A WORD for the Week | Archives 11
251. No Creepy Stuff Allowed by Diana Kerr
My mom made everything a celebration growing up. I remember putting up decorations for several holidays a year, including Halloween. Until one year, when my mom said we weren’t decorating for Halloween anymore. We were allowed to trick-or-treat like we always had, but we couldn’t dress up as witches or zombies or anything creepy.
My mom’s change of thought on Halloween came from reading more about the origins of the holiday. I respected her stance, but I noticed that, within my small Christian school, each parent had different guidelines. Some kids were gung ho about spooky Halloween stuff. Another one held an autumn “costume party” every year but couldn’t trick-or-treat. One kid wasn’t allowed to participate at all.
Which parents were right? Halloween gets a lot of debate each year from the Christian community. Jesus didn’t give us a handbook of trick-or-treating guidelines. He did, however, give us the handbook of his Word, as well as the freedom to use his Word and faith-filled discernment to make good choices. Like Elihu encourages in Job 34:4, rather than listening to what others say (on Halloween or anything else), let’s consult God’s truth to form our stance: “Let us discern for ourselves what is right.”
In the case of Halloween, I think “what is right” is going to look different from one Christian to another, especially among parents of young ones. What’s “right” will vary within reason. I admire each Christian parent who makes a thoughtful, informed choice on Halloween, regardless of their differences.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
252. Worth the Effort by Diana Kerr
Take a second and think about your prayer life.
How’s it going? Do you find plenty of time for daily prayer, or do you sometimes rush through a busy day and barely spend a quality moment with God?
Our lives are full of endless tasks, meetings, and activities, most of which make it on our calendars or to-do lists.
Do you schedule 1-on-1 meetings with God?
I know, it feels weird to plan out something as beautiful and spiritual as prayer. Prayer should just happen naturally, right?
But if it doesn’t happen naturally, or if you don’t intentionally make time for focused prayer, what’s at stake? Many of us can attest to the fact that the strength of our prayer life often directly correlates with our emotional strength as we navigate the daily challenges of life.
Our Lord lived here on earth way before smartphones and e-mails, but he still knew what it was like to feel the pressure of others’ demands. And yet, he knew what he had to do to make sure that even he got his “God time” in each day. “Crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:15,16).
Even with a lot going on, Jesus intentionally fit in his alone time with God. If the benefits of prayer were worth the effort for Jesus, they are certainly worth our effort as well.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
253. Sibling Rivalry by Diana Kerr
The Bible tells some intense stories of sibling rivalry. Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers . . . their drama is worthy of the Jerry Springer Show!
Most of us have experienced sibling rivalry as well, but probably to a lesser degree. I doubt that you murdered a sibling, stole his birthright, or sold him into slavery. So what does God teach us through these stories? I think it’s worth thinking about since today is National Sibling Day.
Do you notice a common theme? Jealousy and hurt. “When [Joseph’s] brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him” (Genesis 37:4). Joseph’s brothers’ hateful thoughts turned into hateful actions when he dug the dagger even deeper by telling them about his vision of them bowing down to him.
Maybe you can relate to the brothers’ pain. All of us have felt slighted or less important than our siblings at one time, and it hurts.
When you’re the Joseph in a situation with your siblings, show them some love and be careful what you say. It’s natural to want to share the wonderful ways God is blessing you, but be careful how you do it. You might need to be gentle with the news of your pregnancy to your sister who just miscarried or your excitement about your lavish trip to Europe with your brother who’s struggling to make ends meet.
Sticks and stones may break someone’s bones, but words can break hearts and relationships.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
254. Hosannas That Last by Diana Kerr
I have to admit something—I think I was a little stuck-up in my childhood Christianity. I remember reading stories of disobedience in the Bible and thinking, “I would never do that.” I’d watch the Ten Commandments movie starring Charlton Heston with complete disgrace during the scene when the Israelites create the golden calf they then begin to worship. “Could they be any dumber?” I’d think.
Hearing the story of Palm Sunday each year was no exception. I couldn’t grasp how the people of Jerusalem could gather around praising Jesus as King one day, only to delight in his torturous murder later that week. Do you know what I mean? Do you find yourself shaking your head in disapproval at the people whose mouths shouted both “Hosanna!” and “Crucify!” in nearly the same breath?
As my faith matures and God deals out healthy doses of the humility I deserve, I now read about Palm Sunday and my heart pains me with truth. I am just as guilty of turning my back on my Savior. When I’m in church, I sing “Hosanna!” When I read my Bible, I revel in the majesty of the King of kings; but when I leave church or close my Bible, my “Hosanna!” doesn’t always continue.
Let’s confess our insincere praise and pray instead for a life of ceaseless hosannas. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9).
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
255. Love for all by Diana Kerr
Did you pass out Valentine’s treats in school when you were young? Remember how you gave a card to every classmate no matter what? Every kid received Valentine’s love without discrimination.
Now we’re grown up, and love doesn’t work that way. We show love only to the people we like and to the ones who will reciprocate that love. The writer of Hebrews suggests a different approach to challenge and encourage us: “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers. . . . Continue to remember those in prison . . . and those who are mistreated” (Hebrews 13:1-3).
How do your actions stack up against those verses? Do you treat a stranger at the grocery store with less respect than you treat your best friend? Do you shy away from the new guy at your church who just got out of jail for drunk driving? Do you watch the woman with a disability who lives in your neighborhood walk blocks and blocks to buy her groceries without ever offering her a ride? Do you join in the gossip about the single mom at your child’s school? There’s not one of us who hasn’t failed in this area of Christian living.
This Valentine’s Day, pause and consider how you might show love to everyone. If you need a role model or some good ideas, look no further than your Savior as the ultimate example.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
256. Love is a War by Diana Kerr
Happy World Marriage Day! You’re probably expecting a classic lovey Bible passage for today’s devotion, such as “Love is patient, love is kind . . .”
How about this instead? Love is a war. “It sure is,” you might be thinking. “You should have heard the fight I had with my spouse last night.”
I don’t mean you’re at war against your spouse, though. No, you’re at war alongside your spouse. Because Satan is the enemy.
Paul reminds us of this truth in Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Adopt this mind-set shift and suddenly your battle changes. With this perspective, you’re able to view the petty arguments with your spouse for what they truly are—an attack by the devil. Are you going to allow him to damage your faith and your marriage without putting up a fight? I hope not.
Thankfully, Paul goes on in verses 13 to 17 to give you advice for battle: “Put on the full armor of God,” have “the belt of truth buckled around your waist,” “take up the shield of faith,” and “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
See the battles in your marriage for what they truly are, and make sure you’re equipped to fight and overcome them together.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
257. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes Karen Maio
Sitting in the Dr.’s waiting room, I heard, “Karen” and started to get up...as did 2 other women. We laughed at the coincidence. Without asking, I knew they would most likely be around 50 years old, because “Karen” was the 4th most popular name in the ‘60’s, but isn’t typically chosen today. Chances are good that I could guess your approximate age if you are a “Betty” or a “Jennifer” (although “Emma” might go a couple ways). Name trends change as do what’s “in” for hairstyles (think of the bob, pixie, bouffant, Farrah’s feathers, the “Rachel”...back to the bob!) and clothing (think flapper dresses, mini skirts, bell bottoms, big shoulder pads, to...anything goes!) Some people love change and enjoy moving, getting a new job, and regularly rearranging their furniture. For others, change causes stress; they prefer routine sameness. While I go with the flow with hair and fashion trends, my furniture hasn’t moved an inch since the day we moved in (except to clean - and back it goes!) I tend to like routines and familiarity.
There will always be changing conditions in this life - births and deaths, hirings and firings, sickness and health, boom times and economic slumps, busy family days and quiet empty nests - and the stress that can come along with these changes. Thankfully, there is one thing that will never change: our good old, familiar Savior God and his promises.
He’s not going to let us go through changes alone:
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
His love, guidance, providence, and faithfulness are constant - even when we don’t “feel” them:
“For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:5
He’s not going to be fickle and change his mind about who is going to be saved (can you even imagine?!):
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Mark 16:16
Yes, God is faithful and good...perfect! II wouldn’t change a thing!
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 will 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.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth: Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow; Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside
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
258. You Already Taught Me to Pray By Julie Luetke
Overwhelmed by the many things I wanted to pray about, I said Lord, teach me to pray. Then I remembered the disciples had the same request of Jesus and He gave them the Lord's Prayer. The Lord's Prayer just doesn't seem to cover all of the things I need to pray about. Or does it?
Our Father in heaven,
Yes, you are my dear Father who loves me and wants to hear my prayers.
Hallowed be your name.
Oh Lord, I want everyone to honor you as the one and only God. Help me set a good example so others will look to you and honor you as their God too.
Your kingdom come.
So many people I love have turned away from you. Forgive them and bring them back into your kingdom. Use me as you see fit to grow your kingdom. Send your Holy Spirit to the people of far off places that have not heard of Jesus and bring them into your kingdom too.
Your will be done on earth as in heaven.
There is so much trouble in this world because we don't follow your will. The newspaper and magazine headlines talk of unspeakable things as normal and right. Our little children are brainwashed into thinking sexual sins are not sins but lifestyles. Unborn babies are murdered at the mothers will while the internet goes wild over a person refusing medical care to a pet. Your will has been lost because parents and grandparents are not passing it on to the next generation, nor practicing it themselves. Refresh us by your Word to follow your will.
Give us today our daily bread.
Oh Lord thank you for all of the blessings that you give not just me but all people. Open your heart to the people in Malawi, Africa, in the flooding and give them food, clean water and a warm and dry place to sleep and crops to harvest. Give shelter to the homeless in the cold of winter.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
I want to forgive others, really I do, but it is so hard to forget the wrongs done by others. I ask you to help me truly forgive. As far as my own sin, I can only ask to be covered by your grace. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay the price for my sin. Thank you, Jesus, for willingly living a perfect life for me and rising from death so I can claim the victory over sin that you won for me.
Lead us not into temptation,
Help me to remember Jesus’ words to watch and pray that I do not fall into temptation.
but deliver us from evil.
This world is filled with evil and hatred. Open the eyes of our leaders and the leaders of the world to protect us from people and governments that mean us harm. Especially protect your children who are in danger because they bravely share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Deliver us from diseases in our bodies and false teachings that sicken our minds with foolish thoughts of leaving you.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever.
These words of closing comfort me by reminding me that you are the God of all power whose kingdom is my home. I will see your glory and live with you forever.
Thank you, Jesus, for teaching me to pray.
259. Destined by Love By Christine Wentzel
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and willEphesians 1:4-5
I recently had a discussion on the topic of predestination with one of my dearest friends. My last question to her was, "why did God do it all knowing the fall of satan and man?"
This stewed in my thoughts well after our discussion, and one word continually popped to the surface, “love”. God’s been teaching and demonstrating to me all my life of his Goodness that he is Love. The Uncreated created to love and be loved. God doesn’t need us—he wants us. He wants to be bothered by the brokenness and restoration of it all.
Before time, he knew because of one disobedient bite each of us would pursue our own course for our own desires and die forever in misery.
In our time, he supplies grace through his direct word to teach us why we’d want to bother with him. How he is the fulfiller of every promise, the giver of more than we ask, and the Life now and forever.
Before time, he saw his first born son’s victorious work to restore all people to himself.
In our time, he welcomed every reunion in baptism and true confession with open arms. He enjoys a personal relationship with each of us. He's fierce in his protection for his own. Perfect Love never leaves us alone.
As we nestle in the safety of our Father's arms, we carry to share this precious love story of humankind’s amazing destiny through Jesus. As redeemed sinners, we can focus on loving others as they are, because God is at work fixing the rest.
Thank you Abba!
260. Encourage Each Other by Janet Gehlhar
It happened again – my motives were questioned. Immediately I wanted to lash out at the offending person and set the record straight. Oh, the injustice of it all raged within me. Then I stopped and asked myself, “Do I really want to waste my energy on that when I know that God knows my heart?” My honest answer – yes, I do want to waste my time and make that person understand! Ah yes, the sinful nature took control again.
I heard another perspective that helped me. When I allow someone to upset me, and-- in a way--control my thoughts because my anger lingers on the event, I am giving away my power. I use up my positive energy on that negativity and wear myself out. Why do I allow Satan that foothold in my heart? Why should that person’s accusation mean more than the truth that God already knows?
Once again I am amazed at the daily struggle with my sinful nature. As a friend reminded me – “We all have different personalities and families, but we are all dealing with the same struggles.” So true. What a blessing that we have Bible class and Christian friends who deal with the same struggles. We can encourage each other to keep our focus on Jesus and His forgiveness.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
261. When the Going Gets Tough by April Cooper
The weather here has been quite sunny lately with mild temperatures for this time of year. But, after several nice weather days in a row, unexpected rain has now set in. Not a light mist or drizzle, but a hard rain with drops that hit the windshield with force. And, the forecast now has clouds and rain for the next few days... straight.
Isn't that just like life sometimes? All is going well, routines are in place, and seemingly everything is going just as it should. Then, without warning, a crisis or trial appears, bringing the sense of serenity to an abrupt halt. It seems to catch us by surprise, but should it? Life can seem just like the weather, unpredictable!
Scripture teaches us in John 16:33 (KJV), "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." This scripture assures us that hard times, challenges, and trials will indeed come to our doorstep. But it also assures us that peace in Christ Jesus is given even in the midst of it all.
Remembering the words of John 16:33, resting in God's promises to us, and keeping a positive attitude during those hard times can make all the difference in how a person gets through problems that arise.
Prayer: Lord, I thank you for the assurance through your Word that you will never leave us or forsake us, whether we are in the midst of good times, or in the midst of a storm. Help us to be of good cheer as we write your Words upon our hearts. We ask for your peace and comfort during all trials that come our way. In your name we pray Jesus. Amen.
262. First Things First by Lori Malnes
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:22-25
These verses come after Jesus demonstrates to His disciples what the power of the WORD spoken in faith can do for the “mountains” in our lives. In the last verse of this section Jesus tells us to examine our hearts before praying those words. He’s saying, “First things first.” Before you come talk to Me, before you ask anything, forgive those you need to forgive.
But if our hearts hold bitterness towards others then we create a barrier against having a good conversation with God. Forgiving someone’s trespasses against us does not mean the pain or the consequence of the wrongdoing immediately vanishes. But by forgiving, the distraction in prayer is gone and a clear path is open to release the burden of bitterness. Then with a free heart we can truly open up in prayer with God, sharing all our hearts’ joys, hurts, concerns, and requests – placing our trust in Him, knowing that He has forgiven us all of our sins and that we have a right relationship with Him. There are no barriers between us and God – we’re not holding anything back from Him and He is #1 – we can truly talk and listen.
Let us be mindful of Jesus’ advice of “First things first.” Before we pray, forgive those who need forgiveness. Unload any bitterness, any grudges, any vengeful thinking. We need to move mountains, soften hearts, turn listening ears, have courage to plant seeds, and share the true Jesus with others. We cannot afford to have any barriers in our prayers.
Dear God, You are in me and with me always. How I want to truly converse with You – not just one way conversations, but ongoing two-way dialogues. LORD, please show me who I need to forgive and help me to forgive them. You have forgiven every sin in my life—the ones I know about and those I conveniently forget. Plus You have made me Your own daughter! Wow! Words enough cannot express my thanks! And thank You for prayer and for desiring great conversations with me, Your daughter. Thank You for listening and caring withYour patience and Your love. You are my LORD. Amen.
263. God is Faithful to His Promises! by Lori Malnes
I was listening to the music from “The Child of the Promise” this morning and was struck how God answers prayers and fulfills His promises. He gave Elizabeth her child late in life after years and years of prayers and tears. He sent His promised Son into the world thousands of years after He initially promised Him. And there are so many examples in the Old Testament of waiting on God. Yet not all His answers come after a long waiting time. Peter called for help and Jesus immediately pulled him out of the waves. The woman touched the garment of Jesus and immediately her prayer was answered and she was healed. Whether it is an immediate answer, a long wait, somewhere in between, or even a “No” answer (God said “No.” to Paul’s prayer to have his thorn removed), we know that God ALWAYS hears and answers our prayers. He is faithful – ALWAYS.
This season as we celebrate the birth of the long awaited Messiah, let us be reminded of His faithfulness. Let us persist in our prayers for our friends and family who have turned away from their Messiah or who still need Him in their lives. Let us trust Him who is faithful and who hears our every prayer. May the baby Jesus impact the hearts and lives of all those on our hearts and minds this Christmas.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11
Dear Jesus Savior, Thank You for coming down to earth. Thank You for always being true to Your promises. Thank You for being faithful no matter what. LORD, as I celebrate Your birth here on earth so many years ago, may I also celebrate Your faithfulness. And thank You for hearing my prayers for those lost without You. Thank You for bringing people into my life to share Your gospel message. May my thoughts, words, and actions reflect Your life in me to others. Thank You for becoming baby Jesus. Amen.
264. Hope for the New Year by April Cooper
The beginning of a new year is guaranteed to bring perspective into focus. There is always reflection of the year gone by, as well as hope-filled anticipation of the year to come. There are usually new goals, new dreams, and high hopes. But, what exactly is that hope for the new year actually based on? If simply on what the world has to offer, cloudy days and the absence of peace are sure to follow.
As the norms of the world's culture and our society continue to rapidly shift, the hope we have must be based solely on truth. Scripture says "This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope it is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD." (Lamentations 3:21-26 KJV)
This scripture tells us that the Lord's love is unfailing - that means all the time, and in every situation. And, He offers new mercy every, single morning. He, alone, is enough and will satisfy our soul. We will find contentment in Him. For those that seek Him, there is also assurance that His goodness is already ours. We are told to hope for the salvation He brings. This means we are to not only believe in Him, we are to also believe in and hope for what He gives in eternal life. Quietly waiting means we should go about our day-to-day lives as followers of Christ, and do so without mumbling and complaining. (Philippians 2:14 KJV)
Whether it is a new year, new month, new day, or new hour... We will recognize that God has it all under His control. He is sovereign and has gone before us, and at the same time, He walks with us. (Deuteronomy 31:8) We have reassurance in that, knowing regardless of what the new year brings, we will be alright if our hope and trust is in the Lord. It requires us to quietly surrender our new year plans, goals and will, lay down our expectations, and let the Lord and His sovereign Word lead the way. "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV) In this new year, let our loving and merciful God direct your path.
Lord, as I embark upon this new year, let me be reminded daily of your unfailing love, and let my heart sing of your grace and new mercies every day. I thank you for love, peace, and your will for my life. I pray that you would strengthen me in my walk with you and allow me to be a reflection of your love to others. Help me to trust you daily. And, let me quietly wait on you and help me to share with others the hope that I have in You. In Your name I pray Jesus, Amen.
265. Nine a Day by Karen Maio
Experts recommend eating nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Yes, you read that correctly, nine! Ugh, I’m full just thinking about it!
This brings to mind nine “super fruits”, if you will, and no, I’m not talking about acai berries or pomegranates. These fruits are characteristics of the Holy Spirit’s active presence in our lives. They are gifts of our loving God. Only faith in Christ can save us, but faith is never alone. It shows itself in love and thanks for the grace that God has shown us in our salvation won by Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.” Galatians 5:22-23
1. Love – We love because Jesus first loved us, by giving his life for us on the cross, and loving others like Jesus did – unconditionally.
2. Joy – This isn’t a “yippee!” excited happiness. That runs out rather quickly when based on worldly sources. Rather, it is an inexpressible gladness that comes from knowing that through faith in Christ, we are saved and heaven is ours.
3. Peace – While a little more “me” time might be hoped for, this peace is the comfort in knowing that God’s mercy and forgiveness are already yours. It knows that God is in control of everything in our lives.
4. Patience - By nature, we are not very good at being patient. Here we can model our God. He shows his patience – his “long suffering” – in righteous judgment. By his example, we can imitate patience with others without lashing out in anger or pay back. God, grant us patience this minute!
5. Kindness – Squelch self-centeredness and reflect our love of God and all that he has done for us by being nice to others.
6. Goodness – Similar to kindness, goodness is giving with no selfish motivation. It is a Godly trait that we too can be good to others so that they might see the goodness of the Lord through us.
7. Faithfulness – Just as God is faithful in His promises, we strive to remain faithful to God. Faithfulness is about integrity and devotion to Christ and others.
8. Gentleness – Meekness is choosing to defer to others, forgiving others, correcting with kindness; it is not being a “marshmallow” or a “doormat”.
9. Self-control – This isn’t necessarily about saying “no” to a piece of cheesecake, but saying “no” to the attacks of a sinful nature.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with your love so that we may love others. Thank you for the salvation won by Jesus. May it ever be the source of our peace and joy. May it lead us to be kind, gentle, and patient with others, and always faithful to you. Help us have greater self-control over our sinful natures. We praise you for the grace you’ve shown us through Jesus, in whose name we pray, amen.
266. Woman of the World, Surrender Your I.D. by Christine Wentzel
This is for the woman of world who is asked to surrender her self-identification at the door of any bible-believing church. It’s a metaphor for what she may feel the first time she hears she cannot serve certain positions because she’s a woman, or that her husband has “headship” over her and she’s to “submit” to him, or as a single/divorced/widowed woman she “submits” to male headship in the church. Whoa, stop the presses…
She lives in a mixed-up culture that fights for her equality on one hand, while measuring her worth depending on their self-serving agendas. With T.V. shows like “Father Knows Best” to “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”, one sees the “progress” women made to be just like the boys. Today, in America and most western cultures, her feminine “authority” emasculates her male counterparts and calls it fair.
When a woman of the world meets the gender role principles of the Bible, there can be a head-on collision. As she sits in Bible and church orientation classes, she might be nodding her head “yes” and plastering a smile of uncertainty on her face, but inside she could be shaking her head to the complete opposite message of social normalcy. She is faced with a challenging situation—laying aside her prideful notions long enough to hear the Good News of her priceless worth and privileged purpose in her Creator’s eyes.
A man of the world meeting biblical truths will have his own culture-clash, but he will be pursued for authoritative positions because he’s a guy. For that reason, it would be a huge blessing for our spiritual brothers to demonstrate their honed servant/leadership skills to this woman of the world by approaching her with the same grace, equity, and respect given to them by their Savior. Inspire her with Gospel-driven words that feed Spirit-growing fruit and builds confidence over admonishing with fear-driven rules that send her back into the world’s dying arms.
If you are a woman of the world in a hot mess of conflicted emotions over your identity in Christ, please talk to someone about it. I and many others have been there. Don’t let your circumstance prevent you from enjoying a full life in Jesus. He’s the only one who turns all cultures and authorities on their heads. He’s the only one who lived a perfect life, innocently suffered, bled, died, and victoriously conquered death in your place. You are protectively his--chosen to live forever, and destined to live a life of joy and thanksgiving in all the ways personally marked out just for you!
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV)
267. To Trump or be Trumped by Christine Wentzel
Let’s talk politics with our family in Christ! May God give us clarity and stimulate pleasing discussions on this topic. Amen.
As of this writing it’s almost a sure thing that Hillary and the Donald are the presumptive presidential nominees for the Democratic and Republican parties respectively. Come this November either Hillary will be the first woman president, or Trump the first private citizen to gain the position.
I would be lying to say that the DRAMA around this spectacle doesn’t feed a sin to use my vote to protest the shenanigans of an ever-growing corrupt and powerful government. Republican Trump is doing a superb job to stoke the fires of anger, mistrust and fear. In fact those feelings are inflamed on both sides of the fence. Can the Democrats feel the Socialist Bern? Democrat Hillary walks a path littered with decades of unanswered questions on past controversies.
But cooler heads must prevail and to do that one must do their homework. There is a wealth of factual information on all the nominees that need a little perseverance to uncover. It will help to see a pattern of behavior, a pattern of decision making that will shed light on what kind of president they might be. Would it be true to say that if someone learned the unbiased facts of our lives, that a certain pattern would form that would help them determine what kind of person we are?
That’s why it’s so important we follow this season with discernment and vote with knowledge for Who are we really showing to the people around us? We answer to the One who writes this about our citizenship in the world:
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:13-17
Can you pick out the characteristics of our civic responsibility? I know. It’s a tall order, but a fairly easy one when we don’t get caught up in the circus. When we don’t allow injustice and unfairness to distract us from God’s ability set everything right. We are just passing through and helping to win others over for the final ride. We can show them a greater, more powerful Ruler who is utterly truthful, without fault, completely dependable and is fundamentally; Love itself by following Jesus’ pattern of behavior.
So how does this help to cast our vote? In a nutshell, we’ll continue to seek God’s will in his Scriptures, and learn about the nominees from reliable sources. With a tongue slow to speak and ears quick to listen, we can talk politics with other Christians. Finally, we’ll check what motivates our final decision for either or other. In the end, a God-pleasing decision will come and peace beyond expression will settle on our hearts.
268. Christmas is Past; is the Peace? By Julie Luetke
Think about times when you waited for something, such as a package to arrive in the mail, or for your turn in a long line. We get frustrated and impatient if the wait gets too long. The instant the package arrives or our turn comes up in line, our blood pressure drops, we breathe more slowly, and a peace comes over us.
At Christmas we hear the word ‘peace’ more often than any other time of year. I looked up peace in the dictionary and this is what I found.
Freedom from war…freedom from war, or the time when a war or conflict ends, the signing of a peace agreement.
Tranquility…a calm and quiet state, free from disturbances or noise.
Mental calm…a state of mental calm and serenity, with no anxiety.
Harmony…freedom from conflict or disagreement among people or groups of people.
Peace treaty…a treaty agreeing to an end of hostilities between two warring parties.
When God created the world and the first people, there was total peace between God and man. Adam and Eve were without sin. All of man and nature were in perfect harmony with God: no conflict of any kind. As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, the peace ended.
Now let’s look at the definitions above in light of what God has done to renew the lost peace.
Freedom from war: When God promised to send a Savior to Adam and Eve and all of mankind it was like signing a peace agreement. God’s word is as good as done. The agreement was the promise of a Savior to come.
Tranquility: Because Jesus came to live a perfect life, die in our place and prove His victory over sin by His resurrection from the dead, our lives are tranquil. We don’t have to pay for our wrongs.
Mental calm: We can go to our Father in heaven in prayer and find the calm we all seek.
Harmony: Because of what Jesus did God is no longer our enemy.
Peace treaty: Jesus completed the job of saving us. The wrath of God is satisfied. Sin is truly paid for by Jesus. The treaty is in stone! The stone that was rolled away to show an open grave of Easter morning! That peace came in a manger.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
269. I’ve Had Enough! By Janet Gehlhar
I’ve had people disappoint me, gossip about me, and be downright mean to me. It’s an ugly picture. I get a pit in my stomach and sometimes I want to lash out and scream and other times I just want to hide from the hurt. The hurt and injustice overwhelms me.
Who understands this depth of betrayal and hurt? Jesus does. He was praised on Palm Sunday and a few days later he was beaten and crucified. And, Jesus was COMPLETELY innocent. Hmmm . . . I guess He gets me and understands how I’m feeling.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
What a comfort to know that I can take all of that yuck to God in prayer, knowing He truly understands, and will comfort me. I can have peace in my heart in the midst of the chaos around me.
270. Palm Sunday Paradox by Karen Maio
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “paradox” as something that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible.
Palm Sunday finds us modern day Christians celebrating Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem even though we know that the week would end in his betrayal, sham of a trial, and his crucifixion and death. The people who lined the street that day shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” would be the same ones shouting, “Crucify him!” in a matter of days.
The King of Kings did not ride into the city in a royal chariot or atop a white stallion but rather upon a lowly donkey, the colt of a donkey. No jewel encrusted crown adorned his head but, later in the week, a makeshift crown fashioned of thorns would be forced upon his head. The throne Jesus would ascend would be a rough wooden cross. The people wanted to make Jesus their earthly bread king, but his kingdom was not of this world. He would establish his kingdom not by shedding the blood of his enemies, but by shedding his own blood.
A king is powerful and has minions to do his bidding, but Jesus, in his humiliation, came as a servant king. He demonstrated this in many ways by healing the people of all their diseases, washing his disciples’ dusty feet, and, most importantly, dying on the cross to forgive the sins of all. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
These awful, contradictory events may not make sense to us, but thank God for his paradoxical Palm Sunday and plan of salvation!
May the Lord bless your holy week celebration!
271. Cherished Opportunities by Lori Malnes
I’ve been cherishing the time I have with my eldest daughter – the few months that she is home between her December college graduation and her July wedding. She is such a blessing! Our daughters’ bedrooms are upstairs with our bedroom and since I am a light sleeper, I usually get up and tuck them back into bed when either of them gets up in the middle of the night for a drink of water or whatever. These nights, I particularly cherish tucking my eldest back into bed as the opportunities do this are dwindling. As we walk back to her room, she’ll often put her head on my shoulder and then after I tuck her in, she’ll sleepily tell me she loves me – precious times!
I have only a short time here on earth – my time here is precious. How many opportunities to share my faith, to share Jesus, do I miss because I’d rather “stay in my warm, comfortable bed.” But as with my daughters, look what I’d be missing! Sure, there are times when I tuck in a grumpy daughter, but what about those other times? The same is true with sharing my faith – not every time will bring the warm-fuzzies – but I cannot waste the opportunities – life is too short. I don’t know when my life or the lives of others will end here on earth – I cannot, and dare not, waste the opportunities that God gives me to share Him with others.
You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
1 Thessalonians 5:2
Pray: My dear Redeemer, You are God – my God. Thank You that You have made me Your daughter – the scope of what that all means is mind-boggling! Thank You also for putting people in my life and giving me opportunities to share You with them. Help me to discern when to share You with words and Your Word, and when to share You with my actions – but let me always be sharing You one way or the other. Help me not to desire my “warm and comfortable bed” – the easy comfort zone I can create in my life – but help me tuck others in with Your love, grace, and mercy. I don’t want to miss out on the opportunities to be a part of something eternal. Life is short – let me now waste the opportunities You give me!
272. The Pain of Mortality by Christine Wentzel
Off the top of my head I can’t think of much more that tests my faith quite the way the pain of my mortality does. In other words, the way my body’s physical brokenness holds a mirror of reality up to my faith and says, “Show me how strong you really are.”
I do not like to admit that the first time the pain of mortality challenged me I shook to the core by the answer. I thought my faith was much stronger than it was. It was a long process to overcome, but not once did God leave me to my wrestling. Instead, He got down in the dirt with me and we tussled until I realized I wasn’t growing tired and weak. Miraculously, I grew stronger.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4
While I searched the Scriptures for encouragement I came across stories of other women in their time of wrestling with mortality. Miriam’s bout with leprosy, Noami’s loss of her husband and sons, the woman who bled for 12 long years, Mary Magdelene’s possession of 7 demon spirits to name a few. In all these cases, they grew stronger in faith and even more in love with their Savior. Their stories of God's providence were preserved for the rest of us to draw encouragement and comfort. Now my stories and yours are there to share with others to encourage and comfort the hurting.
The pain of our mortal bodies is unavoidable; however it’s useful to remember the perfect Hands of Love that loosen the death grip of fear. This same Love inspired the Apostle Paul to write the next verse, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5).
There is no shame in the humbling of my mortality. It reminds me heaven is my home. God’s word reminds me that I am not alone and not on my own. Jesus suffered that pain first, and he sweated blood in the Garden when confronted with the knowledge of the pain in bearing the sins of the world to his death. He tussled with his Father then was strengthened in the joy for our eternal reward and obeyed, “yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Amen, Jesus, may I always say, “Amen.”
273. No Pets Allowed by Karen Maio
Are you a dog person or a cat person? Maybe you prefer a pet bird. Perhaps the only pet you could manage to care for is a goldfish...or a pet rock (remember those?).
I want to talk a bit about a different pet...a pet sin. Maybe you love to dish the dirt with your girlfriend or coworker. Perhaps your guilty pleasure is that steamy paperback you can’t seem to put down. Maybe your pet sin is the green-eyed monster, a salty tongue, a doubting heart, or a lead foot. You no doubt confess the sin, but then go right back to doing it. Even as you repent before drifting off to sleep at night, you may know full well that you will be “caring for your pet sin” the very next day.
“But, Karen,” you might think, “everybody has one; mine’s not hurting anyone.” Or is it?
You’re right; everybody does have one - or more! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God has a high standard - perfection! - which we can’t keep. But, thank God Jesus could! “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1st Corinthians 15:57). He lived the perfect life we can’t and died to forgive all of our sins, even the pet ones. So, what’s the problem?
If you are taking your pet sin for a walk and thinking, “Well, I’ll just repent of that later tonight” that human pre-planned repentance would not be true repentance nor would it be accompanied by forgiveness. So, you’d be wrong about it not being a problem. It could be hurting you and your soul! Impenitent sinners “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1st Corinthians 6:9). But, thanks be to God! The Holy Spirit is far greater and stronger than our little planned sin-and-then- repent schemes. One of his jobs is to convict us of sin and lead us to true repentance and faith and forgiveness! “When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin” (John 16:8).
With the Spirit’s help, let’s euthanize those pet sins. I know it will be hard to say goodbye, but the Spirt has planned so much more for you! “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 2:13) No pets allowed!
Show us, Lord, the path of blessing; When we trespass on our way,
Cast, O Lord, our sins behind you And be with us day by day.
Should we stray, O Lord, recall; Work repentance when we fall.
Grant our hearts in fullest measure Wisdom, counsel, purity,
That we always strive to please you, Working for you willingly.
Let the gospel spread and grow, Bringing Satan’s overthrow.
(Christian Worship, Hymn 181 verses 2&5)
274. A Letter to a Lost Loved One by Carolyn Webb
(The following is not written to any particular individual, but is an expression of a caring Christian’s concern and confusion when a loved one takes a path away from God. I hope it provides encouragement to others who may find themselves in this position.)
The end of the church year and start of the holiday season has me thinking of you. I’ve heard you say that you don’t ever want to come to church again. You are spiritual, not religious. The God you grew up with doesn’t fit your lifestyle. This makes my heart ache for you. I’m afraid that if you continue in this path you will die without trusting in Jesus as the only way to heaven. You were baptized into God’s family and brought up in a Christian family. I have trusted God’s promise in John 10:28-30, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, no one can snatch them out of My hand.” Yet, it appears to me that you have taken yourself out of God’s hand. When I’ve tried to talk to you about it, you’ve told me to mind my own business and stay out of your life.
I have prayed for you. I have cried for you. I have even questioned God’ promises myself. There appears to be a contradiction between the promise in John 10 and the parable of the seed that falls among rock and weeds. Are you the rock, “the one who received the word with joy when they hear it but have no root, believing for a while, but in time of testing have fallen away”? Or are you the seed that has fallen among the weeds, hearing God’s word but as you “went on your way were choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and you have not matured”? (Luke 8:13-14) My hope is that there is no contradiction between the promise and the parable. Maybe God will take that rock and break it down or till the weeds into the soil to create a more fertile soil. Maybe when the seed is sown again, it will take root.
I’m not God, I can’t see what is in your heart or in your future. I know that God has created us with the ability to make choices. He has also provided a salvation plan in which His Son saved us from our bad choices. While I am saddened that it appears you have separated from God, I will remember that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) I will not nag you, but I will continue to pray for you “confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 2:13) In that final day, I pray that you will be with you Savior in paradise.
Scripture References: Isaiah 27:3; Jeremiah 23:4; John 6:27, 37, 39; John 10:29; John 17:2; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 2:25; Romans 2:7; Romans 8:25; Hebrews 6:1; Luke 16:15; 1 John 8:15; Acts 1:24; Genesis 4:5; 1 Samuel 2:3; 2 Samuel 7:20; 1 Kings 8:39; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 2 Chronicles 6:30; Job 10:4
275. We are Different by Carolyn Webb
The headline read “Christian woman running naked on freeway”. I’m not sure exactly why the news service decided this was newsworthy. Was it because the event was on the freeway, because it was a woman, because it was a Christian, or a combination of all three? The reality is that it made news because the behavior is not what is expected. I had a conversation with a coworker that made a similar point. She was explaining the behavior of another coworker that was irritating her and ended the conversation with “and she claims to be a Christian.” It appears that people hold Christians to a higher standard than the general population, and perhaps Christian women to an even higher standard than Christian men.
The reality is that on our own we really aren’t any better than non-Christians. God’s word tells us through the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians chapter 6 verses 9-10, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers wills inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.” (NIV84)
The difference is that we know our Savior has paid the price for our sins, and we try to live a life that displays our gratitude for that priceless gift. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Corinthians 6:11, NIV84)
We did nothing to gain God’s favor. It was all done for us through Jesus. “Are we to continue then in sin that grace may abound? By no mean! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6: 1-2, NIV84)
As God’s children, we try to live a God pleasing life, but it is a constant struggle. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.” (Romans 7:15-16, NIV84)
As Christians we expect ourselves to be different. Others expect us to be different. It is only through the redeeming work of Jesus that we truly are different.