With Just the 300: The Battle Belongs to the Lord

Judges 7:2-7

The Lord said to Gideon, The people who are with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, My own hand has saved me.

Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.

There returned of the people twenty-two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.
The Lord said to Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down to the water, and I will try them for you there: and it shall be, that of whom I tell you, This shall go with you, the same shall go with you; and of whoever I tell you, This shall not go with you, the same shall not go.

So he brought down the people to the water: and Yahweh said to Gideon, Everyone who laps of the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, him shall you set by himself; likewise everyone who bows down on his knees to drink.

The number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down on their knees to drink water.

The Lord said to Gideon, By the three hundred men who lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand; and let all the people go every man to his place.

What are your struggling with? Are you successful in overcoming it? Take refuge in the Lord and delight in His ways. Struggle no more relying upon your own strength.

The battle belongs to the Lord. Unless He plans the battle, the warriors fight in vain.

Are you frustrated and dismayed over your situation? Does your strength and capacity seem to be being diminished instead of being increased in order to match your struggle? If it is so, worry not therefore; for now, your struggle will cause you to realize that it is not your own strength that will make you overcome your trial, but the Lord's.


Searching For A Vessel

Author Unknown
FoodForThought - InJesus.com

The Master was searching for a vessel to use; On the shelf there were many - which one would He choose? Take me, cried the gold one, I'm shiny and bright, I'm of great value and I do things just right. My beauty and lustre will outshine the rest And for someone like You, Master, gold would be the best!

The Master passed on with no word at all;
He looked at a silver urn, narrow and tall;
I'll serve You, dear Master, I'll pour out Your wine
And I'll be at Your table whenever You dine,
My lines are so graceful, my carvings so true,
And my silver will always compliment You.

Unheeding the Master passed on to the brass,
It was widemouthed and shallow, and polished like glass.
Here! Here! cried the vessel, I know I will do,
Place me on Your table for all men to view.

Look at me, called the goblet of crystal so clear,
My transparency shows my contents so dear,
Though fragile am I, I will serve You with pride,
And I'm sure I'll be happy in Your house to abide.
The Master came next to a vessel of wood,
Polished and carved, it solidly stood.
You may use me, dear Master, the wooden bowl said,
But I'd rather You used me for fruit, not for bread!

Then the Master looked down and saw a vessel of clay.
Empty and broken it helplessly lay.
No hope had the vessel that the Master might choose,
To cleanse and make whole, to fill and to use.

Ah! This is the vessel I've been hoping to find,
I will mend and use it and make it all Mine.
I need not the vessel with pride of its self;
Nor the one who is narrow to sit on the shelf;
Nor the one who is bigmouthed and shallow and loud;
Nor one who displays his contents so proud;
Not the one who thinks he can do all things just right;
But this plain earthy vessel filled with My power and might.

Then gently He lifted the vessel of clay.
Mended and cleansed it and filled it that day.
Spoke to it kindly. There's work you must do,
Just pour out to others as I pour into you.

Underdogs and Earthen Vessels

By Dennis Bratcher
The Voice


Since I am a guest here in Kansas City for a few days, I felt some kind of obligation last Saturday to participate in the ritual of watching the KC Chiefs play Miami. I figured the better part of diplomacy, especially since I watched part of the game with some diehard Chiefs fans, would be to root for the Chiefs. And I enjoyed the game.

Actually, though, I am not much of a sports fanatic. I'm not the kind of fan who has a favorite team that I follow through the season. I usually just happen onto a game and become interested. I stumbled onto the Peach Bowl from Atlanta a couple of weeks ago. At the time I tuned in, Auburn was thoroughly dominating Indiana and the score showed it.

Now here is where you'll find out why I could never be a true sports fan. In a matter of minutes I had started vicariously playing the game on the side of Indiana. Why Indiana? Simply because they were behind. You see, that's how I choose teams. I root for the underdog.

I'm not sure whether it's an odd quirk in my personality or whether it's something from my rural western Oklahoma heritage, but I have great sympathy for the underdog. The person who really doesn't have much going for them. The person who might have made it but just doesn't have enough going for them to win.

The Biblical Perspective

As I have studied the Bible, I have noticed that perhaps my tendency to cheer the underdog is not so strange after all. I have gradually come to the realization that most of the people who play key roles in the Bible could be described as underdogs. People who really didn't have much going for them. People who really didn't have it together enough to come out on top.

Childless women. Old men. The youngest sons. Cowards. Stutterers. Daydreamers. Shepherds. Murderers. Slaves. Prostitutes. In fact, I have realized that here is one of the central truths of the entire Bible, what I call the "theology of the underdog."

The Bible presents this "theology of the underdog" from a variety of perspectives. Let's look at just one of those perspectives, presented in the form of a warning. The passage is from the Book of Deuteronomy (8:11-18). This book is a sort of condensation of the theological pilgrimage of the Israelite people.

8:11 Take care that you do not forget the LORD your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. 8:12 When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 8:13 and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 8:14 then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 8:15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 8:16 and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 8:17 Do not say to yourself, "My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth." 8:18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. 8:19 If you do forget the LORD your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.

After the Israelites left the harsh life of the desert, they settled down in the more stable environment of Canaan. There they faced new and more subtle dangers. As the ragged band of slaves had fled the tyranny of Pharaoh, God Himself had fought for them because they could not fight for themselves. But as they settled in the land they had less and less need for God to fight battles for them.

They had wandered homeless in the desert for 40 years and God had taken care of all their needs. But after settling in the land they could build their own houses and raise their own food. The people who had earlier depended on God's cloud and pillar of fire for guidance and God's manna for daily survival now had military overlords, fortresses, and storage cities. The people had once looked to Yahweh, the God of the Fathers, the God of the Mountain, the God of the Desert, the great warrior God for help and deliverance. But now, settled comfortably in the land, they sacrificed to Baal, the Canaanite god of rain and fertility, and to Ashtoroth, the earth goddess, so the crops would grow and the livestock would produce.

You see, their temptation was that the further in time the people got from the harsh realities of Egyptian tyranny, the less they thought they needed God. The more self sufficient they became, the more they forgot about the role of God in the creation of their nation. They could almost remember that it was their great army that had defeated Pharaoh. They could almost remember that they had conquered the walls of Jericho. They could almost remember that they had earned a right to the land and could handle their own destiny. It was to this kind of dangerous self-sufficiency that the warning of Deuteronomy is addressed.

Deuteronomy begins with a quick survey of how God had worked in the past. That was a primary way the Old testament community dealt with problems: by looking at the traditions of the past to learn the lessons of history. One feature that stood out in those traditions was that God's presence could be seen in the most powerful and dynamic ways working through the most unlikely people in the most adverse circumstances in the face of the most overwhelming odds. In fact, the Israelites' very existence as a people had depended on God working through the most unlikely persons, the underdogs, to effect deliverance for His people.

Who would have given Abraham two cents for his promise of being the father of a great nation when he was 99 years old and his wife could no longer have children? We would have bought stock in Ishmael's company. But Sarah bore the child of laughter according to the promise of God.

What odds would we have given Joseph that his dream of leadership would come to pass as he was sold into slavery in Egypt, and spent years forgotten in prison? But God used Joseph to save Israel's sons from starvation.

Who would have foreseen that a group of slaves in Egypt could be led from bondage to freedom by a man so ungifted in leadership, speaking ability, diplomacy, and plain common sense, as Moses? And who would have given that scraggly bunch of slaves much of a chance of even making it to the Red Sea, let alone getting across?

Such stories do not stop when the Israelites settle in the land.

Who would have thought that a young widow from an enemy people living in a foreign country would be a factor in the royal lineage of Israel's greatest kings? Yet Ruth appears in the Royal Judean line leading to David.

And who would have chosen David to be king? Anyone with a little common sense would know that a shepherd kid, the youngest of the family, who daydreams while playing the lyre and singing to a bunch of sheep would not make a good national leader. But God chose him!

Jeremiah should never have been called as a prophet. Prophets are supposed to be rugged men like Elijah, who can call down fire from heaven at the drop of a hat. Jeremiah was practically a basket case of emotions. But God used him!

And we could go on through the entire Bible. What emerges here, if we listen carefully to the biblical texts, is an understanding of how God works with humanity. The writer of Deuteronomy looked back at the traditions and the path that Israel had traveled and applied the lessons of history to his own day.

What he saw was that Israel owed her existence, not to her power or skill or righteousness, but solely to the grace and power of God working in the lives of the least likely people, the underdogs. The writer understands that the difficulties, the trials, the problems, the total unlikeliness of it all, demonstrated that it could only be from God!

The truth that Deuteronomy communicates is that God wants us never to forget that it is not by our power and our strength that we exist as servants of God, but by his grace extended to the least among us.

How else could we believe that a man who was born to a poor, unmarried Jewish peasant girl in a backwoods province of an ancient empire, a man who was executed by a civil court for sedition against the state, was the son of God?!

Paul is perhaps the most eloquent proponent of this "theology of the underdog." In 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 he writes:

27 God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 God has chosen what is low and despised in the world, things that are not to reduce to nothing the things that are, 29 so that no person might boast before God.

Probably the most powerful statement of this perspective in the entire Bible is in 2 Corinthians 4:7:

7 We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves!

Are we as Christians really underdogs? In a very real sense, yes, because we possess no strength within ourselves. Earthen vessels? Yes! Fragile! Not always pretty! But useful.

Powerless? On our own, yes. With God, by no means!


One of the greatest dangers that we face as Christians, especially those who feel led into some kind of special ministry, is that we are tempted to forget where our strength lies.

We must study and prepare to fulfill our call as ministers, to be the best servants of God that we can possibly be. That is part of our calling in the modern world. But the danger is that the more we study, the more we learn the techniques of sermon building, church growth, evangelism; the more we learn how to speak, to run board meetings, to counsel people; the more we practice the nitty-gritty details of ministry, the greater is the danger of depending more and more on our own abilities. If we are not careful, we can easily develop a false confidence in our ability to get people to come to an altar, or in our expertise to raise money, or in our leadership skills in increasing attendance.

We can almost remember that it was our capability that built the church, or our faithfulness and prayer that brought revival, or our great sermon delivery that led to that movement of the Spirit in a service. And the warning of Deuteronomy rings out:

Beware lest you forget the Lord your God; . . .Lest you say in your heart, My power and the strength of my hand has done this.

And the words of Paul sound clear:

We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves!

Every time I enter a classroom, every time I stand before a congregation, every time I sit down to talk to someone about the struggle of their life, I feel a deep and profound sense of inadequacy. I feel like Moses as he responded to God's call, "Who am I that I should do this?"

But I also have a confidence. It is not a self-confidence that rests upon my abilities, my schooling, my preparation, my charisma, my personality, or on anything else that I possess. I have worked hard at all these things, yet I know my limitations and inadequacies.

When I realize the magnitude of the task that faces me in ministry, I feel very much the underdog, very much like a fragile earthen vessel. Yet I am still confident, in God. Because I know what GOD has done with underdogs and earthen vessels!


Daniel and the Lion's Den

The Daily Encourager - InJesus.com

"So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lion's den. The king said to Daniel, 'May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!'" (Daniel 6:16)

No question, Daniel got a rough deal. He was set up by jealous, lesser men who wanted him out of the way. It seemed like they succeeded, except for one thing they overlooked: Daniel's trust in God.

The interesting thing, however, about Daniel being thrown into the den of lions is that God didn't deliver him out of the den before Daniel found deliverance in it. Imagine if Daniel had fought against being thrown into the den (which he would have been justified in doing) and gone into the den fighting against it every inch of the way, chances are the lions would have torn him to shreds before he hit the bottom. But Daniel didn't. He accepted his lot and trusted his life to God who shut the lion's mouths.

On more than one occasion I have asked God that if I am not going to be delivered out of my "lion's den" (naming the frustrating situation I'm in), would he please deliver me in it.

Sometimes, like Daniel, God has a lesson for us to learn in our present difficult situation and before he delivers us out of it, like Daniel, we need to find deliverance in it.

Rep. Roilo Golez and many Filipinos are calling on those who cherish freedom and peace “to pray for the safety and life of Ces Drilon and all other who are under involuntary and hostile custody. Let’s pray that God will enlighten and soften the hearts and minds of their captors."

Prayer For Guidance and Protection

At Just The Right Time

By David Langerfeld
The Daily Encourager - InJesus.com

In 2005, I was part of a medical-dental mission team to Latacunga, Ecuador. While preaching one night, my stomach began to hurt. I assumed maybe it was the food or maybe it was the 8000' altitude, but I was confident that it would soon go away after some Pepto-Bismul.

It didn't go away. Later that night, my discomfort turned into immense pain and moved to my right side. One of my roommates, a plastic surgeon, heard my cries of anguish and made a tentative diagnosis. After a confirmation by another surgeon on our team, I had to have an emergency appendectomy the next day.

When I shared this with a relative, he laughed and said, "Well, looks like you were in the wrong place at the wrong time." What a great opportunity for me to share my faith. I told him it was just the opposite. God had everything prepared for me. He had the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

The Right People
First of all, God had the right people - a surgeon, a surgical nurse and a surgical nurse translator who were part of our Medical-Dental Mission Team.

The Right Place
Second, God had me in the right place. If this had happened in the middle of the night at my home in Tupelo, I wouldn't have had a surgeon in the room with me to diagnosis the problem. I wouldn't have had nurses in the next room to take care of me before and after the surgery. I would have been trying to locate someone in the middle of the night to stay with my wife, Lynda, who is disabled.

The Right Time
Third, God did this at just the right time - If this had happened one day earlier, we would have had one fewer doctor and two fewer nurses to work in the clinic on our busiest day of the week. If this had happened just one day later, I would have been in an airplane over the Gulf of Mexico and the outcome could have been much different. In fact, if this had happened one day later, I might not be here sharing this with you.

The Right People in the Right Place at the Right Time
I could write a separate sermon on each one these points, but today, I want to focus on just the last one. Romans 5:6 says, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." The first part of this verse has taken on new meaning to me. "At just the right time, when we were weak and powerless..."

That night in the motel room in Ecuador, I was physically weak and powerless.

But God had already prepared for me...
God had already provided for me…
God had already protected me...

Although I will always be grateful for his physical provision in this situation, it pales in comparison to his spiritual provision. Look at the scripture once again, "You see, at just the right time, when we were powerless, Christ died for the ungodly."

When I was powerless to save myself.
When I was powerless to forgive myself.
When I was unable to avoid spending eternity in Hell
When I was unable to pay for my sin
Christ paid the price for my sin
Christ died on the Cross for me

At just the right time, Jesus Christ died for this ungodly sinner.

Have you noticed that God works 'At Just The Right Time'? We all tend to become anxious and we want to know what's going to happen, when it's going to happen and where we are going to be when it happens.

We all tend to get ahead of God. We rely on our own plans, our own thoughts and our own abilities. We want something to happen, so we try to force it to happen. We know how it ought to be done, so we try to make it work the way we want it to work. Sometimes, we even wait on God for a little while, and pray about it for a long time, and when he doesn't do it our way, or he doesn't do it as soon as we want it done we go ahead and do it our way.

Remember Abraham and Sarah - God had promised them an heir. Obviously the time for child-bearing had passed for Sarah, and so they became anxious and took matters into their own hands. They ended up having a son by Hagar, their servant. Then look what happened - at "Just the Right Time," Isaac was born.

Move on further in the book of Genesis to Joseph - He was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was imprisoned by Potiphar even when he did the right thing when Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him. He was left in prison and forgotten. Nobody remembered him.

Even when did the right thing once again and helped some fellow prisoners and they were set free, he was left in prison once again - forgotten. Yet, at "Just the Right Time" he is placed in charge of the grain distribution. He is able to help his family and the nation of Israel in a unique and special way, because he was put in charge - at just the right time.

This is only the beginning. Think of all the other Bible characters that were able to accomplish great things, because God did something at just the right time - The 3 Hebrew children delivered from the fiery furnace, Daniel delivered from the Lions' den, Jonah delivered from the belly of a fish, Job, Elijah, David - the list is overwhelming.

In the life of Jesus there are also people with chronic illness or pain that He met "at just the Right Time." Take for instance the woman who had suffered from bleeding for many years and had never been healed, but "at just the right time" Jesus healed her.

Lazarus' sister Martha was so bold that she told Jesus if he had been there, that her brother wouldn't have died. Martha was assuming that the world's timing was God's timing. She felt hopeless and helpless because it was obvious that nothing else could be done because her brother was dead. But at just the right time, Jesus arrived. At just the right time, he did a miracle. At just the right time, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

My personal favorite is Blind Bartimeaus. He was begging outside of a house in Jericho. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. It was the last earthly journey Jesus would make before his crucifixion. Blind Bartimeaus was in the right place at the right time when the right person was walking down the street in front of him. If he hadn't shouted out for Jesus - he never would have been healed. If he had waited for a better time, a more convenient time - he would have missed out on a miracle, because Jesus was never coming to Jericho again. At just the right time, Blind Bartimeaus was healed.

But most importantly, at just the right time, Jesus Christ died for the ungodly. And because of that, we can receive spiritual healing. We can be forgiven for our sin and we can have eternal life.

You may be asking yourselves,
How can I know when it's the right time?
How can I make sure that I'm following God's timetable and not my own?
What can I do to insure that God will work in my life at just the right time?

The answer is simple. It's in the middle of our scripture. "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." "When we were still powerless." - That's the key.

If you're here today and you're not a Christian, you have to admit that you're powerless. You have to recognize that you're powerless to save yourself and to turn to the only one who does have the power to save you - Jesus Christ. You have to ask Jesus to forgive you of your sin, to save you and to come into you heart to live in you forever as your Lord and Savior. But it all begins when ready to admit that you're powerless to save yourself and you surrender yourself to him.

What about all of us Christians that are in this sanctuary today? We have to do the same thing. We have to admit that we're powerless to live the Christian life. It is only when we accept the fact that we are powerless that we can have the full power of Christ.

If we can meet our own needs, God doesn't need to meet them, They're already met.

If we can make our own plans, God doesn't need to direct us. We're already going where we want to go.

If have our own resources, we don't need God's resources we're already relying on ourselves.

If we can do it in our own strength, we don't need God's strength. We're doing just fine on our own.

In Luke 9:23, Jesus said, "If any man wants to be my disciple, let him deny himself daily, take up the cross and follow me."

What does it mean to deny yourself? It means that you have to admit that you're powerless. It means that you have to;

surrender your plans to God's plans
surrender your strength to God's strength
surrender your power for God's power and
surrender your will to God's will.

When you finally admit that you're powerless to do anything is when God will show you his power that he can do everything.

Let me repeat that...
When you finally admit that you're powerless to do anything is when God will show you his power that he can do everything.

Throughout the ages, God has been working at "Just the Right Time". Daily we need to put our faith and trust in God knowing that He works at "Just the Right Time" to supply our needs — and in some cases our desires as well.

Can you think of times in your own life when God supplied your needs at "Just the Right Time"? Take heart. He knew your need then - He knows your need today!

God knows your heartache and your pain, and as He told Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, His grace is sufficient for each day. He has not forgotten you.

Just when you need his provision,
just when you need his protection,
just when you need his comfort,
just when you need his mercy and his grace,
just when you need his love,
God will provide it - at just the right time.

Have you gotten ahead of God? Have you made your own plans and then asked him to bless your plans? Have you turned away from God because he hasn't given you what you want when you wanted it? Are you waiting patiently? Are you trusting him? Are you getting ahead of God? Are you trying to force him to speed up his pace?

At just the right time, Christ died of the ungodly. At the just the right time Christ died on the cross for you. At just the right time he will deliver you or lead you through whatever you're facing today. Be patent - wait on his timing - look for his answer - it will come, at just the right time.


Life's Ups And Downs

Author Unknown
FoodForThought - InJesus.com

I lift my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come? (Psalm 121:1)

Sooner or later, everyone finds himself in a place where all hope is gone. Illness, often, or unemployment that stretches on and on through month after discouragement month. Divorce, maybe, or the terrifying waywardness of a beloved child. You've tried everything you or anyone else can think of, many times, but you've finally reached the end of your rope.

God is at the end of that rope, as God has been at every point along it. When you've done all you can, all that remains is to turn it over to God. Does this mean that you'll get your heart's desire? No -- if that were so, the millions of people whose families prayed with everything that was in them for a healing and didn't get one would still be alive. You don't know in advance what your help will be, or from which direction it will come. But in unexpected deliverances and in anguished defeat, that which comforts and stays with us is God. Perhaps God will join your rejoicing. Perhaps God will share your sorrow. In your life, you will surely know both of these ways of feeling God's presence.

I think the question we can best explore with God is not so much "What will happen?" as it is "What can happen in this situation?" God is not an appropriate subject for fortune-telling; God is a God of prophecy, of discerning meaning and the potential for good in everything that happens, the good and the bad. Viewing life's ups and downs in this way opens my eyes to possibilities I would never see if I located God only in the those moments in which I got my way.


Fitting In

By Tab and Vanessa Eiler
Kingdom Destiny Ministries International

Many of us are in a season where we feel like we are "building an ark". Our "neighbors" think we're out of our mind as they watch us build this thing we're calling an "ark". "What is that for?" they ask. "How does it work?" they inquire. "Why are you spending your time doing that?!?" Does this sound familiar?

Preparation is a process we must endure in order to produce the "end results" the Father is expecting from us. We cannot lose sight of the necessity of preparation. There may be spiritual "projects" we are working on, that are not meant to "fit" into this "moment".

(Note: Use of the term "project" in this article, not only describes a particular "thing" God has called us to work on, but it is also descriptive of the thing He is doing in "us", thus making us the "project".)

We are part of a process that will "birth" something not yet seen or experienced by mankind. Our work may need to be completed well in advance and placed "on the shelf" to be released at a "proper" time. The Father knows what He's doing and He'll always give us enough information to keep us "sane" and focused while we continue to work on His "project".

Noah must have been laughed at! He must have looked mighty strange building this huge "box" in his front yard! Then, when his fellow countrymen asked how it would be used, and he told them about the rain coming, they must have really thought he was out of his mind! Noah was building something that would eventually float on top of water that would fall out of the sky! Rain had never occurred in the earth's atmosphere at that time, yet God said it would rain... later.

There are "stages" being set in preparation for future manifestations of the Kingdom and there are "props" that must be in place "before" the "curtain" opens. We are the Father's "stage crew". We are a part of His "set design" process. The Father is after excellence. He has given us His all and now He wants our all. It won't be boring!

His "blueprints" have been drawn up long ago. The Father is revealing His plans to us in this hour so that we can build a "product" that will need to be ready "later". The Father is excited! He's waited so long for this moment! It's a moment that will set the stage for a future moment!

At this time, we are involved in birthing something that will become a "now" thing, later. A "prototype" is being established in His name, yet it's our "name" that is receiving all the commentary! We may get frustrated and we may feel like it's too much pressure to build this "ark", but God knows we can do it, otherwise He would have never asked us "to" do it. He is working with us on His project. He is giving us His "meat" in order for us to do and finish His work. The more we embrace the "itinerary" of the Father, the more we will operate in a realm "not of this world". Our life and its associated expressions may appear quite contrary to "the now".

God is shaping our lives and forming us based on His purposes for us. The "now" thing He is doing in us and through us may not be a "now" thing to everyone else. We must be careful not to try to "take the wheel" in order to steer our process in a direction that helps us gain "acceptance with the masses". Our obedience to God may look silly and foolish to those around us, yet our confidence and trust in the Father must endure. When we are confident, we don't need to "prove" to others where we're at or what we're doing for God.

Our lives are the Father's birthing ground for His future events. The nations are waiting on us. There is an earnest expectation for a freshness that will be released through us. We will bring the Father much glory! Many souls will be added to His Kingdom! His name will go forth in a greater dimension! Let's stay in our process and not "abort" His project!

Humanity is counting on us. Today, they may be laughing at us, but later, they will be glad we finished all our "props", when the "curtain" opens.


The Burden of Discontent

By Max Lucado
The Daily Encourager - InJesus.com

Come to me to the most populated prison in the world. The facility has more inmates than bunks. More prisoners than plates. More residents than resources.

Come to me to the world's most oppressive prison. Just ask the inmates; they will tell you. They are overworked and underfed. Their walls are bare and bunks are hard. No prison is so populated, no prison so oppressive, and, what's more, no prison is so permanent. Most inmates never leave. They never escape. They never get released. They serve a life sentence in this overcrowded, underprovisioned facility.

The name of the prison? You'll see it over the entrance. Rainbowed over the gate are four cast-iron letters that spell out its name:

W - A - N - T

The prison of want. You've seen her prisoners. They are "in want." They want something.They want something bigger. Nicer. Faster. Thinner. They want.

They don't want much, mind you. They want just one thing. One new job. One new car. One new house. One new spouse. They don't want much. They want just one.

And when they have "one," they will be happy. And they are right -- they will be happy. When they have "one," they will leave the prison. But then it happens. The new car smell passes. The new job gets old. The neighbors buy a larger television set. The new spouse has bad habits. The sizzle fizzles, and before you know it, another ex-con breaks parole and returns to jail.

Are you in prison? You are if you feel better when you have more and worse when you have less. You are if joy is one delivery away, one transfer away, one award away, or one make-over away. If your happiness comes from something you deposit, drive, drink, or digest, then face it -- you are in prison, the prison of want.

... for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philipians 4:11-13)


Wisdom from the Aquarium

Lesson from the Goldfish
By Nellie Feng
FoodForThought - InJesus.com

There are no set formulas for finding insights. However, you will know for certain when you have chanced upon one. A profound understanding comes with it.

Take the dying of our goldfish for instance. We are all aware that a goldfish does not have a high survival rate. Our aquarium has seen its share of fish that swam and died due to one cause or another.

Now, there are two (one orange, one black) gold fishes and a shark which outlived the rest. Ever frolicking in the water, they became a welcome sight every time we get home. It was relaxing to watch them play nonstop with the pebbles at the bottom of the aquarium.

Then the slow moving gold-fishes became infested with parasite. People in our house took turns scooping them out of the water to pry loose the blood sucking parasites with surgical tweezers.

Gradually, their solid tails were reduced into shreds. The orange one started swimming belly up. The black one's eyes turned into opaque. Their scales were peppered with some whitish fungus. Even the shark (which went about its business swimming briskly as usual) began to have fungal spots sprouting all over its body too!

It was disturbing to realize that they may all eventually die. Day in and day out we would peer into the aquarium to see whether the orange one, swimming feebly belly up, is still breathing or not. The black one was already utterly blind.

My son asked " Why not help them end their misery? They would die anyway."

Out of the blue this is what I answered him: "Let us allow them to spend their last days in our aquarium undisturbed because this is their home. Like the beloved old people in our lives, I believe one of the most loving gesture is letting them live their last days peacefully in the place they call home."

To make the story short, our orange goldfish swam belly up for five days more then stopped breathing. To prevent stray cats from eating it, we buried it in the garden. The black one died two days after, it was buried beside the orange one. The shark survived, it is now swimming happily in our aquarium -- the place it calls home.

Be it an ant, a goldfish, a shark, or a man, do you believe as I firmly believe that The Good Lord has a special purpose for each of His creation?

We may not see the whole picture yet, but His plans to raise us up will become evident in the end.

Goodbye Ka Bel...


Sleeping When the Wind Blows

Author Unknown
The Daily Encourager - InJesus.com

Years ago a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops. As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals.

Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer. "Are you a good farmhand?" the farmer asked him.

"Well, I can sleep when the wind blows," answered the little man.

Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him. The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man's work.

Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand's sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, "Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!"

The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, "No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows."

Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away. The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew.

Moral: When you're prepared - spiritually, mentally, and physically - you have nothing to fear. Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life? The hired hand in the story was able to sleep because he had secured the farm against the storm. We, as believers in Christ, secure ourselves against the storms of life by grounding ourselves in the Word of God. We don't need to understand, we just need to hold His hand to have peace in the midst of the storms.

[Matthew 8:23-26] When Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. Behold, a great tempest arose in the sea, so much that the boat was covered with the waves, but he was asleep. They came to him, and woke him up, saying, “Save us, Lord! We are dying!” He said to them, “Why are you fearful, oh you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Fear not and bravely face the tempest; for the Lord is aboard your vessel. His presence is your greatest security.

When the Lord will have caused your vessel to temporarily land safely on another shore, know and do not forget the reason why He has put you on such a test.

Are you aware that you have
acquired so much cargo more than what is necessary such that your vessel is already overloaded? It is time to leave away the excesses, lest your vessel will sink in your next voyage.


Outside The Comfort Zone

Things We Don’t Want To Do

Most of us have had the experience of tackling some dreaded task only to come out the other side feeling invigorated, filled with a new sense of confidence and strength. The funny thing is, most of the time when we do them, we come out on the other side changed and often wondering what we were so worried about or why it took us so long. We may even begin to look for other tasks we’ve been avoiding so that we can feel that same heady mix of excitement and completion.

Whether we avoid something because it scares us or bores us, or because we think it will force a change we’re not ready for, putting it off only creates obstacles for us. On the other hand, facing the task at hand, no matter how onerous, creates flow in our lives and allows us to grow. The relief is palpable when we stand on the other side knowing that we did something even though it was hard or we didn't want to do it. On the other hand, when we cling to our comfort zone, never addressing the things we don’t want to face, we cut ourselves off from flow and growth.

We all have at least one thing in our life that never seems to get done. Bringing that task to the top of the list and promising ourselves that we will do it as soon as possible is an act that could liberate a tremendous amount of energy in our lives. Whatever it is, we can allow ourselves to be fueled by the promise of the feelings of exhilaration and confidence that will be the natural result of doing it.

When faced with intensely overwhelming difficulty, the common tendency is to procrastinate and drift away with time because we think there is nothing we can do about the situation that could make an impact or difference. But what many people don't know is that it seems paradoxical that there are some very good things which we could accomplish only during our times of utter helplessness.

It is only in such times that we grow more mature and come to realize the true potential of the inner strengths that God had bestowed upon us. Hardship has the unique capability of activating the dormant strengths within us.

It is God who girds me with strength, and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like hinds' feet, and sets me upon my high places. (Psalms 18:32-33)

The Lord said to me [Paul], “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)


Isn't It Strange

Author Unknown
FoodForThought - InJesus.com

Isn't it strange how a 20 dollar bill seems like such a large amount when you donate it to church, but such a small amount when you go shopping?

Isn't it strange how 2 hours seem so long when you're at church, and how short they seem when you're watching a good movie?

Isn't it strange that you can't find a word to say when you're praying, but you have no trouble thinking what to talk about with a friend?

Isn't it strange how difficult and boring it is to read one chapter of the Bible, but how easy it is to read 100 pages of a popular novel?

Isn't it strange how everyone wants front-row-tickets to concerts or games, but they do whatever is possible to sit at the last row in Church?

Isn't it strange how we need to know about an event for Church 2-3 weeks before the day so we can include it in our agenda, but we can adjust it for other events in the last minute?

Isn't it strange how difficult it is to learn a fact about God to share it with others, but how easy it is to learn, understand, extend and repeat gossip?

Isn't it strange how we believe everything that magazines and newspapers say, but we question the words in the Bible?

Isn't it strange how everyone wants a place in heaven, but they don't want to believe, do, or say anything to get there?

Isn't it strange how we send jokes in e-mails and they are forwarded right away, but when we are going to send messages about God, we think about it twice before we share it with others?

It's strange, isn't it?

The natural man doesn't receive the things of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can't know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)


Surrounding With Protective Light

Circling the Wagons

There are times when we may know of someone who is in great need and wants help, but we may feel at a loss about how best to help them. It is at such times that we can ask for help in surrounding them with support and protection, just like the pioneers once circled their wagons in the middle of unknown territory. Whether this means turning to an already established community such as a service organization or gathering support from diverse sources, a group of people can be brought together to help an individual or an entire community. It doesn’t always take money to help someone either--cooking, cleaning, driving, fund raising, or offering emotional support are all valuable and have the added benefit of the closeness of the human touch. In any case, the Lord sends angels in the form of willing friends or strangers to gather their individual lights to surround those in need with the warmth of compassion.

Some people may have difficulty accepting or even recognizing aid when it appears in unexpected guises from unlikely sources. All we can do is to follow our inner guidance, give when we are moved to do so and shine our light to the best of our ability. As we join our energy with those in the circle, we become part of something that is larger and more powerful than the individuals within it.

When we act as part of a community of service like this, we are reminded that we are not only assisting an individual or select group in the moment, but we are serving the greater good. We are creating a better world, and can rest assured that help will be there for us as well. As we offer our own light to the collective glow to help someone through a time of darkness, all of our lights become brighter. We can live every day from this place of light, knowing the freedom from fear and worry that allows us to receive and share the protective and supportive light of life.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)


I Can Love People Even When They Are Not Nice

By Ilyanla Vanzant
Excerpt from Until Today
Now Faith Inspirational Ministry, Inc.

It would be very nice if all people were nice, loving people. Unfortunately, they are not. It would be wonderful if, while you are on the path to spiritual enlightenment, every person you met would wish you well, or join you on the journey. Unfortunately, they will not.

There are many people who are in a great deal of pain, and on certain days these people will, consciously or unconsciously, inflict their pain on you.

People will speak ill of you for no good reason. People will return your good deeds with unkind, unloving words and deeds. People will lie to you, betray your confidence, selfishly hoard your property, and if they are really hurting, they may physically strike out at you.

The human tendency is to offer insult for insult, hurt for hurt, ill deed for ill deed. The spiritual imperative is to offer love for insult, love for hurt, love to everyone regardless of the ill they may offer you.

The human perspective is to harm those who have harmed you. The spiritual perspective is to recognize that the more unlovingly a person behaves, the greater is their need for love and healing.

If you should encounter angry words or unkind actions, take a deep breath, reach deep within yourself and greet the lack of love with love. Until today, people may have responded unkindness to your kindness. Nevertheless, remain devoted to greeting everything and everyone with the gentle kindness of love no matter what is said and done.

You will truly know love when you realize... you can love people even when you believe that they are not nice.

The Lord's Way of Loving

In the book of Luke (6:27-38), Jesus said the following words to His disciples to teach them ways of loving even when people are not nice:

1. Love your enemies,

2. Do good to those who hate you,

3. Bless those who curse you,

4. Pray for those who mistreat you.

5. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer also the other.

6. From him who takes away your cloak, don't withhold your coat also. Give to everyone who asks you, and don't ask him who takes away your goods to give them back again.

7. As you would like people to do to you, do exactly so to them.

8. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

9. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much.

10. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil.

11. Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.

12. Don't judge, and you won't be judged.

13. Don't condemn, and you won't be condemned.

14. Set free, and you will be set free.

15. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you; for with the same measure you measure, it will be measured back to you.

How very hard it is to be a true disciple of the Lord. But is it really hard? What really is it that makes it hard?

It is the spirit of rebellion within man that rebels against God and His ways. This defiance in the authority of God was imparted by the Old Serpent to man when the first woman succumbed to the ways of the devil. By the devil's attack on the woman (Eve) instead of the man (Adam), he infected the very seedbed of the humankind with the spiritual virus SOR (Spirit Of Rebellion) that could spawn all kinds of spiritual diseases (sin).

God always has the solution before a problem could even become a concept or a possiblity. His spiritual antivirus for SOR is HS (Holy Spirit). By sending Jesus to the world, God (re)introduced to the SOR-infected humanity the Truth (knowledge) of the Way of Life (Jesus is the embodiment of that Life) that is rooted in obedience to Him. Mankind lost this knowledge when the first humans chose (by the devil's deception) the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, instead of the Tree of Life (did you know that this tree also existed in the garden of Eden?). When Jesus accomplished His mission, effectively He administered God's spiritual antivirus (the Holy Spirit [HS]) to work against the devil's SOR. Now that mankind has regained the Truth of the Way of Life with God, there is now hope of being healed from the effects of SOR. By believing and obeying all that Jesus taught and demonstrated, man can regain back the Holy Spirit of God imparted to him by the Lord at the beginning of time.

So, what makes it hard for man to follow God's way? The deception that the power of the SOR (Spirit Of Rebellion) causes. On the other hand, what makes it possible for man to actually follow God's way? The Truth that the power of the HS (Holy Spirit) brings. The ways of the Rebellious Spirit is in constant opposition to the ways of the Holy spirit -- it is always defiant of the authority of God.

It is the God-given free will of man that these two spiritual powers are contending. It is up to man as to which of the two he will succumb to -- to Eternal Life (by yeilding to the Holy Spirit), or to Eternal Damnation (by yeilding to the Rebellious Spirit). Thus says the Lord; Behold, I set before you the Way of Life, and the Way of Death. (Jeremiah 21:8)

If you examine the fifteen points above you will notice that there is one thing common to them: Loving people at all times even when they are unlovable. Jesus himself demonstrated what He preached (all of those fifteen points and many more spiritual principle) by His deeds while on earth. Even the totality of the sinfulness of the fallen human spirit (the ultimate ugliness of the effects of the SOR spiritual virus that seeks to destroy all life spiritual or physical) was conquered by the holiness of the Spirit of Jesus on the cross.

The fifteenth point follows the principle of seed, time, and harvest. Whatever type of seed we sow (seed of goodness or seed of evil), in time it will grow and becomes a harvest -- either a harvest of multiplied goodness or a harvest of multiplied evil. We benefit from the increased blessings that return back to us because of the goodness we invested on others. On the other hand, we suffer from the multiplied curses that return back to us because of the evil things we caused on others.


All About Mothers

Author Unknown

For as long as I can remember
you have been by my side
to give me support
to give me confidence
to give me help

For as long as I can remember
you have always been the person I looked up to
so strong
so sensitive
so pretty

For as long as I can remember
and still today
you are everything a mother should be

For as long as I can remember
you have always provided stability within our family
full of laughter
full of tears
full of love

So much of what I have become
is because of you
and I want you to know
that I appreciate you, thank you
and love you
more than words can express

You have shown me how to give of myself
You have shown me leadership
You have taught me to be strong
You have taught me the importance of family
You have demonstrated unconditional love
You have demonstrated a sensitivity to people's needs
You have handed down to me the important values in life
You have handed down to me the idea of achieving one's goals
You have set an example, throughout your life
of what a mother and woman should be like
I am so proud of you
and I love you... forever

Mothers are like God's Wings
Author Unknown

"He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge." (Psalm 91:4)

An article in National Geographic several years ago provided an interesting picture of God's wings. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree.

Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings.

The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. Then the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast.

Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings would live.

Being loved this much should make a difference in your life. Remember the One who loves you, and then be different because of it.

A Mother's Prayer
By John Higiro Mihigo

Dr. Billy Kim of Suwon, Korea, the pastor of a ten-thousand member Baptist church tells this story.

Americans were on one side of the ridge; North Korean communists on the other. This was war! Bullets zipped, zoomed and ricocheted from both zones. Many lives were lost as the ammunition often struck their targets.

On this night on Heartbreak Ridge, so named by an American war correspondent, the battle was especially intense. A bloodcurdling scream pierced the air. Fifty yards from the Americans' foxhole, in enemy territory, a young soldier was hit. In desperation, he cried out for help. Though several soldiers wanted to get to him, none dared leave the protection of the foxhole.

As time marched on, one soldier kept checking his watch. At the stroke of nine, without a word, he bravely crawled on his belly out to his wounded buddy. He grabbed him and quickly dragged him back to safety.

Later, the sergeant approached the brave soldier and asked, "Why did you wait until nine o'clock?"

The young man replied, "Sarge, when I left home my mother promised that she'd pray for me every morning at nine o'clock."

This brave young man knew he could count on the prayers of his faithful mother. She promised to pray. He felt protected at the very moment that he knew she was asking God to keep him safe.

The Ears
Author Unknown

"Can I see my baby?" the happy new mother asked. When the bundle was nestled in her arms and she moved the fold of cloth to look upon his tiny face, she gasped. The doctor turned quickly and looked out the tall hospital window. The baby had been born without ears.

Time proved that the baby's hearing was perfect. It was only his appearance that was marred. When he rushed home from school one day and flung himself into his mother's arms, she sighed, knowing that his life was to be a succession of heartbreaks. He blurted out the tragedy. "A boy, a big boy...called me a freak."

He grew up, handsome for his misfortune. A favorite with his fellow students, he might have been class president, but for that. He developed a gift, a talent for literature and music. "You might mingle with other young people," his mother reproved him, but felt a tenderness in her heart.

The boy's father had a session with the family physician. Could nothing be done? "I believe I could graft on a pair of outer ears, if they could be procured" the doctor decided. Whereupon the search began for a person who would make such a sacrifice for a young man. Two years went by.

Then, "You are going to the hospital, son. Mother and I have someone who will donate the ears you need. But it's a secret" said the father.

The operation was a brilliant success, and a new person emerged. His talents blossomed into genius, and school and college became a series of triumphs.

Later he married and entered the diplomatic service. "But I must know!" he urged his father. "Who gave so much for me? I could never do enough for him."

"I do not believe you could," said the father, "but the agreement was that you are not to know...not yet."

The years kept their profound secret, but the day did come... one of the darkest days that ever pass through a son. He stood with his father over his mother's casket. Slowly, tenderly, the father stretched forth a hand and raised the thick, reddish-brown hair to reveal... that the mother had no outer ears. "Mother said she was glad she never let her hair be cut," he whispered gently, "and nobody ever thought mother less beautiful, did they?"

Real beauty lies not in the physical appearance, but in the heart. Real treasure lies not in what can be seen, but what cannot be seen. Real love lies not in what is done and known, but in what is done but not known.


Life Is Preparation For Eternity

Short Interview with Rick Warren
Food For Thought - InJesus.com

You will enjoy the new insights that Rick Warren has, with his wife now having cancer and him having 'wealth' from the book sales. This is an absolutely incredible short interview with Rick Warren, 'Purpose Driven Life' author and pastor of Saddleback Church in California.

In the interview by Paul Bradshaw with Rick Warren, Rick said:

People ask me, What is the purpose of life? And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven.

One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body -- but not the end of me.

I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.

We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense.

Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one.

The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort.

God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.

We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer.

I used to think that life was hills and valleys -- you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don't believe that anymore.

Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life.

No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.

And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems.

If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness, 'which is my problem, my issues, my pain.' But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.

We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her.

It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people.

You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life.

Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy.

It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before. I don't think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you to live a life of ease.

So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to do, II Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72.

First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our lifestyle one bit. We made no major purchases.

Second, about midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary from the church.

Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation.

Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free.

We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity?

Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God's purposes (for my life)?

When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don't get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better. God didn't put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He's more interested in what I am than what I do.

...With all boldness, let the Lord be magnified in your body, whether by life, or by death... for to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21)

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)


Recovering From Life’s Disasters

By Rick Warren

"Sometimes something useless happens on earth. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people." Eccl. 8:14 (NCV)

What should you do when tragedy strikes? I simply want to let God's word speak for itself.

RELEASE MY GRIEF - Don't deny it or ignore it. Tell God exactly how you feel. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Matt. 5:4

"Pour out your heart to God, for he is our refuge." Ps. 62:8

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Ps.34:18

RECEIVE HELP FROM OTHERS - Don't isolate yourself. Find support in a church family. "Carry each other's burdens …." Gal 6:2

REFUSE TO BE BITTER - You have a choice: become bitter or better. "Some people have no happiness at all; they live and die with bitter hearts.” Job 21:25 (GN)

"Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you … it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives." Heb 12:15 (LB)

How can you avoid bitterness?

- Accept what cannot be changed. "… Reach out to God … then face the world again, firm and courageous …." Job 11:13, 16

- Focus on what's left, not what's lost. "No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you." 1 Th. 5:18 (LB)

REMEMBER WHAT'S IMPORTANT - Relationships, not things, are what matter. "Jesus said … ‘Life is not measured by how much one owns.’" Lk 12:15 (NCV)

"We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it." 1 Tim. 6:7 (NIV)

RELY ON CHRIST - This is the secret of strength in tough times. "I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens; I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength." Phil.
4:13 (NCV)


- Lean on Christ for stability! - "Those who trust in the Lord are steady as Mount Zion, unmoved by any circumstance." Ps. 125:1 (LB)

"You, Lord, give true peace to those who depend on you." Is. 26:3

"Such a person will not be overthrown by evil circumstances. God's constant care of him will make a deep impression on all who see it. He does not fear bad news, nor live in dread of what may happen. For he is settled in his mind that God will take care of him." Ps.112:6-7 (LB)

- Listen to Christ for direction - "I know what I am planning for you," says the Lord. "I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future." Jer 29:11 (NCV)

- Look to Christ for salvation - "God is our protection and our strength. He always helps in times of trouble. So we will not be afraid even if the earth shakes, or the mountains fall into the sea …." Ps. 46:2

No Need To Wait

Come Together

We humans have a knack for coming together and rising up to our potential in the face of a tragedy. Natural disasters and acts of violence bring us out of our small selves and into the world, ready to lend a hand to those in need. This experience is often life-changing for those who are willing to step into the position of helper. We feel as if we are finally doing something really important, and this leads us to feeling more self-actualized. We feel more connected to the people we are helping, as well as more connected to humanity in general. As we expand beyond the boundaries of our individualistic pursuit of happiness there can be a complete reality shift. We often find that it is much easier to be happy when we are motivated in an effort to make the world better in tangible ways, by coming to the rescue of those who are suffering.

Considering the many benefits of this kind of gesture, it is surprising that more of us don’t devote our lives, or at least some portion of our time, to serving people in need. We don’t have to wait for a tragedy to come together, as a community or a nation, and offer ourselves to the world in service. Sometimes it’s easier, of course, to respond to an event that has just happened rather than to ongoing problems like homelessness, poverty, and illness. But the truth of this world is that there is always someone in need of our best efforts to rally a group of helpers and healers. Maybe we feel discouraged because these smaller acts and gestures don’t generate the same kind of energy and attention from other people as heroic acts in the face of immediate disaster, and perhaps an effort to change this is one way to change the world.

The more we promote, applaud, and actively inspire humanitarian efforts in the world, the more others will be drawn to this kind of work. We might pay a little less attention to sports and celebrity gossip and a little more attention to those everyday heroes who devote their lives to alleviating suffering. The more attention we pay, the more we will inspire others and ourselves to be of service in a world that greatly needs our attention.


Offering Our Gifts

Community Responsibility

It's easy to get caught up in our personal lives and forget that we have an obligation to be responsible members of our communities. For some of us, expressing this responsibility is so interwoven into our personal lives that it is simply a natural extension of who we are. Others may need to take a moment to consider how to be more responsible for the communities in which we live. For those of us who live in large cities, we can start with our neighborhoods. Anything we do on a small level will automatically ripple out into the larger system.

Communities thrive on the talents of their members, so one approach to community responsibility is to consider what you have to offer and find ways to bring that into your community. If you have a special gift when it comes to bringing people together, you might agree to throw a party or event once a year that includes the whole community. Even a small open house in an apartment building can accomplish a lot in terms of making people feel more connected and comfortable with each other. If you have a talent for organic gardening, you might offer to help people in your neighborhood plan their own organic gardens. You might be the go to person for neighbors who need someone to water their plants or care for their pets when they're away. You might take an abandoned space in your community and galvanize others to help you transform it into a community garden or a playground for children. In an area where there are many homeless people, starting a soup kitchen or organizing a holiday meal makes a big difference not only to those in need but to those who want to help.

All holiday parades, picnics, and ceremonies started somewhere, with someone who wanted to give back to the community in which they lived. It's not too late to propose and execute a new tradition in your own community, whether it’s a block party or an annual picnic. Your particular vision, gifts, and strengths are part of what makes your community unique, so as you recognize them in yourself, feel free to offer them to those who live in your vicinity. Whether your offerings are visionary or practical, they are the very essence of community.

In bearing and delivering God's blessings to our fellowmen, let us be obedient and innocent as the little children.

Life in the service of the Lord:

1. Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. (Romans 12:1)

2. Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

3. For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)

4. Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, if prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or service, let us give ourselves to service; or he who teaches, to his teaching; or he who exhorts, to his exhorting: he who gives, let him do it with liberality; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6-8)

5. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil. Cling to that which is good. In love of the brothers be tenderly affectionate one to another; in honor preferring one another;

6. ...not lagging in diligence; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; enduring in troubles; continuing steadfastly in prayer; (Romans 12:-11-12)

7. ...contributing to the needs of the saints; given to hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

8. Bless those who persecute you; bless, and don't curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:14-15)

9. Be of the same mind one toward another. Don't set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Don't be wise in your own conceits. (Romans 12:16)

10. Repay no one evil for evil. Respect what is honorable in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men. Don't seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God's wrath. (Romans 12:17-19)


Let Go And Let Flow

Taking A Leap Of Faith

Many people find themselves contemplating goals that seem outrageous or unattainable. In the mind's eye, these individuals stand at the edge of a precipice and look out over the abyss at the fruit of their ambition. Some resist the urge to jump, paralyzed by the gap between their current circumstances and the life of their dreams. Others make a leap of faith into the unknown, unsure of what they will encounter but certain that they will gain more in their attempts than they would bowing to self-protective instincts. This leap can be exceedingly difficult for individuals with control issues because the act of embracing uncertainty requires them to trust that surrender will net them the rewards they seek. Yet when you make a leap of faith, believing without a doubt that you will land safely on the other side, you can accomplish almost anything you set out to do.

There have no doubt been times in your life when you chose to go where the universal flow took you. Yet you may encounter instances in which your objectives require you to step outside of the boundaries of your established comfort zone so that you may freely and actively jettison yourself into a new phase of your life. While you may fear what seems to be the inevitable fall, consider that in all likelihood you will find yourself flying. A successful leap of faith requires your attention, as it is the quiet and often indistinct voice of your inner self that will point you toward your ultimate destination. Understand that the leap across the chasm of ambiguity may challenge you in unforeseen ways but you will make it across if you trust yourself.

If your mind and heart resist, you can dampen this resistance by building a bridge of knowledge. The more you know about the leap you are poised to take, the smaller the gap between "here" and "there" will appear to be. Your courageous leap of faith can lead you into uncharted territory, enabling you to build a new, more adventurous life. Though you may anticipate that fear will be your guide on your journey across the abyss, you will likely discover that exhilaration is your constant companion.

[Psalms 37:3-6] Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.

The Paradox Of Our Time

By George Carlin

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember, spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent. Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak, and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Jesus said to them, “Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man's life doesn't consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)

Painting by Robert Pepperell