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Friday, November 30, 2018

Right Now

Psalm 118:24 (ESV)
This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Imagine waking up tomorrow not slapping the snooze button but awakening—mind, heart, and soul—to possibility. Something better. Something more.

You open your eyes, and before your feet hit the ground running, you pause. You choose not to allow what really matters to get swallowed up by the daily grind, and not to ignore what you really want out of life.

This is the day that God has made. This day. Right now. Whatever moment you are breathing in, God made this day. Even when times are tough, something about this day is good.

This is the day to live without fear of the unknown, without being chained by failure or what-ifs. This is the day to be willing to change, to be open, to believe, to hope. If we don’t attack each day with this intentionality, it’s almost like telling God, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

How different would your day be if you lived out the words of Psalm 118:24?

Is there something you would change?
Is there someone you would reach out to?
Is there something you would need to give?
Is there something you would need to let go of?

It’s not easy putting this into practice. But each day you wake up, you have a chance to get unstuck, to step out of a comfortable routine that may be limiting your potential, and to fight for something that’s important.

This is the day you can switch off autopilot and begin living with passion.

This is the day you can overcome a bad habit or a character flaw.
This is the day that can bring you a step closer to your dreams.
This is the day you can fight for what’s right.
This is the day you can change someone’s life for the better.
Life isn’t just about one day. It’s about this day.

Dear Lord, help us see the changes we need to make in our life, the risks we need to take, the things we need to let go. Thank you for giving each new day as a gift! In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

What Is God’s Purpose for Your Life?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

For Moses and David, God had detailed instructions; but, for most people, He doesn’t give detailed instructions. He does, however, give a wonderful plan for our lives in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and John 10:10.

For George Bailey in the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” abundance didn’t mean traveling and becoming rich, but it meant helping others and having a wonderful family and friends.

God tells us what his will for your life is in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

He says, “Talk to me often,” or “Pray constantly.” Then He says, “Give thanks in everything.”

The passage ends saying, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” There is no other place in the Bible where it tells you what God’s will for you is. God’s will in Christ Jesus for you is to be happy, talk to him and be grateful. What a wonderful plan for your life!

For George Bailey, God wanted him to have an attitude of gratitude for his “wonderful life.”

So, in a fallen world, with trials and tribulations: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Dear Lord, we rejoice when we recall the good in our life. We ask You to fulfill Your Will for our life, and thank You for Your blessings in Jesus Christ’s Name by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Joy of the Lord Is Your Strength

Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV)
Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

We all need strength. The Pilgrims needed strength to survive in the New World in “Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale.”

The Jews, who returned from captivity in Babylon and rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, needed strength to overcome their fear after Ezra read the Law that God had given them, which they had failed to keep. So, Nehemiah offered them joyous strength.

Where do we find that strength that flows from joy?

Well, Paul in I Corinthians 11:23-27 says that one place we find it is by doing what Jesus called us to do: to remember his redemptive sacrifice for us in the act of breaking bread and partaking of wine in communion. Paul is telling us to give thanks that Jesus Christ set us free.

The early Greek-speaking Christians called the communion the Great Thanksgiving or the “Eucharist” in Greek. The Greek word “Eucharist” is made up of three little words like those Russian dolls within a doll within a doll. Inside “eucharist” is the Greek word “charis,” which means “gift” as in “charisma.” The heart of the word “charis” is the word “char,” which means “joy.”

In other words, the strength of the “joy of the Lord” is found in thanksgiving, not in weeping about what you did not do as the Jews were doing according to Nehemiah. The “joy of the Lord” is a gift that you get when you’re giving thanks that Jesus did what you could not: fulfilled the law to set you free.

This is the joyous strength that the Pilgrims found when they celebrated the first Thanksgiving with their Native American neighbors.

Where can you find the “joy of the Lord” that gives you the strength to do what God has called you to do? By giving thanks for Jesus’s death and resurrection on the cross, which set you free to live a more abundant life.

Do you need strength to face today and tomorrow? A good place to start is to give thanks to receive the “joy of the Lord,” as we do as believers in the Great Thanksgiving.

Dear Lord, we want to give You thanks for everyone and everything in our life, and for all the blessings You have bestowed on us in Jesus Christ’s Name by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Go and Tell the Greatest Story

Acts 1:8 (ESV)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Do you love to tell your friends about your favorite team or movie? Perhaps, but talking about Jesus seems hard for many Christians.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells his disciples they will be filled with the Holy Spirit, which was their signal that they witness “to the ends of the earth.”

So, did the disciples immediately set off to witness? No. They hang around the Temple in Jerusalem for the next seven chapters until Acts 8:1.

It took persecution to wake them up. The persecution starts in Acts 8:1, and many disciples are driven to the ends of the earth.

Now, God is omnipotent so he could have stopped the persecution. Also, he is omniscient, so he could have warned the believers. Instead, God allowed them to be driven out of Jerusalem.

Within a few years, these handful of believing disciples turned the Roman Empire from the most debauched and cruel empire to a civilized community of law. It wasn’t the power of man. It was the power of God for the work of witnessing.

The disciples didn’t have to change anyone. Only the Holy Spirit can change hearts. For the disciples—for you and me—we merely need to obey Jesus Christ’s command. God will empower you to do it.

Consider the movie “God’s Not Dead 2.” Grace Wesley, a public-school teacher, keeps her faith to herself, until she’s asked a question by a student that demanded an honest answer about Jesus. Answering honestly, Grace faces severe persecution and has to find the power of God’s grace to stand up and witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Like Grace, Jesus tells us we will be empowered to be his witnesses.

How? By trusting Jesus and asking the Holy Spirit to empower you to witness. Trust, then tell everyone that Jesus Christ came to set you, me and them free to live an abundant, eternal life with our Divine Creator.

Dear Lord, we love You and thank You for forgiving us and transforming my life. Sometimes we do not go forth to tell others about Your Good News. Please have Your Holy Spirit empower us to go into all the world to be Your witness throughout our life. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, November 26, 2018


John 1:14 (ESV)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

God designed reality to be “Both/And,” not “Either/Or.” Thus, Jesus is both fully God and fully Man.

The 2004 movie “The Passion of the Christ” is about the final hours of Jesus Christ that shows both his humanity in his suffering and his divinity in his Resurrection. The movie highlights the spiritual warfare raging around Jesus. Those who see it will understand the price Jesus paid to forgive us our sins.

Now, materialists, humanists, and communists believe that matter is all there is. If matter is all there is, then your life doesn’t matter, because you are expendable. Thus, materialist regimes in the 20th Century (such as Soviet Russia, Communist China and Pol Pot in Cambodia) killed and murdered over 100 million people.

In contrast, agnostics, occultists, and Hindus say that everything is an illusion. However, if everything is just an illusion, then your life doesn’t matter, because you are an illusion. When Mother Theresa rescued the dying off the streets of India, the Hindu leaders tried to burn her to death because her actions meant that these suffering people were not an illusion but had real value.

For Christians, we believe we live in a real world with real pain, and we need a real Savior. So, we are both the material and the spiritual, which are inextricably linked together.

This means you have infinite value, because you were created by God the Father in his image, AND you have infinite value because the Creator God himself, Jesus, died and rose from the dead to give you eternal life.

Being fully God and fully Man, Jesus can triumph over sin as the very Creator God.

Dear Lord, we want to be the person You created and called us to be, and we want to live our life in Your Kingdom. So, help us show forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit to every person, and to manifest the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to take every thought captive for You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Remember the Sabbath

Deuteronomy 5:15 (ESV)
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

How do you get over fear or anxiety?

Throughout the Bible, we are commanded to “Fear not.” Another frequent command in the Bible helps us do that, “Remember.” Why remember? So that we are not afraid because we remember how God is always there for us in the midst of the problems, trials and tribulations we face every day.

This advice was given to the Jews in Deuteronomy 5:15. God often says to the Israelites something like, “You don’t have to be afraid. I got rid of Pharaoh. I turned you from slaves to free men. I took you through the Red Sea. I brought you into the desert. I fed you mana. Then I fed you quail.” Even so, they mumbled, grumbled and whined. Jesus emphasized the importance of remembering in Matthew 16:9. And, Paul did too in Ephesians 2:12.

The quintessential movie to remember is Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic starring Charlton Heston, “The Ten Commandments” and the many other versions of the story of Moses that have been made into movies many times. In these stories of Moses, the people of Israel constantly forget the great miracles God has done and constantly need to be reminded. When they forget, they whine about the food and ask to go back to slavery in Egypt.

How do you get over being afraid? Just look at what God did in your life. Look back at your life. See what God’s done to protect you and to provide for you. Then, you will not be afraid. Freed from fear, you can go forth in the power of his grace, because you know that God is present in your life.

Dear Lord, please help us to remember Your presence and provision in our life, so we can live a life free from fear and anxiety, and show everyone the victory You provide in Jesus Christ. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

More than Conquerors

Romans 8:37  (ESV)
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
How would you live if you were more than a conqueror?

There is a famous boxer named George Foreman. His career had two phases. When he first went into the boxing ring, after several tough matches, he won the heavyweight championship. Then, in 1977, he almost died. So, he prayed and dedicated his life to Jesus Christ. To help inner-city youths, he decided to go back into the ring in 1988, but was told, “George, you’re too old!” With limited resources, in 1994 at age 45, he regained the heavyweight championship. Then, he gave most of the money to his inner-city youth ministry, and they were “more than conquerors.”

Well, Jesus won the victory on the cross. You don’t have to fight that battle all over again. That battle has been won for you by Jesus on the cross, so that when you get to Heaven you get a crown.

In “World Trade Center,” a Marine in the Reserves hears about the attack on the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. When he prays at his church, he feels called to put on his Marine uniform to go to New York City to help. Eventually, by the grace of God alone in response to his prayers, he miraculously finds two Port Authority police officers trapped deep in the rubble of the collapsed towers, who have been praying and trusting God to be rescued. They are more than conquerors because God himself has won the victory for them.

By the way, the ultimate victory is the one that Jesus Christ won over death itself. We are ultimately more than conquerors because, if we know Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, then we will triumph over death and live eternally with him in Heaven. So, once we get that crown in heaven, we put it at his feet because we love him so much and because he made us more than conquerors.

Dear Lord, we are so grateful that Jesus Christ won the victory for us on the Cross. Please empower us to live our life in the light of His victory as more than a conqueror, freed from fear and anxiety. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The origin of Black Friday

Deuteronomy 14:28-29  (ESV)
28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt attempted to bolster the great economic collapse by moving up the date of Thanksgiving. The idea was to give people more time to Christmas shop, thus boosting profits for businesses and merchants. The change didn’t hold and Thanksgiving reverted to its original date; however, the drive to increase spending among Americans remained, with the creation of a special day dedicated to mass spending and stocking up on Christmas purchases: Black Friday.

Probably not what Sarah Jospeha Hale had in mind when she campaigned against “the want of all things!”

The term “Black Friday” was coined in the 1950’s by Philadelphia police to describe the worst working day of their year. The Saturday after Thanksgiving was the annual date for the city’s Army/Navy football game. (It doesn’t get much more American than that!) Every year, loads of people flooded into the city during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to celebrate — and do their Christmas shopping the day before the game — requiring the attention of Philadelphia’s whole police force.

Looters took advantage of the crowds, preying upon business owners and taking off with their merchandise; such rampant crime after a national holiday dedicated to gratitude.

A not-so-nice aspect to our infamous shopping day.

Now, joining Black Friday, are Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. One is dedicated to online shopping, the other to “giving back”. Some feel donating to charity has become an afterthought to materialism, and maybe they are right to be concerned. Because after we spend all of our money on acquiring more things, often we can only spare a few dollars to give to those who truly need it.

In Deuteronomy, we read about the practice of offering the firstfruits of a harvest to the temple. The people worshipped God by giving thanks for the fertile land he had given them; and to receive forgiveness of sins. Sometimes the offerings were used to feed the poor, orphans, and widows.

Here is a good question to consider this Thanksgiving: does the retail industry dictate the way you shop and spend?

Dear Lord, show us how, and when we can give to those who are struggling to clothe and feed themselves. Help us to be Your hands and feet. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving the gift of friendship and food

1 Chronicles 16:34 (ESV)

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

When Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as a national holiday, he asked that we remember to pray for “all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, and sufferers.”

Jesus called us to do this as well. As Christians, it’s imperative to remember those who suffer; those who often go without; and those who have lost their family.

Lincoln also asked that we pray for “the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and restore it.”

His proclamation ended with four words. Peace, harmony, tranquility, and union — what the Wampanoags provided when they met 102 pilgrims: the gift of friendship and food. 

This season remember it was compassion that led to thanksgiving.

Why not advocate Thanksgiving this holiday season? Show compassion to the hungry.

Dear Lord, Thanks for the many things You have given each of us. Help our day of celebration not end today but go on throughout the year. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

How is your thanksgiving factor?

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV)
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

In the classic autobiography, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells of her sufferings at the hands of the Nazis during the evil reign of Adolph Hitler. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were incarcerated at the Nazi concentration camp, Ravensbruck, and experienced terrible atrocities there. On one occasion, they were forced to disrobe before the German soldiers. In that awful, humiliating moment, an amazing discovery came to Corrie's mind: "They took Jesus' clothes too. He hung naked for me." When she relayed that wondrous thought to Betsie, she gasped and said, "Oh, Corrie, and I never thanked Him for it."

One of the things that made Corrie and Betsie such dynamic Christians was the fact that the chose to see life from God's perspective. In the worst of situations, they found new insights to praise and thank God.

The Bible tells us that we are to give thanks in everything, the good things AND the bad things. In Psalm 50:23, God says, "He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me." In the hard times, thanksgiving is difficult. It is definitely a sacrifice to thank God in a Nazi concentration camp, but it is so very necessary. Thanksgiving honors God, and when you and I honor God, He honors us (1 Samuel 2:30).

How is your thanksgiving factor? Are you facing tough times? Have you been griping and complaining about the things in your life that are hard, lonely and frustrating? Why not try praising and thanking God for your difficulty.  He knows about it, He is over it, and He cares for you. Without question, He has a purpose in every trial and tribulation. Start today to live a life of thanksgiving. If you will do it, I promise you on the authority of the Word of God, your attitude will change, the people around you will be blessed, and Jesus Christ will be glorified and honored.

Dear Lord, help us to live a life of Thanksgiving not only on this Thanksgiving Day but through out the year. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tangible way to serve the Lord

Hebrews 13:15-16 (ESV)
15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

The call of the Christian is to care for those in need--a tangible way to serve the Lord.

We are blessed when we feed the hungry and provide water to those who are thirsty; when we welcome strangers and refugees; and when we clothe the naked, take care of the sick, and visit those in prison. Because as we serve those people, we encounter Jesus in them.

It is a blessing and honor that we have the privilege of being God's hands and feet, and ambassadors of Christ in this world. And as we serve, visit, feed, and clothe those in need, we experience “the reality of saving faith exhibited in serving love.” (Excerpt from The Radical Disciple by John Stott.)

Not only should we continually pray for people who are suffering, but we should show practical support and care as well.

Tearfund, an international humanitarian and development agency, works tirelessly around the world to help communities realize their own potential and lift themselves out of poverty, escaping the most dire of circumstances, and giving people around the globe a reason to practice Thanksgiving everyday.

This Thanksgiving, why not practice gratitude by extending your compassion to someone who needs.

Dear Lord, open our eyes so that we can see those around us that we can bless with a meal. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Tragedies and Thanksgiving

Psalm 28:6-8 (ESV)
6 Blessed be the Lord!
    For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
7 The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
    and with my song I give thanks to him. 
8 The Lord is the strength of his people;
    he is the saving refuge of his anointed.

The Civil War was at its height when President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. On October 3, 1863, amidst 50,000 fallen soldiers, destroyed battlegrounds, and an entire population at odds with each other.

Recently, the United States has endured several tragedies: hurricanes, large-scale fires, mass shootings, a heroin epidemic, terrorism.

Perhaps this year you are struggling to find something to be thankful for. Or maybe this season has always been difficult for you.

A brutal war had torn America apart when Thanksgiving was declared, just after the battle of Gettysburg had just been won. A battle that changed the course of American history, paving the way for freedom and democracy.

Has God ever called you to give thanks during a season of conflict and turmoil?

Dear Lord,  help us to practice gratitude in such seasons of our life no matter how bad things look. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Mother of Thanksgiving

1 Thessalonians 5:18  (ESV)
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Known as the Mother of Thanksgiving, Sarah Josepha Hale was born in 1788, a native of New Hampshire. She wrote several books, but is mostly recognized as the poet who created the nursery rhyme about a girl named Mary and her lamb, which you probably sung as a child.

What is not widely known about Sarah is how she campaigned for 36 years to see the government declare a day solely dedicated to gratitude. “At this season every family, almost, in our land has the comforts of life, and nearly all have the hope and prospect of living thus comfortably through the coming seasons.”

Scripture says we can offer thanksgiving as a sacrifice, and doing so glorifies God. Being able to recognize God’s goodness, despite our circumstances, is an act of worship which pays homage to his attributes--his grace, patience, love, and provision. 

Sarah Josepha Hale was an advocate of thanksgiving, and became the catalyst for the United States implementing a day of gratitude as a national holiday. While not everyone has the same benefits and comforts afforded to others, as Christians, we can be challenged that whatever our circumstances, Thanksgiving is a day in which we can offer worship to an amazing, good and holy God.

God loves a thankful heart.

Dear Lord, help us to each have a thankful heart. Help us to be thankful for the things that You have given us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Hosanna youth choir

Matthew 21:15-16 (ESV)
15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
    you have prepared praise’?”

Jesus’ disciples had a problem with Jesus’ child followers, and ironically so did his enemies. The crowds of people who welcomed King Jesus to Jerusalem, his royal capital, on Palm Sunday with their palms and psalms had set up a rhythmic Hebrew chant: ba-RUCH ha-BA’ b’SHEM adoNAI. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Psalm 118:25,26). Hosanna means “Save us now!” The kids loved it. All the rest of that day and into Monday they played with the leftover palms and kept the “Hosanna” chant going.

Jesus’ enemies hated it: “When the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant. ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read, “From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise”?’” (Matthew 21:15,16).

Isn’t it ironic that these kids figured out deep spiritual truths that the religious professionals could not see? They were applying Psalm 118’s messianic prophecy to the humble man riding on his little donkey and giving him worship and praise that belonged only to Israel’s king. This Hosanna choir, these child champions, were giving the Lord the praise, he deserved.

Dear Lord, help us to hear children’s voices praying and singing in our church. Help us to take the time to listen and encourage. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Jesus’ little friend

Matthew 18:2-4  (ESV)

2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus’ disciples on occasion were a little too full of themselves. Jesus was a child magnet—they loved his tone and presence—but the disciples viewed the children as a nuisance and tried to shoo them away. They thought that discussing the faith was grown-up business.

Jesus saw children as his champions: “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Mathew 18:2-4).

Jesus praised child-faith for two powerful reasons: 1) its simplicity. Children haven’t yet learned all the scientific reasons why the Christian faith is unbelievable. They don’t stall and argue. They just accept it. 2) its humility. Children are used to being marginalized and ignored by adults, and so they don’t think too highly of themselves. Jesus’ tone was sharp with his disciples. Not only could children have saving faith, but their faith was to be a model for adults. In fact—outrageous concept—without childlike faith it is impossible to enter the kingdom! Not only do children bring value to God through their service; their humble posture is to be a model for big people.

Does Jesus have any child champions in your life who can inspire and guide your mind-set?

Dear Lord, thank You for those little champions that You have placed in our life. Help us to take the time to nurture them and help mold them into the Young men or women You have planned for them. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Josiah, the boy king

2 Chronicles 34:1 (ESV)
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.

Was there ever a child champion like Josiah, who became king of Judah as a second grader? His father, an evil man, was assassinated after a short two-year reign, and suddenly Josiah’s little head had to bear the weight of a big crown: “Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years” (2 Chronicles 34:1).

This little guy had no normal childhood. He had to grow up terribly fast. And though he obviously had advisors and personal tutors, his youth did not hold him back from a reign of enormous and positive impact on God’s people. At the age of high school sophomores, he began a serious quest to learn about the God of Israel. At an age when American college students are drinking a lot of beer, Josiah led a huge spiritual reformation in the country, tearing down the shrines and altars of Baal and Asherah that had been corrupting the Israelites for centuries. And at age 26 he led a capital campaign to rebuild the temple of the Lord, which had fallen into sad disrepair.

King Josiah’s personal leadership, authority, and example brought about spiritual renewal throughout Israel, brought God’s protection and blessings, and undoubtedly extended the time of Israel’s independence. He was the last good king; the evil of his four short-lived successors brought about Israel’s collapse.

Keep your eyes peeled for the talent that God has loaded into his child champions in your world.

Dear Lord, we thank You for the children in our life. Help us to remember to lift them up in our prayers so that they may become the people You would have for them to be. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Little Samuel

1 Samuel 1:21-22 (ESV)
21 The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.”

A woman named Hannah, living in the tribal territory of Ephraim in the 11th century b.c., had a tough life. Not only was she unable to have a child; she was part of a polygamous marriage, and her rival wife had many sons and daughters and taunted poor Hannah cruelly because of it. Hannah prayed repeatedly for a child and nothing happened.

But then—her miracle. She bore a son, a gift from God, and she named him “Sh’mu-El,” Samuel, which means “heard by God.” Whereupon she decided to do the most amazing thing, so great was her overwhelming gratitude to God: “When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, ‘After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always’”.

Astonishing! She took her little miracle boy to the town of Shiloh, current location of the ark of the covenant and altar of sacrifice to the Lord, and placed him into the care of Eli, the high priest. What a sacrifice! Even more amazing is the child champion who made the best of his new home. What a brave little man! Do you suppose he ever cried, “I want my mom!”?

Samuel grew up to be one of the greatest prophets in Israel’s history.

Dear Lord, help us to be like Hannah and see our children as gifts from You. Help us to teach them to love and serve You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Naaman’s servant girl

2 Kings 5:2-3 (ESV)
2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman's wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

The Bible’s main characters are almost all adults. Almost. But there are some amazing children in the narrative of God’s plan of salvation. One of them is a little Israelite girl (name, alas, unknown) who had been taken captive by raiders from Aram (Syria). What of her parents? Were they killed? captives also? safe back home grieving over their lost daughter? We are not told.

What kind of mind-set would you expect the girl to have? Brooding over the injustice of her forced servitude? Seeking to sabotage operations in a military household? Crafting plans for an escape as soon as the opportunity presented itself? Plotting to assassinate the Syrian general as an act of patriotism? None of the above. Hearing that her master was plagued with leprosy, she offered information to help him: “Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy’” (2 Kings 5:2,3).

It could not have gone better for General Naaman the Leper. He met the great Israelite prophet Elisha, who put him in touch with Israel’s God. He was healed completely, and in gratitude he exclaimed, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” (verse 15).

Amazing! Never say, “Only a child.”

Dear Lord, we thank You for the children. Help us to look at the children around us with Your eyes. Help us to take the time to nurture them and bring their potential out. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A legacy of character and faith

Joshua 4:21-22 (ESV)
21 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’

Ruth Bell Graham was raised in China where her parents were medical missionaries. During this time, the Chinese people resented all foreigners, calling them “foreign devils.” It was common for Ruth to hear of Chinese Christians and missionaries laying their lives down as martyrs for their faith.

In spite of the chaos around them, singing and laughter was often heard coming out of the Bell home. Ruth learned from her parents’ example of prayer and Bible study. Ruth’s parents had the priority to heal souls and bodies of the Chinese, but little did they know, they were helping shape a little girl to become a great woman of God. Their faithful service to their Savior was impacting their daughter. They were leaving a legacy.

In 1937, shortly after Shanghai fell to the Japanese, Ruth said goodbye to her family and left China for Wheaton College. A few months later, she accepted a date with a young man named Billy. After that first date she prayed, “Lord, if You’d let me serve You with that man, I’d consider it the greatest privilege of my life.” The Grahams went on to have perhaps the most well-known evangelistic ministry—Billy to the masses and Ruth to the individual. Their deepest core desire was for people to come to know Christ in a personal way.

The couple had five children. Billy was often traveling for months at a time, so Ruth put her heart into raising their children. Her children watched their father reach the masses and their mother love people—one by one—into God’s family.

Billy summed up her passion well:

"The greatest legacy one can pass on to one's children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one's life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”

We see the Israelites crossing the Jordan after 40 years in the wilderness. God rolled back the water and they walked across. What a poignant moment! The barren wilderness behind them and a new chapter before them. God gave specific instructions to bring 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan. Following God’s instructions, they piled them as a sign, a monument, of the miracle God had done. In the future, when the children asked, “What do these stones mean?” they could share the legacy.

What legacy are you leaving your children? How will your children remember you? Will it be a legacy of character and faith—a legacy that shares of God’s goodness?

Dear Lord, we pray that we would leave a legacy for our children. Help us to do the things that would bring honor to You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Mr. Rogers’ Hero

1 John 3:11 (ESV)
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

Most of us remember that kind-hearted, gentle, soft-spoken man who invited us into his neighborhood each day. Suddenly, we weren’t sitting in our living room watching TV. We were transported to his world where we were surrounded by puppets, trains and kindness. We learned that kids matter and are worthy of love and acceptance. We learned about anger, trust, courage and sadness. Rogers, an ordained minister, used media to teach kids about morals.

Motivated by the way television addressed children, Mr. Rogers set out to change how people viewed children. Over 3 decades, he became an icon to some and a friend to millions.

Behind the cardigan was a message that is encapsulated with this quote by Fred Rogers,

“Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me."

We learn the importance of love in our families and relationships. The early church was a great example of this sacrificial love. They met together and immediately started meeting needs. They even sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need (Acts 2:44-45). It was an example of love in action.

When we show loyal love and kindness to our kids, they notice. We are teaching them how to be kind to others. Proverbs 3:3 says, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

Our children are watching and they notice whether we love others—in words and actions! Jesus is the prime example of this kindness. In love, He laid down His life for us. While we were sinners and completely undeserving of mercy, Jesus died for us. As our passage today points out, He calls us to be sacrificial toward our brothers and sisters in need. That is how God’s love is shown to others—in actions and truth!

Dear Lord, help us to love the children. Help us to find ways that we can love them and show them Your love. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Reflections of Dwight L. Moody

Deuteronomy 11:19 (ESV)
You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

As a graduate of Moody Bible Institute I always love reading stories of Dwight L. Moody who was one of the great evangelists of the nineteenth century. His father died when Dwight was only 4 years old, leaving his mother to raise 9 children who were under the age of 13. With only a fifth-grade education, Moody moved to Boston at the age of 17 with the goal of making a lot of money. Shortly after his move, he found faith in Jesus Christ and came to the realization that his goal of making money may not be honoring to God. He spent the rest of his life in various evangelistic and discipleship causes, becoming one of the more effective evangelists of all time. It is thought that he presented the gospel to over 100 million people.

Moody surprised many be saying:

"If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry to reaching children for God!"

Even after all his countless accomplishments, how can the evangelist have said that he would throw all that away to devote it to reaching children for God. In fact, many have reported that Moody came back from a revival and reported that 2 ½ people were saved. His listener responded, “You mean two adults and one child?” Moody responded, “No, two children and one adult. When you save a child, you save a life—a whole life.”

Perhaps Moody knew that people are most open to the gospel when they are children. They absorb biblical information easily and they are moldable. They are formulating their perceptions of God, the world, and people. In general, they have longer to live and impact others for Christ.

God’s instructions to the Jewish people were clear. He wanted them to teach His commands to their children and reiterate those teachings often—when they sat at home, when they walked along the road, when they lay down, and then they got up. Each event of the day could be used to teach God’s principles to a child.

The children in your sphere of influence will only be children for a short time. Will God use you to change the spiritual course of their lives?

Dear Lord, we pray for wisdom today so that we may know how to reach the children. Give us the words that will touch their life for You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.