VIDEO The Best Laid Plans

The things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel. Philippians 1:12

Near the end of his third missionary tour, the apostle Paul stayed with his friend, Gaius, while he wrote the book of Romans. He told the Christians in Rome he was planning to visit them on his next trip. He intended to travel to Jerusalem, then to launch his fourth tour to Rome and on to Spain. He described his plans in depth in Romans 15.

Nothing went as Paul planned. He was arrested in Jerusalem, spent two years imprisoned in Caesarea, transported by a ship that sunk in the Mediterranean, and washed ashore in Crete, where he was bitten by a viper. When he finally arrived in Rome, he was in chains and facing another two years of incarceration.

Yet he wrote to the Philippians, telling them God had used it all for the furtherance of the Gospel. He had evangelized Romans soldiers everywhere he went, and the story of his troubles had emboldened Christians everywhere to witness with more courage.

We can rest assured God turns our problems into tools for ministry. Are you facing a difficult situation right now? Try praying this: Lord, turn my trial into a testimony!

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations. Chuck Swindoll


The Happy Prisoner – Philippians 1:12-14 – Skip Heitzig

Greatness

Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all. Mark 9:35

Cuthbert is a much-loved figure in northern England. Responsible for evangelizing much of the area in the seventh century, Cuthbert counseled monarchs and influenced state affairs; and after his death, the city of Durham was built in his honor. But Cuthbert’s legacy is great in more ways than these.

After a plague ravaged the region, Cuthbert once toured affected towns offering solace. Readying to leave one village, he checked if there was anyone left to pray for. There was—a woman, clutching a child. She had already lost one son, and the child she held was nearing death too. Cuthbert took the fevered boy in his arms, prayed for him, and kissed his forehead. “Do not fear,” he told her, “for no one else of your household will die.” The boy reportedly lived.

Jesus once took a small boy into his arms to give a lesson on greatness, saying, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me” (Mark 9:37). To “welcome” someone in Jewish culture meant to serve them, the way a host welcomes a guest. Since children were to serve adults and not be served, the idea must’ve been shocking. Jesus’ point? True greatness resides in serving the smallest and lowliest (v. 35).

A counselor to monarchs. An influencer of history. A city built in his honor. But perhaps heaven records Cuthbert’s legacy more like this: A mother noticed. A forehead kissed. A humble life reflecting his Master.

By:  Sheridan Voysey

Reflect & Pray

When you think of a “great” person in history, what image comes to mind? How can you pursue Jesus’ kind of greatness today?

Dear God, help me to humbly serve others.

The Believer’s Highest Honor

John 12:20-26

A tremendous contrast exists between what the Word teaches and what the world promotes. Our culture values power, leadership, and ambition, but for the Christian, serving God is our highest honor.

Sometimes people mistakenly think that only those involved in official church work are God’s servants, but every believer is called to serve the Lord. He places us in situations, vocations, and neighborhoods where we can have an impact for Christ. Think about the stay-at-home mom who raises godly children or a bedridden man who prays regularly for his church family. Though neither responsibility involves worldly power or recognition, both serve the Lord, and He is pleased by such faithfulness.

There are no unimportant positions in the kingdom of God. The type of service may change with seasons of life, but we’re always on duty for Him. To accomplish His purposes, the Lord uses whatever skills and gifts we have.

What an awesome privilege it is to be part of God’s work on earth. He doesn’t need our help, but He has chosen to incorporate our contributions into His master plan. Though we can do nothing without His enablement, He is honored by our service.

Practicing What We Preach

“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:15)

Christ’s life matched His teachings, and so must ours. Consider, for example, Christ’s teaching that we should “pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). This is matched by His prayer for His tormentors while on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Elsewhere, He taught that our circle of influence should be greater than those of like thinking (Matthew 5:47), a fact that caused His detractors great consternation (Luke 15:2). He taught that our prayers should not be done so that “they may be seen of men” (Matthew 6:5). And the gospels record several times where He went “into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35; see also Mark 6:46). Christ placed great value on children, as we see in Matthew 18:6, and later He welcomed them (Matthew 19:14). He taught Peter to forgive “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22) and later forgave Peter for his continued denials (Mark 16:7).

Christ advocated paying taxes (Mark 12:17) and later enabled Peter to pay tribute for both of them (Matthew 17:27). He taught that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15), and He Himself had “not where to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). Likewise, He placed great store in aiding the poor (Luke 14:13), both in teaching and in practice (Matthew 14:13-21). Perhaps His teaching “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) is best illustrated by His tender prayer for those who would soon take His life as He hung on the cross for the very ones responsible for His death (today’s text), all the while dying for them.

May God grant us the strength to follow not only our own teachings, but His teachings as well. JDM

At Jacobs Well

John 4:1-42

THE account of our Lord’s interview with the woman at Jacob’s well carries many precious truths which we might easily overlook.

Our Lord was on a detour here, and we observe that some of our best work is often done when we are off the main line. No one knows or cares what the good Samaritan had started out to do that particular day, but he is remembered for what he did not start out to do. Bunyan wrote Pilgrims Progress as a sort of matter “on the side,” but by it he is remembered.

Our Lord first broke custom by speaking to the Samaritan woman. We, too, need to shatter precedent—and must, if we are to win souls.

This woman with a hidden thirst knew only the well of Jacob. How many souls are depending today upon broken cisterns that can hold no water and know not the gift of God!

This woman was disposed to raise side issues, but our Lord brought the matter down to the sin in her life: “Go, call thy husband….” Immediately the woman said, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.” The mark of a prophet is to bring people to realize they are sinners. Too much preaching today never exposes sin, never makes people face their iniquities. This woman, sensing her needs, kept speaking to Jesus as the one who told her all things that ever she did; she so described Him to her acquaintances back in the city. There is a pleasant preaching today that tries to prescribe the remedy before people are made to realize that they are sick; tries to lead to the light people who do not know they are in the dark! Men will never be convicted until they are made to see themselves as sinners, and to do that, sin must be condemned and exposed, and it must be made personal. We must get down to the street where people live. Jesus did not give this woman a lecture on sin in general, He spoke of her sin. Paul’s epistle to the Romans starts by picturing sin and it names sins, and then proclaims the remedy in justification by faith.

When you get close to the sins of people, do not be surprised if they want to change the subject. This woman immediately raised the issue of where to worship—a liturgical question. How easily sinners shift the subject of conversation when you specify sins in their lives! But our Lord was not to be sidetracked; He held to the subject.

Finally, when she spoke of the coming Messiah, our Lord made a clear and unmistakable claim to be the One who should come. It is strange how anyone can read our Lord’s claim here and then deny that He ever professed to be the Messiah.

The woman left her water pot and went into the city to tell others of this prophet she had found. When we find the Living Water, we have no more use of the broken cisterns of earth! She was a good personal worker, for she brought her crowd back with her to see the Lord. The disciples who had been out looking for food came back and marveled at our Lord’s conversation with this woman. They were looking for meat. He was looking for men. The church today is too busy looking for tangible things: numbers, money, success. If we made our business soul-winning—which is the business of the church—all other things would be added.

Generosity Generates

Kindness to the poor is a loan to the Lord, and He will give a reward to the lender.—Proverbs 19:17

One of God’s purposes for money is to bless and enrich other Christians. One of the characteristics which God wants to develop in us is that of generosity, for our generosity will determine how much spiritual light we have in our being. Take this verse: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light” (Mt 6:22). If your “eye”—your outlook on life, your whole way of looking at things and people—is generous, then your whole personality is illuminated. If you have a greedy or selfish “eye,” your whole being will be filled with darkness.

In Acts 11:27-30 we read about a severe famine that caused suffering to many Jewish Christians. The church at Antioch—made up mostly of Gentiles—sent an offering to their fellow believers in Jerusalem, and that offering was an important means of tearing down national and cultural barriers between them and building bonds of genuine Christian love. God likens generous giving to reaping a harvest: “The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously” (2Co 9:6).

Perhaps the greatest benefit of generous giving to other Christians, however, is this—it results in “overflowing in many acts of thanksgiving to God” (2Co 9:12). Yes, God will give you much so that you can give away much, and when you take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving and praise of God for your help. Giving to the needs of fellow Christians means that many will thank God and fill His church with praise.

Prayer

O God, help me to become a truly generous person, for I see that when I am generous, then my generosity generates generosity in others. I ask this in the peerless and exalted name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.

Further Study

Rm 12:9-21; 1Kg 17:8-16; Pr 11:25; 25:21; Eccl 11:1

What is the lesson of the widow of Zarephath?

How will you be generous today?

Forever Flowing Free

Psalm 77:19

The mighty oceans should not seem so ordinary. They should inspire awe and wonder. I know. I grew up by the Atlantic in a Maine seaport. When I stood at the shore in a storm, drenched with the thundering salt spray of crashing waves, I experienced the power at a primal level. To gaze from shore at the far horizon was to contemplate the unimaginable. To sail even a few miles from shore was to feel lost in the vastness.

The poet has written with the ocean swelling in his imagination:

Praise to the Lord,

Who, when tempests their warfare are waging,

Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging

Biddeth them cease,

Turneth their fury to peace,

Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Hymn writers have used the ocean as a metaphor in many ways. The Bible’s main marine theme is the beauty, immensity and wonder of the oceans. In Psalm 139, David reflects on God’s omnipresence and love which follows and surrounds us wherever we go, even when we try to run from Him. “Where can I flee from your presence?” David asks rhetorically. And then he answers his own question. If David tries to hide high up in heaven, or deep down in the earth, or out at the eastern horizon where the sun rises, God is there.

Then David looks one last direction, to the west, out over the seemingly endless Mediterranean. “If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” We, too, know the unceasing presence and unfailing comfort of God whose great love, boundless as the mighty ocean, includes us all.

John Greenleaf Whittier’s timeless poem affirms God’s mysterious, all-inclusive love:

Immortal love, forever full,

Forever flowing free,

Forever shared, forever whole;

A never-ebbing sea.

Kenneth Baillie, The War Cry