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From the High Calling.org – Sunday Devotional

Daily Reflection and Prayer
by Mark D. Roberts
Laity Lodge Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence

God’s Perspective on Human Goodness

READ Psalm 53:1-6

God looks down from heaven
on the entire human race;
he looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
if anyone seeks God.
But no, all have turned away;
all have become corrupt.
No one does good,
not a single one!

[Psalm 53:2-3]
If you have a sense of déjà vu when reading Psalm 53,  it’s because this psalm is virtually identical to Psalm 14.  Those who collected the psalms must have believed that the message contained in these ancient poems was so important that it was worth repeating, almost verbatim.

Psalm 53 begins by criticizing fools who deny God’s relevance to their lives and therefore commit all measure of evil. From our perspective, it would be easy to begin to think of people we know who fit this mold, people other than ourselves, of course.  But then we get to verses 2 and 3.  Here, God looks down upon all people and sees all of us to be lacking in goodness.  The divine conclusion: “No one does good, not a single one” (53:3).  With hyperbolic rhetoric and poetic intensity, the psalmist underscores the truth that all of us, to one extent or another, share in the folly of those who reject God and do what’s wrong.  Thus we mustn’t let the fact that some “fools” are more foolish than we are become an excuse for us to ignore our own failure to live according to God’s wisdom.

In Romans 3,  the Apostle Paul quotes this passage from Psalm 53 (or 14, see Rom. 3:10-12).  He concludes that all people have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (3:23).  This bad news of human folly sets up the good news of the Gospel:  “Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins” (3:24).   Thus we must not boast of our right-standing with God, since it’s nothing that we have earned.  Rather, we humbly and gratefully receive God’s grace and seek to share it with those who are still caught in their folly.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
Do you ever look upon others in their folly as a way of building yourself up? How might Psalm 53 alter your perspective and practice?

PRAYER: O Lord, you know how easy it is for me to look upon the folly and evil of others in order to build myself up. I can think, “At least I’m better than them!” But this psalm reminds me of my own folly, even in thinking that somehow I am categorically better than others. Today I’m reminded of the fact that all have sinned, including me. Left to my own devices, there is no way I can cleanse myself of sin or be righteous in your sight.

Yet you have done what I cannot do. Through Christ, you have declared that I am righteous. You have drawn me into a right relationship with you, so that I might live in a new way, set free from folly. Help me, dear Lord, to live each day for you and by your power. Though I will continue to sin, may sin’s hold on my life diminish. May I flourish in goodness because of my relationship with you.

All praise be to you, gracious God, because, having seen the evil of humankind, you reach out in love to save us . . . including me! Amen.

Visit them online at http://www.TheHighCalling.org

I found in reading Mustang’s wonderful story about the natural bravery and selflessness of children, drove this devotional home for me.  You can read the short Sunday Reflection here on Social Sense – Giving When It Counts.

July 12, 2009 Posted by | Commentaries, Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , , | 3 Comments

Daily Reflection and Prayer – Mark D. Roberts

Daily Reflection and Prayer
by Mark D. Roberts
Laity Lodge Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence

Defending Truth, Humility, and Justice

READ Psalm 45:1-17

In your majesty, ride out to victory,
defending truth, humility, and justice.
Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds!
[Psalm 45:4]

When I was a boy, I loved watching the Adventures of Superman on our black-and-white Motorola television set. How I longed to be just like that “strange visitor from another planet” who fought a “never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.”

Superman, ironically enough, has much in common with the king who is praised in Psalm 45. This psalm is unusual in that it is addressed, not to God or to the people of Israel, but to the king on the occasion of his wedding (45:13-15). In verse 4, the psalmist urges the king to “ride out to victory, defending truth, humility, and justice.” That’s not exactly “truth, justice, and the American way,” but two out of three ain’t half bad.

When we pray for our leaders, as Scripture urges us to do (1 Tim. 2:2), we should ask the Lord to lead them in the ways of truth, humility, and justice. Yet Psalm 45:4 also provides a model for our behavior in the world. We too are to be people of truth, humility, and justice.

As people of truth, we will speak and live in a way that reflects God and his revelation. In a world of falsehood, in which truth itself is under attack, we will seek the truth in all things, stand for the truth in what we say and do.

As people of humility, we will never speak the truth in a way that is haughty, as if the truth belongs to us.  Moreover, we will always see ourselves as subjects of the King of kings, and offer our lives to him and to others as servants.  Thus we will imitate the humble servanthood of Jesus.

As people of justice, we will treat all people fairly and will work for a world that offers justice to all. We will be especially committed to doing justice for the poor and powerless. Where we have been given authority, in our work, our families, our churches, or our community, we will strive for just systems that reflect the character of God.

When you “ride out” today into the world, defend truth, humility, and justice as God’s viceroy, God’s servant.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How can you express your commitment to truth today?  How can you live with humility?  How can you seek God’s justice in your part of the world?

PRAYER:   O Lord, even as the king was to be a person of truth, humility, and justice, so am I. You have called me to speak and to live truthfully. I am to imitate the humility of Jesus and to seek your justice in all things. Help me, dear Lord, to be this kind of person in all that I do.

Even as I go through this day, may your Spirit bring to mind ways that I can be more truthful, more humble, and more just. To you be all the glory. Amen.

June 14, 2009 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , | 5 Comments

Let God Transform You

Daily Reflection and Prayer
by Mark D. Roberts
Laity Lodge Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence

Let God Transform You

READ Romans 12:1-2

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. [Romans 12:2].  If we are to offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), we have a crucial role to play. We must choose to say “No” to the ways of the fallen world.

But that’s not the whole story. You will be able to discern and do God’s will only when you “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” The original Greek calls us to “be transformed,” not by our own efforts, but by the power of God.

The verb meaning “be transformed” utilizes a Greek mood that conveys an ongoing process.  Transformation doesn’t happen automatically,  once-and-for-all,  when we first put our faith in Christ.   Rather, it is a life-long process of opening ourselves to God’s renewing power.

Notice that God transforms you by “changing the way you think.” This renewed mind comes as you allow Scripture to teach you God’s truth.   It comes as you reflect upon the Bible,  using it as the basis for your daily prayers.   A new mind comes when you gather with other believers to study the Word,  to hear it proclaimed,  and to experience it in the sacraments.  Though we cannot transform ourselves,  we can participate in that which opens our minds to the Spirit.   As this happens,  we will be able to know God’s will so that we might desire it and do it.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How has God transformed you by changing the way you think?   What activities of your life help you to be available to God’s ongoing renewal?

PRAYER:   O Lord, I can see evidence of your transformation in my life,  and for this I give you thanks and praise.   But I am so aware of how much more transformation is needed.   I confess how much I still think as the world thinks,  valuing that which really doesn’t matter and devaluing that which does matter.   Forgive me,  Lord, for my worldly ways of thinking.

By your Word and the power of your Spirit,  I ask that you will continue to transform me.   Give me a new mind,  Lord, the mind of Christ!   May I think your thoughts after you.   May my heart beat in sync with yours.Help me, gracious God,  to know your will, to desire what you desire,  and to do it with gusto.   May I offer my whole self to you each day as a living sacrifice! I pray in the name of Jesus, who makes this possible.   Amen.

Visit The High Calling online

March 26, 2009 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , , , | 1 Comment

Sorrow for Those Who Do Not Know Christ

Daily Reflection and Prayer
by Mark D. Roberts
Laity Lodge Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence

Sorrow for Those Who Do Not Know Christ

READ Romans 9:1-5

My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ! —if that would save them. [Romans 9:2-3]

The transition from Romans 8 to Romans 9 is a sharp and surprising one.  Paul has just affirmed the incredible good news of God’s love for us, a love that will never be taken away from us.  But then he changes gears dramatically, admitting “My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief.” Why?  Because so many of his Jewish brothers and sisters have not recognized what God has done in Jesus Christ.  God’s own “adopted children” (v. 4), those who had received his manifold gifts as his chosen people, did not see in Jesus the fulfillment of God’s plan for them.  And this fills Paul’s heart with grief because he cares so deeply for his fellow Jews.

As we make our way through Romans 9-11, we’ll reflect further on the playing out of God’s faithfulness to the Jews.  For now I want to focus on Paul’s grief for those who don’t know Christ.  This anguish comes, in part, from Paul’s compassion for the Jewish people.  It also stems from his experience of God’s love in Christ, that which is, for Paul, the most wonderful thing in all creation.  Thus Paul aches because he wants those he loves so much to know the inestimable love of God in Christ.

Many of us know this sort of sorrow.  It comes when dear friends or family members don’t know the love of God in Christ. Because we love them so much, we want them to experience the wondrous love of God.  I have spent many times as a pastor with parents weeping over their children who aren’t Christians, or with husbands aching because their wives don’t know Christ.  Paul’s example suggests that this kind of sorrow is not to be neglected.  Rather, it moves us to be faithful in praying that those we love will come to know the Lord.  It also encourages us to be a channel of God’s love to others, so that they might be drawn to Christ through us.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Are there people in your life for whom you have sorrow because they are far from the Lord?   What do you do with this sorrow?

PRAYER:   Dear Lord, when we experience the joy of knowing you, we want others to feel that same joy.  When we delight in the assurance of our salvation, we want those we love to have this same confidence.  Thus when our loved ones do not recognize you, our hearts are heavy.  Like Paul, we are filled with sorrow, wanting so very much for those we love to know your all-surpassing love for themselves.

I expect, Lord, that our sorrow is like your own sorrow in some small way.  You created us to be in relationship with you, to know your love and live our lives in service to you.  But we have wandered far away from your love.  And so many have never returned, like the Prodigal Son, to your forgiving embrace.  So as we feel sorrow for those who don’t know you, we are sharing a bit of your heart.

May this sorrow not leave us until those we love come to know you.  Instead, may it motivate us to prayer and to living in a way that your love is evident in us. O Lord, may those in our lives who don’t know you see your grace in us.  May they be drawn to you. Reach out to them, dear Lord, even today.   Amen.

February 24, 2009 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , | Leave a comment

God Is on Your Side

Daily Reflection and Prayer

by Mark D. Roberts
Laity Lodge Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence

God Is on Your Side

READ Romans 8:31-32

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?   If God is for us, who can ever be against us? [Romans 8:31]

It’s hard to imagine better news than this:   God is for us! This means God is on your side.   God is there to help you when you need it. God is cheering you on. God is in your corner. God has your back. Now that’s great news, don’t you think?

The rhetoric of Romans 8:31 doesn’t mean that we literally have no enemies.   At times, people will oppose us. More profoundly, in this life, we are in a spiritual battle with sin and the powers of darkness.   So, yes, there are forces that are against us.   But, when we consider the fact that God is on our side, the power of our enemies shrinks in comparison.   We have no need to fear because the very Creator of the universe is backing us up.  Thanks be to God!

Of course, the fact that God is for us does not mean that he blesses everything we choose to do.   God is not some blind force that we yield for our purposes.   Rather, the Almighty seeks our very best.   When we get off the right path,  the God who is for us doesn’t send us on our merry way.   Rather, he leads us back to the right way.

When I try to understand God being for me, I think of how I feel about and am committed to my own children. I want the best for them.   I cheer them on.   When they go astray, I yearn to get them back on the straight and narrow.  When they suffer, my heart breaks.  I would give anything for my children to flourish in this life.

So it is with God,  my Heavenly Father,  only so much more.   God is for me—and you—in the most exquisite way.  This great news gives us confidence to live boldly for him each day.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Do you think of God as being on your side?  Or do you think of God as being against you?  How might the truth that God is for you transform your life?

PRAYER: O Lord, I’ve read Romans 8:31 a hundred times.  Maybe five hundred.  Yet whenever I stop and think about what it says, I am blown away.  Not only are you “for” humanity in general, but y ou are also “for” me.  You are on my side.  My side!  What a wonder!  It’s amazing enough that you even think about me, that I matter to you.  But the fact that you are for me in a profound way is truly astounding.

When I face opposition, may I have confidence in the fact that you are on my side.  May I turn to you for wisdom, for direction, for encouragement, for safety.  Help me, Lord, not to be afraid, but to trust in you each and every day.

Gracious God, even as you are for me, I pray that I might be for you.  May I live my life for your purposes and glory. May I seek to honor you in all that I do, at work and at play, at home and at church, in my private life and public life. In the name of Jesus, who proves that you are for me, Amen.

Hat tip to Mark Roberts and the High Calling

February 19, 2009 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , , | Leave a comment

God’s Daily Word – Steve Troxel

Love Enough To Let Go

In the message “Their Field of Pigs” we considered the parable of the prodigal son and were encouraged to remember that God will use every tool available (even pigs) to draw His children Home. Our highest desire for our children must be to see them secure in the arms of God. Notice that in this parable there’s no mention of the father between the time the son left and when he returned home. The father appears to have watched his son leave and then simply waited for his return.

The father must have known of his son’s condition while away; “this son of mine was dead and is alive again” (Luke 15:24). There must have been many reports of the son’s activities which were openly discussed with the rest of the family: “The older brother became angry…’this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home'” (Luke 15:28,30). And yet, while the son was away, the father never once stepped in to “rescue” him.

Was the father lazy and uncaring? Was this simply the product of a macho culture that didn’t show much emotion? Or rather, was this a father who truly knew how God’s grace could work a difficult situation toward a wonderful good?

James 1:2-4
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

We often reference this passage during times of personal trial. These verses encourage us to understand the purpose of our difficult times and to trust God so fully that we actually rejoice because we know He is using our trials to make us complete.

Many of us understand and at least try to apply these verses in our own life. But it’s an additional step of faith (a very big step) to trust and apply these verses in the life of others – especially those we dearly love. If we are to rejoice in our own trials because of the good being worked within us, there is also a sense in which we should rejoice in the trials of others.

As painful as it must have been, the father allowed God to complete His work – even though it meant his son would actually long to eat with the pigs! And yes, this father loved his son.

When someone we love goes astray, let’s continue to lift them up in prayer – always let them know they are loved and continually speak a gentle message of truth. Let’s NEVER give up hope, but let’s allow God to finish the glorious work He’s begun. Let’s trust Him above ALL else and love enough to let go.

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February 18, 2009 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , | 2 Comments

The High Calling Daily Reflection

Daily Reflection and Prayer
by Mark D. Roberts
Laity Lodge Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence

God Works All Things Together for Good 

READ Romans 8:28-30

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. [Romans 8:28

—I grew up hearing Romans 8:28 in the King James Version, which proclaimed: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  This translation, though possible in Greek, made “all things” the subject of “work together for good,” as if the world was somehow endowed with the ability to make sure that good prevailed over evil.

The New Living Translation, along with many contemporary biblical translations, chooses another possible rendering of the Greek, making God the specific actor of the sentence.  Rather than having all things work out for good, in this version “God causes everything to work together for good.”  Surely this captures the fundamental message of Romans 8:28, no matter how you translate the original Greek.

In this fallen world, good and evil are mixed together like flowers and weeds in a wild garden.  We all experience both blessing and suffering. Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of the bad that happens in our lives, especially when it is laced with injustice.  But God, in his providence, is able to weave all things in life together into a tapestry.  When we finally look upon the finished product of our life, we’ll see the beautiful picture God has been weaving.

In the meanwhile, when bad things happen in our lives, we hold on to the promise that God will use them for good, not just his good, but our good, if we love him and are part of his sovereign purpose.  Thus we can endure the hard times, confident that God is using them for the best. Our task is to be faithful to God,  letting the difficulties of life be part of God’s work in and through us.  Thus, as Howard Butt Jr., has said, we will learn to be “good stewards of pain.”

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you experienced hard things in life,  things that you later understood to be part of God’s good work in your life?   What helps you to trust God when things in your life aren’t going as you had hoped? 

PRAYER: Gracious God, how glad I am that you cause everything to work together for good in my life.   As I look back upon hard times—and they were really hard—I can see how you were at work through them. You are not the author of evil, Lord.  You never do what’s wrong.  Yet you can use even wrongdoing in your sovereign plan. How marvelous!

When I experience hard times, help me, Lord, to have confidence in you.   Help me to wait faithfully, trusting that you are working all things together for good.   Amen

Hat tip to the High Calling website  http://www.TheHighCalling.org

February 17, 2009 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

Native American version of Amazing Grace – In Cherokee

One of my dear friends in Texas, a PGR brother, Navy veteran and Christian with a proud Mexican/American heritage,  knows of my Cherokee heritage and blessed me with this this morning, so I decided to share it here with a few facts.  My blog contributor shares the same heritage (Cherokee) and is going through some diffucult issues right now, so I would like to share this with him, as a departure from my usual devotions;  a unique look at faith and honoring God in America.

Certain facts about those of us who have Cherokee blood:  The Cherokee were monotheistic long before the European’s ever stepped on American soil.  They lived in dwellings built in a cabin style, hunted and farmed and their roles were determined by which of the seven clans they were born into.  The Clan was determined by their mothers clan, rather than their fathers clan.  They had a central form of government, a council house in each community where the leaders of each clan met to determine tribal policy and laws.  They were the only native American tribe to have a written language and published their own newspaper.  As far as I have been able to ascertain in my limited reading, they also were the only monotheistic tribe.

In this video, though the art is beautiful, it mostly reflects the appearance and traditions of the plains indians, but the words are in Cherokee.  It is a peaceful and enjoyable way to start the morning, and I say, Gracias por compartir el amor mi amigo Miguel.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Commentaries, Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , | 15 Comments

From The Higher Calling.org

Daily Reflection and Prayer
by Mark D. Roberts
Laity Lodge Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence

God Is Thinking of You

READ Psalm 8:1-9

What are people that you should think about them,  mere mortals that you should care for them? [Psalm 8:4]
I can’t read Psalm 8:4 without remembering how it sounds in the older translations: “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” (KJV).  And I can’t hear the classic translation of this verse without thinking of Emerson Hall at Harvard University. That’s where the philosophy department was located, so,  as a “phil” major,  I spent hundreds of hours in Emerson Hall.  This center of humanistic thinking, where most teachers and students were at best agnostic,  if not atheistic,  had carved into stone on the outside of the building this line from Psalm 8.   Inside it could have been, “What is God that thou are mindful of him?”  Yet, outside, it said in permanent stone: “What is man that Thou art mindful of him.”  (For a photo of this inscription,  check my website.)

Increasingly, our society is filled with people who look upon God with arrogance. Their haughty pride is about as far from the attitude of Psalm 8 as one can get.   Yet for those of us who know God, we are amazed that God thinks of us and cares for us.  More amazing still is the fact that God loves us so much he took our sin upon himself in his Son, so that we might have relationship with God forever. Amazing!

God is thinking of you today because he cares about you.  He has created you like him and has redeemed you so that you might live your life with him and be a partner in his work in this world.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:  Do you ever stop to think that the God of the universe is thinking of you?   How does that make you feel?   What difference might this truth make in your life?

PRAYER: O Lord,  how easily I can take all of this for granted.  Of course you are thinking of me.  I’ve known this pretty much my whole life.  It’s old news. But then I step back for a moment from my presumption.  I think of the fact that the God of the universe cares about me.  Me?  Me!  Astounding!  This may be old news, but it is still good news.
Thank you, awesome God, for thinking of me. Thank you for paying attention to me and for desiring relationship with me.  Thank you for opening up through Christ;  a way for me to know you and live my life with you.  How wonderful you are to me!   Amen.

January 25, 2009 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

We need GOD today – more than ever

Nothing is impossible for you

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

From the Higher Calling this week – by L. L. Barket

It never ceases to amaze me how little understanding of exactly what faith is about,  is demonstrated by the non-believers who seem to feel so threatened by it, that they have to insult and persecute the believers.   It’s as if they believe the only way to not be labeled hypocrites is to totally remove the part of man’s nature that makes a man or woman human.   Being made a “new creature” does not mean you wake up perfect like Jesus,  you just have the connection, grace and hope.   But also the passion to get closer to God and his will.   I cannot tell you with scientific factoids and certainty why I have faith.   Faith is not based on things found on our worldly plain of existence, but rather on a personal inner experience.   Faith is believing in something you cannot prove with science, but your personal experience tells you it is there.   Jesus never said we would be perfect in our pursuit, only blessed with grace and forgiveness when we fall down or make mistakes in our chosen path to him.   This article written by Mr. Barket makes the point in a very special way, so I am posting it here to help further the understanding.

Just Plane Faith

1.18.09 BY L. L. Barkat

I despise flying. Sorry for the strong word, but it’s true. From the moment I step on a plane, I get this queasy feeling. When the aircraft rushes down the runway and shudders into the sky, I feel faint. The whole time we’re airborne, I feel weightless, but not in a good way. More like I’m being dangled over a pit of tigers—and the air between my toes and their teeth is far too thin for my liking.

Imagine the torture it is for me to fly to my annual business conferences. New York to Chicago is bad. New York to California? Unspeakable. All those hours suspended over the tiger pit. If only I could sleep, I could ignore my fears. But no. I fidget. I snack. I get up and go to the bathroom too many times. It’s all enough to make me want to stay on the ground.

That’s all in a year’s work. But there are days, weeks, even months when my faith also feels like a flight to California. I hurtle down some theological runway, and I’m sure this time I’ll crash. I fuss and fidget and worry that everyone is going to know I really can’t do this faith thing . . . I’ve got insurmountable spiritual problems, too many doubts to qualify as a Christian.

This is one reason I love the Bible so much. I love the honesty of the people who wrote about faith giants who seemed likely to be disqualified. This honesty makes it possible for me to go to Moses and hear him say, with chutzpah, “Enough already, God. You birthed this people. I don’t want to lead them anymore.” Or I can listen to Abraham accuse, “Are you really going to destroy the good people of Sodom and let everyone think you’re just a bully in the sky?” I can get out of the boat with Peter, having trusted Jesus, only to realize that in fact I’m about to drown. I love the Bible for giving me permission to be afraid or angry or doubtful about faith.

I say the Bible gives me permission, because it’s not silent on these matters. Rather it speaks plainly about people who didn’t want to get airborne, were afraid of tigers (both real and hypothetical), didn’t have enough courage to sit in the exit row and open the door in case of emergency. And I see that faith is not the complicated business I sometimes make it out to be. Instead, it simply requires that I take the trip, step in, stay on, listen for instructions.

Fidgeting is allowed.

Find the whole article and The High Calling Website here.

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Commentaries, Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , , , | Leave a comment

A Baby’s Hug

I know this has made the rounds a few times, but I think it serves as a reminder to leave judgement to God and defines why the scriptures say we must be “as little children” to enter Heaven.

baby-hug


~ A Baby’s Hug ~

We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, ‘Hi.’ He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.

Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed.  We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments. 

We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. ‘Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,’ I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby’s ‘pick-me-up’ position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man.

Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time.

I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, ‘You take care of this baby. ‘ Somehow I managed, ‘I will,’ from a throat that contained a stone.  He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly as though he were in pain.  I received my baby, and the man said,  ‘God bless you, ma’am, you’ve given me my Christmas gift.’  I said nothing more than a muttered thanks.

With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car.  My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding  Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, ‘My God, my God, forgive me.’

I had just witnessed Christ’s love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes.  I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not.  I felt it was God asking, ‘Are you willing to share your son for a moment?’; when He shared His for all eternity. How did God feel when he put his baby in our arms 2000 years ago.

The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me, ‘To enter the Kingdom of God , we must become as little children.’

If this has blessed you, please bless others by sharing it. Sometimes, it takes a child to remind us of what is really important. We must always remember who we are, where we came from and, most importantly, how we feel about others. The clothes on your back or the car that you drive or the house that you live in does not define you at all;  it is how you treat your fellow man that identifies who you are.

‘It is better to be liked for the true you, than to be loved for who people think you are…….’

December 29, 2008 Posted by | Commentaries, Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , , | Leave a comment

God’s Daily Word

Off The Throne

After the birth of Jesus, Magi (wise men) came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2). When King Herod heard about this he became greatly disturbed. Herod had been appointed King of the Jews by the Roman government; but he was only partially Jewish and not well accepted by the people.

King Herod knew of the Jewish scriptures and how the people were waiting for the Messiah; “The government will be on His shoulders” (Isaiah 9:6).  He heard the words of the prophet which told where the new ruler would be born; “Out of you {Bethlehem} will come for Me one who will be ruler over Israel” (Micah 5:2).  Herod viewed the news of this new ruler as a great threat.  How would this affect his right to be king? Would he lose power? prestige? control? …comfort!?

The potential harm was unbearable so Herod decided to take action.

Matthew 2:16
“He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.”

Many people today are not much different than Herod.  Even when we recognize Jesus and clearly see our need, we fear the loss of our ability to direct our own path.  We may not actually take steps to destroy Christ, but the thought of releasing control seems unbearable.  Somehow, we’ve been taught that submission equates to failure. But the reality is that true “success” is only found in Christ, and true comfort is only obtained by being set free from the power of sin and the entanglement of this world.

Jesus was, and always will be, very threatening to those who insist on sitting on a throne.  It’s foolishness to think Jesus will accept the position of Co-King.  Those who attempt to enter a relationship with Jesus while trying to maintain their “right to rule” will never really know Him, and certainly never experience His peace.

Jesus will give Himself to “whoever believes in Him” (John 3:13).  But in return, He asks for our total devotion: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).  We give Him proper worship – the worship He deserves – only as we submit and exalt Him above all else; “He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:30).

During this season of celebration, let’s ensure our relationship with Jesus is aligned with God’s plan. He is the rightful Ruler and King – the Savior and Lord! Let’s trust and worship Him with all our heart, and refuse to be threatened by His right to lead.  Let’s decide once and for all to relinquish control and get our pride-filled self off the throne.

Have a Christ Centered Day!

Steve Troxel
God’s Daily Word Ministries

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Verses and Psalms: http://www.gdwm.org/verses

Scripture references: The Holy Bible: New International Version.
Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

December 27, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , | Leave a comment

Carnival of Christmas on CatHouse Chat

christmas-stockings

Kat over at CatHouse Chat has put together the 2008 Carnival of Christmas on her blog, and I must say, if you haven’t been there before, it is simply amazing.  She provides the best of the best in Holiday Spirit and Heart from all over the conservative blogsphere, and it is a must read, mull over and enjoy piece.  Kat has managed to put a lot of work and time into finding delightful Christmas posts from all over the blogsphere, so it is worth scooting on over and checking out.  Thanks to Kat for honoring me with the the Pride of place this year along with Gayle at Dragon Lady’s Den.

Pride of place this year goes to Hoosier Army Mom, who reminds us of the men and women in our armed forces. These brave and unselfish citizens volunteered to serve our country in a time of war, and many are far away from home and family. Please remember them in your prayers, and go over to buy them some phone cards at the Online Military Exchange.Our second pride of place entry goes to Gayle, who writes of Christmas Lost and Found. Truly, this is a wonderful post about how God can – and does! – turn mourning into dancing, and works all things together for good to His called. Gayle is a perfect example of this year’s REJOICE! theme!

Thanks to Kat for a wonderful presentation on the theme Rejoice!

To everyone, have a wonderful, safe and memorable Christmas and joyous New Year.

December 25, 2008 Posted by | God / Jesus Christ | , , | Leave a comment

Cutting your teeth in battle – then getting them kicked out at home.

The Wall

Not to long ago, my son asked me a question. It got me thinking about every conversation I ever had with a Viet Nam Veteran over the years, in as much detail as I could remember. He wanted to know why so many of the Viet Nam era vets were so angry and frustrated, so son, I am dedicating this post to you.

My first experience with a Nam vet was my former brother-in-law, and the father of my nieces. He never spoke of any of his experiences, but I instinctively knew they were difficult, as his emotional lockdown in life truly bore the evidence. He mostly talked about his bitter hatred for Jane Fonda and the way the government had ignored the needs of the vets, after they returned home again.

Then at nineteen, when I married my first husband and my first neighbor turned out to be a drafted, Army vet, who spoke some, but only about the better aspects, such as his friendships with others who shared the experience. Dave was a wonderful friend, but over the years I saw him descend into drug and alcohol abuse, the symptoms of what has happened to so many who were never given the help dealing with the mindset and memories of an ugly war.

Dave was a good man, he did his “duty”, did not shirk from it, and he returned to a society that was not only ungrateful, but totally unprecedented in its expression of hatred and loathing for those who served.  I have heard many a veteran talk about returning home to strangers and even people they knew well, and being spit on at airports and being called “baby killers”.

Remembering VietNam

Our government many times left the “wounded vets”, who were physically and mentally scarred, to their own devices to  recover on their own.  The numbers of vets returning that were allowed to “self destruct” is a statistic we will never know exactly and mostly because of all the ways and means that the destruction of their lives occurred.   But I know of two cases where one vet died running his motorcycle into an embankment and it was called an accident, and another who broke his wife’s neck while sleeping (he had a nightmare / flashback) and ended up dying in a prison/ mental hospital, probably from a broken heart and spirit.  Those are the casualties of war that are never reported as such.

One thing I do know is that many of these vets were left alone to deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder, the severe depression, and the ordeal of constantly living with the physical pain from their wounds, without any rehabilitative aide available for their minds and bodies. We were the “mental health and therapy for awareness” generation, and yet, we could not see that these vets were struggling, just to get back into being able to live and work normally?  I think their struggles were infinitely more important than someone coming to grips with their “inner child, dysfunctional upbringing or sexuality”.

And thus, the “Me and I Generation” marched on over the bleeding souls of our vets, in my humble opinion.

VietNam Vet

While spending time with many of these vets, during my time with the PGR, I came to understand that many have found their own healing in making sure our military today knows that they are supported and honored here at home. The largest amount of support organizations for troops today have come from and been inspired by, our very same socially shamed, Viet Nam Veterans, as well as the family members of those currently serving and families of fallen troops in the War on Terror. The mantra I hear and see acted upon by my honored Nam Vet friends is “Never Again”.

Overall, there has been a great healing brought on by these hero’s of old by seeing to it that no returning vet today will feel what they felt or be treated the way they were treated, just because they answered their country’s call to duty and served selflessly and with honor. To these troops of the past, I salute you and vow to honor you and your service to my dying breath. Thank you all and Welcome Home to every soldier, sailor, marine and airman who ever served this country!

In the coming months, you will probably see a swing in my blog posts. It is all well and fine to debate politics, but for the most part, there are plenty of good reads on the web, done by people who know their facts and present them intelligently, and in some cases, on the extreme level. This is not where my heart is leading me.

VietNam Memorial

One of my dear blog friends, GM Roper has served, is from a military family, and has also been involved with psychiatry and counselling  for most of his adult life.   He has brought to my attention a service organization that is trying to fill in the gaps in mental health care for returning vets, by lining up professional volunteers to help,  by donating one hour a month to veterans returning today, and I want to get involved.

The Wounded Warriors Project, as well as,  other troop support organizations, have long been near and dear to my heart.  The only “Real Change” comes from work and dedication, not from arguing, insulting, and whining about things you are not empowered to alter. I will continue to honor my Savior here as well, since all I do and all that I’m capable of accomplishing in this life, I owe to Him, who gives me the resolve to get it done.

Coming from an environment where service to your country is honored and if one disagrees with a war, the blame is firmly placed where it belongs, with our leaders, not our troops, I’m sure my son had a hard time understanding this part of our history. I hope this post answers that question for him and many who were born after all this happened.

God bless this country and unite us all in peace and freedom always.

December 23, 2008 Posted by | Commentaries, God / Jesus Christ, Government, Our Military | , , | 10 Comments

The danger of taking things out of context.

All things being fair, I am going to explain why these people, in accordance with the Bible, are simply wrong.  This is from my perspective and I will go through the story and add my little notes and then comment at the end.  Forgive the color coding, but you are dealing with an ADHD blogger.  It’s the only way I could “disect” the story.  And note this is my humble opinion, and I’m open to other thoughts on the subject.

Woman Says Church Threatening To Make Sins Public

POSTED: Monday, December 15, 2008 – Source:  Jacksonville News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A divorced Jacksonville woman said her former church has threatened to “go public with her sins” and tell the congregation about her sexual relationship with her new boyfriend.

Let’s look at Matthew 18:12

12″What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  14  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

How happy do you think Jesus would be about a church “persecuting the lamb that wandered off” rather than doing something to help her see the light and return restored?

Rebecca Hancock said harassment from Grace Community Church in Mandarin over her sex life caused her to leave, but she said that didn’t put an end to the problem. She said she received a letter from the church’s elders telling her the church plans to make her personal life very public.  “I’m basically run out.  I’m the church harlot,”  Hancock said.

1 Corinthians 5:11
But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

1 Corinthians 7:2
But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.

Ephesians 5:3
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these
are improper for God’s holy people.

Hebrews 13:4
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

These scriptures, and there are many more, refer to what Christ taught about how Christians are supposed to behave sexually.  God’s design is that sex should be part of marriage.  If you are having sex, even with someone you love, you are sinning.  Suck it up Rebecca, you are acting as a harlot and not a Christian when you engage in sex with a man who is not your husband.  But, I believe your sin is between you and God.

The 49-year-old said she has been dating a man for a while and she said members of the congregation at Grace Community Church haven’t been happy about the relationship.  “Because I have a boyfriend that I’m involved with … to not be married to that person is a sin,” Hancock said.

She said the issue caused her to leave the church. However, she said the church has not let go of her.  The letter Hancock received from the church states that because she has refused to end her sexual relationship with her boyfriend, “you leave us with no other choice but to carry out the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ” … “In accordance with Matthew 18:17 we intend to ‘tell it to the church.'”

“On January 4, my sins will be told to the church, publicly, with my children sitting in the church and my friends,” Hancock said.  The pastor of Grace Community Church, Dr. T. Scott Christmas, told Channel 4 he had no comment.

Pastors with whom Channel 4 spoke on Monday said announcing a sin to a congregation is not abnormal. They said it’s written in the Bible to punish sinners who continue to sin.  The difference in Hancock’s case is that she has left the church, and the pastors said that’s is usually where punishment ends.

Despite the church’s letter stating its biblical backing, Hancock said she has backed out of the church and they should leave her alone because she is no longer a member.  “I am a Christian, and that will never change.  My relationship with Jesus has to do with me and Jesus, and he knows my heart,”  Hancock said.

Yes Rebecca, he knows your heart, but you are engaging in sin.  You can’t be “Christlike” (Please note, I’m not saying a Christ clone, I am saying Christlike, which is what a Christian should strive for)  and break the fundamental rules of the God.  To Rebecca’s credit, she left the church in question and this is where I have issue with what this Church is doing.

The book of Matthew does have three steps that the church talked about in taking action against a member who is in sin.  Hancock said she is now attending a different church, and said she is planning to send a letter to Grace Community Church to make sure it’s understood that she no longer a member.

This is the passage in question:

A Brother Who Sins Against You

15″If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'[c] 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.18″I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be[d]bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.19″Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Please note that is says “if a brother sins against you”.  This is important, because it is not saying “if a member of the church sins against God”.  The entire passage is about public sin that hurts the body of Christ (members of the Church).  If she was having sex with a  man in the church who was married to someone else, that would be a public sin that would hurt the entire church once it was known.  Or members that engage in gossip about one another would be committing a public sin.  Those sort of sins are the petty bickering  and immoral behaviors that can destroy a church.  In this passage, Matthew is trying to give Christ’s instruction on how to defuse these situations so healing and forgiveness can take place or the offending sinner can be called out.  When this woman left the church, she is no longer a member, but more importantly, the nature of her sin is between her and God.  What she does in her own home is not a “sin against any person but herself”.  By not following God’s  plan and the laws he has given us through Christ, she drives a wedge between her and God.

The people in this church are taking this passage out of context to justify abusing a lost soul.  If she remained in the church, was participating in active roles and refused to repent and turn away from her sin, they would have the right to call her out on it, but that is not the case.  This is the kind of fundamentalism I have never cared for.  Having been a Christian in a state of sin for many years myself, I know how long it takes sometimes, for a some people to “get it”.  Running them out of the assembly is not the way to enlighten them and help them grow in faith.  This kind of treatment of people, even if they are “weak brothers/sisters”, is not part of the love our Savior exemplified.  We don’t become all knowing or mature in our faith within 24 hours of the commitment to the Lord, it takes time to grow in faith and mistakes sometimes have to be made to bring us where the Lord wants us. This is my personal opinion and I welcome any comment or thoughts on this.  God Bless.

December 20, 2008 Posted by | Commentaries, God / Jesus Christ, In the News | , , | 2 Comments

God’s Daily Word by Steve Troxel

Where Are You

All over the world, people are asking how to strengthen their relationship with God.  Many have wandered from His path and become entangled in the weeds.  We never plan to leave God’s path and become entangled; rather, it seems we simply take a wrong turn and then drift through small steps of compromise.  How does this happen?  And once we’ve drifted, how do we return and guard against drifting once again?

Man first wandered from God’s path in the Garden of Eden.  The devil deceived Eve and caused her to disobey God’s command; Eve ate fruit from the forbidden tree and gave some to her willing husband.  As soon as they ate the fruit, they became aware they were naked and covered themselves with leaves.

Genesis 3:8-9
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?'”

The very first sin caused the delusion that it was possible to hide from God.  This delusion continues today!  We sit among the weeds and think God doesn’t notice – that He doesn’t see us in the midst of our sin.  But the all-knowing Creator of the Universe knew exactly where Adam was hiding.  God wasn’t searching through the bushes trying to find His lost creation.  No, God was speaking directly to Adam: “Adam, why are you in this condition?  Do you even know where you are and how far you have drifted?”

Adam’s willful disobedience caused him to tremble as he answered: “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (Genesis 3:10).  Adam was lost.  Somehow, even in their garden paradise, Adam and Eve had wandered in their relationship with God.  The devil had found them alone – not walking with their Father – and began his great deception.  Now, sin had caused shame, fear, and separation.

ALL sin has its beginning in our wandering from the presence of God.  No one “falls” into sin by a momentary slip; rather, sin is the result of a long slow drift away from intimate fellowship with God.  Drifting from His presence causes us to become more susceptible to sin, which continues the cycle of even further separation.  Soon, we have become entangled and completely lose sight of His path.

The way back always begins with a humble and repentant heart.  We must confess we have strayed, admit our straying as sin, and ask for the strength and guidance to return.  God will immediately shine His light, strengthen our steps, and ask us to simply focus on loving Him with all our heart.

Let’s return to the presence of God and be determined to never leave.  Let’s continually examine our life and make sure we’re walking right by His side whenever God asks, “Where are you?”

November 27, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , , , | 1 Comment

God’s Daily Word by Steve Troxel

Highly Valued Mist

In the message “More Than Grasshoppers” we considered the spies who were sent into the promised land to evaluate the enemy.  We saw that without a proper understanding of God and how we fit into His plan, the enemies in our life will always appear as undefeatable giants.This sense of walking among the giants causes many of us to struggle with insecurities, low self esteem, and general feelings of inadequacy.  While it’s true we are called to, “in humility consider others better than ourselves” (Philippians 2:3), we also must walk with a sense of identity, purpose, and worth.  And while it’s true that in the context of eternity we are “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14), this seemingly insignificant “mist” is dearly loved by the Creator of the Universe.

Our real sense of identity, purpose and worth, will only be realized as we understand that our value is never attained through the things of this world which all pass away; it only comes from our Heavenly Father who has adopted us as His child and made us an heir of His Kingdom!

Romans 8:15-17
“You received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”

The eternal inheritance we receive through this adoption makes everything of the world seem extremely insignificant.  We are a child of God!  This is our identity.  While we walk on this earth, we are being “conformed into the likeness of His Son” (Romans 8:29).  This is our purpose.  And in our adoption, we are made “co-heirs with Christ.”  This is our worth!

As this world tries to pull us down, let’s remember our Father owns ALL; “Every animal of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10).  He owns it all, created it all, and nothing is beyond His reach.  As others try to continually show us our faults and put us down, let’s remember that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us – one day we will be made perfect and walk down streets of “pure gold, like transparent glass” (Revelation 21:21).

Let’s pull these truths together into a victorious Christian life.  Let’s hold on very loosely to anything of the world which artificially determines our worth and passionately cling to our worth in Christ; “For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).  Let’s live our life as a “vanishing mist” while remembering we are co-heirs with Jesus in the Kingdom of God – let’s live as an honored, protected, and highly valued mist.

To further understand our value to God, read this wonderful post on Social Sense which states our Source of Strength … from the book of Phillipians , chapter 4

November 22, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , | Leave a comment

God’s Daily Word by Steve Troxel

More Than Grasshoppers

After Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery, they were guided by God to the edge of Canaan – the land promised to Abraham.  God instructed Moses to send twelve men to explore the land; “See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many” (Numbers 13:18).

The twelve “spies” traveled through the entire length of Canaan and brought back their report.  All twelve traveled the same path, but only Joshua and Caleb saw the land and its inhabitants through the promises of God: “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land” (Numbers 14:7-8).  The other ten saw great danger and an enemy who was too big to be defeated.

Numbers 13:31-33
“We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are. The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

The promised land was truly a land flowing with milk and honey, but it was also a land with many enemies.  Joshua and Caleb saw the same enemy as the other ten spies, but they had a much clearer view and understanding of God.  They knew if God was on their side, the size and strength of the enemy didn’t matter – God would provide the victory.

We often face the same fear as the other ten.  God wants us to enter into His promised land, take possession, and reside there for the rest of our days; but there are often enemies which fill us with fear and make us feel small and insignificant.  Enemies may come in the form of addictions, choices of entertainment, finances, or worldly priorities.  We may even face more tangible enemies who threaten to cause us physical or emotional pain.  All these enemies keep us out of the promised land, all appear to be undefeatable giants.  But with God on our side, ALL can be overcome!

Without a clear understanding of who we are in Christ, every enemy appears to tower over us; “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Apart from Him we ARE but grasshoppers.  But when we place our trust in God and allow Him to work through us, our posture before the enemy is greatly strengthened; “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

God’s land of promise – the contentment of His presence – is waiting for us to enter in and take possession.  God did not create us to be fearful insects, but an image of the Most High!  Let’s know the One who gives us strength and victory in battle.  Let’s better understand that when God leads, we are much more than grasshoppers!

November 19, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , , | Leave a comment

God’s Daily Word by Steve Troxel

John 11:11-16 – Lesson #113

[Note: This is the verse by verse devotional series on the gospel of John.  My original plan was to send out a new message in this series every Friday – but I’ve not been very consistent with this plan.  All the previous lessons in this series are located on our web site.]

One of the mistakes I believe we are making in the church today is our rush to focus Christianity on the cross.  Now please understand what I mean.  The cross is absolutely essential – without the cross there is no forgiveness of sin, no Christianity.  But isn’t it also true that Christianity is something more.  Didn’t Jesus live among us as well as die for us?  And in His living didn’t He teach us truths and show us how to live and mature in our faith?

The disciples walked with Jesus hour after hour and day after day.  Jesus could have focused all His teaching on His future sacrifice for sin, but He didn’t.  Sure, He often demonstrated He was the Son of God; and He made sure His claims were clear;  “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28). But His technique for discipleship usually required wrestling with issues of trust and prioritized values.  It seems there are steps of maturity which can only be taken as they are lived out through various struggles.

Jesus received word that Lazarus was sick but then waited two days before saying He would return to Judea.  The disciples were content to wait because the Jews in Judea had already tried to kill Jesus – safety and comfort are good, aren’t they?  But Jesus taught that true safety is only found by walking in His light (John 11:9-10).

John 11:11-16
“These things He said, and after that He said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’ Then His disciples said, ‘Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.’ However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.’ Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with Him.'”


Jesus waited for Lazarus to die and then was glad He had not been with Lazarus to stop his death. Why?  Because Jesus was committed to the long and painful process of discipleship.  The disciples already believed, but they needed the deepening belief of a maturing faith.  The disciples were learning lessons on facing their fears, trusting God’s timing, and the glory of His power.  And these lessons could not be learned from a sermon.

The disciples had no idea what Jesus had planned.  But when Thomas realized that Jesus was resolved to go to Lazarus in spite of the danger, he too resolved to follow…even unto death.  This seems to be the method by which Jesus led His disciples.  Over a period of several years they were allowed to struggle with what it really meant to follow, what it really meant to believe.

Today, the plan of discipleship is much the same.  We are often led down paths we do not understand.  We ask questions and receive confusing answers.  We wrestle and become weary.  And still He calls, “Let’s go!”  And I suppose that’s the point.  We just don’t need all the answers.  We are simply called to follow and live out the life we have been given in Christ.  This is a life which loves God and reaches out to others at every opportunity.  Let’s learn to trust Him with all our heart and follow intimately close every hour of every day to the very end.

November 9, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | | Leave a comment

God’s Daily Word by Steve Troxel

A Famine of Hearing

Like most of the Old Testament prophets, Amos was chosen by God to deliver a message of repentance and judgement; “Seek the Lord and live, or He will sweep through the house of Joseph like a fire” (Amos 5:6).  God was calling His people to return, but they had wandered far from His presence and showed no interest in a life of worship.  The economy of their day was thriving and the people had few needs which went unfulfilled; they were content and saw little need for God.

Through Amos, God sent a strong warning.  Although He promises to answer all who respond to His call, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32), and He promises to be VERY patient, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), God also warns that the opportunity to hear His Word may not always be available.

Amos 8:11-12
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.  Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.'”

When we hear the Word of God, the door is open and we are in the middle of a God-directed opportunity.  At that moment we have the opportunity to respond to the truth and draw closer to our Heavenly Father.  But when we reject His Word, we begin to close the door and harden our heart – the opportunity begins to fade: “So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart'” (Hebrews 3:7-8).

We have been blessed to live during this time in history.  Yes, we face the unrelenting pressures of an over-indulgent, self-consumed society; but we have also been blessed with a wonderful abundance of the Word of God.  In most parts of the world we have the freedom to worship with other believers and full access to truth-filled teaching.  In fact, God’s Word has become so readily available that many of us take it for granted.

In the midst of our overflowing blessings, we are becoming complacent and no longer treasure His precious gift.  But what would happen if His Word was taken away?  What would the world be like if no one was allowed to speak or hear the Word of God?  What if we searched for His Word and it could not be found?

Our Heavenly Father loves us dearly.  He “wants ALL men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4); and He wants those who believe to be “conformed to the likeness of His Son”(Romans 8:29).  Our Father continues to call us to know Him with a greater and more intimate love.  Let’s make the most of this awesome opportunity by receiving the Word of God, in all its forms, with a hungry anticipation, and then by obediently responding to His call.  Let’s shake off ALL forms of complacency and rejoice that we do not yet live during a famine of hearing.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

God’s Daily Word by Steve Troxel

Run With Perseverance

Our life can be a long and sometimes difficult race.  We often grow weary and are in great need of rest.  But this race is not like any we have ever run before.  We do not compete against the other runners, nor do we all even run the same course.  We run the race marked out by our Heavenly Father; and yet, we ALL must strive toward the same finish line.

Hebrews 12:1-2
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

Perseverance means “to persist in spite of opposition or discouragement.”  But the original Greek includes the idea of patience and a determined endurance.  We are being told to patiently run the race – and to keep on running with determination and endurance – in spite of opposition or discouragement.  We are to rid our life of things that would slow us down and continue forward with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus.

The weeds along our path often try to wrap around our legs and pull us down.  This “sin that so easily entangles” can often be difficult to even recognize.  We may be running a clear path without a hint of weeds.  Everything has been going well and we feel immune to the temptations of this world.  But without our eyes fixed on Jesus – without our heart fully trusting Him for every step – our path can become covered before we even realize there’s a problem.

We must maintain an acute awareness of the condition of our path.  Weeds are not acceptable and must be cleared away (the word of God and prayer is an excellent weed killer!).  There are no circumstances where weeds add beneficial “flavor” or excitement – they ALWAYS hinder, steal and destroy!!

Our race is a long marathon, not a quick sprint.  In order to persevere, we must prepare for many hills and valleys (and weeds) along the way.  We must have a burning desire to one day boldly say; “I have fought the good fight,  I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).  Jesus endured the cross (finished the race) because of “the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).  And as we keep our eyes on Jesus as our eternal joy, we “will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3).

No matter what this day may bring, we must persist with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus until we hear Him say: “Well done, good and faithful servant….Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23).  Some days we may only be able to take small baby steps.  But that’s alright – we must continue and stay in the race!  We must run with the sole purpose of bringing Him glory and honor in ALL we do.  Our race can be filled with joy and peace, but we must commit to a life of absolute trust and run with perseverance!

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

Daily Reflection and Prayer

Daily Reflection and Prayer
by Mark D. Roberts
Laity Lodge Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence

God’s Comfort

READ Isaiah 40:1-2

“Comfort, comfort my people,”
says your God.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over
for all her sins.” [Isaiah 40:1-2]

With occasional oases of hope, the first thirty-nine chapters of Isaiah are a desert of divine judgment. But then, beginning with Isaiah 40, the tone changes. Though the Lord is still a God of justice and judgment, emphasis is placed on renewal. Thus God calls Isaiah to bring a word of comfort for his people: the days of punishment are over; the time of pardon has begun.

The Hebrew verb translated as “comfort” (nacham) means to console or calm down someone. This same verb appears later in Isaiah as the Lord says: “I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child” (66:13). For Judah, God’s comfort came especially in the good news of his new work of restoration.

God continues to comfort us today in a variety of ways. When we take our worries to him in prayer, God gives us the gift of his peace. When we remember his faithfulness in the past, we are calmed in the present. Often God’s comfort comes through his people, who care for us, suffer with us, pray for us, and share God’s love with us in tangible ways. Thus we have the chance, not only to receive divine comfort, but also to be instruments of this comfort to others.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
When have you experienced God’s comfort in the past?  Do you need his comfort today?  Who in your life needs to experience God’s comfort?  Are you willing to be a channel of his comfort?


PRAYER: Gracious Lord, how I thank you for your comfort. I think of times in my life when I was consumed by worry. When I opened my heart to you, holding nothing back, you granted me your peace. I realized once again that my life was in your hands, and therefore had no cause for worry.

Even as you have comforted me, may I share your comfort with others. Help me to be sensitive to those around me, to feel their worry and distress. Keep me from superficial platitudes that often make things worse rather than better. By your Spirit, may I feel along with others, and, at the same time, be a channel of your loving truth.

Amen.

http://www.TheHighCalling.org

October 26, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | , , | 2 Comments

GDW Devotional – 10-23-08- by Steve Troxel

Let it Die

During the three short years of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He performed many miracles and preached to crowds large and small.  But the moment of greatest acceptance came the week before Jesus was crucified as He entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  A large number had gathered from all over Israel in preparation of the Passover: “They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!'” (John 12:13).

Many would view this as the high point of Jesus’ ministry.  He had gained a great following and the people even hailed Him as the new King of Israel.  But Jesus knew this was not His Father’s will.  Jesus came for a much greater purpose than to be a temporary king; He came for an eternal glory which required His death.

John 12:24
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Jesus spoke these words in reference to His sacrifice on the cross which would occur in a few short days, but His message of death was also intended for us today.  Obviously He’s not saying we should all be physically crucified, but Jesus IS saying we must experience a death; “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Matthew 16:25)Paul explains this even more directly; “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5).

Our earthly nature is home to all our sinful desires, but it’s also the source of all the ambitions and dreams not formed by God.  When we tightly hold to our dreams and are driven (or drive others) by our own ambitions, we choke what God desires to accomplish and never see the full potential of Christ – never see the abundant life God desires us to live.

We have a tendency to dream and make plans, and then spend our time and energy pursuing the dream rather than truly pursuing Christ.  Our dream may even appear very Godly – we may strive for a dynamic ministry or children who love and follow God – but until we allow EVERYTHING within us to die and be replaced by the love of God, we will never experience His very best nor witness His most beautiful fruit; “and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Let’s allow the plans of Christ to reign absolutely supreme.  We were created for so much more than we can imagine!  Let’s cast off all sin and leave ALL we hold dear at His feet.  He will raise up what He desires to use for the glory of His name, but first we must resolve to let it die.

I have found from my own experience, until I laid down all my personal ideas about what “I” wanted, all my pain, all my insecurities and emotional wounds… my total self along with my self centered pursuits, I was not complete and I was operating according to the world’s idea of happiness.  The minute I died to the “old me” and put the control in my loving Savior’s hands I recieved the total healing of those old wounds and the knowledge and understanding of the Holy Spirit flowed through me.  When I started working at seeking His Will instead of my own desires things,  started working in my life. 

So many years I didn’t understand the peace, love and joy that was possible by just trusting God to bring me to what he wanted for me.  Our stubborn nature and tendency to let Satan have our ear and minds, cuts us off from the total joy and fruits of the spirit,  that by nature we crave.  It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, learning to trust God completely, and it is a process that I will continue with to the grave.  I slip and slide some, but I know, in the end my loving Father will make it all worth the work.  The rewards have been beyond anything I ever expected.  May God Bless you and keep you in his loving arms.

October 23, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

God’s Daily Word by Steve Troxel

Run According To His Plan

In baseball, the team with the most points at the end of the game wins. But if we attempt to apply the plan of baseball to the game of golf, we will lose every time. Golf is played with different rules and requires a different strategy. Needless to say, it’s critical to understand the rules and values of the game in which we are competing – we must know the plan for victory!

A rich man came to ask Jesus how to get eternal life. He had been a good citizen, treated others well, and accumulated much wealth; but Jesus gave an unexpected answer: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21). The rich man failed to see the connection and went away very sad.

Matthew 19:30
“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

Jesus came with a message that the plan of life is not as it seems. The first, by the world’s standard, does not automatically win.   When the clock of life ticks its last, it will not be the one with the biggest bank account, biggest house, or nicest car who will stand victorious – it won’t even be the one who pastors the largest church, feeds the most hungry, or tells the most people about Jesus. Rather, it will only be those who do the true work God requires; “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent” (John 6:29).

Have we completed the work of God?   Do we even value this “work”?

When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, He said; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). The greatest commandment ought to be our greatest priority and the foundation on which we build our life, our family, and our ministry. Though other things may be enjoyable, important, or even necessary, they must never be allowed to occupy the throne of our life.

Many of us feel like we’re falling behind because of our decision to follow Christ. We see others prosper and start to believe we must compromise in order to keep pace – but the game rules have changed!  God has a different plan – an eternal plan!!   The world around us has the wrong uniform, wrong equipment, and wrong play book.  The great deceiver would like to fill us with doubt, but we must not be swayed.

No matter how loud the competition yells that we’re going the wrong way, we must boldly continue on the path of truth.  The final victory has already been won and we are on the winning team! When God gave His Son and told us to believe, He turned the rules of the world system upside down.  Let’s forever follow our Coach, thank Him for every single breath, and steadily run according to His plan!

October 22, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

Offering Prayer

I found a very kewl prayer site today sponsored by Shepherd’s Care Ministries.  It offers prayers on just about anything you can think of.  You can go to the link here and check it out.  Very neat place to browse.

A Prayer About Perseverance In Perilous Times

Precious Father,
Precious Lord Jesus,
Wonderful Holy Spirit,
Thank you for being my Savior and Lord.
Thank you for these few moments of communion with you.
I love you Lord.
Thank you for your sacrifice for me on the Cross.
My world is awash in peril of nearly every kind.
Nature’s wrath is visited upon people in all corners of the globe.
War is being waged.
Economic strife builds day by day.
During the coming days be with me and give me your love so I can prevail over the darkness of my world.
During the coming days be with me and stand by me because I know I can persevere and be renewed through you.
During the coming days uplift me so I can find courage to stand against evil in all its forms because I know you are with me.
In your kingdom, I know I am called to be your child upon the earth.
Help me as I try to be your witness and show courage in the face of fear, doubt, and anxiety.
Inspire in me a clean heart and a clean mind seeking only to glorify your name as I do battle against the evil one.
Instill in me an unfaltering spirit.
In the name of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit who lives in me and touches me,
Amen

October 18, 2008 Posted by | God / Jesus Christ | , | Leave a comment

GDW Lesson #112 by Steve Troxel

John 11:7-10 – Lesson #112

The point of full surrender to the will of God is exciting…and sometimes extremely frustrating.  We know God calls us to trust Him in ALL things, but it often seems to make much more sense to trust in our own ability and rationalizations.  Even when we are resolved to follow Him at all cost,  He is often silent and has us wait for no apparent reason.

Lazarus was terribly sick when Martha and Mary sent for Jesus to come.  Jesus knew the full extent of the sickness and yet, “when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was” (John 11:6).  Why!?  Jesus gave a hint when He said this sickness is for the glory of God (11:4), but I sure would have found it difficult to just wait.

John 11:7-10
“Then after this He said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to Him, ‘Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?‘  Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day,  he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.  But if one walks in the night, he stumbles,  because the light is not in him.'”

So after waiting for two full days Jesus finally said it was time to go.  Thank You!  But notice that the disciples then began to object.  Going back into Judea was dangerous and they were quite comfortable in their current location doing their current ministry – change is scary! We will soon see a glorious reason for the delay but it’s interesting how Jesus used this opportunity to teach about complete trust.

The disciples had reason to be concerned.  They had just left Judea because “the Jews took up stones again to stone Him” (John 10:31).  Jesus was directing them back to the place of danger; yet, he also said this was where they would not stumble.  They would be secure because they would be walking in the light.

We must not move on until we understand this point.  Jesus is The Light! “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).  The only place where our footing is solid and secure is where the path is illuminated by Christ.   Why do we keep trying to walk our own path?   As soon as we leave His side we are in darkness and are sure to fall;  “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6).  We must practice and live a life of truth by refusing to walk in darkness!

The path of light is sure and true…but this does not say easy, safe, or without frustration.   We will not always understand the turns in the path of light, we may not always feel productive or even secure.  But if we desire a life which honors God with every step and is ultimately more satisfying and filled with peace and contentment then we must boldly,  and sometimes very patiently,  walk daily in the Light.

October 18, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

9/11 brought to you by… Abraham???

By Hoosier Army Mom – October 16, 2008

I have a friend here at work that is approximately in his late fifties and a lifetime autistic whom I like to talk with at break time. He is a sweet man who not only has never been married, but has never been on a date! Just a few years ago, he wasn’t able to engage in conversation but God has blessed him and you can take it from me, he does speak now, and he has two college degrees. I find him pretty fascinating. We discuss politics as he is a staunch Republican, and loves to discuss the Bible.

Today we were discussing how God sometimes gets sneaky about using us to do His Will, like in the book of Esther. Here she was living a lie to be with the man she loved, (nobody knew she was a Jew, which was Taboo) who happened to be the King. How she must have lived in mortal fear of “being found out”. But unknown to her, God put her there to save her own people. He knew her heart and she was virtually a “plant”. When the time came, she risked her life to save her people from being exterminated.  Score 1 for God,  0 for Satan and a hat tip to Esther!

Next on the itinerary… People God loved that would not Trust Him. Abraham was so loved by God that he created a nation from him. When God told Abraham that he would create a great nation from him, by giving him a child with his wife Sarah (who was well past child bearing age!), you would think that a man God chose to speak to and bless on a regular basis would take God at his word. But nooooo… Abraham got really hung up on His Idea of what was feasible and what was not, so he took it upon himself to do it Abraham’s Way instead of trusting and believing in God’s Will. He decided to have a child with the Egyptian maidservant Hagar. Ishmael was born from that brainstorm. But God, according to His Will and promise did what he said and Sarah conceived Isaac. It was from Isaac that the twelve tribes of Israel came and what about Ishmael? After Sarah demanded Hagar and her son be “sent away” (Ishmael had a bad attitude after Isaac was born!) God promised he would make a great nation from him… the Arab nations and Islam came from him. So if you think about it, the events of 9/11 might not have happened if Abraham had just TRUSTED GOD and believed in his plan instead of working Abraham’s will in the matter. Yes, we can blame Islamic extremism on good ole Abraham and his unwillingness to trust God!

God has made His promises, He has the Power and the Will, and still we refuse to trust him and go about the business of doing His job for him. Eventually we get down enough from doing it our way, with not so great results, and put things in His To Do Basket, then as soon as things start working again, we try to grab them back! The long term effect of working our imperfect will as opposed to trusting God can be pretty devastating. Next time you try to grab the steering wheel back, THINK Abraham> Ishmael> 9/11!!!! God always has a better plan!

God the Project Manager:

Psalm 25:14
The Lord shares his plans with those who have respect for him. He makes his covenant known to them.

Proverbs 19:21
A man may have many plans in his heart. But the Lord’s purpose wins out in the end.

Jeremiah 29:11
“I know the plans I have for you,” announces the Lord. “I want you to enjoy success. I do not plan to harm you. I will give you hope for the years to come.

God Wants you to Trust Him and His perfect will:

Proverbs 30:5
“Every word of God is perfect. He is like a shield to those who trust in him. He keeps them safe.”

Job 4:6
Shouldn’t you worship God and trust in him? Shouldn’t your honest life give you hope?

Psalm 14:2
The Lord looks down from heaven on all people. He wants to see if there are any who understand. He wants to see if there are any who trust in God.

Micah 7:7
I will look to the Lord. I’ll put my trust in God my Savior. He will hear me.<

John 14:1
[ Jesus Comforts His Disciples ] “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust in me also.

It’s His Will, not our Will or the World’s Will that works:

Romans 12:2
Don’t live any longer the way this world lives. Let your way of thinking be completely changed. Then you will be able to test what God wants for you. And you will agree that what he wants is right. His plan is good and pleasing and perfect.

1 Corinthians 3:18
Don’t fool yourselves. Suppose some of you think you are wise by the standards of the world. Then you should become a “fool” so that you can become wise.

James 4: 3-5
When you do ask for something, you don’t receive it. Why? It’s because you ask for the wrong reason. You want to spend your money on your sinful pleasures.

James 4: 3-5
3 When you do ask for something, you don’t receive it. Why? It’s because you ask for the wrong reason. You want to spend your money on your sinful pleasures.

4 You are not faithful to God. Don’t you know that to be a friend of the world is to hate God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Don’t you know what Scripture says? The spirit that God caused to live in us wants us to belong only to God. Don’t you think Scripture has a reason for saying that?

1 John 2:15-16

15 Do not love the world or anything in it. If you love the world, love for the Father is not in you.

16 Here is what people who belong to this world do. They try to satisfy what their sinful natures want to do. They long for what their sinful eyes look at. They brag about what they have and what they do. All of this comes from the world. It doesn’t come from the Father.

Just thought it might be a bit refreshing to blame someone besides Bush!

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Commentaries, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

God’s Daily Word by Steve Troxel

Reaping The Whirlwind

The Spiritual decline of God’s chosen people in the Old Testament includes some of the saddest passages in the Bible.  God dearly loved the children of Israel, but they continually rejected Him and turned away.

God appointed King David to unite the nation and focus their worship on the One True God.  David made plans for the construction of a temple and King Solomon built the temple a few years later.  But toward the end of Solomon’s reign, “his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God” (1 Kings 11:4).  The Spiritual decline began with the leadership and then flowed quickly down to the people.

When Solomon died, the nation of Israel divided and the northern kingdom immediately began to pervert their worship: “The king made two golden calves {and said} ‘Here are your gods'” (1 Kings 12:28).  After almost 200 years of continual disobedience, the northern kingdom had hardened their hearts so that repentance was no longer even possible; “their deeds do not permit them to return to God” (Hosea 5:4).  God is ready, willing, and able to forgive every sin; but continual disobedience removes the desire to draw near and seek His forgiveness.  After so many years of false worship, the people would not return to God and would now experience His wrath.

Hosea 8:7
“They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.”

The people of Israel had planted evil seed into their lives for many years – now the time had come to harvest the destruction they had planted.  Soon after Hosea spoke these words of God, the Assyrian army invaded and destroyed the northern kingdom.

God demonstrated His love for us long before we ever loved Him; “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  This love was unconditional love since we did absolutely nothing to deserve His favor.  But if we do not receive His love, through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, and allow His Spirit to begin to transform us from within, we too will one day feel His wrath.

The wind of unbelief and lack of trust, false worship and a cold heart, will one day yield an eternal whirlwind which cannot be stopped.  And the wind of open sin in the lives of spiritual leaders, or the spiritual compromise in the lives of parents, can lead many generations down a path of destruction.

Let’s plant and nourish seeds of truth and love which will thrive in His presence for all eternity.  Let’s trust Him with a faith which walks into the unknown without fear because we know He is by our side.  Let’s determine once and for all to live an uncompromising life which brings glory and honor to God; and on the great day of harvest, let’s joyfully enter His embrace without the fear of reaping the whirlwind.

———————————-

Stop Sowing The Wind

In the message “Reaping The Whirlwind” we were encouraged not to sow the wind of unbelief, because a life without faith and the saving grace of Jesus will one day reap an eternal whirlwind of fire.  The message of sowing and reaping has critical application for the eternal destiny of many around the world.  We must guard against those who sow seeds of false teaching which lead away from the true eternal forgiveness of Christ.  But this message also has direct application for our daily walk with our Lord.

We know there are times when we face severe trials which have nothing to do with what we have sown.  Jesus made this clear when He said: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).  We live in a sinful world and often reap the consequences for what others have sown; and for these troubles, Jesus wants us to find our comfort in Him: “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

But we must also understand that many of our trials, and the trials of those around us, are often the result of a multitude of small steps taken outside the will of God.

Galatians 6:7
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

It’s foolish to think we can continually walk outside God’s will and not face consequences down the road.  God dearly loves us and is patiently waiting for us to turn our heart to Him…but God cannot be mocked.  Continuous deviation from His path can lead to a long and painful time of wandering.

We must learn this lesson and clearly teach it to others: Obedience in the little things is important!  There is nothing too small to justify a lack of obedience.  “Whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10).  We must learn and teach, very early in life, the importance of honesty and truth, the value of submission and respect for authority.  The wind of disobedience begins almost imperceptibly small with “innocent” lies and “harmless” acts of disrespect,  but over time it grows until the whirlwind of consequences becomes inevitable.

If we are currently reaping a whirlwind which we know has been sown by our own hands, we must repent and seek His forgiveness, love Him and obediently trust Him with ALL our heart, and ask for the strength to endure.  The whirlwind will end, but only in God’s perfect timing.  And if we know we have been sowing the wind of disobedience and yet see God’s hand restraining the whirlwind, we also must repent and seek His forgiveness, love Him and obediently trust Him with ALL our heart…and thank Him for His mercy!

Let’s honor Him by only sowing that which glorifies His name.  Let’s closely examine our life and the lives of those within our care, and be absolutely determined to stop sowing the wind.

October 15, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

Daily Reflection and Prayer

by Mark D. Roberts
Laity Lodge Senior Director and Scholar-in-Residence

Where Is Your Heart?

READ Isaiah 29:1-24

And so the Lord says,
“These people say they are mine.
They honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
And their worship of me
is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.”
[Isaiah 29:13]

In Isaiah 29, the Lord indicts his people for saying the right things while their hearts are far away from him. They profess faithfulness to God, but their desires are selfish and idolatrous. Rather than seeking God’s glory, they live for themselves. Their worship is “by the book,” but not “by heart.” They do the right things but don’t do them as a genuine act of self-offering to God.

It’s easy for us to fall into this same pit of hypocrisy. On the outside we look like “good Christians.” We attend worship services. We sing the songs. We teach Sunday School. We say things like “I’ll pray for you” and “Praise the Lord.” But on the inside our hearts can be miles and miles away from the Lord. We allow sin to dominate our consciousness. We dream about our own advancement rather than the progress of God’s kingdom. We honor God with our lips, but our hearts are far away from him.

The good news is that, through Christ, God is seeking us. He wants, not just our words and deeds, but our hearts. He desires relationship with us so that we might be transformed from the inside out. If our hearts are far away from the Lord, we can turn to him in repentance so that we might be forgiven and restored into his fellowship. Even when we have drifted away from God, he is near to us, beckoning us to come home to him.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Where is your heart today? Are you seeking the Lord? Are you living for his purposes? Are you willing to be found by him as he seeks you today?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, you know me through and through. You know that in some ways my heart does belong to you. But in other ways I withhold my heart, focusing on myself. And, yes, there are times when I harden my heart against you because, in truth, I want to do that which dishonors you.

Forgive me, Lord, for my wandering heart. Cleanse me from all that draws me away from you. May I turn to you this day, so that I might be found by you and restored into intimate fellowship with you.

“O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.”*

Amen.

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October 11, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | 2 Comments

God’s Daily Word by Steve Troxel

Calling God A Liar

God desires that we know Him in an intimate and personal relationship.  He has revealed Himself and provided a way to know Him through the life and sacrifice of His Son; “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father… Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me?” (John 14:9-10).  As we grow in our faith and begin to know Him better, it becomes essential to know the promises of His Word.  But it’s even more important to believe His promises are true!  We may say we believe God’s Word is true, but do our actions reflect our belief?

1 John 5:10

“Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart.  Anyone who does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about His Son.”

Yes, our old nature sometimes clouds our ability to clearly see the truth; and yes, some of God’s truths can be hard to accept and actually put into practice.  But, we either believe His words and begin to take steps to apply them in our life, or we do not believe and call God a liar by the way we live.

It may be difficult, but we must confront our beliefs and begin to make them real.  When we face a trial and don’t know which direction to turn, do we believe the words, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6)? Do we really believe that as we trust Him, He will remove the confusion and guide our steps?

When our circumstances seem out of control, do we believe “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28)?  Do we really believe that as we continue to love Him, God works for the good in ALL things (regardless of our understanding)?  And when we feel alone, do we really believe God’s promise to always be near; “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

How about the promise of being content (Philippians 4:12), or being given the peace of Jesus (John 14:27), or the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) – can we really “do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13)? Parents, have we given up hope for our children or do we believe, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6)?

God’s Word is true and His promises are real!!  Let’s praise Him all the rest of our days and let our lives demonstrate we REALLY know and believe.  Let’s make sure our actions and decisions, fears and anxieties, hopes and dreams, are governed by truth and NOT based on calling God a liar.

Nothing Can Compare

In the message “Calling God A Liar” we saw how the way we live directly reflects our true belief.  If we do not follow His commands and trust His promises, we do not believe His Word and have effectively called God a liar.  But as we draw near and give ourselves more fully into His hands, we learn that His promises are not only true, they are better than we imagined.When Abraham was over eighty years old, God taught him a lesson on trusting His promises.  Abraham became frustrated with God because there was no one to inherit his possessions: “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir” (Genesis 15:3).  But God had other plans and made a promise to Abraham.

 

Genesis 15:4-5
“‘This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’  He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’  Then He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.'”

Abraham waited many years for God’s promise to be fulfilled.  Finally, when he was one hundred years old, Isaac was born.  And through Isaac came Jacob, and through Jacob came the sons who formed the twelve tribes of Israel.  Abraham was looking for someone to inherit his “stuff,” but God’s promise gave him an entire nation.

God gives many promises to us today, but they all flow from the promise first stated by Jesus; “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  We must not pass lightly over these words, for none of the other promises even apply until we have believed this basic truth.

We cannot move on to the promises of peace and contentment until we trust in the promise of forgiveness through faith in Jesus.  When we begin to understand the significance of the gift of eternal life, we will know that nothing the world can offer will EVER compare to the promises of God…and NOTHING else will last.  This is the only path to true peace.  If we could better understand and really believe, perhaps we would spend less time and effort on pursuits which contain no lasting value – perhaps we would have less anxiety about all those things which only God can control.

Jesus shed His blood so we can truly live.  His promise is greater than any worldly pleasure and outweighs ALL worldly trials; “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17)As we walk through this world, with all its pulls, temptations and near constant turmoil, let’s hold tight to His promise and always remember…NOTHING can compare!

October 9, 2008 Posted by | Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

God’s Daily Reflection and Prayer.

Whose Honor Matters?

by Mark D. Roberts

READ Isaiah 22:1-25

This is what the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, said to me: “Confront Shebna, the palace administrator, and give him this message:

“Who do you think you are,
and what are you doing here,
building a beautiful tomb for yourself—
a monument high up in the rock?”

[Isaiah 22:15-16]

Shebna was a “palace administrator” in Jerusalem whom the Lord singled out for rebuke through Isaiah.  We don’t know all of Shebna’s faults, though they must have been many, given the fact that he was “a disgrace to [his] master” (v. 18). In particular, Shebna was preoccupied with his own legacy and honor, building for himself a lavish and prominent tomb. Apparently he had used his position in the government to become wealthy so that he might promote himself, both in life and in death. For such self-centeredness, God promised to take away his position of authority, thus ending Shebna’s career in disgrace.

Shebna serves as a powerful reminder of the folly of seeking our own honor above that of the Lord. It’s natural for us to want others to think well of us, and to an extent this is consistent with our Christian discipleship (for example, 1 Tim. 3:2). But if we become preoccupied with our own glory, we dishonor the Lord and risk our own demotion. As Prov. 16:18 reminds us, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” Shebna’s sad life illustrates this proverb perfectly.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Are you ever tempted to put your honor above God’s glory?  When?  Why? Are you ever preoccupied with your legacy, rather than being preoccupied with the work of God’s kingdom?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, the story of Shebna encourages me to examine my motivations and desires.  Am I like Shebna? Am I more eager to ensure my good reputation than to advance your kingdom?  Does my passion for your glory exceed my desire for people to think I’m good? Am I building a “tomb” for myself, rather than offering myself as a living sacrifice to you?

Help me, dear Lord, to care so much about you, your work, and your glory that my
self-centeredness dwindles.  May I live my life in the freedom that comes from
serving you completely.  At the end of my days, may you be the one who receives the glory for my life. May it be obvious to all that you did a great work in me, not
that I was great. Amen.

October 4, 2008 Posted by | Commentaries, Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

Decisions, decisions…

I am always amazed about where my energized faith has lead me.  Decision making is something that human nature leads people to do as a part of our normal, daily functions.  Some people are better at it than others.  All my life,  all of my critical decisions have been made by me and according to “my will” and knowledge.   Quite frankly, not very many have worked out extremely well,  especially when it comes to trying to change the direction of my personal life.  I honestly believe that the ones that have worked out well, were more of a case of God interveining on my behalf, rather than anything I cooked up or did for myself.  He must really feel sorry for us at times when you are out there with the “deer in the headlights look”, kind of like the pity your parents take on you after watching you make a really stupid move,  with disasterous consequences.  So what has God taught me about decision making (you know that’s where I’m leading)???

When you surrender all to God, it is a process.  We are all born with many strengths and weaknesses by God’s own design.  Add to that the baggage that comes with being raised around mere mortals, we become quite into “trying to fix it ourselves”.  When you hand all your problems and issues over to God,  he fills you with the knowledge that with Him, all things are truly possible, along with the desire to know Him and His will and purpose for you.  You read His book (seeking knowledge), you go to him in prayer (connectivity to God), you seek out communion and knowledge from other Christians (fellowship) and his plan starts coming together.   So when you go to him seeking His Will, fill yourself with the knowledge and wisdom you need and connect, and if you have faith, the answers and healing definately come.   Along with those answers you are filled with peace and confidence that the outcome will be the very best, because God’s Will is perfect.  Moving past the pride of wanting to do it yourself and leaning on Him brings you closer to God and makes your life full of blessings, movement, true growth and joy.  When you put your needs and challenges in “God’s to do box”, read His Word, and take your decision making to him in prayer, the outcome truly changes your life and heart for the better, so trust in Him.

I will end this post with the greatest prayer of comfort I can think of.

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures,  he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.   Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,  for you are with me;  your rod and your staff,  they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

October 3, 2008 Posted by | Commentaries, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment

God, Women and Self-Esteem

Probably the single worst torture that men and women deal with in their daily lives is dealing with all the personal beliefs they hold about who they are and what’s wrong with their lives.  If we are all completely honest, all those doubts and negative messages we grow up with affect us all our lives.  It determines why we make choices about who we partner with, what we do to make a living, whether or not we get education and whether we put up with abuse either from family, friends or mates. It is the nagging self-doubt or negative belief system about ourselves that leads to much of our sin, bad choices and sorrow in life.

No one will have love to give someone else, if they don’t first learn to love and appreciate themselves.  Anyone running on empty in this department of human spirit can’t give what they themselves desparately need.  It is a never ending cycle, much like the person who can never get enough to eat, they will come to the table anytime it is spread, but will have nothing to contribute because they ate it all on the way to the meal.

Women and men alike, suffer from the same emptiness, but this is from a woman’s viewpoint I write.  We live in a society that doesn’t gear women to have a true idea of their worth.  All our worth was measured in things outside of ourselves.  Whether or not we won a beauty contest, was a prom queen, or was a cheerleader comes to mind.  Whether we had a date for an important function at school.  Whether we could cook, whether or not we had a husband by a specific age, whether we had children, and so on.

So many women have grown up thinking their worth is measured by the approval of others, men in particular.  Whether or not they could offer great sex or whether they could take a “man with issues” and fix him, all meant they had value.  Divorcees, as they were called, were looked upon as “failures” and “bad women nobody really wanted for more than a good time” when I was growing up, but divorced men were always men who just needed the “right woman”.  Then there are the negative messages women get that start at a young age… “Oh honey, you can’t do that… you’re a girl”!!!  Anyway, this is about what I have discovered that God offers women.

God, if you reach the point of trusting him, hand over control to him, will fill you with the Holy Spirit and with his Word. He changes everything and does indeed fill those holes in your heart with the truth… the truth being that you have real value in his eyes, he sent his Son to die for us all and he will reveal to you what you can do with your value to glorify Him.   He purges out all the negative messages that you have believed since childhood… that love has to be earned by superhuman acts on your part, that you are not worthy of unconditional love.  This is Satan’s message and therefore it’s a lie.  He heals the hurts and pain, and makes us whole and ready to recieve his blessings.

Pro 31:10-31

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 [c] A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.

15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.

18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. 19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 31 Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

That verse is the standard God sets and inspires me in my walk of faith.  This is how God fills us all, through reading His Word and trusting him to take care of all our needs.When He promises to make us “New Creatures”, rebuilding the self-esteem, healing our pain and giving us an understanding of our value, is all part of it.  He frees us to trust and live for him without fear.  Praise Him, and may God bless you as he has blest me.

September 28, 2008 Posted by | Commentaries, God / Jesus Christ | 1 Comment

God’s Daily Word by Steve Troxel

Remember the Basics

As we continue down God’s path of sanctification, “being transformed into His likeness” (2 Corinthians 3:18), moving from milk to solid food (Hebrews 5:12), and growing in grace and “all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9), it’s wise to return often to the basics of our faith.  As we learn more of our Heavenly Father and ponder His “deeper truths,” we must never forget that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and  only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  The truth of all scripture is that God loves us and is inviting us to join Him – to know Him and enjoy Him – for all eternity.

The Apostle Peter understood the importance of fundamentals.  He wrote his second letter to warn us against false teaching and to remind us that, as we step out in faith, we have been given all the necessary tools to accomplish what God desires for our life; “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

Peter taught that when we place our trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we receive everything we need to live a victorious life
; “so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:4).  The real challenge of our Christian walk is not in acquiring new and “greater” gifts, but in learning how to best utilize what we have already received.

Peter also wanted us to remember that Salvation is not the end of our journey; rather, it’s the beginning of a long and wonderful walk which begins in faith and continues by growing ever closer to Christ.  Since we have been given such a wonderful gift, we should “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love” (2 Peter 1:5-7) We must continue to grow such that the end result – the highest quality of our Christian life – is love!

Peter believed these to be fundamental truths, but truths which were necessary to often repeat!

2 Peter 1:12-13
“So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.  I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live.”

To ensure we don’t wander down side paths filled with self-effort and self-importance, or stumble in the world’s temptation of corruption and evil desires, we must continually return to the starting point of our faith. We must never forget that God loves us and desires to walk with us each and every day.  All that we do must be directed by God and accomplished with the tools He has provided.  Let’s dig deep at every opportunity, but let’s remain lovingly close to His side and always remember the basics.

I am grateful to the true “Rock”, the apostle Peter for seeing fit to remind us all of these important fundamental truths… HoosierArmyMom.

September 28, 2008 Posted by | Commentaries, Daily Devotions, God / Jesus Christ | Leave a comment