The Sacrifice of Praise

June 7, 2021 by  
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By DiAne Gates –

I flopped on the couch this morning, my mood as gray and heavy as the stormy sky. This week has been filled with problems—serious, heart wrenching family problems. I’ve been reading through the Book of Psalm and today was the 66th Psalm, which began:

“Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name; Make His praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are Thy works!”

Shouting joyfully to God was not on my agenda this morning. Rather murmuring and whining.

I read the psalm over again and remembered several other psalms. This wasn’t a suggestion. My brain screamed, All right, God. How? How can I be joyful about anything today? You know my heart is breaking.

But the words on the page didn’t change.

The silence was deafening. Why? Why is this imperative statement repeated over and over throughout the psalms?

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Be thankful unto Him and bless His name for the Lord is good” (Psalm 100:4 KJV).

“O sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonderful things” (Psalm 98:1KJV).

“I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1 KJV).

That still, small voice whispered to my heart, “To come any other way tells Me you don’t trust Me.” I sucked a deep breath and heard, “Oh ye of little faith. In all of your sixty-nine-years, have I provided for you? Protected you and proven that I am at work in all things in your life? In all of your trials, sorrows, or problems have I ever left you alone?”

I lowered my head. “I’m sorry, Lord. Yes. You are always faithful. Please forgive me and I will offer the sacrifice of praise to You.”

That was the answer!

When I’m on top of the world and everything’s going my way, it’s easy to praise. Singing joy-filled songs at that moment costs me nothing thing. Was it David or Abraham who said they wouldn’t offer anything to God that didn’t cost them something?

Hmm. Could it be that coming before God with thanksgiving and praise, in spite of my circumstances, is that sacrifice of praise the psalmist wrote about? Could it be when I murmur and complain I’m saying, “God, you’ve not told me the truth. You’re not good.”

A bubble of joy gurgled deep in my soul and shattered the shroud of gloom that had consumed my heart. I reread the words of Psalm 66 and agreed with God that He was indeed an awesome, magnificent, and mighty God in all circumstances of life.

Throughout the morning, I sang, “What a Mighty God We Serve.” His peace filled my heart because I chose to obey His Word.

His joy changed my thoughts and emotions all day. Have the problems vanished? No. But in those quiet moments this morning, I gave them to Jesus. They’re too heavy for me to bear.

How about you? Are burdens suffocating your joy today? Wringing the last particle of endurance from your spirit? Are there burdens you need to relinquish to Him? He’s ready to listen and act when you come to Him. Sing the glory of His name, even with eyes pouring tears of sorrow. Offer Him the sacrifice of praise. Trust His faithfulness to work all things together for your good and His glory, because you’re His child. You belong to Him.

That doesn’t mean all things are good. Joseph spent twenty years in prison. I’m sure those prison bars didn’t seem good. But God was at work. Even when Joseph didn’t see or understand what He was doing. Read the account of Joseph’s life in Genesis 37-50 and remember. God hasn’t yet revealed the final line of your story. Do you trust Him? Then offer that sacrifice of praise. You can, because He never fails.

Guarding Date Nights

May 28, 2021 by  
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By Jennifer Slattery –

“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31 NLT).

Early in our marriage, my husband and I made a commitment. We decided we’d place our marriage first. We’d sit beside each other in the restaurant even though our daughter tried to wiggle between us. We’d schedule date nights and hire babysitters even though it would wipe out our monthly budget. We’d go on annual trips, just the two of us, even though leaving our daughter left a knot in my gut. Sixteen years later, our love is even stronger than on the day we said I do. I believe our commitment to guard date nights played a major role in that.

I’ve learned if I want an intimate relationship with my eternal Husband, Jesus Christ, I need to do the same thing. This can be hard, especially when you become involved in ministry. There’s always a hole needing to be filled, a study to attend, a person in need of prayer. But if we’re not careful, our business can steal our needed time with God. Sometimes we have to say no and leave the results–and other people’s expectations–to God.

For me, my day is Sunday. It’s taken a few years for my family to catch on, but on Sunday, I let the laundry lie. I let the dishes set, and I grab my iPhone with my Pandora and head for a nice long walk—by myself. It’s my special time with Jesus. Sometimes it lasts a few hours, other times it extends all day, but I always come back refreshed and recharged.

What about you? Have you and Jesus set aside a “date night?” This date will look different for everyone, but I believe we all need it. I believe we all crave it. Spend a moment with God and ask Him what day and time He’d like you to set aside for Him. For the two of you to get away. Then ask Him to remind you and help you follow through.

Equally important, we need to encourage and allow other people to do the same.

Life After Sin

May 18, 2021 by  
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By Janet Morris Grimes –

I grew up as a Christian, surrounded by people who were sincere, walked out their faith, and lived by example. To this day, I am truly thankful for the way they demonstrated how I should live my life.

But none of that mattered once I crossed the threshold into sin.

I’m not referring to the little mistakes one might make as I grew up. I am talking about big, life-changing stuff. The kind of stuff I promised myself I would never do. The kind of stuff I thought I was strong enough to handle. The kind of stuff that stays hidden for a while. But eventually, the truth comes out. And the whole world knows it.

It’s the kind of sin that suddenly made me aware of how much I needed a Savior. The kind that proved that on my own, I was not nearly as strong nor as great as my adoring public thought I was.

And that journey led me straight to Peter.

He, like me, thought he could handle it. Jesus, on the other hand, already knew he could not. That he would fall. And it would hurt.

Sometimes, this story is overshadowed by that of Judas. The King of the Betrayers. But in a scene that may be more important, Peter shows us, by example, what happens after the sin.

In the upper room, during what became known as The Last Supper, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial of Him. But He does more than this. He blankets the situation with prayer, in advance. And not only does He predict the fall. He predicts the healing. The overcoming. The triumphant life, after the sin.

It all happens in Luke. Once Jesus confronts Judas about his pending betrayal, a discussion breaks out among the twelve. But, Jesus quickly turns the conversation to Peter.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31 – 32 NLT).

Before Peter is even aware of his weaknesses, Jesus prayed over it. And this happens before Jesus predicts that Peter will deny Him three times on that very day.

And then Peter falls.

It is important to note how Peter responds. Everyone is in turmoil over the death of Jesus. Peter, perhaps more than others because of his own failures. He is not sure how to handle his own guilt.

Thankfully, he doesn’t have to.

Because, once Jesus had risen on the following Sunday, the angel who told Mary and the others about it had a special message for Peter.

“Now, go and tell the others, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died” (Mark 16:7 NLT).

Jesus wanted to make sure Peter knew He was alive, and that He would see him soon.

And Peter was thrilled with that news. What happens next, once he hears that the tomb was found empty?

Peter ran.

He ran to the tomb to see for himself. He ran back to Jesus with open arms. He accepted forgiveness without looking back. He ran to the future, without fear.

And when he had repented and returned to Jesus, he strengthened his brothers.

Just as Jesus had prayed.

Peter proved that the triumph comes by running to the Savior, after the sin.

The Kingdom of Heaven

May 14, 2021 by  
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By Warren M Mueller –

Jesus uses over the phrase “kingdom of heaven” 30 times in the gospel of Matthew. This phrase or the synonymous phrase “kingdom of God” is used over 60 times in the others gospels and epistles. Therefore, this is an important theme in the teachings of Jesus. So what is this kingdom like? First, God has unlimited power and so he has control over everything. As king, everything happens according to his will. However, this is not to say that God is the author of evil. God gave the angels and mankind the ability to obey or digress from the decrees of God so evil is the result of rebellion against God but he is not the author of it. With this as the setting, let’s examine some of the teachings of Jesus and his disciples about his kingdom.

Jesus said that his kingdom is not of this world which is to say that the present conditions on earth are not in perfect harmony with his will (Jn 18:36). Satan and his demons rebelled against the positions in heaven assigned to them by God and so were cast to the earth. Likewise, a curse and corruption resulting in death has come upon mankind for disobeying God’s command not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. As a result of these rebellions, the conditions on earth are like a rotting apple in the garden of God’s otherwise perfect universe. In this analogy, the demons and mankind are like worms that consume and alter the apple which is subject to decay. God has given dominion of this world to the devil who is called its ruler and the spirit at work in those who are disobedient (Eph 2:2).

When Jesus was born, he entered into the realm of Satan as a human. However, there was something different about Jesus because his essence was also divine. He was a dual citizen of both heaven and earth. This meant that, although he was tempted by his humanity to sin, his divinity enabled him to conform to the will of God the Father in heaven (Jn 8:28-29). In other words, Jesus had both a human view and divine view of himself and his surroundings. This is what John the Baptist meant when he said, “Repent for the kingdom of God is near” (Mt 3:1-2 NIV). John’s call to repentance is primarily to change the mind by seeing sin as rebellion and self as fallen away from God. It may also include sorrow and a desire to change but this is an outcome not the motivation. In other words, a person can be sorry for committing sins but continue to do them until there is a change in thinking that drives a different behavior. Therefore, the kingdom of God involves a change of mind as a result of a fundamental change (Jn 1:12-13). This is why Jesus said that each person must undergo a spiritual change so fundamental it is like a birth in order to enter the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3).

How does this change occur? The Bible teaches that those who put their faith in Jesus and their personal savior and Lord undergo a radical transformation internally as the kingdom of God is established within (Lk 17:20). The Holy Spirit indwells each believer and a transformation of the mind begins which works itself outward in changed behavior that reflects the kingship of Christ (Mt 13:11; 2 Cor 3:18). This inside out growth of the kingdom of heaven in believers is like the action of yeast in bread (Mt 13:33). The kingdom of heaven is an invasion of the dominion of Satan. The kingdom of heaven will continue to grow like a mustard seed into a great tree that will spread throughout the earth (Mt 13:32).

The presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the deposit or guarantee of membership in the kingdom of heaven and is the most precious treasure that a person can have (Mt 13:44; 1 Cor 6:19). A judgment day is coming when it will become obvious who does or does not belong to the kingdom of God (Mt 13:37-43). Eventually the bodies of dead and alive believers will be transformed and live with Jesus in a new earth free from the dominion of Satan and corruption (1 Cor 15:50; Rev 21:1-4).

The kingdom of heaven has invaded this world and is transforming it from the inside out. If you are not part of the kingdom of God, I pray that you will enter it through faith in Jesus Christ and experience the joy, peace, love and wonder of this transformation (Jn 3:16-17)!

Signs of the End Times? The Blossoming of Israel

May 8, 2021 by  
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By Dianne E. Butts –

In Deuteronomy 27-30 (see 30:15-21), Moses told the people of Israel that if they lived according to the good ways God wanted them to live by, they would be “blessed” and would prosper. But if they “forgot” God, which means moving away from Him and refusing to live the good ways He wanted them to live, He would not bless or prosper them. This is because the Israelites were to represent God the world. God is good, so the people were to represent Him by being good. If they were not good, they were not representing God and needed to be removed from the land so that the rest of the world would not have a bad and wrong impression of God.

Unfortunately, Israel did indeed forget God and began to live in the same way the rest of the world was living. They did not represent God to the world, so God removed them from the land He had given them.

When Israel was taken out of the land and the people dispersed all over the world, the land became a nearly uninhabited, desolate wasteland—a picture of the condition of Israel’s relationship with God.

But the people of Israel began returning to the land after World War II, and on May 14, 1948, Israel became a nation again after nearly two millennia of being dispersed. Since then, that desolate desert wasteland has begun to blossom, just as Bible prophecies predicted. Here are two examples of those predictions:

“But you, O mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home. I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, and I will multiply the number of people upon you, even the whole house of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will increase the number of men and animals upon you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then you will know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 36:8-11, NIV).

“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.” Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it’” (Ezekiel 36:33-36).

Today, according to 101 Last Days Prophecies by Eternal Productions, “Israel’s increased rainfall and world renowned irrigation technology have caused the land to blossom. Incredibly, as foretold, they currently export over 1,200 million dollars of fresh produce each year, including over 100 million in flowers and ornamentals plants. Amazingly, this recently re-gathered, often attacked, tiny nation exported over 54 billion dollars worth of goods in 2010. This was inconceivable a century ago. In contrast, their neighbor, Jordan exported less than 8 billion in 2010” (p. 9-10).

Could the re-blossoming of Israel be a fulfillment of prophecy and a sign of the End Times?

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