A WORD for the Week | Archives 13
301. Where you Lead by Christine Wentzel
Irene was born 101 years ago; coming of age during the Great Depression—a young mother before WWII. Her marriage was fraught with neglect and abuse as she raised her seven children through four decades of monumental societal changes. She was a mythical warrior; wrangling order through the chaos. One fierce look turned her hellions into statues. Her crazy trust in the “unseen” was on full display.
Through the gift of faith, she learned from her unchanging, loving Father the wisdom of following his son’s example of sacrificial love. She knew one day Jesus would wipe every tear from her eyes. Her fervent prayers dogged us, and her Shepherd relentlessly pursued us through our prodigal years. She believed God would work the messes and mistakes into something that would bless her family’s lives sooner or later.
One day Jesus decided to use her twilight years to begin my rebirth. While in my care, I listened to her speak of living her life in Jesus. I privately compared it to mine without him. I realized she didn’t force her children into “useless” religious and secular routines. She gratefully made it a mandate to live a life that reflected her trust in a personal God that it might win over her children to Christ.
When the Lord took her Home, Jesus opened the door to a righteous life at my knock. He leads me in protected pastures like he led my mother.
Mom, until we meet again—thank you.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 NIV
302. Lasting Impressions by Christine Wentzel
“How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
This bold statement was made by atheist/entertainer, Penn Jilette of “Penn & Teller” magic fame. He recalled an encounter with an audience member who participated in one of their stage acts the night before. This man returned the next night, and waited with a group of fans to get autographs. He brought along the props given to him after his bit with them, and a small book.
Penn makes his living off of fakery so it’s revealing how often he described this man in his short video clip:
Complimentary - 3
Nice - 2
Sane - 2
Eye contact – 3
Good guy - 4
Cared enough to proselytize
Gave him a bible – 3
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold...But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 2 Corinthians 3:12, 16 (NIV)
This “little Christ”, as Martin Luther liked to say, made a lasting impression. The guy looked Penn in the eyes, and handed him a pocket bible with all his contact information written in it. By most, he would be shrugged off as one of those kooky bible thumpers, but it was his Christ-like honesty that made the difference. Penn recognized the face of Jesus even though he didn’t believe it, and that part is up to God.
303. Yup, I’m a Slave by Julie Luetke
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. John 8:34 NIV
If you are like me, you equate slavery with mistreatment and misery, being forced to do things you do not want to do. On the other hand, I think of my sin as a choice and too often exactly what I want to do. Jesus tells us that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Everyone sins so that means we are all slaves. I don’t want to be a slave and I don’t feel like a slave until I take a closer look.
You have probably heard many stories of dogs mistreated by one master, then rescued and given a new life that is happy in the home of another. That is the story of our lives. We are born slaves to a ruthless master, sin. We are taken by this slave to places we don’t want to go and forced to do things we don’t want to do.
Think of it this way: What occupies far more of your thoughts than you want them to? worry? food? smoking? gossip? lust? hurts from long ago that you can’t forgive? lack of contentment?
Are you beginning to feel like a slave?
So, how do we get free and find that new kind master?
For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 1 Corinthians 7:22 NIV
By faith in Christ, you are free!
304. God’s Word on Government by Karen Maio
Democrat or Republican? Regardless of your personal political beliefs, God has some things to say about government:
Elected officials are God’s representatives. ”Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established...“ Romans 13:1 NIV2011
We are to honor them. “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” Titus 3:1-2 NIV2011
We are to follow the laws (unless contrary to God’s) or be subject to punishment. “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers . . . are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:4 NIV2011
We are to pay taxes we owe. “Jesus said to them, ‘Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s’.” NIV2011
Even sinful governments can be used for God’s purposes. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was God’s instrument for carrying out his judgement against Israel for its sin and idolatry. (Jeremiah 25:8-14)
Instead of trashing our leaders, pray for them. “I urge, then . . that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2
If you are frustrated by current leadership, remember that God is still in control, and in the end, all knees will bow to King Jesus.
305. Fear is Taking Over My Life by Janet Gehlhar
I’m afraid. So scared. I feel panicked, tied up in knots inside, unable to think to move. The devil has more than a foothold here – he is taking over.
When my day starts out with fear and negativity, I have learned to jump into Jesus’ waiting arms and dump my pile of worries so I can get on with my day, knowing He is handling it all. I list all the concerns on my mind while I envision each one piling up next to Jesus’ feet. I know I have no control and no power, but I have tapped into the ONE who is almighty, all-knowing, and cares more about the people I love than I do. Sigh. I can breathe again.
Psalm 5:2-3 Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
I can continue my day being confident that God’s will is at work and can begin thanking God for the answers he already has in motion.
306. GOD’S GOT YOU – by Lori Malnes
“I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” Isaiah 46:4
This is one of my favorite verses – what a comforting promise! I read it and feel like I’m sitting on God’s lap, snuggled in and so secure. No need to worry about my future, my husband’s future, my mom’s future, my kids’ futures – we all belong to God and He will be with each of us until our hair is white with age. He made us and will carry us long and save us. I can live my life with that child-like innocence and trusting security, knowing that my heavenly Daddy is bigger and stronger than anyone else and will take care of everything. What a different perspective that gives me! What a peace that brings!
I just want to bask in that today, repeating this verse over and over again:
“I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.”
“I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.”
Thank You, Jesus! What comfort and peace you bring me!! Thank You for being my LORD and my God. Thank you for being so big and so mighty! Thank you so very much!
307. Mortal, but Cured by Christine Wentzel
My body is at war against itself. It’s like a minute-by-minute roller coaster ride while wearing blinders—I can’t see the direction it’s going until I feel the jolt of pain. The disease has no cure. It’s called rheumatoid arthritis.
But I am not alone in this condition. No matter how healthy a person feels, there’s an innate knowledge something’s not right inside. It manifests itself in ups and downs of hate, sadness, conflict, intolerance, meanness, immorality, disregard, brutality, and extravagance. Laws, science, and living rituals will never cure it.
Adam and Eve found out there was something more to learn by eating the forbidden fruit—it’s called, death. Many will say, “That was a myth.” If so, then try to be flawless in thought, word, and actions for a day. We can’t cover the bad with the good and call it healed…
"Nevertheless, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal its people and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth." Jeremiah 33:6 NIV
Out of compassionate love, God promised to send a Fixer. His son, Jesus Christ, willingly let go of his immortality to live a mortal life in perfect obedience, fulfill all the predictions of his rescue, take on our malignancy to him, and destroy our sinfulness and death forever. His victory is our eternal cure right now and forevermore!
Triage the sin sick with your Spirit-driven love-joy-peace-patience-kindness-goodness-faithfulness-gentleness-self-control Good News medicine.
308. Trust God Completely by Janet Gehlhar
Do you believe any lies about God? When asked that, I was taken aback and thought, "Most certainly not!" But, as I read a book entitled, “Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets them Free” by Nancy Demoss, my eyes were opened. Hadn't I worried instead of trusting God completely? Didn't I sometimes feel that my life should be better than it was and thus God didn't really love me? After all, shouldn't God get rid of all my problems? Those are just a few of the lies that Satan uses to plant doubt in my mind.
Psalm 73:23-26- Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Who have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
What we believe about God is the entire foundation of how we think and act. I had a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer and her response was, "I wonder what God wants me to learn from this." I was amazed by her faith. It was obvious that she didn't question why she was sick, rather, how God wanted to use this to strengthen her faith in Him.
God loves us and wants what is best for us. Instead of asking, "Why me?”, I now ask myself, "How does God want me to respond?" That shift in my thinking has completely changed my outlook on life.
Blessings on your week as you "Trust in the Lord with all your heart..."- Proverbs 3:5
309. My Worth is Determined by God by Janet Gehlhar Some days I judge myself by what I crossed off my to-do list or by what others have said about me. By that criterion, I usually come up short and feel worthless. That lie can be compounded if I dwell on it and if not stopped, it will become how I view myself. Wow-what a slippery path from simple lie to destructive life! The truth is that my value is determined by God alone.
The truth is that my value is determined by God alone.
Psalm 139 states . . . I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
God knew me before I was born, has a plan for my life, and is with me every step of the way. Amazing! Something created by God is special and cherished. My sense of self-worth just went way up.
Blessings on your week as you ponder how valuable you are to God.
310. No rolling stop Karen Spiegelberg
Since I became an elected official for the city in which I reside, I’m even more careful with my driving habits. After all, it would be pretty embarrassing if my name ended up in the newspaper, wouldn’t it? I follow the speed limit and I even come to a complete stop at each stop sign. No rolling stop.
As I was consistently stopping at each sign on my way to church recently, it occurred to me that our weekly church worship is sometimes like a rolling stop. Don’t we often just go through the motions of mindlessly reciting everything and then half-heartedly listening to the sermon? We kind of roll through the worship without intentionally stopping to be present in the beautiful gift of congregational worship, being in the Word, and praising our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with our fellow Christians.
In Isaiah 29:13, the Lord says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” Yikes. Those words don’t just apply to God’s disappointment of the Israelites of Isaiah’s day; they apply to us, too!
We’re blessed in this country to have the constitutional freedom to worship publicly. That’s a privilege that our early elected officials bestowed on us. I don’t ever want to take that for granted and I ask God to help me be 100% present in my weekly worship. No rolling stop. Let me wholeheartedly proclaim as David did in Psalm 122, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”
311. Laying at the Gate by April Cooper
As I sat at the stop light waiting for the light to turn green, I noticed something that has become quite common in our city. There was a man standing at the intersection holding a sign, asking for help. He had a noticeable limp and slowly made his way up and down the median, from one end to the other. At that moment, a familiar scripture came to mind. “And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.” (Acts 3: 2-3 KJV)
Scripture is clear in teaching us, in Ecclesiastes, that there is nothing new under the sun. The word “alms” may not be a commonly used term in our society today, but sadly, what it stands for is all too common. There are many, many people in poverty all across the Earth that need help. Major intersections across the United States have many who stand asking for alms. Homeless shelters across the nation seem to be flooded. And, soup kitchens are too often packed with people. The current need is tremendous.
My kids once asked me how can they know who to help at those intersections, and who not to help? They also asked, what if the person is lying and doesn't really need the money, or isn't really in the situation as shown on the typical cardboard sign. I encouraged them to let God lead their choices as to whether or not they should give at that moment in time. If they chose to give, they should pray for the person. And if they chose not to give, they should pray for the person. And, if the person was lying... they should pray for them. Because the reality is, whether they are in desperate need, or not, they need prayer. Whether they are telling the truth or not, they need prayer.
Is there a big difference between those who are standing at the intersection with signs, and those who are in cars driving by? Aren't we all in need of something as well? Thankfully, we may not be in immediate need of basic essentials like food and shelter. But, we are all very much in need of God's continued grace, mercy, forgiveness, love and salvation. So, in essence, we are all laying at the gate – all in immediate need.
And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.
Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. (Acts 3: 5-7 KJV)
Say the prayers for those people at the intersections, and for each other, in Jesus' name. Give food and money in Jesus' name. Give encouraging words in Jesus' name. Lift each other up in Jesus' name. And give praise and honor and glory where it is due. We are all in this together.
And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God: And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him (Acts 3:8-10 KJV)
We are all in need, and that need can only be filled by our Father in Heaven.
312. God just Blessed me in this area by Talia Steinhauer
5+5? 10-2? 3x3? Can you still rattle these answers off in your head? It’s funny how you can learn your math facts at seven years old, and know them for the rest of your life!
One of my class’ favorite games is Around the World, where they go head to head to answer math facts. One day I stopped and asked, “‘E’ how are you so good at your math facts? I bet you practice a lot at home!”
He responded with, “Well I don’t actually practice my math facts; I think that God just blessed me in this area.”
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13a
We are all one body of Christ. We all play an important role in this body, but how can we best fulfill our role if we’re not sure what we are supposed to be doing? If I don’t know that I have the spiritual gift of evangelism, how will I ever get out and do what God wants me to do? Our spiritual gifts are truly gifts. He has gifted these incredible abilities to us, so that we can further His kingdom. We aren’t being arrogant; we’re just doing what God has intended for us to do. We are living for Him.
So the real question is can you rattle off your spiritual gifts like you can rattle off your math facts?
313. Grace Under Pressure by Tracy Hankwitz
Some things are so beautiful, I can’t help but stop and admire.
Last fall a wrought iron gate caught the eye. I pulled off the road and had to get closer to take it all in. Graceful curves, chipped and rusted - to me it was beautiful. What struck me most was the contrast – strong iron shaped into gentle curves. How many years had it stood here? How many storms had it endured? Strong yet so graceful. How hot was the fire that softened hard iron to form swooshes and swirls? Grace formed under pressure.
Long seasons of trials are made up of small moments that define us. Like fire, they can refine making us stronger or they can consume weakening our faith.
How do we respond when in the midst of everyday fires?
It’s in our nature to react to life’s pressures of fire with more fire, but what if we respond with what is unexpected and undeserved: grace. Each small moment fire is an opportunity to reflect the undeserved love and grace God has shown us.
Amazing grace hung on a cross with arms stretched wide, hands pierced with hateful nail, beaten body weighted with malice of a sin-filled world. Yet Jesus spoke words of love and forgiveness - ultimate grace under pressure shown by ultimate Love. That catches the eye, steals the breath, and humbles the heart.
May God use whatever fire is in our moments to make us stronger and be a reflection of his grace.
‘Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus’. 2 Timothy 2:1
314. On God’s wing by Karen Spiegelberg
It was a glorious morning in northern Wisconsin where my husband, daughters, and I were vacationing on a lake. As I sipped coffee in peace, I noticed an eagle soaring from a nest in a tall pine tree. Then I saw a baby eagle tumble out of the nest and try desperately to flutter into flight. It plunged downward toward the lake! I gasped, but then the mama eagle swooped back and rescued her offspring with one wing raising it back up to the nest. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
What a fabulous picture of what our God does for us. The whole scene brought to life for me the words of the song, “He Will Raise You Up on Eagle’s Wings” (written by Michael Joncas and based on Psalm 91). In that Psalm (vs. 1-2), we read, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge… my God, in whom I trust.’” That baby eagle is like us trying so hard to be strong in our life’s flight but thankfully when we daily are weak and fall short, God swoops in and saves us with his strength and raises us up again as on the wing of the mama eagle.
God’s “wing” must be getting tired of rescuing me but I’m sure glad he continues to do so! He is my refuge; in him I trust.
315. Life is like a Game of Scrabble by Talia Steinhauer
All my Scrabble lovers out there raise your hands, raise them high! My family is obsessed, and plays it in person, and on our phones. If you know Scrabble, you know the first word on the board is important. Every other word is built off that first word. So you tell me, would you rather start with the word “me” or “Jesus?” The first would give you 8 points, and the next, 24 points. Also, Jesus offers way more room for growth off the word.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25
Your foundation is the most important part of your life. What you build everything else on depends on the strength of that foundation. Have you ever heard someone say, “Whatever happens happens!”? What? I mean, I'm pretty laid-back, but even so, I don’t want to rely on myself or on “the universe.” I want to know that God is my foundation, and that he’s got my back no matter what.
Build your foundation on Jesus knowing that your life can continue to grow stronger and taller. Built on Jesus, you know your foundation can not possibly fall.
“Whatever happens, God has a plan to use it for our best.” I like that idea way better. Alright, back to my game of Scrabble, both in a godly sense, and the app on my phone.
316. Distractions by April Cooper
Mosquitoes at a picnic in the park.
Lots of honking car horns in traffic.
A toddler running around gleefully while you are trying to talk on the phone.
Loud noises during a quiz or exam.
Pop-up advertisements on your cell phone.
What do all of these have in common you ask?
They are all, plain and simple, distractions. These are the kinds of distractions that take your concentration away from the tasks and purposes in front of you. Distractions like these, and many more, are common daily. They may be small, but they can have a huge impact on your end goal if your focus is not intentional. These types of distractions are very easy to spot and put a definite name to, and can be experienced by almost anyone at some point. Your enjoyment, safety, grades or career advancement, and time management can all take a hit when distractions like these come into play.
But, what about the distractions that are happening right now in our life that we don’t actually recognize as distractions?
In our Christian walk, we can just as easily become distracted if we take our eyes off God and His promises to us. When a problem arises and we begin to worry, stress, or fret, that problem has become a distraction.
When a medical issue becomes more serious than originally thought, and the negative “what-ifs” form a long list, that medical issue has become a distraction.
When a setback occurs for a ministry function you have been planning for months, and you are not sure if the event will happen, that doubt has become a distraction.
When a prayer you have often prayed seems to go unanswered, and you begin to give up on the situation, your situation and the waiting time have become a distraction.
When you are parenting as a Christian – modeling morals and values and the love of Christ, but you begin to feel overwhelmed by a teenager that seems to make the opposite choices, that feeling of being in over your head has become a distraction.
When your finances don’t line up with the yearly goals you had laid out, and you begin to despair after all the hard work and long hours you put in, that despair has become a distraction.
Scripture teaches us “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)
God will see you through. Don’t let the distractions in life cause you to lose focus, stumble, or drop the ball! Don’t let the distractions cause you to forget who really holds the world and all of our lives (and everything we face) in the palms of His hands.
As Christians, we have each been given spiritual gifts, talents and skills along with a purpose to use them to God’s glory. We need to effectively carry out our appointed missions (big and small) daily, using what God has equipped us with. And, we need to remember that others are watching and depending on us to carry out our missions! How do we accomplish this without letting distractions take our eyes off of Jesus?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT)
“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:2 NLT)
Where has your focus been lately?
What is it you need to lay aside today?
What has God given to you as a mission to accomplish for the up-building of His Kingdom?
Identify the distractions. Call those distractions what they really are… stumbling blocks. Pray for strength to shake off the distractions.
Now, focus. The Author and Finisher has given you work to do.
317. Persistent love by Karen Spiegelberg
Raise your hand if Hosea is your favorite book of the bible! I have a feeling there aren’t many hands going up. I felt the same way until recently digging into it.
In the past, I’ve glossed over Hosea thinking, “Whatever. Those silly Israelites. Will they never learn?” But, for a short book, Hosea packs a big punch with a beautiful reminder of God’s persistent love for us. The longer God gives me on this side of heaven, the more I appreciate that type of love. Like a father has for a child. Despite our continual sin and Israel’s rebellion, God exhibits patience. Oh, he shows consequences for sin as a loving parent should, but he never gives up on the people of Israel or on us.
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.” (Hosea 11:1-4)
Although it can be a troublesome book, give Hosea another glance and feel with me the persistent love of our amazing father God!
318. Welcome Home by Karen Maio
When was the last time you went to church?
Was it this past Sunday?
Perhaps last Easter?
If you are physically unable to attend worship, did you invite your pastor to visit you with the Word and sacrament of communion?
More and more people are sporadic in attendance and in danger of slipping away from their churches. Regular worship is so important! Why?
First of all, God commands it: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8 NIV2011). How do we do this? Religious reformer Martin Luther explains in his Small Catechism (a summary of Christian principles used in instructing Christians) “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” We should want to regularly strengthen our faith with the Gospel in the Word and sacraments.
Secondly, when members are missing, they are depriving the Church of their unique and important gifts of service to God and his Church. Romans 12:5 NIV2011 states, “In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
Thirdly, absentees are robbing themselves of encouragement from fellow Christians, and in turn depriving fellow Christians of the absentees’ encouragement. “Encourage one another and build each other up.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV2011) Life can be hard and scary, but instead of being dismayed, we know that through Christ, a better day is coming (heaven!), In the meantime, may we encourage and edify one another; may we help one another become more like Jesus and better equipped to serve Him.
Come on back to church! Regularly worship our worthy God and Savior. Serve the Lord with gladness. Encourage others and let them do the same for you. Do not let perceived stares or blunt comments (“Haven’t seen you in a while…”) lead you to believe people are judging you. "You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV2011)
The church will surely say, “Welcome home!”
319. The Venom of Sin by Julie Luetke
When we see a large poisonous snake, we run from it. We understand what it can do to us. If I reach out and touch a hot coal, the consequences are immediate. I won't do that again! Sin often has a delayed consequence, just as smoking may take 30 or 40 years to destroy good health. I can pile sin upon sin, before I feel the result.
God understands what sin can do to us. It can rob us of eternity with the Father who loves us, and wants nothing more than to welcome all of His children into His heavenly home. That is all the more reason to cling to God's word that shows me my sin and the blessed Gospel that assures me of forgiveness.
God is definitely not soft on sin! God hates sin.
God did not spare angels when they sinned but sent them to hell. 2 Peter 2:4 (NIV)
But God loves us.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)
To the almighty, loving, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank you for showing me Your law and that my sin has consequences. Keep me in Your Word and help me to clearly see the snares of sin. Guide me in Your ways and help me fight temptation. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
320. When goals let you down by Diana Kerr
Happy New Year! I love the fresh start of a new year because I love setting goals, and I love helping my clients set them too.
However. I’ll be the first to admit that striving after goals can make you feel pretty empty. Goals are like anything else that we rely on too heavily: they will let you down.
Goals can fail you even if you succeed at accomplishing them. How? Because many of the achievements we seek after are good things that aren’t the ultimate thing. To make things worse, our motives are often a little messed up—a guaranteed way to decrease your satisfaction in achieving your goals. (For example, losing weight to be skinnier than your sister-in-law or seeking a promotion to get more money so you’re happier.)
As you go into this year, ask yourself if your goals really matter in the scope of eternity. If not, throw them out or adjust them. Ask yourself the why behind your goals. What’s your motivation? For your sake and for the sake of the Lord who loved you enough to lay down his life for you, make sure you’re not laboring in vain (Psalm 127:1) and keep 1 Corinthians 10:31 in mind: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” No big goal means anything without God in the equation, and no small goal is insignificant if it’s done to the glory of your Savior-God.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
321. AWAKENING by Tracy Hankwitz
I woke up this morning energized which doesn’t happen often in January.
It’s winter’s coldest day so far,
and though it’s still dark and easier to stay in bed,
the sun will be up soon,
and I’m anxious to capture some scarce rays of rising light.
For the first time I’m paying attention to how the liturgical seasons partner with the seasons of the earth.
Advent comes when days are shortest, nights long; nature is dormant and darkness pulls us inward. We search the darkness within and prepare ourselves for the coming of Light, waiting with a knowing hope.
Then much-anticipated Christmas comes with its celebration of wonder all still and quiet amidst noise and clutter when earth is darkest.
As quickly as it comes, it’s gone with the new year right on its heels holding open a door to all things new.
With renewed intentions, routine returns and we slip into rituals of the day, and darkness slowly ebbs away.
This is when epiphany comes - a much needed enlightening and a reminder of when the promised Savior was revealed to wise men who persisted to seek him.
Those who followed the light of a star found the true Light.
Epiphany is the call to rise and shine, to awaken and see God’s glory and persistently seek him.
He’s found in His word and evidence of His grace is everywhere –
in daily rituals, in simple things, even in dark moments.
Shine and reflect it with joy and gratitude.
‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.’ Isaiah 60:1NIV
322. From trash to treasure by Karen Spiegelberg
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. So the saying goes. At no time does this seem more evident than on a big item trash pick-up day. You know, when your community lets you put anything at the curb and they’ll haul it away! You see piles of garbage in front of homes. Then you see something else-- people pulling up with their vehicles and digging through the piles. They’ll pull out items that they feel are valuable to them, rescuing those things from certain destruction.
On humbled knees, that scenario reminds me of what Christ has done for us. He has pulled us out of the trash pile of darkness and unbelief and rescued us! In Galatians 1: 3-5, Paul addresses the churches of Galatia, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father...” The word “rescue” translated from Greek literally means “to save from destruction”. Paul was concerned that the Gentile Christians were being confused by false teachers. He didn’t want them falling back into unbelief and soul destruction. In his message, he asserts his love for the young believers. Paul himself, a former persecutor of Christians, knew the beautiful grace of God, of being pulled up out of the garbage pile and rescued.
Next time your community has a big trash pick-up day, be reminded of how God has reached down with his almighty love and rescued us to be his treasure!
323. Contentment by Janet Gehlhar
If only it were spring . . . if only I could lose 10 pounds . . . if only I had more money . . . if only I had a boyfriend/husband who truly cherished me . . . if only. . . . How often do such thoughts fill our minds! Here is another lie of Satan – we COULD be content if only God would give us what we think we want. I see the foolishness of such a thought, but that doesn’t stop the lie from coming back.
What if God gave us only what we asked for? Now that thought is scary. Would I want my limited opinion –rather than God’s all-knowing plan – for my future? No! God sees the big picture, He knows my purpose and He knows where I can best carry out that purpose in this life. Often I have had a plan and God took me in a totally different direction and it was so much better than I could have ever imagined!
Now I ask myself, “What does God want me to do in this circumstance?” I wish I had an immediate answer each time I asked that. Waiting on God’s timing is a lesson I am still learning.
Philippians 4:11-13 states . . . I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Today I’m choosing contentment. I’m going to thank God for the simple blessings of the day, and I’m going to ask for patience as His plan unfolds.
324. You Were Made for This by Talia Steinhauer
Bible trivia question: What is a book of the Bible where God’s name is never mentioned?
Crazy, right? How can an entire book of the Bible never once mention God’s name? Let’s take a step back, and review Esther’s story first.
It takes place 100 years after the Babylonian captivity. The King of Persia decided to hold a beauty contest to find a new queen. Esther hides her Jewish identity, wins the beauty contest, and becomes his new queen. After this, the King of Persia elevates a guy named Haman to the highest position in the kingdom. Haman is arrogant, and wants everyone to kneel to him, but Mordecai (Esther’s uncle) refuses. So Haman makes a decree to kill all of the Jews. As they deliberate on what to do, Mordecai says that if Esther is not the one to deliver the Jews, then deliverance will come from someplace else. But then he tells Esther this…
“And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
A common theme in the book of Esther is how God uses his imperfect people to fulfill his perfect plan, but that he is present throughout.
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Who am I, daughter of the King, mom, friend, employee…?”
Now ask yourself, “What does God want me to be?”
Days fly by and we often get stuck in a routine and a mundane schedule. Stop. Don’t let those days get past you. Ask God for His guidance, because he has a wonderfully perfect plan for our lives.
325. A Great Cloud of Witnesses By: Erica Koester
I can’t even get through Hebrews 11:12-1:3 without getting emotional. Chapter 11 tells many accounts of Old Testament believers who followed God’s instructions, because they believed in God’s promises. To name a few: “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac (his son) as a sacrifice.” “And by faith even Sarah, who was past child-bearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.” “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” “(Moses) regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt.”
Hebrews 12 concludes: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Often it is the part about running with perseverance that gets placed on Christian mugs and T-shirts, but the preceding passage provides important context. The Old Testament believers are not just Biblical characters; they are fellow Christians who ran their race many years before we did. They now serve as a powerful cloud of witnesses to us present-day believers. When we consider their faith in God’s promises, we will be emboldened to throw off all earthly distractions and run our race with eyes fixed only on Jesus. God’s promise of eternal life came true for Old Testament believers, and it awaits us at the finish line, too.