Devotion Archives 2021, July - September
Freely Give by Diana Kerr
We humans can be really stingy sometimes, can’t we? Stingy with our possessions, stingy with our time, stingy with forgiveness…
It’s like we think we’ve earned all the blessings and gifts we hoard, like we did something to build up this stockpile of love, grace, and riches we claim as our own.
Crazy enough, we actually have done literally nothing to deserve grace and forgiveness, so they are certainly not ours to hoard. And as far as physical blessings, yes, some things in this life require effort on our part, but honestly no matter how hard we work, we get zero results unless they’re given to us by God.
How does this realization change things? How does it change the way we view that homeless person by the freeway exit ramp, the needs of our church, or that coworker who drives us crazy?
Jesus sent out his disciples to perform miracles in his name, sharing a beautiful truth wrapped up in a simple command: “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8).
In other words, what you’ve been given you got for free. So give it out freely, for free.
We will never exceed or even match the generosity of our Lord’s spiritual and tangible blessings to us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep his generosity and goodness top of mind and then watch how our grip loosens on what we have as we freely pass on to others what he’s freely given us.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
For the love of dandelions by Karen Spiegelberg
Early summertime brings the blossoming and growth of many types of plants in my yard. When my daughters were young, they’d pick big bouquets of bright yellow dandelions and proudly bring them to me. As any mom would do, I gushed in delight. One day, having walked through a yard full of dandelions, our oldest daughter came in the back door. Surprisingly she held none in her little fists. I said, “Why no dandelions today?” She replied, “Because Nicky (a neighbor boy) told me they’re just weeds!”
I couldn’t help but think of the analogy to us, God’s imperfect and weedy people. We try to look appealing and do good in God’s eyes, but our attempts are futile. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64: 6). But here’s the good news—even though we are really just weeds in the big garden of life, God picks us and proudly gathers us as his own. Thank goodness he doesn’t just march on by and leave us to wither and die. We are made a beautiful and fragrant bouquet in his sight through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Next time you see some dandelions, I dare you to pick a bunch and display them gladly in your house! What a beautiful reminder of God’s precious love for us, the weeds.
A Martha turned Mary by Kathy Schreiner
Are you familiar with the lesson of the sisters Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-41? In a nut shell, Jesus goes to visit them at their home. Martha is concerned about making everything perfect for Jesus' visit while Mary is more concerned with Jesus Himself.
I confess I have always been a "Martha"—an independent workaholic who wanted things to be done "right". That is what makes my current circumstances that much harder for me. I am going through a physically incapacitating time that requires me to ask for and accept help. I am usually the one to offer the help, and not need it so this is very difficult and humbling for me.
Fortunately, God has blessed me with a faith family who has stepped up. Friends have brought food, visited, prayed and given me support beyond what I could expect.
But the best part of this nasty situation has been my blood sister. She has moved in with me to see to my care. Mind you she still takes care of her husband who developed cancer during the pandemic, and babysits her granddaughter five days a week while dealing with a serious disease herself. Between chauffeuring me to doctor and therapy appointments, we have had a wonderful time reliving childhood memories and enjoying some of our favorite family meals.
Through this I have been reminded of Paul's encouragement to the Galatians in chapter 6:9-10: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."
Among God's greatest blessings to us is our family of believers. They lift us up in prayer and in physical and emotional needs—and give us balance in Christian love. What an awesome God we have!
Jesus is There, Even in the Storm by Erica Koester
The account of Jesus’ walking on water (Matthew 14:22-36) is one of the most well-known sections in the Bible. I always assumed Jesus’ purpose in taking that walk was to physically display his power as God. And while this was indeed a miraculous showcase of his power, I recently thought about this in a different light. Jesus could’ve calmed that entire storm with a single word. Instead, he chose to walk across the water, to make himself known to the disciples in the storm, and to calm the disciples’ fear.
I love the words of Jesus recorded for us as he approaches the disciples in the middle of their crisis: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Mark 14:27b). He didn’t bring life vests or a raft or any earthly help, he simply showed up. In that moment, Jesus was all they had. But he was also the only thing they needed.
This paints a beautiful picture for us as we weather life’s storms. Sometimes, God may in fact calm the storm. Other times, the storm will rage, but Jesus is right there beside us through it all. In fact, it is often in the storms of life that we see Jesus most clearly, as we lean on Him and draw near to Him.
What storm are you currently facing? Sickness? A stressful job? A strained marriage? May the words of Jesus be much more powerful than your fear: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Focus, Focus, Focus by Janet Gehlhar
Oh the frustration of knowing Satan’s lies are gaining ground . . . again. Every. Single. Day. I’m tired of fighting sin and evil. I’m tired of the constant spiritual battle. The good I want to do I don’t do and the evil I don’t want to do I keep on doing.
And then I see the other side . . . the Time of Grace devotions that have been speaking to my heart, the Bible readings where God is reminding me that He is in charge, praying fervently and dumping all of my cares, concerns, and anger into God’s hands for Him to handle . . . and I am struck with awe AGAIN with the fact that God is always with me, will use everything for my eternal good, and He alone has the strength to get me through.
“Seek the Lord and his strength. Seek his presence continually.” I Chronicles 16:11 EHV
I’m concentrating on that passage today. Focus. Focus. Focus. I so need to keep my focus on Jesus. His Strength – not mine will get me through the sadness/disappointments in life. I’m asking God to put side blinders on me so when Satan is shaking his colorful pom poms of lies, I won’t be distracted. Pray unceasingly . . . yes, remembering . . . God is in charge. God is with me. God has a plan. God will work on things for my eternal good. God is holding me close.
Today my focus is on Jesus.
The Son Will Shine Again by Julie Luetke
Have you been watching the horrible flooding around the globe this summer? China, Germany, Austria, Poland and many other places all have people being forced from their homes due to flood waters. Cars are floating down streets, hillsides are being washed away and dams are breaking.
Each of those floods began with a few drops of rain. No one panicked. Rain is not a problem, at first. One drop adds to another and another and without a let up you will eventually get a destructive flood.
Our sin is like that. We don’t even know we are sinning at first, a resentful thought, a word of exclamation that uses one of God’s names, a little lie to keep from hurting someone’s feelings. Our sin doesn’t even bother us. Over time, those resentful thoughts become gossip and plots of revenge. Taking God’s name in vain can be so normal for us that we rarely use His name in any other way. Little lies become whoppers with no remorse. One lie leads to so many more to try to cover up the ones already told that soon, we have created a flood.
The floods in the news are horrible. Houses are gone; roads washed away, people died. This is real damage that changes lives forever. Sin is like that too. Relationships are broken, out of shame or defiance we walk away from God, we might even think of ending our life. The damage of sin cannot be hidden any more than the damage of a flood.
Jesus sees the messes we’ve made and has compassion on us. He invites us to ask for His forgiveness and help to control our sinfulness. He promises to forgive every sin. He proved it by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. Our sins are washed away like the floods that take the debris it created far down stream.
The floods of this summer will eventually stop. The skies will clear and the sun will shine again. The water will dry up but the damage has been done. The damage from our sin is reason to take it to the Lord in prayer. God can turn the destruction we cause into blessings. God’s love for us and those we have hurt is infinite. Fall at Jesus’ feet with a repentant heart and He will give your troubled soul the peace of forgiveness.
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Oh, What peace we often forfeit.
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
(What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Written by Joseph M. Scriven in 1855, Composed by Charles Crozat Converse in 1868)
How does your garden grow? by Kathy Schreiner
I love to garden. To place tiny seeds into massive amounts of dirt, thinking they will be swallowed up only to find they emerge, grow strong, producing after its own kind. If you plant tomato seeds, you get tomatoes. Pepper seeds, peppers…all in good order from the creation of God in the Garden of Eden. You can fuss over the plants or pretty much ignore them and they will still do their thing. If you fuss you may get a bountiful harvest or not. Same if you ignore. You just never know for sure. However, you know if you plant cucumber seeds an orange tree will not emerge. You get what you plant.
Have you ever scattered a pack of assorted wild flower seeds? You cannot be sure of what you will get but trust it will be beautiful when the seeds do grow.
It is the same with the seeds you sow in life. If you sow seeds of complaining, that is what you will get. If you never sow seeds of faith, you won't receive results of faith. If you sow seeds of faithful prayer, you will see results. If you sow seeds of kindness, you will see results.
Sometimes life is like that packet of assorted wild flower seeds. You try to live your life in a thankful, God-pleasing way. You may never know what grows from this but still the seeds were planted.
Fortunately, in life the results are not up to us. God wants and directs us to plant the seeds of His Word. ("The Great Commission", Matthew 28:16-20) But the Holy Spirit is the gardener. The results are up to Him. We plant; the Holy Spirit fertilizes waters and ultimately reaps the harvest.
God promises to be with us and guide us as we plant the seeds of His Word. It doesn't matter if you are a master gardener like a trained pastor or more like a preschooler putting seeds in a paper cup. There will be results.
“As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
(Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV)
Trust the Holy Spirit to do the germinating!
Angels Watching Over Me by Karen Maio
Recently, my pastor gave one of those sermons that felt like he was looking straight at me the whole time he preached. Thankfully, it was no fire and brimstone warning, but rather, a gentle reminder of one of God’s promises. “He will put his angels in charge of you to protect you in all your ways.” (Psalm 91:11 God’s Word Translation) Or,as I learned it years ago, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” (King James Version)
For whatever reason, I don’t think about the angels very often. Possibly because I don’t see them like the people could in biblical times, but I don’t see God either, and I think about the Father, Son, and Spirit very often. I know God loves me; he is with me always and watches over me. I guess I needed the reminder that these legions of spirit agents of God are out there protecting me!
Now when I stop to think about it, that miraculous near miss of a car accident was probably an angel! The fact that Covid didn’t land my compromised lungs in the hospital...possibly an angel! The daily unseen attacks from our spiritual enemies... thwarted by angels! Even small things like not tripping on the sidewalk and thus injuring compromised joints, the angels are busy working!
I will take my pastor’s instruction to heart and thank God - regularly! - for his loving gift of his protecting angels.
God, thank you for sending angels to watch over us. Help us to find comfort and peace in your protection! In Jesus name, Amen
Too Cool for School by Kathy Schreiner
It's that time of year again—time for kids to return to school. I think it is fair to say this is going to look a lot different in many places than it used to.
Still, it is extremely important to be educated. Lifelong learning is something we should strive for. Remember the old adage, you are never too old to learn...?
That also applies to our spiritual life. We might think we know all we need to know about God and His plan of salvation for us but none of us are too cool for school.
What opportunities are available to you for expanding your knowledge of our wonderful Creator? Does your church offer one or more bible studies?
Even if the time doesn't fit into your schedule, please don't let that deter you. Why not be the one to start a class that fits your schedule and your interest. Invite others to attend.
There are many resources available. You can find studies written for just about any topic you would like to learn more about. Pick one and run it by your pastor for his input.
I have been fortunate to have two wonderful women's groups to study with in addition to co-ed group studies at my church, and our sister congregations in my little city. I cannot tell you the blessings that have come from these groups.
Expanding your knowledge of "The Ancient of Days" is not the only benefit of study groups. You get to know your brothers and sisters in Christ in a new and more personal way. You get to know their needs while sharing your own. Having others pray for your needs and being able to lift up others in prayer with their needs is healing for both body and soul. Encouragement from a fellow believer can make all the difference in life's journey. Fellowship with learning is a good thing.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
*Publisher’s Note: Click here to find useful places to further your personal and public bible study time.
Listen to the Corn by Julie Luetke
Have you ever noticed corn leaves stranding up like in this photo? The farmer told me his corn was praying for rain. Funny how we personify things like corn plants, but there is a lesson to be learned from this corn field. The leaves are not reaching out to trucks passing by or to the ground below. Rain is a gift from God above. It seems the corn knows where to look and whom to ask for needed rain.
Where do we go for our needs to be met? A girl friend? Your parents or spouse? Google? God may lead you to one of the above, but He wants, invites, and commands us to go to Him in prayer for all of our needs. God doesn’t want you to waste time and stress over the problems in this life. Your Heavenly Father already has the solution. In Philippians 4:6 God gives us the recipe for prayer:
Do not be anxious about anything,
Take a deep breath and start talking to God, He is ALWAYS listening to you, His loved child.
but in every situation,
Absolutely nothing is too big or too small, too shameful, too silly for the King of kings. He has time for you, really!
by prayer and petition,
Just ask. No fancy wording needed. Be respectful, not demanding. Remember, God told you to ask, knock and seek His help.
God has blessed you in all situations; thank Him. If you don’t like to do the dishes and want them to disappear, thank Him for the food that made them dirty.
present your requests to God.
God is the Triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not Buddha, not Allah, not angels or anyone who has died, not anyone other than the Father, Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit.
Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition,
present your requests to God.
What Are You Worried About? by Erica Koester
I tend to worry… a lot. Ever since I was a kid, my family has pointed out the ridiculous nature of some of my worries. Needless to say…I am fully aware that this is one of my most repetitious sins.
The sneaky thing about the sin of worry is that it often masquerades itself as being well-intentioned.
I worry about my kids because I care for them.
I worry about my health because I want to live a long life.
However, at the root of our worries exists a lack of trust in the Lord.
I recently spent two full days worrying that I’d made the right decision. Finally, I prayed to God, put that situation in His hands, and immediately felt a weight lifted. Not because that earthly situation suddenly disappeared, but because the peace of God – knowing He is in control - overcame my worries.
I should probably plaster the words of Philippians 4:6-7 onto every surface in my home: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Our Heavenly Father wants us to approach Him with our worries and lay them at his feet. He is in control. He always has been, and He always will be! It is really beautiful that on the other side of worry, God offers a peace that quite literally transcends our human understanding. May you know that peace today, and every day.