The Road to Discovery…

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 Ephesians 1:3-8 (KJV)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

The Bible is a guidebook mapping the route to our eternal home.

But travelers must read and follow the directions. Some people claim they will get to heaven because of their morality, their religious observances, or even their belief that God exists. But those paths lead to death.

The only road that leads to the Lord’s eternal home is faith in Jesus (John 14:6). Scripture gives us three landmarks along the route—points when there is an awareness of Christ and our need for Him.

Landmark 1: I am a sinner.

Everyone has done wrong (Isa. 53:6; Rom. 3:23). But only someone under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit recognizes that sin is what separates us from our holy God (John 9:31). When the spiritual seeker has this awareness about iniquity, he is accountable for his response.

Landmark 2: Jesus is perfect. 

Christ’s sinless sacrifice on the cross is what spans the chasm between the Father and His creation. Our Savior paid all past, present, and future sin debt.

Landmark 3: I need Jesus. 

The defining moment on the journey is the point when the traveler believes Jesus is who He claimed to be.

Belief is accompanied by repentance—a turning away from old sins. The pilgrim is given a brand-new nature and is welcomed into God’s family (2 Cor. 5:17; John 1:12).

Are you on the road to discovering the Lord?

Here is a peek at what is ahead if you stay the course: redemption (Rom. 3:24), eternal life (John 3:15), and a great adventure walking with Jesus.

Trust in the Savior, and thank Him for His mercy and grace.

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The Root of Bitterness…

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Hebrews 12:15 (KJV)

15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled

We come to think of bitterness as a poison—a concoction that we create for someone else but then end up drinking ourselves.

Let’s consider another useful illustration that will help us understand the negative effects of resentment.

Hebrews 12:15 describes bitterness as a “root.”

Think about that.

Where do you find roots? That’s right—they grow underground, sitting beneath the surface and siphoning off nutrients from the ground around them.

Whenever you see a plant, flower, or tree, you can be sure that just below the peaceful façade is a root that is sucking life from the soil and pushing it up through the plant’s foundation. Without the root, the vegetation would collapse and die.

Can you see how this image parallels your spiritual life?

Perhaps you have a root of bitterness that is sitting just under the surface, practically invisible to anyone who walks by. Does the fact that the bitter root is barely noticeable mean that it is inert and harmless?

Absolutely not!

Instead, you can be sure that the root is doing its job—sucking the life from you and using it to nourish a weed of hatred, impatience, or discontentment.

A root of bitterness will never produce healthy fruit.

When the root is harmful, it is senseless to expect anything other than bad fruit and a tangle of weeds.

The good news is, there’s a remedy to the problem.

All it takes to kill a weed is to unearth and dispose of the root. Pull the source of your resentment out of its hiding place.

Expose it and give it to God, who knows how to cultivate the heart.

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In the Midst of Your Trials…Remember, Even Jesus Suffered…

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Genesis 39:6-20 (KJV)

6 And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.
7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
8 But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;
9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.
11 And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.
12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.
13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth,
14 That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice:
15 And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out.
16 And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home.
17 And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me:
18 And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out.
19 And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.
20 And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.

Joseph’s enslavement lasted for 13 years and went from bad to worse.

He lost his favored position in Potiphar’s household and went to prison when the master’s wife told lies about him. His hope for release from jail died when the king’s servant forgot his promise (Gen. 40:14, 23). The future looked bleak.

Despite the evidence of circumstances, God was carrying out His plan to bless Joseph and benefit his family.

Joseph was His appointed person to rescue them from the coming famine. To accomplish this, he had to learn the Egyptian language and culture, develop leadership abilities, and mature spiritually.

The Lord’s plan accomplished all of this.

Joseph learned two helpful lessons. 

First, the Lord is a faithful companion who uses our troubles to prepare us for His work. 

When the time came, Joseph was fully trained to become second-in-command to Pharaoh—the Egyptian king even testified that God’s presence was with Joseph (41:38).

Second, when the Lord accomplishes His purposes, the difficulty will end. 

At God’s chosen moment, Joseph was freed from jail, rewarded with a high-ranking appointment, and reconciled with his family. Though his boyhood was gone, he was greatly blessed by living in the center of the Father’s will.

Adversity can be painful, but the Lord uses it to further His purposes and equip us for His plan.

What is He trying to teach you in the midst of your trials? Are you cooperating with Him?

Remember, even Jesus suffered in order to fulfill God’s redemptive purpose (Matt. 16:21).

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Sustaining In Hard Times…

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Genesis 37:18-28 (KJV)

18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.
19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.
22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.
23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; 24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. 28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

As a teenager, Joseph lost almost everything.

His family, his position as the favored son, his home, and his freedom were abruptly taken from him. How stunned he must have been by the hatred of his siblings and such overwhelming loss.

But one thing he did take with him was his faith in God.

Life is like that at times for every one of us.

Sudden changes in health or finances, the unexpected death of a loved one, or abandonment by a good friend can bring us into a dark season.

We do not understand why the Lord has allowed the trial or lets the pain continue.

Joseph probably wondered the same things, but he managed to hold fast to his faith. Even as a slave in a foreign land, he experienced the blessing of God’s presence. And recognizing that the Lord was with this young captive, his Egyptian master showed him favor (Gen. 39:2-3).

One of the keys to walking through dark valleys—those times when life seems to be crumbling and the future’s looking grim—is to embrace the reality of the Lord’s presence with us.

At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to live permanently within the new Christian and seals him or her as belonging to God forever. Because of the indwelling Spirit, we’re never apart from God. No circumstance, suffering, or loss can separate us from Him or His love (Rom. 8:35, 38-39).

Take a few minutes each day and reflect on Jesus’ promise to be with us always (Matt. 28:20).

The result will be that this truth becomes planted deep within your soul to sustain you in hard times.

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Pray in Every Situation…

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Romans 8:26-27 (KJV)

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Most Christians feel they need help in order to pray effectively.

Even the apostle Paul admitted that he sometimes did not know how to petition the heavenly Father as he should. In the supernatural exchange between God and believers, the Holy Spirit acts as a vehicle for our communication, laying our needs and desires before the Father.

We humans make our requests with a very limited knowledge of the future and an impaired sense of what is actually best for us.

Consequently, circumstances arise that cause us to wonder how we should pray. If all we know to ask is, “God, what is Your will?” then the Spirit, who knows the Father’s plans for us, tells Him of our need for understanding.

Our Father does not hide His will from us.

He desires to equip believers with all the information necessary for making right decisions and for being continually conformed to the likeness of His Son.

Just as the Spirit carries our needs to God, He also clarifies the Father’s will to us.

Some people find the power of prayer intimidating— “Be careful what you pray for, because you might get it,” goes the old joke. Believers sometimes quit praying before receiving an answer, because they are fearful of making the wrong request. However, the Holy Spirit’s divine nature prevents Him from going before God with a petition that is outside the Father’s plan. Instead, He intercedes to make the right request. He also impresses upon us the need to adjust our desires.

Therefore, we can pray in every situation, knowing the Holy Spirit is our Helper.

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The Toxin of Bitterness…

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Ephesians 4:31-32 (KJV)

31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Picture a miserable, depressed, and emotionally broken person hunched over a chemistry set.

His eyes are narrow. His lips are pursed. His fingers are methodically adding just a pinch of this and a dash of that to the acrid green fluid in the test tube before him. His thoughts are a hodgepodge of outdated images, his heart a stale mosaic of hatred for a grievance long past. He is thinking of the one who hurt him, and he is busy concocting a poison for the offender.

It sounds like an excerpt from an old movie, doesn’t it?

However, here is where the scene changes direction. Envision that same obsessed scientist breathing a sigh of relief as he straightens up, marveling at the liquid vengeance he has created.

Then he utters, “This will show him!”—and drinks the poison himself.

That’s a surprising twist—one that we would not expect in a movie.

Yet there is a good chance you have done this very thing at one time or another.

Bitterness is a toxin that we prepare for someone else but then drink ourselves. It is a concentrated dose of emotional poison, often one that we carefully nurture and grow over the course of years. When we react to someone’s wrongdoing by withdrawing and giving free reign to daydreams of retribution and ill will, we are slowly poisoning our own hearts and minds.

Ask God to reveal any signs of poison in your system. Then ask Him to help you administer a dose of the antidote: forgiveness.

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He Knows What You Need…

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 John 4:1-16 (KJV)

1 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
2(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)
3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.
4 And he must needs go through Samaria.
5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.
7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

One reason we at times have a weak faith is because our view of God is faulty.

That’s not totally surprising—after all, He is so big, how could we ever truly get an accurate picture of what He looks like, how He acts, or how He feels about us personally?

Knowing that we would need a way to understand Him, our heavenly Father revealed Himself through His Son. And so “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

The better we get to know Jesus, the more we will understand the Father (14:9).

And when we take a look at the way Jesus treated the people around Him, we get a good illustration of God’s love. Think about the woman at the well in today’s Scripture passage. This was a person who had been outcast by society. The fact that she came to draw water during the heat of the day (4:6)—a time when no one else would be around— indicates that her exclusion from the townspeople was not just their idea; she herself felt the need to stay isolated.

But what did Jesus do?

He loved her. He accepted her. He gave her what no one else would give: attention and respect. That is what He does for us as well. The Lord does not want us burdened by guilt, shame, or heartache. Nor does He want us to be secluded from other people. Instead, He calls us to become active participants in His kingdom.

Have you cut yourself off from those around you?

Take hold of your Savior’s hand today, and start experiencing the joy of His acceptance.

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The Emergency Telephone Line…

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 John 14:16-18 (KJV)

16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Did you ever wish for an emergency telephone line that rang in heaven?

The truth is that we have something much better. The Holy Spirit lives inside us to be our helper in every situation.

The night before His crucifixion, Jesus warned the disciples that He was about to depart.

The news probably upset them, even though it wasn’t the first time He’d spoken of His death. But the Lord offered His followers reassurance that He would send them another Helper. The Greek word for “another” implies that the new Helper would be like the previous one—in other words, a divine being with access to the Father. As promised, God’s Spirit came to dwell in everyone who receives Jesus Christ as Savior (Acts 2:1-4).

Our Helper has a distinct role within the Trinity.

The Father reigns over all, while the Son sits at His right hand, interceding for believers. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit enables Christians to accomplish the work God has designed for each one to do.

The Father knew we couldn’t follow Him without help—that was why Jesus told the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until after the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Whatever we are called to do in daily obedience or in lifelong vocation, our Helper offers direction. And when we are beset by tough times or temptations, God’s Spirit provides strength and encouragement.

The Holy Spirit is intimately involved in our life.  He is more a part of us than our bones and blood.

We are privileged to have a divine Helper guiding us on the path of God’s will.

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