by the thought that someone cared for them. I would fold the older ladies’ blankets when they went out to the toilet in the morning, and I would stay behind to clean the container [of human waste].

“Many of them were worried about their husbands and children, so I tried to keep them busy and establish a routine. I would start by preparing breakfast; at this point we got four bread rolls each, two in the morning and two in the evening, with weak lentil soup, and a cup of tea.

Then I would lead a Bible meditation and then I would sing. A month after I was first imprisoned I had managed to smuggle a Bible past the guards. I can’t tell you exactly how I did it, as people still use this method and it is important that the authorities don’t find out how it’s done, but I can say it was a whole Bible split into five smaller sections. This made it easier for me to hide it. Previously I had just read it alone, but now we did group readings every day. I also sang new songs to the group that I had written in prison.

RESPONSE: Today I will cherish my Bible and make sure that in my freedom I internalize it as much as those in prison for the faith.

PRAYER: Pray that all Christian prisoners will somehow gain access to a Bible or the message of the Bible today for encouragement and hope.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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5/2/16 2:37 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm-May 1

BE NOT AFRAID!

"I sought the Lord and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

The one positive fear that the Bible endorses is the fear of God. Wise Solomon said fearing God is the beginning of wisdom. It was Oswald Chambers who added, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that, when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

In Eritrea, Helen Berhane was frequently tortured during her almost three years in the shipping container prison. In spite of that she had no fear. Once when interrogated for teaching the Bible to the guards outside her cell, she replied, “I am always looking for opportunities to talk about my faith and to spread the news about Jesus. I am not ashamed of the gospel and I will talk to anyone and to everyone. Jesus does not just want me to tell the prisoners about him, he wants me to tell the guards too. Even if the president were to visit the prison, I would tell him about the gospel.

“I am not afraid of you. You can do what you want to me, but ultimately all you can do is kill my body; you cannot touch my soul. You cannot even kill me unless it is God’s will that I should die.”

Her persecutors had no answer and returned her to her shipping container.

David Aikman writes in his book Great Souls about the personal life of Pope John Paul II—especially his personal prayer life. When he became pope in 1978, the result of all that personal prayer was evident in his inaugural sermon. “Be not afraid!” he said.

He recognized that fear is a sin because it denies the sovereignty of God. And he recognized that as a leader of a large Church, and unwaveringly opposed to the powerful communist Empire, he had to give people the courage to resist evil.

And courageous he was. When he saw Russian tanks poised to invade Poland, the Pope announced he would go and stand with his people if the Soviets crossed the border. The Soviet tanks did not move.

The Pope knew he might face assassination—and indeed, someone did try to assassinate him—yet he continued to tell the world, “Be not afraid.”

RESPONSE: Today I will live in the fear of God so that I will not fear anything or anyone else.

PRAYER: Pray that all Christians in fearful situations today will have the attitude of trust in the Lord and not fear for their lives.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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4/27/16 5:38 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- April 26-27

THE WINNER!

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

The five-year-old soccer goalie of Team One was an outstanding athlete, but he was no match for three or four on Team Two who were also very good and they began to score on him. The goalie gave it everything he had, recklessly throwing his body in front of incoming balls, trying valiantly to stop them.

After the third goal was scored against him, he could see it was no use; he couldn't stop them. He didn't quit, but he became quietly desperate. Futility was written all over him.

After the fourth goal, the little boy needed help so badly, and there was no help to be had. He retrieved the ball from the net and handed it to the referee - and then he fell to his knees and cried the tears of the helpless and brokenhearted.

His father ran onto the field and said, "Scotty, I'm so proud of you. You were great out there. I want everybody to know that you are my son."

"Daddy," the boy sobbed, "I couldn't stop them. I tried, Daddy, I tried and tried, and they scored on me."

"Scotty, it doesn't matter how many times they scored on you. You're my son, and I'm proud of you. I want you to go back out there and finish the game. I know you want to quit, but you can't. And, son, you're going to get scored on again, but it doesn't matter. Go on, now." The little guy ran back on to the field and they scored two more times. But it was okay.

I get scored on every day. I try so hard. I recklessly throw my body in every direction. I fume with rage. I struggle with temptation and sin with every ounce of my being - and Satan laughs. And he scores again, and the tears come, and I go to my knees - sinful, convicted, helpless. And my Father rushes right out on the field - right in front of the whole jeering, laughing world - and he picks me up, and he hugs me and he says, "Son, I'm so proud of you. You were great out there. I want everybody to know that you are my son. And because I control the outcome of this game, I declare you - The Winner!"

RESPONSE: Today I will rejoice in my Father’s love and support. I will not give up as the battle rages.

PRAYER: Thank You Lord for Your love and for declaring me a winner!

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- April 23

THE TRUE CHURCH

“Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” Acts 5:42

The place in which a church meets varies. The use of big buildings, complex organizations, involved programs, huge budgets that provide for schools, hospitals, orphanages and other social activities are only possible in financially strong unrestricted societies.

Although the Lord has blessed these activities in many places in the world, we must recognize that they are not essential to the existence of the church. In some countries these activities are forbidden by the government, while in others, the local economic situation makes them impossible. Still the church can thrive, because it is not dependent on these things. Serious problems have arisen when Christians have become confused on this point.

A number of years ago, for example, some Vietnamese leaders thought that their lack of funds for such things was the cause of the slow growth of Christianity there. On one occasion, the following conversation was overheard.

"Do you have communists in your part of the country?" the observer asked.

"Most assuredly. They are there," the leader replied.

“Are they growing in numbers and influence?" he then asked.

The leader hesitated momentarily, then admitted sadly, “Yes, they are growing very fast."

“Can you show me their meeting places and schools or introduce me to their leaders?" the observer continued.

"Certainly not," the leader said in disgust. "If they are known, they will be arrested."

"You mean they are secret, without buildings or property and still they grow in number?" the observer asked in amazement.

"Yes, you could say that," the leader responded.

"Then it must be that their growing influence does not depend on such things. If they can be wrong in their beliefs and still grow without money and buildings, why do you think the church of Jesus Christ needs these things?" the man concluded.

If God provides these things, then use them for His glory. If He does not, remember that the New Testament church had none of these things, but they turned their world upside down (Acts 17:6). The early Christians did not confuse the church’s functions with methods. If they had done so, the church would have died in the bondage of Jewish legalism. The early churches were not encumbered by the presence of buildings, nor hindered by the lack of them. They met in public places, when they were permitted to do so, but when they were not, they went from house to house.

RESPONSE: I will no longer confuse the forms of the church with the biblical functions of the church.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord for those who use their homes as centers for Your worship and declaration of the good news of Your love.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Today’s Scripture
“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”
(Proverbs 4:18, ESV)

Enjoy the Journey
Oftentimes, people tend to get wrapped up and busy with things that don’t really matter in eternity. It’s easy to get consumed by your career and stay focused on your goals. It’s good to work hard, but you’ve got to learn how to play hard, too, so that you can stay in balance. I heard somebody say, “It’s not that life is so short, it’s that we wait so long to begin living.” If we want to truly enjoy the journey of life, we have to take time to stop and smell the roses. Do you appreciate the people you love? Do you hug your children before you leave each day and give your spouse a kiss? When was the last time you called your parents to tell them how much you love them? That’s how we can enjoy the journey.

If you’ll stay determined to enjoy the journey of life, you’ll live with no regrets. You’ll see your path shine brighter and brighter, and at the end, you’ll be able to say, “I made the most of my life. I enjoyed my family. I enjoyed my friends. I finished my course with joy.”

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for the people You have placed in my life. Teach me to enjoy my relationships more because they are all that matter in eternity. Help me to enjoy the journey of life as my path shines brighter and brighter until the full day in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Today’s Scripture
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back...”
(Isaiah 54:2, NIV)

Increase Your Capacity to Receive
God has many blessings in store for you! He has favor in your future like you’ve never imagined. He wants to take you places that you’ve never even dreamed. But in order for us to partake of all these blessings, we have to increase our capacity to receive.

Think about this: if you have a one-gallon bucket and someone has fifty gallons to give you, the problem is not with the supply. The problem is that you don’t have the capacity to receive the fifty gallons. But, if you get rid of that small container and get something larger, then you will be able to receive more. It’s the same way with God. If we think we’ve reached our limits, the problem isn’t that God doesn’t have the resources or the ability. The problem is that our container is too small. We have to enlarge our vision and make room for the new things God has for us. Our attitude should be, “Yes, the economy is down, but I know God is still on the throne. I know wherever I go His goodness and mercy follow me.” When you have that kind of attitude, you’re increasing your capacity to receive so that you can live the abundant life He has in store for you.

A Prayer for Today
“Father, today I choose to increase my capacity to receive from You. I let go of limited thinking and old mindsets, and I open myself to everything You have in store for me. Show me Your ways that I may walk with You in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Standing Strong Through the Storm- April 20

LOVING CHRIST ABOVE ALL

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

A Christian medical doctor in China shares his experience when he refused to bow down or "kowtow" to an image of Mao because of his love for Jesus. After severe beatings did not succeed in influencing him, the authorities resorted to a more subtle strategy by getting his whole family to stand around him and weep.

“I had seven children, he said, “as well as my wife all surrounding me and weeping. Crying bitterly, my wife said to me, ‘If you don't kowtow you will surely die and then what will we do?’ For three days they stood around me weeping until my wife’s eyes were dreadfully swollen.’“After you have died, what will happen to these children? Please, for the sake of your family, just kowtow.’ They cried and cried. I really did not know what to do. I felt that I had no more strength so I prayed, ‘Lord I have no strength left, what must I do?’

“On the third day, the Lord’s word [Luke 14:26] came,Hallelujah! There is no word of the Lord that is without power. The Lord through His Word filled me with the life and power of God. I said to my wife, ‘Stop crying. It’s no use your crying. I am the Lord’s disciple. For the Lord’s sake I am ready to die!’

“Then the day came when the authorities called me and said, ‘You had better consider your situation carefully. If you want to live, you must kowtow otherwise it will mean certain death for you. Tonight we will make you eat the “steel bean” (bullet). You will be executed! This is your very last opportunity!’ And so he sent me back to think it over.

“There was, however, no need for me to think it over. I was ready for the bullet. But the night passed without my being called. Next day I saw that outside folk were running hither and thither and I wondered whatever had happened to cause such alarm. Later I was to learn that immediately after I had left the office, black swellings appeared on the prison warden’s legs and it was frightfully painful. Because he was the chief, all the doctors in the hospital were rushed to his side to give him aid. But within twenty-four hours he was dead.”

The doctor was later released from prison and returned to his family and medical practice.

RESPONSE: I recommit myself to the Lord. My love for Him will be even more than my love for family.

PRAYER: Lord, help to prove my love for You above all others regardless of the circumstances.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- April 18

THE BLOOD OF AN OVERCOMER

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

Dr. Felix Ruh, a Jewish doctor in Paris, had a granddaughter who died of black diphtheria.

Vowing to find out what had killed her, he locked himself in his laboratory for days and emerged with a fierce determination to prove, with his colleague, Louis Pasteur, the germ theory. The medical association had disapproved of Pasteur and had succeeded in getting him exiled, but he hid in the forest near Paris and erected a laboratory for his forbidden research.

Twenty beautiful horses were led out into the forest to the improvised laboratory. Scientists, doctors, and nurses came to watch the experiment. Ruh opened a steel vault and took out a large pail filled with black diphtheria germs, which he had cultured carefully for months.

There were enough germs in that pail to kill everyone in France.

The scientist went to each horse and swabbed its nostrils, tongue, throat, and eyes with the deadly germs. Every horse except one developed a terrific fever and died. Most of the doctors and scientists wearied of the experiment and did not remain for what they thought would be the death of the remaining horse.

For several more days this final horse lingered, lying pathetically on the ground. While Ruh, Pasteur, and several others were sleeping on cots in the stables, the orderly on duty had been instructed to awaken the scientists should there be any change in the animal's temperature during the night. About two a.m., the temperature showed a half degree decrease, and the orderly wakened Dr. Ruh. By morning the thermometer had dropped two more degrees. By night the fever was entirely gone, and the horse was able to stand, eat, and drink.

Then Dr. Ruh took a sledgehammer and struck that beautiful horse a deathblow between the eyes. The scientists drew blood from the veins of this animal that had developed the black diphtheria but had overcome it. They drove as fast as they could to the Paris municipal hospital and forced their way past the superintendent and the guards. They went into the ward where three hundred babies lay, segregated to die from black diphtheria. With the blood of the horse, they inoculated every one of the babies. All but three lived and recovered completely.

The blood of an overcomer saved them. The blood of an Overcomer has also spiritually saved many people. He too had to die to bring life to others.

RESPONSE: Today I will repeatedly praise Jesus for the blood He shed as an Overcomer for my sin.

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for sacrificing Yourself, an Overcomer, so that I might have abundant and eternal life.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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4/17/16 2:31 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- April 16

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:44

Perhaps the most difficult of Jesus’ commands is to love even our enemies. A true Christian always seeks another person’s highest good—even when mistreated. Brother Andrew says “The Christian’s only method of destroying his enemies is to ‘love’ them into being his friends.”

Romanian pastor, Dr. Paul Negrut, was visiting an old friend in Romania named Trian Dors in his humble home. As Paul entered, he realized that Trian was bleeding from open wounds. He asked, "What happened?"

Trian replied, "The secret police just left my home. They came and confiscated my manuscripts. Then they beat me."

Paul says, "I began to complain about the heavy tactics of the secret police. But Trian stopped me saying, 'Brother Paul, it is so sweet to suffer for Jesus. God didn't bring us together tonight to complain but to praise him. Let's kneel down and pray.'

"He knelt and began praying for the secret police. He asked God to bless them and save them. He told God how much he loved them. He said, 'God, if they will come back in the next few days, I pray that you will prepare me to minister to them.'"

Paul continued, "By this time I was ashamed. I thought I had been living the most difficult life in Romania for the Lord. And I was bitter about that."

Trian Dors then shared with Paul how the secret police had been coming to his home regularly for several years. They beat him twice every week. They confiscated all his papers. After the beating he would talk to the officer in charge. Trian would look into his eyes and say, "Mister, I love you. And I want you to know that if our next meeting is before the judgement throne of God, you will not go to hell because I hate you but because you rejected love." Trian would repeat these words after every beating.

Years later that officer came alone to his home one night. Trian prepared himself for another beating. But the officer spoke kindly and said, "Mr. Dors, the next time we meet will be before the judgement throne of God. I came tonight to apologize for what I did to you and to tell you that your love moved my heart. I have asked Christ to save me. But two days ago the doctor discovered that I have a very severe case of cancer and I have only a few weeks to live before I go to be with God. I came tonight to tell you that we will be together on the other side."

RESPONSE: Today I will destroy my enemies only with love.

PRAYER: God give me Your kind of love for my enemies—so they too will love You.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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4/15/16 1:59 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm-April 14

PRAY, SING AND TALK

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

In Eritrea, Helen Berhane, with more than twenty other young women, was imprisoned in a shipping container that held only eighteen people. In her book, Song of the Nightingale, she shares what happened.

“When [the guard] had locked us in and left, many of the women were furious and upset, and began to complain and cry. I tried to find ways to encourage them, and to make our situation more bearable. I encouraged everyone to sit on the floor in a circle and I began to speak to them.

Remember that the walls of Jericho came down because of praises. If we keep complaining, we cannot win. Instead we must continue to pray, praise and sing. Satan wants to use discouraging words as a weapon against us, so we must continue to praise God in all circumstances. I could see some of the women nodding.

I continued, when the Israelites were approaching the Promised Land they sent spies ahead. Many of them returned saying that the people were so huge the Israelites could not hope to beat them, and so they cried all night. But crying and complaining cannot solve our problems. Let us be like Caleb and Joshua. The larger our enemies are, the more of a feast they will make for us! Just think about the woman who suffered from bleeding and who believed that if she only touched the hem of Jesus’ robe she would be healed. In the crowd she was the one who had faith and it was rewarded. We should not be like these people endlessly fighting amongst themselves. We should just reach out to Jesus and have faith.

This helped us to feel more accepting of our situation, and so we got into the habit of talking about the Bible, praying and singing in the container every day. “

RESPONSE: Today I will pray, sing, and talk about the Bible rather than focus on my discouraging situations and relationships.

PRAYER: Lord, may I use Your Word as an encouragement to endure with hope in You.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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4/13/16 2:36 P

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Standing Strong Through the Storm-April 13

TRAINING

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:25

A young Romanian Christian was called in to the secret police for interrogation. He had dreaded this moment. Fear gripped him throughout and he was unable to give a categorical rejection to the police offers of good treatment and security if he would only inform on his fellow-believers. He did not accept the offer either, but his inability to reject it unquestioningly brought personal agony.

He could not sleep that night because of his fear and guilt. The next morning led of the Holy Spirit, an older Christian came to visit the family. He was unaware of the young man’s dilemma. Being a former prisoner for his faith, he was able to counsel the young man from Scripture about his situation. He built up the young man in fellowship, training him for the next ordeal. It came the same afternoon when the youth was taken in for his second interrogation. The same thing happened and the young man was still upset by his answers. Again the older believer came to encourage him.

Three days of more interrogations passed. Eventually the young man was able to reject the police offer completely. With no further hold on him, the police let him go. Counsel, prayer and patient caring had brought him through and trained him in righteousness.

To maintain biblical integrity, let us consider training as a prescribed course in righteousness in which each individual is disciplined through practice to be obedient to God’s direction for mankind and able to withstand the schemes of the devil.

People who commit themselves for a cause have a right to expect training in the job for which they have been selected. In some of the trades, this is called “apprenticeship.” In medicine, it is known as “internship.” In the military, it is referred to as “basic training.” In Scripture, it is referred to as “discipleship.” However, in our modern day, training is often by-passed due to the pressures of time, need and a low value placed upon the office to be filled. This was not the case with Jesus in His selection and training of His disciples.

After calling His men to be with Him, he challenged them to commit themselves to following after Him – to be “fishers of men.” Jesus then began to train them to become His kind of “fishers of men.”

RESPONSE: I want to be a trained disciple of Jesus Christ. I will submit to His guidance and discipline.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to realize and accept Your “training” process as I follow You today.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Today’s Scripture
“...the Lord has broken through my enemies before me, like the bursting out of great waters...”
(2 Samuel 5:20, AMP)

Sudden Breakthroughs
God wants to give you a breakthrough—a sudden burst of His favor; an explosion of His goodness. He wants to release His power in such a way that it overwhelms you and drives out your enemies!

Maybe you’ve been praying about a relationship for years, and suddenly, things get into place. That’s a breakthrough. Or, you were trying to get a certain job. They said there were no openings, but suddenly, they call you back and you get the job. That’s another breakthrough. Perhaps you’ve struggled with an addiction for a long time, but then something happens, and it's not a struggle anymore. Those are all breakthroughs.

No matter what you’ve been facing, no matter how impossible things look, know this: the God of the breakthrough wants to visit your house. Get ready! Look for His favor and goodness. Remember, God rewards the people who seek after Him. So keep expecting, keep believing because the God of the breakthrough is ready to overwhelm you with His goodness!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, today I am expecting Your goodness. I am looking for Your favor. I trust that You, the God of the breakthrough, are working mightily on my behalf. Help me to live a life pleasing to You as I wait for Your hand to move mightily in my life in Jesus’ name. Amen.”



"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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4/10/16 2:32 A

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Wisdom from the Psalms

April 9

Psalms 38:10

My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me.

Emma was as old as the hills. She had mothered a dozen children, tended a hundred grandchildren, and no one knew how many great- and great-great-grandchildren. She worked every day of the first ninety years of her life, then she decided to rest.

In her one hundred and third year, she lost her sight, and two years later she was confined to a wheelchair. For awhile she was resentful of losing her faculties, but in time she accepted it. After all, hadn't she lived more than a full life? Hadn't God given her more family than any one woman had a right to have? When all was said and done, Emma had had a wonderful life, and a few inconveniences at the end certainly weren't going to get her down.

We have two simple options when afflictions strike. We can moan about our fate and give up, or we can face it boldly and make the best of it. God grants us the power to become more than conquerors, if we will only choose to use it.

Prayer: I know there will be times when my strength fails and my will is drained. At those times, fill my heart with Your will and power. Make me a fighter, Lord. Amen.



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Standing Strong Though the Storm-April 8

THE WARRIOR’S PRAYER

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.” Ephesians 6:11

The Bible clearly says to use the full armor. We usually feel we are doing okay if we have most of the pieces of armor in place. Yet, if even one piece is missing, we have a weak spot where Satan can injure us, causing us to lose ground rather than standing firm. (1 Peter 5:8-9)

The New Living Translation in Ephesians 6:11 puts it this way; “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil.”It further says in verse 13, “Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm.”

RESPONSE: Today I will put on the full armor of God to stand strong against Satan’s darts of doubt, denial and deceit.

PRAYER: “The Warrior’s Prayer”

Heavenly Father, Your warrior prepares for battle.

Today I claim victory over Satan by putting on the whole armor of God!

I put on the Belt of Truth.

May I stand firm in the truth of your Word so I will not be a victim of Satan’s lies.

I put on the Breastplate of Righteousness.

May it guard my heart from evil so I will remain pure and holy, protected under the blood of Jesus Christ.

I put on the Sandals of Peace.

May I go out and proclaim the good news of the Gospel so your peace will shine through me and be a light to all I encounter.

I take the Shield of Faith.

May I be ready to deflect Satan’s fiery darts of doubt, denial and deceit so I will not be vulnerable to spiritual defeat.

I put on the Helmet of Salvation.

May I keep my mind focused on you so Satan will not have a stronghold on my thoughts.

I take the Sword of the Spirit.

May the two-edged sword of your Word be ready in my hands so I can use it to take authority over the Enemy.

By faith, your warrior has put on the whole armor of God.

I am prepared to live this day in spiritual victory.
Amen.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - April 6

STAND STRONG THROUGH ALL STORMS

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither… Psalm 1:1-3

Ours is the Kingdom. No matter what setbacks we see or experience, in the end the Kingdom will revert to our Lord and we will reign with Him.

Ours is the victory through dying and living again – victory through being able to drink the cup of evil and injustice poured out and not being consumed by it.

Ours is the responsibility of caring for our suffering brethren, especially converts and those in countries more restrictive and repressive than ours.

Ours is the responsibility of reaching those who still sit in darkness.

Ours are the lives that should manifest purity and Christlikeness.

Ours are the hearts that should be willing to pay the price to bring peace and understanding among men and between men and God. Hearts willing to be proactive. Hearts willing to stand at the end of the day and having done all, stand.

Ours is the challenge to stand strong through all the storms we face and come through the fire refined and purified to walk the way of the cross before a dying world.

RESPONSE: Today I will accept the challenge to stand strong through all the storms I may face!

PRAYER: Pray for Christians living in severe persecution areas that refined and purified, they may experience all of the victory which is available through Christ.

Daily Devotionals from Standing Strong Through the Storm by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - April 5

DIFFICULT ASSIGNMENTS

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. Deuteronomy 30:11

It is possible! The persecuted church by example prove to us that it is indeed possible to lose everything... to suffer everything...t o endure everything... yet maintain a joyful spirit and heart of love for the Lord.

So often our major shortcoming is simply to doubt that we could go through those experiences and come out of them as refined and triumphant as we have witnessed others in these devotionals. Jesus never promised that our life would be easy—just fulfilling. He never promised that things would be fair—only that He would be just.

Though we might think that life is too hard for these brothers and sisters about whom we’ve been reading, we have been given perhaps an even tougher spiritual assignment. Yet the principles in dealing with it remain the same.

Ruth Graham shared a convicting story about a Christian who had just arrived in a free country from years of persecution. He was appalled at the seeming casual commitment to Jesus and materialistic contamination of these Christians. And he said so. Sometime later he returned to visit the friend to whom he had spoken so bluntly when he first arrived:

He asked if his friend remembered what he had said, the bitterness of his criticism. The friend remembered. The man stood silent for a few moments, reflecting. The friend tensed for a second attack.

“I have come to apologize both for what I said and the way in which I said it,” he said simply. “I was merely afraid. I did not know how dangerous freedom could be. It has been a year now. And I am worse than those I criticized.”

Then he added a significant statement; “It is more difficult to live the Christian life under freedom than under repression.”

Iranian Christian leader Luke Yagnazar lives in the United States. He concludes, “It is more difficult to be a Christian in the USA than in Iran. There you are either a Christian or not!”

Pastor Samuel Lamb in southern China says, “We have physical persecution but you have materialism. Your lot is harder because we know what we are spiritually fighting. Many times you don’t.”

Another Chinese church leader adds, “Once you are chasing after money there is no time and energy for church affairs...And the government knows that materialism will destroy the church faster than persecution can...I tell my co-workers in China that the biggest enemy we’re facing is no longer communism, it’s materialism.”

We must remember it’s a spiritual battle we fight in and we fight with spiritual weapons only.

RESPONSE: Today I resolve to begin accepting the more difficult assignment and putting God and His Kingdom ahead of all others and all else.

PRAYER: Lord, help me accept the more difficult assignment putting You and Your Kingdom first.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - April 4

THE EXAMPLE OF MOTHERS

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. - 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

Dear Corrie ten Boom, a close friend of Brother Andrew’s in Holland, was well-known for her statement: “When God has a task to be done, he calls a man. When He has a DIFFICULT task to be done, he calls a woman!

Motherhood is often one of those difficult tasks for women. I can remember how difficult it was for my own mother in the 1950’s to raise a family with four active, hungry boys on a total budget of twenty-five dollars a week. Yet she was such an example to us of sacrifice, commitment, and faithfulness. We knew she would give everything she had for us and our father.

The Apostle Paul reminded the Thessalonian church that the apostles could have become a burden to them but instead they treated the new growing church gently, like a mother caring for her little children, willing to give everything—even their lives.

Today mothers in the persecuted church continue to reflect the example of Jesus in sacrifice, commitment and faithfulness. I think of the wife of Santiago, a dynamic church pastor in one of Colombia’s deeply troubled areas. Santiago’s life is threatened because has an intense love for God’s people, and a deeply ingrained sense of justice. His strength comes from the Lord. But his second source of strength is his wife, Deborah, who stands by him no matter what.

Recently, she opened up her heart to a small group of visitors. “I feel a profound emptiness and fear that can only be mitigated by the Lord. Although many people claim that the war here has dwindled, I cannot agree because I still see what the people here go through. Just yesterday four people were murdered in our town, two of them very close to our church.

At that point, the tears flooding Deborah’s eyes reveal one of the deepest fears of her heart. “I beg my Lord not to take Santiago away from us, as it would be an extremely painful blow. I remember having the doors locked, believing that at any moment they would come looking for Santiago to kill him. Every time he left for church, my children also waited for someone to arrive bearing the horrible news that he had been murdered. The children beg him, ‘Daddy, please quit the church. We know that people in the area are speaking badly of you, and you know that several other pastors have been murdered.’”

Deborah continues, “God changed our plans to leave. It is not His will that we run away, and our brothers and sisters would not allow us to do so either.” Then she pleads, “I request your prayers for the Lord to heal the wounds of my heart, to remove the fear, so that I can continue fighting. But, more importantly, that I will know how to pray according to His will.” Deborah’s deep devotion to her husband and children is obvious. She is also their tower of strength.

RESPONSE: Today I will honor mother and encourage other mothers I see struggling with life’s issues.

PRAYER: Lord, bless Deborah today—and others like her—with courage, strength and faithfulness.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm-April 3

GIVEN WHAT TO SAY

But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. - Matthew 10:19-20

It was early in the morning the day after Christmas. It was cold. Mehdi Forootan sat in the back seat of an undercover police car in front of his house in Tehran, Iran. An officer pointed a camcorder at him. “Do you know why you were arrested?” the officer asked him. “No,” Forootan replied.

The officer turned off the camera and looked Forootan in the eyes. “I can beat you until blood is coming out of your mouth and every part of you. The next time I turn on the camera, you tell me why we are taking you,” the officer said and turned the camera back on.

Forootan spoke of his faith in Christ, and he spent the next 105 days in Iran’s harshest prison. On Dec. 26, 2010, authorities had arrested Forootan in a wave of persecution against Iran’s underground church. More than three months later, he was one of a few who had not been released.

During one interrogation, an officer turned on a camcorder and pointed it toward him, demanding that Forootan tell him about his “crime.” Forootan began to tell him how he had struggled with substance abuse as a teenager, “and how when I was in university I found Jesus and He saved me, and I have been free ever since. But he became angry and turned off the camera. He said, ‘I asked you to tell about your crime, not evangelize us.’”

After months of trying to get him to write statements confessing a crime, authorities inexplicably released him. Forootan said his first month out of prison was one of the worst of his life. He couldn’t speak to anyone of his prison experience for fear that authorities were watching and would re-arrest him. His parents had given the deed of their house to authorities as bail.

He and his fiancée decided it was best for him to leave Iran and go to Turkey as a refugee. For Forootan, this meant an illegal escape through the mountains, because authorities had confiscated his passport.

“I came out of Iran with 70 Afghanis,” Forootan said. “I went to the mountains and walked in the mountains for eight hours, and after eight hours I came to Turkey…That was really hard, because I really love Iran, and I’m really sad about this land. Maybe I can’t see my country again.”

Many who follow Jesus in other lands make great sacrifices for the sake of the gospel. Despite harsh treatment—even prison with interrogations—they still love their home country. But during those interrogations, the Holy Spirit gives the right words to be spoken.

RESPONSE: Today I will rest in the Lord realizing that when pressures come, He is with me and His Spirit will give me the right words to speak.

PRAYER: Pray for those who like Forootan above are forced to leave the home land they love because of their witness to the gospel of Christ.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm-April 2

SAMUEL AND HIS CRIPPLED SON

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law… Galatians 4:4

Samuel was a schoolmaster in a small city in central China. One night he overheard his head teacher praying. The teacher was saying, “Lord, please help Samuel to love his son. It’s so sad the way he treats him so cruelly, cutting him off, refusing to spend time in the home, ashamed of his crippled boy. Lord, we don’t know what goes on in the mind of his son, but we do know he is very sad. His wife says the boy weeps all the time when the father comes in and leaves. He may not know much, but he does know he’s not loved, and doesn’t know why he’s not loved.”

Deeply moved by the prayer, Samuel went home late that night and sat beside his sleeping son for hours, just stroking his hair and whispering, “Forgive me.”

He took his son to school the next day and showed him a black book hidden in the school basement. His son suddenly cried out the word, “God!” and pointed at the book. The boy spoke very little, as his mouth was deformed, but the word was clear. He had said, “God.”

Smiling, Samuel said, “You might be right, my son. We will read and see.” And so every night Samuel stayed late at his son’s bedside, reading him portions of scripture. He would hold his son with one hand, and hold the Bible with the other. When he had finished a page, he would signal to the boy, who loved to help by turning the page. They felt warm together. Soon his wife joined them for the readings, and the family grew closer and closer.

Samuel felt new feelings of love well up inside him as he read the truths of the Bible. He felt a power to love his son more and more. That’s when tragedy struck. His boy was run over by a truck and badly injured. There was nothing the medics could do. They took him home to nurse him through to the end. Christians came and prayed for his healing, but the boy continued to deteriorate. By this time Samuel was praying to God, and crying out for Him to spare his son’s life. But in December, after a sudden power failure, the boy finally died.

Samuel asked the Christians to hold a service for his boy. A pastor came and prayed, saying, “Lord, you knew this boy was going to die. How kind of you to reconcile father and son before he died. Thank you for your work of grace. And we thank you for your eternal work too. You watched your son, helpless in flesh, die and grow cold—all because you knew we could not love you otherwise, as we are so blind in our selfishness.”

Samuel pondered the meaning of this prayer. He didn’t understand it all. But he did get this: God had lost a son too. Unlike Samuel, God lost a son He had cherished, a son that was perfect. How much harder for God.

He went to church the following Sunday, a small house church an hour’s ride from the city. They were celebrating an event unknown to Samuel, called “Christmas.” A banner in the makeshift church read, “The Son of God for the world in need.”

Samuel testified on that very Sunday, “I see that I went through what God went through. He had a son He loved, and watched him die that life may come to everyone. I too had a son, but I did not love him. Then God broke my heart, so that I could love him. Then He took him. But I have life now, life that will last so long that one day I know I will be reunited with my son. And he will not be lame. And he will be able to speak. And we will fellowship together not in freezing rooms of fear and pain, but on beautiful planets of peace and harmony. I can love again, and this is the joy of Christmas for me. Even in my grief, with my poor son gone, I can love again. We can all love again.”

RESPONSE: Today I will express my love for God even in the midst of pain and loss that I may have suffered.

PRAYER: Pray for people like Samuel who have suffered deeply and may feel God cannot forgive them.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Today’s Scripture
“This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
(Psalm 118:24, NKJV)


This is the Day

It’s easy to come up with excuses to delay our happiness. All the time I hear things like, “As soon as I get out of this problem, I’ll be happy.” Or, “As soon as I lose ten pounds...as soon as my business grows...as soon as my child straightens up..." No, if you don’t put your foot down and decide to be happy right now, there will always be something to keep you from being happy. Let’s get rid of the excuses and make the decision to enjoy life right now, today.

God never intended for us to put off our happiness. That’s why David said, “This is the day the Lord has made! I will rejoice and be glad in it.” He was saying, “This is the day to be happy; not tomorrow, not when the weather clears up. Not next week, when I don’t have to work so hard. Not next month, when I make it through this difficult time.” No, choose to honor the Lord right now by choosing to enjoy your life. This is the day that the Lord has made!


A Prayer for Today

“Father, thank You for this day. Thank You for another opportunity to sing Your praises. I choose to set my mind and heart on You. I choose to rejoice and be glad in You in Jesus’ name! Amen.”



"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Who Can Accuse You? - UpWords - Week of Apr. 1-7

By Max Lucado

Romans 8:33 and 34 asks, “Who can accuse the people God has chosen? Who can say God’s people are guilty?”

The answer is no one, because Christ Jesus died, he was raised from the dead, and now is on God’s right side, appealing to God for us. The accusations of Satan sputter and fall like a deflated balloon.

Then why, pray tell, do we, as Christians, still feel guilt? God uses appropriate doses of guilt to awaken us to sin. His guilt brings enough regret to change us. Satan’s guilt, on the other hand, brings enough regret to enslave us. Don’t let him lock his shackles on you.

Remember, your life is hidden with Christ in God. Whenever God looks at you, he sees Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God covering you. So, whom do you trust…your Advocate or your Accuser?

From GRACE


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Standing Strong Through the Storm-March 31

THE COURAGE THAT MADE THE INCARNATION POSSIBLE

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

Chinese evangelist, Brother Xi, was travelling one very cold evening g in the rugged province of Gansu. As he came to the next village he sensed something was wrong. People were huddled together talking in low tones, glances darting accusingly at each other.

He introduced himself as a bearer of good news. A small man interrupted, “Well we have only bad news here right now. A couple has just had their baby stolen.” In the poorer areas of China, where couples are restricted to one child, it is not uncommon to have child snatching. Indeed there are even gangs that roam the countryside stealing babies for wealthy childless couples in the cities.

He stepped inside the house to find both husband and wife staring quietly at him. Other villagers crowded at the doorway. There was silence. The couple’s grief hung heavy in the air. He said, “I’m so sorry to hear about your plight, but I know someone who may help...God. Let me pray to Him.”

There was no reaction on the couple’s faces, so he went into prayer, feeling very uncomfortable indeed. “Dear Father, many years ago at this same time of year you sent a child into the world and rescued us all; we ask today that you will send back this child to us, and deliver this village from the sadness which grips it, Amen.”

Suddenly the young husband spoke, “Shut up and go away. We have prayed to our gods and nothing has happened. Why should yours be any different?” He was grabbed from behind by the other villagers and propelled out of the village. “Don't you dare come here again!” they bawled.

He wandered the hills in a daze of humiliation, tears, and crying to God. Then he thought, l went to that village expecting a hero’s welcome, or at the very least, I relied on being a curiosity, quizzed and entertained by people who live very dull and isolated lives. Instead, I had only been treated a little like Christ was treated.

Kneeling there in the snow, he knew what he had to do—go back to that village, knowing for sure he would be despised. This was to follow in the Master’s footsteps. With a pounding heart he turned and began to walk slowly back towards the village. Suddenly, across the still late afternoon air, he heard a baby’s cry coming from what appeared to be an old well shaft.

Sure enough six feet down was a little baby, wrapped in a thick blanket, lying at the bottom of the dry-well. He climbed down to hug some warmth back into it. It was a baby girl. Those who snatched it did not know it was a girl, and finding later that it was, left it in this old well to die. The city couples that finance this hideous trade invariably want only male babies.

He walked back to the village with the precious bundle of life clasped to his breast. The villagers came running. They were amazed and overjoyed. Loving hands led him to the cottage of the poor couple, and the smile on the mother’s face as he placed her baby into her lap was unforgettable. “Come, warm yourself by the fire” said the husband. They drew up a chair for him, and as the other villagers crowded round, he asked, “Who was that God you prayed to?”

What an invitation. Here he was, the honored guest, looking at thirty eager people, waiting with bated breath to hear the Gospel. “Well,” he began, “He came to earth in the form of a little baby, just about this time 2000 years ago...”

RESPONSE: Today I will praise God that He is truly in control and can work out all situations for good.

PRAYER: Thank God today for the coming of His Son to earth in humble yet powerful glory!

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm- March 30

DEPORTATION MIRACLE

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know…” - Acts 2:22

In late 1992, “Wally” Magdangal, a Filipino Christian who for years had pastored a clandestine house church in Saudi Arabia, was arrested. His secret house church was unexpectedly penetrated by the “muttawa”, the Saudi Arabian religious police.

Wallyremembers reading in an Open Doors magazine about a small group in China that gathered weekly in the back room of a small store to worship together. It was the era of the infamous Cultural Revolution. Since the believers could easily be overheard by anyone entering the store, they “sang” hymns together without words or music. Someone whispered the name of the song and they would silently move their lips and simply think of the words and music.

He said, “We are an underground church like the believers behind the Bamboo Curtain, but the difference is that we can praise in full voice because our facilities are sound-proofed. Not even our closest neighbour can hear us.” But they were betrayed and now Wally was en route to prison.

For three-and-a-half hours he was physically and mentally tortured. They slapped, boxed and kicked him on the face. Then using a long stick, they lashed his back and the palms of his hands. Then the soles of his feet. He could not stand without wincing and he describes his bruised body as looking like an eggplant.

Upon returning to his cell, Wally prayed for five hours thanking God for allowing him to participate in the sufferings of Jesus. Here are his own words; “Suddenly there was light. The cell was filled with the Lord’s Shekinah glory. His presence was there. He knelt and started to touch my face. He told me, ‘My son, I have seen all of it. That’s why I’m here. I am assuring you that I will never leave you or forsake you.’”

Wally woke up two hours later feeling like a new man. He was amazed when he saw his body had been restored to perfect wholeness. No bruises, no cuts, no bleeding or blood stains. He adds, “God had completely restored me.” This was a significant source of strength as he later repeatedly witnessed to his interrogators who were dumbfounded by his healing. Once after sharing his faith, Wally noticed the guard’s countenance change. He was smiling. Wally said, “I could feel the Holy Spirit working already.”

Wally (and his fellow-pastor) was spared scheduled execution on Christmas Day. Miraculously, at the last moment, they were released and deported home to the Philippines. Today he shares God’s goodness and blessing around the world never forgetting that deportation miracle.

RESPONSE: Today I will thank the Lord that He still works miracles today, here and around the world.

PRAYER: Pray for persecuted Christians who may be in prison today awaiting their miraculous release. Pray they will also be encouraged by the intimate presence of Jesus, Himself.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Today’s Scripture
“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”
(Proverbs 4:18, NIV)


Enjoy the Journey

Sometimes it’s easy to become so goal-oriented and so focused on our dreams that we overlook the simple things that we should be enjoying in our everyday life. But we have to remember that life is not really about the destination, it’s about how we live all along the way. It’s about the path we’re on that shines brighter and brighter.

In this life, there is no such thing as a finish line. Once you accomplish one dream, God will give you another. When you overcome one challenge, there will be another. There is always another mountain to climb. If we make the mistake of living just for the destination, we’ll look up one day and realize we’ve missed out on the biggest part of life.

Most of life is routine. Most of us get up every morning, go to work, come home, eat dinner, go to bed and do it again. There are very few mountaintops where you graduate from school, or get married, or have a child or go on vacation. The high times are few and far between. Don’t get stuck living for the mountaintops. Learn to enjoy the path you’re on. Learn to enjoy the people in your life. Learn to enjoy the simple blessings of walking in the path the Lord has prepared for you!


A Prayer for Today

“Father God, thank You for the gift of life. Thank You for the good plan You have for me today and in my future. Teach me to enjoy the journey of life, to embrace each day with joy and enthusiasm. Help me to see the blessings of every moment You have given me in Jesus’ name. Amen.”



"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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On Saturday - Easter Devotional - March 26

by Max Lucado

John didn't know on that Friday what you and I now know. He didn't know that Friday's tragedy would be Sunday's triumph. John would later confess that he "did not yet understand from the Scriptures that Jesus must rise from the dead" (John 20:9).

That's why what he did on Saturday is so important.

We don't know anything about this day; we have no passage to read, no knowledge to share. All we know is this: When Sunday came, John was still present. When Mary Magdalene came looking for him, she found him.

Jesus was dead. The Master's body was lifeless. John's friend and future were buried. But John had not left. Why? Was he waiting for the resurrection? No. As far as he knew, the lips were forever silent and the hands forever still. He wasn't expecting a Sunday surprise. Then why was he here?

You'd think he would have left. Who was to say that the men who crucified Christ wouldn't come after him? The crowds were pleased with one crucifixion; the religious leaders might have called for more. Why didn't John get out of town?

Perhaps the answer was pragmatic; perhaps he was taking care of Jesus' mother. Or perhaps he didn't have anywhere else to go. Could be he didn't have any money or energy or direction … or all of the above.

Or maybe he lingered because he loved Jesus.

To others, Jesus was a miracle worker. To others, Jesus was a master teacher. To others, Jesus was the hope of Israel. But to John, he was all of these and more. To John, Jesus was a friend.

You don't abandon a friend—not even when that friend is dead. John stayed close to Jesus.

He had a habit of doing this. He was close to Jesus in the upper room. He was close to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was at the foot of the cross at the crucifixion, and he was a quick walk from the tomb at the burial.

Did he understand Jesus? No.

Was he glad Jesus did what he did? No.

But did he leave Jesus? No.

What about you? When you're in John's position, what do you do? When it's Saturday in your life, how do you react? When you are somewhere between yesterday's tragedy and tomorrow's triumph, what do you do? Do you leave God—or do you linger near him?

John chose to linger. And because he lingered on Saturday, he was around on Sunday to see the miracle.

From He Chose the Nails

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Today’s Scripture
“...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33, NIV)

Take Heart
Every day, things come against us in life to try to steal our joy and rob us of our victory. In fact, throughout your whole life, the enemy has had one mission—to kill, steal and destroy your hope, vision and happiness. But notice what it says in today’s verse—“take heart.” In one translation, it says, “Be of good cheer.” Now that may seem strange to say right after the phrase, “in this world you will have trouble.” But when we truly understand that we are overcomers in Christ Jesus, we can be joyful no matter what the circumstances look like. We don’t have to allow our emotions to get rattled. We don’t have to let our nerves go haywire. We can find rest knowing that Jesus has overcome the world and deprived it of the power to harm us!

Remember, the things that happen in this life are temporary. We are in this world but not of it. We need to keep our focus on eternal things, things above. Sure, we will have trouble in this life, but we can stay encouraged because in eternity, we are overcomers through Christ Jesus!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, I humbly come to You today. I ask that You help me stay focused on eternal things. I choose to have joy and peace no matter what comes my way because I know I have the ultimate victory in You in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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3/24/16 9:21 A

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Extreme - Easter Devotional - March 24

By Skip Heitzig

The world looks at Christians 'celebrating death' on Good Friday, and they can’t figure it out. They say, “That is so extreme! Why, before God could forgive people, would He require the death of His Son? Why wouldn’t He simply, benevolently, forgive people’s sin? If I did something against you, you would just forgive me. Why can’t God do that?”

But that kind of questioning betrays a sort of ignorance that is two-fold. One is of how heinous our sin is, and the other is of how great and holy our God is.

Nobody speaks of sin anymore. In fact, sin has almost disappeared from the American vocabulary. We speak of “problems” or “hangups” or “issues.” It’s called a “sickness” or it’s called someone else’s fault. But the Bible says very plainly that if we say we have no sin, we are liars (1 John 1:8).

How serious is it? Paul said, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We sin because it’s our nature. “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). And we sin by choice. Every day we commit individual acts that are an affront to God.

They are an affront because God is absolutely holy. You see, holy God is wholly incompatible with sin and unrighteousness. “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness” (Habakkuk 1:13). “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you” (Isaiah 59:2).

Perfect, holy God cannot coexist with sinful man. And because of that, we’re separated, we’re lost. So one of two things must happen. Either holy God must destroy unholiness, or holy God must declare that which is unholy, holy.

And that takes us to the cross. Jesus lived the perfect life that we could never live, and then took all our sins on Himself. So effectively, God said, “I’ll take the rap. I’ll take all of your wickedness and evil and I’ll put it on Myself so that when I die on the cross, it’s finished, once and for all.”

The cross is the only place that God will meet with mankind. The cross is the only place where both God’s mercy and God’s justice could meet. How can God be a God of love and a God of justice at the same time? How can holy, perfect God meet with sinful, rebellious man? Only at the cross. He came, He took our punishment, and then He declared you and me righteous because of it.

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3/22/16 6:36 P

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Today’s Scripture
“...I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”
(Philippians 3:13, NLT)



This One Thing

Are you focused on forgetting the past? Many people don’t fully understand what that means. They wonder, “How can I forget something that’s happened to me?” But one definition of the word forget is to “disregard intentionally or to overlook.” What this verse is saying is that you have to choose to disregard your past so that it doesn’t keep you from moving forward. That means the good and the bad. Even our past victories can sometimes keep us from rising higher. If we don’t let go of the old, we’ll never be able to embrace the new.

It doesn’t matter what’s happened in your history, it’s time to forget what lies behind. Make the choice today to look forward. Trust that God has a better future in store for you. Trust that He’s working behind the scenes on your behalf. As you forget what lies behind and press forward, you will see the abundant life the Lord has in store for you!


A Prayer for Today

“Father, I choose to forget the past today. I don’t want anything to hold me back from the good future You have prepared for me. I choose forgiveness and ask that You help me by Your Spirit to press forward in every area of my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”


"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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3/22/16 6:55 A

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Resurrected - Easter Devotional - March 22

by Sarah Phillips

I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalms 118:17-23

Most of you will celebrate the Lord's resurrection this Sunday. For many, it will be a glorious day of rejoicing in the miraculous, a day where you reflect not only on the event 2,000 years ago, but on the resurrections in your own life. The day you accepted Christ. The day a long-awaited prayer was answered. The day sickness was healed or sorrow wiped away.

For others, Sunday will only serve as a reminder of your cross. You'll feel like you got left at Good Friday, weeping, while the rest of the world moves on to Easter Sunday. You wish you could celebrate, but you don't know how. You may even apologize to God for your somberness.

You're not alone, I assure you.

In the past few months I've watched several Good Fridays and Easters play out in the lives of those around me. Engagements and babies ushered in cries of rejoicing and praises to God. Yet, cancer, infidelity, and financial hardship occurred uncomfortably close to these joyful events.

Most of life is like this. Happiness, unmixed, is not easy to come by.

So how do we deal with this reality? How do we deal with Good Friday and Easter coexisting?

I think we start with recognizing that the first Easter, the real Easter, was not just one event in time that occurred long ago. Christ's resurrection spanned the ages and has eternal consequences. It applies to you and me today just as much as it did to Christ's followers on Easter morning. It also applies to the future. Our hope, no matter where we may be today, is in the transforming truth of Easter.

Secondly, I think we need to remember that true faith in God does not rely on our emotions. If you cry on Easter morning because life has been wearing you down, God still accepts you. In fact, he died and rose for you so that he could more closely walk with you through these hard times. He knows, more than anyone, the heaviness of the cross.

Third, I think we need to remember that as awe-struck as Christ's first followers felt after his resurrection, they still didn't know what it fully meant… for humanity or for their personal lives. While the resurrection brought their beloved Rabbi back to them, he was different now. The resurrection simultaneously healed some wounds while opening a new can of questions, insecurities, fears, and even pain - at least temporarily.

Ultimately, all Good Fridays will lead to joyful Easter mornings if we cling to Christ. Whether you are in a season of hardship, rejoicing, or a mix of both, the key is to keep walking in faith one step at a time. Only the risen Christ can guide us through the foggy path of life. And when our final Easter morning arrives, we'll finally see with clarity that the journey was worth it.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Reflect on the "little resurrections" in your life - the times God answered a prayer in a very tangible way, the blessings in your life, and the miracles you've witnessed. All these serve as reminders of the great work God will continue to do in your life.

Further Reading

Acts 2:14, 22-33
Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11
Matthew 28:8-15

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3/21/16 9:19 P

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Today’s Scripture
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
(Proverbs 27:17, NIV)



Iron Sharpens Iron

One of the best things I’ve learned is that God does not bring people into our lives so that we can make them just like us. God loves variety and He wants us to be different from each other. He’s given us different personalities, different strengths, different interests and different looks. He’s made us all uniquely so that we can sharpen one another and cause each other to rise up higher in life.

If you’re going to be happy and enjoy your relationships, you’ve got to learn how to appreciate the differences and learn from the people in your life. If you don’t focus on the right things, you’ll end up allowing the little irritations to cause you to become resentful. Remember, nobody is perfect. If you’re going to grow, you’ve got to be willing to overlook some things. Our assignment is not to fix people. Our assignment is to love people. Our assignment is to sharpen one another so we can move forward in the good plan God has prepared!


A Prayer for Today

“Father, thank You for the people You have placed in my life. Help me to see them the way You see them. Help me to appreciate the ways we sharpen one another so that we can help each other fulfill Your plan for our lives. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”



"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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3/19/16 11:21 A

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Good News! - Easter Devotional - March 19

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
--1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Doesn't it seem that bad news is all around us? It's always the top story on the news or the main headline in the paper.

But as believers, we know the best news we could ever hear… and we celebrate it this month.

Easter is the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave. This is the event that conquered sin… it conquered death… and it made it possible for you and me to have a personal relationship with God!

Perhaps, today, this is the first time you've ever heard or understood this Good News.

If so, I want to tell you something: Jesus died on the cross for you. He wore a crown of thorns and was nailed to a tree because He loves you… and He wants to have a personal relationship with you today.

Will you accept this Good News today?

THIS EASTER SEASON, SHARE THE GOOD NEWS WITH SOMEONE WHO NEEDS TO HEAR IT!

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3/18/16 12:18 A

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The Satisfaction of the Cross - Easter Devotional - March 17

Rachel Olsen

"When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. "Isaiah 53:11 (NLT)


Devotion:

Approximately 600 years before Jesus was condemned to the cross, the prophet Isaiah foretold of the event. Open up and invite those words to penetrate your soul today:

"See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. Many were amazed when they saw him beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know he was a person. And he will again startle many nations. Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For they will see what they had not previously been told about; they will understand what they had not heard about.

Who has believed our message? To whom will the Lord reveal his saving power? My servant grew up in the Lord's presence like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the guilt and sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins that he was suffering their punishment? He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man's grave.

But it was the Lord's good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord's plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of what he has experienced, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. I will give him the honors of one who is mighty and great, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among those who were sinners. He bore the sins of many and interceded for sinners." Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 (NLT)

Approximately 2,000 years after Jesus hung on the cross, the passion of our Christ is still the power of God unto salvation. His suffering accomplished righteousness for us, and through it, both He and we are satisfied.

Dear Lord, may I realize afresh today what Your death and resurrection mean for me. Forgiveness … Freedom … and the ability to walk with You through this fallen world into eternity. May I always find my satisfaction in You and Your willingness to offer Yourself to me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.



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3/17/16 2:50 A

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The Cradle of Hope - Easter Devotional March 16

by Max Lucado

Christ rose first; then when Christ comes back, all his people will become alive again.
1 Corinthians 15:23 TLB

Let's go to the tomb, for Jesus lies in the tomb.

Still. Cold. Stiff. Death has claimed its greatest trophy. He is not asleep in the tomb or resting in the tomb or comatose in the tomb; he is dead in the tomb. No air in his lungs. No thoughts in his brain. No feeling in his limbs. His body is as lifeless as the stone slab upon which he has been laid.

The executioners made sure of it. When Pilate learned that Jesus was dead, he asked the soldiers if they were certain. They were. Had they seen the Nazarene twitch, had they heard even one moan, they would have broken his legs to speed his end. But there was no need. The thrust of a spear removed all doubt. The Romans knew their job. And their job was finished. They pried loose the nails, lowered his body, and gave it to Joseph and Nicodemus.

Joseph of Arimathea. Nicodemus the Pharisee. Jesus had answered the prayer of their hearts, the prayer for the Messiah. As much as the soldiers wanted him dead, even more these men wanted him alive.

As they sponged the blood from his beard, don't you know they listened for his breath? As they wrapped the cloth around his hands, don't you know they hoped for a pulse? Don't you know they searched for life?

But they didn't find it.

So they do with him what they were expected to do with a dead man. They wrap his body in clean linen and place it in a tomb. Joseph's tomb. Roman guards are stationed to guard the corpse. And a Roman seal is set on the rock of the tomb. For three days, no one gets close to the grave.

But then, Sunday arrives. And with Sunday comes light — a light within the tomb. A bright light? A soft light? Flashing? Hovering? We don't know. But there was a light. For he is the light. And with the light came life. Just as the darkness was banished, now the decay is reversed. Heaven blows and Jesus breathes. His chest expands. Waxy lips open. Wooden fingers lift. Heart valves swish and hinged joints bend.

And, as we envision the moment, we stand in awe.

We stand in awe not just because of what we see, but because of what we know. We know that we, too, will die. We know that we, too, will be buried. Our lungs, like his, will empty. Our hands, like his, will stiffen. But the rising of his body and the rolling of the stone give birth to a mighty belief: "What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us" (Rom. 6:5-9 MSG).

From When Christ Comes


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3/16/16 1:50 A

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Triumph in Tragedy - Easter Devotional - March 15

by Max Lucado

What do you say we have a chat about graveclothes? Sound like fun? Sound like a cheery topic? Hardly. Make a list of depressing subjects, and burial garments is somewhere between IRS audits and long-term dental care.

No one likes graveclothes. No one discusses graveclothes. Have you ever spiced up dinner-table chat with the question, "What are you planning to wear in your casket?"
Most folks don't discuss graveclothes.

The apostle John, however, was an exception. Ask him, and he'll tell you how he came to see burial garments as a symbol of triumph. He didn't always see them that way. A tangible reminder of the death of his best friend, Jesus, they used to seem like a symbol of tragedy. But on the first Easter Sunday, God took clothing of death and made it a symbol of life.

Could he do the same for you?

Could he take what today is a token of tragedy and turn it into a symbol of triumph?

We all face tragedy. What's more, we've all received the symbols of tragedy. Yours might be a telegram from the war department, an ID bracelet from the hospital, a scar, or a court subpoena. We don't like these symbols, nor do we want these symbols. Like wrecked cars in a junkyard, they clutter up our hearts with memories of bad days.

But could God use such things for something good? How far can we go with verses like Romans 8:28 that says, "In everything God works for the good of those who love him"? Does "everything" include tumors and tests and tempers and terminations? John would answer yes. John would tell you that God can turn any tragedy into a triumph, if only you will wait and watch.

Could I challenge you with a little exercise? Remove the word everything from Romans 8:28 and replace it with the symbol of your own tragedy. For the apostle John, the verse would read: "In burial clothing God works for the good of those who love him." How would Romans 8:28 read in your life?

In hospital stays God works for the good.
In divorce papers God works for the good.
In a prison term God works for the good.

If God can change John's life through a tragedy, could it be he will use a tragedy to change yours?

From He Chose the Nails

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3/14/16 5:20 A

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Resurrection! - Easter Devotional - March 14

by Dr. Charles Stanley

John 20

Within three days Jesus's followers went from heartbroken sadness to triumphant jubilation. The cross screamed, “The End,” making them feel hopeless and helpless. But the resurrection trumpeted, “The Beginning,” bringing confidence and courage. The cloud of doubt and despair that had shrouded them melted away and was replaced with unshakeable faith.

Can you imagine how they felt when they realized Jesus had risen from the dead? Suddenly hope came alive; now everything He had said was validated as truth. They had not believed a lie. His victory over death was the acid test that forever sealed their sure conviction that He was the Messiah.

We commemorate Jesus's death on the cross with solemnity, but the resurrection calls for thunderous applause, praise, and song. All the blessings that come our way through the Savior’s cross are confirmed by the resurrection. It proved that the Father was satisfied with the Son’s payment for our sins. Now we can know that our transgressions are forgiven and we’re eternally secure.

What’s more, Jesus promises that we, too, will be resurrected and given new bodies. Physical death could not hold Him, nor will it overpower us. Because He overcame the grave, His followers have the same kind of life He has—eternal and indestructible.

As Christians, we have the right to celebrate Easter with great rejoicing. Because of this event, our lives have been forever changed. We’ve been transformed and given new life. With unwavering faith, we trust the Bible because Christ’s power over the grave proves He can and will fulfill every word.


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3/12/16 3:11 A

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Life after Death - Easter Devotional - March 12

by Dr. Charles Stanley

Luke 12:16-20

The thought of dying frightens many people. But believers have no reason to fear. Jesus's resurrection and empty tomb prove that there is life after death!

Unbelievers who dread their demise have two different approaches to life. One group piles up wealth, good deeds, or worldly success in the hope of passing it on to their children or to charity. They expect to "live on" in the memories of those who benefit from their hard work. But it is the rare person who's still remembered a few generations later. And none truly live on.

The other group chooses to laugh in the face of death. Their philosophy is "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die" (1 Cor. 15:32). Their existence seems pleasurable from the outside, but can you imagine a more futile way to live? God does not intend for us to go through life with such meaninglessness.

Here's the key to significance: fulfilling our unique, God-given, eternal purpose. In this life, we do not labor to leave a physical legacy or waste our days pursuing pleasure. Instead, we help those in need, influence our culture, and reach out to the lost. And when a believer enters the heavenly place Jesus has prepared, he or she keeps on working for Him.

For the believer, death is not a fearsome end. It is the doorway to a new life of serving the Lord in heaven. Our days on earth are just the beginning of our existence. This time will seem like only a few minutes compared to an eternity spent in His presence.


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Hope Beyond this Life - Easter Devotional - March 11

by Greg Laurie

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.

—1 Corinthians 15:13-14

Not only does the Bible tell us we will live beyond the grave, but it also tells us there is hope beyond this life. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead proves there is life beyond the grave for the believer. The Bible says, "He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31).

No doubt this is why the devil has tried to discredit the Resurrection over the years. This is why, ever since the first century, he has been spreading his rumors about what happened to the body of Christ. And one of the oldest rumors of all was that His body was stolen by the disciples.

But claiming that the body of Jesus was stolen actually proves the resurrection of the Lord. His friends could not have taken it, because they left the scene and were convinced He was dead. The apostles had no reason to counterfeit a Resurrection they did not even believe in themselves.

And as we look at church history, we know that with the exception of John (who survived an execution attempt and was banished to the island of Patmos), all the apostles were martyred for what they believed. Don't you think at least one of them would have suddenly exposed such a lie if it were a lie? But they didn't, because none of them could deny what was true: Christ was risen, Christ is risen, and He is alive.


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Unshakeable - Easter Devotional - March 10

by Skip Heitzig

Did you ever wonder about that stone at the tomb of Jesus? Why was it moved? It wasn’t to let Jesus out; Jesus could get out of the tomb as easily as He entered the Upper Room later, without using the door. No, the reason the stone was rolled away was not to let Jesus out, but to let the disciples in so they could see!

And what did they see there? They saw that the body of Jesus was gone, but the grave clothes were still there, lying undisturbed. In John 20:1-8 there are different Greek words used for "saw." When it says Mary and Peter saw, it means they noted. When it says that John saw, it means that he saw with understanding, with comprehension.

Peter entered the tomb. "Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed" (John 20:8). When John saw the grave clothes, he thought, "I get it!" He believed that Jesus was alive, based on what he saw.

Then John adds something that seems puzzling at first. Verse 9 says, “For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” They saw an empty tomb and empty grave clothes, and they formed their beliefs based on that. They knew what they saw.

But by the time John wrote his gospel, they knew the theology of Christ’s resurrection. Their faith, once based on physical evidence—the open tomb, the body gone, the clothes intact (as good as that was to convince John at that moment)—wasn’t enough to sustain a person through life. “This is what we saw, but we didn’t know the scripture yet” points to the fact that there’s something even better to base your belief and knowledge upon, and that’s the objective, inerrant prophecy in the Word of God.

Observation and personal experience aren’t enough! The Bible predicted that Christ would rise from the dead. What Peter called “a more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19, KJV) is a more sure foundation.

So how do you know that you know? You could say, “I know because I saw or I heard.” But here’s something better: “What I saw and what I heard was predicted long ago in the prophets.” So now the subjective experience is bolstered by the objective prophecy of the Bible—and that’s unshakeable.

That’s what I want you to see here—the fundamental importance of the Word of God. Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

The experience which we have with Christ is valid only as it is tied to something that is outside of our experience, something that is objective—the inerrant Word of God. With that, we can face anything.

If you just have the inerrant Word of Scripture but you don’t have an experience with God yourself, then it’s not personal. If you have your personal experience but it doesn’t match what the scripture says, then it’s not reasonable. Put them both together, it’s powerful. It’s unshakeable.

That’s my prayer for you at this Easter season, that you will have an unshakeable faith, based on the sure word of prophecy and a personal, vital relationship with Jesus Christ, the risen Redeemer!


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Resurrection Power - Easter Devotional - March 8

30 When he was at the table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of bread. —Luke 24:30-35

Followers of the Lord Jesus Christ know that the resurrection of Christ is the most powerful event in history. All that we ascribe to, all that our life and worship is all about, is based upon the foundational piece that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

I wonder how many believers experience that “resurrection power.” Is there much that you would like to accomplish but you just don’t sense the capacity and strength to do it? Or maybe your life lacks the power to break the chain of sinful habits or to overcome fear, anxiety, or depression. I want you to know that whatever it is, Jesus Christ can change your life. His resurrection is the power to prove that. I know I wouldn’t want to live without it.

On a week just like this right after Resurrection Sunday, Jesus met two guys on the road to Emmaus who needed “resurrection power” to overcome one of the saddest weekends of their lives. They were walking home from Jerusalem, overwhelmed with the events they had witnessed. Jesus He knew their hearts were aching and He wanted to bring His resurrection power to bear upon them. He wants to do that for you too.

But we were hoping…

There’s the source of sadness right there. If you’re filled with sadness, then you’ve had your hopes dashed. Things didn’t turn out how you planned, how you’d hoped. These guys knew how that felt for sure. They needed power and got it by recognizing who Jesus was.

You may ask, How can I access that kind of resurrection power in my life? Do what these guys did: take Him at His Word. Believe what He said . . .

…about salvation. “I am the way, the truth and the life…” (John 14:6). If you’ve never embraced Christ as your Savior, that’s step one for you.

…about the power Jesus gives us to depend on Him. John 15:12-14, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Bottom line: The most powerful event in history is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’m telling you this for one reason—you can know this power in your life. You can. Believe what He said, embrace Him as your Savior and learn, as I’m learning, what it means to walk and follow Jesus, risen from the dead. “…to know Him is life eternal” (John 17:3).

Journal:

• Do I know this resurrection power in my own life? When have I felt it?

Prayer: Father, Your power is above all things. Help me to know that power through a personal relationship with Your Son, Jesus Christ. I don’t want to go one more day without that power flowing through me. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.

James MacDonald


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New Life for Us All - Easter Devotional March 6

by Pastor Greg Laurie

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

—1 Peter 1:3

A couple from Chicago was planning a vacation to a warmer climate, but the wife couldn't join her husband until the next day, because she was on a business trip. Her husband scribbled down her e-mail address on a little scrap of paper, but upon his arrival, he discovered that he had lost it. He wanted to send off a quick e-mail to let her know he had arrived safely. So trying his best to remember her e-mail address, he composed a brief message and sent it off.

Unfortunately, his e-mail did not reach his wife. Instead, it went to a grieving widow who had just lost her husband, a preacher, the day before. She had gone to her computer and was checking her e-mail when she let out a loud shriek and fainted on the spot. Her family came rushing in to see what was on the screen: "Dearest wife, I just checked in. Everything is prepared for your arrival tomorrow. P. S.: It sure is hot down here!"

The good news is that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we don't have to be afraid of that real place that is hot down there. In fact, we don't even have to fear death. Because Christ died and rose again from the dead, we know that for us as believers, there is life beyond the grave.

If that were all the resurrection did for us, it would be worth the price of the ticket. Of course, we didn't buy the ticket. Christ did. But if all that Christianity offered was the hope of life beyond the grave, it still would be worth it to be a Christian.

But there is a whole lot more that the resurrection has for us. Our risen Lord will give us a new heart and put a new spirit within us (see Ezekiel 36:26). He will give us new knowledge, new comfort, new peace, and a new life in Him.


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God's Plan for the Resurrection - Easter Devotional - March 5

by Dr. Charles Stanley In Touch Ministries

John 16:16-20

"A little while, and you will no longer see Me." Jesus repeated these words to His disciples several times. But He could tell by the blank stares on their faces that they did not understand what He had said.

At one point, He even overheard them debating what He meant by "You will not see me" (John 16:19). These men had been with the Lord for three years. They had laughed with Him, cried with Him, eaten with Him, and were willing to die with Him, or so they thought.

They had just entered the city of Jerusalem. And instead of being met by an angry legion of guards and protestors, they were met by palm-waving supporters shouting: "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." Yet as soon as they had settled into the upper room, Jesus broached the subject of His forthcoming death. Immediately, the mood of His followers went from one of celebration to shock and sorrow.

Often in difficult times, we cannot see beyond that moment. The resurrection was a few days away, but they could not fathom its wondrous coming.

God always provides the encouragement we need to stay the course, and Jesus did this for His disciples when He told them, "Your sorrow will be turned to joy" (v. 20). This also is God's message of hope and love for us today. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

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It Didn't End at the Cross - Easter Devotional - March 4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

--1 Peter 1:3-5

A little boy born with Down syndrome attended his third-grade Sunday School class faithfully each week. As you can expect, the other children did not readily accept the boy because he seemed different.

The Sunday after Easter, their teacher brought in small boxes--one for each child. The children were told to go outside, find some symbols of new life, and put them in their containers. So the children ran wildly throughout the property looking for something to fill their boxes.

Once they returned to the classroom, they began to share their discoveries with the class. One by one they opened their boxes to show flowers, butterflies, leaves, and more. Each time the class would "ooh" and "ahh."

Then the child with Down syndrome opened his box to reveal nothing inside. The children exclaimed, "That's stupid! It's not fair! He didn't do the assignment right!"

The little boy exclaimed, "I did so do it! It's empty...because the tomb where Jesus laid was found empty!"

If Jesus had not risen from the dead, our faith would be foolish and fake. But He did rise from death, confirming His life and message. The resurrection of Jesus is the basis for our hope of life eternal beyond the grave.

Don't ever forget to include the resurrection of Christ from the dead when speaking of His death on the cross. For because He conquered sin on the cross and death through His resurrection, we can have unmistakable hope in Him for eternity.

PRAYER CHALLENGE: Praise God that you serve a risen Savior! Thank Him for His sacrifice on the cross and for defeating death so that you and I may experience eternal life with Him one day.


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The Resurrection - Easter Devotional - March 3

Jesus said to her,

"I am the resurrection and the life. JOHN 11:25

FROM THE FATHER'S HEART

My child, you've walked away from the funerals of your loved ones with fresh memories still clinging to you like grave clothes. Tears have filled your eyes as you've said good-bye to the last dreams of your heart. Remember, for those who love Me and are My children, death is but a step into eternity with Me. It is never the end but the start of forever - what you were created for! Take heart. I am the resurrection and the life. Where I am, you will be also. Find peace in Me.

A GRATEFUL RESPONSE

Lord, death could not hold You. And because of You, the resurrection, we, too, can live. Thank You that the grave is only a journey into the presence of God. You have removed the sting of death and empowered this thing called life. Now I will live in Your presence forever.

SIMPLE TRUTH

On the other side of death is the real side of life.

Devotions by Crosswalk.com

Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 3/3/2016 (15:35)
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An Easter Bride - Easter Devotional March 2

by Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7, NIV).

Friend to Friend

It was a beautiful day for a wedding. The sun shone brightly as the daffodils danced in the gentle breeze, nodding their happy faces in conversation. A choir of robins, cardinals, and finches sang rounds of cheerful melodies, which floated through a clear blue sky that was a reflection of the bride's sparkling eyes. The air had that unusual crisp quality of spring, reminding us of the chill from winter's past and the warmth of summer's promise.

The day was Easter Sunday of 1997, the day the groom had chosen to be joined to His beloved. Like the Jewish custom of old, he had proposed to his young maiden, and then promptly gone away to prepare a home for her. On this day, his father had signaled the home was ready and he could go to get his bride

Iris had been waiting for her husband to come and take her to the wonderful home that He had prepared for her. How like him to pick Easter, she thought to herself. My favorite day of the year.

She smiled as she heard Him coming, and her heart fluttered with the anticipation of seeing His face.

She wore a white dress with flecks of blue and carried a bouquet of pink carnations and white mums with a spray of asparagus fern as wispy as her baby-fine hair. A sweet smile spread across her face as she saw her beloved Jesus hold out His strong hand to help her cross the threshold of the temporal and into the hall of eternity. She walked into His loving embrace and drank in the loveliness of her surroundings which He had perfectly described in His many letters.

On Easter Sunday, in 1997, my husband's dear, sweet, 74-year-old Aunt Iris went home to be with the Lord. As we all gathered around to say our last good-byes, I could not manage to be mournful. Yes, I was going to miss her. But Iris had never been married on this side of eternity and the vision I had in my mind was of her joining the Lord as the Bride of Christ. For me, it was not a funeral. It was a wedding. It was what she had always longed for…a dream come true.

In Isaiah 61:3, the prophet describes what God will do for the Bride of Christ. He will bestow on her a crown of beauty instead of ashes, anoint her with the oil of gladness instead of mourning and place on her shoulders a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Are you feeling broken-hearted because of broken dreams? Have you been in mourning because your dream of being a bride has not turned out like you had hoped? God desires to blow away the ashes and place the crown of a royal bride on your head. So lift your head dear one, and accept your crown from the King of Kings.

Let’s Pray

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for choosing me to be the Bride for Your Son. I look forward to the day when I will be joined with my heavenly Bridegroom for all eternity. Until then, I will prepare myself to be the best bride I can be. In my Bridegroom’s Name I pray, Amen

Now It’s Your Turn

I asked my husband what picture came into his mind when he thought about himself as being a part of the Bride of Christ. He gave me a strange look and said, “Nothing really.”

Oh how precious that we girls can have the picture of walking down the aisle to meet our heavenly Bridegroom. Today, that’s what I want you to imagine. Just put that picture in your mind and savor it all day.

Devotionals Brought via Crosswalk.com

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O Death, Where Is Thy Sting? - Easter Devotional - February 29

by Adrian Rogers

"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" 1 Corinthians 15:55

Harry Houdini was an escape artist. They tried all kinds of ways to keep Harry Houdini locked up. They would bury him in a coffin, but he would get out. They would sew him up in canvas bags and throw him in the river, but he would come out. His biographer said, "He could escape from anything except your memory."

Yet there came a day when Harry Houdini died, and he did not escape the iron-clad clutches of death. But, I want to tell you, there was another who died. His name was Jesus, and He made the great escape.

Jesus came out of that grave, and He arose! Praise God, Jesus is alive!

Who in your circle of friends does not know Jesus? Pray for them right now - that they would hear the Good News, repent and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ.


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Easter Words of Forgiveness - Easter Devotional - February 27

by Dr. Jack Graham

Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
--Luke 23:34

As we all know, words are powerful…especially dying words. And as we near Easter Sunday, it's important that each of us remembers just exactly what Jesus had to say right before His earthly life ended.

One of the last things Jesus said while hanging from the cross were words of forgiveness.

Today I want to ask you, if Christ could pray a prayer of forgiveness for those who were putting Him to death, can you pray a prayer of forgiveness for those in your life who mistreat you?

Despite what you may be going through today, can you look past your own "junk" and extend forgiveness to others?

Jesus' dying words on the cross are a powerful example of how you and I ought to treat those who mistreat us. Are you willing to follow His perfect example in every area of your life today? Will you extend forgiveness to those who don't deserve it?

I challenge you to pick up your cross today… and live out the life of forgiveness Christ has given you!

CAN YOU FOLLOW CHRIST'S EXAMPLE AND FORGIVE THOSE WHO MISTREAT YOU?


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Today’s Scripture
“...take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
(2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV)

Take Your Life Back
Do you ever feel like things in your life are out of control? Usually that happens when we allow our circumstances to dictate our thoughts and attitudes. You might say, “Well, the economy is wreaking havoc on my business.” Or, “This relationship is just too far gone.” Today is the day to take your life back! We live in this natural realm, but as believers, we are not limited by this natural realm. We can tap into God’s supernatural power, but it starts by making every thought line up with the Word of God.

Today, take your life back by taking your thoughts back. Don’t allow the enemy to have access any longer. Instead, meditate on the Word of God daily and allow His truth to sink down deep into your spirit. Let His truth set you free!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for empowering me to live in victory. I choose to take my life back by taking captive every thought and submitting it to You. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You today and every day in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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A Pivotal Belief - Easter Devotional - February 26

by Pastor Greg Laurie

"But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again." (1 Corinthians 15:20)

I read about a person who wrote the following to a local newspaper advice columnist: Dear Uticus, Our preacher said on Easter that Jesus just swooned on the cross and that His disciples nursed Him back to health. What do you think? Sincerely, Bewildered.

The columnist replied, Dear Bewildered, Beat your preacher with a cat of nine tails with 39 heavy strokes, nail him to a cross, hang him in the sun for six hours, run a spear through his heart, embalm him, put him in an airless tomb for 36 hours, and see what happens. Sincerely, Uticus.

What sets the Christian faith apart from all other beliefs and religious systems in this world? It might come down to this: If you go to the tombs of any of the prophets on which world religions have been founded, you will find them occupied. But if you go to the tomb of Jesus Christ, you will find it empty, because He is alive. We serve a living Savior.

This is why the resurrection of Jesus is such an important message and also why it has been opposed so much throughout history. The devil knows that the Resurrection spells his defeat. He also knows that if you believe this great truth that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose again from the dead, it can change your life.

Not only can it change your life, but putting your faith in Him also means that you will have a new, resurrected body someday. As believers, we have this great hope that we, too, will live again.

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A Basic Precondition - Easter Devotional - February 25

For reading & meditation: John 20:1-18

"They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead." (v. 9)

The late Bishop John Robinson stated: "The resurrection of the body of Christ is no essential belief for Christian people, and it would make no difference to their faith if the Lord's body had been flung into the Valley of Hinnom, like those of the malefactors, to disintegrate among the rotting corpses." Such a statement flies in the very face of Scripture. Paul wrote: "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe ... that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9, italics added). Here Paul makes it crystal clear that acceptance of the fact that Christ rose from the dead is a basic precondition for being a Christian. But what exactly do we mean by resurrection? "Spiritual survival" is how the liberals in the church define it. But it was not just the spiritual part of Jesus that continued after the tomb - it was the total Christ. True, His body possessed additional powers and properties, but the physical frame which housed His spirit after He left the tomb was the same one that was nailed to the cross. "See my hands," He said to doubting Thomas, "put [your hand] into my side ... and believe" (John 20:27). Eric Sauer, a writer and Bible teacher, makes the point: "Just as our Lord's body was capable of transfiguration without losing its identity, so it was capable of disfiguration without losing its identity." Make no mistake about it, our Lord's resurrection was a physical one. If it wasn't, then there is no salvation.

Prayer:

Father, if I am not sure of the resurrection how can I be sure I am saved? However, I am sure, for I live in a resurrected Christ. Since He was resurrected, I know I shall be too. Death has been conquered. Hallelujah!

For further study:
John 20:19-31

1. How did Jesus appear to the disciples?
2. What did Jesus participate in?

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The Silver Thread - Easter Devotional - February 24

1 Corinthians 15:20

But now is Christ risen from the dead.

The whole system of Christianity rests upon the fact that "Christ is risen from the dead;" for, "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain: ye are yet in your sins." The divinity of Christ finds its surest proof in His resurrection, since He was "Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." It would not be unreasonable to doubt His Deity if He had not risen. Moreover, Christ's sovereignty depends upon His resurrection, "For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living." Again, our justification, that choice blessing of the covenant, is linked with Christ's triumphant victory over death and the grave; for "He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." Nay, more, our very regeneration is connected with His resurrection, for we are "Begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." And most certainly our ultimate resurrection rests here, for, "If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you." If Christ be not risen, then shall we not rise; but if He be risen then they who are asleep in Christ have not perished, but in their flesh shall surely behold their God. Thus, the silver thread of resurrection runs through all the believer's blessings, from his regeneration onwards to his eternal glory, and binds them together. How important then will this glorious fact be in his estimation, and how will he rejoice that beyond a doubt it is established, that "now is Christ risen from the dead."

"The promise is fulfill'd,
Redemption's work is done,
Justice with mercy's reconciled,
For God has raised His Son."

www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/easter
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2/24/16 3:54 P

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Today’s Scripture
“For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.”
(Ephesians 1:4, NIV)

Before Creation
Did you know that God had a plan for you before the foundations of the earth? He created you to be holy and blameless in His sight. Why? He chose you to be His ambassador, His representative in the earth. He created you to reflect His glory, character, righteousness, and holiness. Think about that for a moment. Part of your purpose on this earth is to be a representative for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! That should make you walk a little differently. It should make you talk a little differently. It should make you think a little more carefully about the places you go and the things you do.

Remember, God will equip you to do whatever He’s called you to do. If there are things in your life that you need to change in order to represent Him well, God wants to empower you to overcome. Receive His strength and might today so that you can walk in holiness and be His ambassador everywhere you go!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank you for choosing me to be your representative in the earth. Search my heart and remove anything that is displeasing to you. I receive your holiness and will walk according to Your ways. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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2/23/16 3:05 P

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Today’s Scripture
“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
(Proverbs 11:25, NIV)

Be Generous
Do you need refreshing today? So many people go around overwhelmed, tired, worn down, barely getting by. But that’s not God’s best. He wants us to prosper. He wants us to be refreshed. Here’s the key: be generous and refresh others. Is there someone at the office you can be a blessing to? Can you lighten someone’s load? Maybe a family member is going through a hard time. Can you help them out? Can you cook them a meal? Refreshing someone can be as simple as a smile or an encouraging word. Don’t wait until you feel like doing it, that day may never come! Do it because the Scripture tells us to. Do it because it blesses the Lord.

Today, look for someone to be a blessing to. Step out and refresh others; live a life of generosity. As you do, you will be refreshed in return, and experience His blessing in every area of your life!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for Your grace and mercy in my life. Thank You for blessing me so that I can be a blessing to others. Teach me to be generous. Show me how I can refresh others and bring glory to You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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2/22/16 4:11 P

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Today’s Scripture
“...he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.”
(Proverbs 11:18, NIV)

Sow Righteousness
God’s kingdom operates on a system of sowing and reaping. Have you heard the saying, “What goes around, comes around?” That’s really a spiritual principle. What you sow, you will reap. Today’s verse tells us that when we sow righteousness, we’ll reap a sure reward.

What does that mean? Sowing righteousness simply means doing the right thing in the sight of God. It’s obeying the Word no matter what the circumstances may look like. It means showing kindness even when it’s undeserved. It’s walking in love and keeping the peace when you really want to say something different. When you sow righteousness, you’ll reap a sure reward. That’s because God Himself is going to pay you back. He is the One who will multiply you when you honor Him.

Today, keep doing the right thing even if the wrong thing is happening. Sow righteousness. Stay in faith. Keep believing because He who promised is faithful, and there’s a sure reward in store for you!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for setting up a system that blesses me as I bless others. Show me how to sow righteousness today so I can honor You in all I do in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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2/22/16 1:59 P

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What Children Need to Know - Easter Devotional - February 22

Mark 10:13,14

And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them."

Children and Easter. New life and new beginnings. What better time to share the gospel with your children?

But what does a child, or any person, need to know to become a Christian? The following are the basics:

First, children need to be taught who God is and how He loves them. They need to know what sets Him apart from humans.

God is holy; He is perfect. People, however, are not perfect.

God is just; He is always fair. We are not just in all our decisions.

God is love; He desires a relationship with us. That's why He sent His Son. We are not always motivated out of our love for another.

Second, children need to be taught that their sins must be forgiven (see Rom. 6:23). Many parents in this culture of tolerance feel uncomfortable talking about hell. God is patient, but He is not tolerant. His justice calls for an atonement (a payment, a penalty) for people's sins. Our children must have some understanding that their sins can keep them out of heaven. Their sins must be paid for. And that is what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.

Finally, children need to know that they receive God's forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ (see Eph. 2:8,9).

Faith involves repenting of our sins, turning to God in faith and trusting Jesus Christ to be our Savior and Lord. When we repent, we acknowledge our sins before God and express our sorrow about our sins to Him.

Those are the basics of what children need to know. The question you're probably asking is, "How can I explain concepts like these to children?"

That's what I'll cover next time.

Prayer: That God would work in your children's hearts to bring them to Him.

Discuss: How have you done as a couple in explaining the gospel to your children? How can you arrange your Easter activities to take time to explain the gospel to your children?

www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/easter
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2/21/16 6:44 A

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The Angelic Perspective on Easter - Easter Devotional - February 21

by Fred Alberti

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
Colossians 1:15-16

During this time of remembrance of Christ's sacrifice I am prone to wonder about the angels.

I see them standing at attention internally grieving over the suffering of their creator. Jesus was not merely the creator of just mankind. The Bible says that it was by Him that all things were created. This was their creator in the flesh suffering a brutal death.

I imagine more than a few wishing to dispense with the humans who were causing this atrocity. Matthew records Jesus stating, "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53). What incredible self-control! What awesome love to bear the punishment of the cross when it could have all ended so easily.

In talking about the prophets, Peter reveals that the angels long to look into this whole business about redemption and the good news of the Gospel (1 Peter 1:12).

They didn't understand why all this was happening. All they knew was their King was being murdered.

Then I hear amongst the mass chaos of the darkness and the rumbling of the earthquake as the Roman Centurion and the witnesses to Jesus death beat their chests proclaiming, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (Read Luke 23:47-48 and Matthew 27:54).

It was over. Jesus was dead. Now it was time to bury Him in a borrowed tomb.

Three days later I imagine the angels clamoring to be on the special detail that was posted. Who would get to roll back the stone? Who would get to wait in the empty tomb to deliver the wonderful news?

"He is not here, He has risen" (Matthew 28:6).

Oh, what a glorious pronouncement. I wonder just how the angels rejoiced. Were they slapping each other on the back? Were they shouting in victory? Were they beaming with joy over the news that their King was no longer in the grave?

How will we celebrate that day?

How will we honor the death and resurrection of the creator of the universe?

Intersecting Faith & Life: When you make your Easter eggs this year do one with angel wings on it to remember the angel's words, "He is not here, He has risen."

Further Reading

1 Corinthians 15:3-4
God's Secret Agents


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2/20/16 12:13 A

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Unceasing Prayer - UpWords - Week of Feb. 19-25

by Max Lucado

Unceasing prayer may sound complicated, but it needn’t be that way. Do this. Think of prayer less as an activity for God and more as an awareness of God. Seek to live in uninterrupted awareness. As you stand in line to register your car, think, “Thank you, Lord, for being here.” In the grocery store as you shop, think, “Your presence, my King, I welcome.” As you wash the dishes, worship your Maker.

Brother Lawrence called himself the “lord of all pots and pans.” He wrote, “The time of busy-ness does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon knees at the blessed sacrament.”

So talk to God, always. Besides, it makes more sense to talk to God than mumble to yourself!

From Max on Life

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2/19/16 6:46 P

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Today’s Scripture
“How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!”
(Psalm 139:17–18, NLT)

His Thoughts toward You
Did you know God is thinking about you right now? He thinks about you constantly. You are always on His mind. Do you know what He’s thinking? He’s not thinking about all that you’ve done wrong in your life. No, He’s thinking about the good things He has in store for your future. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that His thoughts are for our good. His plans are to prosper us and to give us a future and a hope.

Do you know what else He’s thinking? He’s thinking about how much He loves you. He’s not mad at you; He’s madly in love with you! Let that love bring security to your heart and mind. The Bible says that perfect love casts out all fear. Just take a deep breath right now and breathe in His love and peace. When you receive His love, it drives out fear and gives you confidence to embrace the good things He has in store for your future!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for thinking of me today. Thank You for the good work you are doing in my life. I receive Your love which drives out all fear. Make me new as I meditate on You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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2/19/16 9:02 A

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Our Ultimate Hooray - Easter Devotional - February 19

by Charles R. Swindoll

John 11

What gives a widow courage as she stands beside a fresh grave? What is the ultimate hope of the handicapped, the abused, the burn victim? What is the final answer to pain, mourning, senility, insanity, terminal diseases, sudden calamities, and fatal accidents?

The answer to each of these questions is the same: the hope of bodily resurrection.

We draw strength from this single truth almost every day of our lives—more than we realize. It becomes the mental glue that holds our otherwise shattered thoughts together. Impossible though it may be for us to understand the details of how God is going to pull it off, we hang our hopes on fragile, threadlike thoughts that say, "Someday, He will make it right," and "Thank God, all this will change," and "When we're with Him, we shall be like Him."

More than a few times a year I look into red, swollen eyes and remind the despairing and the grieving that "there's a land that is fairer than day" where, as John promised in the Revelation, "He shall wipe away every tear . . . there shall no longer be any death . . . any mourning or crying or pain . . . there shall no longer be any curse . . . any night . . . because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever" (21:4; 22:3, 5). Hooray for such wondrous hope!

Just imagine . . . those who are physically disabled today will one day leap in ecstatic joy. Those who spend their lives absorbed in total darkness will see every color in the spectrum of light. In fact, the very first face they will see will be the One who gives them sight!

There's nothing like the hope of resurrection to lift the agonizing spirits of the heavyhearted. But how can we know for sure, some may ask. What gives us such assurance, such unshakable confidence? Those questions have the same answer:the fact of Christ's resurrection.

Because He has been raised, we too shall rise! No wonder we get so excited every Easter! No wonder we hold nothing back as we smile and sing and celebrate His miraculous resurrection from the grave!

Jesus Himself promised: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies" (John 11:25).

Easter is a double-barreled celebration: His triumphant hurrah over agony and our ultimate hooray of ecstasy.

Used with permission. All rights reserved.


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2/17/16 6:44 P

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Today’s Scripture
“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he...”
(Proverbs 23:7, NKJV)

Align Your Thoughts
Sometimes we need to just stop and think about what we are thinking about! The Bible tells us that what happens on the inside of us—our thoughts, attitudes and motives—are more important to God than what happens on the outside. You can fool people all day long by saying the right things, but the scripture tells us that God is looking at our hearts. He wants our thoughts and attitudes to come into alignment with His Word so that we can see His promises come to pass in our lives.

Remember, your life will follow the course you set with your mind. When you align your thoughts with God’s thoughts, your life will follow Him. Jeremiah 29 tells us that His thoughts are for our good. His thoughts are for our peace. His thoughts are for our victory! So today, align your thoughts with His thoughts by meditating on His Word. Embrace His promises so that you can move forward into the life of victory He has prepared for you!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, today I surrender every area of my life to You. Help my thoughts to line up with Your Word. Bring Your promises to my remembrance today as I meditate on You in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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2/17/16 5:10 A

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The Cradle of Hope- Easter Devotional - February 17

by Max Lucado

Christ rose first; then when Christ comes back, all his people will become alive again.
1 Corinthians 15:23 TLB

Let's go to the tomb, for Jesus lies in the tomb.

Still. Cold. Stiff. Death has claimed its greatest trophy. He is not asleep in the tomb or resting in the tomb or comatose in the tomb; he is dead in the tomb. No air in his lungs. No thoughts in his brain. No feeling in his limbs. His body is as lifeless as the stone slab upon which he has been laid.

The executioners made sure of it. When Pilate learned that Jesus was dead, he asked the soldiers if they were certain. They were. Had they seen the Nazarene twitch, had they heard even one moan, they would have broken his legs to speed his end. But there was no need. The thrust of a spear removed all doubt. The Romans knew their job. And their job was finished. They pried loose the nails, lowered his body, and gave it to Joseph and Nicodemus.

Joseph of Arimathea. Nicodemus the Pharisee. Jesus had answered the prayer of their hearts, the prayer for the Messiah. As much as the soldiers wanted him dead, even more these men wanted him alive.

As they sponged the blood from his beard, don't you know they listened for his breath? As they wrapped the cloth around his hands, don't you know they hoped for a pulse? Don't you know they searched for life?

But they didn't find it.

So they do with him what they were expected to do with a dead man. They wrap his body in clean linen and place it in a tomb. Joseph's tomb. Roman guards are stationed to guard the corpse. And a Roman seal is set on the rock of the tomb. For three days, no one gets close to the grave.

But then, Sunday arrives. And with Sunday comes light — a light within the tomb. A bright light? A soft light? Flashing? Hovering? We don't know. But there was a light. For he is the light. And with the light came life. Just as the darkness was banished, now the decay is reversed. Heaven blows and Jesus breathes. His chest expands. Waxy lips open. Wooden fingers lift. Heart valves swish and hinged joints bend.

And, as we envision the moment, we stand in awe.

We stand in awe not just because of what we see, but because of what we know. We know that we, too, will die. We know that we, too, will be buried. Our lungs, like his, will empty. Our hands, like his, will stiffen. But the rising of his body and the rolling of the stone give birth to a mighty belief: "What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us" (Rom. 6:5-9 MSG).

From When Christ Comes


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2/17/16 1:21 A

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Mary's Hope-Easter Devotional February 16

By PowerPoint Ministries and Dr. Jack Graham,

Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him, "Rabboni!" (which is to say, Teacher).

Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.
--John 20:16-18

The hope that Mary Magdalene experienced the day of Jesus' resurrection is the same hope you and I will celebrate this Easter Sunday.

For you see, my friend, this HOPE...

Helps you. It helps you cope with the darkness of disappointment. When you know Jesus Christ, you see Easter as more than a religious observance. It is the reality of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ!

Opens to you the possibility of restoration after defeat. Because Jesus came back from the grave, you can be restored and renewed, no matter how defeated you may feel.

Provides you an answer when you doubt. Today, you may be wondering if all this is really true. If so, I advise you to sincerely search for God with all your heart by reading the Bible and listening to His Word being preached. Because He will show Himself strong on your behalf.

Enables you to conquer death. Through your trust in Christ, you will live forever in eternity with Him.

Did you know that 60 percent of Americans will go to church this Easter? And did you know that only 25 percent of those who go even know Easter's true meaning?

I don't want you to miss the true meaning of Easter! Because Jesus Christ lives, you can be forgiven of your sins, you can live a fulfilling life, and you can be free!

YOU CAN HAVE HOPE TODAY BECAUSE OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION!


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