Thursday, March 31, 2016

My refuge and my fortress

Submitted by David Miller
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Throughout the years we’ve all heard the question asked just before the 10 o’clock news: “Do you know where your children are?”   Well, these days I usually answer the question with a resounding, yet somewhat saddened, “NO!”  I do not know where my children are!  That’s not because I’m a bad dad (at least I like to think not). But, it’s because most of my children are grown and carrying on their lives outside of my home.  Currently, one is in California, one is in Kaufman, Texas, one in Saginaw, Texas and the other still at home.  When the children were younger, we pretty much always knew where they were, especially 10 o’clock at night.  In fact, we prided ourselves on knowing where they were. However, as time has gone by and our children have become independent, the amount of time we do not know where they are has increased as well.  It’s just the way life goes as our children grow up and branch out on their own. 
But, what if we asked God the question, “Do you know where your children are?” He will always answer, “Absolutely!”  Our heavenly Father always knows where His children are all the time. He sees all things and He knows all things. He sees and knows the joys of our lives, the struggles we are facing, the temptations we are battling, the good that we are doing, and the sins we are committing. 
He always knows where His children are!  Because of this, He is always there for us.  He is always ready to lift us up, strengthen us, implant courage in us, or just hold us and let us cry in His arms. The Psalmist wrote, You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways…Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 119:1-3, 7-10 – NIV)
We are blessed beyond measure to have the God of creation, the One who simply spoke the universe into existence, watching over us.  What an awesome thought to dwell on!  God, in His majesty, loves us enough to know us by name and always knows where we are, even in the roughest spots of our lives.  He is our strength and refuge.  Psalms 46:1 tells us that “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble” Christian songwriter and recording artist, Dallas Holm, penned it this way.  The eyes of God are upon me, He sees everything I do. The arms of God are around me, they keep me safe and secure. And He knows where I am every hour of every day He knows each thought I think He knows each word that I might say. And although there've been times I've been out of His will I've never been out of His care.”
So no matter the hurt, no matter the need, no matter the circumstance, He knows where we are and He stands ready to be our very present help, right now.

Scripture to Claim:
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Submitted by Jim Garner
My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands; for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being. Proverbs 3:1-2

How many times growing up at home did I hear my parents say:
*Don’t forget to take out the trash
*Don’t forget to do your homework
*Don’t forget to mow the lawn
*Don’t forget to pick up milk on the way home
There was and still is always something to “not forget”. Remembering is a good thing in life, at least most of the time. However, it seems the older I get the harder it is to remember things (maybe it is a little selective if we’re honest). But we all know that remembering is very important.
A good friend who was like a second dad to me once gave me a piece of advice he had learned while a young airman in the US Air Force. No, it wasn’t from his superior. It was from a street vendor named Red the Candyman. It was simply this: “The faintest pencil mark is more indelible than the most retentive human mind.”
Now to an eight-year-old boy at the time the quote didn’t do too much to my life accept teach me a few new SAT words. However, as I grew older with more responsibilities in my education and career, the meaning behind Red’s advice taught me a really simple, yet profound truth: “WRITE IT DOWN!” No matter how much I thought I knew or could retain I could not collect it all, let alone apply it.
As life got busier for me with more people I was responsible to and for, learning to write things down so I didn’t forget them has proved incredibly valuable. The sticky note has been a great asset as I can put the info down on a bright piece of paper and place it in an obvious location to see and remember. Now with the advancement of technology and the cell phone I keep with me at most times of the day, I have a way to remember and list things on my calendar or notes. I can even set reminders and better keep a schedule. Nice, but not actually the point.
QUESTION: The idea to “don’t forget” is important but it also begs some questions. What are we remembering? Is it even worth remembering? How will it benefit us?
Yes, there are plenty of things, both light and serious, that we probably wish we never put in our mind – accidentally or intentionally.  And there are other things we wish we could remember better – memories of our parents, a less stressful time in life when the kids were young, or the first time we told our significant other “I love you”.  These special memories we hope we never forget.
The Bible also has something to say about the idea to “not forget”. Look at this nugget of wisdom from Proverbs 3:1-2:
“My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands; for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being.”

Should we be surprised? As we read through the Scriptures we see the wisdom of holding on to the Word of God in all areas of life, at all times, and in any and every situation. 
What are we doing to remember the teaching, commands, and wisdom from the biblical writers? It’s not a suggestion. It’s direction. I know when my parents said, “don’t forget”, I knew they meant business. How much more should we take the teaching and wisdom of God’s Word into our lives every day to hold on to?
Is it worth it? Oh my, yes! Look at what the writer tells us about the benefit and promise of a life that holds to wise teaching and God’s commands. It will bring you the blessing of many days, fullness of life, and wellness. No, it doesn’t mean we will never have difficulties or trials in life. But it does mean by wise living that the decisions we make will lead to God’s blessing and abundance in our days we live. By having memorized Scripture and reading it consistently it puts in my heart and mind life truths that lead me down a path of wise decision-making in all my activities and relationships. It works for kids, teens, and adults whether we are just “hanging out” and get tempted to do something we know we shouldn’t or whether we are making a multi-million dollar deal in business.

Right is right and truth is truth. God’s Word holds value for all of life. It has never let me down when people, plans, politics, and philosophies of this world do. May we never forget the things in life that lead us to remember what’s valuable: sacrifice, love, service, and loyalty. But may we especially “never forget” the value of God’s Word in our lives every day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Meeting Jesus at the Well

Submitted by Lara Cook
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans). Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:7-10

This woman, the Samaritan woman at the well, had so many strikes against her.  Not only did her reputation precede her, but she was a Samaritan, a nationality that Jews traditionally despised and disrespected.  She had been rejected, shamed and shunned by the other women of the area because of her immoral lifestyle and choices.  She came to the well when the morning rush hour was over because she was embarrassed and ashamed.  She did not want to face the stares and hear the faint whispers.  So instead of coming in the cool of early morning, she comes in the heat of the day to avoid condemnation.  And who does she run into?  The King of Kings Himself. 
Jesus knew this woman.  He knew everything about her, all her sins and failures, how many times she had been married and that she was now living with a man she wasn’t married to.  Yet Jesus Himself, the only one who is even worthy of condemning her, did not offer condemnation.  He did not shame her or shun her.  He spoke to her, asked for a drink, and then offered her His living water.  From this story we can tell three things about this woman:
  1. She was stuck – She was so deep in the miry clay of her sin that she probably felt like she would never be any different or ever have a better life.  She knew what she was and was resolved. Like so many times when we immerse ourselves in a life of sin it is hard to get away.  I can assure that Satan will not let go easily.   
  2. She was embarrassed and ashamed – She was hiding from everyone else.  She knew her life was full of sin and wrong choices.  She didn’t try to pretend to be something she was not. She had been condemned by others.  Today she might be the one sitting on a pew or in a chair in worship all alone, in the shadows, up in the corner, as far away and hopefully unnoticed as possible.  
  3. She wanted to be differentShe wanted out.  She wanted the living water that Jesus offered.  She was thirsty for Christ and for the first time in her life she felt hope. She believed His words and knew that He could change her life. She left her water jug behind and ran back to town, bounding with joy to tell everyone about the man she met that could tell her everything she ever did.  
Jesus knew this woman, but I know her too. I have felt shame and condemnation.  I have been embarrassed and avoided people at all costs.  I have, at times, resolved that things are what they are and I have no control to change them.  Anyone who has ever sinned knows what she felt.  But the truth is Jesus and His living water is where hope springs forth.  We can’t change anything in our own power but with Jesus all things are possible.  Don’t believe the lies of Satan that you are worthless and unworthy and that you could never be any different. The living water is there for the taking, for the spiritually thirsty.  He does not discriminate or take into account your past sins.  God loves us in spite of all we have done.  He values us and pursues us.  All we have to do is recognize our need for Him, confess and repent, and accept His forgiveness and the salvation His living water brings.      

Scripture to Claim:
Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’. John 4:13–14

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