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Blessed are the Pure in Heart

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Blessed are the pure in heart
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for they will see God.
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Matthew 5:8
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Being “pure in heart” seems to be an impossible goal, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). A part of being pure boils down to the choices we make each day. This past Sunday, I had the privilege of listening to a presentation by Eric Tooley, president and founder of Noble Choices. Eric shared his story of his struggle with pornography. His nonprofit organization is speaking boldly about sexual topics. I would like to pass on his challenge to you: make noble choices in all areas of your life.
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Below is an excerpt from the Noble Choices web site. I encourage you to invite Eric to speak at the your schools and churches. 
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Noble Choices is a nonprofit organization that helps people see all of their choices and empowers them to choose the highest quality of life.

Noble Choices believes that people make good choices when they have good information.

  • We help people see all of their choices.
  • We help people evaluate the outcome of each choice on their own goals and dreams.
  • We help people minimize or eliminate bad consequences.

Noble Choices’ Truth About Sex programs for schools and churches specializes in programs on sexual abstinence, pornographysocial media, and cultural discernment.

 

Jesus looked at them intently and said,
“Humanly speaking, it is impossible.
But with God everything is possible.” 
 Matthew 19:26
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Remember to reach out to those who are 
lonely and hurting on Valentine’s Day!

 

“You do not realize now what I am doing,
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but later you will understand.”
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~ Jesus
 
John 13:7
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As Jesus’ disciples did not understand what Jesus was doing, we also often do not understand what God is doing in our lives.  The following devotional thought, from Streams in the Desert, encourages me as I think about John 13:7. 
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In this life, we have an incomplete view of God’s dealings, seeing His plan only half finished and underdeveloped.  Yet once we stand in the magnificent temple of eternity, we will have the proper perspective and will see everything fitting gracefully together!    
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Imagine going to the mountains of Lebanon during the reign of Israel’s great king Solomon.  Can you see the majestic cedar?  It is the pride of all the other trees and has wrestled many years with the cold north winds!  The summer sun has loved to smile upon it, while the night has caused its soft leaves to glisten with drops of dew.  Birds have built their nests in its branches, and weary travelers and wandering shepherds have rested in its shade from the midday heat or taken shelter from the raging storms.  And suddenly we realize that this old inhabitant of the forest has been doomed to fall victim to the woodsman’s ax!  
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We watch as the ax makes its first gash on the cedar’s gnarled trunk.  Then we see its noble limbs stripped of their branches as the tree comes crashing to the ground.  We cry out against the wanton destruction of this “Tree of God,” as it is distinctively known, and express our anger over the demolition of this proud pillar in the forest temple of nature.  We are tempted to exclaim with the prophet Zechariah, “Wail, O pine tree, for the cedar has fallen …!” (Zech. 11:2), as if inviting the sympathy of every less-majestic plant and invoking inanimate things to also resent the offense.       
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We should not be so quick to complain but should follow the gigantic tree as the workmen of “Hiram king of Tyre” (2 Chron. 2:3) take it down the mountainside.  From there we should watch it being sailed on rafts along the blue water of the Mediterranean.  And finally, we should behold it being placed as a glorious and polished beam in the temple of God.  As you contemplate its final destination, seeing it in the Holy of Holies as a jewel in the diadem of the almighty King, can you honestly complain that this “crown jewel of Lebanon” was cut down, removed from the forest, and placed in such a noble setting?  The cedar had once stood majestically in nature’s sanctuary, but the “glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house” (Haggai 2:9).
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So many people are like these cedars of old!  God’s axes of trials have stripped them bare and yet we can see no reason for such harsh and difficult circumstances.  But God has a noble goal and purpose in mind: to place them as everlasting pillars in His heavenly Zion.  And he says to them, “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (Isaiah 62:3).  J.R. Macduff
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Pastor Saeed has been moved from a prison cell to a hospital room.
Please continue to pray that he will be released,
and free to return home to his family.
 

“I was in prison

and

you came to visit me.”

— Jesus

Matthew 25:36

 

I am dedicating this Lenten season to three Americans who are wrongly imprisoned in Iran: Pastor Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati (former marine), and Bob Levinson (former FBI agent).  I wrote about them in February, so please see that blog post for more details about this crisis. 

Unfortunately, we can’t go to visit them, but we can make “virtual visits.”  Let me explain: I can picture thousands of us praying for these men during Lent and asking angels to attend and minister to their needs.  As angels took care of Jesus in the wilderness and in the Garden of Gethsemane, we can ask for angels to care for all three men.  Angels delivered Peter from prison!  Along with praying, each time we do something for them — write a letter on their behalf, post information about them on social media, or make a donation, that too is a “virtual visit”.  

Prayer requests for Pastor Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, Bob Levinson:

    – Quick release

    – Angels will be present and comfort them

    – Good health

    – Favor with the guards and other prisoners

    – Comfort for their families

    – Great sleep and peaceful dreams

    – Enough food and water

    – Provision for all needs and their families needs

 

Let’s commit to praying for Pastor Saeed,

Amir Hekmati, and Bob Levinson,

 every day during Lent.

 

An angel from heaven appeared to him

and strengthened him. Luke 22:43

 

If you have already made a commitment for Lent, please consider including this Lent request. 

Darkness to Light

Even in darkness light dawns
for the upright,
for those who are gracious
and compassionate.
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Psalm 112:4
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The words gracious and compassionate are perfect words to describe my Dad, Terry, S. Smith.  He also constantly radiates joy.  He has recently written a book about his life story, Delta Blues: From Darkness to Light.  For Valentine’s Day, it is offered free on Kindle through February 16th, 2014.  The following is a book review written by Meghan over at goodreads.com
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One of the most inspiring stories of personal redemption, Terry Smith’s ‘Delta Blues Darkness to Light’ is one of those literary rarities that we see only every once in a while. And even now I’m getting goosebumps—the most positive kind—from the story..Make no mistake about it, this book is not a straight-out “preachy” self-help book. In fact, it has a strong literary quality about it—as if you’re reading a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography-slash-novel. There is something about Terry’s writing that pulls you in and hooks you—the clever cadence, the verisimilitude, the emotional gravitas that subtly courses just underneath the surface of the entire narrative. Let me suffice it to say that apart from the story itself—apart from Terry’s personal sharing of his journey “from darkness to light”—is the exceptional language.The book demonstrates that author Terry, as a life coach, actually knows what he talks about—he has been there, done that, endured much, which makes him a much more effective life coach than all the rest. In fact, I wish somebody from Hollywood turns this book into a movie so that it can find a wider audience and inspire countless others. But as it is, this book is a keeper—read the introduction or the first few chapters and you’ll see. If Terry’s story doesn’t immediately grip you, then perhaps nothing will.‘Delta Blues: Darkness to Light’ is a definite must-read. If you’re feeling down in the dumps or you know of anyone who can benefit from a power upliftment, get a copy of this book or send this as a gift. You will not be disappointed. A sold five-star rating for this one.
I will turn darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. ~ God  Isaiah 42:16
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A Valentine from God

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I will not forget you!
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See I have engraved you
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On the palms of my hands …
 
Isaiah 49:15-16
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“You are precious and honored in my sight.
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I love you. For I am the Lord, your God, who
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takes hold of your right hand and says to
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you, Do not fear, I will help you.  I will
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strengthen you.  I have called you by name
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and you are mine.  I will not forget you!  See
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I have engraved you on the palms of my
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hands.  Never will I leave you.  Never will I
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forsake you.”  — God
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Dedicated to Pastor Saeed and his wife Naghmeh

“Because he love me,” says the Lord,

“I will rescue him.” Psalm 91:14

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Remember those in prison …

Remember those in prison,
As if you were there yourself.
Remember also those being mistreated,
As if you felt their pain in your own bodies.
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Hebrews 13:3
     
 
Each year for Valentine’s Day, I offer a challenge.  This year I would like to challenge you to remember those who are in prison by sending cards during the month of February.  One idea is to send cards to a chaplain at a local prison and ask him/her to give them to someone who never receives mail.  (Use your church address for the return address.) 
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I also would like to highlight three Americans who are unfairly imprisoned in Iran: Pastor Saeed Abedini, former FBI agent Bob Levinson, and former marine Amir Hekmati.
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Three Americans today will endure another 24-hours in hell-like conditions in Iran.  All three men are held against their wills as hostages and have no direct contact with their U.S. family members.  All three are U.S. Citizens with distinguished backgrounds.  All three entered Iran legally.” freeallthree.com
These men need our help!  Picture yourself in prison in Iran.  What would you want your country to be doing to fight for you?
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What we can do:
    1. Pray for them and for their release.
    2. Tell their story to everyone we know.
    3. Post links and updates about the men on social media.
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“I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.
I will take you by the hand and guard you …
And you will be a light to the nations …
You will free the captives from prison,
Releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.”
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Pastor Saeed Abedini
saeed-in-park.jpg (377×196)
Click here to read his story:
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Bob Levinson
bob-l.jpg (300×266)
Click here to read his story:
Amir Hekmati
hekmati-marine.jpg (300×187)
Click here to read his story:
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At the National Prayer Breakfast 2014, President Obama highlighted Pastor Saaed Abedini, and for that I am thankful.  All three men should have been highlighted.  All three men need to come home.
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Thank you to Daniel at freeallthree.com for the information quote and linked to this post.

Choose Jesus in 2014

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“You did not choose me,

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but I chose you …”

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– Jesus 

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Each day we have the opportunity through our thoughts and actions to choose Jesus.  When we choose kindness over irritabilty or choose reading the Bible before entertainment (social media, TV, etc.) we choose Jesus.  Sometimes I even whisper the words, “I choose you, Jesus.”  At other times, at the end of the day, I will think, “I didn’t choose well; I didn’t choose Jesus today.”  In 2014, let’s make a concentrated effort to “choose Jesus!”

My close friends Dianne and Perry Dodge hold marriage conferences.  One of their talks discusses what five minutes a day can do for your marriage.  When you improve your relationship with God, it can improve your marriage.  Making small choices for just five minutes every day can make a big difference in your life.  Here are some of Dianne and Perry’s suggestions of ways to devote five minutes of time to God throughout the day.  I challenge you to choose a few of these ways to spend more time with God.

 

What Do You Have That You’re Willing To Give To God?

 
 
My first 5 (or more) minutes of the day 
 
 
5 (or more) minutes of television time in the morning 
 
 
5 (or more) minutes of television time in the evening 
 
 
5 (or more) minutes of email/Facebook/internet time during the day 
 
 
Get up 5 (or more) minutes earlier 
 
 
5 (or more) minutes in the car 
 
 
5 (or more) minutes at lunch time 
 
 
Leave work 5 (or more) minutes early 
 
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5 (or more) minutes during ________________________ 
 
 
 
Underneath each one of the above that you’ve picked, write down what you’d like to do during those 5 minutes. ie. Pray (talking to God, and listening to Him), read scripture, thank God for the things He’s done for you, pray for your spouse, pray for others, write in a spiritual journal, listen to inspirational music that draws you closer to God, etc. 
 
    (used with permission)
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I would love to hear what you choose from the list and how choosing Jesus makes a difference for you in 2014. I choose to devote my lunch hour to God. 

How great it would be to hear Jesus say at the end of my life, “You chose me!”

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  (Colossians 3:22) 

 
Eight and a half years ago, Dianne Dodge and I prayed that my youngest son would be born on her birthday, January 1.  Not only was he born on her birthday, but he was also the first baby born in Nashville, TN in 2006.  Happy birthday to Dianne and my son Sterling!