Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Forces of the Future

by David Feddes

In the early years of a new century and a new millennium, many of us wonder: What does the future hold? What will the next hundred years, or the next thousand years, be like?

Some futurists say we'll be establishing colonies on Mars, we'll have telephones that fit into a piece of jewelry, and we'll be swallowing microrobots that do surgery on internal organs. With predictions about various gizmos and gadgets, however, a more basic prediction of overall trends sees machines becoming more like people and people becoming more like machines.

Already robots have replaced humans in many jobs, and computers have become so skilled in strategy that they can defeat the human chess champion of the world. Some futurists predict a day when robotic computers will use artificial intelligence to improve themselves and perhaps think for themselves and even reproduce themselves. What will these machines be like? Well, optimists foresee machines that serve as expert assistants or even personal friends. Pessimists foresee machines that could turn against people and try to destroy us. But whether these thinking machines turn out to be good or bad, machines behaving like people will no longer be science fiction in books and movies. They will be reality, according to some futurists.

Ironically, as computers become more like people, the reverse will also be true: people will become more like computers. People will more and more be what they are programmed to be. Already giant research projects have mapped the genes that produce each inherited trait. As the genes are mapped out, and with advances in gene splicing, "designer babies" may become reality. Parents—or, if parenting became obsolete, the government—could program a child's gender, size, strength, eye color, intelligence level, and so forth, and make sure there is no genetic risk of cancer or alcoholism or mental defects.

Meanwhile, as research into the brain keeps advancing, it may be possible to read the way people think and feel, and even to control how they think. Scientists would then be able to program people the way they program computers. Would the result be a paradise of perfect humanity, or a hell of inhumanity?

Thinking about the future can be fascinating, but before we get too enthusiastic or too frightened about what lies ahead in this century and millennium, we need to realize that it's often misleading to base predictions about the future on current trends.

A trend that seems headed in a certain direction may well reach a barrier that can't be crossed. Attempts to give computers a personality may run into a wall. No matter how much technology advances, the best a robotic computer can ever do is to simulate personality, not actually become a person. Also, efforts to decode human behavior and reprogram it are bound to fail. No matter how much we learn about genetics or brain chemistry, we'll never be able to reduce people to machines. People will always be more than the sum of their DNA, brain waves, and environment. Creatures in God's image will always be more than mere machines.

Another problem with using current trends to predict the future is that the future is usually full of surprises that no one can predict in advance. Think back to the year 1900. Who could have predicted at the start of the last century all that has happened since? Back then there were no radios or TV's, no computers or internet or smart phones. Now we live in the information age. Back then there were no expressways, no mass production of cars, no airplanes, no birth control pill, no atomic bomb, no understanding of DNA or gene splicing. If someone 100 years ago had tried to predict the future based on what was happening at the time, he would have failed miserably.

And even if someone had managed to predict the inventions and innovations, who could have predicted the individual people who would shape the world? At the start of the 1900s, no one could anticipate the impact of Einstein or Lenin or Churchill or Hitler or Gandhi or Hugh Hefner or Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela or Osama bin Laden. Individual people can change the course of history in ways that none of us can predict in advance. And so as we look into the century ahead and the next thousand years, current trends may not tell us much.

The present doesn't always tell us much about the future. But, strange as it may seem, the future can sometimes tell us a lot about the present. How can that be? Well, with the help of the Bible, it's possible to know the future. The Bible doesn't tell us everything about the future, but it does show us the forces that will dominate at the end of history, and it shows us what the final outcome of history will be. The Bible tells us how the story ends, and that helps us to understand each chapter along the way, including the chapter we're living in right now.

Defeated Dragon

Revelation 12 records a vision of a great red dragon, which is none other than Satan himself (12:9). In the vision, the dragon is waiting for a woman to give birth to her child, and he intends to devour the child. But instead, the child is delivered from the dragon’s clutches and caught up to heaven. Then there is a great war in heaven between the dragon's evil angels and the angels of heaven. The dragon's forces are defeated, and he is cast out of heaven. Somehow, the birth of the child and his ascension to heaven have empowered the forces of heaven to defeat and expel the dragon.

At this point of the vision we're not yet looking into the future. Instead, the Bible is giving us a behind-the-scenes picture of events that have already happened. The birth of Jesus Christ, his victory over death, and his ascension to the throne of God have defeated Satan. The forces of God have already won a great and decisive triumph.

But that's not yet the end of the story. The dragon is defeated but not yet destroyed; he is wounded but not dead. And a wounded dragon is dangerous. Revelation says, "Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."

Sometimes, when you see horrible things happening, you might think that Satan is winning. But is he? Satan is ferocious, not because he's winning, but because he has already lost and he's furious about it. Jesus has already won the decisive battle through his death and resurrection, and all Satan can do is try to cause as much trouble as he can in the time he has left.

With that picture in mind, let's look at the forces of the future and see what they tell us about the present. After Satan's defeat in Revelation 12, the dragon himself stays mostly in the background, and he uses three other beings to do his dirty work.

Triple Trouble: Beast, False Prophet, Prostitute

The first part of Revelation 13 introduces us to a beast who rises up out of the sea. This beastly figure is the one described in other parts of the Bible as "the man of lawlessness" (2 Thessalonians 2:3) or "the antichrist" (1 John 2:18).

The antichrist will be a political ruler. He will take control of the world and establish one world government. His power will be an extension of the power of Satan himself, and most people will be unable to resist. Revelation says, "Men worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?" Anyone who doesn't submit to the antichrist and worship him—and this includes all who belong to Jesus—will be hunted down and killed.

As if that weren't bad enough, the antichrist will have a henchman. Revelation says, "Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon" (13:11). In other words, this second beast tries to appear like the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, but he's a fake. He doesn't speak the word of God; his words are those of the dragon, the devil. Elsewhere the book of Revelation refers to this second beast as "the false prophet" (16:13, 19:20, 20:10). The false prophet has one aim: to deceive people and get them to worship the antichrist. Revelation 13 says the false prophet performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast.... He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image of the first beast to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark of the beast or the number of his name.

This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.

Now, some details of this vision are hard to understand, but one thing is clear: near the end of time, false religion will unite with a brutal global government. The false prophet will spearhead this effort. With his cunning words and flashy miracles, the false prophet will be the ultimate in religious deception. He will hook up with the first beast's powers of persecution, killing those who reject the beast and making it impossible to buy or sell without the code of the antichrist.

A bit later, Revelation introduces us to a third force of the future: a prostitute by the name of Babylon. This prostitute Babylon, says Revelation, "is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth" (17:18). At the time Revelation was written, the great ruling city was Rome. Going back to the Babylonian empire, and even further back to the tower of Babel, Babylon in the Bible represents human culture and civilization united in opposition to God. In Revelation the prostitute Babylon does not symbolize any one person, but an entire civilization with enormous powers of seduction. Revelation 17:4 says, "With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries."

The images of sex and drunkenness have a literal dimension—all big cities wallow in such things, the Roman Empire did, and the ultimate evil civilization will, too—but the Bible says that the prostitute's main method of seduction is money. She is the center of world trade and finance and commerce and culture, and people are willing to do almost anything with her if only she will give them a piece of her wealth. The prostitute Babylon is the capital of a worldwide civilization that is obsessed with money. Under the spell of Babylon, the people and leaders of the world care about just one thing: the economy. Everything has a price. Everything is for sale, even the bodies and souls of people (Revelation 18:13). This seductive, money-oriented civilization will eventually come under the control of the antichrist and serve his purposes.

So then, Revelation shows us three evil forces of the future who are in league with the devil. The beast, or antichrist, is the ultimate in political persecution. The false prophet is the ultimate in religious deception. The prostitute is the ultimate in cultural seduction.

Is the End Near?

When we think about these forces of evil that will dominate the last chapter of human history, many of us can't help wondering whether the world we're living in is ripe for the end. It's not hard to imagine a scenario where one person would rule the world in the near future. We already see more and more globalization in world economics and politics. All it would take to bring us to a single world government would be a military crisis involving nuclear weapons, or a worldwide environmental crisis, or a collapse of currencies and a global depression, in which one man seemed to have all the answers.

It's not hard to imagine the rise of the false prophet in our current setting, either. Imagine a smooth talking religious leader with the power to make fire fall from heaven and do other dazzling signs and wonders that had no scientific explanation—and imagine all of this broadcast on live television to viewers around the world. Secularists would be so shocked at a genuine miracle that they'd fall down and worship without bothering to ask whether the miracles and teaching were from God or from Satan. Meanwhile, New Agers and spiritists would hail the false prophet as a source of spiritual power and self-realization.

And what about the power to control buying and selling? Well, it's easy enough to see how that could happen. Most of the technology is already in place. We already have electronic scanning systems and computerized credit checks. There is already information about each of us in all sorts of different computers owned by governments and business, and that information is becoming more and more connected by means of the Internet. Now imagine a future where all that data is merged into one computer network, where all payments are made electronically after a credit check by one central computer, and where if a credit check identified you as a Christian, you would be denied the right to buy or sell anything. Imagine a computer scanner which would respond only to a certain code, and the only way to be marked with that code would be to serve the antichrist. Not hard to imagine, is it? We already have the technology.

The rise of a global antichrist and false prophet seem all too possible, and as for the prostitute Babylon, the final corrupt civilization, it's already most of the way here. How could the final world civilization get any more sex-crazed, drug-and-alcohol infested, or money hungry than the society we're in right now? The world seems ripe for the evil forces of the future described in the Bible.

Future Forces Acting Now

It's interesting—and frightening—to speculate and to wonder how long it will be until these visions come true. But the Bible doesn't tell us these things just to fuel our speculation. Many times in the past there have been people who felt sure that the end was near or that a particular person was the antichrist, but they were mistaken and the end of the world did not come. In the same way, we may think that the times are ripe for the end, but we could very well be mistaken. It may turn out to be many years, even many centuries, before history reaches its final chapter. But even if the forces of the future don't reach their final and most frightening form for a long time, we need to know about them because they are at work in our world right now.

A final antichrist will appear at some point, says the Bible, but Scripture also says that there are many antichrists at work in the world already (1 John 2:18). So don't get so busy wondering about the final antichrist, or the final false prophet, or the final seductive civilization, that you don't see the antichrists, false prophets, and seductions all around you.

Satan's methods are much the same now as they will be in the future: persecution, deception, seduction. The only difference is that those forces will be more intense at the end of history when all restraints are briefly taken away. The Bible isn't just fueling our speculation about the end time when it shows us what Satan will do in the future. It shows us the future so that we'll have a much clearer idea of the methods Satan is using right now.

Satan's first method, persecution, isn't just a future possibility. It's present reality. Whether or not the final antichrist appears in our lifetime, it's a fact that in many different parts of the world, there are already martyrs dying for Christ each year. And even where faith won't cost you your life, Satan uses peer pressure, disadvantages in finance and business, and other forms of persecution and intimidation to keep you from following Jesus.

Satan's second method of attack, religious deception, is also very much present. Even if we haven't yet encountered the ultimate false prophet, there are plenty of false prophets with us, people who deny the truth of the Bible, reject the claims of Jesus Christ, promote corrupt moral teaching, and plunge people into ruin and destruction.

Satan's third method, cultural seduction, is also at work right now. Whether or not our civilization qualifies as the ultimate Babylon, the forces of seduction are all around us. It's almost impossible to pass through your teenage years without being offering drugs or liquor; casual sex is the order of the day; magazines, movies, and music are saturated with sex. We're surrounded by a consumer culture which sucks us into an obsession with making money and finding new ways to spend it. Even if we're not living in the final Babylon, we need to be alert to the ways in which we are being seduced right now by this corrupt society.

Ultimate Force of the Future

Evil forces of the future are at work in the present. So how can you resist? Only by being in touch with the ultimate force of the future. The book of Revelation says that just when the antichrist, the false prophet, and the prostitute society seem irresistible, just when it appears Satan has won, the ultimate force of the future will ride onto the scene. Revelation 19 says,

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war... The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean... On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

This is a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, returning to destroy his enemies and establish his eternal kingdom on earth.

Earlier we saw that Jesus decisively defeated Satan by dying for our sins and rising again from the dead and ascending to heaven, and we saw that Satan is just a wounded dragon living on borrowed time. Now, in Revelation 19, we see Jesus returning to earth to finish off the devil and his cronies.

As Jesus and his armies ride forth, the beast and the false prophet and the people who follow them gather to fight back, but their end is swift and terrible. The beast and the false prophet are captured and thrown into the fires of hell. All the people who followed the antichrist and the false prophet and gave in to the seductions of Babylon, are condemned. Finally, Satan himself is crushed. He and all his demons are cast into the lake of fire. There, says the Bible, "They will be tormented day and night forever and ever." So much for the power of evil.

That's why it's important to know the end of the story. You may look around you and think that it makes more sense to give in to evil than to follow Jesus, but when the forces of the future clash, evil is the loser, and Christ is the winner. The evil forces of the future will melt away before the vast, unimaginable force of the rider on the white horse. Jesus Christ will reign supreme. Those who put their faith in Jesus and resist the powers of evil will be delivered by God and will enjoy forever the splendor of the Lord's new creation.

I've said that the evil forces of the future are already at work in the present, even if the final evil and tribulation isn't yet upon us. But let me emphasize something far more important: the holy and divine force of the future, the saving power of Jesus, is also at work right now, even if his Second Coming isn't yet upon us. The Holy Spirit of Jesus is at work today, drawing his people toward their final destiny. The gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus continues to spread throughout the world, rescuing millions from the clutches of Satan, guarding their souls and giving them strength to resist the forces of intimidation and deception and seduction. The gospel of Christ is riding forth constantly, and when it has reached all nations and the Lord has brought all his chosen ones to faith, the end will come and Jesus will return and complete his victory.

Meanwhile, the Lord calls us to live our present lives in light of what we know about the future. He shows us Satan's strategies, not so that we'll be frightened or overwhelmed, but so that we'll be alert to what the devil is doing, and so that we will trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and take sides with him. There's a lot we don't know about the future. We don't know which trends or what people will have the greatest impact. But we do know this: a battle is brewing, the final battle between the forces of evil and the power of the Lord. That future battle is simply the last conflict in a war that is going on right now, a war in which the forces of the future are already exercising their power. Which forces are controlling you? Which side are you on? Are you giving in to the sidekicks of a fierce but doomed dragon? Or are you marching in the armies of the victorious Christ? Don't let another day go by before you trust Jesus as your rescuer and obey him as your commander.

The Daily Readings for WEDNESDAY, December 28, 2016 - Holy Innocents' Day

The Massacre of the Innocents by Lucas Cranach the Elder (c. 1515)
First Reading
Jeremiah 31:15-17
Thus says the LORD: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. Thus says the LORD: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the LORD: they shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope for your future, says the LORD: your children shall come back to their own country.

Psalm 124 Nisi quia Dominus
1   If the LORD had not been on our side, let Israel now say;
2   If the LORD had not been on our side, when enemies rose up against us;
3   Then would they have swallowed us up alive in their fierce anger toward us;
4   Then would the waters have overwhelmed us and the torrent gone over us;
5   Then would the raging waters have gone right over us.
6   Blessed be the LORD! he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.
7   We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken, and we have escaped.
8   Our help is in the Name of the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

Second Reading
Revelation 21:1-7
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

The Holy Gospel
Matthew 2:13-18
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son." When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.

Verse of the Day - December 28, 2016

Matthew 11:28 (NIV) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Read all of Matthew 11

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Morning Devotions with Cap'n Kenny - "What God Can Do"

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, (Colossians 1:13, NIV)

Our society doesn't really have answers for all the problems we are facing in our country today. Ironically, our society seems to do everything it can to undermine the only one who can help us, and that is Jesus Christ.

There are people caught in our legal system as repeat offenders. There are judges who make the wrong decisions. There is the breakdown of the family. And all of these elements combined produce a society that can do very little to change a person's heart, if anything at all.

Rehabilitation efforts largely fail. In fact, the only real programs that seem to produce lasting change are faith-based, and more specifically, are being operated by Christians who are calling people to faith in Jesus Christ. Society doesn't have the answers.

Jesus met two men whose lives had been controlled and ruined by Satan. Society didn't have the answers. Enter the Savior, Jesus. What did He do? He sought them out in their graveyard and offered them hope. In fact, Luke's account of the story tells us what happened to one of the men who was delivered: "and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid" (Luke 8:35).

Why were people afraid?

They didn't know what to make of it. He was so transformed it frightened the people. They couldn't even imagine a guy like him could be changed in such a dramatic way.

It is such a glorious thing when Christ so transforms someone that you can't even imagine that person being what he or she used to be. You realize that it is the power of a changed life. And that is what God can do.

In Jesus,
Cap'n Kenny

Un Dia a la Vez - Testifica

Vete a tu casa, a los tuyos, y cuéntales cuán grandes cosas el Señor ha hecho contigo, y cómo ha tenido misericordia de ti. Marcos 5:19, RV-60

Cuando lo analizo, puedo decirte que este libro es un milagro de Dios. Sin ser autora ni escritora, sino una mujer de la radio, Él puso su propósito en mi corazón a fin de que le testificara al mundo todo lo que había hecho en mi vida. Así que, en obediencia, respondí a su claro mandato: «Escribe en un libro todas las palabras que te he dicho» (Jeremías 30:2).

El mundo tiene que saber que Dios hace milagros poderosos. Él me libró de la muerte y me levantó cuando creía que mi vida se iba a lo más profundo del abandono. Si has leído este libro en su totalidad, puedes ver con claridad el amor de Dios en mi vida. Durante años, me sostuvo como madre soltera de tres princesas y a ellas jamás les ha faltado nada. Y si lo hizo conmigo, sé que también lo puede hacer contigo. Por eso debes testificar, pues otros aún no han conocido a Dios en otra faceta de sus vidas y le conocerán por medio de ti. No calles y dile al mundo de dónde sacó Él tu vida.

Standing Strong Through the Storm - SAMUEL AND HIS CRIPPLED SON

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law… Galatians 4:4

Samuel was a schoolmaster in a small city in central China. One night he overheard his head teacher praying, “Lord, please help Samuel to love his son. It’s so sad the way he treats him so cruelly, cutting him off, refusing to spend time in the home, ashamed of his crippled boy. Lord, we don’t know what goes on in the mind of his son, but we do know he is very sad. His wife says the boy weeps all the time when the father comes in and leaves. He may not know much, but he does know he’s not loved, and doesn’t know why.”

Deeply moved by the prayer, Samuel went home late that night and sat beside his sleeping son for hours, just stroking his hair and whispering, “Forgive me.”

Every night after that, Samuel stayed late at his son’s bedside, reading him portions of the Bible – a book he had found at school. When he had finished a page, he would signal to the boy, who loved to help by turning the page. They felt warm together. Soon his wife joined them for the readings, and the family grew closer and closer.

Samuel sensed new feelings of love well up inside him as he read the truths of the Bible. He felt a power to love his son more and more. That’s when tragedy struck. His boy was run over by a truck and badly injured. There was nothing the medics could do. They took him home to nurse him through to the end. Christians came and prayed for his healing, but the boy continued to deteriorate. By this time Samuel was praying to God, and crying out for Him to spare his son’s life. But in December, after a sudden power failure, the boy finally died.

Samuel asked the Christians to hold a service for his boy. A pastor came and prayed, saying, “Lord, you knew this boy was going to die. How kind of you to reconcile father and son before he died. Thank you for your work of grace. And we thank you for your eternal work too. You watched your son, helpless in flesh, die and grow cold—all because you knew we could not love you otherwise, as we are so blind in our selfishness.”

Samuel pondered the meaning of this prayer. He didn’t understand it all. But he did get this: God had lost a son too. Unlike Samuel, God lost a son He had cherished, a son that was perfect. How much harder for God. He went to church the following Sunday in a nearby community where they were celebrating an event unknown to Samuel, called “Christmas.”

Samuel testified on that very Sunday, “I see that I see that I went through what God went through. He had a Son He loved, and watched Him die that life may come to everyone. I too had a son, but I did not love him. Then God broke my heart, so that I could love him. Then He took him.

“But I have life now, life that will last so long that one day I know I will be reunited with my son. And he will not be lame. And we will fellowship together, not in freezing rooms of fear and pain, but on beautiful planets of peace and harmony. I can love again, and this is the joy of Christmas for me. Even in my grief, with my son gone, I can love again. We can all love again!”

RESPONSE: Today I will express my love for God even in the midst of any pain and loss.

PRAYER: Pray for people who have suffered deeply and may feel God cannot forgive them.

Girlfriends in God - It’s Time to Put Your Foot Down

Today’s Truth

“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12 NIV).

Friend to Friend

Did you know that just because God gives you a promise that does not mean it is automatically yours? Nope, you have to believe it and take hold of it to make it yours!

Paul wrote: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). In order to experience a thriving faith—the abundant life to the full—we must take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of for us and placed in us.

I love how the Amplified Bible translates today’s truth. “I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own.” I press on to lay hold of…to grasp…to make my own.

After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, that first generation of slaves-set-free were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Their grumbling and unbelief kept life to the full at arms’ length. But when the next generation came along, they believed God would do what He said He would do. They moved forward to take hold of the promises, and lived bold to claim what their parents never saw. What made the difference? Let’s take a look.

After the death of Moses, God said to Joshua, Moses’ aide,

“Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.

“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:2-3, 5-7)
It is that sentence “I will give you every place where you set your foot,” that stops me in my tracks every time. God had given the Israelites the land, but they still had to take it. They had to put their foot down. They had to take hold of the promise.

I just love miracles. Don’t you? I love reading about times when God mysteriously and supernaturally intervenes in someone’s life—times when what was impossible with man became a reality with God. But almost every time, God performed a miracle in the Bible, He required men and women to participate—to put their foot down.
  • Build an ark.
  • Lift your staff.
  • Fill your jug.
  • Gather jars.
  • Make a cake.
  • Blow a trumpet.
  • Give a shout.
Jesus echoed his Father’s cadence in the New Testament.
  • Take up your pallet.
  • Cast your nets.
  • Stretch out your hand.
  • Wash off the mud.
  • Look in the fish’s mouth.
  • Roll away the stone.
  • Stand up straight.
  • Go and tell.
Yes, God does miracles. And in every one of the above-mentioned marvels, God’s power followed someone’s obedience. The key to experiencing the abundant life of relationship with Christ is obedience, and most people don’t even like the word. But it is the pathway to the faith you long for.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Even the smallest bit of obedience opens heaven, and the deepest truths of God immediately become yours. Yet God will never reveal more truth about Himself to you, until you have obeyed what you know already.”

So girlfriend, put your foot down. It’s time to take hold of the promises of God!

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, I have been so wishy-washy when it comes to taking hold of Your promises and making them mine. But today, I’m putting my foot down! I will not allow my human reason to talk me out of my spiritual inheritance. I will set my foot down on every promise that You have given me today. I’m going in!
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn

Pick three of the following stories and note what Jesus told the person to do. Read the surrounding verses to put the command in context. Note what happened when the person did what Jesus told him/her to do, and what would have happened if he/she didn’t.
What is God calling you to do or believe today?

More from the Girlfriends

Today’s devotion came from my latest book, Take Hold of the Faith You Long For: Let Go, Move Forward, Live Bold. Let’s take hold of all that Jesus has already taken hold of for us and placed in us! Check it out at where you can download a free chapter and watch a video book trailer. The book also comes with a Bible study guide. Make sure and sign up for my weekly blog for more great deals and inspiration.

LHM Daily Devotion - "Who Needs a Savior?"

December 28, 2016

Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11, ESV)

Read Luke 2:11-12

I remember being devastated one year when mom and dad took down our Christmas tree early. They said it had gotten too dry, but I never saw any danger. Years later our youth group had a Christmas tree bonfire. In seconds the tree exploded into flames, lighting up the entire field. We all were forced to step back from the intense heat. In that moment I realized just what great a danger we had been in, and how mom and dad had saved us.

If the shepherds were anything like most people, they felt no danger sitting out in the fields that Christmas night. Then in an instant the angel appeared, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. In that horrifying moment they saw the darkness of their sinful lives in the holy light of God, and they were gripped with the terror of His wrath.

Each of us will experience that moment someday -- either at our death or at Christ's return. We will be immersed in the bright light of God's glory, as we stand before Him for judgment. God will not weigh out your good deeds versus your bad deeds, or compare you to other people. Instead, He will look deep into your thoughts, desires and attitudes. If you committed one sin, one single wrongdoing at any time during your life, you will stand condemned.

But that is why Jesus came as our Savior. He took every sin to the cross; there He suffered God's fiery wrath in our place. When we trust Jesus as our Savior, all our sins are taken away, and when He returns we will be able to stand spotless before His judgment seat.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank You for taking my place and suffering for my sins. Guide me to show others why they need Your salvation too. Amen.

Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin! Used by permission; all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).

Devociones de Adviento - María, quiero cantar contigo

Miércoles 28 de Diciembre

Lucas 1:46-55

Entonces María dijo: "Mi alma glorifica al Señor, y mi espíritu se regocija en Dios mi Salvador. Pues se ha dignado mirar a su humilde sierva." (Lc 1: 46-48a, RVC)

Dos mujeres se encuentran. Ambas son parientas. Una fue reivindicada de su larga humillación: cuando ya no tenía más esperanzas de concebir quedó embarazada, dejando así atrás el estigma de ser "la estéril" de la familia. Su nombre es Elisabet, y en su vientre crece Juan, el Bautista. La otra es una humilde virgen de Nazaret. Hace poco soñaba con formar una familia con su amado José. Ahora, aun antes de que ese matrimonio fuera consumado, en su vientre se está formando el Rey de Reyes, el Mesías esperado. Todos conocemos su nombre: bendita ella, entre las mujeres y bendito el fruto de su vientre.

A lo largo de la Biblia hay pocos encuentros tan profundos y significativos. Dos mujeres que trascenderán los siglos porque fueron objeto especial del favor de Dios. Sus corazones, sorprendidos por los excelsos planes divinos para con ellas, responden con fe, con gozo y serena obediencia. La alegría que las invade ilumina sus rostros y se transforma en música angelical en sus labios. Los planes de Dios superan lo imaginable. El Poderoso hace grandes cosas. Es que la misericordia divina no tiene límites. María canta, y nosotros somos invitados a cantar con ella.

La navidad pone en nuestros labios un canto nuevo. Aunque nuestra existencia haya transcurrido en medio de las sombras, la vergüenza, o cualquier forma de esclavitud, la navidad viene a encender una luz de esperanza en nuestro mundo. A través de los labios de María, el Espíritu Santo le da letra a nuestra esperanza. María, ¡deja que nuestro humilde corazón se sume a tu canto!

Quiero cantar, Señor, porque te revelaste como Salvador de nuestras vidas. Sálvanos de nuestras opresiones y miserias. Fecunda nuestro ser con esperanza. Amén.

© Copyright 2016 Cristo Para Todas Las Naciones

Our Daily Bread - Locked Into Love

Read: Romans 8:31–39 | Bible in a Year: Zechariah 5–8; Revelation 19

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 106:1

In June 2015, the city of Paris removed forty-five tons of padlocks from the railings of the Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge. As a romantic gesture, couples would etch their initials onto a lock, attach it to the railing, click it shut, and throw the key into the River Seine.

After this ritual was repeated thousands of times, the bridge could no longer bear the weight of so much “love.” Eventually the city, fearing for the integrity of the bridge, removed the “love locks.”

The locks were meant to symbolize everlasting love, but human love does not always last. The closest of friends may offend each other and never resolve their differences. Family members may argue and refuse to forgive. A husband and wife may drift so far apart that they can’t remember why they once decided to marry. Human love can be fickle.

But there is one constant and enduring love—the love of God. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever,” proclaims Psalm 106:1. The promises of the unfailing and everlasting nature of God’s love are found throughout Scripture. And the greatest proof of this love is the death of His Son so that those who put their faith in Him can live eternally. And nothing will ever separate us from His love (Rom. 8:38–39).

Fellow believers, we are locked into God’s love forever.

I’m grateful for Your unending love, Father. I’m locked into Your love by the Holy Spirit who is living in me.

Christ’s death and resurrection are the measure of God’s love for me.

© 2016 Our Daily Bread Ministries

Nuestro Pan Diario - Candados de amor

Leer: Romanos 8:31-39 | La Biblia en un año: Apocalipsis 19

… Den gracias al Señor, porque él es bueno; su gran amor perdura para siempre. (Salmo 106:1 NVI)

En junio de 2015, en París, se removieron 45 toneladas de candados de las barandas del Puente de las Artes. Como un gesto romántico, las parejas grababan sus iniciales en un candado, lo colocaban en la baranda, lo cerraban y arrojaban la llave al río Sena.

Como este ritual se había repetido miles de veces, el puente ya no podía soportar más el peso de tanto «amor». Por fin, el gobierno de la ciudad, para proteger el puente, quitó los «candados de amor».

El propósito de los candados era simbolizar amor eterno, pero el amor humano no dura para siempre. Aun los amigos más íntimos pueden ofenderse y no resolver nunca el problema; los parientes, discutir y negarse a perdonar; los esposos y esposas, alejarse tanto que no recuerdan por qué decidieron casarse. El amor humano es inconstante.

Pero hay un amor invariable y duradero: el amor de Dios. Como afirma el Salmo 106:1: «Den gracias al Señor, porque él es bueno; su gran amor perdura para siempre» (nvi). Las promesas de este amor inalterable y eterno se encuentran en toda la Biblia. Y su mayor demostración es la muerte de su Hijo para que los que creen en Él tengan vida eterna. Nada nos separará de su amor (Romanos 8:38-38).

Señor, te doy gracias por tu amor sin fin, al que estoy sujeta por el Espíritu Santo que vive en mí.

La muerte y resurrección de Cristo son la medida del amor de Dios para conmigo.

© 2016 Ministerios Nuestro Pan Diario

Unser Täglich Brot - Liebesschlösser

Lesen: Römer 8,31-39 | Die Bibel In Einem Jahr: Sacharja 5–8; Offenbarung 19

Danket dem Herrn; denn er ist freundlich, und seine Güte währet ewiglich. (Psalm 106,1)

Im Juni 2015 entfernte die Stadt Paris fünfundvierzig Tonnen Schlösser von den Geländern der Pont des Arts. Junge Pärchen hatten sie dort angebracht. Sie ritzen ihre Initialen in ein Schloss, hängen es an das Brückengeländer, schließen es und werfen den Schlüssel in die Seine.

Nachdem das einige tausend Male gemacht wurde, fürchteten die Behörden, die Brücke könnte unter dem Gewicht von so viel „Liebe“ zusammenbrechen und entfernten die Schlösser.

Die Schlösser sollten ewige Liebe symbolisieren, aber menschliche Liebe hält oft nicht ewig. Selbst zwischen den engsten Freunden kann es zu Problemen kommen, die nie mehr ausgeräumt werden. In Familien kann es Streit geben und keiner ist bereit zu vergeben. Ein Paar kann sich so sehr auseinander leben, dass sie nicht mehr wissen, warum sie einander einmal heiraten wollten. Menschliche Liebe kann wankelmütig sein.

Aber es gibt eine konstante, dauerhafte Liebe—die Liebe Gottes. „Danket dem Herrn; denn er ist freundlich und seine Güte währet ewiglich“, heißt es in Psalm 106,1. Das Versprechen, dass Gottes Liebe ewig und unwandelbar ist, findet sich in der gesamten Bibel. Und der größte Beweis dieser Liebe ist der Tod seines Sohnes, damit alle, die an ihn glauben, ewiges Leben haben. Nichts kann uns je von seiner Liebe trennen (Röm. 8,38-39).

Freunde, das Schloss von Gottes Liebe hält!

Ich bin dankbar für deine nie endende Liebe, Vater. Dein Heiliger Geist, der in mir wohnt, hat sie mit einem Schloss versiegelt.

Jesu Tod und Auferstehung sind der Maßstab, an dem ich Gottes Liebe zu mir messen kann.

© 2016 Unser Täglich Brot

Хлеб наш насущный - Любовь на замке

Читать сейчас: Римлянам 8:31-39 | Библия за год: Захария 5-8; Откровение 19

Славьте Господа, ибо Он благ, ибо вовек милость Его. — Псалом 105:1

В июне 2015 г. власти Парижа убрали сорок пять тонн висячих замков с перил пешеходного моста Искусств. Романтически настроенные молодые пары гравируют свои инициалы на замке, вешают его на перила, а ключ бросают в Сену.

После того как этот ритуал был совершен много тысяч раз, мост оказался под угрозой разрушения под весом такой «любви». В конце концов городские власти во избежание катастрофы распорядились спилить замки с перил.

Замки должны были символизировать вечную любовь. Увы, человеческая любовь не длится вечно. Близкие друзья могут оскорбить друг друга, не смириться с различиями. Члены семьи могут поссориться и не прощать. Супруги могут отдалиться настолько, что уже и не вспомнят, что когда-то согласились пожениться. Человеческая любовь непостоянна.

Но есть любовь вечная и неизменная – это любовь Божья. Обетования этой любви рассеяны по всему Священному Писанию. А самое великое ее доказательство – смерть Иисуса Христа ради спасения верующих в Него. Ничто не может отлучить нас от этой любви (Рим. 8:38-39).

Мои верующие друзья, замок Божьей любви к нам никогда не будет убран.

Я благодарю Тебя, Боже, за бесконечную любовь. Я облечена ею, благодаря Святому Духу, живущему во мне.

Смерть и воскресение Христа – мера Божьей любви ко мне.

© 2016 Хлеб Наш Насущный

Notre Pain Quotidien - Cadenassé par l’amour

Lisez : Romains 8.31‑39 | La Bible en un an : Zacharie 5 – 8 et Apocalypse 19

Louez l’Éternel, car il est bon, car sa miséricorde dure à toujours ! (Psaume 106.1)

En juin 2015, la ville de Paris a retiré de la grille du Pont pédestre des Arts des cadenas pesant au total quarante‑cinq tonnes. En guise de geste romantique, les couples inscrivaient leurs initiales sur un cadenas, l’attachaient à la grille, le verrouillaient et en jetaient la clé dans la Seine.

Après que ce rituel s’est répété des milliers de fois, le pont n’a plus été en mesure de supporter autant « d’amour ».Craignant pour l’intégrité du pont, la ville a fini par retirer les « cadenas d’amour ».

Les cadenas étaient censés symboliser l’amour éternel, mais l’amour humain ne dure pas toujours. Même les amis les plus intimes peuvent se blesser et ne jamais résoudre leur différend. Des proches peuvent se quereller et refuser de se pardonner. Un mari et une femme peuvent s’éloigner l’un de l’autre au point de ne plus se rappeler pourquoi ils ont même décidé jadis de se marier. L’amour humain vacille parfois.

Il existe toutefois un amour constant et durable, celui de Dieu. « Louez l’Éternel, car il est bon, car sa miséricorde dure à toujours ! » (PS 106.1.) Les promesses de l’amour de Dieu, de nature infaillible et éternelle, se trouvent partout dans la Bible. Et la plus grande preuve de cet amour, c’est la mort de son Fils afin que ceux qui mettent leur foi en lui puissent vivre éternellement. Or, personne ne nous séparera de son amour (RO 8.38,39).

Nous sommes cadenassés pour toujours par l’amour de Dieu.

La mort et la résurrection de Christ reflètent son amour pour nous.

© 2016 Ministères NPQ