Friday, September 2, 2016

Night Light for Couples - Just the Two of Us

“Take me away with you—let us hurry!” Song of Songs 1:4

When Jim and I were dating, I was pleased to discover his creative, romantic side. Little things he did, such as sending me a love note hidden in a Coke bottle, made me feel special. I treasured those romantic moments from our early days together.

After we were married, we were extremely busy—Jim was finishing graduate training and I was teaching school. But we were still able to set aside an occasional weekend for just the two of us. We would wander through department stores, holding hands, laughing, and talking. We loved to window‐shop for furniture and dream about how we hoped to decorate our house of the future. We would enjoy a light breakfast and then plan a candlelit dinner somewhere for the evening.

Life became even more hectic in the coming years, as God blessed our efforts in His service. We came to a point where we desperately needed some time alone. We arranged for my mother to keep the kids, and we drove six hours north to a winter wonderland called Mammoth, California. That weekend turned out to be a highlight of our marriage. I felt like a college girl again. We talked along the way and stopped to eat whenever it suited our fancy. The next morning we donned our ski clothes and headed for a wonderful restaurant, The Swiss Café. Hilda, the bubbly Swedish lady who owned the restaurant, called me “Shoooolie.”

Our conversation at the breakfast table took us back into each other’s worlds. Jim’s eyes never looked bluer, and the love that’s always there between us, steady and committed, surged to an emotional peak.

Driving to the ski lodge was equally exhilarating. The roads looked like a Christmas card. The giant evergreens appeared majestic in their white fur coats. I knew it was going to be a great day for skiing. Once on the mountain, we swished back and forth across the slopes like two adolescents.

We were wonderfully exhausted driving back to the condo. Jim prepared a cozy fire in the fireplace while I made our favorite meal of fried burritos. We ate dinner by the firelight, discussing our day and an endless variety of topics. After the dinner dishes were cleaned up, we pulled the pillows off the couch, chose some of our favorite records, and put them on the stereo. We relaxed in front of the fire and talked for hours. We also agreed to try to repeat our private rendezvous at least once a year. The memories of that weekend motivated me for many days to be the wife and mother I needed to be.

Is it time for you to take a similar romantic trip? Even if finances are tight, just being together can rekindle “that lovin’ feeling.” All that is needed is a little effort and creative flair. Talk with your mate; ask him or her what would bring new interest and excitement to your marriage. Then schedule at least two “getaway” activities a month when you can be alone together. If you keep the fire of your relationship well tended with romance, you’ll enjoy its warmth throughout your marriage.

- Shirley M Dobson

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Daily Readings for September 2, 2016

Job 19:1-7, 19:14-27
Then Job answered: "How long will you torment me, and break me in pieces with words? These ten times you have cast reproach upon me; are you not ashamed to wrong me? And even if it is true that I have erred, my error remains with me. If indeed you magnify yourselves against me, and make my humiliation an argument against me, know then that God has put me in the wrong, and closed his net around me. Even when I cry out, 'Violence!' I am not answered; I call aloud, but there is no justice. My relatives and my close friends have failed me; the guests in my house have forgotten me; my serving girls count me as a stranger; I have become an alien in their eyes. I call to my servant, but he gives me no answer; I must myself plead with him. My breath is repulsive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own family. Even young children despise me; when I rise, they talk against me. All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me. My bones cling to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth. Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me! Why do you, like God, pursue me, never satisfied with my flesh? "O that my words were written down! O that they were inscribed in a book! O that with an iron pen and with lead they were engraved on a rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

Acts 13:13-25
Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem; but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, "Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it." So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak: "You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance for about four hundred fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, 'I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.' Of this man's posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised; before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his work, he said, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.'

John 9:18-41
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself." His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, "He is of age; ask him." So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, "Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner." He answered, "I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" Then they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." The man answered, "Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?" And they drove him out. Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him." Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped him. Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.

Morning Psalms

Psalm 31 In te, Domine, speravi
1   In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.
2   Incline your ear to me; make haste to deliver me.
3   Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold; for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.
4   Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me, for you are my tower of strength.
5   Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O LORD, O God of truth.
6   I hate those who cling to worthless idols, and I put my trust in the LORD.
7   I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy; for you have seen my affliction; you know my distress.
8   You have not shut me up in the power of the enemy; you have set my feet in an open place.
9   Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly.
10   For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed.
11   I have become a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbors, a dismay to those of my acquaintance; when they see me in the street they avoid me.
12   I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am as useless as a broken pot.
13   For I have heard the whispering of the crowd; fear is all around; they put their heads together against me; they plot to take my life.
14   But as for me, I have trusted in you, O LORD. I have said, "You are my God.
15   My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me.
16   Make your face to shine upon your servant, and in your loving-kindness save me."
17   LORD, let me not be ashamed for having called upon you; rather, let the wicked be put to shame; let them be silent in the grave.
18   Let the lying lips be silenced which speak against the righteous, haughtily, disdainfully, and with contempt.
19   How great is your goodness, O LORD! which you have laid up for those who fear you; which you have done in the sight of all for those who put their trust in you.
20   You hide them in the covert of your presence from those who slander them; you keep them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.
21   Blessed be the LORD! for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.
22   Yet I said in my alarm, "I have been cut off from the sight of your eyes." Nevertheless, you heard the sound of my entreaty when I cried out to you.
23   Love the LORD, all you who worship him; the LORD protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily.
24   Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD.

Evening Psalms

Psalm 35 Judica, Domine
1   Fight those who fight me, O LORD; attack those who are attacking me.
2   Take up shield and armor and rise up to help me.
3   Draw the sword and bar the way against those who pursue me; say to my soul, "I am your salvation."
4   Let those who seek after my life be shamed and humbled; let those who plot my ruin fall back and be dismayed.
5   Let them be like chaff before the wind, and let the angel of the LORD drive them away.
6   Let their way be dark and slippery, and let the angel of the LORD pursue them.
7   For they have secretly spread a net for me without a cause; without a cause they have dug a pit to take me alive.
8   Let ruin come upon them unawares; let them be caught in the net they hid; let them fall into the pit they dug.
9   Then I will be joyful in the LORD; I will glory in his victory.
10   My very bones will say, "LORD, who is like you? You deliver the poor from those who are too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them."
11   Malicious witnesses rise up against me; they charge me with matters I know nothing about.
12   They pay me evil in exchange for good; my soul is full of despair.
13   But when they were sick I dressed in sack-cloth and humbled myself by fasting.
14   I prayed with my whole heart, as one would for a friend or a brother; I behaved like one who mourns for his mother, bowed down and grieving.
15   But when I stumbled, they were glad and gathered together; they gathered against me; strangers whom I did not know tore me to pieces and would not stop.
16   They put me to the test and mocked me; they gnashed at me with their teeth.
17   O Lord, how long will you look on? rescue me from the roaring beasts, and my life from the young lions.
18   I will give you thanks in the great congregation; I will praise you in the mighty throng.
19   Do not let my treacherous foes rejoice over me, nor let those who hate me without a cause wink at each other.
20   For they do not plan for peace, but invent deceitful schemes against the quiet in the land.
21   They opened their mouths at me and said, "Aha! we saw it with our own eyes."
22   You saw it, O LORD; do not be silent; O Lord, be not far from me.
23   Awake, arise, to my cause! to my defense, my God and my Lord!
24   Give me justice, O LORD my God, according to your righteousness; do not let them triumph over me.
25   Do not let them say in their hearts, "Aha! just what we want!" Do not let them say, "We have swallowed him up."
26   Let all who rejoice at my ruin be ashamed and disgraced; let those who boast against me be clothed with dismay and shame.
27   Let those who favor my cause sing out with joy and be glad; let them say always, "Great is the LORD, who desires the prosperity of his servant."
28   And my tongue shall be talking of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long.

The Forward Day by Day Meditation for September 2, 2016

From Forward Day By Day

Acts 13:15 (NRSV) After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it.”

In college, I worked a part-time job in a nondescript cubicle adjacent to the office for prison ministry, directed by the Rev. Angelus Wilson. Every day, I tiptoed to my cubicle, trying to escape Angelus’s notice. I was shy, and Angelus was as physically imposing as he was kind. Inevitably, he heard me and called from his desk, “Brother! What’s the good word?” I always answered politely. “I’m fine.” “Good!” he said, and he smiled back broadly. We both went back to our work, but his question lingered.

Like the synagogue officials, Angelus wanted a word. To believe that the God who delivered Israel out of Egypt, raised Jesus from the dead, and lives and moves with us today is to believe Angelus’s question is always worth asking. And answering.

Pray for hearts to hear and speak stories of the good word, Christ at work in our lives. Lord Christ, remind us of the blessing we become for each other in the profession of your love and mercy.

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Men of the Bible - Hosea

His name means: "Yahweh Has Delivered"

His work: Hosea was a prophet in Israel. Like other prophets, his charge was to call the people to repentance. However, he was also called to show them by his own life what it felt like to be a forgotten and yet merciful God.
His character: In obedience Hosea was willing to abandon his own dreams and marry a harlot. His love foreshadowed Christ's love for the church.
His sorrow: His unrepentant and unfaithful wife left him with their three children and a deep, aching hurt.
His triumph: Because of his selflessness and his willingness to forgive, his wife Gomer was restored.
Key Scriptures: Hosea 1-3

A Look at the Man

Telling stories is often the most powerful way to communicate truth, and speaking in parables was Jesus' method of choice. But sometimes in the Bible, God asked people not only to tell stories but to live them, to be the parable. This was the lot of Hosea.

The thought of falling in love with a prostitute is repugnant to any man. The thought of marrying her is even more revolting. But this is precisely what God ordered Hosea to do.

How can I love a woman who has "loved" so many? he must have wondered. How can I make a covenant with someone whose conduct deserves condemnation, not forgiveness?

But regardless of his questions, Hosea did exactly as the Lord told him. Hosea married a common harlot, a woman who knew nothing of virtue or faithfulness. As a learned man, Hosea knew that he could not reply to the Almighty's directive, "You don't know what you're asking me to do." He knew full well that God knew exactly what he was doing. As a prophet, Hosea had been called to preach repentance to God's people. He had tried to fill his message with the passion of the sovereign God, whose provision, love, and mercy had been scoffed at or ignored. These Jews were even worshiping other gods. The chosen people were playing the harlot.

Now, with this assignment, Hosea would come to understand what this felt like. His love would be poured out to a woman who by the laws of the time deserved nothing less than a public execution for her blatant transgressions. But God took Hosea and made him the fool—the lover of the undeserving, the keeper of the vows, and the redeemer of the repeat offender. And though the people could not see God, they saw in the life of this man a compelling example of divine love—bold and just, yet relentlessly merciful.

Reflect On: Hosea 3:1–3
Praise God: For his love for you.
Offer Thanks: For God’s relentless pursuit of his unfaithful and wayward children.
Confess: Your own sinfulness and your spirit of judgment rather than compassion for others.
Ask God: To fill you with Hosea’s kind of willingness to serve and his mercy and love.

Today's reading is a brief excerpt from Men of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Men in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Robert Wolgemuth (Zondervan). © 2010 by Ann Spangler. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Enjoy the complete book by purchasing your own copy at the Bible Gateway Store. The book's title must be included when sharing the above content on social media.

His Princess Every Day - Not Of This World

Devotionals for Women - Inspirational author and speaker Sheri Rose Shepherd imagines what a letter written from God to you would look like.

My Princess Warrior,

I am the master builder of your home in heaven and I am the Creator of everything on earth. This is not your home, my beloved warrior; your true citizenship is in heaven. While you’re on the battlefield fighting for souls to be saved, I am preparing a paradise for you. The Place I am preparing for you will have no more death, heartache, pain, or war. But for now, my chosen one, I need you to fight the good fight of your faith with your whole heart, soul, and mind, knowing that this spiritual war will soon be over and eternal rewards await you.

Your King who reigns in heaven and earth

Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” - John 18:36 (NLT)

A Prayer for Kingdom

I pray for you, my sister princess, to receive a touch from heaven today... that our Father in heaven will remove the blinders from your eyes and you will experience an eternal view of the amazing things to come. May you find peace in knowing that the troubles of this world will soon be over, and the joys to come will be everlasting. I pray that thoughts of eternity inspire you to share God's love everywhere you go and increase the citizenship of heaven. In Jesus' name, amen.

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. - 1 Peter 2:11 (NLT)

This devotional is written by Sheri Rose Shepherd. All content copyright Sheri Rose Shepherd 2015. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Visit for devotionals, books, videos, and more from Sheri Rose Shepherd.

Girlfriends in God - The Granddaddy Sin

Today’s Truth

God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble (James 4:6, NIV).

Friend to Friend

I once dated a fellow who drove me up the wall with his boasting. He would ask, “What did you think of that touchdown I made? Have you ever seen anybody run so fast and dodge so many people before crossing into the end zone?” He invited me to spend the weekend with his family by saying, “If it’s okay with you, my dad will fly us down in our fifteen-passenger Lear jet, and we can spend a couple of days on our seven-and-a-half-million-dollar yacht, which by the way, is the largest one in the Florida Keys.” After three months of dating, I was ready to slap some duct tape on his mouth, bind his hands and feet, and throw him off his seven-and-a-half-million-dollar yacht.

Boasting is a form of pride. The more pride we have, the more we despise it in others. While this boy desperately needed to get over himself, I must admit that I am guilty of this same sort of boasting. I’m just slightly more clever in how I do it. I’ve manipulated conversations in order to casually mention an accomplishment, name drop, or detail a “humble” act of service. I’ve said things like, “I am so excited! I’ve been invited to speak at the largest home-school convention in the country.” Realizing how that might sound, I’ll quickly add a spiritual cover-up to divert attention from my proud motive. “What an amazing opportunity to encourage others for God’s glory.” I may have fooled the listener, but I certainly haven’t fooled God.

Pride is the granddaddy of all sins—typically the sin from which all other sins originate. It was pride that caused Satan to become Satan. It was pride that caused the fall of Israel. And, as much as we hate to admit it, it is often pride that blocks the Holy Spirit from moving in our lives. It’s the sin with the strongest grip, the sin we loathe when we see it in others, and the sin we often refuse to see in ourselves.

Jesus demonstrated humility during his time on earth, setting an example for us to follow. His time on earth was not spent seeking glory from people. John records that Jesus said, “I do not accept glory from human beings” (John 5:41), and he made it clear that his purpose for humbling himself was not to do his own will, but the will of the Father (6:38). He did not come to receive honor and praise, but avoided it like the plague. “After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (6:14-15).

I don’t know about you, but if I knew someone was coming to bestow an honor on me or make me queen for the day, the only place I’d be tempted to go is to get my hair done so that it would fashionably accommodate the crown. But not Jesus. He was not here for that purpose. The Gospels tell how Jesus demonstrated humility from start to finish. He was born in a manger, lived in poverty, submitted to ordinances, and befriended the despised. He willingly suffered (Isa. 50:6) and died a humiliating death on our behalf (Heb. 12:2).

Throughout Scripture, God calls Christians to be humble, saying that he “opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6). He warns of the consequences of pride, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled” and he foretells of the blessings of humility, “[T]hose who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matt. 23:12). He explains that humility is a prerequisite for his guidance in our lives (Ps. 25:9), and instructs us to wrap it around everything we do (Col. 3:12).

Although God calls us to walk in humility, pride is our weakness. Yet it is through our weaknesses that God manifests his strength and ongoing work in our lives. When we acknowledge and confess weakness rather than denying it, the Holy Spirit brings about repentance, which brings about God’s righteousness in us. With gratitude for God’s work in us, Paul said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor. 12:9).

I am grateful for the ongoing work of Jesus in my life and the undeserved grace given to me through his sacrificial display of humility. Therefore, I do not want to boast in anything I have done, but in the great things he has done. I ask that the Holy Spirit convict me of pride, and as he does, I will confess and repent of it before my Savior and Lord, praising him continuously for his forgiveness, mercy, and atonement.

Let’s Pray

Father, please convict and forgive me for the pride that is in my heart. I do not want to boast in anything I have done, as there is nothing good in me apart from You. You alone are righteous, holy, and worthy of praise. May the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be for your glory. Thank you for your ongoing work in my life.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn

What talents has God given you?

Are you using those talents for the glory of God or to win the approval and praise of others?

What changes can you make to move from being self-focused to Jesus-focused?

More from the Girlfriends

Through captivating stories, edgy humor, and shocking confessions, Ginger Hubbard drops the act and gets real in her book, Guiltless Living, a brutally honest look at the seldom admitted, rarely talked about sins of the heart. Get ready for a deeper, more authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. Includes a seven-week Bible Study. Great for small groups!

Seeking God? Click here to find out more about
how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God
P.O. Box 1311
Huntersville, NC 28070

Un Dia a la Vez - Disfruta la vida

¡Despierten, arpa y lira! ¡Haré despertar al nuevo día! [...] No [...] pongan su esperanza en las riquezas [...] sino en Dios, que nos provee de todo en abundancia para que lo disfrutemos. 1 Timoteo 6:17

Creo que nunca sobrarán este tipo de libros llamados de inspiración o motivación, ya que necesitamos escuchar a cada momento cosas como estas. Todo se debe a que nada nos resulta suficiente para ser felices. Por cualquier asunto, por pequeño que sea, dejamos que se dañe nuestro día y nos preocupamos.

Dios hizo la vida para disfrutarla. La hizo para el deleite tuyo y mío. Los planes originales del Creador eran que viviéramos en el paraíso. Y no fue así por nuestra recordada Eva.

La mujer se dejó convencer por la serpiente y terminó haciendo lo que le prohibió Dios. Luego está Adán que, en vez de pararse firme y decir no, también cayó en la tentación y le falló a su Creador. A partir de allí comenzó el pecado.

Sin embargo, Dios en su amor nos ha permitido conocerle. Ha perdonado nuestros pecados y nos da el mejor regalo de todos: La vida eterna en su presencia.

Seamos conscientes de esto y no permitamos que las pequeñas cosas acaben con nuestra alegría.

Daily Devotional by John Piper - Devastated and Delighted

The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 7:6)
What would the doctrines of grace sound like if every limb in that tree were coursing with the sap of Augustinian delight (that is, what I call “Christian Hedonism”)? 
  • Total depravity is not just badness, but blindness to God’s beauty and deadness to the deepest joy. 
  • Unconditional election means that the completeness of our joy in Jesus was planned for us before we ever existed as the overflow of God’s joy in the fellowship of the Trinity. 
  • Limited atonement is the assurance that indestructible joy in God is infallibly secured for us by the blood of the new covenant. 
  • Irresistible grace is the commitment and power of God’s love to make sure we don’t hold on to suicidal pleasures, and to set us free by the sovereign power of superior delights.
  • Perseverance of the saints is the almighty work of God not to let us fall into the final bondage of inferior pleasures, but to keep us, through all affliction and suffering, for an inheritance of fullness of joy in his presence and pleasures at his right hand forevermore.
Unconditional election delivers the harshest and the sweetest judgments to my soul. That it is unconditional destroys all self-exaltation; and that it is election makes me his treasured possession.

This is one of the beauties of the biblical doctrines of grace: their worst devastations prepare us for their greatest delights.

What prigs we would become at the words, “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6), if this election were in any way dependent on our will. But to protect us from pride, the Lord teaches us that we are unconditionally chosen (7:7–9). “He made a wretch his treasure,” as we so gladly sing.

Only the devastating freeness and unconditionality of electing grace lets us take and taste such gifts for our very own without the exaltation of self.

Standing Strong Through the Storm - THE PRIVILEGE OF CORPORATE WORSHIP

Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful. Psalm 149:1b

Our Open Doors colleague, Ron Boyd-MacMillan, shares the following insight from his teaching, “Why I Need to Encounter the persecuted church.”

It’s so easy to get fed up with church. For years I got very little out of church. The sermons were boring. The music was embarrassing. The fellowship was non-existent. The whole experience of worshipping with other people felt stale and pointless…Going to church in my country was an endurance test. Until I visited a persecuted church!

There were fifty of us squeezed into an upstairs room. The singing was hushed. The neighbors were hostile to the fellowship. Then a preacher stood up. An old man, with a wiry frame and wisps of hair springing from a mole on his chin. No sooner had he spoken a sentence than he broke down in tears. He kept saying, “I never thought I would have the privilege of preaching again.” Then he would laugh, and then cry again, great wails and sobs. Soon everyone was weeping with him. Except me. This went on for about half an hour, and I began to get very fed up with it all. He kept speaking a line, and my translator kept saying, “It’s the same verse, it’s the same verse.” All this man did was repeat the same scripture phrase, burst into tears, laugh, and then speak the very same phrase again. I thought, “What kind of hopeless service is this.”

But afterwards I met the old man, and when I heard his story I repented of my attitude. He was a preacher, ordained in the late 1950’s in China. He pastored a church for only six months before it was closed down. He was jailed, spending twenty years in prison. After he got out, he was very ill for a long time, but finally, at age 77, had the strength to speak again. I had witnessed his first sermon in 31 years! No wonder he broke down. I tried to imagine what it must have been like, holding the Word of God inside for 31 years, not knowing whether you would ever again preach. Then suddenly being allowed to do so. How do you preach a sermon after a silence of 31 years? No wonder he was overcome.

He said, “I never thought I would get the privilege of speaking the Word to a gathered group of Christians with their Bibles open ever again. Through the long years of prison I thought that experience would never return. And when it came, as you saw, all I could do was choke out the verse that kept me going: Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful (Ps149:1b).

I returned home with a transformed attitude. I began to walk to church with my Bible, praising Him for the opportunity. I went to the church early, walking the aisles and praying, thanking God for the building and the freedom to hold our service. When the preacher spoke, I thanked God that he had no fear. When the Bible was read, I thanked God for the men who took grave risks in the past to print and distribute this word in my language. When we sang a hymn, I sang out loudly, thanking God that I did not have to whisper in hushed tones.

Truly, what a privilege is corporate worship. The persecuted church rescued me from bitterness, and taught me to count my blessings I had taken for granted. 

RESPONSE: Today I will thank God for the privilege and freedom of corporate worship in my church.

PRAYER: Thank You Lord for the freedom and blessing of praising You in my faith community.

Verse of the Day - September 02, 2016

Psalm 119:64 (NIV) The earth is filled with your love, Lord; teach me your decrees.

Read all of Psalm 119