A WORD for the Week | Archives 5
101. Can you Believe it” by Diana Kerr
Among my friends, the same topic comes up every year around this time. The friends who are teachers bring it up the most: Can you believe how many kids know nothing about 9/11? My students weren't even born when it happened.
My husband's grandma says the same thing about D-Day. She mourns the fact that many in our country don't even remember what date it was. Same thing with Pearl Harbor. So many tragic, life-robbing days in our country's history quickly become distant memory.
The United States has, for the most part, moved on since 9/11. What happened on that horrific day doesn't carry the same weight and emotional pain for most of us as it did 14 years ago unless we lost someone close to us.
We can view that fact as a sign of historical indifference or ignorance, but maybe there's a positive way to view it. Maybe we can be thankful that the Great Restorer has brought healing to our nation. We can be thankful that God came beside our country in those dark days and helped us band together to initiate repair and to fight back against the pain. We can be thankful that many of our country's children have never experienced a terrorist attack with the magnitude of 9/11. Most of all, we can be thankful that God is a good God in good times and in bad: "Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love" (Lamentations 3:32).
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
102. After the Feasting by Christine Wentzel
The parable of the Prodigal Son is a gift to so many of us who found ourselves lost to the Holy Family. My Homecoming was many years ago yet I still call myself a "prodigal." It's impossible to forget that reunion. The amazing grace of being received back into the Fold even before I knew I was always welcome, the gut-wrenching admission of sin, and the crushingly sweet comfort of knowing I was Home.
Every time I read the parable, I can't help but wonder how the prodigal fared after the feasting was over. As with the knowledge of good and evil we all received from that first forbidden bite, a prodigal tends to bear more experience of the evil than others. So then bears a lot of guilt and shame.
It seems one of the things we share in common is our tendency to walk fences instead of dwell in groups. We like the interaction of the flock, but there's a constant call to seek out the sights and sounds echoing from another pasture. I don't doubt everyone has experienced this from time to time, but I find it fascinating that so many are content to stay put.
However, as these years of group dwelling go by, I can also see the point of view from the brother who stayed behind. Sure he hears the revelry from afar, but his sense of duty, honor and morality is stronger than the pull to wander away. But it seems so unfair for a prodigal to reap such rewards for being so foolish in light of years of Godly dedication. After the feasting, how long does his resentment linger? Is the prodigal on "probation" in the brother's eyes?
If you are one who stayed in the Fold, consider the amazing blessings of protection, safety, comfort, provision, growth in faith and love. Extend that wholesome goodness to the one who still feels corrupted even after the feasting. Show them they have nothing to prove but to love and be loved. Teach them Godly contentment and healthy fellowship.
To the one who came back, put away the guilt and trust the Fold to love you. Realize that everyone sins and is redeemed whether they wandered away or stayed. If and when the temptation to fence walk comes again, ask for help. Then help someone else who is struggling, needs a hand or just a shoulder to lean on. Let the Holy Spirit strengthen your faith by using all the gifts of the church community. Before you know it, your itchy feet will calm and want to stay put!
How wonderful, how beautiful,
when brothers and sisters get along!
It's like costly anointing oil
flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron's beard,
flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It's like the dew on Mount Hermon
flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that's where God commands the blessing,
ordains eternal life.
Psalm 133:1-3 (MSG)
103. Love, Renewal and Hope by Christine Wentzel
Why do we not skate on thin ice or go boating in a hurricane or play with rattlesnakes? Because they all warn of one word: danger! To the foolish that ignore, they are left little to fall back on…loss of limb or life?
Why does God say, “Thou shalt not…” or Jesus say “No one comes to the Father except through me.”? Because they all warn of one word: danger! To the foolish that ignore, they are left with only one alterative: eternal death.
It’s especially hard to watch this happening when that foolish one once knew God. For most it takes a few nose dives into darkness to wake up to the Light shining all around them. Some of us have been there ourselves, and by the grace of second, third and fourth chances, we’ve survived to share our stories of love, renewal and hope.
I can’t think of a better example of this than the Apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul of Tarsus.) He was thoroughly versed in God’s Word through Moses and the prophets. He knew what his Prince of Peace was preaching for and warning against, but he committed himself to the life of a terrorist:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. Acts 22:3-5
God could have easily left Saul to his own devices. He was in a dangerous business that could put him in danger himself. However, God had a plan and He used His own form of darkness for Paul to see the Light.
No matter how bad it looks for the fool running away from eternal life, our all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful Father is still in control. He loves that person with an everlasting love and will not give up on them. So don’t you give up either. Ceaselessly keep them in prayer and confidently speak in love despite the fear of losing them. It’s better to risk losing contact with them than they lose contact with God. The Word you speak to them will not return to God empty. These kinds of converted or recommitted “fools” make the some of the best, relatable witnesses for rest of those in need of love, renewal and hope.
They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me. Galatians 1:23-24
104. Jesus Calls Me Friend by Carolyn Webb
In John 15:13-15, Jesus refers to His followers as His friends. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. …I have called you friends for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” The idea that Jesus is my friend inspired this poem:
There are all kinds of friends on this earth
Friends we share a greeting with
Meet for coffee and share events with
Some we even dare to share ourselves with
But friends aren’t always friendly
Some just want to use you
Some gossip and ridicule
Some unfairly judge you
I have one best friend
One that I can’t ask out for coffee
One who’s face I’ve never seen
Yet one who is always with me
He listens to my fears and doubts without a judgment passing
When I’m feeling all alone and life is just too hard
This friend provides words of comfort:
“Be strong and don’t be afraid for I am with you always” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Some will say I’m crazy
Talking to someone I’ve never seen
Waiting for answers from someone I cannot hear
But I know that someday I will meet this friend
Not just to say hello or share the day’s events
One day he will ask me to come live with him
And share his kingdom grand
And in that land we’ll share in joy that words cannot express
105. Sink or Swim by Cathy Wilk
When I was little, my family lived near a lake. My summers consisted of playing with friends, reading books, and spending most days at the lake. My mom would take us to the beach almost every afternoon. The water was a very familiar environment for me. When my dad arrived from work, we would take out our little speedboat; we children would sit in the boat and watch each of my parents ski. When we got hot, my folks would drop us, lifejacket-clad, overboard so that we could “cool off”. I took swimming lessons, too, going all the way through until I could have been a lifeguard. You would think with all these water experiences that I would be very accustomed to the water, but… I wasn’t.
You see for many years, I wore this “doofus” little necklace on which was attached a nose plug. You see even though I was very familiar with water, I was still scared.
Yes, I could hold my breath for a very long time because I was so afraid of breathing through my nose; I developed a whole safety mechanism to pass my swimming tests. If the instructor had made me swim long distances or observed that I blew no bubbles under water, he or she would have realized my potentially dangerous holding of breath and almost hyperventilation if I had to swim a crawl stroke quickly.
When I attended college, I enrolled in a life guarding and water safety instructor class. This enabled me to teach swimming classes later in life. It wasn’t until college that I really learned how to get rid of that nose clip. I really learned to swim. I feel so comfortable in the water that I can now swim laps for a mile without stopping; I have learned the rhythm of breathing so that I don’t have to stop and catch my breath. When I learned how to rhythmically breathe underwater, that really freed me from my fears of getting water in my lungs, from drowning, and from only being able to swim a lap or two without stopping.
What’s your safety mechanism? I bet you don’t have a silly nose clip! But…have you developed a way to combat having to put your whole faith in God’s hands? Do you find that something in you has to contribute to your buoyancy? Is it your bank account, your degree, your social charm, your work ethic, your stubbornness, the friends you know, your attractiveness? Ephesians 2: 8 tells us that it is by grace we have been saved through faith- nothing we do can contribute- even the faith is a gift of God. The Bible tells us about new life right now in Jesus. Romans 6:4 says, “we were…buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may have new life.” It’s only through Jesus and his work of salvation that we have new life now. This new life or buoyancy is not just there when we are exhausted from swimming life’s waters on our own. Jesus is always there to keep us afloat; in fact, he’s the one that created the water at the beginning of time so that we could float! So… throw out your nose plug or whatever safety mechanism is weighing you down…
106. The Gap by Christine Wentzel
No, not the store...the gap I'm going to talk about is the one found in the visible Christian church. Generally speaking, this community of saints is made up of different ministry groups. Pre-confirmation (under 16) kids learning HIStory, family groups raising Godly children, and empty-nester/retirement groups leading and supporting where needed. Ideally, it's a well-oiled chain with everyone linked in their personal ministries, but all too often there's a gap. Who's missing?
If you guessed the group of confirmands (teens) to college ages, you are correct. This transforming group is bible smart, and publically made a vow to never forsake Christ as Lord and His Great Commission. One thing lacking now is experience-testing in the field of a messed up world with messed up people in need of the saving message that these fresh ambassadors carry. They've been in the church, and now have to learn how to be of the church, a servant leader in its evangelical and stewardship function. They are young, energetic and impressionable. Instant gratification through intimate relationships and worldly vices entice their senses. Displaying the courage of their convictions will draw up people's defenses.
When Jesus sent out His disciples He said, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16) In light of that, He gave them on-the-job training. Even if your church community doesn't practice confirmation, don't we need to offer a ministry that helps them put their knowledge into action? Without it, there's a danger that they will be tempted to break their vow and transform from missing to lost.
With hands-on experience this fully-rounded age group can really shine like a rescue beacon among their peers. It's easier to talk about what Christ has done for them to their network because they speak and understand the same language/culture-even more so when given a few practice runs under the guidance of a seasoned believer.
So here's a request. If you are one of the missing, we want to hear your story! If your church has a ministry serving this group, please let us know about it.
And above all pray for them. Pray that they will be open to the challenge of apprenticing their ambassadorship. Pray that we, their elders, will be open to the challenge of mentoring. Pray with Jesus His prayer of thanksgiving after sending out 72 disciples who came back amazed at the success of their ministry: At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way." Luke 10:21
107. Go to Church by Christine Wentzel
Addicted to something? Go to church.
Have a potty mouth? Go to church.
Workaholic? Go to church.
Issues with your parents? Go to church.
Hate anyone? Go to church.
Lust struggles? Go to church.
Take anything not yours? Go to church.
Gossip much? Go to church.
Think you deserve things? Go to church.
Cheated on anyone? Go to church.
That message is for the church people, the brothers and sisters of the prodigals, the ones already Home. Struggling in your sins? Go to church, I'll meet you there. The end.
However, "go to church" tends to be a blanket answer to every commandment breaker-especially to those who do not go to church. Christians have used that pat answer as a cop out from getting their hands too mucked up in the dirty work of sharing the Gospel. So if any of you are using that advice to the Lord's lost, I'm here to ask you to please stop.
Going to church does not save people. Jesus saves people. So, you ask, where is Jesus if not at church? Well, look in the mirror. If you are a bible-believing Christian who confesses Christ as Lord and Savior then He is in you and you are His Church too. This means you are someone's only Church. This means you take Church to them.
Jesus didn't show us how to build a church building. He showed us how to build His Church...
· Jesus' skin was weathered from living more outside than in.
· Jesus' feet were callous hardened from walking the roads every day.
· Jesus' hair and clothes smelled of the great outdoors.
· Jesus' congregated with all people wherever He found them.
· Those who believed became His church.
The next time someone gets enough courage to tell you their concerns, meet them were they are at. Show them you care enough to listen by listening. Believe this is a God-given opportunity where nothing will be wasted so don't fear it. In that Light, let the relationship unfold with words of love that come from your own painful experiences that were healed by Christ's blood. Enforce that love with compassion in your eyes, a hug of strength or holding a hand or two through the storm.
Then invite them to the house where you congregate with fellow believers. A building dedicated to the service of the Lord-a sanctuary of thankful worship, of renewal through baptism, sharing a holy meal and persistent prayer. A center committed to encouragement and education in the Word, and a retreat for nurturing friendship. A temporary shelter before going back out there to congregate where the hurting are at and bring them back to church.
"In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." Ephesians 2:21-22
108. Disowned by Karen Maio
Peter, the confident, impetuous disciple of Jesus, was with Jesus for three years, hearing him preach, watching him do miraculous wonders, and trusting in him as the promised Messiah. Yet, when push came to shove, Peter denied even knowing Jesus.
Jesus predicted this betrayal: Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” "I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Matthew 26:31-35)
Confident faith? Or self-confident pride? Sadly, these words of Jesus came true (as they all do!). Matthew 26:69-75 records the account of Peter in the courtyard where servant girls recognized him as being with Jesus. Peter disowned his Lord - denying knowing Jesus, adding oaths and curses, jeopardizing his faith and salvation - three times before the rooster crowed, reminding Peter of Christ’s words of prediction.
Wow! How could he have done that? It’s tempting to cast judgement on Peter, until we do a reality check in the mirror and see that we do the same thing every day. Each time we sin - speed, gossip, curse, covet, yell at your children, serve unwillingly, overspend (the list could go on and on) - we disown our Savior and turn our backs on his will for us.
Peter wept bitterly over his sin, but he did not despair like his co-disciple, Judas. Jesus forgave Peter and welcomed back his redeemed disciple (John 21:15-19). Jesus stands ready with open arms to welcome us back, too. Peter later went on to teach, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) By the Holy Spirit’s power, we can show our love for Jesus and all that he has done for us and our salvation, by living according to God’s will.
Confirmation and professions of faith will be held in many churches this spring. Like Peter and many readers here have done, hundreds of teenagers and adults alike will promise that they would rather face death than to turn from the Lord and his Word of eternal life. How long did it take Peter to fall away from that vow? How long did it take us? How long will it take our youth?
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as we see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25) We need to take our confirmation vows seriously and be vigilant in encouraging one another - not only to go to church, but to avoid things that would rob us of our confession and our Savior. If we forsake him, we forsake our place with him in heaven. Rather, repent and remember “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved … for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9, 13).
This is a good time to renew your confirmation vows along with any teens or new members of your church. With the Lord’s help, promise to be faithful to him even to the point of death, and look forward to that crown of eternal life!
109. So Many Waves by Brokenhearted Mother
I wish to thank each of you who have prayed for my family. The cards and emails we have received are like pints of blood giving us strength to go on. God's family is a remarkable family to be in. We are surviving and I believe will someday thrive. Comfort is in the story below. Never has this Bible story been personal to me. Now I get it. God had the Bible stories recorded for a reason. God knew a brokenhearted mother would need them.
Jesus Walks on the Water Matthew 14…
...24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." 28 "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." 29 "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
The waves keep coming
· Real financial problems for the victim's family caused by the crime.
· The deep sadness that goes with a tragic loss.
· Anger that won't go away even though it's righteous anger.
· Seeing the hurt in our other grown children.
· Hearing the crime story on the news.
· A grandson having fights at school because he can't handle the grief.
· Letting my mind think about my son's future in and after prison.
· The health problems that have come from the stress.
· Longing for my old carefree life.
How to keep our eyes on Jesus
· Reviewing the story of Peter on the water again and again.
· Making a blessings list.
· Re-reading the many cards and emails from friends who included God's Word.
· My husband and I praying together.
· Christian counseling.
· Listening to and singing hymns filled with rich text.
· The Psalms (we are reading them together)
· Making a prayer calendar so each day someone involved is prayed for
· Repeating memorized bible verses and memorizing new ones that are helpful.
· Reviewing God's promises such as: He loves us and will never leave us.
The benefit of our eyes on Jesus
· Peaceful sleep with dreams that do not reflect the problems at hand.
· The ability to smile during the day.
· Joy in serving others. It is very hard to serve when you are pitied by those around you.
· No guilt in returning to some of my 'normal' routines.
· We are far more able to comfort others when our eyes are on Jesus.
· Peace that comes with forgiveness for us and our son.
In the story of Jesus walking on water, Jesus did calm that storm but not while Peter was trying to walk out to Jesus. Our family is still in the storm, we are still battered by waves. Keeping our eyes on Jesus takes a constant effort. We cannot do it alone. With God holding our heads to look at Jesus our family can still be distracted by the waves. We still need your prayers as does everyone trying to walk on the water. There are times when we begin to sink; we even go under now and then taking in big gulps of water. The hand of Jesus is always reaching out to grab us. When the time is right, God will calm the storm, because He loves us.
110. By a Broken-hearted Mother
Sometimes a sin is so heinous you can't bear to hear about it. The crime? Internet child pornography. The victims? There are too many to count! The children in the photos, the wife who is betrayed, the criminal's children who love their Daddy, the employer, the parents who had no idea and raised him in a Christian home, the neighborhood children and parents, the church family, the extended family, everyone who pays taxes and the high cost of crime, the detectives who had to look at the photos to make the charge and stop the activity. The list goes on and on.
What if the criminal is your son? My husband and I held each other, cried and prayed. Our beautiful daughter-in- law is devastated. Not one day of her life will ever be the same. Our son's career is over as it involved families with children. He may serve jail or prison time. Our son will never have a normal life again.
I know Jesus paid for our son's sin. I know our son can still enter heaven but this could destroy his faith as it has destroyed his life. Satan is deceptive far beyond our strength. Just one little slip can so quickly send us tumbling head over heels down the path of destruction. It happens in our behavior and it can happen in our faith.
My husband and I are begging God for our son's soul to stay intact. I hope my son was pouring his heart out on the floor of the jail with his head in the lap of the Savior but I don't know. I cannot put my arms around my son and tell him I still love him and Jesus has forgiven him. I can't tell him anything.
When Jesus took on the will of the Father in Gethsemane, Jesus took on our sin. The Bible says, "He (Jesus) became sin for us." He is our substitute. In essence, Jesus said, "I committed the crime, I destroyed my family." I can't even bring myself to put my name on this devotion. Jesus put His name on the crime!
Jesus never sinned, not even a little, but he took on ours. The Father gave all of the full weight and punishment of our sin, put it on Jesus and punished Jesus for it. All out of love for us. Jesus accepted the punishment out of love for us. As this family spends today and many days to come in tears, the Holy Spirit will plead our case before the Father.
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged-
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
111. AGAPE Defined! By Christine Wentzel
AGAPE is a great Greek word, a BIG word, a word with wide open meaning: completely sacrificial, completely selfless and completely forgiving. It is God’s Love which is in complete conflict with our human nature. Because of this we are incapable of producing such a love, except through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs….[nor] delight in evil…” 1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)
For example, love is not…
-the harried housewife who envies the “carefree” life of her unmarried friend.
-the shop-‘til-you- drop woman who boasts of the unneeded “treasures” she bought.
-the perfectionist woman who is prideful of being the hostess with the mostest.
-the attention-getting woman who rudely arrives “fashionably” late.
-the self-seeking woman who secretly enjoys one-sided conversations—hers.
-the firecracker woman who gets easily angered at the drop of a bonnet.
-the unforgiving woman who records every wrong.
-the vengeful woman who delights in the evil that befalls an enemy.
True confessions? Yes, I have been one of these women at some time in my life. Can you relate? Well, take heart and read on.
Love is patient, love is kind….rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)
For example, love (AGAPE) is shown:
-when a single woman is patient with her envious friend who is blessed with a devoted husband and a legacy of children.
-when a frugal woman is kind toward the shopper’s boasts and helps her fill the void with spiritual treasures.
-when a gentle woman reminds her perfectionist hostess about the true story of Martha and Mary.
-when a loyal woman protects the reputation of her tardy friend from gossip.
-when a confident woman who trusts the Holy Spirit helps encourage the self-seeker to find a Christ-led mission outside herself.
-when a calm woman hopes to show her hot-tempered friend the virtues of “being slow to anger” just like her heavenly Father.
-when the grace-filled women persevere in helping the record-keeper hear the voice of her LORD promising, “…[I] will remember your sins no more.”
-when a merciful woman never fails to ask the Lord to forgive the sins of a vengeful heart.
May I boast? Yes, by the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I am these women, too and so are you!
The Apostle Paul points out these opposing characteristics to show that while on earth we will struggle between the two until we are made perfect in heaven. By growing in faith and knowledge of our Lord and following His example, the AGAPE strengthens and the worldly love weakens within us. Let this “love” month remind you to pray for a big quiver filled with AGAPE arrows and the ability to aim true to everyone around you!
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)
112. The Perfect Dress by Carolyn Webb
At one time or another we have all been there. We have a special event to attend and are in search of the perfect dress. You know the one: just the right fit, the right fabric, the right color, at the right price. That elusive dress can be very difficult to find and often leads to some sort of compromise.
God has sent us an invitation to attend the wedding feast in heaven when Jesus is eternally united with his bride, the Church. To attend this magnificent feast we must have the perfect dress, but we don't have to go shopping to find it.
At this wedding, the groom provides the dress for us. It is a one-size-fits-all garment, but at the same time it is perfectly tailored to each person. Romans 3:22 "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
The dress is made of the finest cloth. Revelation 19:7 "For the wedding of the lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean was given her to wear."
The color of the dress shows the bride's purity in the site of her groom. Ephesians 5:25-27 Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
The best part about this wedding dress is the price; for us it is completely free. Our groom has paid for it with his life. Romans 3:24 "All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
There are no compromises with this wedding dress. Matthew 22:11, 13 "When the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. The King told the attendants, Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Thank you, heavenly Father, for providing us with the perfect dress so that we may attend your heavenly feast.
113. IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME by Christine Wentzel
Ever since I can remember I have been attracted to the biblical phrase, "the fullness of time." It's an expression coined by the Creator of time. For me it speaks of willfully filling something up through careful consideration including mindfulness, preparation, tracking, adjusting and finally completion. It means someone purposely took the time to make a plan and now the plan is complete.
When I think of this phrase, I envision a master glass blower meticulously creating an hour glass. He's surrounded by the raw material that will, in the fullness of time, be a fragile glass bottle that allows a precise flow of sand to transfer from one end to the other to mark a block of life which is itself held in the confines of time.
Thanks to the wonderful world of the web, you can see the process by following this link. http://vimeo.com/22396483 . As you watch, imagine our amazing Master Craftsman of the entire universe at work. With that double globe He is encapsulating a block of life with the grains of sand its seasons to move through the narrow way at just the perfect pace to fill up at the perfect time for a perfect result. Can you grasp the enormity of the intricate knowledge and care He has so passionately put into that process?
Our Father of Time at a glance sees the fullness, or the beginning and ending, of every life with their seasons and every event with its seasons. Each of them has a purpose to fulfill His "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
This New Year's Eve, look at an hour glass and believe this coming year with its seasons of highs and lows will in the fullness of time be grand. It's guaranteed by the fullness in time at the birth of the Christ Child.
But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Galatians 4:4-5
With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment-to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Ephesians1:7-10
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: Ecclesiastes 3:1
114. Give Thanks in All Things? By Julie Luetke
Paul ended his first letter to the Thessalonians with a reminder to be thankful.
I Thessalonians 5:13 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Sorry, I was not thankful when I sprained my ankle. I am not thankful my friend is in constant pain. I am certainly not thankful my son does not love God. No doubt, you have a similar list. How do we obey God and be thankful in all circumstances when some circumstances are just plain awful? God gives us tips in this verse to help us be thankful in all circumstances. Being joyful always and praying continually will help us give thanks at all times.
Our verse begins, "Be joyful always." If we think about all that God has done for us, it is easy to be joyful and thankful even when some things are not going so well. Look around at the blessings in your life. Where I live it is getting very cold. I am thankful for a warm house and hot running water. We have a Savior who paid the price for our sin and is preparing a home for us with Him in heaven for all eternity. That makes me joyful. How about you?
Going back to 1 Thessalonians God gives us another tip for thankfulness in all circumstances. God tells us to "pray continually". In times of distress I have no trouble praying continually. Many of the circumstances in our lives we would rather not face are the very things God knows we need. It is through weakness that we realize we have an all-powerful God.
2 Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
Knowing my God is strong enough to help me in any trouble I am comforted and thankful.
As Christians, God wants us to be thankful in all circumstances. As you go about your day, think of things to thank God for. With each item of clothing you fold from the basket, thank God for something. You will find your heart is quickly filled with joy and thanksgiving...for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
115. Fall Clothes by Karen Maio
It's that time of year again. There's a mild nip in the air early in the morning. The sky is darker a little earlier in the evening. Suddenly warm late summer days have given way to cooler fall days and the inevitable happens-we must start making the transition from summer clothes to fall clothes.
For our family, that means the painful exercise of going through the closet and storage bins, having my son try on clothes to see what fits, weeding out items that never get worn, then hitting the stores to purchase the rest. The part that drives me crazy for some reason is when he tells me not to get rid of certain shirts because he will wear them, but then I see the same 4 shirts in the wash each week (and it's never one of those promised-to-be-worn ones). He sees me coming with a stack of jeans and tries sneaking away downstairs or outside. C'mon...let's get this over with.
I came across a Bible verse today that made me pause and think. I guess I'm guilty of the same thing that drives me crazy when my son does it...there are some items I am to wear, but maybe I haven't donned them as often as I should. I'm not talking about actual items of clothing, but rather some attributes that are referred to in the Bible as the "fruits of the Spirit".
Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:12-14).
Hmm...have I been as kind and compassionate with my family as I should be or has "hurrying disease" made me short and impatient? Have I gently served with humbleness, or have I grumbled over being asked to help out at church...again? Do I have that forgiving heart my Lord wants me to have, or am I holding on to that grudge with an iron fist?
Yuck....those "clothes" need to go into the wash! Thankfully, I have just the right detergent...I can wash them in the blood of my Savior Jesus Christ and they will come out looking whiter than snow.
They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:15)
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)
Jesus has done so much for me and my salvation!
As I switch our summer clothes for the fall ones, with the Holy Spirit's help, I resolve to clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, and encourage my child to do the same.
116. My Cactus Pricked My Heart by Julie Luetke
I watched my 2-year-old grandson try to get a small stone turtle out of the cactus pot. He reached for the turtle and pricked his hand. He pulled his hand back, rubbed it a bit, and tried again. Atticus quickly accepted the fact the cactus was not going to give him the turtle so he went off to other things. He showed no anger. He learned to respect the cactus and humbly submit.
If I had told Atticus that he could not have the turtle, he would have crossed his little arms and pouted with a lower lip protruding. He would have dug his feet into the floor for a bit of a show down. However, he quickly realized it was for his own good to walk away.
How do I take it when God tells me 'no'? How do you take it? Sometimes I will try going around God. Sort of like, where there is a will there is a way. I get irritable with those near me. "My way" might involve greed or envy. I might even have a little pity party because I feel cheated. None of those reactions are anything to boast about.
Lord, help me respect Your laws and humbly submit to Your will. Remove the resentment and lingering frustration from my heart. Lord, You say 'no' out of love for me. You know what is best. Thank you for loving me and teaching me to obey even when I do not want to. Thank you for cactus to remind me of this lesson on submission.
A few verses to remember this devotion are:
Psalm 119:97 Oh how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long.
Psalm 119:71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might lean Your decrees.
Psalm 119:86a All Your commands are trustworthy.
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Romans 13:14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
4. Gossip...Who Me?
9. How can a Christian Choose a Good Movie?
13. Christmas or Chaos-mas?
2. I Want to Change
23. Do I Have to Follow the Law?
84. A Powerful Name, a Small Detail
12. My parents have been married for 45 years...
79. God’s word is a lamp unto my feet and a...
39. Lord, every time I’m sick or things don't go...
117. Lord, Get Me Through This Storm! By Karen Spiegelberg
The storm blew in from nowhere. I was on a bike trail with one of my best friends (my Trek road bike) and I was still 7 miles from home coming back from a 30-mile ride. The sky was blue and sunny and I was enjoying the tranquility of the day. Suddenly, a huge lightning storm blew in and torrential rains came with it. There was no place to take cover, so I pedaled faster in the direction of home. I knew of an old building with a porch that I could take cover under, if I could make it about 4 more miles. In the meantime, the lightning and thunder crashed around me and the heavy, pouring rain soaked me to the bone. I was scared. A few years ago, I had a run-in with lightning when a bolt hit right outside our kitchen window and I felt an electrical charge go through my body. Lightning is nothing to mess around with! So, there I was, pedaling as fast as my legs would let me until I reached the old familiar building on my route. As I sat under that porch with the storm raging around me, I found myself audibly muttering, "Lord, get me through this storm."
Lord, get me through this storm. As my mind pondered that plea, I nervously chuckled to myself (until the next lightning bolt made me jump again) thinking about how the disciples must have felt during that boat-tossing storm on the seas with Jesus. They were afraid, just as I was! When the disciples called upon Jesus in their fear, he arose and said, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. Matthew 8:26
The disciples experienced a real storm, just as I had... although I am certain that my storm paled in comparison to theirs... but, nonetheless, it was a storm and one that created fear. When Jesus called them out for their lack of faith, he sent a message to the disciples and to us that he is with us through all of life's storms, no matter what they are. The storms will come, whether it is a serious illness, a sudden death in the family, or a tough financial situation. Through our trust in Jesus, he will calm those storms and get us through. We will find his purpose in a serious illness. We will find comfort in his promises after the death of a loved one. We will refocus and draw nearer to him during a tough financial situation. He promises us, "...that in all things God works for the good of those who love him..." Romans 8:28
I had been so scared and felt so alone as that lightning storm had raged around me. What a scaredy-cat I had been... just like the disciples. When the storm eventually passed over and the sun came out again, I got my tired and soaked body back on the bike. God got me through the storm. As I pedaled the last few miles home, I heard a still, small voice say, "And surely I am with you always..." Matthew 28:20b
118. Follow Me by Carolyn Webb
Matthew 4:18-20 - As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him.
I don't know if I could have just immediately accepted Jesus invitation. Could you just leave your job and family and follow someone with no home of his own? What a sacrifice it must have been for the disciples!
Then after a few short years, Jesus sent them out with the command: Go to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near'. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons (Matthew 10:6-8). In addition to these instructions Jesus warns them against dangers they will encounter: "Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. ... Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." (Matthew 10:17, 29) I don't know about you, but with a job description like that I would be headed the other way, and yet the disciples continued to do the work they were called to do.
Today we continue to have brave young men and women who answer the call of their Savior. Pastors and teachers who don't know what the future holds willingly leave their families behind and go where God leads them. Some of them go to dangerous places trusting that God will provide them with safety. I didn't really grasp the sacrifice these people make until we moved our daughter from Wisconsin to a border town in Arizona. It was difficult to let her go, but it has provided me with a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices made by our called workers.
Thank you, God, for the gift of our pastors, teachers, and all in the public ministry. Bless the sacrifices they made in order to spread your Word and provide comfort and guidance to your people.
119. The Master Gardener by Carolyn Webb
I'm not very good with plants. Every time someone gives me a houseplant, I feel sorry for the plant and tell the giver that, while I appreciate the sentiment, she has just bestowed a death sentence on the poor plant. I either over-water or under-water. I forget to fertilize. I try to get the plant to grow in a place without enough sun. Ultimately, the poor plant dies from neglect.
People find it hard to believe that I can't grow houseplants when they look at the gardens in my yard. I often get compliments about how pretty my flower beds are. What's the difference? When it comes to the outside garden, all I do is plant, God does the rest. God does all the watering; He provides the fertile soil; He provides the sunlight. God is the Master Gardener at our house.
God is also the Master Gardener when it comes to growing Christians. I Corinthians 3:5-6 says: "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe - as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow."
It's a good thing that God doesn't ask me to grow Christians. I'm sure that I would not provide all the conditions needed to let the seeds of faith grow. The result would be the same as with my houseplants - complete failure. What a relief it is that God doesn't give the responsibility of creating faith to me. All I need to do is plant the seed of God's Word, and God will take care of the rest. A word of encouragement offered from scripture, a question answered about what I believe - these are the seeds that God uses. Sometimes it seems like nothing is happening when the seed is planted, but God is in control. When the time is right, God will cause that seed to sprout and grow.
Are you feeling impatient waiting for your seeds to grow? "Wait for the Lord, Be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27:14)
120. Brokenhearted by Carolyn Webb
My bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl among the ruins.
I like awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.
Have you ever felt the way David felt when he wrote these words? When I am struggling with anxiety or depression, my mind whirls with many negative thoughts: "No one understands," "I am all alone," "I can't do anything right," "I can't handle this". What I need at times like this is to stay connected to God's Word and His promises.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
I am not alone: Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20
My weakness shows God's strength:
He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11
Depression attacks the body, mind and spirit. Treatment needs to address the total effect - physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. If you or someone you love is feeling helpless and hopeless, seek help from your medical doctor and from the greatest physician of all - your heavenly father.
Hear my Prayer O Lord; let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.
121. Hope for Wanderers by Lori Malnes
One afternoon during our family's winter ocean/beach vacation, I took our dog, Trubble, for a walk on the beach. There was no one around for miles, it was wonderful! I let Trubble off his leash and played fetch. After my arm got tired we walked.
Trubble chased waves, ran up the dunes and ran back to me to check in. After a bit he caught some scent and followed it. When I noticed his preoccupation I called to him, but with the wind in my face and the roar of the waves he couldn't hear me. Trubble went further ahead lost in whatever he smelled. Soon he was just a speck way down the beach. I could see this black dot move out yonder and wondered if I had lost our dog for good. I prayed for God to somehow bring us back together. As I tried to keep an eye on him, I realized that Trubble made a beeline back to me as fast as his legs could carry him. God is good and cares about us and even our dogs! He answered my heart and brought Trubble back.
As we walked back down the beach with Trubble leashed-I had enough heart attacks for one day-I thought how neat it would be to be "leashed" to God so that I could never wander far away. If God was capable of heart attacks, I am sure I gave Him quite a few with my wanderings-the "scents" of this world distract me often. It also made me think of other parents who ask us for prayers for their child or children who, though raised Christian, have wandered away from their faith. I know many of you have the same concerns.
Thankfully, we have a God who never gives up on us. He hears our prayers-even about our dogs! Keep praying, keep trusting God, keep trusting in His promises, and keep trusting God's Word planted in their young hearts. May these wanderers turn their head and hearts toward their Master and make a beeline back to Him. May we hold on to the hope found only in our very big God.
Luke 12:6-7 "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than the sparrows." (NIV)
Prayer: Wonderful and amazing Lord, all is under Your control even the animals. We are precious in Your sight and You love us even more than a parent loves his/her child. Help us not to fear, but to trust in You and Your love. May those who have wandered away from You hear Your voice and Your persistent knocking. May they make a beeline back to You and into Your waiting arms. Thank You for being such an awesome God! Amen.
122. Mind Control by Janet Gehlhar
As spring begins, I'm motivated to clean, organize, and schedule every aspect of my life. I usually manage to clean a few closets and clear out an old file or two, but my energy dies out long before my list is complete. This year I have a different item on my list. I'm working on cleaning out my mind.
Continual thoughts bombard me . . . my to-do list, people I want to remember in my prayers, and then the negative tape that keeps playing reminding me that I didn't do what I should have done, sinful thoughts filled with pride and judgment, and I'm exhausted. I feel like I'm swatting mosquitoes in the middle of the summer and the more I slap, the more they attack. How can I make it all stop?
While I can't stop the sinful thoughts that enter my head, I can choose to dismiss them rather than allow them to get comfy and stay. Wow - much easier said than done. Obviously, I can't handle this on my own. I need to look to God's Word for an answer. . .
Romans 8:6 - The mind of sinful man's death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.
You mean that I could have peace and calmness and not beat myself up mentally all day, every day? Exactly. God wants me to have peace, trusting Him with all of my concerns. When temptations and worries attempt to set up camp in my mind, I need to push those thoughts out and remind myself that God is in charge, and trust Him to do what is best for me. It isn't easy and that is why I need God's strength.
Today I'm asking the Holy Spirit to take control of my mind and to fill it with thoughts of God and who He is, what He has done for me, and to fill my mind with the peace of knowing God alone is in charge and more powerful than any negative, sinful thought that taunts me.
123. The Gift of Choice by Christine Wentzel
Yes, Adam's one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Romans 5:18 (NLT)
For over 40 days, I've spent 3 years walking with Jesus during His ministry on earth. The whole experience blossoms into this one glorious day, EASTER! The day God, in human form, resurrected from the grave, triumphant from the battle over death after giving up His Life for me, you, our loved ones and friends, our enemies-alleluia!
Why did He feel He had to do such a thing? Well it really boils down to the gift of choice. After God created the universe and everything it in, He finished His masterpiece by creating the human race. We are unique from every other life form because He gave only to us the gift of choice. With it we are free to love or hate, to trust or fear, to resist temptation or cave in, to forgive or blame, to keep the gift of faith or reject it-we are not puppets on a string-alleluia!
When the Father, in love and joy, laid every treasure at Adam and Eve's feet and gave them complete dominion over all of it, they chose the one thing they could not have. Oh dear, can I relate! The consequences of choosing to break the bonds of trust are huge-pride and fear are born. The birth of sin infects every aspect of life and separates all from true Love. Condemnation plagues and death finalizes earthly life. In tender mercy, the Creator immediately covers this disgrace with an immediate promise of forgiveness and redemption--alleluia!
Imagine you are joyfully handing over all your hard earned treasures to your children and you add words of warning, "don't eat the chocolate in the gold foil package or you will die." And they do it anyway? Even so, in overwhelming love and mercy, wouldn't you also do anything to save their life before it was too late-including giving up yours so they can live? That's what Easter is all about-alleluia!
For the joy your advent gave me,
For your gospel's great reward,
For your baptism which has saved me,
For your supper and your Word,
For your death, the bitter scorn,
For your resurrection morn;
Lord, I thank you and extol you,
And in heav'n I shall behold you.
Like the Golden Sun Ascending
Christian Worship #147
124. What a Donkey I Am by Carolyn Webb
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away." This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'" Matthew 21:1-5
Through the years I learned that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as a symbol of His humility. He was not a proud, war-loving king. He was gentle and used the transportation of common people. As I read the accounts of Palm Sunday this year, what stood out to me was that Jesus didn't ride just any donkey. He rode a young donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. Each of the gospels and the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 point out that Jesus rode a young donkey. Luke's account makes the additional point that the animal had never been ridden before.
Having once attempted to ride a horse that had never been ridden before and landing flat on my back, I wondered if donkeys were somehow easier to train than a horse. I found an article "Training Donkeys" by Meredith Hodges. Here are a few things that Meredith had to say about preparing a donkey to be ridden:
Donkeys are very slow learners. Make sure you have plenty of time to devote to training.
Donkeys freeze when they are confused or frightened. To teach a donkey to go over obstacles you must stand close to his head, hold him on a shorter lead, and ask him to "Come."
Donkeys must be approached with lot of patience, love and kindness.
At first, you may need the voice, reigns, and whip, but as the donkey learns you will find him reacting sooner and sooner until he is actually complying on the verbal command alone.
Training a young donkey sounds an awful lot like my spiritual training. How slow am I to come to Jesus? After 50 years of learning, I'm still trying to figure some things out. Doesn't every obstacle seem impassible? How much patience, love and kindness does God have to show me? How long will it be before I can rely on His Word alone?
While being compared to a donkey isn't very flattering, there is one characteristic I pray for: when you come back for the next lesson, whether the next day or the next week, the donkey will be exactly where you left him in his training. They have an incredible memory. God, please give me a spiritual memory like a donkey that I might continue to be a student of your Word. Thank you for the salvation through Jesus your Word consistently reveals and the patience you show me as I live my life for you, even when I am slow and stubborn like a donkey!
125. The Love Resolution by Sandra Grussing
Was this on your New Year's Resolutions list?
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." Mark 12:30
If it was, what do you need a list for? You see, if you can (with God's help) keep this resolution, everything else will (also with God's help) take care of itself. How can you possibly smoke that cigarette, binge on ice cream, or lie on the couch feeling sorry for yourself when every fiber of your being is focused on loving God.
So how do we go about loving God with all our hearts? Think about how you fell in love with the very special someone in your life? We speak of love at first sight, but if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that real love doesn't happen that way. It develops through hours spent together getting to know one another. You fall in love with the way he treats you over the long haul...publicly AND in those private, alone moments, don't you? That requires spending considerable time together.
Can you truly love someone you spend only an hour, once a week with? Can you love someone you never talk to? Can you love someone you never talk about? Can you love someone you don't know? Of course not; and there is only one way to get to know God. Open your Bible, read it. Study it prayerfully. In no time at all, you will wake up every morning wanting to know Him more and He will welcome you because you see, all this time that you have been falling in love with God, he has already loved you. He knows you better than you even know yourself, warts and all, and He STILL loves you! So much in fact, that he sacrificed His own son to redeem you.
Keeping the "Love Resolution" will be a piece of cake, don't you think?