Will You Withstand God’s Refining?

[205 words] “And the people of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until the evening. And they inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall we again draw near to fight against our brothers, the people of Benjamin?’ And the Lord said, ‘Go up against them’” (Judges 20:23). It had come to this. When God’s people had first entered the Promised Land with Joshua so many years before, they were God’s instrument for justice against the pagan nations about whom His longsuffering had run out. The Israelites shrank back from obeying God and eventually blended in with the cultures around them...

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What Would You Be Remembered For?

[222 words] “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). God would be a terrible obituary writer. You know, no matter how the person lived his or her life, the blurb in the newspaper always says glowing things about the person … but God tells it how it is! They were a chosen race, but they had chosen sin. They were a royal priesthood, but they had bowed down to idols of their own making. They were a holy nation, but they had fashioned the Creator in their...

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Perseverance and Hope for the Future

[234 words] “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). In so many ways, the very end of the Bible is a mirror-image of its beginning. Because of sin, man in Genesis is separated from God’s presence and is kept from reaching out to eat of the Tree of Life; in Revelation, that access is restored and intimate fellowship with God along with it. The account of the church, then, is really about man walking with God. It took a perfect God taking...

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What Do You Do With His Gift?

[230 words] “And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave the garments to those who had told the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father’s house” (Judges 14:19). Samson is known by many for his great strength. God uses him in many unique ways to deliver Israel from their enemies, and with each success, it’s written that the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him. Samson is a man’s man—and so it’s no wonder that when...

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Don’t Wage War as the World Does

[236 words] “Then 3000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, ‘Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?’ And he said to them, ‘As they did to me, so have I done to them’” (Judges 15:11). There’s a lot of avenging going on here. Samson’s wife was given to his best man because he didn’t like being tricked into giving up his riddle. So he sent 300 foxes with lit torches tied to their tails into...

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Do You Evangelize and Edify?

[220 words] “But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:19-20). On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on those gathered all together in one place and then promised to all believers who would repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Emboldened by God’s presence dwelling within them, they chose to go forth as Jesus had commanded...

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Motivation for the Christian

[222 words] “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that … we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11). I recently saw a picture labeled “motivation.” It was of a man racing up the hill on his bicycle with a bear not far behind him. A doctor’s diagnosis might motivate a man who rarely leaves his couch to exercise and eat healthier. A death of a loved one often motivates people...

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Do You Edify?

[217 words] “…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20). Known as the Great Commission, this passage at the end of Matthew is often used, and rightly so, to speak about our core value of evangelism. We understand that the implication to seek and to save the lost is for us and not just for those those gathered on that day that the resurrected Christ ascended into heaven. But, slipped into it also is the call for us to teach. Making disciples is essential and certainly some teaching is involved for them to obey the gospel,...

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Who Are You Trusting to Save You?

[230 words] “And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life in my hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?” (Judges 12:3). Jephthah had tried explaining to the king of the Ammonites that he had no cause for war, but he wouldn’t listen. We’re told in Proverbs 15:1 that a soft answer is supposed to turn away wrath, but that didn’t work. Neither did it work for Jephthah when the Ephraimites were upset...

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We Have the Manual

[232 words] “Then Manoah prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born’” (Judges 13:8). I still remember the feeling when the hospital let us leave to take care of our first child. Talking about it later, my wife and I both thought we should have been sent with an instruction manual to know how to provide for and protect this new life. The angel of the Lord appeared to Samson’s parents and...

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What Great Works Will He Do Through You?

[233 words] “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Wait! Greater works than what Jesus did while He was here on this earth? There’s no doubt that the King of Kings was the servant of servants. He lived servitude: washing feet, touching a leper, raising the dead, multiplying food, curing the sick, teaching the lost, loving the unloved. And then He endured all He did before hanging on a cross for all...

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To Receive Forgiveness, Love

[244 words] “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).  In this age of tolerance, it is so easy for us to define biblical terms in our own ways, ways that perhaps suit or justify what we’re already doing. But God is very good about making sure that there is no room for accepting a standard or definition any different than the one He intends us to have. After reading: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” could anyone truly accept a lesser...

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Sharing Christianity

[241 words] “All the believers were one in heart and mind No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had“ (Acts 4:32). I have about fifty cards for various stores and clubs, so many that I keep them in an organizer m my car because they don’t fit in my wallet. Why did I join so many? Savings and fellowship. I get something from each one. Perhaps it’s access to the 30 percent off sale items or the cents per gallon off a gas purchase or time spent with other community leaders....

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The Church is Praying

[215 words] “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God” (Acts 4:23-24). Prayer is in everything that the people of God do. We are commanded to “pray continually.” God’s people got into the most trouble when they did not inquire of the Lord. Prayer is to be a part of our daily walk with God, but it must be part of our worship when we come together as a church....

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His Strength, or Your Safety?

[222 words] “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lions mouth” (2 Tim. 4:17). We sing the song: “…though none go with me, I still will follow.” But would we? I’ve been battling a particularly persistent nest of wasps that dig a new entrance from the roots of a forsythia bush every time I destroy a tunnel and kill a number of them. I can’t help but think that is what Satan does...

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Will You Step Out of the Boat?

[216 words] “But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don t be afraid ” (Matthew 14:27). After feeding the 5,000, Jesus “made” the disciples go on ahead of Him in the boat while He dismissed the crowd and prayed. When the wind and the waves get fierce in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus comes walking to his terrified followers on the water. His words to them tell so much about His purpose. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” reveal that because Emmanuel “God with us” is with them they can have courage...

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How Do You Approach God?

[207 words] “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’” (Heb. 12:28-29). This description of acceptable worship begins many verses before with a very impressive list of descriptors for God’s dwelling place, then God, then Jesus, and then the power of His will through His voice. Two instructions are given to those who “have come to” Him: “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks” and “let us…worship God acceptably.” We get the idea,...

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The Lure of Egypt’s Leeks

[228 words] “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea 11:1). It was in Egypt that the Israelites groaned in their slavery. It was to Egypt that many of the rescued Israelites wanted to return while tired of wandering in the desert. It was to Egypt that God told them they were never to return or seek help from, and yet, by verse 5, God reveals the awful truth: “Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent?” This would be the...

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Do You Hurry From the Tomb?

[221 words] “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples” (Matthew 28:8). In Luke 2, the angel told the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” These shepherds “hurried off” and saw this “good news of great joy” and then ran to “spread the word” about the eternal God’s first birth. Ironically, the angel that announces the second birth of the “firstborn...

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Preaching in Spite of Opposition

[251 words] “We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition” (1 Thessalonians 2:2). Never do we hear Paul complain, and his causes to complain would be many. Just a shipwreck and a stoning would be enough for me. No, his eyes are so ever-fixed on Jesus and the end goal of his faithful service that whatever he had to endure was worth it if the gospel could be heard and obeyed. In fact, in this whole chapter...

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How Goes Your Battle? 

  [224 words] “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” Matthew 6:6.  A big theme to come out of the latest faith-based film, War Room, is that we, as individual Christians, must have a prayer strategy. Just as those in charge of a military engagement gather and develop a plan to win a battle in the world, we must know how we will win the spiritual battles we face. 2 Corinthians 10 tells us that...

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Do You Submit to God’s Will?

  [237 words] “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (Hebrews 5:7). What is the one thing an omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-present God not know how to do? Submit! How would He? Yet, His creation that is made in His image is called to do that very thing. So, if God would truly have the full experience of knowing what it was like to be made like us by putting...

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Do You Prepare?

  [225 words] “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:37). When it’s raining, there’s no way to fix the leaky roof, and when the sun is shining, there’s no need. We are our own worst enemies, and God knows this. He tells Ezekiel that as a watchman, He is holding the prophet responsible for warning the people about enemies, both physical and spiritual, and if they don’t take precautions, then their blood is on their own heads. Even God’s people won’t heed the dangers that threaten their salvation. To the elders he addresses on his...

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Do You Watch and Pray?

  [237 words] “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38). In the midst of His own storm, our Savior prayed in the preparation He had made for Himself. He had brought three of his followers farther into the garden for the fellowship and company we all who are in the flesh crave. It is not good, after all, for man to be alone. But, that watchfulness was not to be a comfort to Him as the men fell asleep and had not spiritually prepared themselves,...

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Have You Conquered?

  [212 words] “‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). It’s that time of year that scary images will be coming across your TV screen and terrifying creatures knocking on your door. No, I’m not talking about the upcoming election. It’s Halloween, the day the world glorifies death and violence as the most powerful force they...

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Spiritual Superpowers

  [223 words] “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” Romans 12:21. My teens have posed the question: if you were a superhero, what superpower would you want to have? Answers range from extreme speed to flight, from x-ray vision to great strength. Everyone wants to be in control and not beaten back by the villains. So, on the surface, everyone agrees wholeheartedly that we shouldn’t be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good—like ‘good’ is some sort of superpower to wield. But, Jesus tells us that only God is good. And yet, we...

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Clear-minded and Self-controlled

[241 words] “The end of all things is near.  Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” 1 Peter 4:7. This chapter is pivotal for living a life in Christ!  When we become a Christian, we admit that when we lived for “evil human desires,” we made a mess of our lives.  Now, we live for the will of God.  This does not mean that He fills us to take control over us (that might be nice if He did!).  No, but He gives us strength and guidance to “live according to God in regard to the...

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What is God to You?

  [227 words] “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods” Psalm 95:1-3. We are to gather to sing for joy, shout aloud, come before Him thanksgiving and extol Him. Why? Be.cause He is great. He is God. He is the great King. He is above any idol that man would want to place beside Him or above Him. The reason why human...

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What God Has Done for You

  [233 words] “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!” (Psalm 66:5).  We’ve just been talking about the righteousness that Jesus gained for us while we were enemies of God and dead in our sins.  Because He loved us so much, He sent His only and beloved Son to die on our behalf.  Those who had earned death are given hope that we can rejoice in!  It is only natural, then, that a category of psalms is that of prayers of the community for God’s saving help.  God has done incredible things.  If...

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Confidence!

[234 words] “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” Psalm 16:11. Looking back on it, I realize, of course, that the compost pile was really just at the end of a long backyard on the edge of our woods, but to a kid with an active imagination, I was Ichabod Crane waiting for the headless horseman to leap out of the darkness to take me. As the oldest, it was often my job to take the food scraps out to the...

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Got Faith?

[192 words] “This righteousness from God comes through faith inJesus Christ to all who believe … “ Romans 3:22. Having already established that there is an obedience that comes faith, that faith is something we do, and that we must not rest in what we’ve done or who we think we are in God’s sight, the third chapter of Romans holds up God’s complete faithfulness and righteousness in contrast to our complete lack of these qualities. All of us are being held accountable for having been found sinners and fallen short of the glory of God. Thus, we need Jesus’...

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Is God Pleased With You?

[226 words] “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way…” (Colossians 1:10). We love because the Lord first loved us, though we were enemies to Him and separated from Him, and sent Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Christ’s love, therefore, is the motivating force behind all that we do, and from that love come our values of benevolence, edification, and evangelism. This is not just what we do; it is who we are as ‘Christians.’ All three values are wrapped up in...

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Do You Believe the Bible is True?

[210 words] “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus, the Word made flesh Himself, claims in His Word, that the Word of God is truth. Well, many worldly skeptics would argue that just because the Bible claims to be truth doesn’t make it so (even though they would accept that a boy identifying as a girl allows him to use a different restroom). But they have a point. We should not claim something about the Bible that it does not claim for itself or that God, while He made His dwelling among us, didn’t claim...

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Do You Follow God’s Son?

[175 words] “And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry…” (Luke 3:22-23). After many convincing proofs from His birth and childhood about who Jesus was, Luke, writing from his investigations and eyewitness accounts, ties in John’s role as a forerunner to the Messiah’s ministry and then gives the biggest endorsement of all: the Father’s seal of approval. Without that, Jesus would have just appeared as a carpenter from Galilee who, either through deception or lunacy, was...

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Who Do You Understand Jesus to Be?

[214 words] “Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:20-21). For centuries, God’s chosen people had been expecting a Savior, God Himself. In one of those passages, Isaiah had written over 700 years before that the Messiah would fulfill certain requirements: “The Spirit o the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me...

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What is Flowing from Your Heart?

  [229 words] “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). God is the “God of hope” and fills us with joy and peace, but something is required of us.  Yes, grace and eternal life in Christ are gifts and we don’t work for our salvation, but we are to “trust in him.”  Faith is required on our part to take God at His Word and believe His promises in order to be filled with joy...

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Watch and Pray

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38). In the midst of His own storm, our Savior prayed in the preparation He had made for Himself.  He had brought three of his followers farther into the garden for the fellowship and company we all who are in the flesh crave.  It is not good, after all, for man to be alone.  But, that watchfulness was not to be a comfort to Him as the men fell asleep and had not spiritually prepared themselves, despite repeated warnings,...

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Crucified with Christ

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” Galatians 2:20. If we replay the gospel backwards from the religious confusion we have today, we see that without the ascension the Holy Spirit could not come, Jesus could not be our High Priest, and the church could not be established.  Jesus’ resurrection means that we too can overcome the grave, but first we must be “buried with Him in...

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Do You Believe and Obey?

“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel” (Romans 9:2-4). Anyone who has ever known a loved one to slip away from this life without obeying the gospel, who had rejected the gospel that spoken to them knows the “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” that was in Paul’s heart as he saw the Jews who had every advantage in knowing God and were anticipating the Messiah but rejected Jesus...

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Do You Love Me? Feed My Sheep

“The third time he said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’” John 21:17. Peter knew how his sin of denying Jesus three times hurt Him. Luke’s gospel records how Peter “wept bitterly” after the cock crowed and Jesus looked straight at him. That Jesus had predicted he would do that despite Peter’s insistence that he would stay faithful even to death did not help. In...

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