From whence comes the ‘power’ to live a life of gratitude?

Let My Praises Be Heard!


FROM WHENCE COMES THE ‘POWER’ TO LIVE A LIFE OF GRATITUDE?

The ideas, just shared in the previous paragraphs, are the ‘background'(the context) for understanding the ‘touching beauty’ of the spirit of gratitude. The grateful person (like my brother), during life’s losses and grief’s, may be tom up in his/her emotions, during times of great sorrow. But we must always remember the ‘classic statement’: “There is an expulsive power in a new affection!”

The power of ‘gratitude’ is able eventually to expel the weaker power of despair and heart-breaking grief. Grief is an emotion that comes (understandably) to a person, during life’s periodic losses, but gratitude is a perpetual attitude that a believer practices throughout his entire life.

The spirit of gratitude (based on the knowledge of God’s unconditional love) is the spirit that can confront and can powerfully overcome any other negatively-oriented attitude and emotion. Other emotions will ‘come and go’, but the spirit of gratitude is the stable and abiding and permanent attitude in the life of the Spirit-controlled Christian! There is great ‘expelling power’ in the spirit of gratitude – power to force out any spirit which is destructive and negative and God-dishonoring!

Gratitude, is has been shown previously, is not a mere ‘human attainment’; rather, it is a ‘divinely- given gift’. A gift whose source is the Holy Spirit, and a gift that, through the Spirit’s enablement, must, nevertheless, be activated and practiced by fallible humans.

It is when we (weak) believers fail to ‘tap into the divine resources’ that are resident within us, that we begin to live ‘fleshly-driven’ lives, instead of Spirit-motivated lives. And the results? Many possible negative results, but one of the sad results of not ‘walking in the Spirit’ is a life that is characterized by discontent and complaining and criticism and self-centeredness and, yes, ingratitude!

Only Spirit-motivated Christians have the power to consistently live a life of Gratitude! Christians, of course, must cooperate with the indwelling Spirit, but it is only the Spirit who is able to empower a believer to live a life of Gratitude – a life in which a believer expresses thanksgiving during loss (grief), and humility during gains (successes). The Spirit is the great stabilizer, the great balancer, the great Helper in all times of need.


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Upon what ‘Foundation’ is the superstructure of Gratitude built?

Let My Praises Be Heard!


UPON WHAT ‘FOUNDATION’ IS THE SUPERSTRUCTURE OF GRATITUDE BUILT?

Humility is one of the necessary ‘foundation stones’ for the superstructure of gratitude. lt is the proud and the self-sufficient person who is ungrateful to God for the provisions and benefits of life. The proud (arrogant) person looks to himself as the source of all good things. He fails to recognize that God alone is the source of all good and beautiful things in this world! “ln God we live and move and have our very being!”

Those are the biblical assertions of ‘reality’, and they are the words that come from the lips of the truly humble and God-dependent and grateful person. To the proud Corinthian believers, Paul asked: “What have you that you have not received? lf then you received all things from God, why do you boast as if you received these things on your own?”

There is no attitude that more quickly destroys the spirit of gratitude, than the attitude of self– sufficiency and the attitude of carnal pride! God hates pride, not only because pride fails to recognize that God is the author of all good things (the source of all earthly blessings), but because the spirit of pride is the spirit that ultimately destroys the one who practices pride, that is, it is the spirit that ultimately dehumanizes the person who practices pride.

“Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall!” We humans are not created to pose as our own little ‘god’, but we are made to serve the true God- the God from whom all blessings are derived! God is a good God, and because of His ‘nature of grace’, He wants to pour out His blessings upon His creatures (His creation), but if the ‘lid of our life’ is closed, by pride and self-sufficiency, we humans are unable to receive the ‘full benefit’ of God’s blessings.

Ingratitude is the ‘dam’ that blocks the mighty flow of God’s blessings into our lives. God wants to give us all things richly to enjoy, but the recipient (humans) must be willing to receive God’s rich and abundant gifts of grace.

God is the Giver of all good things, but there must be a willing and humble and grateful recipient, if the gifts are ever to be received and ever to be enjoyed during this earthly existence. God has a rich endowment of gifts (of all kinds), but it is only the willing and the open person (recipient) who can actually receive those abundant gifts from the hand of a loving God!

God, through the ‘saving work’ of Christ, is reconciled (objectively) to the entire (fallen) human race, but what God offers (the gift of salvation and all other lesser gifts) can only be received by those who (through repentance and faith) have accepted- humbly and gratefully- the reconciliation that God (in grace) has already obtained!

The grateful person (sinner) is the only type of person who is able gladly to receive the gift of God’s accomplished ‘work in Christ’- namely, the freely offered reconciliation with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The ‘chief gift’, of course, is salvation, but the ‘bundle of salvation’ contains countless other rich and wonderful and life-giving gifts! The quality and the quantity of these divinely-purchased gifts cannot even be described, and these gifts from our loving God are enjoyed both in time and in eternity!


Is God capable of truly experiencing both ‘weeping’ and ‘laughter’?

Let My Laughter Resound!


IS GOD CAPABLE OF TRULY EXPERIENCING BOTH ‘WEEPING’ AND ‘LAUGHTER’?

The fact that human beings are created to enjoy hearty laughter is, I believe, an indication that our Creator is pleased when we humans are (occasionally) engaged in laughter (that is, in laughter that, not only refreshes the one who is laughing, but that enhances and builds up persons with whom he is laughing).

Not cynical or sneering laughter – not laughter that ‘makes fun’ of another or that belittles another! That kind of laughter is below the dignity of a human being, and that kind of laughter reduces life to the ‘beastly level’!

Engagement in wholesome laughter is an expression of the uniqueness of the ‘human creature’. God created us in His own image, and that must mean that, because we humans ‘laugh’, we must be a ‘mirror’ of God Himself (that is, this phenomenon of laughter indicates that we, in some way, are like our Creator).

Admittedly, we humans tend to ‘create God in our own image’ but, because we are finite, we are in many ways compelled to think of God in ‘physical images’ and in ‘physical characteristics’. Of course, Commandment Two warns us against ‘making graven images’ to represent God. We can break this commandment by making ‘mental images’ of God, or by (crudely) making actual physical images to represent God. Either is a form of idolatry, and, therefore, we must guard against such an activity.

However, when we notice (in the Gospel record) that Jesus, during His earthly ministry, both ‘wept’ (explicitly stated) and ‘laughed’ (implicitly communicated), we can (by extrapolation) declare that God Himself (in some way) both ‘weeps’ and ‘laughs’! This assertion is based on the biblical statement that ‘Jesus is the Incarnate One’ who came from the Father, and that Jesus is the perfect expression and manifestation of the Father.

Amazingly, the Bible indicates that everything Jesus was on earth is what God has always been. In other words, the sinless character of Jesus is a perfect reflection of the character of the eternal Father. Like Father, like Son! Jesus is the perfect image and ‘manifestation’ of the Father.

Even though Jesus was confined (for 33 years) to a human body (with the limitations that were inherent in that physical body), yet what the invisible Father had always done eternally, the visible (incarnate) Son did on this planet. ln other words, when Jesus wept, His Father wept, When Jesus laughed (with the children on His lap), His Father was laughing!

Yes, it is true that the weeping and the laughing of the invisible God (Father) would likely be differently expressed by the invisible Father. But, simply because God is a Spirit (invisible and not ‘fleshly’), does not mean that He is incapable of expressing strong emotions.

The Father (as a Spirit) is capable of expressing His various emotions (including weeping and laughing) far more vividly and far more strongly than mankind is capable of expressing these same emotions!

If it is true that the two emotions that humans most feel – sadness (weeping) and gladness (laughter) – this basic observation indicates that these emotions are an integral part of what defines persons as, ‘unique creatures’ (who are created in God’s ‘own image’).

If it is ‘natural’ for humans to both be sad (weep) and to be glad (laughter), then this fact (logically) must mean that it is ‘natural’ for our Creator to both ‘weep’ and to ‘laugh’.

If we (in our ‘fallen state’) have the capacity to engage ourselves in ‘weeping’ and in ‘laughing’ that is wholesome (edifying to ourselves and to others), then we must conclude that this capacity is a ‘God-given’ gift to mankind.

Of course, man (the ‘fallen creature’) sometimes expresses these God-given gifts in perverted ways (rather than in wholesome ways). The expression of weeping sometimes is not productive to the one who is weeping.

Weeping ‘in and of itself’ is not always helpful, but, instead, is sometimes unproductive and futile. The Bible says that there is ‘worldly sorrow’ (tears) which leads to death, for the tears of regret and remorse do not, by themselves, lead to repentance for sins and to faith in Christ.

In a fallen race of persons, there are too many tears of regret or tears of remorse or tears of anger or tears of revenge. These kinds of tears are the manifestation of a ‘fallen human being’ – a person who has tears that reflect spiritual illness and personal alienation from God and from the human race.

Jesus’ tears, which were the visible manifestation of the invisible tears of the Father – these tears were perfectly expressed – at the right time, for the right purpose, and with the right outcome!

Just as it is possible for a ‘fallen creature’ to express his God-given ‘gift’ of tears in ways that are unhealthy and unproductive and destructive, so it is possible for a ‘fallen creature’ to express his ‘laughter’ in unhealthy and unproductive and destructive ways.

This ‘gift’ of laughter is meant to be an enriching gift, a gift that builds up others, a gift that enhances relationships, a gift that gives relaxation and diversion to one’s own self and to others who are in one’s company.

When one uses laughter to belittle or to embarrass another person, this ‘good gift’ of God is used in a despicable way – in a way that defames another who is made in God’s image. Laughter is misused when the reputation of God is defamed, or when the reputation of a fellow human is smeared!

God wants you and me to ‘see the funny side of life’, to smile at the oddities of life, to enjoy a good (‘clean’) joke, to laugh at our own (innocent) ‘slip ups’ and ‘blunders’ and ‘harmless accidents of life’! Most of all, God wants as to enter into His own laughter, namely, that, through Christ’s sacrifice, the ‘victory has been won’ – Christ’s victory over sin, death, despair, and the devil!


“Biblical Foundation For The Sanctity Of Human Life!”

Table of contents: Let my laughter resound!

Receive the Gift of Salvation

Receive The Gift Of Salvation

Chapter Three

Receive The Gift Of Salvation
Enjoying God's Very Best Gift 64 Adoption – Full Rights Of Sons 72
The Party 66 Living As Adopted Children 74
The Parable Of The Wall Street Investors 68 Pure River 76
That You May Believe 70 Discussion Questions 78

Psalm 73:23-28

Enjoying God's Very Best Gift

There is nothing as juicy, mouth-watering and super-sweet as a fresh, hand-picked orange. While vacationing in Florida, we walked out of our friend's side door and picked oranges right off the limbs. You have to twist the orange before pulling it from the branch; otherwise, you will tear the peal of the orange. The "upside" of tearing the peal is that you get to eat the orange right away. Never have I tasted oranges as sweet. It was so fresh that the citric acid in the orange burned my lips. But it was worth it.

I realized, as I swallowed the luscious fruit, that this is how God intended for oranges to taste. We, however, have settled for frozen concentrate, or worse, a powdered flavored mix! Even the oranges we buy in the store are no longer fresh, but have been stored in warehouses and have traveled in trucks for weeks.

How can we ever settle for anything less than God's best? He intends for us to enjoy His best for our lives. Yet, we too often settle for less. For example, we settle for "religion" when God wants to give us a relationship. God's best is a loving Father/child relationship. Instead, we too often seek a form of religious piety which we substitute for the real thing. Practicing religion may produce solid moral character, but it does not provide the best in life that we could have. Becomingly involved in a relationship with God not only produces the moral fiber we need, but it also gives us a desire to taste the best life has to offer. God opens our eyes to see the millions of spectacular miracles that occur every day. He gives us a new heart to experience a wealth of love all around us. He gives us an exciting hope that lasts for eternity.

I hope that someday you too will have the chance to eat a fresh handpicked orange the way I have. More importantly, I hope you will experience the wonderful relationship God wants to have with you through His Son, Jesus.

As the commercial says, God cared enough to send His very best. Enjoy!

"May I taste Your everlasting love today. May I see Your eternal goodness. May I hear mercy in Your Word. May I inhale the fragrance of Your grace. May I be ever aware of Your presence touching my soul. May all of my senses be filled with You today. Amen."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I choose this day to experience all that God has to give me in Jesus Christ.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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Matthew 22:1-10

The Party

I couldn't empathize with the king in this parable until the wedding of my oldest daughter. Hours of preparation proceeded the event. A lot of dollars changed hands. Blood pressures moved up and down as painstaking last minute details were worked out. Crises occurred almost daily by the end of this once-in-a lifetime event, but seeing the culmination of problems resolved, plans completed, and dreams come true was a grand feeling.

Coiffures shone. Gowns rustled. Laughter reigned Beautiful girls were swept into the arms of handsome gentlemen. In a background of romantic music and colorful flowers, we renewed acquaintances with old friends over delectable foods and created lifetime memories. When the evening waltzed to a close, we collected hugs and kisses and congratulations and stored the cherished experience in our hearts.

It was a near perfect day. The only disappointment was in too many provisions and not enough guests. Some had RSVP'ed with the usual excuses: too much distance, too little time, and too many obligations. Others hadn't taken the time to respond.: Following many hours of telephone ear and writer's cramp, I wondered why checking a card and opening a mailbox too great an effort. Even a no would have been better than nothing at all.

Suddenly I understood the parent in this parable. His dilemma was mine. The king (God The Father) had sent invitations galore by the way of prophets and prophecies and finally through the life and words of His own Son. Preparations for the feast were underway. No expense was spared. The invitations were sent. No one in the kingdom was left out. The menu was planned. The wardrobe was tailored. The orchestra was engaged. But some didn't respond. Some even "made light of it". (vs. 5) They walked in their own ways and ignored God's great invitations to all mankind. They could have had it all, but they were left with nothing. They exchanged silk for rags and prime rib for a cold morsel of bread. They sat home alone when they could have kept company with royalty. They missed the banquet and the beauty, and they never met the bridegroom. No wonder God's anger spilled over. Man's actions just didn't make sense. Who would want to miss a party at a king's palace? I know I don't. Hope to see you there.

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's invitation is extended. RSVP to Grace.

– LorettaJenkins –

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Ephesians 2:1-10

The Parable Of The Wall Street Investors

God is by nature holy. You and I by nature are not. Instead, our inclination is to be sinful. We can express our tendency to sin in a multitude of ways, all of which are disgusting to God. That creates a problem for us, because to have an adequately satisfying life we must have friendship with God.

God has a plan that fixes that problem. His solution to this dilemma – that we who are sinful desperately need acceptance from the One who is not sinful – is the most incredible part of God's design of the universe. His Guaranteed Repair Plan is such a fantastic good deal that it makes no sense to our limited human understanding. As a way of illustrating how amazing his offer is, please let me respectfully offer this little parable.

Imagine for a moment that God were to talk to some Smart, Big-Time, Big Money Business Guys. He describes a business plan to them. Here is a problem: people are miserable as a result of their sins, and because they have rebelled against me and left my family. The solution to the problem is salvation through belief in Jesus Christ.

The experts in marketing ask, "Who needs this product?" When God explains that everyone does they are ecstatic. The customer relation's experts ask, "Are you sure it will work?" God assures them that it does, that it is fail-safe perfect. The experts in avoiding lawsuits and evading taxes are thrilled. One by one the questions from each of the potential investors are answered. "We can make a fortune," they scream joyfully, jumping up and down as they use their cell phones to order new cars and yachts, and to arrange for lavish vacations.

Then a cautious accountant asks, "What does it cost to produce this product?" God relies that his son, Jesus, has to die. There is murmuring of concern until God says that both He and Jesus are willing to undergo this horrific agony, and when God explains that Jesus will be resurrected the celebration resumes. Then somebody finally asks, "What do you project as the selling price?" "It's free." Suddenly the group panics. To a person they say, "That makes no sense."

And they are right. Giving the most valuable thing in the universe, free for faith, makes no sense at all to our limited human minds.

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But God has his own ways of doing things and His own reasons. We can't come close to understanding how or why He-does what He does. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9)

What shall we do with this situation? The only rational response is to accept There are two parts to this: (1) Accept the benefits of God's offer of eternal life in His perfect kingdom, the guidance and empowerment from the Holy Spirit throughout every minute of this life, and companionship with Jesus Christ. (2) Accept the mystery. Enjoy his sovereignty.

"Thank you, great Heavenly Father. I praise your incredible nature. I cannot understand your ways, but will accept them, and thank you for loving and accepting unworthy me. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: As Sovereign King, God is wise, holy, and awesome beyond my comprehension, yet He loves me personally.

– Richard Walters-

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John 20:31

That You May Believe

Fade back through the centuries with me to the small island of Pathos located off the coast of Greece in the Aegean Sea. Look with me through a window of exile at an old man whose lips move slowly as he relates what to him has become "the greatest story ever told". A scribe is seated at his feet with quill and scroll in hand. The date is somewhere between 80 and 90 A.D. Almost twenty centuries have come and gone since he lived out his adventure in a different world.

You remember him as St. John the Divine, the beloved apostle, the writer of three Biblical letters and a gospel, the only apostle not martyred for his faith, the apocalyptic apostle, or as a popular gospel song puts it, "John the Revelator". But he was not always so. With his brother James, he was once a "Son of Thunder", a crude fisherman bronzed by the Galilean sun, irreverent and self-sufficient. Then he met Jesus, and his life was eternally altered. This illiterate, ill-tempered fisherman was transformed into the apostle of love whose theological insights are so powerful and far-reaching that the greatest Christian thinkers have never been able to grasp their entire message.

As he describes the mystery of the love of the "God-Child", he leans back in his chair and closes his eyes and the words flow out of his own personal encounters with the Living Christ many years before. His eyes may be dim, but his mind is sharp. He notes the facts, but the set of his jaw is purposeful. The theme of his book is evident in every chapter. Every story he tells supports his purpose from Chapter 1 to Chapter 21. The word believes is mentioned at least 72 times in 21 chapters. In the famous prologue of Chapter 1, we find these words: "As many as received Him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name". In the author's last use of the word believe, we find the thesis of his book: "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that believing, you might have life through His name." (John 20:31) A sense of urgency is upon our storyteller. Time is melting away from John as he recounts one more time his highway to belief. Soon Jesus will come and take his hand and show him the way to "The Father's House".

A big smile lights up his eyes as he recounts stories of belief from all walks of life. Four fishermen believe at a seaside. Matthew believes at a tax table. Nathaniel believes under a fig tree. Nicodemus believes on a rooftop. A Samaritan woman believes at a well. An adulterous woman believes at a stoning. Guests believe at a wedding. Hungry people believe on a mountain. A blind man believes at a healing, Mary and Martha believe in a kitchen. Mourners believe at a resurrection. Thomas believes in an upper

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room. Lazarus believes at a tomb.

There is a recurring phrase in John's gospel: "Many believed on Him there". Remember back for a few moments. Where were you when you first believed? I can still remember the smell of the wood shavings on the old camp meeting floor and hear Anna Campbell, a retired opera singer, working magic on an out-of-tune piano as she played "Victory in Jesus". A window in my heart takes me back, and I gaze out on a peaceful bay at sunset with my soul meeting God as the ocean met the horizon, peaceful and unified. I was a teenager of fourteen then. It was forty years ago. In the words of a gospel song, "If I could, still I wouldn't take nothin' for my journey now".

John knew the power of belief. He knew that the change in his heart did not come from the earth. He told his story to convince others of the transforming truth that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God". Are you telling your story? Someone you know may be waiting to hear it.

"Dear God, help me to keep John's story alive as I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my soul's Savior!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The belief that John embraced still has power to change lives.

– Loretta Jenkins –

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Romans 8:15

Ephesians 1:5

Galatians 4:5

Adoption – Full Rights of Sons

Several years ago, friends of ours adopted a little girl from a distant land. Later they adopted Katie, who also came from across the ocean. Ladies must have mistreated Katie in her own country, because she was afraid of women. At first, she was even afraid of the lady who was to be her new mommy. With great love and care from both her mommy and daddy, she slowly began to loose her fear of women. Recently, we received a family picture of them. Both adopted girls looked wonderful. They both looked so happy and well cared for. The thing that thrilled me most was the beautiful smile on Katie's face. There had been no smile when she arrived in America and brought into her new home. Now, I often pick up the picture and look at my friends and their two beautiful adopted daughters.

Thinking of Emily and Katie and their "adopted parents", inspired me to look up the New Testament Greek word for "adoption". I was thrilled as I was reminded of what it means to be adopted into God's Family. Briefly, this is what adoption meant at that time.

The adopted person's old relationships were severed. 
The adopted person was now under the authority of the father of his or her new family. 
Old debts or obligations were canceled. 
The new father had the right to discipline the adopted child. 
The father was considered to be owner of all that the adoptee possessed. 
The adopter and the adoptee were both committed by the act of adoption to 
support and help maintain the other. 

Hattie E. Buell caught the truth of Biblical adoption as she wrote:

I once was an outcast, stranger on earth 
a sinner by choice, and an alien by birth. 
But I've been adopted; my name's written down 
I'm heir to a mansion, a robe, and a crown. 
Praise God, praise God, I'm a child of a King.

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"Thank You, God, for sending your Son to a far country, far from Your Heavenly Home… Thank you, Jesus, for dying, and, through your death and resurrection giving me eternal life with You and Your Heavenly Father."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today, I will take time to consider the thoughts above, (considering adoption) and what they mean to the adopted children of God.

– Lowell Weller –

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Romans 8:15

Ephesians 1:5

Galatians 4:5

Living As Adopted Children

Adoption, whether in heaven or on earth, has rights and responsibilities. Emily and Katie soon learned there were rules to be obeyed. They also learned they had rights to enjoy. The born-again person also learns that his Heavenly Father has rules to live by. Let us take a look into truths that accompanied adoption in Bible times. Review the six rules of rights and privileges in yesterday's devotion.

  • Old relationships were severed. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new". (2 Corinthians 5:17)

  • As adoptees into God's family, we are to come under God's authority. Before you are tempted to say "I don't want to come under anyone's authority", let me remind you that the Heavenly Father is a kind and loving God. He rules with LOVE. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

  • Debts paid. In sin lowed a debt I could never pay. I was eternally doomed, but Jesus the Son of God paid the debt and canceled my sins. He forgave and He forgot. God's adopted children are now Debt Free. I'm free of the fear of tomorrow; I'm free of the guilt of the past.

  • Discipline. For many of us discipline congers up unhappy memories until we remember that we needed correction. When parents truly love their children, they discipline them. Hebrews 12:6 says: "The Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves." There are times when we want to cry out, "Dear God, don't love me so much," but Father knows best. God does not discipline in anger, but in love. He always has our best interest in mind.

  • God, the Heavenly Father who has adopted us, owns everything that belongs to His adopted children. It is easy to accept this condition, when we realize our Heavenly Father also supplies all our needs, according to His riches in Christ Jesus. We actually get the best of the deal. We need only to assay what little we have and how much God has to offer. We need to realize we do get the best after all.

  • Commitment by both the adopter and the adoptee. God's Word affirms that He is totally committed to His children, both now and forever more. While here on God's footstool we roam, we are to be committed totally to

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  • God and His Kingdom. I am reminded of an old song that asked the question, "I wonder have I done my best for Jesus since Be has done so much for me?"

I want to challenge you to meditate on these 6 Rights and Responsibilities of adoption. I believe, as you do, you will be able to sing: Praise God, Praise God, I'm a child of the King.

"Lord, how can I say thanks? Yon have done so much for me, that eternity will not provide enough time to offer the gratitude I owe You. For now, I simply say, 'I Love You God.'"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: With the help of the Almighty I will endeavor to do my part as an adopted child into God's family. I will do and I will be what is expected of a child of the King of Kings.

– Lowell Weller-

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Revelations 22:1-5

Pure River

One of my favorite Scripture passages is Revelation 22:1-5, which begins this way: "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as a crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of The Lamb." Maybe I like these verses because they bring back pleasant childhood memories. My dad was a fisherman. Many weekends we packed our tackle and our swimming gear and our provisions and piled it all into the back of our old pick-up truck. With the sting of the wind on our faces and the anticipation of high adventure in our hearts, my brother and I took our seats in the truck bed just behind the cab. The miles couldn't pass fast enough on our way to the Nueces River. There we'd stake out a campsite, unload our provisions, find the perfect swimming hole (about neck high with no swift currents or hidden drop-offs) and play to our hearts content while mother kept vigil under the shade tree on the bank.

The river was purified by its gentle, continuous flow down the hills and over the rocks. It was so clear we could see our feet on the bottom. The cool water felt like heaven on a hot Texas day. Sometimes we'd take friends along and play water games and have races until long after the sun went down and moonbeams illuminated the water. Then with stone-bruised feet and empty stomachs, we'd climb the dusty bank and follow the short trail to the smell of frying catfish and ranch-style beans. After we'd chase fireflies and play hide-and-go-seek and fall asleep by the campfire listening to grown-up voices. Although we didn't always feel comfortable in our flimsy sleeping bags on the hard ground, we always felt safe.

When I was a girl of fourteen, I accepted Christ as my Savior and was baptized on the Nueces River. I imagined it was the Jordan. I felt clean all over and inside out. A few weeks ago I traveled back to my hometown to watch another family baptism on the same river. Looking down the bend of the river, my mind went back and my heart leaped forward. We sang "Shall we gather at the river where bright angel feet have trod, With its crystal tide forever flowing by the throne of God."

As I contemplated the "pure river of water of life" John described in his revelation, I was reminded of two other rivers symbolized by baptism: Christ's river of blood that flows down from His cross washing away my sin, and the river of grace poured over me by God washing away the debris of this world.

Revelations 22:5 reads: "There shall be no night there, and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light… "Those beautiful words bring

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reflections of the security I felt as a child on the river swimming in moonlight, chasing fire flies, 'and falling asleep by starlight and camp fire glow. "Heaven will always seem closer because of my childhood adventures on the Nueces River; and when I climb the rocky bank of eternity, I look forward to the bounty of Christ's campfire and the security of His love. With Him, "I shall reign forever and ever." If you haven't already begun your faith journey, step into the water.

"Dear Jesus, with the river of blood that flows from your cross, cleanse my heart and purify my soul."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If I set my course in the direction of The River of God, I will never sail alone.

– Loretta Jenkins –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Have you personally "settled" for anything less than God's very "best" for you? How would you describe God's "very best gift for you"?

  2. According to Matthew 22:1-10 what is necessary if a person is going to enjoy "God's Party?"

  3. Why is it so difficult for human beings to accept God's "free gift" of eternal life? (Note Ephesians 2:1-10)

  4. What does it mean to "believe" in Jesus Christ in order for one to experience new and abundant life? (Note John 20:31)

  5. What does it mean for a person to be "adopted" into the "family of God"? What are some of the "responsibilities" and "benefits" of living as adopted children in the "family of God"?

  6. What is meant by "Christ's river of blood", and what benefits can you personally derive from this spiritual reality?

  7. Describe the emotional and spiritual security which you feel when you contemplate the reality of God's "river of grace".

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