We really need to #prayforSyria

The conflict in Syria has reached “unprecedented levels of horror”, peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has told the UN Security Council. (BBC)

Middle East Conflicts. Chaos. War. Death. Innocent. Guilty. Discrimination. Oppression. This. That.

Whatever the reason, we need to ask God of Justice, peace and hope to bring peace to the country and the global community. It may feel so far fetch from us as Syria is on a different continent, but there are several people who are hoping that we, the international community, are praying for them.

We can intercede that there will be no more suffering from violence, comfort those who have lost their loved ones, help countries who are taking in Syrian refugees, protect those people who choose to live for peace, and those who continue to use violence…God should change their hearts.

Yes, there has been reported “ethnic cleansing of Christians in Syria”. According to Barnabas Fund, A senior church leader reported that they face “inflation, poverty, growing sectarian enmity, shortages of food and fuel, cold weather, revenge, kidnapping for big amount of ransom, risk of travelling, frequent internet cut off and many such things.” But we have to be the light and show a true reflection of Jesus. It was on the road to Damascus, capital of today’s Syria, that Saul was stopped short in his mission to destroy the early Church. The risen Christ asked him “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4). It was in Damascus that Saul regained his sight again after being struck blind, and it was here that he was filled with the Holy Spirit, was baptised and began his ministry as an apostle. Let us start by committing every soul to the Lord. All they need is an encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Just like Paul.

 

 

 

 

 

On Your Trombone

“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and

hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” – Ephesians 5:1-

2

Driving behind a truck, I saw a logo that read, “What do you want on your Tombstone?” It was

obvious that the question was about what I wanted on my Tombstone pizza, but it caused me to think.

My husband and I enjoy going to old cemeteries and looking at the tombstones. We see history written on

those stones: men who fought for our freedom; whole families that were lost to an illness for which there

was yet no cure; believers gone to be with the Lord. They all have the dates showing how long they lived,

and the epitaphs that some have are exceptionally interesting. However, most important is the life they

lived between the two dates on the stone.

In our focus verses, we are encouraged to be “followers of God.” Doesn’t that sounds like a good

epitaph? “She was a follower of God.” It is simple, but also profound. Actually, that epitaph may be more

profound than we realize. The Greek translation of follower is one who is an “imitator” of God. That

means we are not just meant to be friends of God or to believe in God; in everything we do, we are to

imitate God.

In the next verse, Paul goes on to say, “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given

himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God.” Paul did not waste any time in getting to the heart of

our duty: we must imitate Christ’s love for the Church, a love great enough to cause Him to sacrifice His

life for us. So to be justified in bearing the title “follower of God,” our love for God must take priority

over everything else in our lives. Placing Him first is not something that we can do for just a while, but it

requires a commitment for the rest of our lives.

Would we be worthy to have “follower of God” written on our tombstone? The way we treat

others—especially “difficult” people—will be the proof of our Christ-like love. It will be evident in

our deportment and conversation. We need to love God and His Church enough to put Him above our personal desires, so others will see only Jesus in our lives. And like Christ, our sacrifice will also be received as a “sweetsmelling savour” to God.

No matter what is written on our tombstones, only Heaven will know the souls who found their way

to God because of our decision to follow Jesus.

Delight

“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” – Psalm 37:4

Think about the word delight. My first thought was to list all the things that I enjoy: eating chocolate,

watching a funny movie, learning new things, spending time with friends and family, etc. But really, do

those things truly delight me? I enjoy them, but delight is perhaps a little more intense. Webster describes

it as “a high degree of gratification; joy.”

Certainly there are times in our lives when we are truly delighted. Even activities such as those listed

above can be delightful, though not necessarily every time we do them. However, of all the wonderful

things we can experience and be happy in, the best are the ones that come from God. True joy only comes

from Him.

One example of a time when I experienced that special joy God gives was a few years ago when

a cousin of mine was married. All who knew the couple were aware that they had prayed about this

decision, and felt confident that this marriage was God’s plan. So on the day of the wedding, as I arrived

to take my place as a bridesmaid, I felt very excited and happy—I was delighted! Most weddings are

a happy occasion for the families involved, but because we knew this pairing was of God and that He

would be at the center of their home, this was truly a time of joy, given by God.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatsoever things are true . . . pure . . . lovely . . . of good report . . . think

on these things.” These types of things are what really bring delight. For instance, when we hear of

an answer to prayer, this can delight us. And learning that a loved one has been saved—now that is

delightful! There are many things for us to think about, and many things which demand our attention

throughout the day. But let us remember to set our minds on the things of God. That is where we will find

real joy.

Lord, help us to remember all the wonderful blessings You have given us, and to think on these things. Let

our thankfulness flow out to others that they, too, may see Your goodness. Amen.

 

A Patient Spirit

“And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.” – 2

Thessalonians 3:5

I can always tell how much patience I really have when I put Christmas lights on a tree. Several years

ago, I offered to decorate my sister’s beautiful noble fir because she was knee-deep in Christmas baking.

Before I started, I carefully took each strand of lights out of the box, untangling their delicate wires. Then

I plugged in each coil of colored bulbs to make sure they worked before I encircled her tree with them.

I was mildly disappointed when I noticed that the first set I tried had only half of its lights lit. I tossed it

aside and tried another set. Sadly, this one also refused to fully light. In growing frustration I reached for

yet another set of lights only to end up with the same results.

My sister, hearing my groans, came out of the kitchen to see what was causing me such anguish. Her

calm, “Don’t worry, I’ll go buy some new ones in a minute,” did little to soothe my impatient spirit. I

could feel myself growing very frustrated; I had so much to do and I wanted my sister’s tree twinkling

and glowing now, so I could hurry on to something else.

Suddenly, I realized that I could not change the situation, but I could change my attitude with God’s

help. I began to pray, humbly asking the Lord to take away my impatience and give me a patient spirit.

Soon, calm came upon me, and the fact that the Christmas lights were not functioning properly seemed

just a small thing in an otherwise lovely day.

When we are looking for an important paper, are stuck in traffic, or are just trying to get from point

A to point Z, and we feel stress or frustration start to take over, we need to stop what we are doing. We

need to pray and ask the Lord for help and a patient spirit. Patience is very needful to have as a Christian

because it keeps us from unnecessary anger that could lead to sin. When patience resides in our hearts,

frustration melts away and love can grow.

There is an immeasurable portion of patience for anyone who calls upon the Lord. May we let

patience do her perfect work as we decorate our homes and participate in other activities for Christmas

this year, and may this needful Christian virtue be found in abundance within our hearts year round.

Quick Obedience

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor

knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” – Ecclesiastes 9:10

Have you ever read a newspaper column and wondered how the writer comes up with something new

to write about every day? I have! As a member of the group of volunteers who write daily devotionals for

our church website, I have learned one strategy that helps: when I get an idea for a story, I start writing

immediately.

Most of us who submit devotional material are not professional writers, just concerned Christians

who want to do all we can for the cause of Christ. I sincerely want my writing to be inspired by God, and

I pray to Him for divine guidance. When I become enthused over a particular assignment, I know I had

better start writing without delay. If I put it off, the enthusiasm tends to fade, and, unfortunately, so does

the quality of the final product.

As I thought about this, I realized that this principle of “quick obedience” applies to all aspects of the

Christian life. It reminds me of the saying I used to hear that “slow obedience is not obedience at all.” For

example, if God is leading us to witness to someone today and we choose to wait a while, it may not have

the same effect later. Worse yet, the task may seem more difficult then, and we may never get to it at all.

Have you ever thought of sending a card to someone in the hospital, only to put it off and later learn

that they are already back home? At the very least, the opportunity to cheer up that friend has been

missed, and perhaps the card would have had an even bigger effect if it had been sent when you first

thought of it. Or, maybe there is a restitution that needs to be made. This cannot wait; it needs to be done

now. For some of us, there may be a problem to straighten out between us and another person. This is

almost never easy, but it must be done—and the sooner the better. Even if we feel that we are right,

Scripture enjoins us to go to the other person and resolve the disagreement.

We could add all sorts of examples to this list. The point is that if we are following God, we must

show Him that we will act in a timely manner upon His leadings. Whatever we need to do, let us get

started quickly.

Brain Fade

“And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought

how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same

hour what ye ought to say.” – Luke 12:11-12

How many of us have had an experience of forgetting something? At times it seems that the harder

we try to remember, the more elusive the answer is. A modern term for this problem is “brain fade.”

Someone told me about objects being absentmindedly put into the freezer, where they really did not

belong, and at times I have caught myself trying to put away something in a wrong place. Our minds are

on other things, apparently, when we make these mistakes.

Given how frustrating it can be to mislay an item and later realize we have done something foolish

with it, today’s focus verse should cause us all to breathe a sigh of relief! Not everyone is adept at

memorizing Bible verses, but God’s Word states that the Holy Spirit will bring Scriptures to mind when

we need them.

Years ago on my job, I experienced the promise in our focus verse firsthand. One young lady I

worked with believed that we all sin every day and have no power over it. She quoted to me the Bible

verse that says, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I was only

seventeen years old at the time and not at all adept at quoting Scriptures to people. In fact, I had only been

a Christian for about two years. However, when she made this statement, the Lord brought to my mind

that the verse says “all have sinned,” not “all are sinning.” I do not know if she took this to heart when I

explained it to her, but I was glad to have the opportunity of letting her know what the Scripture meant.

Scripture is the most important thing for us to remember. It guides our pathway ahead, helps us to

keep from sinning, and tells us how God would have us to live. The Holy Spirit will bring the right words

to our minds when we need them, but He will also let us do our part by studying and meditating on His

Word regularly. With His promises hidden deep in our hearts, we will not have to fear spiritual “brain

fade.”

Boundaries

“The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” – Psalm 16:6

Where are the boundary lines? One of the first questions a prospective buyer asks when looking at a

piece of land concerns the boundaries. He wants to know the exact length and width of the property. He

feels more secure if he is shown the surveyor’s stakes.

More than one person has built without positively ascertaining the property lines, and learned to his

sorrow that he was on his neighbor’s land. Such mistakes can lead to loss of time and money—perhaps

even court action and financial loss. So it is easy to see how vital it is to know where the boundary lines

are . . . no guessing!

Boundary lines apply to Christians, too. God has set some limits and it is important to know where

they are and what is included. As we study His Word and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, He

will teach us what things are pleasing to Him and what things are “out of bounds.” As we learn about His

principles and obey them, we will see His blessing in our lives.

It is also important to know that these boundary lines are unchangeable and are for our good. God

created principles for us to live by at the beginning of time, and throughout the history of the world they

have not been altered. The same values that Abraham held are the ones that you and I must also embrace.

And how thankful we are for them! Living by the teachings of the Bible prevents us from experiencing

much of the pain and heartache that exists because of sin. In His love, God shows us the simple path that

leads to peace, joy, and contentment on earth.

God’s lines are well-defined and eternal. If we stay within the boundaries of His Holy Word, we will

reap the benefits of the goodly heritage that He has provided for all His children.

Great Joy

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” – Matthew 2:10

The Christmas season will soon be upon us. It is a wonderful, exciting season, especially for the

redeemed of the Lord. Before I gave my heart to Jesus, Christmas time did not really mean anything to

me. I did not even look forward to it, because I did not have a relationship with the Son of God. Then, as

a young woman, one Sunday morning in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I knelt before the Lord and He washed

away my sins. Like the Wise Men that saw the star, I also rejoiced with exceeding great joy!

Many years have come and gone since that time, but each year I look forward to the wonderful, holy

time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Just as the Wise Men rejoiced in anticipation of salvation to

come, we rejoice looking back on our own salvation made possible through Jesus’ birth and crucifixion.

And not only did this Gift bring us salvation, but also access to the holy of holies, an intimate relationship

with our Creator, healing for our bodies, and many blessings besides. What joy we feel when we go to

God’s house, sing the beautiful carols, and lift our hearts in prayer and thanksgiving to Him for sending

us His Son!

Yes, Christmas is truly a joyous time as we meet with family and friends, and we look forward to

those occasions. But more wonderful is the fact that God sent His only begotten Son into the world to

redeem mankind. Because He came, each one of us can know His redeeming grace and experience the joy

of salvation! As we anticipate the coming Christmas season, may our focus be to rejoice as the Wise Men

did when they saw Jesus’ star, and as we did on the day we were saved. That is what this season is for.

Heavenly Father, Thank You for sending us Your precious Son so we can have eternal life. Thank You for

the hope we have of being forever with You and Your Son for all eternity.

Walking by Faith

“Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines.” – 1 Samuel 9:15-16

The first time in my life that I felt seriously concerned about a decision I had to make was when I was thinking about which college to go to. I knew that my decision would impact many parts of my life—the people I would live with, the professors and students I would work with, my future career, and even more things that I could not foresee. So much was on the line! More than anything, I wanted the Lord to direct my decision. I earnestly prayed about it and waited for an answer. And waited . . . and waited. To my disappointment, God never said, “Thou shalt attend George Fox University,” or any of the four other schools where I had applied. I thought God would be forced to give me an answer in April of my senior year, when schools send out acceptance and rejection letters, but instead I learned that I had been placed on three waiting lists! Month after month I waited on God, all the while wondering why He did not just tell me what school I would go to. It was not until late July—only about a month before my classes would begin—that I knew for sure which college I would attend. For a while after that experience, I continued to be frustrated by important decisions. I thought that if I drew closer to God, He would tell me what He had planned for my life, and then I could finally stop worrying about it. However, that was not the way God led me to find the right roommate, major, job, or anything else. Instead, I would pray, worry and wait, and then at the last minute something would come up that was clearly God’s plan. The more I saw God come through for me, the less I fretted over my decisions, but I still wondered what I had to do to get a little more notice from God. Just as I was becoming accustomed to the idea that God may not ever give me much notice on important choices, I read the story about how God led Samuel to anoint Israel’s first king, Saul. I was so surprised to read that God told Samuel “a day before Saul came.” I could not believe it! The Prophet Samuel—the holy man of God—got one day’s notice? I then realized that if Samuel was not “in the loop,” I would never be in the loop. And this, actually, was a relief! I finally understood that I do not have to seek God until He spells out the answer to every question I have; I can just take my concerns to Him and then trust that He will answer—in His time. I may not know what will happen until the very moment I need an answer, but God is faithful and I can trust that He will provide the answer. I do not think Samuel was the type to worry or fret about decisions, and that was clearly not because God told him everything that would ever happen to him. Samuel did not know the details, but he had peace because he knew the outcome: God’s will would be done. If we pray until we know that, we will have peace too.