Friday, February 23, 2018

2-23-18 And the Seconds Continue to Tick Past

And the Seconds Continue To Tick Past :: By Don Twobears

In this article, I would like to say things straight to the point. No kid stuff, no being nice and personable, just the plain Truth, as is stated in the Holy Word of God. In these days, everyone wants to be “Politically Correct.” They don’t want to come off as being “Offensive.” My point is this: if the Holy Word of God is offensive to you…in any way…you have more problems than you realize. Let’s make sure that we understand something here; The Bible cuts the mustard one way…right down the middle!
The first thing to know is, YOU either belong to Jesus Christ…or you don’t. Regardless of how you act or what you say, YOU know whether you belong to Jesus Christ or not. If you were to die this very instant, you know where you are headed to in Eternity. You also know, you chose this destination all by yourself.
Matthew 16:25-28 “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
Whether or not you like that is not the issue; the issue is, do you believe it or not? What are you going to say when you stand before the Lord and this is in your mind? “Reward?”…“Your Works,” which is according to the “Intent of your Heart.” And be sure to note, the Lord knows your heart. Not just once or twice, but every Intent throughout your life. Sobering isn’t it?
Jeremiah 17:10 “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”
That can grate on your nerves if you do not belong to Jesus Christ.
Proverbs 3:5-8 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”
Wow! There it is in Black and White, and you have what problems? What better reason for believing the Word of God than a Healthy Life? Trust me, my friends; this is straight out of the Word of God.
Numbers 32:22-23 “And the land be subdued before the LORD: then afterward ye shall return, and be guiltless before the LORD, and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD. But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.”
Ahh! That grating feeling again. It makes my teeth hurt just to read this! Yet it does not have to be so for you, if you are willing to follow Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ IS the Answer to your problems—all of them!
1 John 1:6-7 “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
Again, in black and white, that is your Answer! We are all sinners, yet…for those that are Born-Again Believers and followers of Jesus Christ…our Sin…is covered by HIS Blood from the Cross of Calvary. We are NOT better than anyone else…we are simply forgiven of our sin. That alone makes us presentable before the Lord God…the Father. Anything else is a waste of your time.
When I was a young man, I wanted to do those things that my ancestors had done. They were able to talk with the animals, and so this is what I wanted to do. One day I sat down with a bag of raw peanuts in the shell. A rather large raccoon came over to about 6-7 feet from me, and I fed him/her some of my peanuts. He/she sat there and ate the peanuts and chattered to me, and I was in Love; yet I never understood a single thing he/she said. There was a language problem.
There is no language problem with the Holy Word of God; it is straightforward and to the point. The real problem is…how many read it? And then there is this: if you do read it, do you believe it?
Again I am going to say, a church is nothing more than a building. There is nothing HOLY about it, unless you are there to Worship the Lord…it begins with your Heart…the “Intent of your Heart!” As I have said so many times, you can sit in the pew every Sunday, sing all the hymns and FEEL so holy…and you can still be headed for Hell and the Lake of Fire. It is your decision to Follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior…or the lack thereof. THAT IS the difference!
Whatever your decision is about Jesus Christ, He IS the answer to every problem you could have.
Life is very short and death here on Earth is permanent. No one will ever come back from death. That again is not the problem…your Eternal destination is! It is very simple; follow the Lord Jesus Christ and go to Heaven for Eternity…or follow Satan and his ilk, denying Jesus Christ, and your destination will be Hell and the Lake of Fire.
It bothers me to an extent that there are more people dead and buried than there are people alive. How many of those were saved to Jesus Christ? That little word FEW gnaws at you! Only a FEW will find the “Narrow Path” that leads to Heaven and the Lord God. So where are all the others headed? That’s right…Hell and the Lake of Fire. Yet, you don’t have to be among them; you can change your destiny to Heaven. Jesus Christ is the ONLY Answer!
Read the Holy Word of God and choose wisely, my friends.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
I use the King James Version of the Bible, and all emphasis is mine.
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2-23-18 The End-Times Landscape

The End-Times Landscape :: By Sally Law

Is it just me, or does the world seem to be overflowing with daily events heralding the return of Jesus Christ?  Just as the scriptures have foretold, it is getting spiritually dark in this world prior to the coming of Jesus Christ. Sometimes doubt creeps in and I feel like I will be overcome with discouragement. The news is so depressing. Evil glorified – again. Satan is one-upping the Christians. The propaganda arm of Satan—the main stream media, is functioning just fine.
Someone asked me a few weeks ago if the tribulation period had already started. I said no, this is the end times prior to the tribulation; and, according to the scriptures, Christians are removed before the tribulation in an event called the rapture.
She went on to say, because of how horrible and violent the earth was becoming, that surely we were living during the apocalypse. I gave her one quick example from Revelation 6:7 as proof that this was not the case on the earth – just yet.
Revelation 6:7-8 “When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the field” (NKJV).
I really understood where my friend was coming from, but she was not seeing clearly where she was in time. We all are overwhelmed with the increase in violence and moral decline happening right now. However, during this prophetic time described in the future, 1/4 of the earth dies. As of 2017, the estimated population of the entire earth was 7.5 billion. If that seal was broken, and the fourth horse of the apocalypse was released today, approximately 1.875 billion would die. That’s mind boggling!
She agreed that this future prophecy was much, much worse than anything going on right now. I reassured her that we would be leaving to be with the Lord before his judgment is poured out on the earth. I reminded her, and myself, that we have dark days in this world right now, as we are living in the end times. But also, Jesus will rescue us from the judgment coming upon this earth and take us to where he is – a place prepared for us.
“…And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
It helps me to study scripture and see what to expect now and what great things, I believe, await all of us who have trusted in Jesus for our salvation. It is a huge encouragement to my faith.
I would like to pass on some encouragement to you today, as sometimes it may appear that evil is winning and we are losing. Like maybe it’s never gonna happen or it happened and we missed it. Nothing could be further from the truth! I did read the end of the book and we win – and win BIG!
Here is a great verse:
1 Peter 1:3-5 “Blessed be our God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded by faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
I love the part “ready to be revealed in the last time” as if it is waiting, ready to be unwrapped like a gift, and given to us at the exact moment in the last time. How awesome is that?
I am aware that I live in a special time in history, the last time or the end times. I may be raptured at any moment and behold Jesus Christ, never to be parted from him! Immediately, I will get a new, glorified body and new eyes (I really need those new eyes badly). To be with my God, Jesus, my family and all the saints is just about the grandest thing I could ever imagine. That thrills me to no end! On the other hand, the world grows more wicked, lost, and clueless to the fact of God’s love and redemption plan for them in Christ.
I’ve noticed a rise in God hatred, Christ hatred, Jew hatred—and really anyone that has a moral stance on any issue is hated. As a matter of fact, this hatred of good, or godliness, is esteemed in the mainstream media. This is the hard part about living during this time, as Christian persecution is on the rise. The lost world hates us, too.
Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
End-times hatred: “Then, they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name” (Matthew 24:9).
What is coming forth in the days ahead has already been predicted long ago; and we have a guidebook, the Bible, as our source of help and strength. God shows us in there what it will look like prior to his return; and the entire end is there in graphic detail in the book of Revelation. (Daniel is an excellent book on the end times and the nation of Israel, specifically.)
The Bible also describes the people living during this time, comparing the end times to that of Noah and his family (the only righteous man of that day) and preparing his family of eight, along with all the animals, to escape the worldwide flood in the ark.  And there was Lot and his family during a similar time of judgment. Lot was the only righteous man in two adjacent cities filled with homosexual sin.
If you remember the story in Genesis 19, Lot was Abraham’s nephew and was some sort of city official, since he sat at the city gate. It was dark, wicked and morally depraved in Sodom and Gomorrah just before God’s judgment fell. God sent two angels and removed Lot and his family before fire and brimstone fell upon the twin cities.
These two stories are pictures in scripture foreshadowing what things will look like in the end times, the spiritual landscape so to speak. It’s bad! It’s spiritually dark and void of anything good. And now, very soon, Christ is coming to remove the righteous dwelling on the earth before he executes judgment upon the earth.
“But, as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37-39).
We live in the days of grace, or the church age. We now have a way to be declared righteous! This is the good news of the gospel! This is our hope for now and to be rapture ready:
*”For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
*We have received salvation and righteousness through our belief and confession of Jesus Christ as risen Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9-10).
*We are saved by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
*We receive, in Christ, the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17).
*We receive forgiveness, as Jesus paid fully for our sins; and we are justified freely by his grace (Romans 3:24-26).
*We are filled with the Holy Spirit of God and bear good fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).
*The Holy Spirit is the abiding presence of God in us (John 14:6).
*The Holy Spirit seals us for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).
What’s ahead? The landscape will change completely the day of the rapture of the church! The earth will plunge into a very bad state of affairs. The restraining influence of the Holy Spirit will be taken away at that time, allowing for full-blown satanic rule (2 Thessalonians 2:6).
I believe at this point the antichrist and false prophet come to power very quickly, as they want to deceive, kill and take over the world. Satan is their boss. I don’t think this entire trio of evil will waste a second. They have only seven years to squeeze in their horrible agenda. I’m just saying…..
God’s judgment will begin also. This time is called “the day of the Lord” or “great tribulation.” It will be seven years divided into two three and a half year periods, with the second part being the most severe of God’s judgments, combined with the antichrist’s desecration of the Jewish temple where he claims himself to be God. From there, he goes after the Jewish people with a vengeance.
Jesus said there has never been a time like it, or ever will be.
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of this world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21).
It’s so bad during this time that the days are shortened so that the elect of God will survive.
“And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22).
To believe in Jesus during this time means almost certain martyrdom. A large number do come out of this terrible time with great reward for their belief in Christ, both Jew and Gentile.
“And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their foreheads or their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).
I am hopeful that you, dear reader, are rapture ready and awaiting the glorious rapture event, being light in a dark world. Stay strong and hold to your faith. Be watchful of the Lord’s return. We will be caught up (raptured) soon. Don’t let go of your blessed hope. Remember, we win big because Jesus is victorious! He will do all he has promised!
I leave you now with these amazing verses:
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with a voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. And we who are alive and remain will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).
And… “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep,  we should live together with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
Keep looking up!

2-23-18 Rapture Ready News

23 Feb 2018

Nikki Haley says Trump’s Middle East peace plan nearly ready 
United States Ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday night said that President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan is nearly ready while speaking at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. During a question-and-answer session led by the Institute’s current head, David Axelrod, she said: “They’re coming up with a plan. It won’t be loved by either side, and it won’t be hated by either side…I think they’re finishing it up.”
EU parliament politicians call for a full ban of Hezbollah 
Members of the European Union parliament sent a letter on Thursday to EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, urging her to classify all of the Lebanese organization Hezbollah as a terrorist entity…The letter was signed by a cross-section of 60 members of the European Parliament. The other two co-initiators were Lars Adaktusson and P├ęter Niederm├╝ller.
Israeli and American troops gear up for joint 12-day Juniper Cobra drill 
Israel is gearing up for an extensive aerial drill with troops from the United States European Command set to begin in early March, the IDF announced Thursday evening. The ninth annual Juniper Cobra drill scheduled to take place from March 4-15, will be the largest IDF and US European Command joint exercise taking place this year…
Argentina foils diplomatic luggage cocaine plot
Argentina’s security ministry says it has foiled a plot to use the Russian embassy’s diplomatic courier service to smuggle cocaine to Europe. Police seized nearly 400kg of the drug from diplomatic luggage in an embassy annex after being told about it by the Russian ambassador in December 2016. They then mounted a sting operation, replacing the drugs with flour and adding tracking devices.
Syria war: Ghouta pounded as UN tussles over ceasefire
The UN Security Council is struggling to agree a resolution seeking a ceasefire in Syria as a rebel-held area has been bombarded for a sixth day. Russia wants changes to a draft that calls for a 30-day calm to allow for aid deliveries and medical evacuations. Western diplomats have accused Russia, Syria’s key ally, of stalling for time. France said failure to act may spell the end of the UN itself.
CNN Told Me I Needed To “Stick To The Script”; Entire Town Hall Scripted
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Colton Haab appeared on FOX News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight to talk about his saga with CNN and how they “scripted” a question for him to use at Wednesday night’s town hall event hosted by the network and moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper. Haab, a JROTC member who helped shepherd students to safety, was approached by the network to ask a question at the town hall.
AP sources: Adelson offers to help pay for Jerusalem embassy
The Trump administration is considering an offer from Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson to pay for at least part of a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, four U.S. officials told The Associated Press. Lawyers at the State Department are looking into the legality of accepting private donations to cover some or all of the embassy costs, the administration officials said.
Seeking to outsmart US, China races ahead on artificial intelligence
When a Google computer program beat the world’s best player of an ancient Chinese board game last May, it might have seemed like an incremental milestone. But for some, the success of the program known as AlphaGo marked more than a man vs. machine clash. It set up a broader race between China and the United States over artificial intelligence, a competition that could mold the future of humankind…
Trump to announce new sanctions against North Korea as South prepares for talks
The United States is due to announce its largest package of sanctions against North Korea to pressure the reclusive country to give up its nuclear and missile programs, as South Korea readies itself for more talks with the North. Tougher sanctions may jeopardize the latest detente between the two Koreas, illustrated by the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics in the South…
Global watchdog to put Pakistan back on terrorist financing watchlist: sources
A global money-laundering watchdog has decided to place Pakistan back on its terrorist financing watchlist, a government official and a diplomat said on Friday, in a likely blow to Pakistan’s economy and its strained relations with the United States. The move is part of a broader U.S. strategy to pressure Pakistan to cut alleged links to Islamist militants unleashing chaos in neighboring Afghanistan and backing attacks in India.
Fees case may enable U.S. Supreme Court to curb union power
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday will consider…whether to choke off a critical funding stream for public-employee unions… The nine justices will hear a challenge backed by anti-union groups to the legality of fees that workers who are not members of unions representing teachers, police, firefighters and certain other government employees must pay to help cover the costs of collective bargaining with state and local governments.

2-23-18 Aren't All Religions Pretty Much the Same

By Billy Graham, Tribune Content Agency

Aren't all religions pretty much the same?

Feb 23, 2018
We were very saddened to hear of Billy Graham's passing. We will continue to run new and archived versions of his column until it is no longer syndicated.

Q: I think it's wrong to believe that one religion is any better than any other religion. I think all religions have glimpses of the truth, and I hope that eventually they'll all get together and become one great religion. You probably won't agree, but why? -- Mrs. L.N.S.

A: Although I can't agree with you, I sense that in your soul you have a hunger for God -- and I hope you won't ever be satisfied with anything less than discovering the living God. God's promise is for you: "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).

Let me use an illustration to explain what I mean. Suppose you were a medical researcher, and one day you developed a new drug that -- for the first time -- completely cured a particular type of cancer. Would you keep it to yourself? Or would you tell doctors that it really didn't matter which drug they used? No, of course not. You'd do everything you could to convince people to take it.

The same is true with Jesus Christ. The human race, the Bible says, has a deadly disease -- a "spiritual cancer" the Bible calls sin. Not only does it pollute our lives and twist our personalities, but it cuts us off from God and from Heaven. Is there any cure? Yes! God has given us the cure -- and that cure is Jesus Christ, God's only Son, who gave His life for us.

Don't wander down spiritual paths that will only deceive you and end up leading nowhere. Instead, turn to Jesus Christ and discover the hope and forgiveness He alone can give. Only Christ could say, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).


(Send your queries to "My Answer," c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM, or visit the Web site for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:

2-23-18 Daily Dig

Daily Dig for February 23

Inge Scholl
It is more difficult to stand up for a worthy cause when there is no general enthusiasm and thus no obligation; when, in short, one risks one’s life on one’s own. Perhaps genuine heroism lies in deciding to stubbornly defend the everyday and the immediate, after having been bombarded with so much oratory about great deeds.
Source: Seeking Peace

2-23-18 The First 15

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The Weekly Overview
This week we’ll spend time simply stirring up our affections for God. God has designed us to see him, to know his character, and to let the truth of his goodness lead us into deeper relationship with him. Augustine wrote, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” In seeing God for who he is, our hearts are naturally stirred to find rest in his goodness. May your heart be stirred at the revelation of God’s wonderful character.
The Scripture
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
-  Revelation 3:20
The Worship Experience
Artist: Amanda Cook
Song: Never See The End
The Devotional
Revelation 3:20 reveals amazing insight into the relationship God desires with us, his crown of creation. In it Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Do you know that God wants to be friends with you? Just as a friend would ask you out to a meal, God longs to spend time with you. Every day God is knocking on the door of your heart. If you are willing to open your heart to him and listen, you can spend time with God in ways more boundless and satisfying than you could with any other friend.

Where in your life do you need God’s friendship today? John 15:15 says, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” The story of the gospel is God losing relationship with the crown of his creation, you and me, and through the death of Jesus gaining restored relationship with us. He has been working tirelessly from the very first sin just to be able to call you and me friends again. What you desire from friends around you is completely available to you in God and to even greater depths!

If you need a friend to talk to, God is standing at the door of your heart asking to come in and listen—“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” If you need advice, the Holy Spirit who authored Scripture is waiting to reveal to you the wisdom of God—“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). If you need to laugh, God longs to bring you unfathomable joy—“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad” (Psalm 126:1-3).

You have a best friend in God. He is not distant. What was true for the psalmist in Psalm 73:23-26 is true for us, “I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Spend time in God’s presence today. Listen to him knocking on the door of your heart and invite him to come in and meet with you. Let his friendship heal the broken places of your heart that need his love. He offers himself freely to you today. He’s gone to unimaginable lengths to be able to simply spend time with you. Lay the table of your heart bare before him, and let his smile restore to you the joy of your salvation.
The Prayer
1. Spend some time meditating on God’s desire for friendship with you.

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

2. Open your heart to God and receive his presence. Receive the peace and joy that comes from being in the presence of your heavenly Father.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20

3. Spend time simply enjoying your friendship with God. Talk to him about anything you desire. Receive his joy over you.

“…I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:23-26
Friendships aren’t built in a day, but over lifetimes. You have all of eternity to spend getting to know God. After spending consistent time with him, he truly will become your best friend. He will be the person you run to when you have a problem. He will be the source of your joy, peace, and life. Every day, you have the choice to do life with God or on your own. And you have an enemy working to lead you to choose the latter. The more consistently you spend time with God, the easier that decision will become. Once you know the goodness and reality of God there is no going back. Enjoy God today. Walk in the abundant life of restored relationship with him. Answer his call whenever he knocks on the door of your heart. There is no better way you could choose to spend your days and no better friend than God.
Extended Reading: John 15

Craig DenisonCRAIG DENISON is the author and founder of First15, a daily devotional guiding tens of thousands of believers into a fresh experience with God's presence every day. He writes, speaks, and he and his wife, Rachel lead worship to help believers establish a more tangible, meaningful connection with God.

2-23-18 Today in the Word

2 Corinthians 4:1–18
Since 1862, children around the world have been singing the words of Anna Bartlett Warner’s hymn, “Jesus Loves Me.” Its first stanza contains a line that is true for children and adults alike: “Little ones to Him belong—they are weak but He is strong.”
At this point in our study of evangelism, you may be feeling overwhelmed. We have a wonderful task—to share God’s love in Christ with the people around us. But we are also aware of our own frailty. None of us is as winsome or prayerful or bold or faithful as we know we ought to be. All around us, people are drowning in their sins and we feel like we can’t throw out enough life rafts fast enough. Or, we are throwing out life rafts and our friends and neighbors seem to just ignore them.
Today’s passage offers us rest and encouragement. Our weakness is not a surprise to God. He has deliberately and lovingly placed the treasure of His gospel “in jars of clay” (v. 7). In fact, throughout the Bible, God repeatedly uses frail people. He made Moses, who struggled to speak, His prophetic mouthpiece (see Ex. 6:10–12). He made women, whose testimony was suspect in the first century, the primary witnesses of His resurrection (see Luke 24:1–11). He made Paul, with his constant physical affliction, His world-traveling missionary (see 2 Cor. 12:7–10). And he made each one of us, with our weakness and struggles, His evangelists in the world.
Why? He does this so that we will not depend on ourselves or focus on ourselves. He does this so the world will know that the power of the gospel comes from Him alone. He is the one who takes our feeble evangelistic efforts and uses them to accomplish His saving purposes. “Therefore we do not lose heart” (v. 16).
We can become discouraged when we are aware of our weakness. Take heart in God’s encouragement that He is glorified even in our frailty, and He uses us to accomplish His saving purposes. Sing “Jesus Loves Me” as an acknowledgment of your weakness and an affirmation of your trust in God. We are weak, but He is strong!

2-23-18 Daily Devotion

February 23, 2018

Enjoying God

The Scriptures are full of verses that speak of the enjoyment God’s people find in Him, and this sometimes leaves us wondering why our experience doesn’t match theirs. If we aren’t delighting in the Lord on a consistent basis, there may be some hindrances in our life.
We may not know God. No one can have a personal relationship with the Father except through His Son Jesus. But when we believe in Christ as Savior and Lord, we become children of God. Then through His Word, we learn He’s not a Father who is quick to punish us for breaking His rules, but He’s one who tenderly watches over us and restores us when we fall.
We may be afraid of God. When the Scriptures tell us to fear the Lord, it means to honor, revere, and obey Him as a child does a parent. But if we see Him as a tyrannical Father, we’ll be afraid of Him, and this kind of fear keeps us from experiencing joy in our relationship with Him. We must remember that our heavenly Father loved us so much that He sent His Son to rescue us and has placed us securely in His loving family.
Sometimes the problem is sin. When we disobey the Lord, our fellowship with Him—but not our relationship with Him­—is broken. If we confess our sins, then He is faithful to forgive us and restore our intimacy with Him. (See 1 John 1:9.)
When we really enjoy the Lord, we find ourselves slow to leave His presence and desiring to linger. Does this describe your relationship with your heavenly Father?
Bible in One Year: Deuteronomy 6-8

2-23-18 Today's Topical Bible Study

7 Commandments of a Great Marriage

Ron Edmondson

I have an advanced degree in counseling and hundreds of hours experience working with couples. I’ve taught marriage retreats for years. I wouldn’t say I’m an “expert” in marriage—because I’m married—and my wife reads my blog. That would be a stretch. Actually, I know more to do than I have the practice of doing. (Isn’t that true for most of us?)
But I’ve learned a few things. I’ve observed things that work and things that don’t.
I think there are some necessary ingredients for a healthy marriage. That’s the point of this post.
Want a healthier marriage?
Consider these 7 Commandments of Marriage:
Thou shalt serve one another. A good marriage practices mutual submission. Ephesians 5:21 commands us to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. Marriage is not a 50/50 deal. It’s a 100/100 deal—each willing to surrender all to the other person.
How are you at serving your spouse? Would they say you strive to serve them more everyday? Are you more the giver or the taker in the relationship? Be honest.
Thou shalt love unconditionally. Unconditionally means without conditions. (See how deep this blog can be.) I’ll love you if… is not the command. It’s I’ll love you even if not. God commands us to love our enemies. How much more should this commitment be strong within a marriage?
Are you loving your spouse even with the flaws that you can see better than anyone else? Here’s a quick test: Does the way you communicate with your spouse indicate you have the highest regard for them—always?
Thou shalt respect one another. The Golden Rule covers this one. Everyone wants to be respected—so in any good marriage respect is granted to and by both parties. And, by the way, I believe respect too is to be unconditional.
In my experience, this one is sometimes easier for one spouse to give than the other, especially the one who works hardest in the marriage. Respect is mostly given because of actions. But respect is important for both spouses. Most people grant respect only when all conditions are met to be respected. That makes sense, but it doesn’t provide motivation to improve when the other party needs it most. All of us need someone who believes in us even when we don’t believe in ourselves. That’s the grace of respect. When most of us feel respected we will work harder to keep that respect.
Thou shalt put no other earthly relationships before this one. “Let not man put asunder” is not just a good King James Version wedding line. It’s God’s desire for a marriage. Great couples strive to allow no one—even children—even in-laws—to get in the way of building a healthy marriage.
Wow! Isn’t this a hard one? Yet I can’t tell you how many marriages I have seen ruined because the children came first or the in-laws interfered. I’ve seen marriages ruined by friends—sometimes co-workers—who had little regard for the integrity of the marriage, and so they built a wedge between the couple. As hard as it is sometimes, great couples work to protect the marriage from every outside interruption.
Thou shalt commit beyond feelings. The Bible talks a great deal about the renewal of our mind (Romans 12:2, for example). The mind is more reliable than emotions. You may not always feel as in love as you did the day you married. There will be tough seasons in any marriage. Strong marriages last because they have a commitment beyond their emotional response to each other. And when that’s true for both parties, feelings almost always reciprocate and grow over time.
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As true and necessary as this is, great marriage partners continue to pursue each other—they date one another—fostering the romantic feelings that everyone craves in a relationship. Sobering question: When’s the last time you pursued your spouse?
Thou shalt consider the other person’s interest ahead of thine own. Again, we are commanded to to do this in all relationships. How much more should we in marriage?
Over the years, as couples get comfortable with one another, I’ve observed couples who become very selfish with their individual time. Sometimes, for example, one spouse pursues a hobby that excludes the other one, and more and more time is committed to that hobby. The other spouse begins to feel neglected. It may be allocation of time, in actions or the words used to communicate, but sometimes a spouse can make the other spouse feel they are no longer valuable to them. Are you considering how you are being perceived by your spouse?
Thou shalt complete one another. The Biblical command is one flesh (Ephesians 5). I’m not sure that’s anymore possible than the command that our individual flesh be molded into the image of Christ. It’s a command we obey in process. We are saints still under construction. We still sin. And that process isn’t completed here on earth in my opinion. So it is in a marriage. We never completely “get there,” but we set such a high standard for our marriage that we continue to press towards the goal.
There is no better place where “iron sharpens iron” than in a marriage. Cheryl makes me a better person. And, if I can be so bold—I think I do the same for her. There are qualities in her I need and qualities in me she needs to become one flesh. But that’s a process. That takes time, humility, and intentionality. I must allow her to make me better—and likewise for her. But when we do, we are both the benefactors. One question I always ask couples: Are you becoming closer as a couple—or are you drifting further apart? That’s a great question to ask frequently throughout the marriage.
These are obviously not the “10 Commandments.” They aren’t even necessarily God’s commandments—although I do believe they are based on the commands of God. The point is to take Biblical principles and apply them to our marriage.
And, what marriage wouldn’t benefit from that?
Would you pause and consider—are you breaking any of these commands?

Ron Edmondson pastors Immanuel Baptist Church. Find out more at: