VIDEO Persecuted, Yet Peaceful

If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23


One of Jesus’ strongest admonitions to those who would be His disciples came when He told them to take up their cross daily (Luke 9:23). In the Roman world, the cross was a symbol of death. Jesus’ words were a warning: following Him might result in death.

Not until the night of Jesus’ arrest, when He was alone with His disciples for the Passover meal, did Jesus expand on His earlier words and provide them with comfort (John 14–16). He told them that the world would hate them when He was gone because they hated Him first. If they persecuted Him, they would persecute them (John 15:18-21). But He also told them, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). His peace—that is, the peace that comes from knowing and trusting Him (Philippians 4:6-7)—would be their peace in a world that would reject them. 

We don’t know exactly what the future holds for Christians. But we know who does know. We can trust Him to keep us “until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). 

Peace rules the day when Christ rules the mind.  Unknown

What does it mean to “take up my cross daily”? (Ask Dr. Stanley)

Seeds of Faith

Always be prepared to give an answer . . . for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15

Last spring, the night before our lawn was to be aerated, a violent windstorm blew the seeds off our maple tree in one fell swoop. So when the aerating machine broke up the compacted soil by pulling small “cores” out of the ground, it planted hundreds of maple seeds in my yard. Just two short weeks later, I had the beginnings of a maple forest growing up through my lawn!

As I (frustratedly) surveyed the misplaced foliage, I was struck by the prolific abundance of new life a single tree had spawned. Each of the miniature trees became a picture for me of the new life in Christ that I—as merely one person—can share with others. We each will have countless opportunities to “give the reason for the hope that [we] have” (1 Peter 3:15) in the course of our lives.

When we “suffer for what is right” with the hope of Jesus (v. 14), it’s visible to those around us and might just become a point of curiosity to those who don’t yet know God personally. If we’re ready when they ask, then we may share the seed through which God brings forth new life. We don’t have to share it with everyone all at once—in some kind of spiritual windstorm. Rather, we gently and respectfully drop the seed of faith into a heart ready to receive it.

By:  Kirsten Holmberg

Reflect & Pray

Who in your life is sharing or asking about the reason for your hope? What will you share with them?

Jesus, thank You for growing the seed of faith in my life. Help me to share the reason for my hope—You—with those who ask and may they grow in their love for You.

Learn more about sharing and defending your faith.

The Truth That Sets You Free

The key to being set free from sin is the continual filling of our minds with God’s Word John 8:12-34

The Pharisees rejected Jesus even though He was speaking truth. But others listened and believed, as we see in today’s passage. To them, the Lord said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (vv. 31-32). Many people, however, thought He was offering freedom from Roman political oppression or even from all the troubles of this life. But that’s not what Jesus meant at all. He was offering freedom from sin. 

When we believe the truth of the gospel and turn to the Savior for salvation, we’re set free from the penalty of sin, which is eternal condemnation. But did you know that God’s truth also sets us free from the power of sin right now? Even though we’ll continue to struggle with temptation after we’re saved, we now have within us Christ’s divine strength to resist and overcome it. 

Do you feel stuck in sinful patterns and desires? As Jesus said, continuing in God’s Word is the key to true freedom. Fill your mind with His truth, and sin will lose its power over you—today and for all eternity.

Strong in Grace

“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1)

In the Old Testament, “grace” (used 69 times) is often applied in the sense of personal favors or physical blessings. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). In the New Testament, however, the term (used 156 times) often seems to emphasize God’s personal empowerment or the granting of His unique spiritual favor, as is clear in the wonderful passage Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Once the saving grace has been given, the believer is expected to use that grace with victory in mind—confidence that empowers our spiritual life and witness. We are to be “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

Hence, we are to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10) as we wrestle against the powers of darkness that battle us unceasingly. Although “[we] can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth [us]” (Philippians 4:13), we must remember that those “things” include the entire spectrum of poverty to wealth and from hunger to satisfaction. God’s grace is strong enough to counter every worldly circumstance.

We must remember, however, that even the greatest heroes of the faith endured intense opposition, seasons of pain and privation, and occasionally were tortured to death (Hebrews 11:32-38). God’s strong grace is sufficient. “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). HMM III

If Only I Had Been Kinder To Your Mother

If only I had been kinder to your mother and had spent more time with you children.

So said the aging father of a close friend of mine during a recent family visit. How tragic, to be living the latter years of life plagued with regret; plagued by the “IF ONLYS“of the past.

Tell me, are you viewed by your family as:

BRITTLE? – “I really cant do it like that!

SELFISH? – “I dont have time.

CENSORIOUS? – “How could you do such a thing?

BITTER? – “I may forgivebut I can never forget!

Or as:

BENDING? – “Why dont we do it your way?

MAGNANIMOUS? – “Lets do whatever will help you the most.

COMPLIMENTARY? – “I am proud of you.

FORGIVING? – “Ahforget itIts OK. No problem.

Is it not true that the validity of our Christian experience is forged, tested, and revealed within the confines of intimate family relationships as in no other arena?

Children still have a choice as to whether they will follow Christ or not, as rebellion is often expressed among the progeny of the finest of parents. (Adam and Eve had perfect “parents” and still chose to rebel.)

Yet our goal must be to reflect Christ to our family in such a way that whatever their choice, at least our conscience is clear on how we related to them. Could we not seek to mirror Paul’s achievement:

My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.“(Acts 23:1b)

So, tell me: Are you BRITTLE, SELFISH, CENSORIOUS, or BITTER toward your family? If you are, then you too may be plagued in your latter years by the “IF ONLYS“of the past.

If, however you are BENDING, MAGNANIMOUS, COMPLIMENTARY, and FORGIVING, you may well anticipate fond memories and mutual affirmation in the latter years.

“Abstain from all Appearance of Evil.”

Deuteronomy 14:1-21

Deuteronomy 14:1, 2

See how the Lord honoured Israel, he spoke of their election—”the Lord hath chosen thee;” of their adoption—”ye are the children of the Lord your God;” and of their sanctification,”—”thou art an holy people unto the Lord? These honours entailed duties, and among them that of maintaining a distinction from, the heathen around them. They were not to imitate the superstition of their neighbours, by disfiguring themselves, or by any act indicative of excessive grief.

Deuteronomy 14:3

Manifestly disgusting and loathsome.

Deuteronomy 14:5

pygarg, or antelope,

Deuteronomy 14:6, 7

Minute distinctions—God takes note of littles.

Deuteronomy 14:8

By these regulations the Jews were kept a separate people, for they could not partake in the feasts of the heathen because some one or other of these unclean creatures would be brought to table. Moreover, the thoughtful Israelite would be daily reminded of sin by the presence of unclean creatures. Neither in his labours, his walks, or his rest, could he be long observant without seeing the representatives of uncleanness, and so being reminded of his need to watch against sin.

Deuteronomy 14:9, 10

Hence, even in their recreations by the river, or voyages at sea, there were tests for their obedience, trials of their faith, and reminders that sin was in the world.

Deuteronomy 14:11-20

The air too, had its warnings, its things to be avoided. Even thus, in all places we are in danger of defilement. On the land, on the sea, and in the air, there are evils all around. There are snares everywhere.

“Snares tuck thy bed, and snares attend thy board

“Snares watch thy thoughts, and snares attach thy word

“Snares in thy quiet, snares in thy commotion

“Snares in thy diet, snares in thy devotion.”

Deuteronomy 14:21

Because the blood had not been thoroughly separated from it, and it was ceremonially unclean. They might, however, sell it if foreigners cared to eat it. God requires his people to be more strict than others. Amusements and habits which might be tolerated in worldlings, would be abominable in Christians.

Deuteronomy 14:21

It is unnatural to make the mother yield her milk for the seething of her own young, and God’s people are to do nothing which would mar the delicacy and tenderness of their moral feelings. We are to be too sensitive to do anything coarse, brutish, and indelicate. Let young people be mindful of this.

God Spoke and It Was Done

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

The whole Bible supports the idea that it is the nature of God to speak, to communicate His thoughts to others.

“In the beginning was the Word”—a word is a medium by which thoughts are expressed, and the application of the term to the Eternal Son leads us to believe that self-expression is inherent in the Godhead, and that God is forever seeking to speak Himself out to His creation.

It is not just that God spoke: but God is speaking! He is by His nature continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking voice.

One of the great realities with which we have to deal is the Voice of God in His world. The briefest and only satisfying cosmogony is this: “He spake, and it was done!” The “why” of natural law is the living Voice of God in His creation.

This word of God which brought all worlds into being cannot be understood to mean the Bible, for it is the expression of the will of God spoken into the structure of all things. This word of God is the breath of God filling the world with living potentiality. The Voice of God is the most powerful force in nature, for all energy is here only because the power-filled Word is being spoken!