Monday, September 23, 2019

Pay Attention...

"Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips." -- Proverbs 22:17-18
A new school year has begun and students range from prekindergarten to graduate school. Lessons will be taught this year that will prepare these young people for further education and a future career. Some will become skilled in their knowledge and others will pass the time, learning just enough to graduate. Those who pay attention and apply their heart will succeed.
Spiritual growth is no different. A survey released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, aimed at testing religious knowledge within the churched community, revealed a major lack of Biblical understanding. This should not be a shock. Even among true believers, some make every effort to be skilled in their Bible knowledge and others just skate along, learning just enough to warm their hearts or ease their pain. Those who pay attention and apply their heart will grow.
What about you my friend? What do you know and understand from the Scriptures? Have you been studious enough this last year to experience a marked spiritual growth? Have you added to your Biblical insight in such a way that you are ready to share with others? Remember, those who pay attention and apply their heart will grow.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Progress ...

"Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning." - Proverbs 9:9
When Pablo Casals reached 95, a young reporter threw him a question: “Mr. Casals, you are 95 and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?” And Mr. Casals answered, “Because I think I’m making progress.” Those who are truly wise are those who are making progress.
When we come to Christ, our lives are changed forever. We have new hearts and the presence of the Holy Spirit to give us guidance. What more do we need? In answer to this question Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:18, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Spirituality is a forward movement of growing wiser every day. The righteous continually add to their learning and make progress.
What are you doing to add to your Biblical understanding? What are you reading this week that will improve your spiritual qualities? When was the last time you took a book of the Bible apart piece by piece to gain Godly wisdom? Be wise by making progress.

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Always learning...

"Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise... Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge." -- Proverbs 19:20, 27
What's the difference between a good Doctor and a great Doctor... or a good mechanic and a great mechanic? One who is well trained in their field will be good. But one who continues to train throughout their career will be great. The difference is this: one has learned and the other is always learning.
This principle was understood by Solomon as he emphasized the need to listen and accept instruction to be wise. At the same time, those who stop listening to instruction will stray. The humble lifelong learner will be wise indeed, because they not only have learned, but are always learning.
Never believe that you finally know the Bible and all its teaching. There is always more to learn and much more to master. The difference between a good disciple and a great disciple is this: one has learned and the other is always learning. Which will you choose to be?


Friday, September 20, 2019

What a Friend...

"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." -- Proverbs 18:24
Journalist Walter Winchell was once quoted to say, "A friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." In day to day living, we may have a vast number of companions or acquaintances, but only a friend will walk alongside through the storms of life. True friendship will always provide a "bridge over troubled waters".
While we might recall one or another friend in life, Solomon speaks of a friend who sticks closer than a brother. As the ages passed, there came one who is a friend above all friends. This one said "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)  Joseph Scriven put it this way, "What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!" With Jesus as your friend, you will have the greatest "bridge over troubled waters".
Having given thought to our "friend who sticks closer than a brother", do you stick close to him? Friendship is a two way relationship and Jesus also said, "You are my friends if you do what I command." Do you turn to your friend only when you need him, or do you spend time with him every day and follow his counsel? Friendship needs to be nurtured to grow strong for the storms of life. Take Jesus as your friend, for he is the real "bridge over troubled waters".


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Godly Counsel...

"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." -- Proverbs 15:22
One of the age old questions throughout life is: "How can I know the will of God?" From the earliest years, the child of God searches for the answer. Books have been written and workshops given beyond number. At times we would just like God to make it simple and write his will on a wall. The search continues for an easy way to discern his leading.
Over the years the insight has been given from every known source; search the Scriptures for principles of wisdom, pray for the Spirit of God to guide and evaluate the providential working of God. One last, but most important resource is to seek the counsel of many advisors. How quickly do we go astray when we fail to seek Godly counsel?
But be careful to seek counsel in the right way my friend. Choose those whose hearts are clearly in tune with God's heart. Find those who give evidence that they are led by the Word of God and his Holy Spirit. Be prepared to accept Godly counsel, even when it might disappoint your expectations. If you seriously desire to know and follow the will of God, he will never fail to "guide you in paths of righteousness for his names sake". (Psalm 23:3)


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Freely give ...

"One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." - Proverbs 11:24-25
Occasionally a well pump needs to be primed. In rural areas these are hand pumps and often require water to get water. By pouring water into the pump and cranking, you will be rewarded with fresh water in abundance. This sounds easy enough, but when you are parched and you have to give up the only water you have for the promise of more than enough, holding back is a great temptation.
Solomon knew that generosity is like a fresh spring of living water in every situation. Others are blessed and our own soul is refreshed when we are generous. In turn, when we freely give, we find that we freely receive. Jesus notes in Matthew 10:8 that all we have has been freely given"Freely you have received...". And simply put, since all that we have is from God's grace, holding back should never be a temptation.
Take a moment and make an inventory list of all your God-given blessings. Never mind what anyone else may have, just focus on your blessings in life. Now ask the Lord how you can be a generous blessing to others. Don't be tempted to hold back... "Freely you have received, freely give". (Matthew 10:8)

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Daily Listeners...

"Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD. But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death.” - Proverbs 8:34-36
"Take it one day at a time". What does that phrase really mean?  We use this counsel regularly to encourage those who are struggling with the troubles of life. But, do we practice it every day, come sunshine or rain? And how do we take each day? Do we greet every morning with anticipation, watching and waiting at the door of God's wisdom? Blessings belong to the daily listener.
The Lord gives wisdom daily. Not weekly or monthly, but daily. Receiving his wisdom is like placing bricks in a wall. When we build a cathedral, we must do it one brick at a time. When we build a life, we must do it one day at a time. And the materials that we use will determine the ultimate quality of that life. Blessings belong to the daily listener.
How do you begin your day my friend? Are you so rushed in the morning hour that you have no time to watch and wait on the Lord? Do you try to make up for lost days once a week? Take... no, make the time every day to seek the Lord's wisdom in his Word and in prayer. Be still, and know that he is God. Blessings belong to the daily listener.


Monday, September 16, 2019

The Future..

"Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest." - Proverbs 6:6-8
Picnics are great for fun, food and fellowship. We love to get together and play games, chit-chat across the table and enjoy one another's special recipes. The group may be family, friends, co-workers or church members, but we never extend an invitation to one little family. Our Uncles can come, but not the ants. But then, they don't need an invitation to show up and carry on their daily work. They attend every summer picnic possible with one thought in mind... the future. 
The Scriptures regularly call our attention to lessons from creation. God has given us many creatures from which to gain helpful insight. From the sparrows to the lilies of the field, the Lord's classroom is always open. Today we are directed to study the ant... a very little fellow who barges into our daily lives without warning. He is busy, busy, busy, with his assigned work of storing food for the needs of his family. He never procrastinates because he has one thought in mind... the future.
Many people on the other hand are notorious procrastinators. This lesson is needed for most of us every day. How well do you plan ahead? Are you prepared for the unexpected? Or do you wisely do today, what could be put off until tomorrow? The wisest move for us is to be spiritually prepared for the Lord's imminent return. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:15-16... "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity..." with one thought in mind... the future.



Sunday, September 15, 2019

Showing and Growing ...

"... for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young..." - Proverbs 1:2-4

Who was voted "Most likely to Succeed" in your graduating class? Have they really made it big? What's the real difference between success and failure? Success requires more than just knowing what to do; it's all about doing what you know. Too many voted "Most likely..." are on the sidelines because they never put their knowledge into practice. Success is not just in knowing... Success is in showing and growing.
Solomon was a man of great wisdom, but he knew that successful spirituality would be seen in the everyday life. He didn't write just to create philosophers, but to produce "a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair" in his readers. Successful spirituality is more than a life challenged by the Word of God, it's a life changed. Success is not just in knowing... Success is in showing and growing.
As you begin the year reading the Scriptures, what are your expectations? Are you looking for greater knowledge of the Bible? Do you want to get a better handle on the Names of God? Or, are you trying to figure out God's prophetic program for the return of Christ? While all these may be worthy pursuits, how will they improve your walk with God? Spiritual success comes from reading the Word for change, because success is not just in knowing... Success is in showing and growing.

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Love and Faithfulness ...

"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man." - Proverbs 3:3-4

My wife's grandfather, William Carter, was a true man of God. He was a teacher and preacher of the Word and he was a respected business man in his community. He dreamed of going to the mission field and saved for years to make this possible. Then his business was washed out by the 1938 Hurricane and he used all the savings to rebuild, so the men who worked in his plant would have jobs to provide for their families. His mission field had come to him and he responded with love and faithfulness.
This passage gives wise counsel for practical daily living. If we will show these spiritual qualities in our actions and store them in our hearts, we will make a difference for Jesus wherever we are. Being a man or woman of God is not as much doing as it is being. Then we will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
On the day of William Carter's funeral, the better part of New Bedford, Massachusetts came to honor him. The lines went down the street, around the corner and out of sight. He never went to the mission field... because he stayed in his God-appointed mission field and made a difference for Jesus. How about you? Are you being a man or woman of God where you are today? Are you determined to show love and faithfulness to the mission field that God sends your way?

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Praise the Lord!

 "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!" -- Psalm 150:6
Life is a very precious gift. I have stood by the bedside of more than a few friends that struggled to breathe in their last hours and finally stopped as they entered eternity. To breath is often taken for granted until your breath slips away. What should we do with this wonderful, but passing thing called breath?
Paul tells us in Acts 17:25, "... he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." To live and breathe is a gift from our Creator and redeemer. Paul goes on to say in Acts 17:27, ".... that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him." We are given the means to live and breathe for one purpose... to seek the Lord and give him praise. This is what we should do with this thing called breath.
The last words of the book of the Psalms call us to our great purpose... Praise the Lord! Do you have breath my friend? Then give praise to the Lord. All other possessions and privileges are of no value without breath. Since breath is such a significant ability, may we use it to its fullest capacity to give praise to the one who has given it? Take a breath and Praise the Lord!

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Relevance ...

"Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations." -- Psalm 145:13
Relevance; we constantly hear the term used to encourage our efforts in communicating to a newer generation. The cry goes out for new words and techniques because the younger people will never understand or consider old truth. Unless it's new and different it won't help the cause. The question comes to mind; is there anything that hasn't changed that retains any value? 
Solomon noted that there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9) The years pass from one generation to the next and history repeats itself over and over again. Technology improves our lives, but daily needs and struggles continue without change. In a very real way we need help from someone that has stood the test of time and remains unchanged. David found just such a one in the Lord, whose kingdom is everlasting and whose dominion endures throughout all generations.
Build your life on things that never change my friend, and you will be relevant to every generation. In the face of unchanging struggles and storms of life, you need someone who "upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down". (verse 14) In this great truth we find relevance in the unchangeable person of our God and King.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

He always answers ...

"On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased." -- Psalm 138:3 
The days of cell phones have made it easier to get through to the person you're calling. Yet, there are still times that you're left with pesky "voice-mails" and you hope against hope that they will call you back. Wouldn't it be nice if every time you made a call someone answered?
It's a joy to know the Lord and have an invitation to call upon his name anytime we desire. It's even a greater thrill to know that when we call, he always answers. No matter where we are or what the weather, our calls go through and our strength of soul is increased. We can be sure that when we call... the Lord answers.
With such a privilege to call on the Lord anytime, how often do you call? Do you prefer to fight the battle in your own strength even when your soul grows weary? Do you think that the Lord is too busy to respond to your need? Are you afraid that you'll get "Divine Voice-Mail"? You can be sure my friend, when you call on Jesus... he always answers.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Where is your devotion?

“I will not enter my house or go to my bed, I will allow no sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.” -- Psalm 132:3-5
I well remember the days, weeks and months that my parents spent checking on the building of our new house. They would stay up late from night to night rechecking the design and progress. My folks sacrificed a lot to have a well built home for our family. But then again, they were devoted to more than a house.
More importantly, David was determined to build a house of worship for the LORD. He knew that such a task called for great sacrifice and he was willing to give his all for the temple of God. His sleep was of little importance in comparison to this great work. But then again, he was devoted to more than a temple.
How much do you give of yourself for the house of God my friend? Do you believe that a place of worship for the LORD is important enough to sacrifice your time, talent and treasure? Are you willing to give up certain pleasures and rest to build or maintain a building where Jesus is lifted up, proclaimed and praised? The question is; where is your devotion?

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Monday, September 9, 2019

Rest in HIM...

"My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." -- Psalm 121:2-4
Some people have fear of anesthesia during surgery. Others fear the unknown and fail to sleep soundly. Still others need to be in constant control of everything to prevent failure. As a result, these are people who rarely find rest or any degree of peace, because anxiety rules every hour. If only someone greater would watch over them day and night.
The Psalmist was a very different person than those mentioned above. He knew someone greater, who would never let his foot slip. This someone watched over him day and night, never sleeping or closing his eyes. The writer knew that his help came from the Maker of heaven and earth, and caring for his life was small potatoes compared to creating the universe.
Are you at rest today my friend? Can you peacefully accept the anesthesia and sleep as the surgeon does his work? Do you easily find sleep in the night hours, waking refreshed in the morning? If not, you need to find help; and the only guaranteed help is found in the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will always be awake while you rest in HIM.

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Sunday, September 8, 2019

Nothing Compares ...

"How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures." -- Psalm 104:24
A few years ago, a good friend of mine made a summer trip to Europe. In his travels he had the opportunity visit the Louvre. He saw the wonderful artistic and creative works of men long gone. Such displays are exciting to view and marvel over, and the earth is full of such achievements. Yet, while we might compare them one to another, they can never be compared to works of the Lord.
As the Psalmist moves through the display of all creation, he speaks of that which can be seen by everyone in the world. There's no need to travel far to view God's wise and diverse works. While men's works may be beautiful, they are lifeless. When the Lord creates, he produces the miracle of life that looks to him for daily sustenance which he faithfully supplies. Nothing compares to our Creator and Sustainer.
You are a wonderful work of God my friend. As Paul spoke in Acts 17:28 "For in him we live and move and have our being". So, are you as wise as the Lions who "seek their food from God" (verse 21)? Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:11 to pray "Give us today our daily bread". May we daily rejoice and rest in our wonderful Creator and Sustainer, who is wise in all that he does?

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Saturday, September 7, 2019

Delightful life-preservers ...

"If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life." -- Psalm 119:92-93
I remember one of the summers we traveled to Cape Cod to visit family. During our time there we went Kayaking for the very first time. The rules were numerous and we were required to wear life-jackets. These vests were not the most comfortable while paddling but they were necessary to keep us from the danger of drowning. In troubled waters, to have a life preserver is a delight.
Our spiritual lives are also surrounded by dangerous waters. The waves of life can be treacherous and endanger our spiritual welfare. Therefore we need special spiritual life-jackets to keep us from perishing. The Psalmist knew just the right vest to wear when he wrote "I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life".  In the troubled waters of spiritual storms, to have the life preserver of God's Word is a delight.
Are you dressed for success? Maybe I should ask, are you dressed for survival? The wind and waves of life's storms can be overwhelming. Without a well-fitting life-jacket one is always in danger. Are you fully dressed in the Word of God today my friend? In troubled waters, having the right life-preserver is definitely a delight.

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Friday, September 6, 2019

This was good ...

"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word... It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees... I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me." -- Psalm 119:67, 71, 75
I was raised near the ocean. Every summer found me swimming and body surfing in the waves. The ocean was fun and I never had any fears. Then one summer came when all the fun was swallowed up in one frightful event. I almost drowned in an undertow and I forever learned to respect and revere the ocean. This was good.
Life can bring home some really great life-changing lessons. But we might note that these lessons are not just coincidences. The Lord faithfully afflicts his children with beneficial purpose. The hard moments in life are ultimately intended to lead us to a place of respect and reverence for the Lord and his Word. This is good.
When you are afflicted, how do you react? Do you look for the lessons that will draw you closer to the Lord and his Word? Or do you moan, groan and complain? When we remember that "...in faithfulness" the Lord afflicts us, we will say with the Psalmist... This is good.


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Thursday, September 5, 2019

HE is with you...

"The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" -- Psalm 118:6
No matter how old I get, I will always remember that afternoon in Macy's Department store. I was around six years old and my Dad and I were shopping for a Christmas gift for my Mom. I wandered away and was suddenly, frightfully lost. Then, just as quickly, a big strong hand reached down and took hold of mine and I was safe again. I was no longer afraid, because my Dad was with me.
Our journey through life will often leave us in the midst of unfamiliar and frightening surroundings. There may be enemies like David faced, or it may just be an unknown set of circumstances. But no matter where we turn, the fear is overwhelming. Then, at just the right moment, a big strong hand reaches down and takes ours and we're safe again. We are no longer afraid, because our Lord is with us.
What are you frightened of today my friend? Have you turned the corner, only to find yourself feeling frightfully lost? Are the circumstances too overwhelming to handle? Take a word of encouragement from David and don't be afraid. The Lord is with you... what can man do to you?

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Remembered forever ...

"Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever." -- Psalm 112:4-6
It was a privilege to know Al Hulse. He was a sincere believer who attended our first church once a week, then two other churches and a church plant the rest of the week. He faithfully supported all four ministries and a Christian School with his involvement and finances. As a Christian businessman, he had an impeccable reputation in the community and was abundantly blessed in his business. Al will be remembered forever.
While many people try to mark their generation with overpowering force, there are those who really make a difference by grace and compassion. The Psalmist calls our attention to the one who has light in the darkness and is never shaken. This person has experienced the grace of God in their lives and they live every day to share that grace with others. The blessings of God flow through them and they are remembered forever.
Al Hulse was wealthy, but he lived quite frugally. He chose to invest his blessings in eternity through a variety of ministries. How are you investing your blessings today? Do you have a plan? And are you giving faithfully, that others might know the Savior? The more that we live and give for the Lord the more others will be blessed... and we will be remembered forever.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Don't Forget ...

"Then they believed his promises and sang his praise. But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel." -- Psalm 106:12-13
A very good friend of mine is growing old and with age comes forgetfulness. His wife was so concerned that she thought he was in the early stages of Alzheimer Disease. But after a visit to the Doctor and a series of tests it was concluded that he was just suffering from age. Our memory is a great blessing and it's quite sad when it fails us.
While some memory loss is unavoidable, other forgetfulness is unacceptable. The Israelites were witness to a wide array of God's miraculous works and as a result sang his praise, but, how soon they forgot. We can be very much the same in our walk with God. We have so much for which to be grateful, but we tend to forget his provisions and fulfilled promises rather quickly. The Lord has given us a great deal to remember, but how sad when we forget.
The above thoughts are possibly the reason why the Lord gave us the table of remembrance to observe in our churches. To exercise our memories will often take a concerted effort, but the blessings are well worth the investment. The more we remember of the Lord's promises fulfilled, the more we will trust him. And the more that we trust him, the more we will have to remember. Just don't forget!

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Monday, September 2, 2019

No limitations ...

"He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac." -- Psalm 105:7-9
Have you noticed the limitations of your warranty for that appliance you just purchased? The time limit may be a year or less with restrictions in various states. A lifetime warranty is most often reserved for a few special items and most often limited to the original buyer. Forever commitments are constantly swallowed up by unending limitations.
As the Psalmist walks the reader through the historic working of God, the covenant the Lord made with Abraham stands out without limitations. When God makes a promise, he will keep his word "for a thousand generations". This is the nature of God and can be seen throughout all the pages of Scripture. We can depend on God's commitments because they swallow up unending limitations.
If you will take time to journey through the Old Testament you will come face to face with the God of all faithfulness. Look closely my friend and be encouraged in the Lord's remembering his covenant forever. As you consider this great fact be assured that the Lord will never fail to fulfill his promises to you. His commitments to his children will always swallow up every limitation.

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Sunday, September 1, 2019

Double Edge living ...

“Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” – Psalm 97:10
I own a double edged knife. It has two very sharp edges and cuts smoothly on both sides. When necessary this cutting tool can pierce through leather, canvas or wood with little resistance. Though having such a blade is of great value while hiking or camping, it does require extra effort in sharpening. To be efficient, both sides must be equally sharp.
Our spiritual walk is like a two edged knife. We are called upon to love the Lord on one side and hate evil on the other. Some believers go through life with only one side sharpened and have trouble piercing the darkness. To be true to our calling, extra effort is needed for the sharpening of both sides. We are only as efficient as we love the Lord AND hate evil. Both sides must be equally sharp.
Do you love the Lord? Well of course you do, but do you hate evil? Loving the Lord is always out in front as our Christian testimony, but have we nurtured a genuine hatred for the “… sin that so easily entangles”? (Hebrews 12:1) Be a double edged knife today my friend, and pierce the darkness for the Lord.

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