Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1:22-23 (NASB)


Peter had unique insight into what he preached and wrote because he witnessed the Living Word spoken and demonstrated through the life of Jesus Christ.  In his letter to the suffering Christians in Asia Minor, he reminded them that they were a chosen people (1 Peter 1:1); it was by the mercy of God through the precious blood of Jesus they were saved and that enduring trials was proof of their faith. He admonished them to remember the world was not their home and their trials would not compare to what awaited them in Heaven (1 Peter 1:7).

One of the most important messages Peter conveyed in his letter was for believers to cultivate a sincere brotherly love. Love that went beyond warm, fuzzy feelings–love that willfully chose to put aside any emotions that were contrary to the love demonstrated in the life of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:1). Peter revealed that once they became obedient to the living and enduring truth by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior, His blood cleansed their soul and empowered them to love others sincerely (1 Peter 1:22). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they could love with depth and capacity beyond anyone who had not received Christ.

Do you sincerely love the body of believers or are you faking it? Do you just tolerate some people or do you allow God to love them through you? Confess the emotions you may have contrary to God’s command to love others. Pray the Lord will cultivate a sincere love in your heart.

By Karen Aker

 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 (NASB)


Chained to a Roman guard seemed like the least likely place for Paul to pen a letter about joy. The case against him was looming, yet in the midst of his ordeal he wrote to the Philippians. His message was simple: Rejoice! But he taught them so much more–essentially, that they, too, could rejoice in any situation with a joy that could stand the test of their circumstances, relationships, needs, and fears.

Paul acknowledged his circumstances were dire, but he filtered every situation through a single mindset, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil.1:21). He knew His imprisonment was simply an avenue to further the Gospel message.

Paul found joy in the love he had for the Philippians but not everyone loved Paul. The Christians in Philippi were divided in their feelings for him and some even tried to make life more difficult for him when he was in prison (Phil.1: 15-16). Knowing that people should be a source of joy and not sorrow, Paul shared that the Philippians could experience joy by having the right motive and humbly serving others like Christ Jesus (Phil 2:7-8). He shared that through prayer they could give over their fears to God and allow His peace to rule their hearts. (Phil. 4:6-8). He reminded them that they should be content because God would supply all their needs (Phil. 4; 12, 13, 19). No matter what trial or circumstance, they could say, “Rejoice!”

Are you bogged down with your circumstances, relationships, needs, and fears? What have you set your mind on? Set it on the Lord and Rejoice!

By Karen Aker

Indeed, everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God’s glory. Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (HCSB) 2 Corinthians 4:15-18

Corinth was an important trade city of ancient Greece. Paul ministered there during his second and third missionary journeys. This well traveled pagan city was known for its many worldly activities and the believers in the Corinthian church were well acquainted with them. Paul urged them to stop their worldly ways for the sake of the gospel and in return, they would experience joy that would last for eternity. They would not, however, be exempt them from the challenges that living this life could bring. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 4:15-18 to encourage the young Christians to view life here on earth from an eternal perspective.

Sometimes the troubles of life can seem discouraging, with very little joy. Be encouraged! They will not last because we will one day be with the Father in heaven. That is why Paul said “do not give up” and focus on what is eternal. Having a focus on what is not seen requires faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” (HCSB) You must have faith to have an eternal perspective. So, what does it mean to have an eternal perspective?  It means having hope of an everlasting life with Jesus in heaven and seeking for the Father’s will to be done in your life for His glory not yours – knowing that your life is for a greater purpose.

It is very easy to lose focus on what is eternal. Daily we live our busy lives trying to get everything done on our list.  We set goals to achieve a successful and happy life. When our striving to achieve our goals replaces our eternal perspective, life can become tough, even unbearable.  Unexpected bills, the unfriendly neighbor, the car that breaks down again, the intense pressure at work and the negativity all around – all can be so overwhelming. Whether the trouble is big or small, it is easy to lose heart and get discouraged when we focus on what we see. There is one thing we can be assured of – what we see here won’t last.

Are you daily living your life with an eternal perspective? Stay focused, and when trouble does come your way, have faith that the hardship is only temporary and God is with you to carry you through it. Even if it is still hard, just know that your experience can help someone else through their tough time. You can be renewed with joy in seeing the Holy Spirit at work in someone else’ life and God will receive the glory. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God (HCSB).” You have a greater purpose here on earth – to spread God’s love to others. Don’t get lost in the temporary things in life. Stay focused on the eternal and don’t give up hope.

By Carol Jones




“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 HCSB



In our Bible reading recently we read of the dramatic highs and lows of Holy Week, beginning with Jesus coming into Jerusalem as a king riding on a donkey with adoring crowds shouting, “Hosanna!” The week’s lowest point was the sham trial and execution of Jesus on the cross at Calvary. Then, just when all seemed lost, He arose to live forevermore!

Our Christian walk can be like that week sometimes—immense highs and bottomless lows. We spend time with fellow believers laughing and enjoying each other’s company and we feel “on fire” for the Lord. Then, we find ourselves thoroughly discouraged when we are alone with our thoughts and failures. It seems like a never-ending cycle.

Paul writes to his friends in Thessalonica because they also were discouraged in their Christian walk. Paul encourages them to persevere because they live in the light of Jesus who is coming back again to take them to be with Him forever. Jesus promises to go to prepare a place for us and then to come back and take us to be with Him. (John 14:1-3)

How does knowing that Jesus is coming again affect my life today? What does this mean to my life here in the USA in 2013? The Bible speaks to this idea again and again. In the next few verses Paul tells the believers to encourage each other, especially their leaders and to esteem them highly in love, to be at peace among themselves, warn the lazy, comfort the discouraged, and be patience with everyone, pursuing the best for each other.  Paul gives a few short sentences to encourage us: rejoice always; pray constantly; give thanks in everything; don’t stifle the Holy Spirit; don’t despise prophecies (preaching), test everything, hold to the good, and stay away from all kinds of evil.  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22) Good advice for today.

We Christians live with hope. Our Hope is spelled with a capital H because that Hope is Jesus Christ.  We live in His presence, with the Holy Spirit in our lives, encouraging us, guiding us, teaching us, reminding us of all that the Lord Jesus has said. And, He reminds us that He is coming again. These days are just a short time compared to all eternity with Jesus.

So, we live our Christian walk as a testimony to the Hope that is Jesus. We live with more purpose, seeking to help those in need, bringing praise to our Savior in all we do.

How will you live differently today with the Hope that lives in you? There is joy in our walk with the Lord because He is with us, no matter what comes our way.

By Carol McLaren


“Get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” – Acts 9:6 (HCSB)
There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’
‘Here I am, Lord!’ he said
. – Acts 9:10 (HCSB)


Life hurries by us with disheartening news, tumultuous weather, and busy schedules that keep us rushing from place to place with little time to reflect.

First Century Jerusalem was a busy town with traders and pilgrims. The white marble houses and villas of the wealthy looked like snow in the bright sunshine while the gold-embellished Herod’s Temple startled visitors as they climbed the long road from Jericho. Traders from around the world came selling, buying, bearing goods, and driving animals as they arrived to this city on the hill. Noises of a busy city resounded across the Kidron and Hinnom valleys and through the Mount of Olives.  If we had been living in the Judea at the time, life would have seemed pretty normal—noisy and busy.

However, the Holy Spirit was at work among God’s people. We read in Acts of great sermons, spectacular manifestations of the Spirit over and over again, and the growth of the Early Church across social, cultural, and language barriers. Thousands of people were welcomed into the Kingdom of God by the great preaching of leaders like Peter and Stephen, as well as quiet sharing among believers. Persecution by the Roman authorities and the martyrdom of Stephen helped spread the Gospel message of forgiveness and hope in Jesus Christ.

The first word in Acts 9:1 is meanwhile, that is, in the midst of the busyness, Saul was breathing out murderous threats against the new believers, blind to their message of hope. He was named Saul after the first king of Israel who was disgraced by his own self-sufficiency and pride. This New Testament Saul was depending on his own righteousness before God.  He had traveled to Damascus with letters of authorization to round up, drag back to Jerusalem, and execute these believers.

In a dramatic flash of light, the Risen Jesus Christ appeared and thundered out, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul fell to his knees, realizing he was opposed to God Himself! He was changed in an instant and we know him today as Paul, writer of thirteen New Testament letters and a mighty missionary to the Gentiles. The soldiers around him heard the noise, watched Saul fall, blinded by the light. They led the shaken Saul to Judas’ house on Straight Street in Damascus but they did not understand that it was the Risen Jesus Christ who had spoken to Saul.

Meanwhile, Jesus spoke to another believer, Ananias, telling him to go and minister to Saul, the arch enemy of believers. Ananias reminded God that Saul was trying to kill all the believersbut God reassured him that He had a special plan for Saul to reach the Gentiles with the Gospel. Ananias got up and went to lay hands on Saul, restoring his sight and setting him on a multi-decade mission with Jesus Christ.

How often do we busily go about our daily lives without seeing God at work through us and in us? How often are we willing to be interrupted and quickly obey? Saul obeyed and God turned the Christian World upside down. Ananias obeyed and walked down the street, facing his greatest fear. Each man was blessed in their obedience. Sometimes God speaks to us in dramatic ways and sometimes in quiet ways. Are we willing to immediately obey, no matter how large and important or small and insignificant the task might be? May the Lord find us faithful to quick obedience no matter the task!

By Carol McLaren


While He was going, they were gazing into heaven Acts 1: 10a (HCSB)





He fixed his eyes upward, stood firmly on the ground, and gazed at what must have been the most spectacular sight his eyes had ever beheld. His mind filled with wonder and his heart filled with joy that Jesus was alive and yet he was sorrowful about His departure. He was also a little bit nervous about the task he was just commissioned to do (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). Peter watched with the other disciples as his friend, teacher, master, and Savior ascended to Heaven in a cloud.

It had not been that long ago that Peter and the other disciples were there with Him in Gethsemane on that dark and dreadful night the soldiers took Him away. He could remember watching from a distance as Jesus stood before the Sanhedrin accused and interrogated in the midst of a taunting crowd. Others who were there spoke about Barabbas, the insurrectionist and murderer who was pardoned while Jesus took his place and the crowd yelled “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” They told about how the soldiers mocked, flogged, and spat on Him.

The women who loved and followed Jesus were there along His journey to Golgotha, mourning at the sight of His thorn-pierced head and brutally beaten body. They even remembered the words He spoke to them. Simon, the Cyrenian was there, forced to carry His cross. And when He arrived at Golgotha, there were the soldiers, mocking Him and casting lots for His clothes. There were criminals there, too, crucified on either side of Him; one condemning Him and the other requesting to be remembered in paradise. John was there at Mary’s side comforting her as she watched her firstborn son hanging on the cross, dying on that terrible hill. Joseph and Nicodemus were there to take Jesus’ lifeless body from the cross, wrap Him in linen cloth, and lay Him in a brand new tomb. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome were there at the tomb early on Sunday morning coming to anoint His body.

You know who was also there? I was there. Not physically, of course; but because of my sin and need for a Savior, I was there! Were you there? Were YOU there when they crucified, my Lord? Beloved, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). My sin was there in the garden at Gethsemane when they arrested Him, when He stood accused before the Sanhedrin, when they beat Him and nailed His mangled body to the cross. My sin was there when He shouted to Heaven and breathed His last breath. My sin was there when the sun refused to shine, the earth shook violently, and the veil of the temple was split in two. My sin was there when He was buried in the tomb. And I would have been among the disheartened, who thought that all hope of restoration was buried in the grave, wondering if all was lost.

But, Praise be to God, that I was also there, when early that Sunday Morning, He rose with all power in His hands and redeemed me! Death and the grave were conquered, my sin and your sin remembered no more and the enemy was defeated. My fellow believers not only were we there in His Death, Burial and Resurrection, but Praise the Lord we will also be there with Him when He returns (1Thessalonians 4:13-18). Praise the Lord!

By Abigail George


“I tell you the truth,” He said. “This poor widow has put in more than all of them.  For all these people have put in gifts out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”
Luke 21:3-4 (HCSB)


It was another day at the temple courts–a familiar place during Jesus’ ministry. You could find Him there at times; preaching, teaching, healing, warning, rebuking. He encountered people from all walks of life. And now that He was approaching the end of His earthly ministry, it was no surprise that He would also encounter increasingly intense opposition in the temple courts. On this day especially, the religious elite bombarded Him with question after question, trying to somehow discredit Him. At the end of every interrogation, they would walk away infuriated, annoyed, silenced, and plotting His demise.

With the temporary retreat of his opponents, Jesus was able to resume instructing His disciples and any others who might be listening. He drew their attention to an ordinary event at the temple–people putting their offering into the treasury boxes. But in the midst of the ordinary, Jesus sees something extraordinary. He sees a poor widow release from the grip of her hand two small coins. What was so significant about this woman and her two almost worthless coins? Unlike the others at the treasury boxes that day, this woman gave the very thing that she needed to survive. And for one single moment in time, Heaven and earth stopped for the Savior to place a spotlight on this dear woman. Perhaps the religious elite that Jesus previously rebuked were there to hear Him commend this widow for giving all she had. But for whoever was there, Jesus’ words were certainly something to ponder. His disciples could certainly relate for they had also given up something to follow Christ and advance His Kingdom.

Scripture doesn’t tell us what happened after the widow went home–whether her precious offering was returned to her tenfold or whether her two small coins made a difference in the temple and advanced Kingdom business. What we do know is that Jesus stopped what He was doing, forgot about His opponents, took notice, and commended this woman before others. Knowing the persecution He was about to face and the ultimate sacrifice He was about to make, He still stopped to recognize the sacrifice of a poor widow in the temple court that day.

Most likely, you will not be required to give all your material possessions for the work of a ministry; even so, sometimes giving money for God’s kingdom can be the easiest thing to do. If that is so, then what could be harder? It depends on what you’re holding tightly. You might have to give from an area in your life that is far more poverty stricken than your empty purse. Perhaps you are desperate for encouragement. Discouragement has saturated your thoughts and held your emotions captive. You find yourself isolated from others, hiding in your prayer closet because of the severity of your circumstances, and holding on to that one Scripture you’ve been meditating on all week to help you get by. And rather than keeping God’s encouragement only for yourself, He might compel you to go beyond your circumstances to help someone else who is discouraged; to leave your isolation behind and share the words of encouragement you’ve gripped so tightly for yourself. You might feel you need them more than anyone else at that moment but He might want you to give them away for the advancement of His Kingdom. Just as the widow gave away something she could have held on to tightly.

What do you lack in your life today? In what area of your life do you feel poverty stricken? Whatever it is, give it away. Open your hands and your heart and release it to the Father so He can use it. No one may take notice and I can’t promise that you will experience immediate relief and replenishment. But one thing I do know, the Savior will see you and commend you. The Father will be pleased. Take joy and comfort in His pleasure. Will you give out of your poverty? What will you give?

By Abigail George




“Now He was telling them a parable to show them that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” Luke 18:1 (NASB)



One day Jesus was telling His disciples a parable about a widow who consistently approached a judge seeking protection from her adversary. The judged refused. She was of no concern to him, this widow with no social standing; what benefit could he possibly get from helping her?  Day after day she approached him and begged for relief from her persecutor. She was so persistent, the judge dreaded seeing her approach. Eventually, he became so weary of her pleas he granted her protection. This unrighteous judge finally did the right thing because of the widow’s persistence (Luke 18:2-5). Jesus made the contrast that God, unlike the earthly unrighteous judge, is a Righteous Judge and told the disciples they were the elect; favored in God’s eyes. God would hear their cry and He would answer them because He longed to act on their behalf (Luke 18:7-8).

Jesus shared this parable with His disciples because He knew life was going to get a lot harder for them. They would witness the injustice of the world and the horrors of Jesus’ crucifixion. They would long to have fellowship with Him again as they did when He walked on the earth.  Jesus knew the disciples’ own persecution was coming in the near future. All this was weighing heavily on His heart when He used the parable of the unjust judge to emphasize the loving justice of His Heavenly Father. He encouraged them to pray so that they would persevere through faith.

Have you become discouraged lately? Are you on the brink of giving up?  Suffering some injustice, are you reluctant to approach our Righteous Judge?  Hold on to your faith and approach God in full assurance that He hears you. Know that He longs to act on your behalf.  Prayer is your remedy for discouragement. Persevere in your faith and “Don’t lose heart!”

By Karen Aker

“And He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?’ ” Luke 8:25 (NASB)




What started out as a perfect day for a boat ride across the lake turned into one of the scariest ordeals the men had ever experienced. At Jesus’ suggestion, the disciples, some of whom were fishermen, launched the boat onto a calm sea. Soon Jesus fell asleep. Suddenly, the winds picked up, tunneling down the mountains causing gale force winds on the lake. Tossed back and forth, the boat began to take on water and the lives of those on the boat were in jeopardy. It would only be a matter of time before the boat capsized.

As the waters surged, the men did everything their experience trained them for but they struggled to keep the boat from sinking and themselves from drowning. Now there was nothing else to do but to call on Jesus and warn Him of the imminent danger they were in: “Master, Master, we are perishing!” (Luke: 8:24), they cried out to Him. Jesus awakened and commanded the wind to stop; immediately, the winds ceased and the sea became calm again. He could, with a simple command, calm the storms that threatened them. Turning to the disciples, Jesus asked, “Where is your faith?”

When the sea storms overcame the disciples, Jesus wasn’t asking them where their faith was because they showed fear; He was asking because their actions and cries showed they had no hope. They had seen Him perform so many miracles and yet they still didn’t realize that Jesus had Authority over the winds and the sea.

I wonder if you’ve ever had one of those days that started out perfectly but, through a chain of events, fell apart and you felt completely overwhelmed? You did everything you knew to do and out of desperation you cried out: ‘God, I am dying here!’

God will use your circumstances to reveal to you the vastness of His power.  Can you think of a time when you felt your circumstances were too much for you to overcome? Remember next time to ask yourself, ‘Where is my faith?’ then Jesus won’t have to!

By Karen Aker


And He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’ ” Luke 7:50 (HCSB)



Jesus’ ministry on earth was short but He had so much to teach the people – to teach us. We learn not only does Jesus perform healing miracles on the physically sick; He performs healing miracles on the heart. Luke 7:36-50 recalls a woman’s encounter with Jesus in the home of Simon the Pharisee. The passage tells us she had lived a sinful life – quite possibly she was a prostitute. She came into Simon’s home weeping and fell to her knees kissing the feet of Jesus. She wiped her tears off His feet with her hair and then poured expensive perfume on them. Scripture doesn’t tell us how she knew about Jesus but it is obvious she had heard He was the Messiah. Perhaps she even heard Him teach. Even though it was customary to wash one’s feet upon entering a home, Jesus knew that this was no ordinary foot washing.

Imagine for a moment being this woman. She knows she has been living a sinful life and needs to be forgiven. If she goes to the priest … no, they won’t accept her, but maybe Jesus will. While wiping tears off her face she runs to get the most precious thing she has; an alabaster jar of perfume. When she arrives at the home where Jesus is, she sees Him. She can’t speak. Maybe she has a knot in her throat as she tries hard not to cry. Maybe she knows with her reputation she is not worthy to be in the home of a religious Jewish leader; let alone in the presence of the Messiah. All she can do is fall at Jesus’ feet and kiss them. Feeling the remorse of her sin, sobs of tears burst forth onto Jesus’ feet. She quickly realizes His feet are getting wet so she takes her hair to wipe off the dirty sin her tears represent and continues to kiss His feet. She doesn’t even hear Simon talking to Jesus about her reputation. Then she remembers the offering she brought. She pours the perfume on His feet to clean off her dirty tears.

All this precious woman wants is to be clean but she doesn’t feel she can be. No, not with what she has done. Then she realizes Jesus is looking at her. He starts speaking to the Pharisee about what she has been doing. That she has shown Jesus greater kindness and love to Him than the Pharisee despite her reputation. The most amazing thing happens next. Jesus says to her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). The voices in the room become a mumbling background noise to her. All she can hear is Jesus’ voice healing and filling her heart with peace and joy. She knows she is forgiven and clean from all her sin. It’s a miracle! He then tells her, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:50).

Today’s verse from Luke teaches us about a woman who knew she was a sinner in need of a Savior. It also tells us about a Pharisee who only saw the woman’s sin and not his own. They are both sinners yet one seeks Jesus’ forgiveness and the other does not. Jesus points out that the woman’s faith in Him has saved her. Ephesians 2:8 reminds us, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift” (HCSB). We all have need of forgiveness and God gives us the faith to seek Him for it.

When was the last time you asked God to forgive you of your sins? Are you sometimes more aware of the sins of others than your own? Ask God to reveal your sin to you if you don’t see it. Take time today to pour your heart out at Jesus’ feet. Be genuinely sorry and seek His forgiveness.  If you have faith to believe in Him, He will not only forgive you, He will heal your heart and will say to you, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

By Carol Jones