A WORD for the Week | Archives 9
201. Victims by Julie Luetke
Have you noticed the "victim" mentality? A popular fiction writer seems to saturate his books with it. Here is an example: The detective is thinking about the case where blackmail has been committed. The detective reasons that the blackmailer would only do such a thing if he had been blackmailed himself. He was just acting out what someone else had done to him.
Hmmm. If that is true, why would the blackmailer have reason to repent of his crime? How could he accept punishment as fair? Can we understand our conscience if we only blame our sin on others? As a first rate excuse maker for my sin, even I can see the wrong in the 'victim' mentality.
The detective in the book sounds loving and kind. She understands that we all make mistakes. She is definitely soft on sin. At the same time, she boasts of a strong sense of right and wrong. This fictional character is so much like us.
What does God say about sin?
2 Peter 2:4 God did not spare angels when they sinned but sent them to hell.
2 Peter 2:5 He did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people.
God is definitely not soft on sin! God hates sin. We know that.
When we see a large poisonous snake, we run from it. We understand what it can do to us. 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.
If I reach out and touch a hot coal, the consequences are immediate. I won't do that again! Sin usually 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. 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.
Psalm 119 is all about love for God's law and the Gospel of forgiveness.
Psalm 119:132 Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.
Psalm 119:135 Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees.
To the almighty, loving, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, forgive me for my "victim" excuses to sin. 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.
202. Go for the Gold! by Karen Maio
I love the Olympics....and I hate the Olympics.
Who doesn't love watching all those strong, healthy athletes, oozing fitness, energy, national pride, and determination to win the gold medal? I am amazed how those trained muscles can run, jump, swim, and maneuver the body in ways I could only dream about. I admire the skills needed to kick, shoot, and spike successfully to win the game. I watch in awe.
But I hate to see - as I inevitably do - the fall, the slip, the miss, the out- of- bounds step that dashes the dreams of the athlete who has dedicated most of his or her life so far to this moment. What happened? They are well-trained for this! Was it nerves? Pressure? Did they get distracted from their goal?
It reminds me of my faith and my walk as a Christian. I long to be strong and well- conditioned for whatever life or Satan may throw at me, oozing faithfulness, self-control and joy in the Lord. Indeed, I have trained long and hard - from childhood Bible stories to daily Bible reading, church, devotions, Catechism, and tons of religion and Bible classes. But, inevitably, I fall, slip, miss the mark and step out of bounds. I know it's not nerves. Maybe I could blame peer pressure, but eventually I must admit that sin and Satan distracted me from my goal and I took my eyes off the prize. The apostle Paul struggled with this as well. He writes, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14
God wants us to strive for perfection, to trust him fully, to live lives of obedience and service to him. And when we fall, (and yes, we will fall) we don't have to despair, because our God stands ready to pick us up and give us another chance, again and again. Not only that, but the Holy Spirit promises to help us who believe in Jesus as our Savior, giving us the power we need to press on toward these goals. So, sisters, press on! Go for the gold! But remember, the only "athlete" to succeed was Jesus. His victory has become our victory and through faith in him, we will win the prize - eternal life in heaven with Jesus himself! "Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 15:57
And that's better than a gold medal any day!
203. The Thrill of the Hunt by Julie Luetke
The other day I caught myself on a treasure hunt. I was thinking of my hunt strategy and fully enjoying the planning. Fortunately, I came to my senses and stopped, asked God to forgive me and went on to other things. The hunt wasn't for treasure, but for a tasty bit of gossip.
A friend had been telling me about a person who was acting very greedy in a business deal. She didn't give the name, but there were enough clues that with minimal digging I could figure out who it was. Then I could look down my nose on this person and know I was better than he is.
How often have you been on such a hunt? Probably too often, just like me. God knows us so well he gives us just the right words in:
1 Corinthians 15:34 "Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning."
God is not being easy on us in this verse. He is not allowing for excuses or blame. I could blame my desire to go on the hunt for gossip on my friend. She really shouldn't have told me as much as she did. She too is guilty of gossip but her sin is between her and God. It is none of my business. I chose the thrill of the hunt. Recently I came across the 1 Corinthians verse. As I planned my hunt, God reminded me of his words to come back to my senses as I ought, and stop sinning.
With so many social media options, treasure hunting is at an all-time high. How can you fight being tempted? Maybe you need to separate yourself from certain friends on Facebook who love to share gossip. We all need to ask God for help coming to our senses. The thrill of the hunt and satisfaction in finding the treasure are too strong for us. If we give in we have to fight the desire to tell someone else about the treasure. Sin just leads to more sin.
When I came back to my senses and asked for forgiveness, God reminded me that the only perfect gift to him is a contrite heart. Jesus' arms were open in an 'I forgive you' hug.
Thank you, Jesus.
204. Focus on Jesus by Janet Gehlhar
As I walk on the path of life, I wish I could see far ahead at what is coming. But I can't. It is like I have a flashlight with power to see the step I'm on, but not the next step. I strain to peer ahead and see only darkness.
Psalm 105:4 Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.
I need to keep my focus on Jesus and trust His plan for my life. My head knows that, so why won't my heart trust completely? I'm sinful. Even though I know better, I still think somehow I can control or change things to work out my way. Even as I write that, I recognize the sheer ridiculousness of that statement. Over and over in my life I have seen God's plan carried out in wonderful ways I could never even have fathomed - and yet I still find myself wanting to work things out on my own. My selfish side wants my way and demands it now.
The path that we are on leads to heaven. Twists and turns, happy and sad times, victories and disappointments are all part of the journey. We don't know when our path will be complete and we will be at heaven's gate, but we do know that as we walk with Jesus, He will guide us and work out all things for our eternal good.
Today I'm going to focus on the present and the step God has lit for me - no looking back or straining to see ahead. With my focus on Jesus, I can be content in His Presence and find true joy in His Plan.
205. Making It Stronger by Julie Luetke
In Matthew 15:21 we read about a woman who came calling after Jesus to heal her daughter who suffered from demon possession. Jesus first seemed to ignore her. When she kept crying after him, Jesus said to her face that he had come for the lost sheep of Israel and it was not right to give the children's bread to the dogs. Wow, what a discouraging comment from the God of love! Jesus implied she was only a dog unworthy of his help. The disciples asked Jesus to send her away because she kept calling after them.
Tie a knot in a piece of string or rope. After you tied the knot did you give it a hard pull?--not to break it, but to make it tight and strong. If the knot were left loose, it could come undone. Pulling on the knot to strengthen it is testing it. The woman in Matthew was having her faith tested. Jesus had every intention of healing her daughter but he gave her faith a hard tug by acting like he did not come to help her. She did not waver. The woman continued to plead for her child. She told Jesus that even the dogs lick the crumbs that fall from the master's table. Her faith was so strong that she knew only a crumb of God's goodness would be enough. Happily Jesus turned to her and said, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." That hard tug on her faith did not destroy it but made it even stronger. When you feel your faith is being tested beyond what you can bear, remember the woman who came begging for her child. Remember Jesus was testing her faith to make it strong.
Now to make a very strong cord, braid three strands: one is Christ, one is you and one is a Christian brother or sister who can encourage you. Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
206. Choosing God's Buffet by Janet Gehlhar
I love to eat. And, I have this longing several times a day - I'm not limited to a meal schedule. Yeah, I know, I should eat to live and not live to eat.
Psalm 34:8 - Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
With spiritual things I can live to eat. God's Word provides so many opportunities for nourishment and the buffet never ends. But do I take full advantage of this? Unfortunately, sometimes I think I'm "full" and I don't make another trip to the buffet. Those are the times when I allow earthly concerns to crowd out my desire for more of what God has to offer.
My spiritual longings aren't like my physical need to eat regularly. I wonder if I felt that spiritual need as intensely, how much more time I would spend with God. When I eat chocolate chip cookies, one is never enough. I want more. Oh, if only I had that same drive for studying God's Word.
Ah yes, the sinful flesh messes with me. The thing I want to do, I don't do, but what I don't want to do, I keep doing. I want to make God a priority, but instead I allow earthly things to get in the way.
I can't do this myself. I'm asking God to give me a powerful longing for His buffet, and the will to make my time with Him a priority.
I need a better plan. Obviously I don't want to wait for spiritual starvation, so I need to structure my day around my time with God. My plan is to talk to God first thing in the morning, ask Him to guide and direct my day, read His Word, and follow up with a few minutes of quiet to meditate on what He has just shared with me in His Word.
Today I'm going to feast on God's buffet.
207. The Hunger Games by Karen Spiegelberg
The Hunger Games. I've never read the books nor have I seen the movie that was just released this week. I know it's getting a lot of buzz and I have no idea what it's about, but the phrase is one that just keeps popping into my head. It's kind of catchy. It's kind of thought-provoking. My idea of the hunger games, however is when one of my daughters has just finished a race or stepped off the basketball court and exclaims, "I'm starving!" and then proceeds to negotiate with us on a fast food joint to stop at on the way home. My idea of the hunger games is when I wake up in the middle of the night (as I often do at this age) and my tummy is rumbling and begging for me to make a trip to the refrigerator for a leftover piece of pizza.
I have a feeling however, that God's idea of the hunger games is that tug-of-war we have with ourselves between being in the Word and our sinful flesh that doesn't have time. God wants a rumbling in our hearts to feed our hungry souls with his Word, to nourish ourselves with his everlasting goodness, and to drink from the fountain of his knowledge. There are so many references in the Bible with the analogy of feeding and nourishing one's self via God's Word. Matthew 5:6 tells us, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Pastor G. Jerome Albrecht, in The People's Bible: Matthew, explains that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness know how to satisfy their spiritual hunger and thirst. They know the Lord Jesus as the Bread of Life, and they drink deeply of the living water that he provides. In other words, they faithfully use the means of grace, the gospel of Christ in Word and sacrament. They like to make the Word of God a part of their daily routine.
Hunger will always be something that is a factor or game in our lives, whether physically or spiritually. Next time you feel that rumbling in your stomach, grab a bite to eat and then... indulge in God's Word, as well.
208. A Ton is a Lot! By Julie Luetke
The statement, "I love you a ton." really makes no sense because a ton is a measure of weight. A ton is 2,000 pounds or 908 kg. A very large cow weighs a ton. A male crocodile can weigh a ton.
If you say to me, "I love you a ton", please don't make it a cow. I wouldn't be able to move or even breathe with a cow on me. Not at all a pleasant thought, even though I really like cows.
In the Bible there are a ton of references to the love God has for us, a very pleasant thought.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1
Here are many things God tells us about his love for us:
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered. Matthew 10:29-31
I chose you when I planned creation. Ephesians 1:11-12
You may not know me, but I know everything about you. Psalm 139:1
I know when you sit down and when you rise up. Psalm 139:2
I am familiar with all your ways. Psalm 139:3
For you were made in my image. Genesis 1:27
For you are my offspring. Acts 17:28
I knew you even before you were conceived. Jeremiah 1:4-5
I chose you when I planned creation. Ephesians 1:11-12
You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book. Psalm 139:15-
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14
I knit you together in your mother's womb. Psalm 139:13
Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand. James 1:17
And I rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17
For you are my treasured possession. Exodus 19:5
And I want to show you great and marvelous things. Jeremiah 33:3
If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me. Deuteronomy 4:29
I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine. Ephesians 3:20
When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you. Psalm 34:18
I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus.John 17:23
For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed. John 17:26
Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10
I have always been Father, and will always be Father.Ephesians 3:14-15
I am waiting for you. Luke 15:11-32
There now, God just dumped a ton of love on you and I bet you'll be light on your feet all day! Thank you Father for the gift of your love. Thank you for showing us how to love others for, "We love because you first loved us." 1 John 4:19
(Many of the verses above have been paraphrased.)
209. The "Dear God" Column by Gloria Marcouiller
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8,9
Where do you go for "good" advice? Do you seek out your best friend and ask their opinion? Do you have a person in mind right now that you look up to and respect? Someone you feel you could trust with your deepest needs because you know she would have your best interest at heart? Maybe you even find yourself looking for answers to your problems in the Dear Abby column in your local newspaper. Then again, many times we try to figure things out on our own; we don't want any advice because it can be overwhelming and confusing! We might ask others for advice, and we listen, but we don't follow through. Then we feel bad because we didn’t heed their "good advice!"
When we are looking for answers, it is always wise to search the scriptures for His divine guidance to all of life's problems. The book of Proverbs could be labeled "God's Advice Section for Holy Living” because there are great answers and good advice for many questions you or I might have. One of my favorite passages there is in chapter 3:5, 6 which says: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. As a little child trusts in his mother or father; so are we to exhibit that same child- like faith, and completely put our trust in our LORD. He won't make us do this, or even make us feel guilty for not trusting him with our whole heart, but he does promise to make our paths straight if we do! We have a free will, and when we look to others for "good advice," it may be very good, but God wants us to acknowledge him first and not only will he give us the very best advice each and every time, he will guarantee His faithfulness to us, because we are his redeemed children--the ones that he loves!!!
Oh ,holy God of the universe---your thoughts are awesome! Your ways are perfect! I am humbled by your majesty that fills the earth. I was made to give my all back to you, and to live my life with a grateful heart. Humble me, Lord to listen to you, and to walk in your ways. I want to be teachable and I have much to learn. May your wisdom and understanding be charge over my mind and my mouth. In your strength, may I see with my heart, and by your grace, may I speak your love and live your truth. I will trust in You and in your mighty Word, that I may live according to your will. Your abiding love keeps me alive in Christ. For this I am gratefully blessed! Dear God...are you listening? I really need your “good and godly advice.”
210. Christmas Letter to God by Carolyn Webb
When I as a little girl, I wrote letters to Santa with a long list of things I wanted for Christmas. Later I learned that Santa isn’t real, and that those wishes only came true to the extent that my parents were able and willing to make them come true.
Now I’m grown up and all I want for Christmas is something only You can give. You see, there are people I love who don’t think You are real. Some of these people actually used to be close to You, while others have never gotten to know You. I’ve tried to convince them how important it is to know You and to know Jesus as their Savior. It seems that all my efforts have had no effect. I know from Your Word that this is to be expected. I remember the parable of the sower and the seed:
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among the thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:11-15)
Knowing that this is to be expected doesn’t help the heartache I feel. I don’t want anyone I love to spend eternity in hell. What I really want for Christmas is for everyone to know the simple truth that “God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). I need You to cut through all the commercialism the world has placed on Christmas and let the miracle birth of Jesus, our Savior, shine through so that the Holy Spirit might work in their hearts.
I know there is no Santa to fill this Christmas wish, but I do know that you are able and that in Your Word we find this wish, this desire, as well. 1 Timothy 2:4 tells us “God…wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”. God, you also tell us in Your Word that all things are possible with You. I’m praying that, with You willing, my Christmas wish might come true, so that I and all I love will be among those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and produce a crop.
211. Do Not Worry by Carolyn Webb
Worry… Worry…. Worry …. I know it’s not a productive thing to do, but there are times when I worry. Most of the time when I worry it’s about whether or not I’m making the right decision. This is especially true of decisions that will affect family, friends, or coworkers. I debate for a long time about the pros and cons of each option. I try to predict what the future will be after the decision is made. I want to make sure my decision has the right outcome. Wow, isn’t that conceited on my part to think that I am in control of the outcome of any decision I make? God is the architect of the world and all who live in it. He might use me to accomplish his purpose, but my decisions aren’t what make the world go around.
Psalm 104:27-30 puts some perspective on the worry associated with decision making.
“These all look to You to give them their food at the proper time,
When You give it to them they gather it up;
When You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
When You hide Your face, they are terrified.
When You take away their breath, they die and return to dust.
When You send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”
What a relief to know that God is in control of everything, not me. He makes sure we have everything we need. Life and death are not the result of my decisions, but are acts of God. Matthew 6:34 offers some excellent advice. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” There will always be choices to be made, but I needn’t worry about how those decisions will affect the future. God already has the future in his hand.
212. Summer Clothes by Karen Maio
Working outside on a beautiful, abnormally warm day for March, I was actually feeling uncomfortable in my jeans. I contemplated putting on a pair of shorts, but knowing I hadn't shaved my legs this morning (it was still winter!), and fearing blinding the drivers on my street with my winter white limbs, I decided to sweat it out.
The weather did spur me on to haul out my summer clothes later that afternoon. Shorts had to be tried on and organized into piles to accommodate my forever changing size. Maybe you can relate - shorts that are loose enough for the beginning of summer and those that fit more snugly after many active summer days. Shirts had to be tried on and inspected for stains. My mom just shakes her head, "How did you manage to stain another top?" I just don't know (cooking? playing with my son at the park? Cheeto dust?), but I always seem to notice the spot after the shirt has been laundered and the stain has been nicely set. I put away my keepers and regrettably tossed out a favorite, now stained, shirt. I comforted myself with the fact that the keepers outnumbered the throw-aways and that I had enough of them so that I didn’t need to go shopping to buy any more. Well, maybe just one to replace the discard.
After supper, my son was working on a “compare and contrast” English assignment and I got to thinking - clothes are a little like Jesus. (I could never fully compare our precious Savior to a favorite outfit!) They both can cover our imperfections. Cute, floaty (non-stained) tops can hide a tummy; and despite the fact that we keep on sinning, when God looks at us, all he sees is righteousness won for us by Jesus. Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered (Romans 4:7). Both can bring out our best. You know, that certain color you wear that always draws compliments. Likewise, when we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, his love prompts us to live our lives for Jesus, obeying Him and serving one another in love. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Unlike fashion styles or yo-yoing waistbands, Jesus never changes. He is always faithful, always near, always forgiving. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Never, no matter how sin-stained our hearts are, would Jesus shake his head in disbelief or toss us away. He loves us; he has redeemed us. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16).
213. Take up running! By Christine Wentzel
“I don’t have time to run.” Your to-do list is a mile long.
“I’m too old to run.” Your joints can attest.
“I can’t even walk.” Your wheelchair gives proof!
Nope, sorry not good enough…you can run, you’re already doing it. At A Word for Women we want to be your running partners so we can encourage each other and not give up the race for our reward is great!
Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV
When God planted faith in our hearts, His goal for us is to live forever. As a result, we were automatically registered in the race. This race is our daily living in Christ. To train for this race, or to grow in our Christian living, we nourish our faith and increase our godly knowledge by staying on a consistent diet of His Life-sustaining Word through personal devotions, group bible studies, worshipping with our family in Christ and encouraging others with what we learned from the people He inspired to write to us.
Dear friends… I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
2 Peter 3:1,2,18 NIV
When we joined this race, spectators like the devil, the world and our sinful weaknesses lined up along the route en masse to distract us from the finish line. They try everything from seductive appeal to threatening doubts to steer us off the path of eternal Life with Christ. As powerful as the pull seems, it’s all smoke and mirrors.
Jesus didn’t give up the race of His Ministry. Despite the bombardment of temptation, mockery, hate and torture, He finished the race to save everybody. The Apostle Paul picked up Our Redeemer’s Gospel baton and as a result he was sitting in chains when he wrote his letter of joy to the people of Philippi. He didn’t give up either and he emphatically encourages us to continue on. May we run the race with joy and confidence in the love of God and the ever-present Holy Spirit as we pray together in Jesus’ name. Amen!
…I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus….I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus…Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you…. our citizenship is in heaven… Philippians 1:4-6;3;14,17,20 NIV.
214. K.I.S.S. By Christine Wentzel
No, we’re not going to explore the 70’s rock band. However, do you know that the most common definition for this acronym is: Keep It Simple, Stupid?
Ouch! I know, but it might surprise you to read that I could well imagine Jesus started this abbreviation during His Sermon on the Mount. Let me explain…
Do you ever find yourself in a position where you are asked to do something and you just don’t know how to say no? So instead you give explanations for all the reasons why you can’t do it; and maybe, just maybe those explanations get exaggerated or embellished just to add extra importance.
If you answered yes (I did!), then I have to ask, “Why do we do that?” If the reason for saying no is valid then what’s the problem? Well for me, I don’t want to let someone down or I experience an unfounded guilt or I fear causing conflict. Can you relate?
How about the times you can say yes? Have you ever promised beyond what’s realistic? Like saying you can help every week when you can only help once a month. Say yes out of guilt? Again, I’m nodding my head.
When we do those sinful things, the results are not good. It can appear like we’re always making excuses or real guilt weighs us down, or promises are broken and people get disappointed, or service is done with a resentful heart. Ugh!
Then one day, our Teacher sat down with this disciple and said, Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. Matthew 5:38
Here’s Jesus’ K.I.S.S.—Keep It Simple, Saint! He’s telling us to speak the simple truth. Don’t allow the devil to convince you to exaggerate explanations or make false promises. Instead, buckle on the belt of Truth and answer with Godly intent. “Yes I can!” or “I’m sorry, no I can’t.” will ring true in people’s ears. With consistency, you will gain a reputation for being a person of integrity in Christ.
To banish this temptation, memorize the verse of our Shepherd’s K.I.S.S. Then this lovely vision of remembrance will help keep it simple, Saint!
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a work[wo]man who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
215. GOD BOMBS by Christine Wentzel
I sat down to read the Internet headlines through blurry morning eyes when suddenly rolling waves of shrapnel burst through the screen—a God Bomb was dropped, my eyes suddenly clear. It happened again. Another Christian spoke of his faith and the fallout was massive.
A popular, secular magazine did an article on the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame. Reading it from a Christian perspective, one quickly had the feeling that the interviewer wrote like he was in the company of humans appearing as space aliens and any moment their true, sinister nature would be revealed. When the questions circled closer to the subject of Christian beliefs, Phil Robertson, the patriarch, explained them in a crude, no-holds-bar manner that nevertheless, hit the world like a God Bomb.
The blame for delivery really doesn’t fall on Phil, it falls on Jesus, The Word made Flesh, the inventor of God Bombs. Witness and believe the explosive craters He left behind from…
Bomb 1: His humble beginnings. A babe born under questionable paternity leaving His hallowed blue blood certificate null and void to the worldlies.
Bomb 2: His claim of redemption from every sin for every soul who ever was, is and is to come through the fulfillment of the prophecies and the fulfillment of living as a perfect, sacrificial lamb.
Bomb 3: His life of poverty. Shockingly mingling with lowlifes and dying like a criminal. It shattered every preconceived notion of a messiah.
Bomb 4: His rise from death and ascension to heaven. It erased all doubt in the faithful. He left every single believer with the gift of the bomb maker, His Spirit of Truth.
Since then His people have been dropping more God Bombs. With every detonation it shakes up the spiritually strong, the spiritually sleepy and the spiritually dead. God’s Truth is a double edge weapon—it offends people and it divides people, it saves people and it unites people. Wield it carefully and with love, but whatever you do—never lose your grasp of it.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:9-14
216. In Jesus’ Boat by Julie Luetke
When I am trying to simplify a Bible story or truth for my special needs students, God often gives me an image that is clear and fits perfectly. Here is one I want to share.
The story I am referring to is Moses at the Burning Bush. God is calling Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Moses, a mountain shepherd at the time, is to stand before the mighty Pharaoh. Egypt was the world power at that time. It was the height of Egypt's strength, wealth and influence on the world. Moses is terrified and makes every excuse he can think of. God holds his ground. Moses is God's chosen one to lead His people. God has already summoned Moses' brother to help.
Here is the imagery. God is inviting Moses into His boat. God is asking Moses to come and sail to Egypt with Him. God is not giving a boat to Moses to go it alone. God is the captain. He is only asking Moses to be a crew member fully under the protection and leadership of God.
When you are expected to do something challenging, maybe even terrifying, think of Jesus in a boat inviting you to join Him. Maybe you are pregnant and you just cannot get happy about another child to raise. Jesus is only asking you to be a crew member. That child is His and He will direct you along the way. Remember, God steers the boat.
In life the seas get rough; it could the death of a spouse, parent, or child. Don't hesitate to enter the boat. You are not alone. You are just a crew member. If you stayed in the water, you would drown. You need that captain and the boat. Your feet will stay dry. You will be right beside the captain. All decisions will be made with your success in mind.
As a crew member you may be asked to do mundane things such as going to work or raising your family in the shadow of the captain. You also may be asked to do frightening things like taking a life boat out in a storm to a downing person and giving them a message from the captain. As a crew member your constant job will be to reflect the captain and invite others into His boat.
Do I sound too dreamy? Life is not always smooth sailing. Our feet do get wet. We might feel like we are drowning. I know I have felt that way. But when you sail with the King of kings, you need not be afraid even in a storm. No hurricane can capsize your captain. You are in the same boat so you won't be capsized either. Captain God is not promising the crew that it will be easy. He is promising to never leave you or forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified... for the Lord you God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.
As you get out of bed in the morning and into it at night, imagine climbing into Jesus' boat.
217. Born to Thrive by Julie Luetke and Christine Wentzel
New babies are born ready to eat. They cry for food and the snuggling and love that go with it. Often, as soon as they have had a swallow or two, babies fall into a deep contented sleep. The babies I am referring to are born of human flesh.
Let's take this example and look at 'born again' of the Spirit. When a person realizes God really did send His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life and die in our place to save us from our sin, that person is 'born again'. It is not something we decide to do. The Holy Spirit calls us to faith. We can take no credit for this amazing rebirth.
Ephesians 2:8-9- 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.
As 'born again' of the Spirit we can learn from a newborn baby. Just as babies cry for food and love, we should be crying for the Spiritual food of God's Word and His love. Babies are not content long when the food or love stop coming. One feeding a day doesn't make for a happy baby. In order for a baby to thrive it must eat and be given love around the clock. Babies who are denied these basic elements stop thriving and growing as they should both physically and emotionally.
Listening to God's Word and talking to Him in prayer make us thrive in our faith. The longer we study God's Word and put into action the stronger our faith becomes. The older a baby gets the taller and stronger the child grows, eventually, becoming a strong adult whom others can lean on for help and advice.
As Christians, we grow in faith and are able to be of more and more help spiritually to those around us. We will recall God's promises and share them with people who need to be comforted. We will want to dig deeper and deeper into God's Word as a baby will crave solid foods.
Jeremiah 29: 12-13 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Dear Father in Heaven, Draw me close to you as a mother draws her infant near. Give me a hunger for Your Word and an ever thriving faith. Thank you giving me a 'rebirth' into your family. Amen.
218. 'Mama, I don't feel good'. by Tracy Hankwitz
I look at her pale face, thin body lying in bed. It had been four months of this unknown illness wreaking havoc and robbing her of youthful joy. Four months since she had been in school, missing friends and fun of seventh grade.
As her days filled with pain and loneliness, my days filled with frustration and helplessness of a mama who would do anything for her daughter, but powerlessly could do nothing. Endless doctor visits, each adding only more questions to this enigma. What else could I do to make her better? Myself sick with worry and stress. Daily pleas turned into constant state of prayer: 'Please, God, heal her.' 'Heavenly Father, please lead us to the answer'.
Or so it is seemed at the time.
Standing in the now, I see with faith-filled eyes that God was not silent during those anxious days eleven years ago.
But wrapped up, consumed in those moments when time stood still, it sure seemed like he wasn't.
Silence can be deceptive.
Unanswered prayer baffles - does God really care? Day after day waiting for an answer - is God really listening? Does he hear? Why doesn't he show some sign that he is there? Why doesn't he make this better? Why is this happening? Why? Why? Always the why.
Silence can be deafening.
It deafens so all we hear are our own thoughts, drowning in doubt and confusion. It limits his greatness and goodness, and it masks what he's really trying to tell us:
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
When God seems silent, he's actually calling us into stillness.
But how to be still when the world spins upside down?
Where is stillness when the heart sobs in brokenness?
How to find stillness in the tumult of mind's questioning?
Yet with those words, be still, he calls us into a quiet calm.
How did he come to Elijah on the mountain? Not in wind or quake or fire, but in a gentle whisper. And how can we hear the whisper if we are not still?
In the stillness he whispers:
“I love you. I will never leave you.” Joshua 1:5
“I have plans for you, so trust me.” Jeremiah 29:11
“I need you to wait, because the time isn't right yet. I have something better in store.” Psalm 37:7, 104:27, Eccl 3:11
In the stillness he calls us to wait and to wait patiently.
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:7
So we wait.
In the waiting, he is at work. Earthly eyes cannot see or understand his mysterious ways. But with eyes of faith, we trust. His 'no's' may be 'not yets'. His 'no's' may be a lesson in the now here, teaching us to rely only on him, to lean into him and his promises.
“For his love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1
So with whatever strength the soul can muster in the midst of the storm, be still and cling to him.
“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5
219. He Said Yes! by Christine Wentzel
The headlines read, “Answered Prayers!”
Whenever I see or hear this, I get a little squirmy inside even as I am thrilled to know the Lord was so quick to act.
Does that well-intentioned declaration really testify to the complete awesome work of God? For me, it has my contrary, nit-picky mind asking, “As opposed to what, unanswered prayers?”
We Christians say it all the time for good reason—we are ecstatic over divine Love coming to our rescue. It’s fuel for our faith. It’s validation to our witness. It’s proof of God’s personal care in our lives.
But for a fellow Christian who is struggling in their wait (and even the general public watching us under a microscope) we can testify that the fuel, validation and proof also come with a closed door or a command for patience. God does his best work behind the scenes of our understanding.
Let’s have the headlines read, “God answers ALL our prayers!”
This is a statement of our sure hope that God hears every single prayer from his children. He answers every one with a yes, no, or later. It’s the yeses we crave because we think we know what’s best for us especially when in crisis mode. But if we truly trust that only God knows best, that he is passionately invested in our well-being, then we will rest in the wait or in his "silence" with the support of our family in his name.
Pray: Almighty God, we praise you for the fact that you are not bound by the past, present or future—you just are. Your name, Jehovah, is “I AM.” Father, you know how much your immortal children struggle living in time. We yearn for the freedom of living in just you. Lord, remind us of the value in the wait, or the protection in being told no. You give us the privilege of showing your glory during the trying times which makes it so much more remarkable than when we rejoice in the “yes”. People in the dark need to know this, and they have us, eye witnesses, to your mighty works right here in the now! Standing in the Light no matter the circumstance, we remain in thankful to be in your service. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
ASK: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15
SEEK: You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
FIND: God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" Exodus 3:14
220. Armed for Battle Diana Kerr
Have you ever witnessed the sport of paintball? In paintball, players try to eliminate opponents by shooting dye-filled capsules at each other with special paintball guns. Although paintball is supposed to be fun, I’ve heard that getting hit stings pretty badly.
Most people who paintball wear a layer of clothing to protect themselves. They know they’re entering a “war zone” and attack is imminent. They’d be foolish to show up without ample clothing to shield them from some of the paint balls’ sting.
Do you actively, consciously protect yourself from the devil’s attacks? Or do you venture into life’s war zone each day without considering how you’ll handle his flaming arrows? You know his attacks are coming, so there’s no reason not to be prepared. Ephesians urges us to “take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (6:16,17).
What exactly is that protection which softens the blow of the devil’s arrows? God’s Word, a strong prayer life, and supportive Christian friends, to name a few.
Just like a day spent on a paintball battlefield, you’re sure to face attack throughout your life. You will never be able to avoid Satan altogether, but you can prevent or at least minimize the impact of his attacks. Don’t forget who and what will protect you.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
221. Freedom in Forgiveness by Diana Kerr
Genesis 32 sounds like the lead up to an epic battle scene in a dramatic war movie. Jacob’s fear is obvious as he prepares to reunite with his brother Esau for the first time in decades. I imagine his stomach had been churning for days.
Family reunions aren’t that bad, are they? This one was. The last time these brothers had seen each other, Jacob had covertly stolen the blessing his father, Isaac, had reserved for the firstborn son, Esau. Genesis 27 tells us that “Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob’” (verse 41).
No wonder Jacob was terrified, and no wonder he expected the worst. Grudges ran long and deep in Bible times just like they do today.
Esau’s response is shocking, refreshing, and inspiring. “Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him” (Genesis 33:4). By human standards, he had every right to treat Jacob harshly, sustaining a tension between the two that would never end. But his reaction was a game changer.
When Esau chose forgiveness over grudge holding and revenge, it didn’t just benefit Jacob. Esau had a weight lifted off his shoulders, and he had his brother back. I dare you to release some resentment you’re hanging onto and opt for forgiveness. You’ll free the other person and yourself as well.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
222. True and Lasting Strength by Diana Kerr
I feel sorry for anyone who others view as weak. Weak people get teased, overlooked for job promotions, and kicked off of reality TV shows. Weakness is hardly something we boast of; in fact, we often do everything we can to minimize our weaknesses. The world eagerly points us to all sorts of solutions—energy drinks, big muscles, powerful jobs, a fat bank account, or innovative medication. Yet we can’t truly rely on any of them. Your caffeinated beverage doesn’t care if it makes you “crash” with three hours of the workday still remaining.
This may be old news to you, but it bears repeating because we forget so easily: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Did you notice that? God. You are not your source of strength. Your significant other is not your source of strength. Not even that irresistible home gym system you bought from TV is your source of strength (although I imagine you would get physically stronger if you actually used it). None of these things are inherently bad—in fact, they can indeed be helpful—but they trick us into relying on a false sense of security.
We fall into the trap of relying on worldly fixes so easily. How many times do we need to hear that God is our strength before we start living as if we truly believe that is true?
Lean on the reliable strength of your God, who is there for you in any circumstance and available around the clock.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
223. Walk With the Wise by Diana Kerr
You’ve probably heard the saying that goes something like this: “You are the sum total of the five people you spend the most time with.” It’s basically a modern version of Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
You will become like the people you hang out with, for better or worse. Yeah, you can blame your friends for your screwups, but maybe you need to blame yourself for hanging around those friends in the first place.
Remember when you were a kid and your parents had strong opinions about the friends who were “bad news”? Well, now you’re an adult—you get to choose your friends on your own, no parental opinions involved. Just remember that there are consequences to those choices. Do you want friends who will cause you to compromise your values or friends who will strengthen your values? Do you want friends who will make you timid about bringing faith into a conversation or friends who challenge your faith and its presence in your life? Do you want friends who will make it easy for you to stray from God or friends who won’t allow you to stray?
Don’t be shy in asking God for help in surrounding yourself with friends who will make you wise in his ways. And a little hint about the five people you spend the majority of your time with—make Jesus one of those five people.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
224. It Shouldn’t Make Sense by Diana Kerr
“Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.” I read that sentence and it struck me hard. Why are we surprised when people don’t understand our actions as Christians? If we want to glorify God and not ourselves or the world, shouldn’t we honor him no matter how others react?
I have one major regret from college: I lived a safe, watered-down version of my faith. I went to church and never turned away from God, but I lowered my standards so I was just unchristian enough to fit in. Through my words and actions—or lack thereof—I tiptoed around situations I knew were wrong so I didn’t stir things up.
First Peter 2:11,12 has a different idea: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
Don’t live your life just to fit in or avoid causing waves. Stand up for what you believe in a loving way, even if it’s not popular. People will notice. Your God deserves obedience and glory, and there’s a world of people all around you who need to come face-to-face with salvation and the truth more than they need your participation in their Christ-less living.
Here’s to living a life that doesn’t make sense to unbelievers, in the very best way.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org
225. Don’t go Easy on Me by Diana Kerr
My grade school basketball coach had a tendency to make girls cry, but he was my favorite. I admired him because he never spared me from truth or pain.
Countless times when he brought me out of a game, he sat me on the bench right next to him and yelled at me. If we played a sloppy game, he’d make us run extra drills in practice. Some of my teammates preferred the kind of coach who’d go easy on you, but I knew my coach’s actions showed that he cared deeply about his athletes. He molded me into a far better player as a result.
I forget this lesson sometimes when it comes to receiving discipline from the ultimate Coach, the Good Shepherd. I want the Good Shepherd to use his staff to rescue and encourage me, but I don’t always want a whack from the rod to show me I’m out of line. King David reminds me that the staff and rod are both a blessing: “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). If anyone understood the value of being reined in by God’s rod, it was David. He longed for both the rod and staff to keep him safe. Without them, David knew he’d stray from God.
The next time the Good Shepherd uses a situation to give you a whack, thank him for keeping you in line and close to him. Your heavenly Coach loves you too much to go easy on you.
Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org