Just as driving by a church sign can give your faith a booster shot by leading you to prayer or a conversation with those around you, we hope that this page will be a spot for a quick, uplifting devotional or an inspiring message.
March 10, 2021"Spiritual Spring Cleaning"
Have you started spring cleaning yet? I have cleaned and organized my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer so far. In the coming weeks, I hope to go through most, if not all, of my home. I want to get rid of the broken items, declutter the unnecessary stuff, and clean and organize what is left. What would happen if we Christians spent time on similar spiritual spring-cleaning projects?
What kinds of spiritual trash do we hold onto? Things like guilt, shame, fear, and doubt for example. What if we gave all our broken pieces over to God and asked Him to clean our hearts? What kinds of things are cluttering our lives so that there is no room for God? Things like bitterness, selfishness, jealousy, and greed come to mind. What if we got rid of the negative thoughts and asked God to fill us? What kinds of things in our soul could use some sprucing up? Things like faith, peace, hope, and joy. What if we looked at our hearts and asked God to renew our spirits? This kind of spiritual spring cleaning is a way for us to deepen our relationship with God and strengthen our faith.
Today's verse is Psalm 51:10. "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." As we spend time spring cleaning our homes, yards, cars and more, what if we used this verse as a prayer to start our spiritual spring cleaning. Would you pray with me? "Heavenly Father, thank You for the opportunity spring gives us to make things better. Help us to get rid of the obstacles in our relationship with You and bring us closer to You. Create in us clean hearts and renew our spirits. In Christ's name we pray. Amen."
February 28, 2021
"For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him.." 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
February 21, 2021
"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace." Ephesians 1:7
February 10, 2021"Sent People"
"As You sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." John 17:18
The Bible describes Jesus' followers in a number of ways. We are called forgiven sinners, adopted sons and daughters, and beloved members of the body of Christ. All of these are key aspects of who we are in Christ. But one of the most important identities we have is as "sent people." Just as Jesus was sent into the world to show God's love, so He now sends us to do the same. After Jesus' resurrection, His followers received the Holy Spirit to empower them for mission. As Jesus' followers today, we are called to share the good news of Jesus in our words and actions, inviting people to place their faith in Jesus just as we have done.
Too often, local churches become wrapped up in their own concerns. Christians spend so much time running programs and dealing with internal conflicts that they have little energy to build relationships with people outside the church. It's not surprising that many of our churches are shrinking and that a lot of church growth is just a result of Christians transferring from one congregation to another. Jesus' teaching make clear, however, that His followers are partners in God's mission of saving people who are lost in sin. It is not enough to simply talk about sharing our faith - it is part of our identity in being the people God calls us to be.
Please pray with me: "Father, use my words and actions to help others understand the gospel and see their need for You. Amen."
January 23, 2021
"A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22
January 9, 2021
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11
January 1, 2021
"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life." Psalm 143:8
December 24, 2020
"An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' (which means 'God with us')." Matthew 1:20-23
December 24, 2020Lessons from Christmas Carols - Part 2"O Holy Night"
Well, today is Christmas Eve. I keep listing the things I still want to accomplish while at the same time telling myself, "It will be okay if something doesn't get done; we can manage without it. After all, do we really need another batch of cookies or candy?" Is today like that for you too?
Many of us could use a break from preparing for a perfect Christmas celebration, so we can focus our attention on why we celebrate Christmas. "O Holy Night" is today's carol and a good one to help us do that. What a joyful song that starts with the stars brightly shining, moves to a new and glorious morn, and ends by proclaiming God's power and glory forever more. Music has the power to convey messages straight to our souls. When I hear this carol, I can't help but feel the love Jesus has for us. The Son of God humbled Himself and came to the earth as an infant just for you and me, so that what was broken could be made whole. John 3:17 says, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him." Jesus came to us just so that He could be crucified and save us. Jesus was born in order to save you and to save me. It is no wonder that so many people find "O Holy Night" to be meaningful when it is so full of worth, thrill, hope, love, peace, praise, power, and glory.
If you are frantically trying to get a few more things done today, may I suggest that you take a break, put on some Christmas carols, and sing along with joy and praise. Let all within you praise His holy name. Christ is the Lord. Christ is the Lord indeed.
December 22, 2020Lessons from Christmas Carols - Part 1"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"
Christmas day is almost here. Lately, our home has been a frenzy of decorating, baking, wrapping, and cleaning. We have also had irritating, complaining, exhausting, and worrying. Sometimes, it seems like Christmas is a time to get through rather than a holiday to enjoy.
Listening to Christmas carols can help focus our attention on what Christmas is really about. Today's carol is "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." The verses have words like "come and cheer our spirits," "disperse the gloomy clouds," and "bid envy, strife and quarrels cease." The verses clearly yearn for a better time. Then the chorus is joyful and hopeful. "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!" Emmanuel means "God with us," and Matthew 1:21 tells of His coming arrival. "She (Mary) will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins." Instead of getting caught up in gifts, food, and twinkly lights, our focus should be on celebrating the birth of Jesus. Through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, God is with us. God is with us in our pain, sadness, doubt, fear, blessings, happiness, hope, and joy. God is with us always. Not only is God with us, but He is for us, beside us, within us, among us, and all around us.
If you're feeling overwhelmed this week, may I suggest that you take a break, put on some Christmas carols, and sing along with joy and praise. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to thee! God is with us indeed.
December 12, 2020
"When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.' And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger." Luke 2:15-16
December 3, 2020God's Peace - Part 2
"I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribuation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33
The peace that Jesus came to bring was not the peace of appeasement, or the peace of compromise and conformity. It was a spiritual peace. The world doesn't give peace, for it doesn't have any peace to give. It fights for peace; it negotiates for peace; it maneuvers for peace; but there is no ultimate peace in the world. Jesus gives peace to those who put their trust in Him. If you have received His peace, then you are in His camp. But if you have rejected it, then you are against Him. His peace is available to everyone who will receive it.
December 1, 2020God's Peace - Part 1
Often, living a peace-filled life comes down to a choice. Choosing to come to Him, choosing to set our minds on His Word, choosing to trust Him no matter what, choosing to pray in all that we face, choosing not to be anxious, choosing to believe that He's always with us and in control, choosing to set our thoughts on those things that are true and right.
God reminds us in His word that peace will not naturally just come our way. He tells us to "seek peace and pursue it." (Psalm 34:14) Some may offer their own advice, "Get away for a few days, relax, be happy, take a vacation, tune out, just don't think about stressful stuff." But it's only temporary relief in a crazy, struggling world. Vain attempts to cover desperate places of our souls with superficial, external fixes.
The peace God offers is vastly different. It's lasting. Confident. Real. Breathing deep reassurance in the midst of all that we face - past, present, or future. Rising up against the fear that would seek to choke our lives. Bringing comfort and freedom.
God's words give strength, purpose, and grace. They alone are what can bring inner calm to a whirlwind of crazy.
November 28, 2020
"'For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!'" Luke 2:11-14
November 26, 2020Thankfulness - Part 2
This is part 2 of our devotionals focusing on thankfulness. What better day to think about this than on Thanksgiving Day! I have always enjoyed celebrating Thanksgiving. As some of you might know, I really like to eat! But seriously, we have so much to be thankful for! Let's look at just a few of the qualities of God that we should be grateful for: He is our Friend: John 15:13-15, our Hope: Romans 15:13, our Provider: 2 Corinthians 9:8, our Redeemer: Job 19:25, our Strength: Psalm 46:1, and our Sustainer: Hebrews 1:3.
The author of Psalm 100 (NIV) states: "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever: His faithfulness continues through all generations." I pray that we will all take these words to heart, and apply them to our daily lives.
Let's also remember to be thankful for all our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. We have a wonderful church family at Mountville which Carolyn and I (Bruce) are blessed to be a part of. It is my prayer that we will all serve the Lord humbly and honorably.
Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote a song, We Are So Blessed, that is so appropriate for this time of year: "We are so blessed by the gifts from Your hand, I just can't understand Why you loved us so much. We are so blessed, we just can't find a way, or the words that can say, Thank you Lord, for Your touch. When we're empty you fill us, 'Til we overflow, When we're hungry, You feed us and cause us to know; We are so blessed, Take what we have to bring; Take it all everything, Lord we love You so much." Amen.
November 24, 2020Thankfulness - Part 1
This week's devotionals will be focusing on thankfulness. Sometimes, especially during times that we are struggling, it is easy to forget about how much we have to be thankful for! Although this is a very common thing to do, we really need to focus on just how good our God truly is! In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT), Paul's advice to the Thessalonians states: "Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." This letter, according to my Study Bible, was written approximately A.D. 51. This advice certainly remains true today. A footnote to verse 18 states that Paul was not teaching that we should thank God "for" everything that happens to us, but "in" everything. Evil does not come from God, so we should not thank Him for it. But when evil strikes, we can still be thankful for God's presence and for the good that He will accomplish through the distress. What a blessing and comfort it is to know that God is aware of every aspect of our lives.
I certainly don't understand why this global pandemic has been going on for such a long time. It's been such a difficult and chaotic time for all of us. But I certainly am thankful that we can depend on a Loving God who knows all about this situation, and will continue to love us and take care of us now and forever.
Verse 2 of "Now Thank We All Our God," written by Martin Rinkhart says: "O may this bounteous God Through all our life be near us, With ever joyful hearts, And blessed peace to cheer us; And keep us in His grace, And guides us when perplexed, And free us from all ills, In this world and the next." God Bless you all. Amen.
November 12, 2020Lessons from Esther - Part 2"Just Because God Is Invisible Doesn't Mean That He Is Absent"
Let's continue our devotionals inspired by the book of Esther and the Veggie Tales movie, Esther, the Girl Who Became Queen. If you aren't familiar with the Veggie Tales, they are a series of children's movies where cartoon vegetables and sometimes fruits tell Bible stories and teach Christian values. One fun detail about the movies is that the characters don't have arms or legs, but they frequently hold items and move around.
In the book of Esther, God is just as invisible as those vegetables' arms and legs. There are no prophets speaking to God and no prayers to God. There are no mentions of God at all. However, if this isn't the work of God that is some amazing luck for Esther to save the Jewish people through all those twists and turns. Instead, God is there in the background, quietly working to help Esther fulfill His plan for the Jewish people. Esther is a relatable example of how God doesn't require super abilities. After all, how often have you heard God speak in an audible voice or seen God in a physical form. We don't need a burning bush or a bright light. We just need to know that God is quietly there, always present and always at work in our lives just as in Esther's. Acts 17:27-28 tells us that when we seek God, "He is actually not far from each one of us, for 'In Him we live and move and have our being.'" God is with us wherever we go. Just because God is invisible doesn't mean that He is absent.
In the coming days, whether you face issues with your health, relationships, job, or whatever I encourage you to keep God in your heart, have faith, and believe that just because God is invisible doesn't mean that He is absent.
November 10, 2020Lessons from Esther - Part 1"There Is Nothing I Can't Face When God Is at My Side"
My first devotionals were inspired by my daughter's favorite movie, Cinderella. This week, at my other daughter's request, I am using the book of Esther and the Veggie Tales movie, Esther, The Girl Who Became Queen, as inspiration. Here is a quick two sentence summary of Esther's story. Haman, the king's top official, hated the Jews and talked the king into ordering their death. Esther, the new queen and a Jew, risked her own life to save the lives of her people.
The first thing that stands out in this story is Esther's courage. When Mordecai asks her to plead with the king on behalf of the Jews, she replies that for her to go to the king without being called is to risk death. After Mordecai suggests that she is in the palace for such a time as this, she tells him, "I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16b) At this point in the movie, Esther sings a beautiful song that includes the lyric, "There is nothing I can't face when God is at my side." That is a potent source of courage that I hope we all can cling to when we face difficult moments. This is especially powerful in light of Joshua 1:9 that tells us, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." If there is nothing we can't face when God is at our side, and God is with us wherever we go, well then, we can meet any situation with courage and know that we are firmly in God's care.
In the coming days, whether you face issues with your health, relationships, job, or whatever I encourage you to keep God in your heart, have courage, and believe that there is nothing you can't face when God is at your side.
October 29, 2020God's Timing - Part 2
"Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to Him, saying, 'Lord, he whom you love is ill.' But when Jesus heard it he said, 'This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.' Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where he was." John 11:1-6.
Have you ever wondered why God delays intervention? Perhaps you felt He was holding out on you or doesn't love you. Otherwise, He would have stepped in and saved the day already. This is exactly what Martha wondered after her brother, Lazarus, had been dead for four days. But it was exactly what Christ intended.
Right after He heard His friend was very ill, John says that because Jesus loved Lazarus, Jesus waited two more days before going to see him. It sounds like an oxymoron. When someone you love is deathly ill, you go to see him as quickly as possible. But no, Christ had a far greater plan. He knew that if He waited until Lazarus was dead, the glory that would come from the situation would be much greater than if He had healed Lazarus while alive. Christ had a purpose for the delay. It was a marvelous purpose, though appearances deceived others to believe otherwise.
Sometimes, we feel that God will give us what we desire or feel we need, because God is all-loving and would never withhold good things from us. Yet we don't realize that sometimes waiting, suffering, and hardship produces an even better and greater outcome, far beyond what we expect or see with the eye. We cannot see God working behind the scenes, but we know from His word that His will is best. We must always remember that when God tells us to wait, He does so because He loves us.
Dear Lord, help us to walk by faith and understand Your will is much better than ours. Give us the strength to trust You throughout all circumstances. Amen.
October 27, 2020God's Timing - Part 1
We must learn to wait for God's plans to develop. He perfects everything that concerns us. True boldness moves in God's timing; it moves at the right time.
During the three years of Jesus' earthly ministry, people thought He was crazy. His own brothers were embarrassed by Him, and in an effort to save their reputation, they told Him that He needed to go somewhere else and do His works. If He was unwilling to do that, they had another option for Him. They told Him to take action and stop doing His works in secret. They tried to convince Him it was time to show Himself and His works to the world. In other words, they wanted Jesus to impress the people with what He could do. He responded to them by saying "My time (opportunity) has not yet come..." John 7:6.
How many of us could show that type of self-control? If you could do the miracles that Jesus could do and were being made fun of and challenged to show your stuff, what would you do? Would you wait until you absolutely knew that it was the right time, or would you take action that was not sanctioned by God?
It is good to have plans, and I believe we should plan boldly and aggressively, but we must be wise enough to know that our plans will ultimately fail without God. God's word says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain..." Psalm 127:1. We can build without God as our foundation, but like any building without a strong foundation, we will eventually fall.
Trust in Him. Are you operating in your own timing, or are you trusting God's timing? Trust God - His plans are always best!
October 24, 2020
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age." Titus 2:11-12
October 15, 2020Obedience - Part 2
This week's verse is John 14:21 "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
On Tuesday, we started talking about obedience and why it is so difficult for us. Sometimes we don't want to follow God's leading, because we know it leads toward pain, sadness, vulnerability, embarrassment, ... well you get the idea. It is hard to knowingly and willingly put ourselves in difficult situations.
Now let's think about the second part of this week's verse. "And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." This does not mean that being loved by the Father or Jesus is conditional upon us first loving them. Instead, when we love God and are obedient, we enter into a close, personal, and loving relationship with God, and God will manifest Himself to us. That is, He makes His grace, His mercy, His righteousness, His power, and His glory known to us. Sometimes we know why God allows the difficult times, but many times we don't. Either way, in light of anything we are facing, this verse is a source of comfort and calm by reassuring us that God is always right there with us. There more we love God and are obedient, the closer our relationship to Him becomes, and the more we are able to see and feel Him right there with us. The more we are obedient to God, the easier it becomes.
For the rest of the week, when you are on a sidewalk, I hope it reminds you that being obedient and following God's path will bring you closer to God and allow you to more fully experience His love for you.
October 13, 2020Obedience - Part 1
This week's verse is John 14:21 "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
When the topic of obedience was suggested to me, I had a moment of panic. Why is obedience so scary? If you're like me, you want to have a plan and be in control. We like to be independent and make our own decisions. Frequently though God asks us to go another way without letting us know His plan or what the end result will be. God asks us to obey Him and let Him take control.
So many times, when we follow our own path, we make mistake after mistake. We just don't know what the best decision is, and then things end up worse. Now let's think about the first part of this week's verse. "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me." Obeying God is evidence of our love for God. Letting God be in control and following His lead is a practical demonstration of our faith in Him. We are saying, "I love you, Lord, and I trust you." God loves us so much and wants to bless us abundantly. We just have to get out of the way and let Him. We need to trust His wisdom and obey His wishes. When we believe that God loves us and wants to bless us, we see that obedience is not scary at all. In fact, it is the best possible course of action.
This week when you find yourself walking down a sidewalk or path, I suggest you remind yourself of God's love for you, reaffirm your desire to be obedient to God, and remain on the path He has for your life.
October 10, 2020
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
September 26, 2020
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28
September 17, 2020When the Struggle Gets Real - Part 2
Today's verse is Psalm 121:1-2 "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
Years ago, I was following my GPS to get to a wedding in Ohio. I thought things were going well until it wanted me to go the wrong way down a one-way street. After that, I wasn't sure I could completely trust that GPS for accurate directions.
In our struggles in life, where do we turn for help and direction? Family? Friends? The internet? Sooner or later we all reach a point where we are overwhelmed. We need to stop looking around for help and start looking up. Psalm 121:1-2 says, "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." The writer here is looking towards Jerusalem, or a place of worship. He is looking to God. Our Lord God who created all things, is a god of power and wisdom. There is no situation that he can't help with. According to Hebrews 13:6 we can confidently claim that God is our helper, so we should trust God in the midst of our hard times. We need to remind ourselves that the God of the entire universe is also right there with us when we struggle. We can rely on God to lead us through our struggles if we look to him for help. God is always with us, and God always loves us.
If you are looking for help and direction in a situation, I ask you to pray again with me. "Heavenly Father, I am struggling right now, and I give it over to you. I lift up my eyes to you, who made heaven and earth. I believe that the best help comes from you. Help me to see the direction you are leading me in. Help me to trust in your power and wisdom. In Christ's name I pray. Amen."
September 15, 2020When the Struggle Gets Real - Part 1
Today's verse is Psalm 25:1-2. "To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust."
I'm going to jump right in with some honesty. I struggled this past week to land on a topic for today. I kept coming up with and then discarding idea after idea. Finally, I was able to hear what God was telling me. The struggle is the devotional. Everyone struggles. And everyone could use some encouragement.
The scripture for today is Psalm 25:1-2. "To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust." This Psalm is one of David's many prayers for help. If one of the most well-known people of the Bible frequently asked God for help, how can we expect to always have smooth sailing? We can't. What we can do is seek God in those hard times. We should give up the idea that we can make things better on our own, surrender to God's will, and trust that our amazing God knows more than we do. Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us that since Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses, we should come before God with confidence to ask for grace and mercy in times of need. We can't expect our lives to be without struggle, but what we can rely on is a God who will lead us through that struggle if we place our trust in him. God is always with us, and God always loves us.
If something is not going the way you think it should, I ask you to pray with me. "Heavenly Father, I am struggling right now, and I give it over to you. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul. O my God, in you I trust. I believe you know what is best, and I surrender to you. Help me to better see your will for my life. Help me find your path to follow. In Christ's name I pray. Amen."
September 10, 2020Seeking and Finding Rest - Part 2
Today we will once again be looking at our theme of seeking and finding rest in our Lord. I think we can all attest to the fact that this can sometimes be easier said than done. But it is an essential part of God's plan.
Hebrews 4:9-11 states: "So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God's rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall." I think we can all agree, that since God felt it was important to rest, we should also make a concerted effort to obtain a proper amount of rest. A footnote to the aforementioned verses states: God wants us to enter His rest. For the Israelites of Moses' time, the rest was earthly rest to be found in the Promised Land. For Christians, it is peace with God now, and eternal life on a new earth later. We do not need to wait for the next life to enjoy God's rest and peace; we may have it daily now!
May we all remember to thank God every day for the many blessings and provisions that we have, including the comfort of resting in His loving arms. Jean S. Pigott penned the hymn entitled "Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting." Verse 4 says: "Ever lift thy face upon me As I work and wait for Thee; Resting 'neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus, Earth's dark shadows flee. Brightness of my Father's glory, Sunshine of my Father's face; Keep me ever trusting, resting, Fill me with thy grace. Jesus I am resting, resting, In the joy of what Thou art; I am finding out the greatness, of Thy loving heart." God bless you all. Amen
September 8, 2020Seeking and Finding Rest - Part 1
The theme for this week's devotionals will be seeking and finding rest in our Lord. This has certainly been more challenging to do during these difficult times.
In Psalm 62: 5-6 David writes: "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken." We too, should always remember that our greatest hope and comfort throughout our life comes from God. Jesus Himself said: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11: 28-30). A footnote to these verses in my Study Bible states: The rest Jesus promises is love, healing, and peace with God, not the end of all labor. A relationship with God changes meaningless, wearisome toil into spiritual productivity and purpose. Finding rest in Jesus is just one of the many blessings we receive through having a personal connection with Him.
There is a song in our hymnal entitled "A Shelter In The Time Of Storm" that may not be as familiar to us as some others, but the words are based on Psalm 62:7 which states: "He is my mighty Rock, my Refuge." "The Lord's our Rock, in Him we hide, A shelter in the time of storm; Secure whatever ill betide, A shelter in the time of storm. The raging storms may round us beat, A shelter in the time of storm; We"ll never leave our safe retreat, A shelter in the time of storm." What a great promise! Amen.
September 5, 2020
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39
August 22, 2020
"Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." 1 John 3:18
July 23, 2020"I Got You, Fam" - Part 2
Today we continue our look at Leviticus 26:12 that says, "I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people."
If I were to count my family on my side, including parents, brothers, sisters, our spouses, and children, I would count 11 people. On my husband's side the same three generations would number 39. Families come in all shapes and sizes. And that doesn't account for those that I love and think of as a favorite aunt or uncle even though there is no traditional family relationship. People can be important to us for many reasons, and we can love people like family no matter how they came into our lives.
Let's look at the second part of this verse now when God says, "You will be my people." When we obey God's commands, not only will God be our God, but He claims us as His own. He will be a part of our life. He helps us. He protects us. He strengthens and restore us. He instructs us yet disciplines us when we stray. We are chosen, redeemed, and sanctified by God. We receive all the blessings of this covenant promise. We have a special relationship with God. Just as a parent loves a child, God loves us. Ephesians 1:5 says we are adopted as sons through Jesus Christ. We are not His biologically, yet God loves us as family. Or as my kids would say, as "fam." So, when we read, "I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people," we understand it to mean, when we live by God's rules, God will take care of us like family. God is saying, "I got you, fam!"
I encourage you to take a moment to think of the blessings of from your Father God and say a prayer thanking Him for welcoming you into His family and telling you, "I got you, fam."
July 21, 2020"I Got You, Fam" - Part 1
This week's verse is Leviticus 26:12 and says, "I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people."
Have you ever had an epiphany? Disney movies are great for getting me. They're fun and entertaining, and then there is a subtle joke that is slipped in for the parents. Suddenly things have a much deeper meaning. Reading today's verse was like that for me. Obviously, God is our God, and we are His people. That's how Christianity works. And then... Bam! Suddenly I realized how much those simple words truly meant. This verse is actually a covenant promise that shows the depth of God's relationship with us.
Today, let's look at the first part of the verse when God says, "I will be your God." When we obey God's commands, He provides for us both physically and spiritually. He gives us the daily needs of life as well as His grace and mercy. He blesses us with peace and security. He protects and defends us against all enemies of both body and soul. Philippians 4:19 says that God will fill all our needs, and Luke 12:7 tells us that even the hairs on our head are numbered. We can be assured that God cares for ALL aspects of our life, big or small. God is telling us - If you live by my rules, I will be your God. I'm here for you. I'll support you. I'll protect you. I'll help you. I'll take care of you. As my kids would say in today's slang, God is saying, "Don't worry; I got you!"
I encourage to you to take a moment, look around, and find three ways that God has said, "I got you," and say a prayer of thanks for those and all the ways that God is your God.
July 19, 2020
"I am a God who is everywhere and not in one place only. No one can hide where I cannot see them. Do you not know that I am everywhere in heaven and on earth?" Jeremiah 23:23-24
July 16, 2020Freedom in Christ - Part 2
Before I start the second part of my devotional on freedom, I want us to take a quick moment to think about our personal definition of freedom. We are blessed to be citizens of the United States of America, where we have freedoms to come and go as we please, voice our opinions without fear, get an education, find a good job, and many other items you can come up with. But as I have been preparing for these devotionals I am learning what true freedom is. I would now like to share with you some more of God's freedom from the book of John.
Jesus came to free us from death, sin, and anything that enslaves us. The core message of the Christian faith - the Gospel - is that Jesus Christ rescues us from the slavery of sin and offers true freedom in this life and beyond. This is what Jesus said: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
The Good News - the best news ever - is that faith in Jesus frees us from the death we deserve from sinning against God. It frees us from the punishment that would be inflicted upon us at the end of our lives for the evil things we've thought and done. While Christ's followers still battle with sin, they are no longer slaves to it. Through the power of Christ, His people can be set free from the bondage of greed, vanity, pride, pornography, addiction, abusive behavior, gluttony, selfishness - and any other sin under the sun.
Here's what Jesus said about the freedom He offers: "If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32) "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the Son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:34-36)
Finishing Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to look for the truth in all that I see and do, knowing that You are there. I pray that all will seek Your Son as their savior to be free now and forever. Amen.
July 14, 2020Freedom in Christ - Part 1
On the 4th of July, I was listening to K-Love radio and the verse of the day was Psalm 119:45 "I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments." After hearing this, I thought I would like to do a devotional on how God looks at freedom. Well, we know how God works. Patrick actually approached me later that morning and asked if I would do a devotional for July 14th & 16th. So here it is.
The Gospel is about walking in freedom - being freed from sin and every kind of bondage. That's why, early in His ministry, Jesus quoted Isaiah's Old Testament prophecy that He had been sent to "set free those who are oppressed." (Luke 4:18) Jesus made clear that this freedom begins with our relationship with Him. Many believers (and even non-believers) quote Jesus saying, "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." But we can forget that there was a condition to the freedom. Jesus said this only is available to those who "continue in My Word," to those who are "truly disciples of mine" (John 8:31-32) The Old Testament stresses this same principle. We read how the Psalmist in Psalm 119:45 could walk in freedom because he had "devoted myself to Your commandments," basing his life on God's Word.
Many in the world think that freedom means doing whatever they want. But the Bible urges us to remember that freedom begins with a loving, obedient relationship with God. He is our Creator, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. He desires to bless us physically, financially, and spiritually. He wants to enrich our lives in every way and free us from all fears and worries. We only experience real freedom after we make Jesus our Lord, devote ourselves to God's Word, and are filled with the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to direct our lives.
Today, remember that "the truth will make you free." You don't have to be dominated by sin or bad habits, worry or fear. Make Jesus your Lord. Renew your commitment to base your life on God's Word. This is His plan to give you real freedom, real victory, and real peace. You can be confident and secure, guided by His wisdom.
Finishing Prayer: Father, I commit myself to living according to Your Word. Teach me Your truths. Help me to serve You with my life. I declare that Jesus is my Lord. In His Name, Amen.
July 9, 2020Light and Life - Part 2
On Tuesday we looked at the light giving nature of God and His word. Today, we will look at Hebrews 4:12 and consider the new life Scripture offers us. Everyone knows that the past few months have been extremely challenging in our country and in the world. In addition to the real problems, we're inundated by opinions from everywhere. We turn on the TV and are offered perspectives from broadcasters and even commercials. The inbox of my email overflows with ideas and thoughts. My social media feed often offers raw and emotional statements about how I should or shouldn't think about life. I can tell you there has never been a more important time in my life to be reading the Bible and learning from the Lord than right now.
Hebrews 4:12-13 gives us two important reasons for Scripture to be the voice we hear most each day. First, verse 12 says, "For the word of God is alive and active." This means the passages we read aren't just typed words but living and working truths used by the Holy Spirit in our lives. We need truth that is living and transforms people and communities.
Second, Eugene Peterson in The Message translates the second part of Hebrews 4:12 as, "God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey." The words of God can deal with our doubts and defense. Scripture will offer truth that can remove the doubts in our life and replace it with the certainty of God's ways. The Scriptures also cut through our defenses and help us to align our thinking and living according to it. Verse 13 says, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." The point is that God continues to help us see ourselves and our beliefs in light of what He has shown us in the Scriptures.
We live in a time that allows us to hear from tons of voices that offer many opinions. Some of these will prove true and others will lead people down false paths. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16 that Scripture comes from the most trusted source. He says, "All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness." Christians may this be a time we seek the Scripture for God's leading and new life like no other.
July 7, 2020Light and Life - Part 1
Last week we began our devotional series on light and life verses from the Bible. This is based on the way the Scriptures describe themselves in the Bible in Psalm 119:105 and Hebrews 4:12. We pray they will offer encouragement through their light and challenge us towards new life. Let's take a minute to think about how special light was to a community that didn't have electricity.
A few times in my life I've gone caving with a group of people. Once you get into the cave there is no natural light, and it is completely dark. I distinctly remember crawling on my stomach through small tunnels. I could only see the feet of the person in front of me. The light on your helmet and your flashlight were the only ways to have light in the darkness that surrounded you. They also were the only ways to see the incredible rock formations in these caves and the serene streams of water that flowed in them. I have never valued light more than when I was in those caves.
The Lord describes Himself and His ways as light in the Bible. What a valuable commodity in a world that spent considerable time in the dark. Psalm 119:103-105 says, "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." I want to point out two important things about God's word from this passage. First, God's word offers a lamp to our feet. The Scriptures give clarity to where we find ourselves. It puts forth light into the darkness and helps us to see we don't just stand in the circumstances of the moment, but in the eternal purposes of God. Second, the word of God gives us direction to go forward, light to our path. Sometimes it may seem impossible to take the next step, but the Lord encourages us that His words offer guidance through it all. God and His words will be light in the darkness that surrounds us and the darkness has never overcome it!
July 2, 2020Jeremiah 29 - Part 2
On Tuesday we learned how wonderful the Lord is to us. We have times, like the people of Israel, where dreams have been destroyed and the hopes of yesterday are long gone from our view. We saw in those moments the Lord has a promise and a plan to eventually end pain and bring new life.
A scavenger hunt is always one of my favorite activities. You run around finding small treasures in hidden locations and you usually end with some sort of prize. I've always felt the real winners of a scavenger hunt are the people that seek out the hidden objects tirelessly and work with their team well. They are the ones that seem to get the most out of the experience.
Today, we see that God's people had something important to do in the present as they awaited this certain future from God. The Lord gives them two incredible responsibilities to actively seek out in life. First, in Jeremiah 29 verses 12 to 14 they are told seek the Lord with all their heart because they will find Him. The people had been hard-hearted and resisted God's leading in their lives. Now they were to seek Him with all their hearts. One way they will do this is in prayer. The Lord says they will call on Him, and He will listen to them. A great privilege we have while waiting for God"s future plans is finding the Lord, knowing Him more deeply, by seeking him with all our hearts.
Second, the Lord says seek the good of the city in verses 4 through 7. How are they and we supposed to do this task? God tells them the first way is to settle down and become part of the community. They are to build houses, plant and eat from their gardens, and grow families. These were all signs of being committed to the place God had brought them. The other way they sought the good of the city was to seek the welfare of it and pray for it. They were to love their neighbor by working to make this place a better community. How many have seen the gospel from a loving Christian before they ever heard a spoken word?
There may be times we feel lost in life. The Lord's promise is that the bad times won't last forever because He's working the good plans right now. However, we aren't to sit around, but to seek the Lord and the good of the place we find ourselves.
June 30, 2020Jeremiah 29 - Part 1
Our light and life verse for this week is Jeremiah 29:11 and comes to us from Sammie. It reads, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." We live in times of chaos and frustration, and many are worried about the future of our country. That is the situation for the people of Judah in our passage today. They had left the Lord and pursued other peoples' gods. Now God would give them over to their sin and allow them to be fully immersed with those other people. King Nebuchadnezzar came to Judah and took them captive and brought them back to Babylon. Can you imagine what they saw and felt? Some of them saw the temple. This was the place that signified the Lord dwelling with them. Solomon had built it at the peak of their prosperity as a country, and now it was burning rubble. There were family and friends that were starving from lack of food and those that lost their lives. They were in a foreign land and servants of another people. They were in a foreign land and servants filled with grief and wondering how things could ever be better.
That is when the Lord gives Jeremiah words to write in a love letter to those in exile in Babylon. The Lord makes a promise and shares the plans of a future hope. He makes a promise in verse 10 to bring His people back home after their punishment is over. He promises that these miserable days will not last forever because He will put an end to them. You can hear the voice of your Father saying, "I promise there will be new days my children." The most beautiful and amazing attribute of our God is that He is a Redeemer. He continues to work in the unbearable situations of life to rescue and renew us. Is there anything better than God promising to restore the lives of His people?
Second, He shares a plan to prosper them. The word for prosper is shalom. He plans to bring peace, wholeness, welfare, and not evil to them. He will give them hope and a future where they see none. His promise would take them from the darkest days of life and His plans were to bring new, beautiful life to them. If that weren't enough, He says it to them again and again. In verse 14 He repeats the promise twice: "I will bring you back from captivity ... and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile." Wow. Wherever we find ourselves today we can remember we have a God who promises to work redemptively and plans to bring us hope in a future.
June 18, 2020"For Thine Is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory."
The end of The Lord's Prayer says: "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen."
It is such a blessing to know that our Lord's kingdom, power, and glory will reign forever! Psalm 145:11-13, written by David, states: "They will speak of the glory of your kingdom; they will give examples of your power. They will tell about your mighty deeds and about the majesty and glory of your reign. For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations." It's amazing to me that even though the Psalms were written approximately three thousand years ago, the words are still holding true today. The power of God will always remain constant, and we have the privilege of proclaiming His glory still today!
Ephesians 6:10 says: "Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power!" We have all faced difficult times in our lives, that can feel very overwhelming. They are never easy to go through. But praise be to God, He has overcome evil and continues to protect us each day!
The songwriter Thomas O. Chisolm penned these words: "Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not; As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!" It is such an awesome wonder to know that our mighty God is by our side both now and forever! He alone is worthy of all honor and praise! Amen.
June 16, 2020"Lead Us Not Into Temptation, but Deliver Us From the Evil One"
The devotionals this week will be focusing on the last of The Lord's Prayer. Matthew 6:13 says: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
I think temptation is the lure that something else other than God will make us happy. Temptation certainly is a very real problem all of us face at times in our lives. It can be extremely difficult to deal with. We can find comfort in the fact that Jesus was faced with temptation directly from Satan in the wilderness. Matthew 4 tells us of three temptations that He encountered: severe hunger from fasting forty days and forty nights, Satan's attempt to get Jesus to jump from the highest point of the temple, and the devil's offer to give Him all the kingdoms in the world if He would bow down to him. Each time, Jesus was able to overcome temptation by remembering Scripture! We would be wise to do the same. 1 Corinthians 10:13 states: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it."
God promises to deliver us from the evil one, and we need to always remember that! Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:2-3: "Pray too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people, for not everyone is a believer. But the Lord is faithful, He will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one." Prayer is an essential part of every day life. Verse 2 of "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" says: "Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, Take it to the Lord in prayer." What a great comfort and joy it is to know that He is always watching, listening, caring, and protecting! Amen.
June 11, 2020"Forgive Us Our Debts as We Also Have Forgiven Our Debtors"
As we continue our series on the Lord's Prayer, we are up to Matthew 6:12, "And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."
At our house, we really like m&ms, so we might ask someone if they want a handful. What would you say? Yes? No? Whose hand is measuring the handful? As a mathematician, I can tell you that the unit of measurement is an important detail to know.
Did you catch the unit of measurement in today's prayer? We are asking God to forgive us AS we forgive others. AS means "to the same degree or amount." Forgive us in the same amount that we forgive. Luke 6:38 tells us, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Of course, we want God's forgiveness, but this means we need to be just as forgiving with others. Sometimes this is very difficult. Sometimes we just can't let go of the hurt. Luckily, we don't have to do it on our own for "with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26) When our heart struggles with forgiveness, we can ask God to help release any pain, anger, or resentment blocking our forgiveness so that we can move on in peace.
I want to add a step to Tuesday's challenge. After you count your servings of bread and look for the love and care of Jesus found in your day, ask God to help you extend that love and care to the people in your life so that you can get to the point of true forgiveness.
June 9, 2020"Give Us Today Our Daily Bread"
Last week Pastor Patrick started a series looking at the Lord's Prayer. We continue on today with Matthew 6:11, "Give us today our daily bread."
I was excited for today's lesson. You see, I love bread! Whether it is sweet banana bread for breakfast or savory garlic bread for dinner, bread is just a great part of meals. If you limit your carbs or gluten intake, I hope you have a good alternative. I don't want to think of anyone not getting to enjoy bread. So, is this verse literally all about bread?
Well, I think we are really asking God to provide for our daily physical needs. We are asking God to give us food, shelter, and security. We are asking God to provide what we need to sustain us from day to day. We are asking God for the basics; bread not caviar. But if we look at this verse in light of John 6:48 where Jesus says, "I am the bread of life," this prayer has a second meaning. We are asking for Jesus every day. We need Jesus to live spiritually, just as we need food to live physically. Our minds know that He is with us at all times, but are our hearts really open to see Him in the beauty of nature, or hear Him in a wonderful song, or are we too caught up in the busyness of the day? When we trust God, and not our own strength, for our needs, we are better able to see His presence in our lives. When we ask God for our daily bread, He does provide, both physically and spiritually, exactly what we need.
I want to leave you with a challenge for the rest of the week. Each evening, count how many servings of bread you had during the day. Then see if you can spot Jesus at least that many times as well during your day.
June 4, 2020"Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done, on Earth as It Is in Heaven"
In the first part of the Lord's Prayer we saw our posture in prayer as we come before our Father in heaven. Today, we talk about the first three requests about God in Matthew 6:10, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Your Kingdom come - In the gospel of Matthew we're told that "John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (Matthew 3:2). After His temptation in the wilderness, Jesus began his public ministry preaching, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". Jesus's incarnational ministry brought the kingdom of heaven near, but now we pray that God's kingdom would be fully realized in our lives and in the world around us. We are pleading that Christ would rule in our hearts and transform our world. We learn from Jesus and John this is a request to change us. They both use the word repent in their preaching to the people. Isn't it interesting that Jesus and John said prepare yourselves by identifying the mis-leadings in your own life, so you can hear the leading of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of heaven? A precious way to see the kingdom of heaven at work in our lives is to identify our own idols, earthly thinking, and turn towards God.
Your will be done - This naturally connects with the previous petition, "Your kingdom come." We pray that Christ would lead our hearts to live for Him. How do we know the will of God? He has generously given it to us in Scripture. The prayer "your will be done", is asking God to help us live out the revelation of His truth to us in Scripture.
This section of the prayer closes with the words, on earth as it is in heaven. The 3 petitions are that our heavenly Father's name would be honored and magnified as we pray, that His kingdom would reign in our lives, and the will of His words would be walked in our lives.
Oh Father, we pray Your name would be treasured. As we pray, help us to turn our focus from the building of our own personal kingdoms that don't last and be led by Your great kingdom where we find real joy. May we seek Your words and be led by them making earth more like heaven each day. Amen.
June 2, 2020"Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed Be Your Name"
Today, we begin looking at the first phrase of the Lords Prayer in Matthew 6:9, "Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name."
The context of a passage should always inform our understanding of it. In Matthew 6, Jesus has been pointing out what real righteousness looks like to God. He says there are hypocrites and true worshipers of God. The hypocrites are focused on receiving reward from others in their acts of worship. They pray, fast, and give to appear righteous before God and receive praise from others. I really love being a father. I desire to give good things to my kids, but nothing is better than a child coming to their parent with no other purpose than to spend time with them.
Jesus knows the genuine worshiper is focused in prayer on God and the reward of being with Him. He offers an example of authentic prayer. He teaches His disciples to call upon God as Our Father. Prayer is relational with a personal Father rather than just a righteous act. Father implies a family connection with one that has parental authority in a household. A good father is a source of strength and love for their family. When we go to pray saying, "Father" it is stating that the Lord is near and personal to us.
The words, in heaven, remind us that not only is God near and involved, but that His presence goes beyond earth. The Lord's presence is not contained on earth or limited by time. Wow. The focus of prayer is coming into conversation with the God of the universe. We approach Him as a personal, nearby Father that wants to be with us. He is also the one enthroned as ruler forever and not contained by earth or the highest heaven.(1 Kings 8:27)
Hallowed be your name is the first type of request in the Lord's Prayer. We are stating that we come to prayer with reverence for God. We come into the conversation of prayer wanting Your name to be made holy, Lord. The tone of prayer is conversation that honors and lifts up God's name in my life. That's how we pray in the Lord's Prayer.
May 24, 2020
"Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." Luke 6:38
May 3, 2020
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18
April 30, 2020God is Our Helper - Part 2
One of the things I've really enjoyed in life is coaching kids in the sport of basketball. I love helping students learn physical skills or mentally understand the game. It is so rewarding to see someone learn how to shoot a basketball with the right form or play a certain defense and know that you've helped them become better players.
In the gospel of John chapters 14 to 16 Jesus prepares his disciples for his departure from them. He coaches them up and promises that they won't be without God or His help. He says in John 16 verse 7 "Nevertheless I tell you the truth it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.' The word helper means one called to your side to help: an advocate, a comforter, or counselor. This is the word Jesus uses about the role of the Holy Spirit. He's come to help you.
We see here that God's help isn't just to bring us out of times of trouble, but to continue our growth in Him. The helping work of God was accomplished in Jesus to deliver us out of trouble, but it doesn't stop there...it continues in us today. Jesus says there are three specific ways the Spirit will help them and us. First, he will bear witness about Jesus. He will tell people the point of the game called life is helping everyone know God in Jesus Christ. His ministry will point to Jesus and enable the disciples to bear witness in their own lives to Jesus Christ. Second, he will instruct and develop a strong team of disciples. Jesus says the Spirit will do this by teaching us all things and bringing to remembrance all that Jesus has said to us. The Spirit helps us grow in our understanding of the word of God, the game plan for life. We have a helper each time we read Scripture to grow us from fundamentals to understanding the details of the game plan. Third, the Spirit will coach us up when we pick up bad habits and help us to see how to change our ways so we can be the person God made us to be in life. Jesus tells them the Spirit will guide disciples into all truth and will convict the world concerning sin.
The Lord is our helper in trouble and to grow us in all times. A good coach always needs players familiar with the playbook and willing to receive instruction. Where is God trying to help and coach you towards growth right now?
April 28, 2020God is Our Helper - Part 1
The Scriptures describe God as our greatest helper and one of my favorite psalms is Psalm 46. The Psalm gives us two powerful images that share a truth. First, he uses graphic language to depict the earth falling apart as a metaphor for trouble or disaster in life. In verse two and three the "earth gives away, the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, its waters roar and foam." The point is chaos is in full force and everything is falling apart. Sometimes life can feel this way: unstable, intimidating, and painful. The surprise is that the Psalmist says that they will not fear. They won't be terrified by it. Why?
There are two certainties about the Lord in our passage. First, God is ever present or very present in our distress. The Psalms chorus repeats in grand voice, "The Lord Almighty is with us." We have an Ebenezer, or stones of help, gathered outside our church building. These stones remind us "thus far the Lord has brought us," or to say it a different way, thus far God has been with us. The world may change but God remains with us.
The Psalmist's hope is not just that the Lord is always present but that He is our help as well. The Lord will be his rock that supports him, his refuge that protects him, and his ultimate rescuer from trouble. The Lord is the One he can depend on, as everything around him gives way. This help brings peace to the city and its people in verse five. "God is within her, she will not fall." God's help goes even further to bring peace to the world in verse 9. "He breaks the bow and shatters the spear."
What does this mean for us? The Lord is always present and a help to us. Verse 10 sums it up. "Be still and know that I am God." We can know that the Lord is God and we can remain still in him even as trembling trouble takes place all around us. The truth of this Psalm is what led Martin Luther to pen "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."
April 25, 2020
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6
April 23, 2020Trusting in the Lord through all phases of our lives - Part 2
I would like to start by reading a couple of verses from Scripture. Psalm 56:3-4, "But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. I praise God for what He has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? David penned these words regarding the time the Philistines seized him in a city called Gath. My study bible says the theme of this Psalm is trusting in God's care in the midst of fear. When all seems dark, one truth still shines bright! When God is for us, those against us will never succeed.
This promise from God is everlasting, as are all His promises. We can always depend on Him being there for us through the good and the difficult times of our life. He didn't forsake David, and He will not forsake us. We need to trust Him completely during this pandemic, and all the days we have left on this earth. Jesus said in John 12:44-46, "If you trust in Me, you are trusting not only Me, but also God who sent Me. For when you see Me, you are seeing the one who sent Me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in Me will no longer remain in the dark." What a great comfort it is to have Jesus, the Light of the world, walking along side of us every day!
I want to leave you with these words from another favorite hymn of mine. "Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word. Just to rest upon His promise, just to know "Thus saith the Lord." Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, how I've proved Him o'er and o'er. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, oh for grace to trust Him more. I'm so glad I learned to trust Him, precious Jesus, Savior, friend. And I know that He is with me, will be with me to the end." We love and miss you all! Take care. God Bless.
April 21, 2020Trusting in the Lord through all phases of our lives - Part 1
We are going to talk about trusting in the Lord through all phases of our lives.
I have been thinking a lot about how we really need to trust and depend upon God every single day of our lives. It seems so much easier to say and believe we do that, while things are going along in a fairly normal pattern. We all pretty much have a routine that we follow each day, some hectic and some not as much. But it becomes much more difficult when our routines get disrupted by sickness, car troubles, unexpected financial burdens, or even the Corona virus pandemic that is taking place right now.
One of my favorite Scripture passages is Proverbs 3:5-6 which states, "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." Solomon, inspired by God, wrote these words a very long time ago, but they still hold true today. We all know that we are going through difficult times right now, but please let us all remember that God is right here with us! He will never leave us or forsake us!
As one of the hymns we sing at church states, "Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies, But His smile quickly drives it away: Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear, can abide while we trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." God Bless you all.
April 16, 2020God's Character, Part 2 - Redeemer
When I go to pick out a greeting card for someone's birthday or special celebration it is a site to see. It often takes me a long time to pick the right one and can be compared to finding a needle in a haystack. After several minutes I usually have to ask myself, "What is the one thing I want to share with this person on this special day?"
In Job 19 verses 23 to 27 Job was in the midst of trials that seemed to take everything away from him. He found one permanent thing and wished to share it in a message that he hoped would be kept forever. Hebrew poetry would repeat an idea to emphasize its importance and Job says in four different ways that he wishes this one truth was kept as the world's greatest greeting card message. He says, "Oh that my words were recorded, written on a scroll, inscribed with an iron tool, or engraved in rock."
And what was that message he wanted written down forever? He says, "I know that my Redeemer lives and that my eyes will see him." He goes on to describe what he means. Job pictures the Lord coming to stand on the earth at the end of all things. This is a posture of victory. This will happen after Job's death, after his skin has been destroyed, and everything appears lost. The redeemer will come and have the last say. Job says that in that moment he will see God in his flesh. In other words, he will experience restoration of life and a resurrected body. However, the real joy for him is that he will see God, his redeemer face to face. "I myself will see him with my own eyes - I, and not another."
Job's joy is that the One who brings life out of death is alive and victorious at the end of time and comes to give him life. He literally can't wait for that time. "How my heart yearns or faints within me," he shouts to those who will hear him. The Lord Jesus Christ is our redeemer that lives, the one who will stand in victory before all that we face at his second coming, and our greatest joy is that we will see him with our own eyes. A message for all time.
April 14, 2020God's Character, Part 1 - Sovereignty
We've always had a lot of respect for those in the medical field. We look up to our nurses, doctors, and first responders. We may not always be as gracious towards those that serve in the food industry and provide sanitation care. The truth is whatever perspective we've had in the past, we've been reminded over the past month that these folks are the real heroes that live around us. They serve on the front lines and their love and faith are on display for all to see.
Every time we come to God's word faithfully, we're given a chance to have a bigger and clearer perspective on the Lord as well. In the book of Job, 35 chapters are spent by Job and his friends trying to figure out the grounds for his suffering. They spend a lot of time looking downward at Job, his circumstances, and potential faults that led to it. Chapters 38 to 41 offer a response from the Lord that calls them to look upward at Him. At the end of the book God responds with a great testimony about his sovereignty. In chapter 38 he gives a picture of how he's made the world and how he cares for every detail of it. in verse 4 he says, he "laid the earth's foundation." In verse 8 and 11 he details how he put limits on the water and told it, "this far you may come and no farther." He goes on to describe how he gives orders to the dawn and put stars together into constellations. The chapter ends by describing his care for it. He can count the clouds and tip over the water jars of heavens when the ground becomes dry. He provides food for the lion and the raven.
The end of the book of Job shows us the Lord has made all that we see and sustains all of it. His power and care for us are greater than what we're able to see on our own. Here's something remarkable: after the Lord finishes sharing about himself Job is left in awe and proclaims how wonderful the Lord is in His glory. In chapter 42 he says, "I know that you can do all things no purpose of yours can be thwarted... My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you."
May you be encouraged by the character of a God who sovereignly rules over all things and cares for his people. Let's take a moment today to not just hear those words but see him with our own eyes.
April 12, 2020HAPPY EASTER
"The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.'" Matthew 28:5-6a
April 9, 2020Space for Sadness - Part 2
An EPC pastor and I have a good friendship and we like to joke around with each other. One Sunday I was preaching on Song of Songs and the romantic affection Solomon and his bride shared together. My colleague asked, "You're Irish right?" I told him that I was part Irish and he replied, "Alright, so the sermon should be about 10 minutes then!" All jokes aside most of us have a European heritage that is not well known for showing feelings. We can learn a lot from other ethnicities, the Bible and Jesus on the value of expressing our feelings to God.
The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, "Jesus wept." Jesus' good friend Lazarus has been dead and in the tomb 4 days in John 11. He comes to Bethany and meets Martha, Mary and the rest of the grieving party. Martha and then Mary meet Jesus individually, but both of them say, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died" (v. 21 & 32). We are told that right before Jesus heads to the tomb that he wept. There is no doubt that Jesus was moved to tears, but the question is what did Jesus weep over that day? The loss of his friend Lazarus, the grief of his sisters and other mourners touched Jesus. We're also told Jesus was "deeply moved" and "troubled." The idea of being deeply moved was to feel intensely and even be agitated or upset over something. Jesus confronted the sting of death here and he also felt the reality that some would see the miracle and not know the One that was life and resurrection. This moved and troubled him. Remember he knew Lazarus would be raised from the dead. The sisters' words, "If you'd only had been here", are troubling because Jesus is there and that is all that matters. Sickness, death, and especially unbelief grieve Jesus and it should grieve us as well.
Tomorrow we will take part with 3 other denominations in a day of prayer and fasting to the Lord. Let us seek us God with our sadness, be honest about our shortcomings, and plead for new life. Jesus tells Martha, "...if you believe, you will see the glory of God." This is the message of Easter. A people of unbelief confronted with death that finds the one who says, "I am the resurrection and life. The one who believes in me will live" (v. 25).
April 7, 2020Space for Sadness - Part 1
One of our family's favorite movies to watch is the animated feature Inside Out. The movie is about a little girl named Riley and her parents. Riley's family moves from their home in Minnesota to San Francisco after her father gets a new job. We are shown Riley's different emotions as she tries to adjust to her new life. One of the most creative parts of the story is that all of Riley's emotions: joy, anger, sadness, disgust, and fear are made into little characters in her brain that talk together. The emotion that's been dominant in Riley's life up to this point is joy. Throughout the movie joy directs the different emotions to help get Riley's life back on track. The goal is to get Riley to be happy and it leaves joy feeling like sadness doesn't have a role in Riley's life. The challenge is that nothing is the same in Riley's life and nothing seems to go right. The moving truck gets lost and leaves her without a bed or any of her stuff. Her father works long hours at his new job, and she has a difficult time making friends at her new school. Riley can't make sense of the hurt in her new life and the memories of her old life. She shuts down and decides to run away from home. It is in this moment that joy sees the need for sadness in Riley's life. When Riley finally has the chance to express her sadness to her parents it opens the door to understanding and healing in her life.
Right now we are living in a very challenging time. Last week I lost my college chaplain Tim Russell to COVID-19. I wasn't especially close with Tim, but I needed time to be sad, to hurt over the loss of a role model at a time when I was an impressionable young man. As Christians we will continue to proclaim the power and goodness of our God during this awful time. The Lord is our strength and will carry us through this together. I also want you to know there is room for sadness, room for grief and tears during this time. The Scripture is full of moments where God's people expressed lament over their situations. They opened their hearts and cried out to God about their pain and asked Him to come and make things right. This was something other peoples did before their gods. What set the Lord's people apart was that they also shared their trust in God's care for them.
The circumstances are much different, but in the book of Lamentations Jeremiah offers us a perspective on lamenting before God. His people have been taken to exile in Babylon and he looks upon the desolation and destruction of Jerusalem. He describes the empty roads and deserted gateways and it causes him to weep with tears. In chapter 3 verses 19-24 he says, "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." Lord, enable us to continue proclaiming your faithfulness and new mercies each morning and remind us that sometimes we need to be sad and share it with you and one another.
April 2, 2020"Have Courage and Be Kind" - Part 2
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32
Let's continue our devotion based on a quote from the 2015 movie, Cinderella. "Have courage and be kind," is the lesson taught by Cinderella's mother. Just as there are many Bible verses about courage, there are many verses about kindness, caring, and love. Today's verse is a great one.
Most of us have a new routine now. Kids are home. Adults are home. We are spending more time at home than ever. We love our family, but it is easy to have a quick temper in such close quarters. Sometimes the people we love the most can also anger us the most. Yet as much as our sin can anger God, He loves us, His children, so much more. So much that He sent His Son to die for us. In today's verse, Paul encourages us to show a Christ-like attitude of kindness, compassion, and forgiveness toward one another; not just in public, but in our homes as well. We should be good to everyone.
When anger starts to win, I urge you to pray something like this: "Loving Father, I am not feeling kind. Thank You for loving me so fully. Help me to be kind and not angry. Let Your love fill me and be the source for my kindness, so I can model Your love and kindness to others. In Christ's name, Amen."
March 31, 2020"Have Courage and Be Kind" - Part 1
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
In our family, we try to work as many movie and TV quotes as possible into conversations. One quote that I have been thinking about lately is from the 2015 movie, Cinderella. "Have courage and be kind," is the lesson from Cinderella's mother. While the quote is not Biblical, the lesson can be. Courage is mentioned in the Bible many times, and Joshua 1:9 is one of my favorites.
Today, there are many things that are unknown. It is easy to be fearful, but having courage means than we are able to act and to get through life even while being afraid. We can be courageous because we know that the Lord is with us wherever we go, just as He was with Joshua when they crossed into the promised land. When we put our faith in God, His presence and power are the strongest basis for courage that we can ever have. When we believe that God is with us and for us, we can be courageous.
When fear starts to win, I urge you to pray something like this: "Mighty God, I am not courageous. Thank You for always being with me and for me. Help me to be strong and not fearful. Let Your presence and power be the source for my courage for I cannot do this alone. In Christ's name, Amen."
March 26, 2020
"So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the Levitical priests, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. Then Moses commanded them: "At the end of every seven years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Festival of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. Assemble the people - men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns - so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law." Deuteronomy 31:9-12
After Moses charged the Israelites and Joshua to be strong and courageous, he wrote down the law and gave it to the leaders; the priests and the elders of Israel. Then, he instructed them to gather together every seven years at the festival of Tabernacles for a reading of the words of God's law. He wanted everyone there: men, women, children, and foreigners living in the land. He said the purpose of this was that the people could listen to these words again, learn to fear the Lord their God, and follow carefully all the words of His law.
At various times in redemptive history God has called his people to a fresh hearing of his words. There were times like this where things were going well and they were preparing to go into a new land, promised by God. There were times, like those of king Josiah, where the law had been lost and the people had simply forgotten God's words. There were times their blatant disregard of God's words led them to exile and suffer in foreign lands and rediscover His words through the prophets. There were times where God rescued them and brought them home to hear his words again from people like Ezra and Nehemiah. The common theme of all these times is that the reading of Scripture always helps us see the Lord is God over all and shows us how to live life fully as His people. These discoveries always bring new life to weary souls.
Moses had learned through all the years of his life that the words of God revealed His holy & perfect nature and His incredible care for His people. In other words, he'd seen the trustworthiness of God's words to His people and desperately wanted them to live by them. This led him in Deuteronomy 32 verses 1 to 4 to declare in song the greatness of our God, the perfection of all His works, and His faithfulness to His people. The bottom line is that the source of strength and courage for God's people at any stage of life is His great presence and also His life-giving words. I invite you to take a few moments today in Deuteronomy 31 and 32 to rediscover God's lifegiving words to you.
March 24, 2020
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:6-8
The people of Israel are preparing to enter the promised land. Moses gives one of his final pep talks to the people as they prepare to face the Canaanites. In verse 6 he says, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." God asks them to be strong by believing in the strength of their God, even in the midst of the opposition they'll face in the Promised Land. This is what courage is all about. It is the resolve to go forward in trying circumstances because of God's strength rather than our fear. Remember this was a crucial time for the Israelites. They had been here before and had turned back in fear at this very moment in the book of Numbers. They were afraid of the giants of the land and couldn't see a way to defeat them. The question for them and for us is what will we do right now before the giant circumstances of our lives? The Lord says do not be afraid or dismayed by what stands before you because of who stands with you.
This courage is based on 2 things about God we can hold onto today. First, God goes with you. We're not alone. God goes with us into the tough places where all we can do is rely upon him. When we feel weak or fearful the Lord is right there with us. We can find Him there. Second, he will never leave or forsake you. God doesn't leave us to fend for ourselves. He won't abandon you but will bring you through these times. God will even use trying times to accomplish what he wants to do in our lives. Moses' charge is to be a people strong and courageous because of their God, who always goes with them in his perfect strength. The Lord's desire is that we wouldn't be afraid or dismayed because we've seen his goodness for ourselves. The giant things that stand before us are never a match for the God that goes with us.