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The Women at the Cross

When I need strength and courage, I remember the women at the cross and the tomb of Jesus. Whenever I read Mark, chapter 15 and 16, I’m always amazed that a small band of ladies stayed with our Lord to the very end, even when His closest disciples left! These women stood near the cross through Jesus’ horrendous torture and suffering. And their devotion didn’t end with His death. They followed those who carried the Lord’s body to the tomb where He was placed.

But their devotion didn’t end with His burial. They returned to their homes after the worst day of their lives and prepared for the Sabbath. And then, “When the Sabbath was past, [they] bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him” (Mark 16:1). Very early the next morning, after all the trauma of the crucifixion, they came to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid.

Our natural human tendency is to look for loopholes, to conjure up an excuse or reason that will get us out of having to show up or having to do something. These women left for the sepulcher not even knowing who would roll the huge stone away from the door of the tomb (verse 3). Next to this verse, I’ve written in my Bible, “They didn’t let a little thing like a massive stone keep them from going.”

I draw strength from these gallant women who endured a tumultuous day that ended with the horror of the crucifixion of their Lord and Savior. They wanted to do all they could for Him. So whenever I want to take a shortcut or pass on something important or risky, I remember the women at the cross. These women served faithfully in the midst of extreme difficulty—and to the end. May you and I be so faithful.

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From Jim’s Heart — Jesus, the One and Only

History has affirmed the effects of the life and ministry of the lowly carpenter from Galilee. Jesus proclaimed that He is God’s only Son, equal with the Father, the Creator of the World, the culmination of history, the Friend of sinners, the Searcher of hearts, the Savior and Judge of mankind. At some point in the future, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:11).

What can you learn from such a singular life?

Greatness comes from serving others.Jesus came to this earth not to be served but to serve. To follow His example, be willing to serve others. Even in the area of leadership, Jesus said being a servant is what qualifies you for a position of authority. Real greatness in Christ’s kingdom is shown by service and sacrifice, not ambition or love of power. The way up is down.

There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity.Even though Jesus was fully God, He was also fully human and grew up in the same way as all humans. He did not bypass one stage of life to get to the next. He did not isolate Himself from the pressures and temptations of life. Jesus’ life reminds you that there are no shortcuts for you either. Maturity and service come with a price. The price is obedience to God each step of the way. Pay the price, and you will reap the benefits that accompany spiritual ministry.

Believing is seeing. Jesus instructed His disciples about how to continue on after His death, yet they didn’t believe the initial reports of His resurrection. Thomas is especially known for his disbelief. He had to see Jesus before he believed. Hopefully you aren’t like Thomas, demanding some sort of proof before you act in belief. The disciples believed as eyewitnesses of the Lord Himself. You have the opportunity to believe with the eyes of faith, to believe all that the Bible says about Jesus and your eternal destiny. Believe, that you may see.

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A Remarkable Husband-Wife Team

In the Bible, we first meet Aquila and Priscilla in Acts 18:2. The year is AD 50, and the city is Corinth: Paul “found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla… and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers” (Acts 18:2-3).

Because Priscilla and Aquila were believers in Christ, it was easy for them to work with Paul in their mutual profession and to minister right alongside him as well. They did this for a year and a half, supporting and helping Paul while he preached the gospel. And when Paul decided to go to Ephesus, he “took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him” (Acts 18:18). This dynamic duo continued to be faithful in ministry. They used their home as a church in Ephesus and also in Rome. Paul even described them as “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3).

Aquila and Priscilla were a phenomenal husband-wife team who accomplished effective ministry and faithful service behind the scenes for many years, and they show you exactly what a couple after God’s own heart looks like. This remarkable couple provides a perfect portrait of mutual love centered on God and each other. They give you a divine glimpse of how a marriage can and should function.

Like them, you and your spouse each bring a different personality and set of abilities into your marriage. You will spend the rest of your lives working together to live out God’s will for you as a husband and as a wife. With His help, you will grow to be “of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2 NASB).

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The Highest Calling

You have a calling. Did you realize that? God’s first and highest calling on your life is to Himself. So seek to draw close to Him in all ways and seek His transforming love. What’s in your heart affects your behavior, and God asks that your actions represent your relationship with Him.

The Bible says to “be reverent in behavior” (Titus 2:3). Even though that verse is addressed to older women, it wraps its arms around every woman of every age and circumstance. Why? Because it calls all of God’s women to be holy and godly. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

Be a woman who walks with God every day. Love the Lord. Follow Him. Honor Him in the way you live. There is no greater calling.

Lord, Your calling and love bring worth and wonder to my life. My daily pursuit of Your heart and Your Word leads me to serve this high calling of Christ-like conduct. May all that I do and all that I become reflect my relationship with You.

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From Jim’s Heart — Faithful to the Finish

Do you ever feel like you’re not making much progress in your spiritual life? That you seem to take two steps forward in your growth only to fall back one? Are you getting discouraged by shortcomings and slow growth? Do you feel unfinished? Incomplete? Lacking in spiritual maturity?

Well, take heart and be encouraged. When God starts a project (that’s you!), He completes it. God has promised that He will help each and all who embrace His Son as Savior to grow in His grace until He has completed — yes, completed! — His work in their lives.

That’s what this present promise is all about. When the apostle Paul wrote his letter to the believers in the Philippian church, he expressed excitement because he had heard that his friends there were maturing in their Christian faith. As he wrote to his comrades-in-Christ, Paul shared his confidence that God would be faithful to continue the spiritual growth process in their lives.

And, friend, God will continue that process until it is completed in you as well. That’s His promise! Read it for yourself. Read Paul’s powerful, encouraging, and comforting words of confidence to his friends… and to you!

For I am confident of this very thing,
that He who began a good work in you
will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

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Pray Through Your Priorities

Deciding what to say yes to and what to say no to is not a simple thing. I’m as social as the next person, but when I had children and home and was deep into raising my kids with God’s priorities in mind, I had to determine where other activities, commitments, and people fit within the big picture.

Your family is the masterpiece you’re assigned by God to create and preserve. Beyond that, you’ve got to be very discerning. When opportunities or events come up, each one has to be weighed against God’s best for your family. And that, my friend, takes wisdom.

So turn to the Father of your time. Go to Him and ask Him how much time should be spent on social activities and friendships. Ask Him to spell out what the need of the moment is. Then follow His leading.

Father, what must I do today to accomplish Your will? What must I let go of or decline in order to preserve my family as a priority? Give me a discerning heart that measures every opportunity against Your will for my family’s health and well-being.

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My Sun and Shield

For the Lord God is a sun and shield.
Psalm 84:11

I thank God that even when we don’t see the physical sun, we have the Lord God as a sun! Here are a few of the benefits of the sun and how God, as your sun, provides for you spiritually:

  • The sun brings joy, warmth, and energy. Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Like the sun, the Lord’s presence in your life brings great joy.
  • The sun brings routine. You can set your watch by the morning sunrise. You can also depend on God, who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8).
  • The sun brings light to guide you. David said, “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord shall enlighten my darkness” (2 Samuel 22:29). Even in the dark, you have the glory of the Lord to light your path.
  • The sun brings relief from the darkness. Darkness causes fear and brings great anguish for many who are fearful of the dark, the unseen, and the unknown. The psalmist says, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You (Psalm 139:11-12).
  • The sun brings healing. Malachi 4:2 says, “The Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.” Not only is physical healing promoted by the sun, but there is spiritual healing in the Messiah’s righteousness.
  • The sun brings emotional well-being. States that have a lot of cloudy, gray, wet weather (like Washington!) often see large populations leaving to winter in warmer, drier climates. With or without the sun, and with or without sun breaks, Psalm 30:11 tells you that God can turn your gloom into gladness: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.”
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From Jim’s Heart — The Promise to Forgive

When you receive God’s gift of Jesus, you also receive the promise of forgiveness:

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:12

God is bigger than your biggest sin, and He’s aware of even your smallest ones. Unconfessed sins have consequences. They hinder your fellowship with a holy and just God. Although God forgives sin, He overlooks none. Whether your sins are big or small in your estimation, you need to experience God’s promise of forgiveness for them. To better understand this, read on.

God’s forgiveness is complete. When you receive Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven once and for all. When Jesus uttered, “It is finished” on the cross, He was speaking of His work of redemption (John 19:30). Jesus died for your sins. Every sin that you will ever commit is covered by Jesus’ death. As God’s child, His forgiveness is complete because Jesus’ work is complete.

God’s forgiveness is permanent. When God forgives, He also forgets. You can’t use up God’s forgiveness. Whether your sins are few or many, private or public, God is always faithful to forgive.

God’s forgiveness changes you. After asking God for forgiveness, go one step further and also ask Him for the wisdom to avoid sin in the future. Constantly seek advice from God’s Word and godly Christian friends to learn how to change, how to avoid sin, and how to grow in your walk with God.

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A Masterpiece

Have you thrown in the time-management towel? Are you operating in survival mode? Many women have given up using their organizers and other plan-making methods out of frustration.

Well, I want you to give it another try. Determine to make tomorrow a better day than yesterday. Ask God for His wisdom. Just for today, create a schedule, even if it’s a “bad” one. Any schedule is better than no schedule. Scheduling is a necessity. It’s a mirror of your life. A tool for improvement. And it’s a “wand” for accomplishment.

Think about the creation of the world. God had a schedule — from before the foundation of the world. He knew exactly what He would create each day—that first and most glorious week of the history of all creation. It was a true masterpiece. And He knew He would rest on the seventh day.

How about you? How’s your masterpiece looking?

God, I will commit to scheduling my time. I will follow Your lead and create a plan for this day, this week, and maybe even beyond. Show me what it means to be faithful to good intentions and godly priorities. I want to live for you today.

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Be Strong

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and of good courage;
do not be afraid, nor be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

God says, “Be strong.” What pops into your mind when you hear or read the word “strong”? Weightlifters, wrestlers, fighters, and soldiers? Rocks and stones? Steel? Inner strength is that something in the character of a person who

  • stands in adversity,
  • who acts and speaks up because it’s the right thing to do,
  • who moves forward toward a goal of purpose regardless of the cost or obstacles,
  • who endures through harsh and trying times and treatment.

When God told Joshua to “be strong,” it was an order, something Joshua was to do. God was commanding Joshua to strengthen himself, to encourage himself, to harden himself, and to behave valiantly. God was telling Joshua that he is to move out in battle and conquer the land on the other side of the Jordan River… whether he wants to or not, whether he feels like doing it or not, whether he thinks he can win or not. Joshua is not to be feeble, fragile, or frightened about this command. He is to be strong and move forward.

You and I have to do the same. When everything in you chafes or shies away from doing what must be done, endured, or finished, you have to stand up, buck up, look up, and just do it. You have to step up to the challenge, stare it in the face, and boldly step into it. Power, valor, and victory come as you draw upon God’s grace and obediently press on by faith.

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