Advent - Seedbed - Look Again

December 18, 2018

John 1:9-13

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.


Several years ago, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten conducted what he called “an experiment in perception.” He set out to answer the question, “in an unexpected setting, at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?”

He enlisted the help of world-renowned violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, convincing him to play in a bustling Washington D.C. Metro station during rush hour.  Now, here’s something you need to know: Bell plays a handcrafted 1713 Stradivarius violin, reportedly worth $3.5 million. Just days before, he sold out Boston Symphony Hall, where many of the tickets went for $100 a piece (because you have to pay for that violin somehow).

So there he was, treasured talent, playing his treasured instrument, like a common street performer. Would anyone notice? Would they perceive?

In the 45 minutes that he played that day, with over 1,000 passengers passing by, 27 people paused just long enough to drop a little change in his hat. (Totaling $32.17 You’re not paying for the violin like that.) Seven people stopped for any length of time to take in the beauty of the moment. One person—out of more than 1,000—recognized who he was. In the routine of the everyday, in the rush of the moment, almost everyone failed to perceive.

Advent is an invitation to perceive. Christmas calls us to look again.

We are drawing close to the culmination of this journey from darkness to light. And as the waiting and anticipation moves toward fulfillment, this is a moment to pause. This is a moment to confront John’s harsh assessment that those who waited for the Messiah failed to see Him. This is a moment to look again.

Look again at the story you’ve seen repeated every single year of your life and pause long enough to find it fresh.

Look again at Joseph. His reputation trashed in honor of the woman he loves and the God he serves. He will raise the one who will raise the dead. He will teach the Creator how to be a carpenter. He will show God what it means to be a man.

Look again at Mary. From the first moments of this she has been in uncharted waters, and things won’t get any easier from here. Time moves too quickly for any Mom. Even more when your baby is born for a mission like this. But for now she will ponder it all in her heart and cherish every moment.

Look again at the baby. Look close. Take Him in. This is our redemption. This is our seed of hope pushing up through the dirt after a bleak and bitter winter. This is beauty arriving at an inconvenient time and in an unexpected setting as the masses rush by.

This is an invitation to perceive. Christmas calls us to look again. What will you see?

A reminder: We not only look again. We look ahead. Advent is a season when we anticipate the arrival of Christ at Christmas. But it is also a season that calls us to watch for His second arrival, when the true light that gives light to everyone will shatter the darkness and make all things new. May we have eyes to see.

The Prayer

Light of the world, help me to see You and to see the world around me in Light of You.

Prayer - In Touch Ministries

November 09, 2018

Devoted to Prayer

Colossians 4:2-4

No matter where we are in our Christian walk, most of us will admit that our prayer life isn’t what we’d like it to be. Our attempts to make room for prayer in our busy schedules are often short-lived. And when we do manage to spend time with the Lord, we find ourselves easily distracted by random thoughts, our own desires, and the demands of the day.

Instead of giving up in frustration and settling for a sporadic devotional experience, we need to realize that prayer was essential to Christ and should be to us also. The road to a deepening prayer life begins with a commitment to make it a top priority in our day.

We follow through by setting aside a daily time to pray and read from God’s Word. Then we need to find a location that minimizes interruptions. Since we’re already busy, sacrifice may be necessary to make this happen. We might have to wake up earlier, give up a favorite activity, or use our lunch hour.

Scripture is a key factor because it teaches us about our Father’s character, promises, and priorities. The Word of God shifts our thoughts from worldly cares and pleasures to a focus on Him. Through it, we are reminded of His importance to us and our desire to please Him. Then we become ready to ask in accordance with His will and hear what He has to say.

Developing a habit of prayer may require sacrifice, but it’s worth the cost and effort. Spending time in the Lord’s presence is the best way for us to know Him better and love Him more.

What Hurts Us Makes Us Better

November 03, 2018

Growing From Our Hurts

Genesis 50:15-21

Throughout history, people have suffered tremendous injustice and pain at the hands of others. None of us are exempt from conflict, criticism, and mistreatment. The question is, Are we growing more or less like Christ as a result?

Nothing that happens in our lives is an accident. As children of God, we know that everything coming our way is filtered through our Father’s loving, sovereign hands. And He can use whatever we experience to grow us in grace and holiness—yes, even injustice and abuse.

Joseph endured more unfair treatment than most of us can even imagine: He was sold into slavery by his brothers, slandered by Potiphar’s wife, and forgotten in prison. For years, it seemed that no good would ever result, but there was divine purpose in it all. Joseph learned more about God’s ways and was also being trained for the future.

The same is true for each of us. The Lord doesn’t want us to focus on the wrongs done to us and the pain we’ve suffered. Instead, He wants us to keep our eyes fixed on Him. As we read God’s Word, He reveals His ways and purposes, giving us guidance to walk with Him and patience to wait for His timing. And His indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to respond in a godly manner by forgiving those who wrong us.

Think about Joseph’s words to his brothers: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). Remember, that is true in your life also. The pain you carry can be used for good if you’ll forgive your offenders and trust the Lord’s ways.

Overcome Evil.....

Pay Back Evil With Good


Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:21


The horn on your car is amoral—like the tongue, a weapon, or money, it is dependent on its owner to be used for good or bad. The auto horn has become a tool of road rage in our culture, long blasts signaling our disapproval of another driver’s actions. And maybe that driver’s actions were wrong. But Scripture exhorts us to overcome evil (wrongs) with good (patience, understanding) rather than with evil (anger, retaliation).


Recommended Reading: Proverbs 25:21-22


In the Old Testament, burning coals were a symbol of judgment (Psalm 11:6; 140:10). But there are gentle ways to “pass judgment” that have better outcomes as illustrated in Proverbs: harsh words stir up anger, gentle words turn away anger (15:1); a gentle word can break a bone (25:15). For that reason, Solomon advised treating enemies kindly (25:21) as a way to “heap coals of fire on his head” (25:22)—advice repeated by the apostle Paul (Romans 12:20).


Paying back evil with evil is out. So, when you feel tempted, ask God to show you something good you can do for another person. It is possible to overcome evil with good. That’s how God overcomes our sin every day—with love and goodness.


Injuries cost more to avenge than to bear.

John Blanchard

In Touch Ministries

Trust and Obey

Joshua 6:1-14

One of my favorite hymns is “Trust and Obey” because it sums up God’s purpose for our lives. When we practice these two commands, a beautiful cycle begins. Trusting the Lord makes obedience easier, and obedience produces ever-increasing trust. Can you recall facing a challenge that was difficult or perplexing? If so, you know how important these two commands are.

When the Lord calls you to a task that seems unreasonable, you have two options. You can obey Him even though you don’t understand what will happen, or you can become fearful and attempt to find a way out. Joshua chose the first option. Because he trusted the Lord, he disregarded all his military experience and adopted God’s bizarre battle plan. Over the years, he had learned that the Lord is perfectly trustworthy.

The way we respond to God’s challenging assignments reveals what we believe about Him. We may feel as if we’re right in step with the Lord—until He proposes a change of direction. That’s when our resistance kicks in, along with the realization that we aren’t as close to Him as we thought. At that point, our decision determines whether the Lord will be able to use us as He desires. Joshua decided time and time again that the Lord’s way was better than his own, and he continued to serve the Lord for the remainder of his life.

At times, obedience is a struggle, as the mind considers all the reasons God’s path is illogical. When fear takes over, our reasoning says we should run the other way, and we don’t want to comply. But obedience is always the best choice, because our loving omniscient Father can be trusted.

Dr. David Jeremiah

Life Is What You Make It: Make Waves (For Growth)

September 23, 2018

Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Galatians 6:9

Recommended Reading: Galatians 6:6-10

Ever heard of Karl Friedrich Gützlaff? He was the first Lutheran missionary to China, and he died in 1851 in Hong Kong at age 48, shattered by disappointment. But the ministry he formed later sent out J. Hudson Taylor, who opened the interior of China to the Gospel. And Gützlaff’s writings touched a British doctor, David Livingstone, who later opened the interior of Africa to the Gospel. Gützlaff died with a sense of failure, yet his work created ripple effects resulting in waves of missionary growth on two continents.

Sometimes we need to make some waves if we’re going to create ripple effects that outlive us. Even when disappointed with visible results, we must remember God’s promise—if we sow bountifully we will reap bountifully.

Discouragement is from the devil. Our job is to keep walking and working by faith. If we keep splashing around in the work God has given us without losing heart, we’ll make some waves for His glory and the ripples will reach all the way to the heavenly shore.

Discouragement cannot have its source in God…discouragement comes from an evil source.
Hannah Whitall Smith

In Touch Ministries

The Divinely Inspired Book

2 Peter 1:12-21

How important is your Bible to you? If you’re like most Christians in the Western world, you probably have several copies of Scripture in your home. But the number of Bibles we own is no measure of their value to us. It’s what we do with God’s Word and what it does in our heart that reveals how much we treasure it.

The Bible is the most important book in the world because it’s the only one that is the inspired Word of God. Nothing else ever written can match the wisdom and revelation of the Scriptures.

How then did God give us this sacred text? 2 Peter 1:21 says that the writings did not result from “an act of human will” but came to be through “men moved by the Holy Spirit.” While retaining their own personalities, intellect, and vocabularies, these human authors were borne along by the Spirit of God, writing only what He willed them to say.

Amazingly, the same God who created the universe divinely inspired the writing of Scripture. He did so to reveal Himself to us and to explain how sinful mankind can be made right with a holy God. Everything we need for life and godliness is found within its pages (2 Peter 1:3).

And He hasn’t left us on our own to interpret what He has written (2 Peter 1:20). The truth is that in ourselves, we can’t understand it. But God has given us His Holy Spirit so we can know His mind through the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). However, if we rarely open it, we won’t know His thoughts and as a result will forfeit His blessings and wisdom.

Bible in One Year: Amos 5-9

Dr. Charles Stanley

The Witness of God

Romans 1:16-23

No one is born an atheist or agnostic, “because that which is known about God is evident within them” (Rom. 1:19). The Father has given every person an inborn witness of His existence, but this isn’t the only evidence given to mankind. Creation itself testifies of God’s invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature (Rom. 1:20). However, it’s possible to ignore or reject both the internal and external witnesses of God. When that happens, the mind becomes progressively darker until it can no longer see the light of truth.

On hearing this, many believers react with concern for the multitudes who have never heard the gospel. They wonder, How can people be saved if the only evidence they experience of the one true God is the natural world and an inborn sense of His reality, which their culture may try to deny or manipulate? Yet our text today says there is no excuse for anyone who rejects both these witnesses (Rom. 1:20).

One thing we must remember is that God will be just, and we cannot claim to be more righteous, compassionate, and merciful than He. We can trust that He will judge every person rightly (Deut. 32:3-4). All people will be evaluated according to the truth they received, the opportunities they had, and what they did with both: Did they believe or reject what God revealed?

One thing we can know for certain is our part in the divine plan for unbelievers—Scripture is clear that we’re to be witnesses to as many as possible. You have the opportunity to share the gospel with people in your sphere of influence. That is God’s plan for the unreached.

Bible in One Year: Amos 1-4


September 18, 2018

The Path of Brokenness

John 12:23-28

A seed that is not planted will never produce a crop. So Jesus used a seed to illustrate why He had to die in order to bring many people to glory. He was teaching a principle that’s also true in our lives: If our ambition is to remain isolated, protected, and comfortable, we’ll never bear the fruit God desires. It’s in dying to self and being broken of pride and self-sufficiency that we become fruitful and useful to the Lord. 

Brokenness is one of the means God uses to mature His children. In that process, we may find ourselves challenged in:

Circumstances that cripple our self-sufficiency.
Areas in which we are not submissive to Him.
The timing of His plans.

If we refuse to be re-formed and instead cling to whatever God wants us to release, then how can He use us for His kingdom? Just like the single, unbroken grain of wheat, we will remain unproductive.

With so much at stake, why do we still resist His process of breaking us down? The problem is usually our shortsighted desires. It’s difficult to let go of things or relationships or hobbies we enjoy even when we know they are stunting our spiritual growth. We prefer to take the path of least resistance and hope God will bless us anyway.

Don’t be distracted by short-term happiness—that isn’t the road to maturity that God has prepared for you. An abundance of fruitfulness awaits you if you’ll release your grip and let Him do whatever it takes to get you there.

Bible in One Year: Hosea 6-9

Two Ways Through a Valley - Dr. Charles Stanley

Two Ways Through a Valley

Psalm 27:1-14

What do you do when the pressures of life seem greater than you can bear? Journeys through a valley are inevitable and painful, but God doesn’t waste them. The trials of life can be times of discovery about Him.

In our helplessness, we discover His almighty power to sustain us.
In our despair, God invites us to experience His peace and promises.
In our pain, He becomes our comforter and protector.
In our hopelessness, He lifts our eyes to see His sovereignty and goodness.

Other discoveries we make in severe crises have to do with ourselves. Terrible times test our faith and reveal our true character. When a crisis first hits, most of us immediately respond with alarm. But at that point, we can take one of two very different paths.

The way of fear. If our relationship with the Lord is weak, fear may cause us to panic, seek ungodly counsel, blame people or God for the problem, or try to find a way out on our own.

The way of faith. On the other hand, if our faith is strong, we’ll progressively move from alarm to trust by seeking the Lord through prayer and His Word. We do this by believing He will keep His promises despite supposed evidence to the contrary and by remembering how He helped us in the past. In this way, our endurance and confidence in the Lord is strengthened.

Every adversity God allows in our life is designed to bring us to spiritual maturity, not to devastate us. When we yield to Him in the midst of a crisis, He enables us to trust and wait on Him with patience and hope.

Bible in One Year: Daniel 5-6