In pressure Thou hast enlarged me.

Bright Hope of Life

It is true that “calm seas never made a sailor.” It is through tribulation that we develop patience. It is through pressure that we are enlarged.

Even men of the world have realized that difficulties have educative and broadening values.  Charles Kettering once said, “Problems are the price of progress.  Don’t bring anything but problems. Good news weakens me.”

But especially from the Christian world come testimonies to the profit derived from trials.  We read, for instance, “To suffer passes, but to have suffered endures for eternity.”

          The poet adds this confirmation:

          And many a rapturous minstrel among those sons of light

          Will say of his sweetest music, “I learnt it in the night;”

          And many a rolling anthem that fills the Father’s home

          Sobbed out its first rehearsal in the shade of a darkened room.

Spurgeon wrote, in his inimitable way: I am afraid that all the grace I have got out of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours might almost lie on a penny.  But the good I have received from my sorrows and pains and griefs is altogether incalculable.  What do I not owe to the hammer and the file?  Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house.”

And yet why should we be  surprised?  Does not the unnamed writer to the Hebrews tell us, “Now obviously no chastening seems pleasant at the time: it is in fact most unpleasant.  Yet when it is all over we can see that it has quietly produced the fruit of real goodness in the character of those who have accepted it” (Hebrew 12:11, PHILLIPS.)

366 soul-stirring daily meditations

 

Love Always Hopes

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In the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13, we find four things that love “always” does.  Love is not just an idea; it is action.  The third action listed is that love “always hopes” (NIV) or “hopes all things” (ESV). It’s nice to know that love is hopeful, but what exactly does this mean?

The Greek word translated “hope” is from elpidzo, meaning “to hope or wait for salvation with joy and full confidence.” Used 32 times in the New Testament, this word expresses more than a wish or desire, but a confident belief in the unseen.  Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Faith, hope , and love are often intimately connected in Scripture (see 1 Corinthians 13:13).

In Colossian 1:4-5 we find the same combination of faith, hope, and love:  “We heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven”(emphasis added).

Just as God is called “love”(1 John 4:8), Jesus is called our “hope” (1 Timothy 1:1).  Hope not only concerns our belief in Christ but describes who He is to us.  The hope within us is Christ Himself.  If He lives within us, His hope will be seen in how we treat others.  Living with such an attitude reflects the way of Christ, leads to holy living, and brings glory to the heavenly Father (Matthew 5:17).

Part of showing love is hoping, and part of hoping is seeing the potential of others.  As Goethe said, “If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” In love, we can always be hopeful and show confidence in others.  This does not rule out confrontation or the redress of wrongs, but the impact of a positive attitude in the life of another person is incalculable.

How many times in the Old Testament did Israel fail God?  Yet their failure was never final.  Love never says die.  Peter failed Jesus, yet the Lord restored him.  The Corinthians failed Paul in some ways, yet the apostle, in love, patiently corrected them and called them “sanctified” (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Love always points to a brighter day ahead.  Love is the lifeline that the hurting can hold on to.

If you have ever had a person believe in you and share a hopeful attitude for your future, then you have experienced some of what 1 Corinthains 13:7 teaches.  As long as there is love, there will be hope.

Where You Can Find Wisdom That Endures

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But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

James 3:17

It’s amazing to think about all the advances in human thought that have been brought about over the years.  Isaac Newton was sitting under a tree one day when an apple fell on his head, inspiring him to coin the Universal Law of Gravitation.  And when Gutenberg saw a scribe diligently copying a scroll, he thought there must be a better way and invented the printing press.

It was Einstein who conceived the Theory of General Relativity and turned the science world on its head.  And the great writer William Shakespeare penned some of the most prolific theatrical plays in the history of the world.

Yes, mankind had had some amazing thoughts that have changed the world.  But I believe none of them compare to the profoundly simple words of the shepherd-king named David, who wrote, “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm23:1).  In that phrase, He summed up the essence of life: to acknowledge God and find our satisfaction in Him.

Wisdom without God is temporal.  But godly wisdom informs us for this life and the life to come.  So grow in knowledge and remember that wisdom that truly endures comes not from the world, but from God!

Christmas, His Birth, and Mission of the Lord

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We are reminded once again on the meaning to the birth of Jesus Christ.  God has revealed His amazing love to this world by giving His one and only Son as a sin offering.  The Lord carried the sins of this world, so that man might be reconciled to God and received peace.

At this Christmas, we ask ourselves what is the meaning of world missions?  Isaiah 53:4-6 spoke of the path of Christ.

“Surely he took up our pain

                and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,

                stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

                he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

                and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

                each of us has turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on him

                the iniquity of us all.”

God knew that it meant to send his one and only son whom the loved into this world:  It is so that through His Son, man may discover the path toward salvation whereas the world could provide no such path.

What the Coming of the Lord means to us:

“Man’s soul can’t be free from sin.  God knew it and saw the suffering inside our souls.  The beginning of anxiety is here that man became enemy of God.  God knew even the law couldn’t bring the freedom…We become free from sin through the redemption of Christ and begin to live with new life in Christ.  This is the true liberation from the power of sin.  By coming of the Lord, the sin of the whole world was cleared.”

Without the gospel, men are destined to die for their sins without the chance of redemption.  However, this path is marked with sufferings that most do not desire.

The Lord explained the illogical heart of God in Luke 15:

Then Jesus told them this parable:  “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.  Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.  Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’”

What allows someone to give up a life of comfort and luxury to pursue a mission that seem to have nominal value to this world?  Why would the shepherd give up the 99 he has just to gain 1?  Conclusion: It is because of love and concern for even one soul.

Not many have chosen the path of following the Lord’s steps.  However for those that had embarked on this path, the love of the Lord comes close to the heart.  The Lord was the one who saw the pain and sufferings of the world, and with the heart of mercy embraced sinners so that they might receive salvation.  He gave His life in exchange for men to be reconciled to God, and allow them to discover life in midst of various death and despair that clouds over.

The mission of the Lord is a noble task.

Yet the work of mission is carrying of sins.  It connotes that receiving of punishments deserved by others.  Whereas sin of man pierces one another and condemns each other to death, the Lord redeems that sin by receiving the condemnation onto Him.  And just as the Lord was not deserving of suffering and pain, likewise the hardship of mission is neither desired nor deserved of those that pursued it.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves…” – Matthew 10:16

The humble coming of the Lord was noticed only by those who knew of the bright light that His life would shine upon this world.  The shepherds and the Wise Men saw the star in the sky and followed it to the manger in Bethlehem, yet it was unnoticed by everyone else in Israel.

Work of missionary likewise is a light hidden among darkness.  This season, we should meditate further on the meaning of mission and pray for those who have chosen to stand on the frontiers.  The task of a missionary entails the acceptance of a life that could be inferior to the norm, yet it carries great nobility. Furthermore the life of the Lord, and the love of God, is revealed through the testimonies of their work.  May our missionaries go forth into their fields with abundant prayers and strength from the Lord in pursuit of salvation work.

From Ordinary to Great

Ordinary Time

 

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. – Acts 4:13

Anyone who studies God’s ways soon realizes they are quite different from man’s.  Worldly wisdom says that extraordinary people and abundant resources are needed for great tasks, yet the Lord often chooses the small and insignificant to achieve His proposes on earth.

For example, Christ selected a rather unimpressive group of men as disciples, yet after being filled with the Spirit, they “turned the world upside down.” During His ministry on earth, Jesus fed thousands with a child’s meager lunch, and He viewed the widow’s two small coins as a greater offering than all the other generous donations  (John 6:5-12; Luke 21:2-3).

God specializes in using people who aren’t naturally qualified to accomplish His tasks.  Moses was a verbally impaired 80-year-old shepherd who liberated a nation.  After Gideon hid from the enemy, God made him a valiant warrior.  David was the overlooked youngest son who killed a giant with a small stone and became Israel’s greatest king.

God isn’t looking for impressive people; He wants willing ones who will bow the knee in humble submission.  Being weak and ordinary doesn’t make you useless.  Rather, it positions you for a demonstration of divine power in your life.  He takes insignificant ones and delights in making them great.

Have you ever considered that your lack of ability, talent, or skill is the ideal setting for a great display of Christ’s power and glory?  If you are willing to submit to His leading and venture into the scary yet rewarding territory of faith and obedience, He will do great things in and through you.

When God Says No

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Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went to through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. – Acts 16:6-8

Sometimes the Lord will step in and say no to even the most loving and carefully considered of our plans. There are many ways, of course, that God can stop or redirect us. Sometimes it’s through the warning of a respected friend. Sometimes it might be through a lack of peace in our lives. All of the circumstances might look just fine, but something inside us doesn’t feel quite right. We have a lack of peace about it.

We’re told in the book of Colossians that we should let the peace of God settle with finality all matters that arise in our minds ( see Colosians 3:15). If we’re starting to do something or go somewhere and sense a lack of God’s blessing on that plan, we need to learn to stop and seek His peace and His desire for our lives.

God also can redirect us through simple circumstances. The car won’t start. A particular door won’t open. A check won’t clear. A flight is delayed. An illness comes. Has it happened to you? You had plans in a certain direction, and God stepped in and said, “No. That isn’t what I had in mind for you at this time. I have another plan.” You may have wanted to go into the ministry, and instead God called you into business. Or perhaps you had prepared yourself for a career in business, and God called you into ministry! You have wanted to be married, but God called you to be single. Or perhaps you were sure you would be single, but then He dropped someone into your life out of the blue. You may have wanted a large family, but you had a small family-or no children at all.

Sometimes things turn out differently than what we had imagined of planned. Ultimately, however, our lives belong to Him, not to ourselves. And His plans, even when they seem difficult, are the very best plans for this life and the next.

What It Means to Prosper

prosper

I know that as you pray for me, and as the Holy Spirit helps me, this is all going to turn out for my good. –Philippians 1:19

Sometimes I think that today’s “prosperity preachers” have hijacked a legitimate biblical term. After all, God does want His sons and daughters to proper. But what does that really mean? That you’ll never get sick? Never have problems? Never run out of money? Never have strains in your relationships? No, that is not what the Bible means by “prosperity.”

Five years before making his journey to Rome, Paul wrote to the believers there and said in Romans 1:10, “Making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.” In other words, “Hey, would you guys pray for me? I’m coming your way. And pray that the Lord gives me a prosperous journey by the will of God.”

Did God answer his prayer? Yes. He did make it to Rome and had an amazing ministry there of preaching, teaching, discipleship, and writing. He just hadn’t understood that getting to Rome would mean false accusations, arrest, incarceration, and chains. He couldn’t have foreseen that it would involve hurricane-force winds at sea, shipwreck on an island, and the bite of a poisonous viper on the way.

The reality is that you can live a prosperous life in the will of God and still face fierce personal conflict and adversity. Paul went through a shipwreck on his way to Rome, but he had a prosperous journey by the will of God because of what it ultimately accomplished.

Facing storms and shipwrecks in our lives really isn’t a matter of if, it is a matter of when. So it’s time for us to get our sea legs under us. Rather than trying to avoid the storms of life, we need to learn how to get through them, how to survive them, and how to learn the lessons that we can only learn in such times and such places.

It has been said that you can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails. In other words, I can’t control all the elements of my world-or even very many of them at all. But I can control my reaction to them. I can adjust my sails- and adapt.

Fresh Courage

boat in the storm

I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. –Philippians 1:6

Are you discouraged today? Afraid of an uncertain future? The Bible tells the story of a time when Jesus’ disciples were not only discouraged, but they were actually in terror for their very lives.

Jesus had told them to get into a boat and go over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, and they obeyed. But when they were a considerable distance from land, a fierce storm arose that terrified them. Jesus, who had been on a mountain praying, went to meet the disciples, walking on the water. Thinking He was a ghost, the disciples cried out in fear. So Jesus immediately told them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27, NIV).

There are two simple reasons the disciples didn’t have to be afraid: First, Jesus would help them weather the storm. And second, He had told them to go to the other side, which meant they would reach the other side. Where God guides, God provides.

Jesus knows where you are at this very moment. As complicated and tangled as your situation might seem to yourself right now. it’s all perfectly clear to Him. He knows what you are thinking, feeling, experiencing. He ‘s telling you to be courageous because He is with you, and there is a brighter tomorrow for you. Even if you’ve failed, even if you’ve made a mistake, it isn’t over. You can still learn from that mistake and get out of the situation in which you find yourself.

God has a future for each of us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you….plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”(NIV). God will complete the work He has begun in your life. Take courage!

A Calm Heart in the Storm

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The Lord will rescue me from evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen. – 2 Timothy 4:18

Paul could have a calm heart in the middle of the mother of all storms because he knew he was in the center of God’s will for his life. He was on business for God.

In his prison cell back in Caesarea, Jesus Himself had stood by Paul and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome”(Acts 23:11). Then, in the middle of the storm out at sea, an angel stood by Paul with this message from God: “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar” (Acts 27:24).

Bear witness at Rome….brought before Caesar…

Paul knew that God would get him to where he was supposed to be-at the right time, in the right place, and with whatever he needed to complete the job at hand. With these things in mind, Paul could even relax in the middle of a hurricane…just before a shipwreck. He knew he had heaven’s business to transact in Rome, and he knew that God would get him through any difficulty along the way. He was walking in God’s plan, and he could rest in the fact that it was God’s responsibility to get him through rough seas or not!

The same is true of our service to the King. No, we aren’t assured of smooth sailing, and we’re not promised immunity from shipwrecks (or viper bites!) along the way. But we are definitely assured of a safe arrival. Know this: As long as God has work for us to do here on earth, we will be here to do it. God will preserve us to do it. And when that work is done, it is done, and He’ll bring us home to heaven-not a moment too soon and not a moment too late.

God does not show us the whole plan

God's plan

God does not show us the whole plan of our life at a burst, but unfolds it to us bit by bit. Each day He gives us the opportunity of weaving a curtain, carving a peg, fashioning the metal. We know not what we do, but at the end of our life the disjointed pieces will suddenly come together, and we shall see the symmetry and beauty of the divine thought. Then we shall be satisfied. In the meantime let us believe that God’s love and wisdom are doing the very best for us.

In the morning ask God to show you His plan for the day in the unfolding of its events, and to give you grace to do or bear all that He may have prepared. In the midst of the day’s engagements, often look up and say, “Father, is this in the plan?”

At night, be still, and match your actual with God’s ideal, confessing your sins and shortcomings, and asking that His will may be more perfectly done with you, even as in heaven.

F. B. Meyer