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Purposeful Mission

Scripture Focus: John 15:9-17 “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love. . . . I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:10-11).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Our children both participated in mission trips to third world countries. They felt it was a great opportunity to see the world and help others in need. As parents we thought exposure to missions before college might open up more career choices. Little did we know that the three weeks of experiencing another culture would so dramatically change their lives. We had very grateful children on their return. Everything delighted them. After eating monkey and goat's milk cheese on their pizza, everyday meals at home were suddenly gourmet. Their small bedrooms became castles. This unexpected joy, though, was nothing compared to the sense of mission that gripped their hearts and changed their life direction. As they follow through on this, they will have much greater joy. Jesus’ mission was to provide a way that we might receive life forever and know complete joy. He reminds us to obey His commands and practice genuine love for others. In obedience to that, we find joy. INSIGHT: Try to recall a time when you responded to God and experienced joy. As we follow God obediently, joy will appear in our lives. **************************************************

Yours for the Taking
Scripture Focus: Galatians 5:16-26 “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------God has made provision for His children with the wonderful ministry of the Holy Spirit. One task of the Spirit is to give joy. It's a fruit (or result) of one's life being placed under God's control. Such was the case in Thessalonica. Paul and some of

his helpers had lived there for a time, and many watched them live as Christians. A good number of them eagerly received the Good News of Christ. The Thessalonians became imitators of the Christians in their midst. A godly college professor made it a daily practice to get up at 4 A.M. to pray for each of her more than 200 students. The results were changed lives with students wanting to be “like her.” Think of several who have influenced your life and encouraged you to follow Jesus. It will bring them great joy to see you draw close to God. When we imitate Christ, others will hear or see truth about God in us as well as from His Word. We can invite the Holy Spirit to help us be Christlike – even in the areas where following God is difficult for us. INSIGHT: Joy is not depending on circumstances. Instead, it's allowing God to be in charge of our emotions and mind and will. **************************************************

A Book Worth Reading
Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 8:1-12 “And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. . . The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away” (Nehemiah 12:43).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Ezra had been faithfully teaching the Israelites God’s Law for 14 years prior to Nehemiah's return to Jerusalem. Now the challenge came from Nehemiah to trust God to help them rebuild the destroyed wall protecting the city. The proposed construction time was two months in the midst of Ezra's teaching. However, the whole process did not hinder the effectiveness of the great teacher's work, but instead motivated the people to want to know more of God's laws for them. On the day they dedicated the rebuilt wall, there was both holiness and joy as people responded to God's Word. They had wept as they confessed their sins. Now they worshiped God with songs that poured out from cleansed hearts. Their understanding of His ways was increased. The Bible is a precious, life-changing gift from God. Recently a Chinese student

studying at a nearby university received a Bible with tears in his eyes. His only comment was, “How precious! How precious!” INSIGHT: Do you find joy in reading and understanding the Bible? Try using one of the psalms to pray God's words back to him. **************************************************

Replenish, Please
Scripture Focus: Psalm 51:1-17 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. . . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10,12).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------David, King of Israel, had blown it. His adulterous affair with Bathsheba had not escaped the eyes of God. Guilt was heavy upon him, and he knew his relationship with God had changed. In Psalm 51 he recorded his prayer for forgiveness and cleansing. Purifying David’s heart had to happen before there would be any hope of God restoring to him the joy known previously. Because God had demonstrated His love to David so many times before, he was confidently able to tell God his sin and be restored. As he lived in obedience, his joy was constantly replenished. Terri was anorexic and had nearly died. In addition, she had dabbled with the occult. Meeting with a minister and several church leaders, she confessed her sin and received God's forgiveness. Her healing had begun and a new joy filled her heart. Compare the joy you had as a new child of God with the level of joy you sense right now. David knew how to be restored to God. Psalm 51 can be the prescription for joy. Restoration awaits us. INSIGHT: Joy is not always loud or demonstrative. It can also be a calm, confident trust in God's power to heal and restore. **************************************************

Unified Body
Scripture Focus: Colossians 3:1-17 “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------One of God's greatest gifts is to be part of a group of believers. Whether we find ourselves in a small or large church setting, getting together with other believers is essential. A bond is built in that group of God's children. It may start with one person agreeing to pray with us, then another joins, followed by additional friends praying. Jesus promises to be with us when two or three gather to pray in his name (Matthew 18:20). The fellowship grows with our mutual love for Christ holding us close to each other. We have different functions in helping others mature in Christ. One may be the encourager who helps others grow in their faith, another may pray for the personal needs expressed by group members, another may teach God's Word and help others discover its truths, while another expresses love in practical ways through difficult times. Together the body of believers functions to help each one be all that God wants. When this happens, a spirit of joy pervades in our fellowship. INSIGHT: As part of a group of believers, you are God's gift to someone else. Allow Him to work through you. **************************************************

Scripture Focus: Psalm 32 “This is what the Lord says: `Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls’” (Jeremiah 6:16).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Many issues in life are clearly spelled out for us in Scripture. Other decisions are

not listed specifically, like whether or not to place a parent in a nursing home, or how to survive when disaster strikes. Today’s verse, tucked away in Jeremiah, may be of help in times of decision. Assuming that the ancient paths are those God has had in place since time began, one then can move from specific circumstances to principles to solve the problem. In Psalm 32 we find guidelines for making a decision. It's good to start with confessing sin. Next steps include accepting forgiveness, praying to God and trusting Him for protection, following His direction without rebelling, and finally, rejoicing. The Psalmist reviews God’s past provisions and acts of faithfulness. It's a great way to break through the wall of silence. Our joy comes in knowing that whether God's answer is yes, no, or wait, He will direct us. While we wait, it's good to fine tune our “spiritual hearing aid” so that we recognize His voice. INSIGHT: God's directions never contradict His laws and teaching. Yet, His answer is often opposite what we might choose to do. Our joy comes as we follow His leading. **************************************************

Keeping a Promise
Scripture Focus: 1 Samuel 1 “When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” (Numbers 30:2).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Hannah's joy overflowed in finally having a son, but her thoughts must have quickly turned to the vow she had made to God to give him back. Scripture does not reveal how she dealt with this. We do know, however, that she was mindful of her commitment. She stated that as soon as he was weaned, she would present him to God. It was customary to wean a child at age three, yet some scholars maintain it was age five. She kept her vow to God and presented him to serve God at the tabernacle. Her prayer of praise is recorded. In moments of stress it’s easy to make promises to God as we pray. Are there

promises you've made that need to be carried out or fulfilled? Hannah presented her child with joy. This should be our attitude as we fulfill our promises. There's great joy in receiving a challenge from God and in agreeing, with His help, to respond. Just as a small child will proudly tell a parent of the wayhe has obeyed, we too, can know great joy in doing what pleases our Father. INSIGHT: Obedience is a great way to show that we love God and believe His Word. Joyful obedience is even better. **************************************************

Chain Reaction
Scripture Focus: Exodus 1:22-2:10 “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). -----------------------------------------------------------------------The birth of a son meant its death, according to the mandate from the king. One baby boy was hidden for three months, then placed in a basket boat to float in the river. Obediently, the older sister watched her brother through the tall grasses. At the proper time, Pharaoh's daughter came along and heard the baby crying. Carefully phrasing the question, the sister asked Pharaoh's daughter if she would like her to find a care provider for the baby. Going to her mother, she thus reunited mom and baby for several years. Moses grew. This story is remarkable. What if the mother had allowed her son to be killed? What if the daughter had disobeyed and left the infant? What if she had slipped and revealed that the baby was Hebrew? At each step God-fearing people allowed His orchestration of the whole event. Each one obeyed, doing a small part. The whole event became a story that has been retold many times. Instead of a tragic ending, Moses was allowed to become the man God used to lead the joyful release of the Hebrew slaves. INSIGHT: As you follow God's leading in your daily routine, you may be part of God's plan to perform a miracle in another's life. **************************************************

You Did What?
Scripture Focus: Psalm 150 “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other” (James 5:15-16). -----------------------------------------------------------------------In a small town, a man was being transported to a nearby city for major surgery. An abscess in his throat was so large that its removal required a difficult operation. While he was in the ambulance, a small group of believers gathered for midweek prayer meeting. They prayed earnestly for this man and his family, as well as for the doctors attending him. The following Sunday the man appeared at their church, stating he had no idea why he had felt compelled to come but that God had shown him that he would find answers there. People were moved to tears as he revealed his experience of the past week. While in the ambulance, the man had a serious coughing spell. At the hospital the doctors could not explain why or how this man had actually coughed up the abscess - and now would no longer need the surgery for its removal. The pastor connected the two events and introduced the man to Jesus. The result was a new follower of Christ, better and more motivated intercessors in the church, and joy for everyone involved. INSIGHT: Praying for someone else is a privilege. Care must be taken, though, not to dictate to God how He should answer. **************************************************

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 10:1-14 “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 13-14). ------------------------------------------------------------------------

In our walk with Jesus Christ we must continually make decisions. Will we choose what God indicates or will we allow our own desires to dictate our responses? Sometimes our choices can be influenced when we remember that our Heavenly Father loves us and is designing the best path for us. Israel’s King Saul apparently forgot or chose not to believe that God really loved him. The result was a suicide for Saul and the destruction of his family. The Israelites had been told never to consult mediums, the Psychic Hotlines of their day (Deuteronomy 18:9-14). Saul disobeyed God's directives and the result was death. The irony of this is that Saul himself had outlawed consulting of mediums (1 Samuel 28:3). Yet when God did not respond quickly enough to his cry for help, Saul reverted to old practices. Let’s remember that as children of God we can go to Him for all our needs. He alone is our helper, and He promises to meet our needs in His time and way. There's joy in being faithful to Him. INSIGHT: Joy is yours when you make it a habit to discuss your days with the One who designed you for a purpose. Wait patiently for the answers He has for you. **************************************************

Following Directions
Scripture Focus: Matthew 21:1-11 “The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them” (Matthew 21:6-7). -----------------------------------------------------------------------Imagine Jerusalem near the time of the Passover celebration. Picture a major city preparing for an influx of people for this special event. There's a whirl of activity as crowds descend, families reunite, relatives visit, and weary travelers strive to care for their needs. People are finding food, shelter, and transportation. The market place is jammed. In the midst of this, Jesus sends His disciples to secure a donkey and its foal. It would have been easy for the disciples to complain about the difficulty of dealing with the crowds and following the preciseness of Jesus' request.

They did as Jesus asked, and the celebration of joy that followed is still marked at the beginning of Holy Week as we approach Easter each year. There’s an old story of a tall, stubborn horse carrying a young rider. Unexpectedly the horse bolted for the barn. As it approached the barn door, the boy's frantic mother yelled, ”Duck!” The boy's quick response saved his life. INSIGHT: An immature individual obeys for a reward while a mature person obeys because it is the right thing to do. Why do you obey? **************************************************

The Right Attitude
Scripture Focus: 1 Thess. 5:12-24 “Always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------If we lived alone on a desert island we'd find it much easier to practice Paul's instructions. It's just that we rub shoulders with those who do not believe as we do and things do not always go the way we want. Obeying is easy when things go well. Paul knew we needed to be reminded of the role joy plays in our lives. If we're not joyful, we're failing to trust God to do and be all that He promises to be. Any time we take our cue to be joyful only from pleasing circumstances, we're misguided. Our joy comes in the provisions we have in God through belief in His Son Jesus. Two youth leaders took a group of young people to a Christian convention in Washington, D.C. Calls from families is their small church brought sad news that two in their congregation back home had died. A few days later in Washington their van was vandalized. Their response? The youth declared confidently that God was going to do a great thing because the devil was working overtime. Instead of defeat, they chose to have a joyful, expectant attitude. INSIGHT: For several days keep a journal and note the things that bring you joy. What or who brings you joy? **************************************************

Pain or Joy
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 12:1-2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Many sermons have been preached about the agony Jesus suffered the last week of His earthly life. The gruesome death and violent habits of the Romans in punishing prisoners seem unbearable. We never want to minimize the awesome price Jesus paid to redeem us. In Hebrews we find another dimension to Jesus' suffering. God's Son endured all that for you and me. He was willing to suffer the worst humanity could do to him, and He did it for the joy that would be His and eventually ours in heaven! He died that we might be restored to God and become a part of His family. This wonderful hope is ours when we’re willing to tell God of our sin. Following our request for forgiveness, we need to receive Jesus as Savior. God then keeps His promise, “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Jesus endured the cross for the joy of having us in heaven with Him. Live in His joy today. INSIGHT: Precious child of God, are you suffering today? Jesus wants to carry that burden for you. Will you let Him? **************************************************

Joy in Being Powerless
Scripture Focus: Daniel 6:16-28 “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4;35).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------A mother of boys, a physician herself, could not get the notion out of her head that she had breast cancer that may have involved her bones. Her attending physicians found nothing to indicate her fears, but she was so troubled that she arranged her own sonogram. If it was negative, she would drop the whole issue. She felt her life flash before her eyes as the doctor delivered the news that she did indeed have breast cancer. “How did you ever discover this?” he asked. “No doctor would have ever found it.” Surgery was performed quickly, and rejoicing came when the lymph nodes were clear. What she feared might be bone cancer was pain caused by a herniated disk. With each report her rejoicing mounted. She believed that God who had protected Daniel in the lions' den had also protected her. Joyfully she trusted God to do what she was powerless to do herself. No matter what we face, each of us can allow God to bring glory to Himself through our lives. INSIGHT: When we feel powerless we may give in to self pity or we may make room for God to be glorified in our lives. The choice is ours. **************************************************

Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 4:12-19 “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Being rejected always hurts. Rejection by a family member is very painful. A mom or dad does not stop caring when the adult children decide to live their lives as if their parents had never lived. A spouse does not stop loving even though his or her life partner does not respond to the Lord. A believing woman invested years of prayer in her family, but still her husband gave no indication of wanting God in his life. When they nearly lost their horse farm

because of a wrongly filed lawsuit, the husband turned to Christ for salvation. Immediately the couple began correcting some of the hurts and sins from the past, but their adult children wanted no part of their parents' new level of faith. Wounded and hurt, the parents held on even tighter to their relationship with Christ. Soon they stopped asking so many questions of God and began enjoying Him as their Father. Jesus, who knew the keen pain of rejection, had not rejected them, and He enabled them to cope with their pain. INSIGHT: Jesus was rejected by many. Surely, He understands your pain. You can always turn to
Him. Allow Him to replace your hurt with His joy.


Up in Smoke
Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 3:1-12 “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose . . . to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:28-29).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Jason was at the end of himself. After months of unemployment, he talked with a pastor, requesting a place to live. His wife had asked him to move out. The family had just relocated and he had the promise of a new job, but he had desperate immediate needs. After a few months Jason and his wife were participating in marriage counseling. Their children seemed to be adjusting to a new school year and the changes in the family. It seemed that things had improved for Jason. Then one evening their teenage daughter stayed home while Jason and his wife were at church. An unattended candle started a fire, and the damage required the family to move out for several weeks while the house was being repaired. Now God had their undivided attention. They responded by digging into His Word and allowing the church family to minister to them. They found joy in trusting God to use the difficult times to help them become more like Christ.

INSIGHT: Things and life-style can get in the way of our relationship with the Lord. Sometimes
the inconveniences are His way of getting us back on track.


Closet Christian
Scripture Focus: Luke 22:53-62 “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Being a Christian sometimes poses difficulty in the workplace. Every day thousands go to jobs where they are ridiculed, mocked, ignored, and made an object of by their coworkers. Many will suffer for following Jesus. Between the crude jokes, profanity, and deception taking place, it becomes a challenge to represent Christ. The peer pressure and cultural pressure that Peter faced long ago caused him to deny Jesus three times. It makes a great difference if you have another believer to stand with you. Take time to thank God for those who stand with you in the difficult places. In sharp contrast are a few believers who feel they must always verbalize their faith regardless of the surroundings or circumstances. They seem to have unusual boldness. God’s Word challenges us to be ready to give an answer for our hope (1 Peter 3:15). Let's be responsive to the Holy Spirit's leading when we have opportunities to speak for Christ. INSIGHT: Make a list of several unbelievers. Ask God to lead you to speak for Christ when you have the opportunity. **************************************************

Loss of Prestige
Scripture Focus:

Daniel 4:28-37 “Now I . . . praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Daniel 4:37).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Stepping from the spotlight into the shadows affects not only the one being humbled but also loved ones, and on occasion, a larger community. Now with the availability of newspaper, television, and the internet, news of a leader's fall spreads almost instantly. King Nebuchadnezzar boasted that he had built the city of Babylon himself. It became a problem when he set himself up as god and failed to acknowledge the God of heaven as his enabler. Leaders often get caught up in what they’ve done, instead of remembering that it is what God has done through them. We need to pray daily that godly men and women will remember to acknowledge the giver of their abilities and the source of their power. Nebuchadnezzar was fortunate in that God restored his kingdom to him at the end of his humbling experiences. The king's attitude change between verse 30 and verse 37 is truly an act that only God could achieve. Joy in achievement comes as we credit the right source. INSIGHT: Are you honestly believing that God is your enabler? Be sure you rightfully acknowledge Him in all successes of your life. **************************************************

The Perfect Mate
Scripture Focus: Psalm 86 “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God . . . and it will be given him” (James 1:4-5).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------A teenager made a list of qualities he would desire in a wife. The list was long.

Surely no woman would ever meet the qualifications. In college the young man did not always stay as close to the Lord as he should, but he kept “the list” in the back of his mind. He dated many girls, but all were lacking one or more of the needed qualities. As the search went on, he kept trusting God. In his thirties he attended an event for single adults where he met someone he really liked. Over several months he found that she met every one of the requirements and even more. Today they have a successful and happy marriage and are parents of two lovely children. Bitter divorces and unhappily married couples often admit that they made one of their most significant choices in life totally apart from God's counsel. Marriage to the wrong person may mean years of unhappiness. God is a wonderful counselor and wants to give us the very best for all aspects of our lives. Don't be tricked into accepting anything less. INSIGHT: God has a plan for your life. Be careful that you don't rewrite any scene. Patience may be difficult, but the rewards are surely worth it. **************************************************

Delayed Harvest
Scripture Focus: Psalm 126 “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The church family was truly blessed to have a woman of prayer and gentle ways in their group. Few people knew of the tears she had shed over the years because of the actions of her unsaved husband. Her smile was disarming and her compassion genuine. When she reached her mid-sixties, her husband's hostility toward her Christianity intensified. When she would go to a quiet place in the house and attempt to spend time with the Lord, he would pound on the pipes and yell at her until she returned to the household duties.

Then one day her husband was hospitalized. When he heard that his diagnosis was inoperable cancer, the scene changed. He wanted her to call for her pastor to pray for him. He did not want to only be saved from eternal separation from God - he wanted to participate fully in the church. His desire to read the Bible and to pray was insatiable. The transformation in his life allowed him not to complain or question God but to die victoriously. INSIGHT: Trusting God for the impossible is never a challenge to God. It is rather a challenge to our faith. **************************************************

When I Grow Up . . .
Scripture Focus: 2 Timothy 1:3-12 “Bring [children] up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Parenting doesn't end with a child's graduation or even a successful marriage. The inward joy of knowing that you have effectively communicated a commitment to Jesus Christ to the next generation is tremendously rewarding. Persevering in prayerful instruction and godly example while a child lives under your care is important. Then if that child grows up to pass the heritage on to their children, it adds a special dimension of joy to grandparenting. Beliefs and values are two areas that concern adults in our nation - and well they should. Whether you are a parent or have taken a young person into your sphere of influence, everything else you may do for that child is in vain if you do not lead him or her to Christ. The apostle John opened his heart as a spiritual parent when he wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). What does your heart say about the child in your life? INSIGHT: Do children see the Heavenly Father in your actions and in the attitudes

you express? **************************************************

Scripture Focus: Philippians 2:1-18 “Therefore . . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------The story is told of a preschool child who liked to put on his father's shoes and clump around the house. One day his father asked, “Why do you like walking in my shoes?” Without hesitation the youngster replied, “I want to grow up to be just like you!” The child of God should be persistently imitating Jesus Christ in thought, word, and deed. It's true that we cannot earn our salvation, but to discipline ourselves to be obedient to Christ takes work. Habits of life and life-styles die hard. Imitation is said to be the highest form of praise. Prayerful reading of the New Testament is basic if we are to know the One we want to imitate. We need a good mental image of how Christ would respond and live. Further, a vibrant prayer life will help us better know Him and His ways. Thomas a Kempis, a monk born in 1390, penned this prayer: “Oh, Lord Jesus, forasmuch as Thy way was narrow and despised by the world, grant me grace to imitate Thee, through the world's contempt.” INSIGHT: Whom do you like to imitate? When people see you, are they reminded of Jesus? How could you be changed to be more like Him? **************************************************

Hang In There
Scripture Focus: Ephesians 6:5-19

“Obey . . . with respect . . . fear . . . sincerity of heart . . . not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart” (Ephesians 6:5-6).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Some people find the desired job, one that seems to have been made in heaven because it is a perfect match. Others may be put in a difficult job so that they will shed light into one of the dark corners of a sinful world. There are multitudes who wish they could find a job, or physically be able to do a day's work instead of being sick or injured. Their workplace is in the waiting room. Persevering as Christians in the workplace is part of our responsibilities. It's wise to periodically check our heart attitude toward those we work with. It's easy to fall into the games, attitudes, and verbal banter that goes around the workplace. Laughing at the off-color jokes or listening to others tear their spouses or supervisors down is wrong. Let our goal be that everything we say and do should bring honor to Christ. If we remember that we are serving Jesus it will help us overcome some of the imperfections we see in others. When our heart's desire is to please Christ, we will say, “I am joyfully serving the King.” INSIGHT: Once you were part of the multitude that needs the Savior. Someone cared for you and showed you by example what it means to follow Christ. **************************************************

Working Together
Scripture Focus: Ezra 6:19-22 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------In a rural area a small group of people had worshipped together in a one room church. The children's activities were held in nearby homes. To reach their community, they needed a larger church. The group prayed. Though most of the families were on fixed incomes, they started a building fund.

The first gift of a few thousand dollars came when a former member's will was probated. Next, several acres of land located on a main access road into the town was donated. Over the next four years the group prayed their new church into being. The completed structure, clearly the nicest in town, was finally completed with a total cost to them of one-third the appraised value. To the bank's amazement, it was fully paid in less then five years. The mortgage-burning ceremony was as joyful as that of the Israelites when they celebrated Passover. Together, with God as their provider, they had completed a task. Serving the Lord in group activities and in projects that are motivated and bathed in prayer brings a collective joy and cause for celebration. INSIGHT: Sharing one's talents and abilities with others often multiplies what the group can achieve and will serve to motivate others. **************************************************

Smiley Faces
Scripture Focus: Proverbs 17:1-22 “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. . . . A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 15:30; 17:22).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------A large national chain store uses a whistling package. We often hear “Have a good day” spoken without much thought, but a genuine smiling face brightens any transaction. A kindergarten teacher received a note from a former student who was currently in sixth grade. The girl told of her fears as she entered kindergarten, beginning with the bus ride and the assumption that her future would be horrible. Her letter went on to say that all those fears changed when she walked through the door and saw the smiling, joyful face of her new teacher. Sensing that everything was going to be okay, she began to develop her positive attitude about school. This student, soon to enter middle school, reminded the teacher that her smile still brought much joy to everyone. Joyfulness is a Christian testimony. To a hurting world it can be a powerful

invitation to belong to the family of God. Multitudes are without joy. Will you share out of your abundance? INSIGHT: Smiles unlock doors, calm fears, remove tensions, brighten one's outlook, and use fewer muscles than a frown. SMILE! **************************************************

Tough Conditions
Scripture Focus: Psalm 105:16-22 “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. . . . I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Joseph was uniquely gifted. As a 17-year-old, he knew through God-given dreams that he was destined to a role of leadership. But he was cruelly betrayed by his brothers and sold to merchants who carried him away to slavery in Egypt. There he endured false accusation and imprisonment. His story is told in Genesis 37-50. As he suffered, he must have cried out to God with honest questions, but mingled with his expressions of heartache, he poured out his desire to trust God through every trial. Instead of living in bitterness and anger, Joseph learned contentment - not because his circumstances were pleasant, but because he believed that though his brothers meant him harm, God was working everything out for his good and the good of many others (Genesis 50:20-21). To model joy in adversity, one must know and and trust the Caregiver. We have His promise, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Joy is rooted in Christ, not in circumstances. INSIGHT: Allow Christ to be your fortress, refuge, and shelter. Nestle in His arms, confident of His care. Joy comes when one is secure. **************************************************


Scripture Focus: Luke 15:11-31 “He calls his friends and neighbors together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' . . . There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:6,10).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Recently a television News magazine told the story of an eight-year-old boy in South America who lost his mother. She had gone to another city to try to get a job and had been in a car accident, leaving her unable to communicate with the people caring for her children. The boy set off to find his mother but ended up in the barrios of Bogota. His daily objectives of stealing food and staying alive ended when he went to an orphanage and was later adopted by an American family. Still he never stopped wondering if he would ever find his mother again. Some 20 years later, he returned to his homeland to search for her. Through the aide of a television station's publicity, the mother was found several hours away. We can only imagine their joy when they were reunited. Compare their joy with the songs that filled heaven when angels signaled your welcome into God's family on the day you received Jesus as your personal Savior! INSIGHT: Are you praying for someone who needs Jesus? Persist in your prayers so that heaven's rejoicing over their salvation may begin. **************************************************

Joyful Giving
Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 16 “Just as you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us - see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Corinthians 8:7).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Paul was at it again! Concerned for the poor churches could participate in a combined offering to aide their needy brothers. This collection had apparently been going on for a while (Romans 15:25-28). The Corinthian church participated in this

offering. Bible students are unsure why their money stopped or slowed down. One suggestion is it was due to a famine in the area. Another is that false teachers had been given some of the funds. Still others feel that the believers in Corinth were persecuted and hard times had come to them. Whatever the reason, Titus had been sent to finish the project of gathering funds to go to Jerusalem. Yet, in spite of all the difficulties, the congregation still had the ability to give. Generous giving to others was a mark of the Macedonian churches. They had learned the secret of joyful giving. It involved living by God's will, actions showing God's love, ignoring their own plight, giving generously, and trusting God to meet their needs INSIGHT: Giving of yourself and your possessions is a wonderful way to feel rich. The King's kids have much to give! **************************************************

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