National Repentance

After Solomon completed the temple in Jerusalem, after the celebration and dedication, the Lord appeared to Him with a message. (Read 2 Chronicles 7 to understand the context.) In this message, God promised to forgive those who humble themselves and repent of their sins.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land . . . but if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the decrees and commands I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot the people from this land that I have given them.

2 Chronicles 7:14,19,20

There is a caveat to God’s promise of forgiveness. If the people filled the land with sin and worshipped false gods, He promised to uproot them from the land and destroy the temple. Four hundred plus years later the temple was destroyed and a majority of Israel’s citizens were taken captive by the Babylonians. God eventually judges those who persist in sinful practices; not individuals only, nations as well. The length of time it took for judgment to materialize is a testament to God’s patience and kindness.

In 2012 Billy Graham wrote: “Today America is following a dangerous path. We worship the gods of secularism and materialism. God is displeased, and I warn you that His anger is being kindled. If ever a nation has enjoyed prosperity and the blessing of God, it is America; but instead of giving thanks to God, we have offered our reverence and worship to created things.”(1)

North America has been unusually blessed. Our freedom and prosperity are gifts from God. Are we thankful to Him? Or do we worship the gods of materialism? Let us turn to God with our whole hearts because at some point His patience will end (Romans 1:24).

God, grant that our nation will acknowledge your goodness and turn from evil.

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National Repentance is an excerpt from Rooted, Rose McCormick Brandon’s soon-to-be published devotional.

(1) Billy Graham, Decision Magazine, 2012

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Step by Step

                                                                              

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:25

Norman Grubb in his little book, Continuous Revival, writes that the first step in experiencing continual personal revival is to live daily in the Spirit. “Walk with Jesus,” he writes, “and that means simple concentration on things as they are with me just this moment, then the next, then the next, and so on.”

Walking in the Spirit means living in the present, not in the failures of the past or the fears of the future. We “walk in the Spirit,” one step at a time. We live today by faith in Jesus Christ. If we sin, we can confess our sins to God, for we have continual access to Him through Jesus Christ. When “we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (I John 1:9).

We are often tempted to look back on our past failures and regrets. Everybody has them. Satan tempts us to mull them over in our minds and stew over them. He likes to project failures into our future. Since we have failed in the past, we will likely fail in the future (so he says). This past and future thinking can put us into a tailspin of despair and depression. Satan’s tactic is to take a grain of truth and make a mountain out of it. We can combat his false accusations by remembering that there is “no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). At the cross all our sins, failures and mistakes were forgiven.  

Walking is a step-by-step process. Walk with Jesus today. Enjoy the present He has given. Thank Him and praise Him for it. When we get to tomorrow, we will find He is already there. And because He is there we will be able to walk in that present.

“Revival in its truest sense is an everyday affair right down within the reach of everyday folk – to be experienced each day in our hearts, homes, churches and fields of service.” Norman Grubb (Continuous Revival, CLC Publications, p.9)

Father, every step I take I take with You. You are my strength, my hope and my pleasure. You take the sting of regret out of my past and the worry out of my future.

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Transformed by a Simple Prayer

At fourteen, I was a disgruntled church-goer. I went to Sunday School because it was one of Mom’s compulsories. As young as age five, I couldn’t wait for stories and songs to end. By the time I was a teenager, my dislike for church was in full throttle. I sat with ears closed, impatient for the benediction.

Two months before my fifteenth birthday, a young couple came to pastor our shabby little church. My cousin, who loved church almost as much as I hated it, asked me to go to a Sunday evening service, something I’d never done. Since we were joined at the hip, I went. The sermon went in one ear and out the other. Afterwards, the pastor invited the congregation to join him in the prayer room. Everyone filed out of the pews and downstairs to a squat little room with wooden benches. I went because not going would’ve drawn attention to me.

On my knees at a bench, the pastor’s wife, a twenty-two year-old newly-wed, came and knelt beside me. She whispered, “Would you like to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior?”

I said, “Yes” because I knew that was the right answer. I repeated after her a simple prayer. The meeting soon ended and I went home. When I opened my eyes the next morning, something stirred in my chest. I felt new inside, as if I was breathing different air than I had the day before. On the way to school, everything around me seemed re-born – sky, grass, sounds. Over the next few days, people I hadn’t much cared for became loveable. I’d stepped into a fresh world.

My attitude toward church changed. I, who had no use for church, became a diligent teacher of a young class. By praying a simple prayer to receive Jesus as my Savior, I experienced a spiritual birth.

One night a rabbi, Nicodemus, came secretly to Jesus to ask what he thought were deep questions. Jesus answered him, “You must be born again.” A simple answer for a scholar who didn’t want his colleagues to see him conversing with Jesus.

Nicodemus remembered Jesus’ words. After the crucifixion, he became a daylight disciple. Along with Joseph of Arimathea, another night follower, he went to Pilate and requested Jesus’ body. They lovingly wrapped it and laid it in a new tomb. Like me, Nicodemus and Joseph were born again.

As I ponder my youthful transformation, I still feel awed by Jesus, still try to see the world through His eyes. Two thousand years after his death and resurrection, Jesus is still birthing people into His kingdom. My re-birth began with a simple prayer that went something like this:

 Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Savior of the whole world and that no one can experience spiritual birth except through you. I give my life to you today and ask that you forgive my sins. .

Rose McCormick Brandon has published many articles, essays and books. She writes two blogs: Listening to my Hair Grow and Promises of Home.

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Our Promise Keeper

             The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. Psalm 145:13(b)

A man promised his daughter he would cover tuition and living costs while she attended school. His promise was based on stocks he owned. He had made a good return on his investment and intended to liquidate the stocks and support his daughter with the proceeds. Before he could issue a sell order, it was revealed that the success of his investments was based on a lie. No profits existed. Even the man’s original investment was gone. He had been swindled. Keeping the promise to his daughter became impossible.

Nothing wounds the heart like a broken promise. Unforeseen obstacles and the fickle nature of humanity leave many promises unfulfilled.

Promises depend on many things: our income, health, location, world events. We rely on the honesty of governments and the wisdom of money managers. We rely on promise-makers not to change their minds. That is a lot of relying. People and circumstances change. Priorities shift. When they do, promises are broken.

God’s promises are based on His unchanging character. We can count on Him to be “the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

God keeps all His promises. His investments never evaporate. He never deceives or makes mistakes. After leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, Joshua wrote of God: “Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” (Joshua 23:14).

God “is not a human being that he should change his mind” (Numbers 23:19). People may break their promises, but you can trust the One who died for you to keep all His promises.   

Lord, I trust you with all that concerns me because You have never  made a promise You did not keep.

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Give the Gift of Prayer

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6;18

How beautiful and heartwarming, unique and exclusive; there’s nothing else on the planet as soul-satisfying as Christian friendship. The closest thing to heaven on earth is the deep connection we have with other Christ-followers. This connection springs from our mutual love for Jesus. The Greek word used to describe this connection is koinonia which denotes a close-knit family living in harmony, sharing possessions and loving one another.

One day as I sat at my desk in the busy office the phone rang. It was Valerie.

“I just called to encourage you today,” she said. “I’m praying for you. God is with you in your work. Be confident in that.” Our conversation was short but her words meant a lot to me.

We need to know we’re not alone in our walk with Christ. A call, a card, a few words like I’m praying for you from a believing friend say much more than the words themselves. They say that someone is thinking about us, that they, as a fellow believer care enough to remind us that God is with us.

Sometimes the faith journey can be lonely. We may be surrounded by people who don’t share our faith. They may even scoff at it. A loving message from another Christian is often all we need to inspire us to keep allowing God to work through us. It’s as if that person comes along, takes our hand and walks beside us.

We have a natural longing for the companionship of other believers because we are united in Christ for eternity.

Is there someone who needs an encouraging word from you today?

God, I want to be someone who gives the gift of prayer to my fellow believers.

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Stranger at my Door

A major snowstorm had blown in overnight and closed the schools. As I sat at my desk in the church office, I could hear the neighbourhood children playing in the parking lot, a good place to build forts and throw snowballs. An icy wind curled around my feet. Someone had opened the front door. A red-faced boy about nine poked his head through my office doorway and asked, “Is it okay to use the bathroom?” He cupped his bare hands up to his mouth and blew warm breath onto them.  

I led him downstairs to the bathroom. While my new friend was in the men’s room, I opened the large supply cabinet nearby. An avid knitter in the congregation had donated a bag of mittens to be sent to a far-north mission. I chose two pairs that looked the right size for him. He grinned when he saw them and raised his hands for me to slip them over his cold fingers. Then he reached up with both arms and gave me the warmest of hugs.

 I had griped about coming to work that day. I wanted to stay with my three children and their father who were all home-bound because of the snow. The little boy’s hug showed me he was the reason for my presence in the office that day.

            With an extra pair of mittens tucked in his pockets, my little friend waved and ran down the stairs to join his friends in the parking lot.  

Sometimes the mission field appears in the form of a little stranger right on your very own doorstep.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

Open my eyes, Lord, to see the opportunities for showing your love that are standing right on my doorstep.

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God Equips us with Contentment

 Not that I speak from [any personal] need, for I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. Philippians 4:11 AMP

A retired couple bought a fifth wheel and made plans to tour North America. They had looked forward to this moment for years. Suddenly, a tragedy left them responsible for raising two young grandchildren.

Winds of change upend well-laid plans. An income that once supplied the family’s needs with some left over, disappears in an economic meltdown. A trusted employer goes bankrupt. A loved one dies. Where laughter rang, tears flow.

Contentment grows in the soil of hardship. During a time of unwelcome change when our income was sliced in half, my husband wrote this little poem:

The winds are meant to blow

The waves are meant to roll

But deep inside I know

My God is in control.

Contentment in God is a banner that reigns over chaos. Stock markets may plunge. Lay-off notices proliferate. Contentment raises its voice and praises the Lord. Contentment rests its head on the shoulder of Jesus. Contentment springs from a sublime and child-like trust in Him. Contentment sings; worry wrings its hands. Contentment praises; fear wails. Contentment is never broken by calamity. It always wins.  

In the midst of his losses, Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). Oswald Chambers calls this the most sublime utterance of faith in the whole Bible.

Prayer: Father, I choose today to live in godly contentment and trust that the world’s chaos is under your control.

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A Time to Speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess before My Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32

Decision day. Joshua counselled the Israelites to rid their homes of idols. Though God had performed miracles for them some still clung to the pagan rites of Egypt. “Choose who you will serve,” Joshua said. Then he made a bold statement, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

Wavering in and out of faith works for a while, but the day comes when it’s time to speak, time to stand tall and declare no matter how many follow other gods, we will follow Christ. The day comes when one needs to make an all-out pro-God statement.

A single-minded believer stirs the forces of heaven to join him in battle. The double-minded cannot muster support. They bend with society’s whims, shroud their true faith in compromise and thus become unstable (James 1:5-8).

Joshua spoke for everyone in his household. If they wanted to follow Dad they needed to know which direction he was travelling. Joshua’s words settled their doubts. Idols were broken and discarded that day.

Declarations are important. “If you declare with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

Decision day has arrived. Time to speak. Dare to be like Joshua. Leave no doubt in people’s minds about who you belong to and where you are going. Someday you’ll turn around and see others following you because you dared to say, “I have decided to follow Jesus.”

Prayer: Lord, my mind is made up, my decision is made. I am following You from here to eternity.

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A Living Parable

                               All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” 2 Tim. 3:16

Two young evangelists attended a conference in Florida where respected teachers expressed doubt in the veracity of the Bible. This created doubt in the minds of the men. One left evangelism, returned to his home country and began a career in journalism.

The other also returned home. He re-read Paul’s message to his apprentice, Timothy, where he states that all scripture is inspired by God. He recalled that Jesus quoted scripture many times, including from the creation story, which was the portion of scripture most under scrutiny (Matt. 19:4-6).

“I walked out in the moonlight, my heart heavy and burdened. I dropped to my knees and opened my Bible on a tree stump. ‘Oh God, I prayed, there are many things in this book I do not understand. But God, I’m going to accept this book as your word by faith. I’m going to allow my faith to go beyond my intellect and believe that this is your inspired Word.’ From that moment on I have never doubted God’s Word.”*

The man who left evangelism was Charles Templeton. He became editor of The Toronto Star and a frequent guest on Canadian television. He espoused the arguments of skeptics and wrote a book titled, Farewell to God. The second man was Billy Graham. After his faith crisis he became more confident in preaching the Bible. Thousands follow Jesus today because of his commitment to scripture. He too wrote books, each one based on scripture. 

Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that the Church of Christ is like a house (I Cor. 3:11). A defective foundation affects the whole structure. When a person, or church, loses their commitment to biblical authority, its foundation crumbles. Windows that should let in the fresh breath of God’s Spirit no longer open. Doors that should lead to the knowledge of the Savior hang purposelessly on rusted hinges.

True believers trust the Bible, teach the Bible and live according to its precepts. One preacher put it this way: Where the Bible is not believed the church speaks with a stutter. 

The stories of these two men read like a modern-day parable that illustrates the necessity of building our faith on Jesus and His Word (Acts 2:36). One man’s faith crumbled. The other man’s grew stronger. Our lives are parables too. Let your legacy be that you believed the Bible is the Word of God and that it is a gift from Him to all humanity.

Prayer: I acknowledge that the Bible is not a mere book. It contains words inspired by God and given to us so that we may know Him.

*Billy Graham: God’s Ambassador, WestBow Press.

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On This Date in 536 B.C.

On April 23, as I was standing on the bank of the great Tigris River, I looked up and saw a man dressed in linen clothing, with a belt of pure gold around his waist. His body looked like a precious gem. His face flashed like lightning, and his eyes flamed like torches. His arms and feet shone like polished bronze, and his voice roared like a vast multitude of people. Daniel 10:4-6

Daniel was distressed. And so he prayed. He was distressed for His people. After seventy years of captivity in Babylon the Jews had been granted permission to return to their homeland. Less than fifty thousand returned (Ezra 2). The rest had grown accustomed to life in Babylon, a land of idolatry. More distressing than the malaise of those who stayed was the plight of those brave souls who returned to Israel. Daniel longed for them to be successful in restoring the temple and re-building Jerusalem. They had an enormous task and faced enemies of several varieties.

Daniel prayed. And fasted. On the twenty-first day of his fast, an angel – probably Gabriel – appeared to Daniel. It was April 23, 536 BC. He explained that he had begun his journey on the first day Daniel began to fast and pray but he was intercepted by a demon, the prince of the kingdom of Persia. For twenty-one days he fought against the evil angel, then Michael, a powerful archangel, came to his assistance. That ended the battle. Gabriel proceeded on his assignment. To say that he shocked Daniel by appearing to him as he walked along the bank of the Tigris River would be an understatement. Daniel felt the life go out of him. He fell to the ground.

Daniel’s experience gives us a glimpse into the spirit world. David Jeremiah writes, “In the invisible realms rages a battle that powerfully influences events in our world.” (Agents of Babylon). We cannot escape that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Many Christians prefer to ignore spiritual battle. Out of sight, out of mind. But we have a part to play in the battle for souls. Our part is fasting and prayer. Will we follow the example of the Jews who settled into the sinful lifestyle of the Babylonians? Or will we, like the brave souls who migrated back to Israel, assist in the re-building of the broken walls of faith in our nation?

Daniel was given a vision of things to come. Some events the angel showed him have not yet taken place. Others have. One Bible scholar estimated that 135 prophecies from Daniel’s vision have been fulfilled. These deal with the rise and fall of powerful empires.

A wise person observed: “the fate of the world is in the hands of nameless saints.” We are those nameless saints. Nameless to the world, but observed and treasured in Heaven.  

Prayer: As Daniel was faithful to his calling centuries ago, I want to be faithful to pray for my world in my century.

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