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The Living Christ [Billy Graham devotional]

This is another great devotional from Billy Graham’s wonderful devotional book, Hope for Each Day: Words of Wisdom and Faith. 

Gal2-20

From Hope for Each Day by Billy Graham

The Living Christ

It is no longer I who live,
but Christ lives in me.
—Galatians 2:20

Jesus Christ was crucified between two thieves on a rugged cross on Calvary, just outside Jerusalem. Think of it: The very Son of God came down from Heaven and “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Jesus gave His head to the crown of thorns for us. He gave His face to the human spittle for me. He gave His cheeks and His beard to be plucked out for us. He gave His back to the lash for us. He gave His side to the spear for us. He gave His hands and feet to the spikes for us. He gave His blood for us. Jesus Christ, dying in our place, taking our sins on that cross, is God’s love in action.

But that’s not the end of the story. He rose again, and He is the living Christ. If Christ is not alive, there is no hope for any of us. But He is alive! And because He is, “he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25, NIV).

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Hallelujah!

Go here to order your own copy of Hope for Each Day by Billy Graham.

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By Faith [repost]

Hebrews Chapter 11

Faith in Action

FaithSign

 

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

“By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

“By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

“By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

“By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

“By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

“By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

Hebrews11

Years ago Hebrews 11:1 was given to me at Royal Family KIDS Camp, a camp for abused and abandoned children. I first served as a counselor there in 1996. God called me to this ministry even though I felt totally unprepared for the task. I tried to ignore God’s call on my heart but He kept showing me that HE wanted me to go there, until one night at a prayer meeting I heard Him say to my anguished heart, “I want you to do this for Me.”

How could I ignore that?

My week at camp was a mixture of faith and fear, trust and anxiety, exhilaration and fatigue. I remember that my days were filled with prayers of “Please, Lord…” as I faced a new challenge, and “Thank You, Lord!” as He helped me through the task.

I didn’t know it at the time but the camp administration team was watching all of us counselors as we interacted with each of the children in our charge. They met each night to search the Scriptures and find just the right verse to describe each of us. I can’t tell you how surprised I was to hear that they thought Hebrews 11:1 was mine.

Faith. It’s such a small word but so full of blessed meaning. So much happened that week that made me feel like I was barely keeping my head above water, when in fact God was holding me up and enabling me to accomplish the work He had for me there.

Beloved, I don’t know where you are in your faith walk right now. But I do know this: allow God to lead you without reservation and believe without a shadow of doubt that He knows best. He loves all of us too much to want any less for us!

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Faith as [Jesus] characterized it is nothing less
than a complete exchange of all that we are
for all that He is.

—John MacArthur

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Faith never knows where it is being led,
but it loves and knows the One who is leading.
—Oswald Chambers

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All who call on God in true faith,
earnestly from the heart,

will certainly be heard, and will receive
what they have asked and desired.
—Martin Luther

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Be faithful in small things
because it is in them that your strength lies.
—Mother Teresa

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Every tomorrow has two handles.
We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety
or the handle of faith. 
—Henry Ward Beecher

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4 Principles for Overcoming Fear [Precept Ministries Repost]

The other day on their Established BlogPrecept Ministries posted this great article about overcoming fear.

4 Principles for overcoming fear,worry,doubt,inductive bible study,precept ministries

4 Principles for Overcoming Fear

Fear unleashes a host of doubts. It chips away at our confidence in God’s goodness. If Jesus can sleep in the storms of the Sea of Galilee, is he asleep in our storms? Does He care? Our minds continue, “If God doesn’t care, then we must take control.” We become control freaks because we perceive a loss of control and somebody has to do something!

The disciples had every reason to trust Jesus. They had heard Him teach the Word and had even seen Him perform miracles, and yet they still had little faith in a crisis, when their lives were at risk.

Read the rest here.

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Living by Faith

 

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All these people were still living by faith when they died.
They did not receive the things promised;
they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.
And they admitted that they were
aliens and strangers on earth.
—Hebrews 11:13

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A writer colleague of mine once wrote me about her mother’s recent death. She said she missed her mother a great deal but didn’t wish her back because the last months of her illness were terrible. At the same time, my own mother was struggling with various life-threatening illnesses and we didn’t know how much longer she would be with us.

As I read my friend’s words, I knew I would feel the same way when it came time for the Lord to take Mom home. Although I love my mother dearly, she struggled so much in the last few years of her life. She shared with me more than once that she was ready to be with Jesus. She knew—by faith—that there was a much better life for her in heaven with Jesus.

Can I get a huge AMEN on that?

Faith.

Paul describes faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). So many of our ancestors lived by faith: Abraham, Enoch, Noah and David, to name just a few. They lived with the hope promised to all of us by God our Father—the hope of living an eternal life free of cares or worries.

Have you ever wondered if this was easy for them?

Beloved, faith and trust go hand in hand. Our Biblical ancestors understood that. They trusted in a God they could not see and had faith in the His promises. We can follow their example by faithfully leaning on the only One who truly cares and understands our pain and frustration.

Faith isn’t the ability to believe
long and far into the misty future.

It’s simply taking God at His Word
and taking the next step. 

—Joni Eareckson Tada

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Faith is taking the first step
even when you don’t see the whole staircase. 
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Fight the good fight of the faith.
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called
when you made your good confession
in the presence of many witnesses.
—1 Timothy 6:12

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The LORD Bless You and Keep You

Num6-24-26--TheLordBlessYou

Aaron’s Benediction

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
“Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying,
‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel.
You shall say to them:

The Lord bless you, and keep you;

The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.’

So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel,
and I then will bless them.” 
—Numbers 6:22-26

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He is Faithful [repost]

Lately I’ve been thinking about how the Lord is leading me in my writing life, and how thankful I am to Him for that. I am going to be starting a new phase soon and will share more about that when the time comes. For now, rather than cut back on my blog posting, I thought I’d share an older post with you once a week or so. 

This particular post from 2012 about God’s faithfulness concerns a very big turning point in my writing career. I discovered that sometimes we need to just stop everything in order to allow our Lord to give us a fresh insight into His plans for us. When I stopped writing a few years back, I had no idea that the hiatus would involve a huge amount of trust in Jesus.

The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
—1 Thessalonians 5:24

I’ve been talking and blogging a lot lately about leaning on the Lord with faith and trust. Today I’d like to focus on how faith plays such a huge part in trusting and believing in the Lord’s timing.

By the way, “faith” (a noun) and “believe” (a verb) are both translated from the same Greek word. If you claim to have faith in God, then believing in Him is to put that faith into action. In other words, our faith leads to believing that what God says is true and more important than what we see or feel with our frail and easily persuaded human minds.

Are you still with me? If so, I’d like to share one of the times God reinforced a believing faith in my life.

I don’t know about you but just when I feel comfortable with the way my life is going, that’s when I know God will start to shake things up a bit. I like to say He is moving me from one comfort zone to the next!

One of the examples of this in my own life happened about seven years ago. After several years of writing, my well of imagination seemed to have run dry. I had unexpectedly lost my desire to write.

Those who know me best suggested that I was probably experiencing writer’s block, but God simply had other plans for me. In the midst of my quiet times with Him, I felt Him telling me to stop everything writing-related for a time and focus on Him as I rested my exhausted body and mind.

As difficult as it was to understand this, I knew God was asking me to put into action what I believe to be true: God is more than worthy of my faith and trust.

My writing hiatus came to an abrupt end about a year later when a writing assignment dropped into my inbox that I knew had to be from the Lord. I had sent my resume to a publisher the previous year and then forgotten about it. Now this same publisher offered me an assignment that was tailor-made for my style of writing.

But there was a problem: not only was the deadline a mere three weeks away, but I needed to research and write while battling severe daily migraines.

The migraine issue was not a new thing, but I just cannot think clearly when in the midst of one of these nausea creating, light and sound bothering, hair hurting migraines hits me. And it was happening on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, I struggled through this assignment day after day, sometimes praying through my tears. And—day after day—God provided me with the ideas I needed plus the necessary strength to get this enormous amount of writing done in such a short period of time.

The finished book was a compilation of prayers written by me and several other authors. By the grace of God and by believing that He would faithfully help me complete this assignment on time, I met my deadline of composing 31 prayer devotionals.

You read that right: 31 devotionals in 3 weeks!

In great pain I toiled through the writing of every single one of those devotionals but God was faithful in giving me exactly the strength I needed exactly when I needed it most.

Beloved, are you facing something in your life that seems too much for you to handle? Maybe—like I did—you think there is nothing you can contribute because of your circumstances or illness or limited energy.

If you take away anything from what I went through, it should be this: when God wants us to do something for Him, He does not expect us to do it on our own. He just wants us to have faith and believe that He will walk with us through it.

He is the Great Enabler and will always grant us exactly the amount of strength and stamina we need to finish whatever He calls us to do!

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Our Shelter in the Storm

WonderfulWednesdays
Sometimes I write about things that have happened in my life and then put them aside for a future time. The other day I was thinking about my Mom and remembered that I had written something about one of the times I was with her. This incident happened a couple of years before the Lord took her home.

Our Shelter from the Storm

Is25-4--ShelterFromTheStorm


You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in his distress,

a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.
—Isaiah 25:4 

My mother and I watched as high winds hurled the driving rain against the living room windows. We were supposed to leave in a little while to visit Dad in the rehab hospital where he was undergoing physical therapy after knee replacement surgery.

Mom started to get ready but I talked her out of going. Her long battle with congestive heart failure and angina has left her very weak, and it doesn’t take much to stress her. I thought it better for her to stay snug and cozy at home this time, so I went alone.

As I walked out to the car, the high winds almost carried my umbrella away and I was glad Mom had agreed to stay home. She would have gotten soaked in her wheelchair and again while transferring to the car. The stress of that could have caused her to have another episode in which she had trouble breathing.

I felt the assault of the rain and wind on the car as I drove to the hospital, but was comforted knowing that I was protected and dry inside. It struck me how much this resembled living with chronic illness. Even though we are battered by our health problems, God protects us in much the same way. He is our refuge in the midst of the physical and emotional storms we experience every day.

Chronic illness is not easy to cope with but what a privilege it is to be able to lean on Jesus to get through the storms in our lives. Just when we feel we’re going to drown in our pain, God surrounds us with His arms—our refuge and source of joy—especially in the midst of the pain.

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Beloved, when it all gets to be too much, just turn to Jesus and snuggle within His comforting arms.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

ChristBeforeMe--StPatrick

—Saint Patrick

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Beneath His Wings

Thankful_Thursdays

On this Thankful Thursday, I once again have the delightful privilege of showing you more of Pat Knight’s writing. Thank you, Pat, for sharing your heart with us!

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Beneath His Wings

By Patricia Knight

Ps57-1

The common loon commands a constant and interesting presence on our lake waters in Maine for three seasons during the year. The loon is a large, pre-historic bird whose back sports a stunning polka dotted and striped white pattern superimposed on black feathers.  In the summertime as soon as the chick’s eggs hatch, they leave the comfort of the land nest for a life-long existence on water. The brown, fluffy young are initially the size of a ping-pong ball and equally as buoyant. In the early stages of life the loon chick spends quality time riding on its mother’s back. As the baby loon nestles into the feathers, the mother enfolds it beneath her wings, providing rest from constant swimming, warmth from her body heat, and protection from prey.

The concept of a mother bird providing comfort beneath her wings is used as a metaphor to describe our heavenly Father’s power and protection.  “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1) .What a beautiful, comforting picture of God’s great strength, where we hide for protection, unencumbered by the cares of this world.  God provides us with strength during a trial, not immunity that spares it from happening, so that His glory and provisions are exalted.

Phil-4-19

There is no time limit for God’s protection, but simply stated, “Until the disaster has passed.”  Some tragedies consume a relatively short span of time while others require that we depend upon God’s strength and power as He fights our foes for years. God is gracious; His love and comfort are limitless. He will never leave His children to their own resources.  If an animal instinctively cares for her young, surely our Creator will keep His promise to provide His children’s needs. “And, God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

There are many instances when we crave a comforting hug or a reassuring promise.  We may be emotionally needy as we navigate adversity, perhaps when dealing with attack or loss issues. Equipped with our own energies, we are unable to kindle hope.  It may be our reaction to either withdraw from human contact or to act out our emotions with unusual aggression. God is willing to meet our needs with His marvelous grace and love, allowing us to relax in His exceptional, shielding care.

“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 63:7). It is difficult to sing when consumed with fear. Only when our needs are met and threats diminished are we able to relax and express our joy in song. Because God assumes our anxieties, we can sing with confidence that He will supply our inner peace, as He hides us from all danger.

After curing a slave girl possessed of an evil spirit, the Apostle Paul and Silas felt the full fury of her owners who could no longer profit from her fortune-telling abilities.  A crowd was incited, marketplace justice was served, and the men were stripped and beaten, then thrown in jail. The jailor fastened the men’s feet in stocks for extra security. Bloodied and in pain, sitting in a dark, damp dungeon, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God at midnight, naturally attracting the attention of the other prisoners.  “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken.  At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:25-26).

Acts16-25-26

Traditionally, if a prisoner escaped, the life of the jailor or a guard was demanded in his place. For the jailer to take his own life would shorten his personal humiliation for the act occurring on his watch. Paul stopped the jailor just before he fell on his sword, assuring him that all the prisoners were still accounted for.

As a result, the jailor remembered hearing that Paul and Silas were preachers. With the earthquake and his own impending death so close, he wanted to know about the way of salvation. Paul and Silas were given the opportunity to explain the good news of the Gospel to the jailor and his family. Immediately, they were all baptized. In turn, the jailor washed the men’s wounds and fed them a meal in his house.

In order to sing under such strained and pained circumstances, Paul and Silas had to be confident that God was in control of their lives. They had vision and trust beyond their current situation. This wasn’t Paul’s first encounter with harrowing injustice.  He had been thrown in jail before and then miraculously released. At another time he was beaten and left for dead.  It was Paul who admitted, “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances”(Philippians 4:11). He had personally experienced the comfort of God’s protective wings.

philippians-4-11

How do we react in stressful situations? Do we immediately call on God, who promises to shield us beneath the protection of His massive wings? The birds of the world and their offspring instinctively provide the object lesson for our protective relationship with our Lord. Call on Him in your time of need and you will find His wings open wide, waiting for you to claim a sheltering refuge there for as long as necessary.

What reassurance, to be hugged by God!

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Handling the Impossible Moments in Life

Gen17-1-ElShaddai

Life is hard. That’s an undeniable fact. We struggle in so many ways daily, wondering if life will ever get any easier. I firmly believe that if life was easy here on earth, we would probably not yearn for our heavenly home!

This wonderful article about El Shaddai is from Precept Ministries, one of my favorite sites. I have enjoyed many Precept Bible studies and always learn a lot from them. In fact, my New American Standard (NAS) Bible is an International Inductive Study Bible (IISB) written by Precept Ministries and published by Harvest House. This is the Bible my dear friend Donna gave me for my birthday way back in 1997, and is marked up with all kinds of notes and highlighting. It has been my go-to Bible ever since. Here’s a peek:

AnnaBible1

See what I mean about all my notes, markings and highlighting? I’ve started using a couple of different Bible apps on my iPad, but my NAS Bible is still the one I consult most often.

The blog post I’m sharing here today was published last year on the Precept Ministries’ Established blog. I printed it out and kept it for future use because the subject is very near to my heart. 

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God’s Name for the Impossible Moments in Life

The names of God reveal the character of God. And, knowing the character of God brings comfort to the hurting, healing to the broken, peace to the anxious, and confidence to the fearful. Perhaps no name brings more confidence to God’s people than the name God Almighty, or El Shaddai.

Read the rest here.

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Beloved, our Lord God Almighty—our El Shaddai—is always with us. All we have to do is cry out to Him for help and comfort when we need it. 

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AnnaSmile

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