WEEKLY DEVOTIONS BY PASTOR DAVE TIMM

Stay connected with the Word by reading some uplifting devotions

Join the Red Letter Challenge!

I am glad that you are seeking devotions to connect you to God and His Word. My weekly devotions will resume on May 26th.

I want to encourage all of you to join us for the RED LETTER CHALLENGE. This book has a short devotion each day for 40 days. Together, there will be hundreds of people using these devotions and reading the actual words of Jesus. You can pick up a copy of the book at Royal Redeemer during worship…or in a bin under the Sanctuary entrance portico during the week. We will also be doing a 7-week sermon series based on these devotions. We will do an introductory sermon this Sunday, and then you will begin reading the devotions starting Monday the 12th. Each week we will have a sermon based on the next week’s devotions that you will be reading. You can watch our sermon series based on these devotions at ROYRED.ORG/REDLETTERCHALLENGE/ or join us for worship by registering at ROYRED.ORG/UPCOMING

There are many people that will be in small group discussions…I hope you have signed up to be in one of them. If you have not signed up but are interested, there are a few openings for a zoom group and one onsite group…contact Kim at [email protected] to sign up.
Pastor Dave

Wednesday - April 7, 2021

Today is a special day in my life. 48 years ago, I married Sue! We have been blessed with a wonderful (and growing) family…good health and abilities…faith in Jesus. Life is good!

Just over a year ago I started writing daily devotions (Monday thru Friday) …and then they became weekly Wednesday devotions. I hope and pray that they have helped you find Love, Joy, Peace, Hope, and God’s will for your life. You notice that I put LOVE first on that list. GOD IS LOVE!!! And then He tells us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

I looked back at the devotion that I wrote one year ago today. It was pretty good…and the Bible verses are powerful….so here it is:

If I were to ask you to fill in the blanks:

I LOVE __________, ______________, and ___________

What would you say? I may say God, family, church?

The question is important to me today as I think about my wife. I love her! It’s our anniversary today! She has put up with my corny jokes for 48 years now!
I would encourage you to think about how you would fill in the blanks above…and if you put people in those blanks, take time to tell them you love them. If you put God in one of the blanks, take time to tell Him and to thank Him for loving you unconditionally.

In a past devotion, I discussed house (physical dwelling), household (yourself and perhaps those that share that space with you), home (that place where you feel cozy, safe, surrounded by things that are special and meaningful). We can focus on  Joshua (and hopefully you) saying “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” In what way would God have you serve Him in this ever-changing and a bit confusing world? What would He have you do…Who would He want you to reach out to in His Name?

I understand that our homes and households have looked different over the last 12 months. They are now our workplace, school, church, and isolation chamber….and yet they still are expected to be places to serve the Lord. I read once that “a house is not a home without God in it”. We have a plaque in our family room that says, “In Our Home” and then lists 10 verses that God would include in our homes. It is just a wall decoration, but it reminds us of God’s Love, as well as how God would have us act within our homes (and in all our thoughts, words, and actions in life). I thought I would share those verses with you today.

  • Put God First Matthew 6:33… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
  • Always Be Honest Proverbs 12:22… The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
  • Forgive and Forget Micah 7:18… Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.
  • Be Kindhearted Ephesians 4:32… Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
  • Keep Your Promises Romans 4:21…  being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised.
  • Work Hard Colossians 3:23… Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
  • Be Thankful 1 Thessalonians 5:18… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
  • Never Give Up Philippians 4:13… I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
  • Comfort One Another 1 Thessalonians 4:18… Therefore encourage one another with these words.
  • But Most of All Love One Another 1 Peter 1:22… Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.

Now I understand that this is just a man-made plaque…a wall decoration, but it includes God’s Word. I am aware that applying these verses looks different based on your home/household situation. But what areas do you need to work on?

I would suggest that you print out these verses and memorize one per day…assess how you are doing in that area of your life…making any adjustments that need to be made. Thanking God for His faithfulness and blessings.

Lord…may we love you with all our being, may we put you as number one on our list of those we love. Thank you for loving us unconditionally in spite of our sinfulness. Lord, you have plans for each of us, plans that will accomplish your will. Lord bring healing to each of us, our nation, this world. Physical healing from the coronavirus. May we have spiritual healing from our sinful words and actions and our self-centeredness. Lord nudge us to reach out and help others that may be lonely or in need. Please watch over and bless those out working on the front lines. Watch over nurses, doctors, pharmacists, police, firemen, postal workers, truckers, store and restaurant workers, and many more. Amen.

Interesting to me that that original devotion (with a couple of updates) works as well today as it did a year ago…and I assume it will in the years to come. It’s really simple: LOVE GOD…LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR!!!

HUMOR FOR THE DAY: (an oldie but goodie!)

  • A robber breaks into a house while the residents are away one dark night. Eager to see what he can loot, he quickly starts searching through cupboards and dressers, grabbing valuables with a trained eye. Suddenly, he hears a voice come out of nowhere. “Jesus is watching you.”
  • The criminal jumps scared, thinking the residents are back, and freezes. After a few minutes of silence, however, he assumes it was his imagination and goes back to robbing. A couple of minutes pass, before once again, the voice returns. “Jesus is watching you.” Quite confused, the thief searches the house and checks the front door, but nothing pops out as unusual.
  • He finally decides to go to the next room, and finds a parrot, but ignores it. Before he can begin to do anything, someone speaks again, “Jesus is watching you.” The robber realized it was the parrot talking!
  • Going to the parrot, he asks, “Are you the one who’s been talking to me?” The parrot responds, “Yes.” The thief couldn’t believe it.
  • So, he asks another question. “What is your name?” “Ismael.” the parrot replies. The man scoffed. “What type of idiot names a parrot Ismael?” The parrot speaks yet again, “The same type of idiot that names a Rottweiler Jesus.”

Wednesday - March 31, 2021

When I read news stories about so many shootings like the one in Colorado last week, it makes me want to sit down and cry. I can envision the Lord shedding many tears as He watches His creation crumble under the weight of sin. I pray daily for many of you and for the situations we face in this sin tainted world…one prayer that is so imperative, is a prayer for the Lord to heal us as a nation (and a world) from hatred, violence, divisiveness, self-centered entitlement, and evil. When I say that prayer, I am reminded that the Lord has the antidote for…and can heal all and any of those sinful characteristics.

Although he never actually said it on the old Dragnet show, we associate Sgt. Joe Friday as saying… “just the facts, ma’am”. Well, my devotion for today is “just the facts”. These facts are the real reason that we have and need Holy Week! Our world is messed up with sin…and our Savior is the antidote!

Hatred…The antidote for hatred is LOVE! The bible says that “God is Love!!!” Unconditional “Agape” love!!! Imagine what this world would be like if we followed God’s plan for us found in Mark 12:30-31…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday. Jesus showed unconditional Love and Humility as He washed the disciple’s feet. On this night before His death (for you and me) he told them: John 13:34-35…“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So, How about you? Are you combating hatred by reflecting GOD’S LOVE into the world?

VIOLENCE…The antidote for violence is PEACE! Once Adam and Eve brought sin into God’s paradise everything changed! We see that there has been violence as far back as from the time of Cain killing Able. Wars and violence from tribe to tribe, people to people, nation to nation. We wish we could rub a genie in a bottle. If we could I think for our wish we would ask for “world peace!” …. a few months ago on Christmas, we celebrated the fact that God (not a genie) sent His Son to be that PEACE. Isaiah 9:6…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Not only is He PEACE, but He gives us that peace. Galatians 5:22-23a… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

 

Then, after He makes peace for us, He wants to make peace through us! 1 Corinthians 5:18-21…All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. You are an ambassador of peace for the Lord!!!!! Peacemakers! Who do you need to make peace with?

 

DIVISIVENESS AND DISSENTION…The antidote for divisiveness and dissention is UNITY! God hand made all people…He died for all people…and longs for all to know Him as Lord and Savior…and He wants us all  to “play nice”, to be unified! Psalm 133:1…How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!  As Christians, we need to be unified in our calling to Glorify the Lord…what does that look like?  2 Corinthians 13:11… Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. We need to remember that loving our neighbor as ourselves, includes those who look, speak, think, and act differently that you. Yes, even the ones we don’t particularly like!  Galatians 3:28…There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. What about you? Are you seen as someone who unifies or someone who divides?

 

SELF-CENTERED ENTITLEMENT…the antidote for self-centeredness and entitlement is LAW and GOSPEL! We see it everywhere; people feel they are entitled to have what they want…do what they want…feel what they want! James 4:1-3…What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You may wonder why I said the antidote is Law and Gospel. Well…What do you deserve? What are you entitled to? The painful truth is that the Law convicts you… you deserve DEATH! Romans 3:23… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God! We sin and what does that entitle us to? Romans 6:23…For the wages of sin is death, OUCH!

But the good news of the GOSPEL tells us…Romans 3:24…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. And again in Romans 6:23b… the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Have you embraced the reality that on your own, you lose? On your own you get what you deserve, what you are entitled to…and it’s not good! But, through faith you get what you don’t deserve…forgiveness and eternal life! Mercy is when we don’t get what we deserve (death and separation from God). Grace is when we get what we don’t deserve. (forgiveness and life)

Evil…The antidote for evil is GOOD! You may have heard it said that “God is Good…all the time! and all the time…God is Good!!!!!” It’s true! Here is a nifty but seldom used verse Nahum 1:7…The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.

Or, how about 1 Chronicles 16:34…Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

or Psalm 145:9…The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.

We know that there is a lot of evil in the world. When we say the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to deliver us from evil. And in Psalm 23 we say Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.

God is the giver of all that is good! The question is…are you an agent of good or evil to those in your circle of influence??

So…Is the world messed up? YES! But God is the antidote to all that ails us!!! But remember to be on your guard until He calls you home.

We all look forward to the day that we will be face to face with the Lord…as we enter God’s Heavenly Kingdom! Words can’t begin to tell the story! Rev. 21:4-5…‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Sounds great! There will be none of the issues we talked about today.  But, in the meantime, there is also beauty all around us. Take time to watch a sunset, listen to a bird sing, marvel at the mystery of birth, pray to a loving God, reach out to a lonely or troubled person. The antidote for all that ails us is Jesus! Remember that God may be using you to be the answer to someone’s prayer!

How and to whom can you be an agent (ambassador) for the Lord?

I invite (and strongly encourage) you to focus on the Law and the Gospel by taking the Holy Week journey with Jesus…by going to royred.org to worship online with us. Live stream starts Maundy Thursday and Good Friday at noon (traditional) and 7:00 (contemporary). Easter live stream begins at 8:00 (traditional) and 9:30 (contemporary).

 

HUMOR FOR THE DAY:

“After a very long and boring sermon, the parishioners filed out of the church saying nothing to the preacher. Towards the end of the line was a thoughtful person who always commented on the sermons. ”Pastor, today your sermon reminded me of the peace and love of God!” The pastor was thrilled. “No-one has ever said anything like that about my preaching before. Tell me why.” “Well – it reminded me of the Peace of God because it passed all understanding…and the Love of God because it endured forever!”

Wednesday - March 24, 2021

Well, I had my first vaccine 3 weeks ago, and later today I will get my second one. The question on my mind is…How protected am I? Am I now 50% protected? Will I be 95% protected tomorrow, in 2 weeks?

These questions remind me that as I grew up Catholic, I was never sure if I was protected from the consequences of my sin! 100%, 50%? Did I say enough penance? Will I need to go to purgatory? What if I sin and then die before going to a confessional?

Well…..The Good News is that if we proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior…we are saved…. we are 100% protected from the wages (eternal consequences) of our sin VIRUS!

Knowing that changes everything…our hope…our purpose…our morals and values…our priorities…and what we value!

The story is told about an American company that opened a new plant in Central America because the labor was plentiful and inexpensive. Everything went well until the villagers received their first pay check; afterward they did not return to work. Several days later the manager went down to the chief to determine the cause of the problem. The chief responded “Why should we work? Now we have everything we want and need.”

The plant stood idle for two months until someone came up with the brilliant idea of sending a mail-order catalog to every villager. There has never been an employment problem since!

So, what about you? What’s in the “mail-order catalog” (or on-line shopping site) that you think will satisfy you! We are bombarded by tv commercials and pop-up ads telling us that “you deserve to have it your way” To be truly happy you need a new car, better hair and skin, toys for the kids, more insurance, and the list goes on and on.

Now, please do not miss my point. These items are fine to attain, But the question is whether these things can ever satisfy you. The answer to that is “NO.” These things that we spend our time chasing will only lead to newer, fancier, and costlier things to chase after. There are countless verses that tell us that only God can satisfy us.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV)…  Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Psalm 107:9 (ESV)…For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Romans 15:13 (NIV)… May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I guess the question is…What am I searching for? What is my purpose? What will bring true happiness? Who am I trying to please? Who or what do I work for?

One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.

About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach, trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. “You aren’t going to catch many fish that way,” said the businessman to the fisherman. “You should be working rather than lying on the beach!”

The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled, and replied, “And what will my reward be?”

“Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!” was the businessman’s answer.

“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman, still smiling.

The businessman replied, “You will make money and you’ll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!”

“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman again.

The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman’s questions. “You can buy a bigger boat and hire some people to work for you!” he said.

“And then what will my reward be?” repeated the fisherman.

The businessman was getting angry. “Don’t you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!”

Once again the fisherman asked, “And then what will my reward be?”

The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, “Don’t you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won’t have a care in the world!”

The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “And what do you think I’m doing right now?”

A lot of people work very hard, trying to gain (or buy) happiness. They work hard to accumulate enough money to buy happiness thru what they can purchase…. but there is a flaw in that approach to life. The businessman in this story totally missed the point on what is important in life!

God’s Word tells us that we should work to bring God glory. Work is actually a way to worship God! Paul tells us in:

Colossians 3:23…Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for God, not for men”

Whatever you do….at work or play should be done as if you are doing it for (and thru) the Lord!

Colossians 3:17… And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

So…take some time to assess all areas of your life…where do you fall short of glorifying the Lord? Are there areas that He is not glorified…areas where you are not worshiping Him by your words, thoughts, actions, motives?

Have you thought about the 2 verses above that say “whatever you do”? We are all wired, equipped, and placed in different places….but we all have a common way to approach our lives. One that says “whatever” we are doing, we do it for and through the Lord!

Humor for the day: Some not so funny one-liners!

Q: What happens if you eat yeast and shoe polish?    Every morning you’ll rise and shine!

Q: What do you call a boy who finally stood up to the bullies?    An ambulance.

Q: What do you get from a pampered cow?    Spoiled milk.

Q: What do you call an elephant that doesn’t matter?     An irrelephant.

Q: What do you call a fat psychic?     A four chin teller.

Q: How do you make a tissue dance?     Put a little boogie in it!

Wednesday - March 17, 2021

Have you ever been driving down the road or sitting at a traffic light and noticed a bumper sticker that really got your attention? Perhaps it was funny…or offensive…or profound. Here are a few you may have seen:

  • Watch out for the idiot behind me!
  • I bet Jesus would have used His turn signal!
  • The closer you get the slower I go!
  • If life gives you lemons, throw them at someone!
  • I express my individuality thru mass-produced bumper stickers!
  • Your kid may be an honor student, but you are still an idiot!
  • Sometimes I wake up grumpy, other times I let him sleep!
  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine!
  • Why is abbreviation such a long word?
  • There’s no reason to tailgate when I’m doing 50 in a 35…and those flashing lights on top of your car look ridiculous!

Well…maybe you have seen unusual ones. Some are funny, some informative, some make you mad or embarrassed. The fact is that those stickers are a reflection of the person driving the car:

If it’s funny, we think the person driving the car has a sense of humor.

If it’s mean or vulgar, we may hope we don’t have to talk to that person.

If it’s political, you may like or hate that person driving the car.

Truth is that what’s on the outside of the car is often a reflection on who is inside the car!

Well…what so-called bumper sticker are you wearing? I’m not talking about your car. What do people see when they see you? What message do you send by your words… or actions…or aroma?

Our Words:

Proverbs 11:9 msg…The loose tongue of the godless spreads destruction; the common sense of the godly preserves them.

Proverbs 15:1 msg…A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.

Our words can say a lot about what is going on inside us. They reveal who we really are. People can see through our hypocrisy when we proclaim to be Christians but speak like heathens….when we proclaim peace and speak hatred…When we want people to like us, so we speak evil about fellow Christians.

Our Actions:

Ephesians 4:20-24 msg…But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

1 Peter 3:15…But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

Let me remind you that people are watching. Your kids/grandkids are watching…your neighbors are watching…your co-workers are watching. They want to see how you put your faith into action. Are you loving and kind? Do you care about others? Are you living a life that glorifies your Lord and Savior?

Our Aroma:

A funny thing happened to me last week. I have been noticing a foul smell when I am driving in my car. At first, I blamed it on the fact that the car windows have been tightly closed in the cold winter months. I then started to think that maybe it was me…that I stink! Well, as the nicer weather came last week, I got the car washed. I was feeling energetic, so I got out of the vacuum. As I poked it under my seat, I pulled out 2 onions. They had been there a while and were bolting fresh growth…and they stunk!

How is your aroma? Now, I’m not talking about if there are onions under your seat…or how well your deodorant is working! But, are there “onions” in your life? Items that seem hidden but impact who you are and how you “smell” to others?

Several years ago, Chicago newspapers carried the story of a busboy in a Chinese restaurant who went to a bank to get change for $500.  The restaurant needed $250 in coins and $250 in one-dollar bills.  The teller grabbed a stack of $100 bills by mistake and gave the young man $250  in coins and $25,000 in bills!

The young man noticed the error immediately, but detecting a windfall, didn’t say anything. He left the bank with the money and hid it at a relative’s home. With some of the money, he went to another bank and got $250 in one-dollar bills. He then returned to the restaurant, thinking he had made a small fortune.

The bank teller, when she discovered her mistake, couldn’t identify the person to whom she had given the $100 bills. But she remembered how he smelled.  She knew from his scent that he worked in a Chinese restaurant. She not only remembered the aroma, but she was able to connect it with the exact restaurant where the busboy worked. With the police, she located the restaurant and identified the busboy. He was promptly fired and the money was recovered. The bank decided not to prosecute since the mistake was theirs, and they wanted to preserve good relations with the restaurant.

What do you smell like? As Christians, we are to carry with us “the aroma of Christ.” There should be something about us that radiates the love of Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:15…For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

Obviously, the word “aroma” here is not to be taken literally. The aroma Paul is talking about is not necessarily detected with the nose. But it is sensed by those who come in contact with us.

Ordinarily, the aroma is a byproduct of activity. When you exercise, you work up a sweat and get body odor. When you eat garlic, you get garlic breath. If you douse yourself with perfume, you smell like the fragrance counter in a department store.

In the same way, when you serve Christ and do it in a spirit of love and humility, you begin to pick up the aroma of Christ.

Stay connected to the Lord daily…and others will “sense” that you are a child of God.

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times; only if necessary, use words.” He was talking about the aroma of Christ. Can people smell you?

So, over the next week, I challenge you to watch yourself to see how you reflect the Lord.

  • Watch what you say! Are your words sweet and uplifting?
  • Watch what you do! Do your actions reflect your Savior?
  • Watch your “aroma”! Do you radiate the Love of Christ!

Humor for the day:

The frugal Lutheran walked into the house panting and almost completely exhausted. “What happened, honey?” inquired his wife.

“It’s a great new idea I have to be a better steward of our resources,” he gasped. “I ran all the way home from the stewardship committee meeting behind the bus and saved $1.50.

“That wasn’t very bright,” replied his flustered wife. “Why didn’t you run behind a taxi and save $10?”

Wednesday - March 10, 2021

My wife and I were fortunate enough to get our first Covid vaccine last week. Yahoo!!

At first, I was convinced that I was not going to get the vaccine. I don’t need it! I convinced myself that the whole thing was a farce and even if it’s real, it would not impact me! Then in a conversation with one of my sons, he asked me what “my end game” was going to be. In other words, would I wear a mask, social distance, and isolate myself from society for the rest of my life? A profound question for sure! Would I try to avoid the reality of the danger of Covid? Would I fool myself to think that on my own I could escape its dangers? No! My “end game” was to get the help I needed. I needed and wanted to get the vaccine!

Now…most of you know that it has been hard to get the vaccine. Many frustrating hours searching sites on-line to get an appointment. I was praying one morning for God to help with the worldwide pandemic…the United States pandemic…and for me and Sue to be able to get an appointment. I went in the other room to once again search the internet.. first click and there they were.. 2 appointments! Thank you, Lord!

About now…you are probably wondering why I am telling you all of this….what kind of devotion is this?….how does it apply to our spiritual journeys?

Well…we see many questions and important action steps involved around this pandemic. What’s the truth about it? Am I in danger? What can I do? What is the impact? Who will help me?

Those are all good questions about our Spiritual health as well.

There is (and has been since Adam and Eve) a pandemic called Sin. It is hereditary…We all have it from conception…It has a 100% fatality rate! There is no earthly vaccine for this disease. You can avoid the reality…make excuses…and act like it’s not there, but it’s there.

If you think drivers come up with some unbelievable excuses when they’re trying to talk a cop-out of giving them a ticket, you should see the stories that turn up on insurance companies’ accident forms. Some time ago The Toronto Sun newspaper printed a few samples from actual reports:

  • “A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.”
  • “In my attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.”
  • “I had been driving my car for forty years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.”
  • “I had been shopping all day for plants and was on my way home. As I reached an intersection, a hedge sprang up, obscuring my vision. I did not see the other car.”
  • “The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him.”
  • (my favorite) “The telephone pole was approaching fast. I was attempting to swerve out of its path when it struck my front end.”
  • “Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.”
  • “The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.”
  • “My car was legally parked as it backed into the other vehicle.”
  • “An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my vehicle, and vanished.”
  • “The indirect cause of this accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth.”

Most of us mess up life and we also have some pretty lame excuses. But the Bible tells us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from unrighteousness . . . “ That’s an incredible promise.

But it comes with a premise: “If we confess our sins” . . . “Confession comes from a word that means “to call it the same thing.”In other words, when we sin, we don’t need to make excuses, or blame somebody else, or try to wiggle out of it.  We need to say, “God, this was sin.  You call it sin; I call it sin, and that’s all there is to it. Please forgive me.”

We also need to base our lives on the fact that….God’s Word is the truth!

Let’s focus on what is the truth… Lots of opinions on what is true. Many say the truth is relative…whatever you choose as your truth is true for you. Americans don’t seem to agree about anything. Ben Franklin said the only thing for certain is death and taxes…and yet we argue about both of them as well. Just as there are lots of versions about the truth regarding Covid and vaccines….there are many versions about false gods claiming to be the Lord.

Lots of disagreements about sin, forgiveness, eternal life, and about who Jesus is, and is He who He (and His word) says He is? Is He the ultimate TRUTH? Well, Jesus Himself answers that:

John 14:6…Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus (the Truth) will set you free!

John 8:32…And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Well…we are not imprisoned or enslaved…so, Free from what? Sin! Many think they are “pretty good” or “good enough” or “better than so and so”…or that they can determine what’s right and wrong…and of course, they think that sin is what other people do. They don’t think they sin, so they don’t think they need a Savior.

But God’s Word says that we all sin…and even one sin separates us from God.

Romans 3:23…  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

And that includes you! And that is deadly! Romans 6:23-24… For the wages of sin is death, and yet Jesus has the vaccine Romans 6:24…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. And unlike our Covid vaccines, His is 100% effective! He removes death from our sins.

So….as we talked about earlier…another important question is, what is your “end game” for forgiveness and eternal life?

There are only 2 options.

1 John 1:8… If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (bad choice…deadly consequences)

Or 1 john 1:9…If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (the best choice)

One last thought. We got the Pfizer vaccine. We need to go back for a second dose. Maybe more doses as new strains come around.

Jesus already died for all of your sins! Through faith, YOU ARE SAVED! 100% And yet, we sin, and are around sin daily. We need to confess our sins to God and seek His help to repent, avoid, and turn from those sins.

 So what can you do?

  1. Turn to the One who can protect you from the consequences of this deadly sinful nature. Jesus! He is dying to forgive you…He can not stand the thought of eternity without you there with Him.
  2. Confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior…the TRUTH!
  3. Confess your sinful condition and seek His healing!
  4. Tell this truth to as many people as you can!

Humor for your day:

A man was pulled over by a police officer… As the officer approached the vehicle he noticed a large number of knives in the back seat. Looking at the driver he asked, “Sir, do you have a good reason for needing all those large knives?” Smiling the driver said, “Why yes, I juggle them.” Realizing the officer was giving him a skeptical look the driver said, “Sir, with your permission I’d be more than glad to give you a demonstration.” Cautiously the officer stepped back and said “Alright, but you’d better be telling the truth.” Shortly the man was on the side of the road tossing the knives high into the air with ease.

Two old men happened to drive by, and both gazed in astonishment. The one looked at the other and said, “Sure glad I gave up drinking, these sobriety tests are getting ridiculous!”

Wednesday - March 3, 2021

Well…I had to go to the dentist last week to have a tooth pulled out! (ouch!!!)

Oh sure, I brushed regularly but the cavity still snuck in and infected my tooth. I tried to put up with it, and act like it was no big deal…. for one year! I tried to cover up and hide the pain with Orajel. I later found out that it spread to the next tooth as well. I needed someone (my dentist) who could do what I could not do for myself.

As I ponder the above list, I realize that the same process applies to my sinful nature as well.

I can pray regularly and worship and yet sin will still sneak in and infect me. “Sin is crouching at your door” Romans 3:23… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

I sometimes just put up with sin and act like it’s no big deal. 1 John 1:8…If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
James 1:14-15… but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

I try to cover up and hide the pain sin causes me and those that I love. Psalm 69:5… You, God, know my folly; my guilt is not hidden from you.

Sin in one area of my life tends to spread into all of the other areas of my life. Take David for example. First David committed adultery 2 Samuel 11:2-5… One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof, he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”  Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home.  The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

That first sin of adultery leads to the second sin of murder.

Verse 11:14…  In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah.  In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”

One sin will always impact the other areas of your life.

Back in 1974, Sue and I bought a new Mustang. The dealer filled the tank and off I went. I waited anxiously to get gas so I could figure out my mileage. After a week or so I went to the gas station and said “fill it up”. Remember when they did that? Well, the kid put the hose into the car and went back into the office…while I sat with a pen and paper to do the math. In went 3 gallons, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 15!  I grabbed the car’s manual to see how big the tank is! As the pump said 20, 21, 22 gallons. I jumped out of the car to discover that the attendant did not put the hose in correctly, it had fallen out and was pouring gas into the parking lot.

That story reminds me of the fact that…unchecked sin will spill over into every area of your life.

I need someone who can take care of my sin because I can not get rid of it on my own.Ephesians 2:8-9… 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.

Alligators in Your Pond

Several years ago, newspapers carried a story about an elderly lady who lived in the Big Cypress Swamp in South Florida. Her home was an old shack located by a small pond. Every day the lady went out to the pond to draw water. In the pond lived an alligator. Despite the danger, the lady allowed this alligator to live in the pond for years. It seemed tame. She didn’t bother the gator and the gator didn’t bother her. However, one day while she was drawing water from the pond, the gator swam under the water and then plunged up, grabbing the old woman’s hand with his mighty jaws. She tried pulling her hand out of his mouth, but the gator ripped it off. Bleeding profusely, the terrified and stunned old woman crawled back to her shack and called for help. Paramedics finally arrived and she received medical attention. The next day, the park ranger found the alligator in the pond and killed it. When they cut the alligator open, they found the old woman’s hand. The park ranger told reporters, “Alligators are most dangerous when they lose their fear of humans. By allowing an alligator to remain in your pond, you unknowingly give it the courage to attack.” The lady still lives in the swamp. But there are no longer any alligators in her pond. She got rid of them.

Scripture clearly teaches us that the wages of sin is death. Yet too many times, we think we can keep sin in our lives and not suffer the consequences. Eventually, it will take a bite out of us (like an alligator)…or fill our lives with painful problems.(like a cavity.)

Hebrews 12 warns us to get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. If we don’t, it will handicap us and do damage to the cause of Christ.

Hebrews 12:1-3… Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

So, now what? Well, ask yourself, What are the alligators that I allow to live in my pond? Ask God to help you identify them? Ask God to help you avoid and resist the temptation to allow those alligators to be in your life. Visit with God regularly for a check-up. Trust that he can (and has) taken care of the sin in your life!

Humor for the day:

1)    A little boy was taken to the dentist. It was discovered that he had a cavity that would have to be filled. “Now, young man,” asked the dentist, “what kind of filling would you like for that tooth?” “Chocolate, please,” replied the youngster.

2)    Patient: How much will it cost me to have this tooth pulled out? Dentist: $500! Patient: $500 for just a few minutes of work? That’s hardly cheap. Dentist: No worries, I’ll pull it out slowly if you prefer.

3)    Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused to have an anesthetic injection when he was going for a filling? Apparently, he wanted to “transcend dental medication.” (hint: transcendental meditation)

Wednesday - February 24, 2021

To me, one of the most interesting (and applicable) stories in the bible is found in Luke 5:4-5

“When [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets’”. Luke 5:4-5 

Can you imagine being Simon (Peter) that day? Just finished an all-nighter and had nothing to show for it! And this guy, Jesus, is going to tell me…a professional fisherman…how to fish! What would you have done…what would you have said? Would you have said something like…”We are tired and dirty, we will come back later”…or maybe “Let me think about it and get back to you tomorrow”…or maybe “That’s silly, it’s a waste of time.” But not Peter!

Notice Peter’s reaction. He didn’t argue with Jesus. What did Peter do? He must have thought it was a strange request, but we read that he said: But because you say so, I will let down the nets (Luke 5:5). And we see that God blessed his faithfulness. Isn’t that just like Jesus! Luke 5:6-7… When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Have you ever been in a position like Peter? God whispered in your ear that He wants you to do something. Do you question Him? Do you ignore Him? Do you rationalize why you know better? Or do you say (like Peter)…because you say so, I will_____________ . And then do you keep your eyes open to see what God is up to?

Ephesians 3:20-21 (msg)…God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Do you believe that? Or is your fallback response to say, “who me?” “Let someone else do it.” There was once a college student who was struggling in many areas of his life. He spent a great deal of time feeling angry and frustrated. When he could stand it no longer, he went to the dim and seldom-used chapel on campus. He paced up-and-down the aisles, slapping the back of the empty pews. He yelled, he cried, and he raged at God. “God you created the world…what could you possibly have been thinking? Look at the problems people face. Look at the pain, suffering, and hunger. Look at the neglect, the waste, and the abuse. Everywhere I look, I see messed up people, hurting people, lonely people.” The young man ranted and raved on and on. Finally, exhausted, he sat in the front pew and looked helplessly at the cross. Its tarnished surface reflected the dusty sunlight filtering in through the stained-glass windows. “It’s all such a mess! This world you created is nothing but a terrible mess! Why even I could make the world a better place than this!” And then the young man heard a voice in the silence of that dusty chapel that made his eyes open wide and his jaw drop…..

“And that’s exactly what I want you to do!” 

It’s easy to identify problems…and to think “why doesn’t God do something” And yet, that’s why God put you here…at this exact time and exact place. He has gifted you to make a difference in the world…and to share the Gospel through words and actions. To be the answer to someone else’s prayers.

Galatians 6:2…Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

He has a plan custom made for you to accomplish His will…to be the answer to someone’s prayers. Jeremiah 29:11…  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

What is God wanting you to do to make this world a better place?…How and to who, is He calling you to share the Love of Jesus with? Will you respond…is your heart saying to the Lord “because you say so, I will.” The question is whether you are a thermometer or a thermostat?

A thermometer merely tells what the temperature is. The thermometer changes with its environment…and registers and tells others what is going on in that area. The young man in my story was a thermometer…He stated the conditions but did nothing to change them.

A thermostat on the other hand changes the temperature. It reads the current conditions and changes them to where they should be. That was God’s response to the young man…to make the world a better place…more Christ-like.

You will live your life as either a thermometer or a thermostat. You are either influencing others …or you are being influenced by them.

Jesus is calling you to be a thermostat. Well, I doubt that they had thermostats in Jesus’ time….but he did tell us to be agents of change. Matthew 5:13-16… “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Where and to who is God calling you to be an agent of change? What are you doing about it? It may be a phone call to someone isolated and alone. It may be to give an anonymous gift to someone you know is hurting financially. It may be a listening ear to someone making a life-changing decision. It may be sending a card to someone who is sick or facing surgery. It may be a kind word to a clerk or server. It may be an act of kindness to a neighbor who works on the front lines. What is God asking you to do? Is your response… because you say so, I will!

Humor for your day:

It’s like a man who had spent a fruitless day fishing. In desperation, he picked out three fat fish at the local market. “Before you wrap them,” he said to the clerk, “toss them to me, one by one. That way I’ll be able to tell my wife I caught them and I’ll be speaking the truth!”

Ok….one more!!!

Fishermen must be all alike. Someone has said that the only thing that casts doubt on the miracles of Jesus is that they were all witnessed by fishermen!

Wednesday - February 17, 2021

It’s common and easy to have low self-esteem. People around you are eager to put you (and everyone else) down and to find their faults. When we listen to criticism from others, it paralyzes us from moving forward, from even trying to accomplish things. It can give you a defeated attitude. Having low self-esteem can also lead you to think that God can never use you for His purposes.

And yet God hand made you….to be who you are…His masterpiece! Psalm 139:13-14…For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. And remember that God doesn’t make junk!!!

That being said, God saw that you (and all of us) sin. That sin disappoints God and separates us from a Holy God. But not from His Love for you. You are worth so much that He sent His Son Jesus to restore your relationship. You are that precious to God!

When you look in the mirror…you are seeing God’s handiwork. And if that’s not good enough after He made you, He then He purchased you back after you were lost to sin. Romans 3:23-24…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Maybe this story will help:

Little Johnny had spent hours building a small sailboat, crafting it down to the finest detail. He carried his new boat to the edge of the river and then carefully placed it in the water. How smoothly the boat sailed! Little Johnny sat in the warm sunshine, admiring the little boat that he had built. Suddenly a strong current caught the boat and moved it far from his reach downstream.

Little Johnny ran along the riverbank as fast as he could. But his little boat soon slipped out of sight. All afternoon he searched for the boat. Finally, when it was too dark to look any longer, little Johnny sadly went home. He knew he loved that little boat that he built. But what he didn’t know was that downstream a man found his boat and took it to the town where he sold it to a shopkeeper.

A few days later, on his way home from school, little Johnny spotted a boat just like his in the store window. When he got closer, he could see — sure enough — it was his! Little Johnny hurried to the store manager: “Sir, that’s my boat in your window! I made it!” “Sorry, son, but someone else brought it in. If you want it, you’ll have to buy it.”

Little Johnny ran home and counted all his money and had exactly enough! When he reached the store, he rushed to the counter. “Here’s the money for my boat.” As he left the store, little Johnny hugged his boat and said, “Now you’re twice mine. First, I made you and now I bought you back again.”

You are twice God’s. First, He hand-made you…Then through Jesus death in your place, He bought you again. He not only died for you…to restore your relationship with Him, but he also has big plans for you. Jeremiah 29:11… For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Does that surprise you? You may let low self-esteem cause you to start to list excuses why you are not good enough or qualified to do God’s ministry.

Well, that’s what some familiar people thought:

  • Abraham was old.
  • Moses stuttered.
  • Jacob was insecure.
  • Leah was unattractive.
  • Joseph was abused.
  • Gideon was poor.
  • David had an affair and all kinds of family problems.
  • Elijah was suicidal.
  • Jeremiah was depressed.
  • Jonah was reluctant.
  • Naomi was a widow.
  • John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least.
  • Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered.
  • Martha worried a lot.
  • The Samaritan Woman had several failed marriages.
  • Zacchaeus was unpopular.
  • Thomas had doubts.
  • Paul had poor health.

And yet all of them had a piece in the story of God’s creation and redemption!!!!

So, how about you…Do any of those sound-like excuses that you have thought about yourself?

There is an old story that never loses its powerful message:

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!” The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference for that one!”

The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had said and done. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved. 

Sometimes we get discouraged because we cannot solve all of the world’s problems. We feel inadequate to help people, to share Jesus with them, and to do everything that God wants us to. But the truth is that you can do something and let God do the rest. You cannot win the whole world for Christ, but you can share the love of Jesus with someone. God will take what you do, bless it, multiply it…just like He did with the boy with his lunch by the sea of Galilee. Take time to read Matthew 14:13-21 to see how God can do miracles out of a small boy who offered to help. So now what? Well God has placed you to be where you are and to be who you are. He has equipped you with your specific gifts, abilities, relationships, situations…to do 2 things:

To be prepared to share Jesus with others thru your words.

1 Peter 3:15…  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

And to serve Jesus as you serve others in His Name.

1 Peter 4:10… Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

  • Pray to the Lord for direction….offer yourself without excuses to be used by Him. . You do your part, and He will do His!
  • What unique relationships and situations can you use to share Jesus?
  • Who do you know that does not have a relationship with Jesus? How can you share your spiritual story with them?
  • Who do you know that needs your help…or needs a friendly phone call…or encouraging card?
  • Worship with us today on Ash Wednesday

Wednesday - February 10, 2021

Have you ever been in total darkness? Maybe the power went out while you were in the basement or lost in the woods at night. It can be scary! Reminds me of the creation account. Genesis 1:1-2…In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. The message translation says…Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness.

Of course, our all-knowing and all-loving God fixed the problem…verse 3…And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. When I was still doing full time ministry, I started my day at church about 6:30am. I would head to the sanctuary to pray (for many of you). The sun was not up yet, and it was really dark in there. I would leave the lights off so I would not be distracted. I would walk down the middle aisle…being careful not to bump my shins or fall, as I made my way toward the front of the church.

Two key takeaways would fill my mind as I spent time talking with my Lord and Savior. One image was that the perpetual candle (a candle that stays lit in the front of the sanctuary) reminded me that God is always with me, even in the darkest of situations. No matter how dark it would get, the light still shines. John 1:5…The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The second image that I would get is the scary reality that the longer I would stay in the dark, the more accustomed I would become to it. My eyes would adjust to the darkness. I did not feel afraid and could maneuver around. I became comfortable in the darkness.

Well…this devotion is not about buying light bulbs and paying your electric bill. So (watt) what is the point of it? The Bible uses the contrast between light and dark…good and bad…God and evil. In heaven there will be no darkness. We associate darkness with evil activity.

A young soldier and his commanding officer got on a train together. The only available seats were across from an attractive young lady who was traveling with her grandmother. As the four engaged in conversation, the soldier and the young lady kept eyeing one another. There was an obvious mutual attraction. Suddenly the train went into a tunnel sending the train car into darkness. Immediately two sounds were heard: The smack of a kiss, followed by the whack of a slap across someone’s face. The grandmother thought I can’t believe he kissed my granddaughter, but I’m glad she gave him the slap he deserved. The commanding officer thought I don’t blame the boy for kissing the girl but it’s a shame that she missed him and hit me instead. The young girl thought I’m glad he kissed me, but I wish my grandmother hadn’t slapped him for doing it. As the train broke into sunlight the soldier couldn’t help but smile. He had managed to kiss the pretty girl, and slap his commanding officer, and get away with both.

Hard to get away with anything in the light, that’s why so many people love the darkness.

John 3:19…This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

It’s the same with the darkness of sin, the longer we hang around it the more normal it seems. We get used to it…comfortable with it. Are there areas of your life that you are “hiding in darkness.?” The secret sins, areas of your life that have become “normal” to and accepted. The good news is that God is light! 1 John 1:5…This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

Identify the areas of your life that you feel comfortable in the darkness of sin. Or maybe your life seems dark these days due to the situations you are facing. The darkness of loneliness caused by the Covid-19 world you live in. Maybe the darkness of a failing relationship…the darkness of a hidden (or maybe not so hidden) addiction that makes your life unmanageable…maybe the darkness of health issues…maybe the darkness of unbelief in a loving God.

If that’s the case…ask the Lord to reveal His light. I want to focus some more on how my eyes adjusted the longer I stayed in the dark. Have you been in the darkness of the evil one so long that it does not seem so dark anymore? Are there areas of your life that you are in a “slow fade.” A little darkness seemed ok and then gradually you feel at home in it.

Maybe it was a glass of wine once in a while, then every night, then a shot of whiskey to take the edge off, now it’s many shots throughout the day. Maybe a little flirting has grown to fantasizing…and maybe lead you further down the spiral. Maybe it was a peek at pornography…and little by little it consumes your time and mind. Ask God to guide you back to the Light of His ways. If you are justifying why your actions are “not that bad”…or “everyone does it”…or “I can quit this at any time” then take time to read the things God wants you to focus on. Philippians 4:8…Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Maybe you are saying that this devotion does not really apply to you…that you identify the darkness around you and seek the Light of Christ in all areas of your life. Great!!!! Now what?

Matthew 5:16… In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

You may say…I’m not a pastor…not trained…not capable. God can’t use me! Think again! One of the best illustrations for our calling as children of the Light…children of God is:

Alexander Papaderos, a doctor of philosophy, worked for many years trying to bring peace between the bitterly divided countries of Europe after WWII. His motivation for doing so stems from his childhood and a very odd event which took place. “When I was a small child,” he said, “during the war we were poor and lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place…. I kept one, the largest piece…. By scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine – in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find. I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became [mature], I grew to understand that this was a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. The light [or truth] is there, and it will shine in many dark places only if I reflect it.”

He concluded: “I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of the world…and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise.”

God shines His light on you…so that…you will reflect His light to others!

Action steps:

  • If you have not seen Pastor Zahrte’s sermon last weekend about how to share the Good News…go to royred.org and watch it.
  • What situations of your life seem a little dark these days? Ask God to fill you with His Light, Love, Joy, and Peace!
  • What areas are you “hiding in the darkness of sin” …Seek God’s Light and freedom found in His Word? Let Him bring you into His Light!
  • Who do you know that God is nudging you to shine His light into?

Humor for your day:

A couple were working together in a factory when the lights went out. When the lights came on again the young lady said, “Frank, you shouldn’t have done that.” “Shouldn’t have done what?” “You shouldn’t have kissed me when the lights went out.” “I didn’t kiss you when the lights went out.” He looked around belligerently at the people filing out. “But I’d like to catch the fellow who did. I’d teach him.” “Oh, Frank, you couldn’t teach him anything!”

Wednesday - February 3, 2021

You may have heard the verse found in John 8:36…“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” So what is it all about?

Legend has it that the great Houdini, a master magician, and a great locksmith, once bragged that there wasn’t a jail cell in the world that he couldn’t escape from, provided he could go into the cell dressed in his street clothes and work in complete privacy. A small town in England had built a new jail that they believed to be escape-proof, so they invited Houdini to come and try to break out. Houdini accepted the challenge. They put him in the cell and closed the door. He was left alone. Houdini took off his belt and took from it a tough, flexible steel rod. Then he went to work on the lock. He worked longer than it had ever taken him before, and he still couldn’t get the lock open! As time passed, he was becoming exhausted. He was stumped! Finally, after two solid hours of work, Houdini collapsed from exhaustion. He fell against the door to the cell, and when he did, the door swung open! It had been unlocked all the time!

You probably chuckled at the ending of that story, but I would contend there is a valuable lesson to be found there.

We are all held captive to our sinful nature. Try as we may, by our own power, we can not escape. The good news is that Jesus already opened the door to forgiveness and eternal life through His death in your place.

Maybe you feel like you are “locked up”…and on your own…try as you might, you can not free yourself.
Maybe it’s:

  • The bondage of an addiction to drugs, pornography, eating disorder, shopping, or many other things that have control over you.
  • Overwhelmed by an unreasonable schedule.
  • Trapped by poor choices relationally.
  • Isolated and alone…compounded by the Covid world we live in.
  • Financially trapped and getting deeper into debt.
  • Maybe you feel like a loser and you have made a mess of every area of your life…and your friends hold you prisoner to a low self-esteem?
  • Do you sometimes feel like Charlie Brown? Poor Charlie Brown can’t do anything right. Lucy doesn’t help. On one occasion she puts her hands on her hips and says, “You, Charlie Brown, are a foul ball in the line drive of life! You’re the shadow of your own goal posts! You are a miscue! You are three putts on the eighteenth green! You are a seven-ten split in the tenth frame; a love set! You have dropped a rod and a reel in the lake of life! You are a missed free throw, a shanked nine iron and a called third strike! Do you understand? Have I made myself clear?”

We are all prisoners of bad choices, weaknesses, faults…and most of us have “friends” eager to dismiss their own and point ours out (like Lucy). Truth is that this is not the garden of Eden…nor is it heaven! We live in a sin-stained world….trying to break free from those things that seem to hold us as prisoners can be exhausting.

John 16:33… I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We cannot overcome sin in our life…and it’s collateral damage by our own efforts. There will be trouble, but did you catch the end of that verse? But take heart! I have overcome the world.” When we admit that we are helpless, cry out to the Lord, and turn to God, He will set us free!!!

John 8:34, 36… Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin….So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Like Houdini, you may be fighting and struggling to be free from the collateral damage of a sinful world…, when all of the while Jesus has set you free…. when you lean on the door (Jesus), you will find the freedom you desire. I love Galatians 5:1… It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. The Message translation puts it this way… Christ has set us free to live a free life. So, take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. So…ask the Lord to free you from whatever has imprisoned you. When you confess your sins, He is faithful…He will forgive you…release you! Set you free! Then ask Him to give you His peace.

Philippians 4:6-7 (msg)… Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. So…now that you know the secret to being freed, released, made whole…now what?

George Sweeting, in his book “The No-Guilt Guide for Witnessing,” tells of a man by the name of John Currier who in 1949 was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Later he was transferred and paroled to work on a farm near Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1968, Currier’s sentence was terminated, and a letter bearing the good news was sent to him. But John never saw the letter, nor was he told anything about it. Life on that farm was hard and without promise for the future. Yet John kept doing what he was told even after the farmer for whom he worked had died.

Ten years went by. Then a state parole officer learned about Currier’s plight, found him, and told him that his sentence had been terminated. He was a free man.

Sweeting concluded that story by asking, “Would it matter to you if someone sent you an important message, the most important in your life, and year after year, the urgent message was never delivered?”

God’s Word is that letter to you…you are free!

And then, we who have heard the good news and experienced freedom through Christ are responsible to proclaim it to others still enslaved by sin.

Are we (you) doing all we (you) can to make sure that people get the message? Who can you share the Love of God with?

This week:

  • Take time to ask God to free you from the wages of your sins. Ask Him to free you from that which has imprisoned you. Read God’s Word to get your marching orders.
  • Take time to see who you can share the freedom that the Lord offers to them, and then reach out to them with the power of God’s Word.

Humor for the day… A man went fishing one day. He looked over the side of his boat and saw a snake with a frog in its mouth. Feeling sorry for the frog, he reached down, gently took the frog from the snake, and set the frog free. But then he felt sorry for the snake. He looked around the boat, but he had no food. All he had was a bottle of bourbon. So he opened the bottle and gave the snake a few shots. The snake went off happy, the frog was happy, and the man was happy to have performed such good deeds. He thought everything was great until about ten minutes passed and he heard something knock against the side of the boat. With stunned disbelief, the fisherman looked down and saw the snake was back with two frogs!

Wednesday - January 27, 2021

If I were to ask you what your prize possession was, what would you say? Perhaps a picture of your family, an award or trophy, your car, home, a coin collection, a corner office with a window? It’s an interesting question. And all of those items I listed are fine to have. And yet, I wonder if any of you said that your prize possession was your faith in Jesus as my Savior, forgiveness, or eternal life.

This devotion is not intended to discourage you from finding pleasure in the things that you have, relationships you cherish, the things that you have accomplished using the gifts and abilities that God has given you. What I am saying is, that we need to focus on the giver of these good gifts. To never find our identity in the things we have. In other words, to “worship” the gift, possession, or accomplishment….more that the giver of the gifts.

Romans 1:25…They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. The message translation says…And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!

 Henri Nouwen retells a tale from ancient India:

Four royal brothers decided each to master a special ability. Time went by, and the brothers met to reveal what they had learned.

“I have mastered a science,” said the first, “by which I can take but a bone of some creature and create the flesh that goes with it.”

“I,” said the second, “know how to grow that creature’s skin and hair if there is flesh on its bones.”

The third said, “I am able to create its limbs if I have flesh, the skin, and the hair.”

“And I,” concluded the fourth, “know how to give life to that creature if its form is complete.”

Thereupon the brothers went into the jungle to find a bone so they could demonstrate their specialties. As fate would have it, the bone they found was a lion’s. One added flesh to the bone, the second grew hide and hair, the third completed it with matching limbs, and the fourth gave the lion life. Shaking its mane, the ferocious beast arose and jumped on his creators. He killed them all and vanished contentedly into the jungle.

We too have the capacity to create and value what can devour us. Goals and dreams can consume us. Possessions and property can own our hearts and destroy us…unless we first seek God’s kingdom and righteousness and allow Him to breathe into what we make of life.

Matthew 6:33…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

When you focus on your relationship with the Lord….He will provide you with things, so that you can enjoy them, without worshiping them.

James 1:17…Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

I love the C.S.Lewis quote that I saw online the other day…“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

So how do we find joy in the “stuff” we have and the “things” we accomplish…. while worshiping God, and not letting them become “idols?” You may be offended at me and say…I have no idols!

You may say “I have never fallen on my face and worshiped a carved idol” like the Babylonians did in Isaiah 46:6… Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it.…You may say “I never worshiped a false god like Allah or Buddha.” Great! But what occupies your time, talent, treasures the most. What would your day planner and check book say you value the most?

We are always giving our hearts to something. If we are not giving our heart to God, then we are giving it to something that God created! These things can claim the place in our hearts that only God should have.

Do you thank the Lord for all you have been blessed with? Do you use these blessings as tools to glorify the Lord?

The danger is that anything that takes your focus off of the Lord can become an idol. Whatever takes top priority with your time, talent, treasures are in fact what you worship.

Jesus puts it very clear…what should be your priority? Matthew 22:37-39…Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

I think that God blesses us with people, places, things that bring a smile to our faces….so that we can use them in a way that glorifies God who is the giver of those gifts. Howard Hendricks writes, “My wife Jeanne and I once dined with a rich man from a blue blood Boston family, and I asked him, ‘How in the world did you grow up in the midst of such wealth and not be consumed by materialism?’ “His answer: ‘My parents taught us that everything in our home was either an idol or a tool’.

So how do you view your possessions and accomplishments? I encourage you to take some time and:

  • Thank the Lord for all of your physical, emotional, relational, and material blessings.
  • Go back to my opening question. Ask yourself if whatever your answer was…is an idol or a tool to glorify God?
  • Ask God how you can accomplish much for the Lord…How can you use your blessings to be a blessing to others? How can you be used as a tool to share Christ with others, to serve those in need, to encourage and lift up those that are down?

Humor for the day…A teacher asked her students what religious objects they had in their homes. One boy answered, “We have a picture of a woman with a halo holding a baby and every day my mother kneels in front of it.”

The next little boy said, “We have a brass statue of a man seated with crossed legs and a Chinese face, and every day my parents burn an incense stick before it.”

Then a third boy piped up, “In the bathroom we have a little platform with numbers on it. Every day my mother stands on it first thing in the morning and screams, “OH MY GOD!!!”

Wednesday - January 20, 2021

Over the years I have told many stories/illustrations to help people focus on God, His Word, their life as children of God. This story is one of my favorite stories (from Jim Rice) to tell. (Try to imagine me telling this story while making sound effects!)

A man injured on the job filed an insurance claim. The insurance company requested more information, so the man wrote the insurance company the following letter of explanation:

Dear Sirs:

I am writing in response to your request concerning clarification of the information I supplied in block #11 on the insurance form, which asked for the cause of the injury. I answered, “Trying to do the job alone.” I trust that the following explanation will be sufficient.

I am a bricklayer by trade. On the date of the injury, I was working alone, laying brick around the top of a three-story building. When I finished the job, I had about five hundred pounds of brick left over. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to put them into a barrel and lower them by a pulley that was fastened to the top of the building.

I secured the end of the rope at ground level, went back up to the top of the building, loaded the bricks into the barrel, and pushed it over the side. I then went back down to the ground and untied the rope, holding it securely to insure the slow descent of the barrel. As you will note in block #6 of the insurance form, I weigh 145 pounds. At the shock of being jerked off the ground so swiftly by the five hundred pounds of bricks in the barrel, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope.

Between the second and third floors, I met the barrel. This accounts for the bruises and lacerations on my upper body. Fortunately, I retained enough presence of mind to maintain my tight hold on the rope and proceeded rapidly up the side of the building, not stopping until my right hand was jammed in the pulley. This accounts for my broken thumb (see block #4). Despite the pain, I continued to hold tightly to the rope. Unfortunately, at approximately the same time, the barrel hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel now weighed about fifty pounds. I again refer you to block #6, where my weight is listed. I began a rapid descent.

In the vicinity of the second floor, I met the barrel coming up. This explains the injury to my legs and lower body. Slowed only slightly, I continued my descent, landing on the pile of bricks. Fortunately, my back was only sprained. I am sorry to report, however, that at this point I again lost my presence of mind—and let go of the rope.

I trust that this answers your concern. Please note that I am finished trying to do the job alone.

God never intended for you to live your Christian life/ministry alone! Hopefully, you know that you are a sinner…and that sin separates you from a Holy God (not His Love for you). On your own, you can not fix the problem…but the good news (the Gospel) is that you don’t have to fix the problem…. Jesus did on the cross…for you!!!!! You are saved! and yet: Living a Christian life can be tough. It may seem that your Christian walk is as if you are “trying to do it alone” …especially when it seems that you are at odds with what the world, news, and media tell you about God, His Word, morals, values, etc. God knew that right from creation…even in the Garden of Eden (paradise), God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone!

Genesis 2:18…. The LordGod said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

The Christian life is not easy to live “on your own.” You need people who stand beside you to support you, encourage you, and help you to succeed. That’s why God created the church. There are no Lone Rangers in the family of God. You never have to “do the ministry” alone! We really do need each other. We are a community, a family of faith…and when we all work together, we can accomplish great things for Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:27… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

I encourage you to take the time to read 1 Corinthians 12. It reminds us that God has placed people with different gifts and abilities together to be His church. Read it and ask yourself, what is my role within the church? How can I help accomplish God’s plan for my congregation…for the larger church…for those who are outside of the church…my community…my daily circle of influence? Our current sermon series is called “Be The Church…It’s Not a Place, It’s Who We Are!” The tag line for this series reminds us that 2 billion people are Christians…they go to a church somewhere around the world. But isn’t church more than a building that we go to…or watch online services at? God’s Word says that church is “a way to be.” We “go” to church…but are called to “be” the church! By being part of Christ’s church on earth, we grow in our personal walk with the Lord…and are then empowered to love and serve others in the name of the Lord.

I encourage you to go to royred.org to watch last week’s sermon…and then to watch each of the next 4 weeks’ sermons.

I know that I have shared this section with you in other devotions…but it is what “being the church” looks like…. Acts 2:42-47…They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

As “the church” they did not have to “do it alone!” …even during persecution.

That same verse in the Message translation puts it this way:

That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.

They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.

So…what is the point of this devotion?

That God’s church is not the building, it’s the people who trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior! It’s wherever the Gospel is preached, and the sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. The local congregations are where people gather around the means of grace. We extend God’s church by telling others about Jesus, through service, prayer, and financial support….and His kingdom grows.

We participate in the church to be fed spiritually, to support and encourage others, to be equipped to go outside the walls of the building to lead others to the quality-of-life Jesus offers.

Support and be active in your local congregation (church)….and then go out and “be the church’ wherever God sends you…24/7!

 

A bit of humor for your day:

Timmy didn’t want to put his money in the offering plate Sunday morning, so his mother decided to use some hurried creative reasoning with him. “You don’t want that money, honey,” she whispered in his ear. “Quick! Drop it in” the plate. It’s tainted!” Horrified, the little boy obeyed. After a few seconds, he whispered, “But, mommy, why was the money tainted? Was it dirty? “Oh, no dear,” she replied. “It’s not really dirty….It’s tainted… ‘taint yours, and it ‘taint mine,” she replied. “It’s God’s.”

Wednesday - January 13, 2021

I have this as my screen saver on my computer. Take a few minutes to study it. Do any of the words hit a sore spot in your life? Do past things like guilt, hurt, regret, fear, anger, shame, hatred make your life unmanageable? Are there other words that come to mind? Are there things from the past that get carried into your life day after day?

Let’s take one of these words and see what God’s Word has to say about it.

Guilt… as a noun…the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability: “He admitted his guilt.” a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

Sometimes the guilt of our past actions brings pain because we have not dealt with it by owning the guilt of our actions and then taking our mistakes to the Lord…1 John 1:8…If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Denial impedes our spiritual, emotional, and relational health. It holds us captive to the past!

Satan loves when this happens! Don’t let Satan get into your mind…. telling you that God can never love you…or forgive you.

The next time Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future!

The Law…shows us our sins. It reminds us that on our own we can not fix the problem. The wages of sin is death…. separation from a Holy God. As a sinner, we stand guilty before the Lord! If left there, we would be hopeless!

And yet…that’s where the Gospel comes in. Jesus’ sinless life and sacrificial death fixed the problem. He purchased your forgiveness….repaired the relationship…removed the guilt….restored our standing as children of a Loving God!

Let me tell you a true story that happened some time ago: A young boy’s father died in a car wreck when he was twelve years old. He read it in the newspaper before anyone got word to him to tell him about it. When he saw that picture of the family car smashed-up on the front page of the newspaper… and read that his dad had died in that accident, he was thrust immediately and painfully into the shocked numbness of deep grief.

Strangely, one of his very first feelings were those of guilt. He had remembered how some months before at a family picnic he was showing off with a baseball. At one point he got careless and threw wildly; it hit his dad in the hand and broke his thumb. The young boy felt horrible. He said to himself, “What a terrible son I am! I have caused my dad great pain.”

It seemed that was all he could remember after his father’s death—the pain he caused his dad. Finally, the young boy went to see his pastor and told him about the deep feelings of guilt about breaking his dad’s thumb.

The young boy… well, let me tell you in the boy’s own words, he said: I’ll never forget how my pastor handled that. He was so great. He came around the desk with tears in his eyes. He sat down across from me and said:

“Now, Jim,” that was the boy’s name, “you listen to me. If your dad could come back to life for five minutes and be right here with us… and if he knew you were worried about that, what would he say to you?”

“He would tell me to quit worrying about that,” Jim said. “Well, all right,” the minister said, “then you quit worrying about that right now. Do you understand me?”. “Yes sir,” he said… and he did. That minister was saying: “You are forgiven. Accept the forgiveness… and make a new start with your life.” The young boy did make a new start. And many years later, he served a 9,000-member church: St Luke’s in Houston. The young Boy? James W. Moore, the author of over 30 books on Christian living. We just celebrated Christmas (the birth of our Savior)…but forgiveness and renewal is what Easter is all about. The Risen Lord comes back to life… and assures the disciples that they are forgiven.

Peter had denied his Lord three times. Thomas had doubted. All the disciples had forsaken Him.

But Christ came back, forgave them, resurrected them. He came back to share with them… He comes to you today to share with you the joy, the encouragement, and the forgiveness that was purchased for you on the cross.

Sound good? Of course, it does! How do you get rid of the guilt…and receive God’s Joy and Peace?

Well, If you want to free yourself from your past, just ask God to do that! 1 John 1:9…If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

I like to look at Paul (the writer of many of the New Testament books). Talk about a guy who could have wallowed in the guilt of his past…Talk about sinning!!! In his “Saul days”… when he persecuted Christians and God’s church. But listen to what he says in Philippians 3:13-14… Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: 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.

Assess the things from your past that haunt you…confess them to the Lord…receive His forgiveness…repent, and turn away from those sinful thoughts, words, actions…and if possible, make amends to those you have hurt….and you will be free to move forward! Just like we see in

Isaiah 43:18-19… “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Always remember that the past does not define you…it’s what have you learned from the past…and who (or whose) are you today…by the power of Christ living in you. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18… Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:

A side note: shame and guilt are 2 different ideas… Guilt comes from a negative evaluation of one’s behavior. When we sin, we feel guilt for what we did.  Shame on the other hand arises from a negative evaluation of the self… It is when we let our actions define who (whose) we are…Let me remind you that you are a forgiven child of God! Satan will whisper lies into your ears. He will say “shame on you!!!” and try to convince you that God is disgusted with you. Don’t listen to him…God loves you despite your past! God makes you new each day, to accomplish His plans in and thru you.

Action steps:

  • Go back and look at the words in my opening picture. How are you doing with past guilt? Talk to God about it.
  • Who do you need to forgive? Who is carrying guilt over something they did to you…perhaps years ago. Tell them you forgive them. Connect them to Jesus. Tell them about God’s forgiveness, Love, renewal.
  • Ask forgiveness from those that you have hurt by your past words and actions.
  • Let go of the past…live in the present…Find joy in the one who holds the future!!!!!

A laugh for the day….One year my uncle decided to cheat on his income taxes. The problem was that he later started to feel so guilty that he couldn’t sleep. After thinking about it for a while, he sent an anonymous cashier’s check for $100 to the IRS along with a note that read:

To Whom It May Concern,

I cheated on my taxes and now I feel so guilty that I have not been able to sleep for weeks, so I’m sending you this check for one hundred dollars. I hope you forgive me.

P.S. If I still can’t sleep after one week, I’ll send you the rest of what I owe.

Wednesday - January 6, 2021

1 John 3:16-18… This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

I was looking at an old devotion in a book from my confirmation/youth ministry days and wanted to share it with you. It can help us look at generosity as well as our motive for generosity.

Just a few days before Christmas, a postal worker at the main sorting office found an unstamped, handwritten, messy envelope addressed to God. Curious, he opened it and discovered that it was from an elderly woman who was in great distress because all of her savings ($200) had been stolen. As a result, she wouldn’t have anything to eat for Christmas. The man went to his fellow postal workers and took up a collection for the woman. They dug deep and came up with $180. Putting the money in a plain envelope, with no note or anything, the postal workers sent it by special courier to the woman that very day. A week later the same postal worker noticed another unstamped letter that had been addressed to God in the same handwriting. In it, he found a brief note

Dear God,
Thank you for the $180 you sent me for Christmas, which would have been so bleak otherwise.
PS. It was $20 short, but that was probably those thieving workers at the Post Office.

First off, I apologize to any postal workers reading this…I know you are taking a lot of heat these days.

I think that our first reaction is to laugh at that story…then we feel sorry for those generous workers who were not appreciated …and instead were blamed and accused…and maybe we feel angry at that lady who lacked gratitude and instead looked for the worst in this gift she received.

So…Here is a tough question…who would you be in this story? Have you ever been on either side of this situation?

Have you ever done the right thing, but were criticized for it?

Have you ever been blamed for something that you did not do?

Have you ever ignored an opportunity to help someone…maybe said “Why knock myself out if I’m only going to get slapped in the face?” Or avoided helping someone because there was nothing in it for you.

If that is you…I suggest you check your motive for doing good deeds!

Early on in my ministry (at another church), I was an elder. We met regularly with the senior pastor and would talk about and pray for those in financial need. To my amazement, a few days later, all of those in need found an anonymous gift in the exact amount they needed. It was a miracle…I later realized it was one of the other elders. He saw a need and helped with no pat on the back or reward. God was smiling!

And…If you are helping others while expecting to get affirmation and praise…don’t hold your breath…but instead take comfort in serving the Lord, and for being in good company! 1 Peter 2:20-21…But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this, you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

The postal workers in our story for today can take comfort in the Message translation for that verse, that says…But if you’re treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God.

If you get criticized for doing good, or if you think it’s not worth it…Galatians 6:9…Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

God is calling you to always look for the best in others…don’t look for the $20…focus on the $180. Always look for the best in people…and always be the best you, you can be!

When you see someone doing good…let them know that you appreciate their effort.

Especially within the church…we need to affirm and encourage one another.

Always keep your eyes open for ways to help someone…and do it to glorify God…not yourself.

In the morning, most look at your day planner or scheduling app to see what you need to accomplish. I suggest that you look at your Christ-Centered action planner for each day. It is found in Matthew 22:37-39…  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

Let’s make 2021 the year that each of us are generous with our time, as well as our resources. Let us check our motives to the above verse in Matthew 22. There are so many people going through tough times…lonely, isolated, facing financial and relational struggles. Pray for them!!! Ask God to let you be the answer to their prayers.

Your smile for the day:

An old lady walked into the bank and asked me if I could help her check her balance… So I pushed her over!!

Wednesday - December 30, 2020

I would imagine that we can all agree that 2020 was a year we would like to forget!

Of course, the pandemic is tops on our list of things we don’t want to bring into 2021. Hopefully, we are turning the corner to better days…as we all do our part to slow the spread.

An area of concern and prayer for me is a different pandemic…a pandemic of mistrust…divisiveness…and ill-will for others. It is as old as mankind. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames Satan…Cain kills Able…nations battle nations…one group mistrusts another throughout time:

A turtle family went on a picnic. They had prepared seven years for their outing. The family left home, searching for a suitable place. During the second year of their journey, they found it. For about six months they cleared the area, unpacked the picnic basket, and completed the arrangements. They discovered, however, that they had forgotten the salt. A picnic without salt would be a disaster, they all agreed.

After a lengthy discussion, the youngest turtle was chosen to retrieve the salt at home. Although he was the fastest of the slow-moving turtles, the little turtle whined, cried, and wobbled in his shell. He agreed to go on only one condition: that no one would eat until he returned. The family consented and the little turtle left.

Three years passed—and the little turtle had not returned. Five years. Six years. Then in the seventh year of his absence, the eldest turtle could no longer contain his hunger. He announced that he was going to eat and began to unwrap a sandwich. At that point, the little turtle suddenly popped out from behind a tree shouting, “SEE! I knew you wouldn’t wait! Now, I’m not going to get the salt.”

Some of us, like that little turtle, don’t trust anyone or give anyone the benefit of the doubt. We waste away our whole lives waiting for people to live up to our poor expectations of them—we look for the worst in people.We can be thankful that God doesn’t treat us that way. He accepts us just the way we are. He believes in us. He cheers us on. He thinks the best of us. He is proud of us. When we mess up, he forgives and forgets, and gives us another opportunity to do good.

So if that’s how God treats us, it makes sense that that’s how we are to treat others. Let’s not think the worst of each other. Let’s expect, encourage, and help others accomplish their best.

I think most of you would agree in principle to what I have said…but how do we put it into action? How do we get past preconceived biases toward individuals and groups of people different from us?

Well…as Christmas is still fresh in our minds, we think of peace!

After all, the Christmas cards and the Christmas carols tell us that there should be “peace on earth!” Peace is a lack of conflict… harmony. So what is that all about?

In Luke 2:14 on that first Christmas, the angels proclaim to the shepherds… “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Did that mean that all fighting and hatred ended with His birth? No! But it was based on the fact that this baby in a manger… Jesus…is the long-awaited “Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6…For to us a child is born to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

But this Peace was different…this Peace was not a peace backed up with a military presence…but a Peace with God! A peace that was found in the Garden of Eden…and a Peace that will prevail for all eternity in God’s heavenly kingdom.

And even today…in the midst of the earthly chaos…It’s a Peace given to you through the Holy Spirit…Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

A Peace that changes who you are…and how you relate to others. The Peace of Christ living in you. A peace that allows you to be an avenue to peace on earth?

Well, the truth is that each of us has the same marching orders.

Mark 12:30-31…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Can you imagine the Peace on earth, if each of us did that…if we loved God above everything else in our lives…and let that spill over in our attitude toward others???? We could change the world, one person, at a time!!!

Sandhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929) was an Indian Christian mystic who was raised in the Sikh religion but became a follower of Christ through a vision. On one occasion he and a companion were traveling through a pass high in the Himalayan mountains. At one point they came across an injured man lying in the snow. Sundar Singh wished to stop and help the unfortunate man, but his companion refused, saying, “We shall lose our lives if we burden ourselves with him”.

But Sundar Singh would not think of leaving the man to die in the ice and snow. As his companion bade him farewell, Sundar Singh lifted the poor traveler on his back. With great exertion on his part, he bore the man onward, but gradually the heat from Sundar Singh’s body began to warm up the poor frozen fellow, and he revived! Soon both were walking together side by side. Catching up with his former companion, they found him dead…frozen by the cold.

It’s only when we forget ourselves and live totally for Christ, that we discover the abundant (Peace-filled) life God intended for each of us!!!!

So…as 2020 comes to an end (yahoo!!!) and you step into 2021…I want you to take some time to assess and to make some needed changes to…receive the Prince of Peace into your heart…and…to be an avenue of that Peace to others:

  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. This can only happen if you get to know Him intimately….to pray and seek His will daily…to read and apply His Word to your life daily. Asking Him to lead you through each day to accomplish His plans for you. To seek His will…to keep your eyes open for opportunities to get to know Him better and to love Him more!
  • ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Look for opportunities to reach out to “all” people in your circle of influence. Ask some hard questions of yourself: (what group of people am I bigoted about…pray for your attitude to change and then pray for those you don’t agree with) (who individually do you “not like?” Who do you ignore and wish they would just go away…pray for that person…and for your attitude to change) (Ask God to help you see all people like hand made by God…people that He sent His Son to die for their sins, just like yours) (look for and embrace commonalities with others instead of focusing on differences)

1 John 3:16-17… This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?

That same verse in the Message translation puts it this way:

1 John 3:16-17 (msg)… This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

If that is to be our mindset for fellow believers….how much more for those who don’t know Jesus…as you share the gift of the gospel!

May you find the Peace of Christ in 2021…may you serve the Lord and glorify Him through your thoughts, words, actions!

Wednesday - December 30, 2020

I would imagine that we can all agree that 2020 was a year we would like to forget!

Of course, the pandemic is tops on our list of things we don’t want to bring into 2021. Hopefully, we are turning the corner to better days…as we all do our part to slow the spread.

An area of concern and prayer for me is a different pandemic…a pandemic of mistrust…divisiveness…and ill-will for others. It is as old as mankind. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames Satan…Cain kills Able…nations battle nations…one group mistrusts another throughout time:

A turtle family went on a picnic. They had prepared seven years for their outing. The family left home, searching for a suitable place. During the second year of their journey, they found it. For about six months they cleared the area, unpacked the picnic basket, and completed the arrangements. They discovered, however, that they had forgotten the salt. A picnic without salt would be a disaster, they all agreed.

After a lengthy discussion, the youngest turtle was chosen to retrieve the salt at home. Although he was the fastest of the slow-moving turtles, the little turtle whined, cried, and wobbled in his shell. He agreed to go on only one condition: that no one would eat until he returned. The family consented and the little turtle left.

Three years passed—and the little turtle had not returned. Five years. Six years. Then in the seventh year of his absence, the eldest turtle could no longer contain his hunger. He announced that he was going to eat and began to unwrap a sandwich. At that point, the little turtle suddenly popped out from behind a tree shouting, “SEE! I knew you wouldn’t wait! Now, I’m not going to get the salt.”

Some of us, like that little turtle, don’t trust anyone or give anyone the benefit of the doubt. We waste away our whole lives waiting for people to live up to our poor expectations of them—we look for the worst in people.We can be thankful that God doesn’t treat us that way. He accepts us just the way we are. He believes in us. He cheers us on. He thinks the best of us. He is proud of us. When we mess up, he forgives and forgets, and gives us another opportunity to do good.

So if that’s how God treats us, it makes sense that that’s how we are to treat others. Let’s not think the worst of each other. Let’s expect, encourage, and help others accomplish their best.

I think most of you would agree in principle to what I have said…but how do we put it into action? How do we get past preconceived biases toward individuals and groups of people different from us?

Well…as Christmas is still fresh in our minds, we think of peace!

After all, the Christmas cards and the Christmas carols tell us that there should be “peace on earth!” Peace is a lack of conflict… harmony. So what is that all about?

In Luke 2:14 on that first Christmas, the angels proclaim to the shepherds… “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Did that mean that all fighting and hatred ended with His birth? No! But it was based on the fact that this baby in a manger… Jesus…is the long-awaited “Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6…For to us a child is born to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

But this Peace was different…this Peace was not a peace backed up with a military presence…but a Peace with God! A peace that was found in the Garden of Eden…and a Peace that will prevail for all eternity in God’s heavenly kingdom.

And even today…in the midst of the earthly chaos…It’s a Peace given to you through the Holy Spirit…Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

A Peace that changes who you are…and how you relate to others. The Peace of Christ living in you. A peace that allows you to be an avenue to peace on earth?

Well, the truth is that each of us has the same marching orders.

Mark 12:30-31…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Can you imagine the Peace on earth, if each of us did that…if we loved God above everything else in our lives…and let that spill over in our attitude toward others???? We could change the world, one person, at a time!!!

Sandhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929) was an Indian Christian mystic who was raised in the Sikh religion but became a follower of Christ through a vision. On one occasion he and a companion were traveling through a pass high in the Himalayan mountains. At one point they came across an injured man lying in the snow. Sundar Singh wished to stop and help the unfortunate man, but his companion refused, saying, “We shall lose our lives if we burden ourselves with him”.

But Sundar Singh would not think of leaving the man to die in the ice and snow. As his companion bade him farewell, Sundar Singh lifted the poor traveler on his back. With great exertion on his part, he bore the man onward, but gradually the heat from Sundar Singh’s body began to warm up the poor frozen fellow, and he revived! Soon both were walking together side by side. Catching up with his former companion, they found him dead…frozen by the cold.

It’s only when we forget ourselves and live totally for Christ, that we discover the abundant (Peace-filled) life God intended for each of us!!!!

So…as 2020 comes to an end (yahoo!!!) and you step into 2021…I want you to take some time to assess and to make some needed changes to…receive the Prince of Peace into your heart…and…to be an avenue of that Peace to others:

  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. This can only happen if you get to know Him intimately….to pray and seek His will daily…to read and apply His Word to your life daily. Asking Him to lead you through each day to accomplish His plans for you. To seek His will…to keep your eyes open for opportunities to get to know Him better and to love Him more!
  • ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Look for opportunities to reach out to “all” people in your circle of influence. Ask some hard questions of yourself: (what group of people am I bigoted about…pray for your attitude to change and then pray for those you don’t agree with) (who individually do you “not like?” Who do you ignore and wish they would just go away…pray for that person…and for your attitude to change) (Ask God to help you see all people like hand made by God…people that He sent His Son to die for their sins, just like yours) (look for and embrace commonalities with others instead of focusing on differences)

1 John 3:16-17… This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?

That same verse in the Message translation puts it this way:

1 John 3:16-17 (msg)… This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

If that is to be our mindset for fellow believers….how much more for those who don’t know Jesus…as you share the gift of the gospel!

May you find the Peace of Christ in 2021…may you serve the Lord and glorify Him through your thoughts, words, actions!

Wednesday - December 23, 2020

As we finish up any plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we search for the real reason for this special season. The birth of a baby in a humble setting. A baby who is in fact the Messiah…the Savior…the Christ child! Hard to wrap my head around that! Many were looking for a powerful military leader to charge in on a white stallion. Why did God choose this form of messenger/Savior? Maybe because mankind ignores and forgets historical figures?

One of my favorite ways to answer why God chose Jesus birth, is this story:

It was a snowy Christmas Eve. Inside the warm house, the Christmas tree was cheerfully ablaze with lights and surrounded by dozens of presents. The man’s wife and children were dressed and ready to leave for church. “Come with us,” they urged, for they loved him. “Not me,” he snapped. “I don’t believe all that religious garbage.”

For many years, the man’s wife had been trying to tell him about Jesus Christ and the salvation he offers. How God’s Son had become a human being to show us the way to heaven. “Nonsense,” the man always said.

The family left for church and the man was all alone in his cozy country home. He glanced out the window at the cold snowy scene outside. He turned to warm himself by the fire. But as he turned, his eyes caught a movement in the snow outside. He looked. Cats! Three young cats walking slowly past his window.

“The fools,” he thought. “They’ll freeze for sure!” The man put on his hat and coat and opened the door. A blast of wintry air sent a shiver through his body. “Come here, cats! Come inside where there are warmth and food. You’ll die out there.” But the cats ran away, frightened by the stranger at the door. He walked outside. “Come back! Don’t be afraid, I want to save you.” But the cats were gone. It was too late.

“Well, I did everything I could for them,” the man muttered to himself. “What more could I do? I’d have to become a cat myself to reach them and save them. If I became a cat, I could tell them and show them. They would have to believe me then unless they were fools.”

Just as he reached the door, the church bells rang in the distance. The man paused for a second and listened. Then he went in by the fire, got down on his knees, and wept…. for the first time, he understood the meaning of Christmas!

That’s a fun story…and yet isn’t that what the Christmas story is all about. The Creator of the universe loved us so much that he came to earth…to be one of us… to show us how to be saved… And if we listen to him and follow him, we will not perish, but instead will be given everlasting life.

Most of us know: John 3:16…For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. It’s a powerful verse of Hope for us…but it does not address the “how” He will do it.

But how about: Philippians 2:6-8…Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

He was born to live… and yet He lived to die!

Roy Lawson writes:

  • If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.
  • If our greatest need had been technology God would have sent us a scientist.
  • If our greatest need had been money God would have sent us an economist.
  • But since our greatest need was forgiveness God sent us a savior!

We all sin and fall short. The wages of sin is death (eternal separation from God).  On our own, we are hopelessly lost. But God could not stand to lose us (you) so He sent His Son…to be born…to live a perfect life in your place…to die (not for His sins but yours) …and to rise again victoriously!!!! That is the greatest all-time GIFT. It’s a one size fits all gift of infinite worth…not sold online or at any specialty store!!!!

And through the lens of the Gospel… God sees past your warts, wrinkles, pride, greed, sinful nature….. He loves you unconditionally despite you!

In his book Mortal Lessons physician Richard Selzer describes a scene in a hospital room after he had performed surgery on a young woman’s face:

I stand by the bed where the young woman lies…her face, postoperative…her mouth twisted in palsy…clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, one of the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be that way from now on. I had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had cut this little nerve.

A young man stood in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to be in a world all their own in the evening lamplight…isolated from me…private.

Who are they? I ask myself…he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously. The young woman speaks. “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks. “Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.” She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says. “It’s kind of cute.”

All at once, I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with the divine. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers…to show her that their kiss still works.”

God accommodated himself to us by coming down from heaven as a little baby. He came to us, and then he allowed his body to be twisted on the cross to show us that the love of God still works.

Regardless of the scars that you bear from the ravages of sin, you are loved by God. You are beautiful to him. You were created in his image, and you bear the likeness of his Son. He will never stop loving you.

Romans 8:35, 37-39… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wow…I bet you didn’t see this devotion going this direction, did you?

My prayer for you is that you see Christmas for what is really is:

The Son of God becoming the Son of Man (for you) …humbly entering the world as a child (for you). A child who lived a sinless life (for you). A Savior who innocently went to the cross to die (for you). The Messiah who rose on the third day (for you). Your Lord and Savior who has Unconditional Love (for you).

May you and your family find:

GOD’S PEACE, JOY, LOVE, AND HAPPINESS THIS CHRISTMAS….AND EVERY DAY.

Wednesday - December 16, 2020

So as we are focusing on Christmas and Jesus’ birth… I started focusing on “why.”

I mean, why would God become man, live a sinless life, and then willingly die a cruel death for something He didn’t do? LOVE!

John 15:13…Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.

So…God is love…and yet He then tells us (MSG) This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.

So, what do those 2 verses say to each of us? We sin and that separates us from God…nothing we can do to fix the problem…and yet God loves us too much to let us be separated. He can’t stand the thought of spending eternity without us there with Him. If you know that, then ask yourself the question: how do I know that…where and who told me about Jesus? Maybe parents, grandparents, a good friend? I have to admit, Jesus’ marketing plan seems a bit odd! He did not have a fancy marketing plan. Instead, He tells a few misfits to go tell someone. (and they did not have phones, computers, cars to travel from place to place.) They (as well as you and I) were just told to go tell someone about Jesus….and to let the Holy Spirit do the rest. Let’s fast forward to a pretend conversation after Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

A legend recounts the return of Jesus to heaven after his time on earth. He returned bearing the marks of his earthly pilgrimage with its cruel cross and shameful death. The angel Gabriel approached him and said, “Master, you must have suffered terribly for people down there.” “I did,” said Jesus. “And,” continued Gabriel, “do they now know all about how you loved them and what you did for them? ”Oh, no,” said Jesus. “Not yet. Right now, only a handful of people in Palestine know.” Gabriel was perplexed. “Then what have you done,” he asked, “to let all people know about your love for them?” “Well, I’ve asked Peter, James, John, and a few others to tell people about me. Those who are told will in turn tell others, and the Gospel will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe. Ultimately, all of humankind will hear about me and what I have done on their behalf.” Gabriel frowned and looked skeptical. He knew that people weren’t dependable. “Yes,” he said, “but what if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? And what if, way down in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, people get too busy to bother telling others about you? Haven’t you made any other plans?” “No, I’ve made no other plans, Gabriel,” Jesus answered. “I’m counting on them.”

Some say that the Christian faith is only one generation away from extinction. That’s because with each generation comes the renewed responsibility to take the good news of the Gospel to the world. The question is, are you doing your part? Jesus was very clear on His mission for you and me.

Matthew 28:19… “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

Who have you told about Jesus? When have you shown the love of God by your words, actions, motive, and love?

Do those in your circle of influence even know that you are a Christian?

Are you getting supported in the task through a church? The church is where God’s children get fed, encouraged, and resourced to go out and impact the world for and through The Lord. Do you see church that way…or is church a club for those special people?

This story may make you think a little:

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little lifesaving station. The building was no more than a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea. With no thought for themselves, they went out day and night, tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to be associated with the station and give their time, money, and effort to support the work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little lifesaving station grew. Some of these new members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those who were saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely because they used it as sort of a club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in this club’s decoration, and there was a memorial lifeboat in the room where the club initiations were held. About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and some of them were foreigners. The beautiful new club was in chaos. Immediately, the property committee hired someone to rig up a shower house outside the club, where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities because they felt they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. A small number of members insisted upon lifesaving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. The small group’s members were voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast. They did. As the years went by, however, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old station. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the passengers drown.

The Holy Spirit invites us into a relationship with God through the Word of God! The Holy Spirit also gathers us together to be the body of Christ! As followers of Jesus, our primary task is to go and make disciples. To put it another way, we are to go and save lives. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget our purpose. We need to recover our passion for lifesaving. We need to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. James 1:22…Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Imagine if each of the 2.4 billion Christians reached out to three persons in the next year…sharing the gospel with them. The whole world would have been touched by the love of God. Now, I understand that logistically that would be very complicated

And yet…. I was thinking…. Royal Redeemer has close to 3000 members. Imagine if each of them was to reach out to one person each month in 2021. Identifying someone who is drowning so to speak…someone in the middle of a storm in their life…. someone lost and discouraged. At this time next year, we would have reached out to 36,000 people…potentially now facing eternity in heaven when they pass.

What do you say? Ready to actually be the church…to be used by God to accomplish His marketing plan…one person at a time?

During this Christmas season, a great song to listen to is “Go Tell It on The Mountain.” This familiar song reminds us of what Christmas is all about…and it challenges each of us to GO AND TELL SOMEONE!  I especially like the Zach Williams version. You can Google it!

So, I want you to work through this advent season preparing your heart for the birth of the Savior. I want you to enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, and excitement of this Christmas season. But I also want you to focus on the “reason for the season”. Take time to confess your sinfulness…to repent of your sinful areas, to realize that that cute little baby would later die in your place. And once you have all of that in perspective…. ask yourself “now what”. Who can you GO and TELL?

Join us and invite friends to go to royred.org any time after 1:00 pm on Christmas Eve. It is an incredible picture of God’s church in action. It will be an experience that you will never forget!

Wednesday - December 9, 2020

We are in the beginning of the church year. It begins with the season of Advent. Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the birth of Christ…as well as the return or second coming of Christ. Churches light candles set in a wreath to count the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas. They focus on the Joy, Peace, Hope, and Love…that can only be found in the Child born in the manger.

I think that sometimes we can miss the real meaning of Advent because we are so busy planning for our other Christmas activities. We plan Christmas shopping, tree and decorating, baking, mailing cards, figuring out a Covid-safe family time, etc. These are all good things to do, but not at the expense of focusing on the significance of the birth of our Lord and Savior….and His place in our everyday lives.

The question is… “Do you see Jesus in your life? Do you only see Him on Christmas, or do you see Him in everyday events? Do you see Him in the people that He has placed in your path?”

Martin, the Cobbler, in Leo Tolstoy’s story about a lonely shoemaker who is promised in a dream that Christ will come to visit his shop. The next day Martin rises early, gets his shop ready, prepares a meal and waits.
The only one who showed up in the morning was an old beggar who came by and asked for rest. Martin gave him a room he had prepared for his divine guest.
The only one to show up in the afternoon was an old lady with a heavy load of wood. She was hungry and asks for food. He gave her the food he had prepared for his divine guest.
As evening came, a lost boy wandered by. Martin took him home, afraid all the while he would miss the Christ. That night in his prayers he asks the Lord, “Where were You? I waited all day for You.”
The Lord said to Martin:

Three times I came to your friendly door,
Three times my shadow was on your floor.
I was a beggar with bruised feet.
I was the woman you gave to eat.
I was the homeless child on the street.

Do you see Jesus in your everyday events? Do you see him in the faces that pass through your life?

My challenge to you is to watch out! Christ may be closer than you can imagine!

Do you believe that? Do you see each person and every situation you face as an opportunity to see, serve, and share Jesus?

Do you see Jesus in the guy driving the car that cut you off as he tried to squeeze past you as the lane was ending? (Perhaps his child was ill, and he was bringing needed medicine home)

Do you see Jesus in the person who made you feel angry and guilty as they stood at the corner and asked if you can spare some change? (He lost his job due to a covid closing at his workplace, and he was embarrassed and hungry)

Do you see Jesus in “one of those people” that you dislike because of their beliefs, ethnicity, political persuasion, or sexual orientation? (The Gospel is a gift given for all people…to be shared with words and actions)

Do you see Jesus in your neighbor who is isolated and lonely?…You could make their day with a smile, wave, phone call, or bakery at their door.

Do you see Jesus in your prodigal child or annoying co-worker?

Do you see Jesus in those serving on the front lines like nurses, doctors, nursing home workers, group home staff, police, military, store workers, etc.

 I would imagine that about now, you are saying, “Dave this devotion is a downer, I’m too busy to be concerned about those people…someone else can help them”. Well…I think God would disagree!

Hebrews 13:16 – “Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.”

Advent is a time for us to prepare our hearts to see Jesus…and then to be changed (transformed)…to shine His love on those who cross our path. You may be the answer to their prayers.

  St. Michael’s had always been a very wealthy church. Its 300 members usually gave a combined annual offering of over one million dollars, because they could afford to.

  Over the years, however, the neighborhood around the beautiful old church began to change. Immigrants flocked into the area, changing the complexion of the community. Steel bars replaced the welcome signs in the store windows. Homeless people could be found wandering the sidewalks. The changes made some members of St. Michael’s very uncomfortable. They usually tried to avoid that part of town except on Sundays.

  One Sunday, shortly after a young associate priest had joined the church staff, the church members gathered after the morning service for coffee and pastries. In the spring months, they loved to gather in the flower garden outside the church.

  As the elegantly dressed worshipers sipped coffee and chatted in the garden, a homeless man shuffled in off the street. He entered the garden gate without looking at anyone…but all eyed\s were on him. He quietly walked over to the table where the expensive pastries were displayed on fancy silver trays. He picked one up, bit into it, keeping his eyes closed.

  Then he reached for a second one and placed it in his coat pocket. Moving slowly and trying not to be noticed, he placed another pastry in his pocket.

  The garden was abuzz with whispers! Finally, one woman walked over to the new priest and said, “Well do something!”

  Still feeling a little awkward in his new position, the young priest handed his coffee cup to the woman, walked over to the table, stood next to the homeless man. He then reached under the table, where the empty pastry boxes were stored. He then picked us one of the silver trays loaded with pastries and emptied them into the box. He did the same thing with a second tray of expensive goodies. He closed the lids and handed them to the man.

  “We are here every Sunday,” the priest said. The man smiled at the priest, cradled the boxes in his arms, and shuffled quietly out of the garden and down the street.

  The priest returned to his cup of coffee, smiled at the woman, and then said, “That’s what you meant when you said to do something, wasn’t it?”

 What would you have done if you were there that day?

How do you think Jesus felt about those whispering that day…about what the priest did?

I think Jesus looks at the homeless, the weak, the sick, the lonely, the anxious and depressed, those in fear and pain…..and says to us “well, do something about it!”

As we focus on Jesus’ birth and His life here on earth, you can bet He would be first in line “to do something.”

But then remember Jesus is here in the flesh. That’s what His church is all about! That’s what you are to be all about! You are to be His hands and feet to a hurting world.

So, here is your mission for the week (and always):

Take time this Advent to prepare your heart for the coming Savior. Pray, read God’s Word, worship, volunteer. (go to royred.org for information, resources, worship, and other opportunities to “do something”)

Look at each person as if they were Jesus. Ask yourself “how can I help them physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially”

Pray for God to help you see all people (even those you don’t like)  as children of God.

Wednesday - December 2, 2020

I taught confirmation for 27 years. I would use illustrations that I could find to help the students apply and live out God’s Word. I found that Wayne Rice has a way of telling a story that can be life-defining and life-changing. One of his resources was called “Hot Illustrations for youth talks.” As I was thinking about a topic for this devotion, I thought “what if I would share a couple of those illustrations as a way of reminding each of us… that God hand made us for a purpose. Each of us is uniquely gifted…to fit into a bigger story…the story of God’s Love for us.

A 14th-century Italian stained-glass artist was summoned to design and create a huge portrait for a window in a cathedral in France, a place well known for stained glass work. He laid all the pieces that he was going to use on the floor of the cathedral. They were beautiful to behold. Most of them were large and colorful. Some of the colors from that time cannot even be reproduced today. Among those awesome pieces of glass was a small clear piece about as big as your fingernail. As the stained glass window was assembled, that little piece remained on the floor. Only the big colorful pieces of glass were used.

On the day of the window’s completion, the tiny piece of clear glass was still lying on the ground, unnoticed. The entire city gathered to witness the unveiling of the brilliant and beautiful stained-glass portrait. The artist stood in front of the crowd, made his speech, and dramatically pulled down the cloth cover. The crowd gasped at the beauty of the colorful window glowing in the sunlight.

 After a few seconds, however, the crowd grew silent. They sensed that something was missing, that the portrait was unfinished. The great artist then walked over to where that little clear piece of glass lay and picked it up. He placed it in the portrait…right in the center of Jesus’ eye. As the Sun hit that little piece, it gave off a dazzling sparkle. The magnificent stained-glass window still draws visitors. The first thing they see is the sparkle in Jesus’ eye!

So…have you ever…or maybe right now…felt like that little piece of clear glass? Untalented…useless…a disappointment…no purpose…don’t measure up by earthly standards.

Well, think about that stained-glass window. As nice as all the bigger colorful pieces were…. They were meant to be part of a bigger picture…and the picture was unfinished until that smallest and plainest piece did its part.

Don’t compare yourself to others, ask how you fit into God’s masterpiece.

Each one of us is equally important to the body of Christ. (Take time to read 1 Corinthians 12.)

Once upon a time, a little candle stood in a room filled with other candles, most of which were larger and much more beautiful than she was. Some were ornate and others were rather simple like herself. Some were white, and some blue, some pink, some green. She had no idea why she was there, and the other candles made her feel rather small and insignificant.

When the sun went down and the room began to get dark, she noticed a large man walking towards her with a ball of fire on a stick. She suddenly realized that the man was going to set her on fire. No! No! she cried. Aaaaaagghh! Please don’t burn me!” But she knew that she could not be heard and prepared for the pain that would surely follow.

Then, to her surprise, the room filled with light. She wondered where it came from since the man had extinguished the fire stick. To her delight, she realized that the light came from herself. Then the man struck another fire stick, and, one by one lit the other candles in the room. Each gave out light into the darkroom.

During the next few hours, she noticed that slowly her wax began to flow. She became aware that her time to shine was limited. With this realization came a sense of why she had been created. “Perhaps my purpose on Earth is to give out light to those who are in the dark.”. And that’s exactly what she did!

God created you to be you….to produce light into a dark world.

Now…you need to remember that you can only shine your light because God gives you His Light! John 8:12… When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

We need to remember that the tiniest candle will bring light to a dark room. I don’t need to tell you that we live in a very dark world right now.

Who do you know that is “in the dark” and needs you to shine your light, God’s light on them? Matthew 5:16… In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

I love the way the message translation puts this section:

Matthew 5:14-16 (msg)…  “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

So, I shared these 2 illustrations with you to remind you that you were hand made by all Loving God…and He never makes junk. You are His masterpiece! Don’t compare yourself to others….He made you!

He has placed each of us where we are…for a time like this…to be used by God to accomplish His plans. To let your light shine…His light shine.

So…take time this week to focus on:

Who you are and whose you are! Psalm 139: 13-18…: For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

God gave you His Light for you let your light shine in the darkness!
2 Corinthians 4:5-6… For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

You were created to be part of God’s bigger plan, His masterpiece, His family (His church) and called to encourage one another! Hebrews 10:23-25… Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching.

Thanksgiving Eve - Wednesday - November 25, 2020

Jesus and the 12 went to the corner store to get stuff for Thanksgiving dinner and what happened? They got arrested for having over 10 in the store at one time! (Just kidding!)

I want to wish each of you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving! Your plans for this day probably look different than past Thanksgiving…but it is still a day to be thankful for all of your blessings. The question is WHO has given you those blessings?

Psalm 107:1 (NIV) says… Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 107:1 (msg)… Oh, thank God—he’s so good! His love never runs out.

The overarching theme of Thanksgiving (and every other day) is giving THANKS for all of God’s blessings (physical, material, relational, emotional, spiritual…) Everything you have is a blessing from God!

God wants/deserves our THANKS on good days and not so good days…and yes, even this covid impacted life we are facing:

A great verse to live by is:

Ephesians 5:20 “…Always giving THANKS to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Really? Everything? Yes!!

1 Thessalonians. 5:16-18…“Rejoice always, pray continually, give THANKS in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”

Be thankful in all circumstances? How does that work? Well, maybe this fable will help:

There was a woman whose name is Anna. She was a complainer. All-day long she complained! “I have so little money, my clothes are like old rags, my health is so bad, my back feels like the walls of Jericho, I have to walk so far to draw water, I feet feel like watermelons, my house is so small I can barely move in it, my children visit me so little that they hardly know me.”

One day she woke up with an itch on her nose. All-day long her nose itched. She went into town that day and decided to visit her pastor. “How are you,” the pastor asked. (The wrong question to ask a complainer like Anna!). Anna replied, “I have so little money, my clothes are like old rags, my health is so bad, my back feels like the walls of Jericho, I have to walk so far to draw water… on and on… and now it’s my nose that plagues me.”

She asked the pastor “What does it mean.” The pastor said “Anna, your itch is the complainer’s itch… Its meaning is this, however, you consider yourself so shall you be.

The next morning Anna woke up and her nose was still itching… but she now could barely move because her back had turned into a stone, like the walls of Jericho. When she looked around her, she noticed her house had shrunk until her arms stuck out the windows and her legs hanging out the front door. She could not move in it. On the ends of her legs were 2 huge watermelons. Her clothes had turned into rags. When her son and daughter came walking by, she called out to them, but they continued walking on. They didn’t know her and her nose continued to itch.

In despair, she remembered the meaning of the complainer itch. However you consider yourself, so shall you be. And she began to think.

You know I do have enough money to live on and then some… from now on I will give out of my abundance to those who are not so well off.

My health is not so bad…. Actually, for someone my age, I feel quite well. I should be out volunteering and helping others.

And I’m glad I have such a nice house to live in. It’s not large, but it’s comfortable and quite warm and maybe I could invite some guests over.

I really don’t mind the walk to draw water. A love to smell the flowers along a path…. Maybe I should pick some for my elderly neighbor.

And my children. I’m so proud that they have become independent and are now able to take care of themselves. I should call and tell them I love them.

And miraculously, while Anna was saying these things her situation returned to normal but her outlook on life changed forever!

As Christians, we have a reason to be positive…to be thankful…to find the good in each situation,…and have countless opportunities to generously praised God.

And yet…we don’t always do that…..What is it that steals our thankfulness?

FORGETFULNESS! We have short memories. Deep down we know God has blessed us…but we may find ourselves saying things like… “Lord, I know you blessed me yesterday, but today is a new day. What have you done for me lately?”

Everything we have and everything we are comes from our loving God.

ENVY! It’s interesting that we tend to compare ourselves with those who have more than us and to feel un-thankful. And yet, we seldom compare ourselves with those who have less than we do!

Do you stop and realize just how blessed you are? Just look around and realize how blessed you are. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who won’t survive the week.

  • If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 20 million people around the world.
  • If you can attend a church online (or in-person again soon) without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world.
  • If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.
  • If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

So, don’t let forgetfulness and envy steal your thankfulness!!!

There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head.  Well, she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today.”  So, she did, and she had a wonderful day.

 The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror, and saw that she had only two hairs on her head.  “H-M-M,” she said, I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today.”  So, she did, and she had a grand day. 

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head.  “Well, she said, today I’m going to wear my hair in a ponytail.”  So, she did and she had a fun, fun day. 

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn’t a single hair on her head.  “Yea! she exclaimed; I don’t have to spend time fixing my hair anymore!”

Through faith we can give thanks in ALL circumstances…trusting that God will use it for good.

So I imagine for most of us, Thanksgiving Day will look different this year…but it’s just a date on a calendar…live your life in such a way that every day is THANKS-LIVING day!!!!

*  Count your blessing daily.
Each of us are so blessed…focus on what you have not on what others have.
*  Give thanks in all circumstances
Yep! Sunny days and rainy days…and even the snowy ones to come. God will work for good through each circumstance!
*  Be blessed to be a blessing to others.
Who can you impact today, tomorrow, every day? Our world is upside down and hurting…You are the answer to someone else’s’ prayers!

Wednesday - November 18, 2020

William Barclay has written about a group of soldiers during World War II who had lost a friend in battle and wanted to give their fallen comrade a decent burial. So, they found a church with a graveyard behind it, surrounded by a white fence. They found the parish priest and asked if their friend could be buried there in the church graveyard.

“Was he Catholic?” the priest inquired.

No, he wasn’t, answered the soldiers.

“I’m sorry, then,” said the priest. “Our graveyard is reserved for members of the holy church. But you can bury your friend outside the fence. I will see that the gravesite is cared for.”

“Thank you, Father,” said the soldiers, and they proceeded to bury their friend just outside the graveyard on the other side of the fence.

When the war had finally ended, before the soldiers returned home, they decided to visit the gravesite of their friend. They remembered the location of the church—and the grave, just outside the fence. They searched for it but couldn’t find it. Finally, they went to the priest to inquire as to its location.

“Sir, we cannot find our friend’s grave,” said the soldiers to the priest.

“Well,” answered the priest. “After you buried your fallen friend, it just didn’t seem right to me that he should be buried there, outside the fence.”

“So, you moved his grave?” asked the soldiers.

“No,” said the priest. “I moved the fence.”

He moved the fence! Reminds me of what God has done for us. Because of our sin…we don’t deserve a place “inside the fence.” We don’t deserve to be forgiven or to go to heaven when we die. But God has graciously moved the fence. It’s a great illustration of the law and the gospel. The law “shows us our sins” Our thoughts, words, and deeds that are contrary to God’s will. The results (the wages) of those sins is death…separation from God. You are on the “outside of the fence” so to speak.

But the good news is found in the gospel. It “shows our Savior”. The good news of our salvation. The fact that God gives us forgiveness, faith, life, and peace. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us so that we could be included in his forever family. He moved the fence that separated us from Him.

Romans 5:1-2 (NIV)… Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

I like the (MSG) version of that verse…By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide-open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

There is great joy knowing that God Loves and forgives you…and has a place for you in His heavenly kingdom…but now what? Well…God has big plans for you!

Are you ready to make a difference for the Lord?

Two men went fishing, one was an experienced fisherman, the other wasn’t.

Every time the experienced fisherman caught a big fish, he put it in his ice chest to keep it fresh.

Whenever the inexperienced fisherman caught a big fish, he threw it back.

The experienced fisherman watched this go on all day and finally got tired of seeing the man waste good fish. “Why do you keep throwing back all the big fish you catch?” he asked.

The inexperienced fisherman replied, “I only have a small frying pan.”

 Sometimes, like the fisherman, we throwback big plans, big dreams, and big opportunities that God has given us! We laugh at the fisherman who didn’t figure out that he needed to get a bigger frying pan…and yet we try to avoid listening to God when He calls us to step out with big faith. I want to remind you that God will never give you anything bigger than you can handle (with and thru Him).

Philippians 4:13…I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

So….Here is what I want you to do:

  • Confess your sinfulness to God. Ask for forgiveness. Repent, turn away, and avoid the sinful distractions that have your name on them.
  • Thank God for His forgiveness…for moving the fence for you. Focus on what it cost Him for your salvation.
  • Ask God what he wants you to accomplish. Ask Him to give you more faith…to give you a “bigger frying pan” so to speak. Trust that God can and will do great things through you.

Wednesday - November 11, 2020

God…His Church…and YOU!

Our God has identified Himself as 3 persons in one Godhead. All one and all equally God. Hard to comprehend! We say the words, “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” I think visioning a loving father can be easy…A son who would die for others can be easily understood…but what about the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit sanctifies us (makes us holy) by bringing us to faith. He has invited you and drawn you to the gospel. He gave you the saving knowledge of Jesus as your Savior.

The Holy Spirit also calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian faith. You and all believers are His church on earth. Most of you reading this have been called to be part of the local “congregation” known as Royal Redeemer.

All Christians individually as well as all Christian churches have the same general mission. Matthew 28:19-20…Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” It’s God’s mission and His promise to be with us as we serve Him!

Each church is uniquely created by God to accomplish His plan. Each church has unique leaders, members, gifts, and a location that God wants to use to His glory to reach those who need to hear and see His love for them.

Royal Redeemer started a new 3-week sermon series last week. The leadership team had many hours of discussion over the last year to determine the unique purpose and the reason that we (Royal Redeemer) exist. We looked at our mission (what we do)…and our values (why we do what we do)….so that we can make an impact in the world, to influence others to know and serve the Lord….and to celebrate God’s Love for us, all the while, managing our resources that God has blessed us with.

Pastor Zahrte has put it this way “Living in a pandemic offers us an opportunity to refocus our attention on the kind of people God wants us to be, the values He wants us to embrace, and His desire for us to make the most of our abilities and resources. Regardless of what we experience in life, the greatest gift we can offer to our gracious God lies in understanding what He has called us to do, putting our talents to work, and being faithful with what He has entrusted to us.”

Now, you may be saying that this devotion sounds more like a lecture, with little action steps to follow and where are the stories but:

Do you know what your shape is? No, not whether your diet is working…who are you?
Your:

  • Spiritual Gifts
  • Heart (what are you passionate about)
  • Abilities
  • Personality
  • Experiences

Want to know more about your Spiritual Gifts? You can contact Bennie at [email protected]

Do you know that God hand made you and placed you right where you are? But there may be a problem. Many people are part of the church but not doing their part in the church! Being a Christian is not a spectator sport!

This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Every one of you has a purpose within the church…within God’s bigger church. If you are not doing what God is calling you to do…it may not get done. Do you know that you may be the answer to someone’s prayer…..WOW!

Ephesians 4:16…From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Do you spend time talking with the Lord in prayer so you can know where you fit in His plan?

  • Sometimes God is calling you to be part of a church service opportunity or event or life group…or to volunteer to lead a group or event.
  • Sometimes God is calling you to reach out to someone…. especially in this Covid world that we live in. The needs are everywhere.
  • Sometimes He wants you to just sit and listen to someone. To call someone who is isolated and lonely. The ministry of presence.

This story may help you to be ready to “be the church” in every situation that you find yourself.

A teacher had a weeklong vacation Bible school and then she invited the students to join her in the usual closing ceremony. Let’s make our churches, she said. “Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open a door and here’s…. Just then it hit her. She had totally forgotten about a little boy who had joined the class that day who was missing one arm. She had been so worried about one of the children making a comment about the handicap or saying something else to embarrass him. Now the very thing should worry about the children doing, she had just done. As she stood there speechless…. Trying to decide what to do. The most wonderful thing happened! The little girl sitting next to the boy reached over with their left hand placed it up to his right hand and said, “Davey, let’s make the church together.”

We all need one another. It is easy for us to see how the weak need the strong, but we also need to realize that a strong need the seemingly weaker parts to be a complete body.

I want you to read this section of God’s Word each day this week….asking God to let you know what He has gifted and called you to accomplish thru Him and for Him.

1 Corinthians 12:12-27… Unity and Diversity in the Body

 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,  so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Wednesday - November 4, 2020

Want to make a fortune?

One way that seems to work is to come up with the next diet craze. Then you can write a book, get some tv spots, and sit back counting your money from people that are willing to try anything to eat and still lose weight!

Years ago, I saw one eye-catching diet plan. It went like this:

If you are interested in losing weight, I present to you the incredible new “Loser’s Diet”. Just follow this diet and you are sure to lose.

Breakfast

1/2 grapefruit
1 slice whole-wheat toast
8 oz. skim milk

Lunch

4 oz. lean broiled chicken breast
1 cup steamed zucchini
1 Oreo cookie
Herbal tea

Mid-Afternoon Snack

Rest of the package of Oreos
1-quart rocky-road ice cream
1 jar hot fudge

Dinner

2 loaves garlic bread
Large pepperoni and mushroom pizza
Large pitcher of root beer
2 Snickers bars
Entire frozen cheesecake, eaten directly from the freezer

I assume you would say “sounds good but how can it ever work?” Well, there are a few Diet Tips:

  • If no one sees you eat it, it has no calories.
  • If you drink a diet soda with a candy bar, they cancel each other out.
  • When eating with someone else, calories don’t count if you both eat.
  • Food used for medical purposes never counts, such as hot chocolate, toast, and Sara Lee cheesecake.
  • If you fatten up everyone else around you, then you look thinner.
  • Movie-related foods don’t count because they are simply part of the entire entertainment experience and not a part of one’s personal fuel.
  • Cookie pieces contain no calories. The process of breakage causes calorie leakage.

2020 has been like no other year, and yet some things never change. Wayne Rice wrote about this diet 25 years ago. It was a great conversation starter then…and it certainly makes us think about our Christian walk today. Many of us follow the above diet plan in regards to living for the Lord.

I think it’s fair to say that most of us try to live a Christ-centered life. We want to live for the Lord and to cut down on our sins.

I think that many of us start our day well with prayer, maybe a devotion or a Bible reading.

But then life happens! Bills to pay, people to interact with, temptations all around us, and things start to go downhill (we have blown our Christian diet).

So, when we mess up and fall short…now what do we do? Do we confess and start over, and get back on track? Maybe, but more likely, we start to rationalize our behavior. We say things like… “Well, if no one sees my sin, then it’s really no big deal.” Or, “If I sin with my friends then it’s okay because everyone else is doing it.”

That kind of Christianity, of course, is just as ridiculous as the “diet for losers.”

If you have ever been on a diet, odds are that you messed up from time to time. Let’s face it chocolate cream pie can tempt you to break your diet.

Well, the same is true in our spiritual walk. Temptations are all around you. When you mess up and get off track, do you own it or do you try to change the rules or rationalize why it was ok?

Before you sin Satan will say, “Go ahead it’s just a small sin.” After you sin he will say “you did that, God can never forgive that, you might as well keep doing it.”

I suggest that you need to identify your weaknesses, to confess your sin, to ask God to forgive you, and then ask God to help you to get back on track, to make healthy choices so you can accomplish His plans for you.

If you were on a low sugar diet, I don’t think it would be wise to window-shop at a bakery. If you were on an alcohol-free diet, I don’t think it would be wise to watch the OSU game at a sports bar…If you were on a vegan diet, I don’t think it would be wise to eat at a Brazilian Steak restaurant. It only makes sense to avoid temptations when you can.

So, I hope you realize…this devotion is not really about your diet, carbs, or calories. It is about living the best life that God created you to live. To follow His rules, not yours. To have a steady diet of God’s Word…prayer…worship…and a solid small group to have accountability in.

Adam and Eve had one rule to follow. That rule was there to please God, as well as to protect them from evil. God said: Genesis 2:15-17… The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Sounds simple enough, right? I mean God said to enjoy all of paradise but stay away from the tree of evil…it will harm you!

Well…we know that the story did not end well…. Their spiritual diet was broken so to speak. Genesis 3:6… When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

I don’t want to focus on the temptation to sin…but I want us to focus on their response when they sinned. Genesis 3:12-13…  The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Sounds like the silly rules for our “diet for losers” story doesn’t it. Adam blames Eve and God for making Eve…Eve blames Satan.

So, what do I hope you will glean from this devotion today? Sin is crouching at your feet! Satan will tempt you to question God’s rules and to make your own rules!

Once we break the rules, we will be tempted to blame others, rationalize why it was no big deal, compare yourself to others who you consider worse sinners.

  1. My goal for you is to take the time to sit alone with the Lord. Ask Him to guide you to accomplish His plans for you.
  2. Ask Him to help you assess those areas that you tend to bend and break His commandments to accomplish your will.
  3. Fill yourself with a steady diet of God’s Word. Exercise your mind with prayer, worship, devotions. Strengthen your heart with quiet time with the Lord.

Psalm 51:10-12… Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Wednesday - October 28, 2020

I assume that most of you have heard the good news found in the gospel. We sin, God forgives!

I assume that while most of you are thankful… I wonder how many really understand what that means and to cherish your renewed relationship with the Lord.

Does it feel like you just won the Mega-Lotto? And if you won the Lotto, would it change the way you live your life?

Truly believing that you have God’s gift of forgiveness makes the Lotto seem like chump-change. Knowing that you have already been given the priceless prize of the sweet gospel, raises the all-important question “now what?” Does it change your life?

Once there were 2 identical twins named Martin and Morgan. They looked so alike that even their closest friends could not tell them apart by their looks. But looks were the only way they were alike. They certainly didn’t act alike. Martin was the perfect child. He always obeyed his parents, and he was kind to other people. He studied hard in school and he had high moral standards and values.

Morgan on the other hand was a different story. He was constantly being disobedient to his parents. He mistreated other kids. He lied. He took things that didn’t belong to him. He was always in trouble. He was continually breaking his parent’s hearts.  As Martin and Morgan grew older the differences between them also grew. Martin continued to be the model student applying himself and excelling in everything he did.

Morgan however got into deeper and deeper trouble. He began to have run-ins with the law. First, it was for minor offenses like traffic violations and truancy. But the older he got the more serious the trouble became. He was in-and-out of jail as a teenager. Then as a young adult, he committed the ultimate crime. He killed someone and was found guilty of 1st-degree murder. He was sentenced to die in the electric chair. He was placed on death row. Finally, after he exhausted all the appeals… The execution date was set.

The day before he was to die, Martin came to visit him on death row. The guard opened Morgan’s cell and let Martin in and then walked away. Immediately Martin began taking off his clothes and told Morgan to do the same. Martin then put on Morgan’s clothes and had Morgan put on his.

A few minutes later the guard came back to let Martin out of the cell but instead it was Morgan who walked out down the Hall and out the door to freedom. The next day they came to take Morgan to the electric chair. Without realizing he was actually Martin, they walked him down the Hall to the electric chair, strapped him in, and ended his life.

Morgan was free. But he had a decision to make. He could either continue to live his life as he had always lived it (chances are he would be discovered and end up back on death row) or he could take on Martin’s lifestyle and try to imitate his life.

That’s an interesting story but “so what?” How does that impact you and me? You are not a murderer like Morgan was most likely not going to the electric chair.

And yet you have sinned. Romans 3:23… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

And the fact is that the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23…For the wages of sin is deathIt won’t be the electric chair, but you will die, and the cause of death is sin!

Has that reality sunk in? On your own, you are doomed! You are on death row!

That’s where the gospel comes in. Romans 6:23 continues by saying, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You were booked for eternity in a very hot (and not nice) place…and someone (Jesus) has made your reservation and paid the price for you to join him in paradise instead.

God gives you His mercy (does not give you what you deserve) and then He gives you His Grace (He gives you what you do not deserve)!

Based on Martin’s sacrifice in my opening story, Morgan is free! But now what? Does he go back to a life of deliberate crime…or does he change? He took on Martin’s identity to be freed, will he continue to follow Martin’s example and aspire to live as Martin did?

The good news is that Christ willingly took your place on the cross, willingly died in your place, to free you! Like Morgan, you now have a decision to make. Will you live for Him, trying to live a Christ-centered life…or continue to live for yourself? Ephesians 4:22-24…You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Sound good? Of course, it does! So now what?

Well…on your own, you will fall short, live in sin, and follow your sinful nature. But there is Hope!

Ask Jesus to be the Lord of your life. Don’t just nod your head and say ok. STOP RIGHT NOW and say: “Jesus, I am a sinner. On my own, I am helpless and sitting on death row. My thoughts, words, and deeds convict me. Help me to assess, confess, repent, and turn my life over to you. Take me by the hand and lead me to accomplish your will in my life. Help me to avoid sinful temptations…and to resist the ones I can not avoid. Thank you in advance for your promise to forgive me, and to renew me, and to set me free from the wages of my sins.”

Then, seek His will! Pray to Him throughout the day, especially when temptations are knocking at your door! Read and memorize His Word. Assess who you are hanging around with! Join a Christian group. Worship weekly (online or in-person)! Ask the age-old question: “What Would Jesus Do” in this situation?

To you be the glory Lord!

Wednesday - October 21, 2020

Have you found yourself confused about what to believe? What is true and what is fabricated. The news seems to be opinionated instead of factual. Each side telling you what they want you to hear. We tend to look to social media to find folks that will say what we want to hear to support our point of view. We search to hear what will justify our worldview and actions. We begin to create our own truth just like Eve did in the garden. She listened to a voice in her ear that was not from God. The consequences still impact us today.

There is an old illustration that I find helpful:

A Native American and his friend were in downtown New York City, walking near Times Square in Manhattan. It was during the noon lunch hour and the streets were filled with people. Cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners, sirens were wailing, and the sounds of the city were almost deafening.

Suddenly, the Native American said, “I hear a cricket.”

His friend said, “What? You must be crazy. You couldn’t possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!”

“No, I’m sure of it,” the Native American said. “I heard a cricket.”

“That’s crazy,” said the friend.

The Native Americans listened carefully for a moment and then walked across the street to a big cement planter where some shrubs were growing. He looked into the bushes, beneath the branches, and sure enough, he located a small cricket. His friend was utterly amazed. “That’s incredible,” said his friend. “You must have super-human ears!”

“No,” said the Native American. “My ears are no different from yours. It all depends on what you’re listening for.”

“But that can’t be!” said the friend. “I could never hear a cricket in this noise.”

“Yes, that’s true,” came the reply. “It depends on what is really important to you. Here, let me show you.”

He reached into his pocket, pulled out a few coins, and discreetly dropped them on the sidewalk. And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within twenty feet turn and looked to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs.

“See what I mean?” asked the Native American. “It all depends on what’s important to you…. what you are listening for!!!”

So… That story may hit a little too close to home!

What’s important to you? What do you listen for?

Who or what has your ear?

Do you listen to God’s truth and direction in your life?

Or…Do you listen and follow the latest Twitter or Facebook postings to see what others think is important…or do you seek your friends and co-workers’ values and opinions… Sports figures political, social, moral, and even spiritual views?

There is a lot of noise and distractions out there vying for your attention.

Maybe you feel that God does not talk to you? Perhaps you can’t see or hear him because you aren’t listening to him. Too many distractions. Too many other voices that we seek out. Who are you really listening to?

Matthew 13:15-16… Jesus said, “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them…But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear”

This verse comes from the parable of the sower section in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The seed (God’s Word) is sowed and yet life distracts some from receiving it and producing fruit. And yet verse 23 says…. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

What is God saying to you…what is He calling you to accomplish? What changes is He whispering in your ear to make? What life situations is He talking to you about? Whose name is He speaking to you about…wanting you to reach out to and minister to?

(msg)… “The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.”

We have many options on who / what to listen to. God challenges us to focus on His Words and His plans. A simple way to test if it is from God:

Philippians 4:8… Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things

So…now what?

Take time throughout the day to stop and listen to what God is telling you. Ask Him to speak to you. Pick a time and place that limits the other distractions and noise.

Be aware of other voices that you hear, and test them against Philippians 4:8 (above).

Limit you’re seeking out other distracting voices, opinions, and gossip masquerading as truth. (Jesus says: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”)

Jesus knew the importance of doing this regularly….Mark 1:35… Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Wednesday - October 14, 2020

Ever feel God nudging you to do something? Do you try to ignore it or say the infamous phrase “I will do it later?”

Well…God nudged me to write a devotion today…so here it goes!

Tuesdays seem to be my busiest workdays. A few morning meetings at church starting at 8:30, catch up with staff, work on emails and messages, counseling appointments and then Life Hurts God Heals group ending at 8:30 pm. Yesterday was no different.

I had just let in a lady who I was to meet with before my evening group when I received a voicemail. It was from a local hospice asking if I could come over and pray with a lady named Wilma. The lady was Lutheran but had no church. The pastor from a church she attended in the past church was no longer serving (in his 90s now).

My first instinct was to say…I’m too busy doing God’s work to go and do God’s work. It’s funny the way we rationalize doing what we want or justifying not doing something. Well my appointment overheard my conversation and graciously said “go…we can meet at another time.” We touched base for a few minutes, rescheduled, and I went to the hospice center.

I must admit it’s always a privilege to be able to pray with those who are facing major issues in life and especially as death draws near. To assure them of the Love of God and the Joy of the Gospel!

I prayed and got back to church in time for my 7:00 Life Hurts God Heals group.

I later got a text thanking me for visiting with Wilma…who passed a few hours later. Her husband (very frail) called this morning wanting to know if I got there in time, before she passed. He took great comfort in the fact that we prayed in her last hours.

What if I had said “thanks for nudging Lord, me but I’m too busy?” What if I said “ok I’ll see if I can fit her in tomorrow…or next week?”

God’s timing is always critical…His purpose for you is urgent!

So….How about you?????

What is God nudging you to do? What is He whispering in your ear…or perhaps yelling to you? Do you say “yes Lord, I will get to it later”

There is always an urgency to do what God is nudging you to do. Don’t ignore it or put it on the back burner for later.

You don’t have to be a pastor to serve the Lord. As a matter of fact, you can reach people that I will never reach.

Who do you know that needs you to reach out to them? Perhaps someone lonely, neglected, abused, depressed, isolated, hurting, someone who is sick, in fear, pain, grief, despair. Maybe a visit, phone call, a card, a prayer.

Act on God’s nudges to you. You may be the answer to someone else’s prayer.

Now…If you say “nice devotion Dave but God never nudges me”…then I would say for you to do a better job of listening. God has a plan for every one of us…that includes you! Spend more time in His Word and prayer…keep your eyes open to the needs of others that God has placed in your path. His plans for you.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7…Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

You are blessed to be a blessing to others!

Wednesday - September 30, 2020

The children of a well-to-do family decided to give their father a book containing their family’s history for a birthday present. They commissioned a professional biographer to write the book, carefully cautioning him about the family’s “black sheep” – their Uncle George had been executed in the electric chair for murder, and they felt it would be best if the biographer left Uncle George out of the book.

“No need to do that,” said the biographer. “I can report the situation in such a way that there will be no embarrassment to your father or to you. I’ll merely write that Uncle George occupied a chair of applied electronics at an important government institution. He was attached to his position by the strongest ties and his death came as a real shock.”

The Bible teaches us that when you die, there’s nothing else you can do to get ready to meet God. It won’t matter what people write about you or say about you to make you look good. It’s about faith in Jesus.

So in case you don’t know or haven’t thought about it lately:

  • God handmade YOU wanting to spend eternity with you.
  • But there is a problem you are a sinner! We all are! Romans 3:23…  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
  • And yet God still loves you! Romans 5:8… But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Our sin separates us from God (not His Love). Romans 6:23… For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • You are saved…and God then wants you to share the Gospel with others. 1 Peter 3:15…  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

Do you believe this? I mean really believe this? The truth is that you were on your way (and deserve) to spend eternity in hell but Jesus saved you so that you now will spend eternity in heaven!

Do you believe that there is a heaven or hell in your future?

Now we hear phrases about heaven and hell in our daily conversations. Things like “these cookies taste heavenly”, “that guy irritates the hell out me”, “this campground is heaven on earth”, and “it will be a cold day in hell before I vote for him”.

Those phrases can make us minimize an important fact.

Here is my point HEAVEN AND HELL ARE REAL and therefore it follows that real people like you and I are going there! How’s that for a heavy statement?

Matthew 25 talks about it (verse 34)…”Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. (verse 41) “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (verse 46) “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

So why is it so awkward to talk about it to friends and family? Did you know Satan hopes you don’t talk about it?

It is said that a long time ago there was a conference in hell, and  Lucifer was plotting and scheming how he might catch the human race and keep them from God and heaven.

One fiendish lieutenant came to the master of evil and said, “If you will send me to earth… I will tell the people that there is no heaven to be gained.”

Lucifer said to him, “No, no! They’ll never believe it because there is a little bit of heaven in every heart.”

Another fiend came forward, darker and fowler than the first, and he said to Lucifer, “If you would send me to earth, I would convince the people that they can sin with immunity. That God would continue to love and forgive. He would never, ever, ever judge anyone – even if they didn’t repent. I will convince them of that.”

The father of darkness said, “No! These humans must not be underestimated. They have a conscience ……and deep within the heart of every human is this sense of righteousness. They know that evil will be punished……. They know that good will triumph over evil.”

A third lieutenant, from the very darkest pit, emerged into the shadow of Lucifer and said, “Master, if you would send me, I would tell them this:

There is no hurry. YOU CAN TELL OTHERS TOMORROW.

And Lucifer said, “Yes, go tell them that!”

Many people think “let someone else tell them!”. Many people consider themselves too sophisticated to believe in the devil and hell. That’s dangerous because they are real. I doubt that the Hollywood version of a guy in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork is what we will find…but the bible speaks of the devil from Genesis 3 through Revelation!

And hell is the end result of not trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior…and living a life that shows that disrespect for His Word. Revelation 21:8… But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars ….(and have not trusted in Jesus’ for the forgiveness of these sinful actions)– their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.

The worst part of hell is eternally separated from God and good.

Heaven on the other hand is Revelation 21:3-4 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death ‘or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

And the best part of this is that it is prepared for and purchased for you…John 3:16…”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

This is where other religions differ from Christianity.

Hindus believe that they need to reach salvation through their own efforts. (following 1 of 4 paths…love, work, knowledge, psychology)

Muslims need to earn favor with God through laws and works. (5 pillars)

Buddhist reach peace through right thinking and living following the 8 fold path to Nirvana.

The bible is very clear that salvation is a free gift from God to you through faith…Ephesians 2:8-9… For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.

So…if we are saved by faith…where does faith come from? Romans 10:17… Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

So…stop and think about…who shared Jesus with you? How did they do it? Why did they do it? Who is God wanting you to share Him with?

I get a disturbing image in my head from time to time.

It can’t happen since there is no sorrow in heaven…

But…What would it be like to get to heaven…start looking for “old so and so”. You cannot find them, so you ask. You are told..  “They are not here. No one took the time to tell them about Jesus!”

So…since heaven and hell are real…let’s get real!

Who do you know that you are not sure of their relationship with Jesus? Who is God nudging you to reach out to?

Fill in the blanks:

  • Who in your immediate family_________________
  • Who in your extended family__________________
  • Which of your friends________________________
  • Who at work or school________________________
  • Who at businesses you frequent_________________

What is the first step…be ready…Share your Hope…Let the Holy Spirit do the rest!

1 Peter 3:15-17… Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad.

Find Joy and Peace in the fact that you are saved…then share it!

Tuesday - September 29, 2020

So, here we are at the end of this 8-day devotional on dealing with the hurts, habits, and hang-ups that steal our joy, and make life seem unmanageable. Hopefully, you are working through each of these devotionals. I pray that you are identifying your issue, acknowledging who your Lord is, turning your issue and life over to Him, assessing and confessing your faults, making changes, repairing relationships, and getting into a time in God’s Word and of prayer.

Today we will look at The Sharing Choice… Recycling Plan. This is when you yield yourself to God to be used to bring the Good news to others by example and by your words.

A key fact is that God never wastes a hurt! What does that mean? Well, we have seen that in this world we will have trouble, pain, hurt, disappointment, etc. God knows about your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.

He will respond to them in 3 ways:

  • He will help you find healing and to make healthy choices.
  • He will use them to draw you closer to Him.
  • He will use you to help others going through similar issues.

GOD NEVER WASTES A HURT!

I see it all the time. An alcoholic with time in sobriety sponsors a newer alcoholic, a divorced person walks alongside of someone facing divorce, a cancer survivor sits with someone getting chemo for the first time, a person loses a loved one and a grief support group welcomes them in…and the list is endless.

This is God’s recycling plan! 2 Corinthians 1:4 (nlt)… He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

I envision our life as a Christian like a team of mountain climbers. The climb is difficult but together they can succeed… encouraging each other… watching and learning from the climber ahead of them…avoiding the dangerous hidden crevasses… finding solid ground to walk on. They are led by a map produced by someone that has gone ahead of them… who has given direction and warning. When the leader of the mountain climbing team reached the peak, does he stop to rest and enjoy the view? Of course not, he helps the next person who in turn helps the next.

So…We are all on a journey and at times it seems like we are climbing a steep mountain. Jesus is leading the way; He gives us His Word to guide our steps… as well as His church to walk with us. Our job is to watch out for the person following behind us… to encourage, lead, help them find solid ground. You can help them navigate the rough terrain… point out where you slipped and fell… point them to the map, and the writer of that map (God).

Many times, this begins by “sharing your story” with someone who God has placed in your path. Here are some suggestions for sharing your story with someone:

  • Be humble! Remember this is a testimony, not a brag-amony. Your job is to tell the story of what your hurt, habit, or hang-up was (is) and how God has led you to a healthier place. It’s one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. And then share who that bread is! John 6:35…Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Jesus is the bread that gives life…Hope…Joy…direction…strength to face the battles we all face. Your story can give hope and guidance to someone a few steps behind where you are in your journey.
  • Be real! Be honest about your hurts and faults. Let them know that you are transparent, vulnerable, and real with them. James 5:16…Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. God wants to recycle your progress for someone behind you in the journey. You might be a lighthouse to someone else’s storm…. leading them to the ultimate Lighthouse (Jesus).
  • Don’t lecture! You will never argue or force someone into healing, healthy choices, or into heaven. God wants you to be a witness, not a defense attorney! You have heard it said that you may be the only Bible someone reads…this is true especially if they are going through a tough time where they may feel God is distant, or that He is the cause of their issues. Use “I” sentences. Tell how God helped you move forward and found healing.

You may say… “Let someone else do it” or “that’s the pastor’s job.” Truth is that you can reach people that the pastor can’t. God has placed them in your circle of influence “for a moment like this”

This is your calling! Acts 20:24… But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

So…now that we have finished the last 8 devotions dealing with hurts, habits, and hang-ups…now what? Hopefully, you are working through the healthy choices…connecting with the Lord daily…and making progress. Remember it’s a lifelong journey and that I and the church are here for you. Remember God is with you! 2 Corinthians 5:17… This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! God’s hand made you…and saved you…wants you to be the best version of you that you can. He will lead you to make those healthy choices. He never made you go through this world alone! Together you are stronger than alone. There is someone that needs to hear your story…you may be the answer to their prayer!

  • If you have received comfort, hope, direction from someone when you went in a tough spot…call them and thank them!
  • Do you know someone going through a tough experience that you have already gone through? Look for an opportunity to share your story with them.

One last note:

Some of you may have read these last devotions and said, “That’s nice but I don’t have any hurts, habits, or hang-ups.” Here is a partial list that the Life Hurts God Heals group put together: issues with pride, stress, gossip, poverty, self-esteem, fear, anger, jealousy, selfish, anxiety, depression, bitterness, worry, guilt, addiction to pornography, food, smoking, alcohol, drugs, sex, money, gambling, tv, shopping, work, the hurt of any loss, grief, disease, all forms of abuse, rejection, criticism, gossip, lies, and betrayal. If any of these sounds close to home…go back and reread these 8 devotions. Call me for help and support. 440-237-7958 ext.118.

Pastor Dave

Monday - September 28, 2020

I hope that you had an awesome weekend!

I pray:

  • That you took time to worship with us online at royred.org (the worship services are still there…as well as many other ways to connect with God and with us as a church, as well as devotionals, small group info, children’s ministry)
  • That you spent time praying and reading God’s Word… applying it to your life and situation.
  • That you processed through what your biggest hurt, habit, hang-up is.
  • That you will let God lead you through this day… to accomplish His plans for you… and to know that He loves you.

The last 6 devotions that I have written are part of a series designed to help you deal with the past…trust the Lord with your future…and guide you through each minute of today. So far in this series of devotions, we have looked at:

  • The Reality Choice… Admitting that you are not God…and life can be unmanageable…. identifying the main issue that impacts your life.
  • The Hope Choice… Believing that God exists, you matter to Him, He can help you deal with your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
  • The Letting Go Choice… the Commitment Choice. Committing your life to Christ’s Love, care, and control.
  • The Coming Clean, House Cleaning Choice… Taking time to examine your past and to confess your faults…first to yourself…and then to God. Many find it very helpful to confess them to a trusted person…to own them and release them.
  • The Transformation Choice…making changes. This is when you begin to be who God created you to be! This is when you voluntarily submit to every change that God wants you to make and to humbly ask Him to remove any character defects.
  • The relationship Choice…repairing relationships. This is when we evaluate all of our relationships…offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us…and make amends for the harm we have done to others.

I keep repeating these steps because they are great tools for you to use throughout your lifetime. They can be used today, tomorrow, each day of your life until God calls you home to a place where we will not need them. God tells us that “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Life happens…and it can be painful. These tools will work for each hurt, habit, hang-up you will encounter.

Today we will look at The Growth Choice…maintaining momentum. One of the greatest Joy’s we have is that God wants to communicate with us! In this choice you will commit to reserving a daily quiet time with God…for self-examination…Bible reading…and prayer. You do this to know God and His will for your life…and for the power to follow His will!

A middle-aged woman went to New York and up to the 23rd floor of an apartment building. She knocked on the door and a beautiful young woman opened the door. Incense came wafting out, music was playing, she was wearing a sarong, and she was clapping little bells. The young woman asked “are you here to see the great Bagone? The one who knows all, sees all, tells all, understands everything, and is in ultimate control”? The middle-aged woman said, “Yes, tell Sheldon his mother is here!”

Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are just “Sheldon” or whatever your name is. We need to be reminded we don’t know it all, we are not God, and that on our own we will fail, fall, make poor choices, sin, and “be human”. I hope that you have been working on the previous choices and making some progress with healthy Christ-centered living. Be careful not to slip back to old habits. We all need a regular time to recharge our batteries and update our navigation system. Let’s take a closer look at this growth Choice:

  • Commit to reserving a daily quiet time with God. Figure out a time that works for you. Make it the same time each day. Find a place with no distractions. Remember to use the ACTS of prayer: A= adoration…C= confession…T=thanksgiving…S= supplication (requests). Find a quiet place, talk to the Lord, sit and listen to Him whisper in your ear. This works best for me first thing in the morning, asking for direction for my day. Jesus did this often. Mark 1:35…Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Luke 5:16…but Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. If He needed to do that…we should as well!
  • For self examination…This works best for me right before bed. I assess how the day went, both where I made poor choices, and who I was able to impact for the Lord. I can reflect on how I am doing with my physical health, my spiritual health, my emotional health, and my spiritual health.
  • Bible reading…God knew that life in our sinful world would be complicated and confusing. That we would face many hurts, habits, and hang-ups. That we would face temptations and options. He loved us so much that He wrote you a love letter…A book that tells us who He is and who He created you to be. His promises to you and how we are to live as His children. Some think of it as Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth.
  • Do this to know God and His will for your life. God loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for your sins. That’s His part…our part is to follow His lead with our thoughts, words, deeds…so we can accomplish His plans. Jeremiah 29:11(ESV)… For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Have you figured out what His plans are for you yet? Plans using your passions, abilities, interests, and resources. Ask the one who Lovingly made you what His purposes are for you.
  • And for the power to follow His will! I hope that you have realized that you cannot be all you were created to be on your own power. The good news is that you do not have to… Ephesians (ESV) 3:20…Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. Ask God to lead you and equip you.

Hopefully, you can see that this step or choice is an everyday maintenance choice. Just as you refresh and update your computer… you need to refresh and update your walk with the Lord. Tomorrow we will finish this devotional series as we see who you can reach out to.

Jesus’ disciples were confused on how to pray…He taught then the Lord’s prayer. The healthy choices that we have been looking at are found within this prayer:

  • Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name (The Reality Choice) realize I am not God. (The Hope Choice) Believe God exists. That I can call him Father…Abba!
  • thy kingdom come; (The Sharing Choice) Yield yourself to be used by God. (We will cover this tomorrow.)
  • Thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. (The Transformation Choice) Submit to the changes God wants you to make.
  • Give us this day our daily bread. (The Letting Go Choice) Submit to God’s care…He is the provider of all that is good.
  • And forgive us our trespasses, (The Coming Clean Choice) Examine and confess your faults. He is dying to remove your sins.
  • as we forgive those who trespass against us. (The Relationship Choice) evaluate all of your relationships and repair broken ones.
  • And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. (The Growth Choice) Reserve a daily time with God. In the name of Jesus, may you flee from all that is evil. Avoid and resist temptation.
  • For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Note: The choices that we are talking about are in part found in a book called “Life’s Healing Choices” by John Baker. Know that it is only by God’s choice that we are saved. He has chosen us. We had nothing to do with it. We do not deserve it. And yet, Because we are saved by Grace through faith…we respond by making healthy…Christ-centered…God pleasing choices.

Join us Tuesday nights at 7:00 to focus on living God pleasing, Joy filled, healthy lives.

Friday - September 25, 2020

I hope that I have not lost any of you with this series of devotions. I know it is pretty deep…but it will bring back the joy of the Lord to your life! Today is the last of the 3 devotions (in this series) that tend to be harder, more time consuming, and emotional! That can be a good thing because it can help you deal with past issues and present consequences. Hang in there, honestly working thru the material, and spend quiet time with the Lord.

So far we have looked at:

  • The Reality Choice… Admitting that you are not God…and life can be unmanageable…. identifying the main issue that impacts your life.
  • The Hope Choice… Believing that God exists, you matter to Him, He can help you deal with your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
  • The Letting Go Choice… the Commitment Choice. Committing your life to Christ’s Love, care, and control.
  • The Coming Clean, House Cleaning Choice. Taking time to examine your past and to confess your faults…first to yourself…and then to God. Many find it very helpful to confess them to a trusted person…to own them and release them.
  • The Transformation Choice…making changes. This is when you begin to be who God created you to be! This is when you voluntarily submit to every change that God wants you to make and to humbly ask Him to remove any character defects.

There’s a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father. On Saturday 800 “Pacos” showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.

Forgiveness is one of the most common pieces of our hurts, habits, hang-ups. It is at the core of many of our issues.

Today we look at… The relationship Choice…repairing relationships. This is when we evaluate all of our relationships…offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us…and make amends for the harm we have done to others.

Wow…I can almost hear some of you closing this devotion and saying “no thank you!” “I’m not going there” “I will never ask so and so to forgive me, it was their fault anyway” or “I will never forgive them even if they come begging me.”

Let me share 2 verses from the beatitudes with you. Matthew 5:5…Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth(those who say they are sorry) and Matthew 5:7… Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (those who forgive others)

My story above about Paco and his father can help us to understand the need to make this next healthy choice.

First of all: many of us are like Paco. We carry around a load of guilt, wanting forgiveness, but not knowing where to find it. The good news is that just as Paco’s father ran an ad in the newspaper…God the Father ran an ad in His Word saying that Jesus died for you. He invites you into His mercy and grace. You are invited to receive His unconditional forgiveness.

Second…we are called to heal relationships with others as well. (forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us). A peace-filled life is centered on asking and giving forgiveness. Now you may ask “Why should we forgive others?”

  • Because God has forgiven you! Colossians 3:13 (TLB)…  Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. People who feel forgiven find it easier to forgive others…remind yourself that God forgave you!!! He did make you beg, earn, wait for forgiveness.
  • Because resentment doesn’t work! Job 18:4 (GNT)… You are only hurting yourself with your anger. Will the earth be deserted because you are angry? Resentment is unreasonable (you are only hurting yourself)…unhelpful (it won’t change the past, the problem, or the other person)…and unhealthy (resentment is a cancer that will eat you alive).
  • Because you will need forgiveness in the future! Mark 11:25 (NLT)… But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. Try as you may…you have a sinful nature…you will sin and need forgiveness (many times)

Note…Remember that forgiving someone does not mean that the hurt did not happen, or that the pain is not real, or that it was ok, or they can do it again…..It means that you will no longer carry the pain, releasing it to the Lord to deal with.

How should I ask for forgiveness from others that I have hurt?

  • Pray first…ask God to give you wisdom.
  • Ask yourself how you would want to be approached if the situation were reversed.
  • Do it at the right time! Ecclesiastes 8:6 (ESV)… For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him.
  • Do it with the right attitude! Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)… Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
  • Do it in an appropriate way! Proverbs 12:18 (ESV)… There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
  • Be careful what you say…when you say it… and how you say it…and your motivation behind it.

Remember that your job is to offer forgiveness or ask for forgiveness…you are not responsible for how they respond to you! Reconciliation is the goal, but you are responsible for your half!

Questions to ponder this weekend about forgiveness:

  • Why is it so hard for you to forgive people that hurt you?
  • How many times should you forgive someone? (Hint)…Matthew 18:21-22 says Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
  • Who is someone you should forgive?
  • Who have you hurt, and you need to seek their forgiveness? What is your first step?

I strongly encourage you to worship with us this weekend at 8:30 and 10:00 on site or live streamed at royred.org. I encourage you to check out the other tools to spiritual growth found there. Also, take time this weekend to work through these last 6 healthy choices. The good news is that the next 2 choices that I will cover on Monday and Tuesday are not so deep. They will be tools to maintain a healthy Christian life.

Thursday - September 24, 2020

I pray that you are working your way through these last few devotions. I know it can be tough. I know that many of you are wrestling with hurts, habits and hang-ups. I know that it can be emotionally draining. I also know that there can be a lot of collateral damage that goes along with these issues.

Yesterday’s and these next 2 devotions can be hard, time consuming, and emotional! That’s a good thing because it can help you deal with past issues and present consequences. Hang in there, honestly work thru the material, and spend quiet time with the Lord.

I encourage you to be real and honest. Ask God to guide you through this journey to a healthy, Christ-centered, Joy filled life! If you have missed any of the last 4 devotions, go back and read (or reread) them below.

So far we have looked at:

  • The Reality Choice… Admitting that you are not God…and life can be unmanageable…. identifying the main issue that impacts your life.
  • The Hope Choice… Believing that God exists, you matter to Him, He can help you deal with your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
  • The Letting Go Choice… the Commitment Choice. Committing your life to Christ’s love, care and control.
  • The Coming Clean, House cleaning Choice. Taking time to examine your past and to confess your faults…first to yourself…and then to God. Many find it very helpful to confess them to a trusted person…to own them and release them.
  • Now today we will look at The Transformation Choice…making changes. This is when you begin to be who God created you to be! This is when you voluntarily submit to every change that God wants you to make and to humbly ask Him to remove any character defects. Sounds simple, right? Of course not! But it will be life-changing!

Imagine that you are dealing with a habit of alcohol…you admit it’s a problem…you trust in a program that can help…you commit your life and addiction to God… now what? Well, you must make some changes. You can not stop at the bar and think, I will just watch others drink and God will protect me. Changes need to happen! Changes to what you fill your mind with, places you go, people you hang out with, and other triggers.

Note…We are all sinners! Jesus died for our sins! We confess and thru faith are forgiven! That’s the beginning and the foundation! But now what? Now we make healthier choices and become more Christ-like…one step at a time!

I am a basketball fan; I love to watch the game. A major truth is that players play and coaches coach. What is the coach’s job? To observe and to make changes for a better outcome. God wants to “coach” you to a better outcome as well!

I read an illustration that works well for today. It’s about being in a boat and the autopilot is set for east, but you want to go west. You push and pull with all your might and finally manage to force the boat west for a while. As long as you hold on with your own strength the boat keeps going west…but soon you tire of fighting against the boat’s pre-programmed direction, and you let go…and the boat goes east as programmed. Every time you try to force the boat west, you are going against its pre-programmed direction. It’s a losing battle.

That’s how it is when we try to go against our own internal autopilot (sinful nature). By our own willpower we try to force a new behavior, but we get tired and let go. On our own we will go…off the diet, get involved in another unhealthy relationship, start smoking again, burst into anger, etc…and inevitably we revert back to unhealthy choices! We can not do it alone! But the good news is that we do not have to do it alone!

Romans 12:1-2…Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This change will not be easy, and it will not be overnight, but it is so important!

It gets summarized in today’s beatitude found in Matthew 5:6 (GNT)… Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!

When I pray for myself each day, I ask God to help me “be the best Dave Timm I can be.” I then envision me playing follow the leader right behind the Lord. I ask Him to lead my thoughts, words, and actions…to keep me close behind Him…to keep me from wandering to the right or the left…and to stay at the pace He has set for me.

So…now what? We know we need to change, but how? Well, first we need to acknowledge that on our own we can’t! The only way to change the direction of our lives is to reset the autopilot. That’s what this Transformation Choice is all about.  Our verse above in Romans says be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Our sinful nature, the world around us, and Satan are all trying to taint our minds! By God’s power your mind can be changed, and your autopilot reset. Sounds good but how do I begin?

So now what?

  • Go back and look over the last 4 healthy choices to be focused on your main issue and then on the Lord’s strength.
  • Focus on one hurt, habit, hang-up! Proverbs 17:24 (TEV)…An intelligent person aims at a wise action, but a fool starts off in many directions. Just as you cannot clean your room, cut grass, and grocery shop at the same time…you cannot tackle all your life issues at once. Ask God to help you figure out what to tackle first. You may see that many of them are intertwined anyway.
  • Focus on God’s power and not your willpower! Philippians 4:13 (NLT)… for I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength. On your own you will most likely fail (how long do your New Year’s resolutions hold up?) God has great plans for you, and He wants to enable you to make changes…and let Him transform you from the inside out.
  • Focus on the good things, not the bad! Philippians 4:8 (NIV)… Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. What you focus on dominates you…where is your attention focused and where is it leading you? Stay focused on all that is good…stay focused on your blessings…and on the giver of those blessings…your Loving Savior.
  • Focus on progress, not perfection! Philippians 1:6 (TLB)… And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns. Turn this process over to God and be open to every change he wants you to make….one day at a time.

The fact is that we all sin…and have habits and hang-ups. We live in a sinful world and consequently, we all have hurts. The good news is that God loves you unconditionally. In the midst of your biggest battles, He is there. He knows that left on our own power we will fall short. He wants to transform you!

Just like within a chrysalis the old body parts of a caterpillar are undergoing a remarkable transformation called metamorphosis, to become the beautiful parts of a butterfly…. God wants to transform you into the masterpiece that He created you to be!

I told you that this journey to healthy living was going to be challenging! The best advice I can give is to be honest with yourself…and honest with God! The truth is that I am just scratching the surface on these steps or choices. They are all points on a map for a trip you want to take. You need to go through each point to get to the destination. Keep reading the map that I am laying out…but go back and work through each of the stops along the way.

Interested? Join us on Tuesday nights at 7:00 at Royal Redeemer.

Wednesday - September 23, 2020

I hope that you have been following along and spending time working through these steps to healthy choices, and that you will continue with me on this journey. So far, we have looked at:

  • The Reality Choice… Admitting that you are not God…and life can be unmanageable…. identifying the main issue that impacts your life.
  • The Hope Choice… Believing that God exists, you matter to Him, He can help you deal with your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
  • The Letting Go Choice… the Commitment Choice. Committing your life to Christ’s Love, care, and control.

Some of the materials are taken from a great book called Life’s Healing Choices. I encourage you to order a copy. I will be quoting sections for the next few devotions.

Also, I invite you to our Tuesday  “Life Hurts God Heals” group at Royal Redeemer (7:00).

Know that dealing with your hurts, habits, hang-ups is a process. I am giving you daily tools, but it takes weeks or months to truly work through each of these steps. Some may seem easy…others can be more difficult.

(WARNING…the next 3 devotions can be hard, time-consuming, and emotional! That’s a good thing because it can help you deal with past issues and present consequences. Hang in there, honestly working thru the material, and spend quiet time with the Lord.)

Today we will look at a more difficult, but very important choice. John Baker calls this the Coming Clean, Housecleaning Choice. This is when we need to wrestle with our past. We saw in the Letting Go Choice that we have a God of Grace and Mercy… A God that is forgiving when we confess and repent. This Housecleaning Choice is when we get real, examine, and confess our past mistakes to ourselves and to God.

A State trooper pulled behind a speeding truck and turned on his flashers, but the truck kept going.  The trooper got right up on his bumper, but the truck kept going. The trooper then turned on his siren, but the truck sped up! Finally, the truck ran out of gas and rolled to the side of the highway. The truck driver rolled down his window, and the trooper asked, “Did you see my lights?” “Yes sir, I did” responded the driver. “Did you see me following right on your bumper?” “Yes sir, I did.” said the driver. “Did you hear my siren all those miles?” again the driver said, “Yes sir, I did.” Finally, the trooper asked, “Then why didn’t you stop?” The driver answered “To be honest, about 2 years ago my wife ran off with an Ohio State Trooper. I was afraid you were trying to bring her back to me!”

Does that story hit home for you? Are you afraid of your past catching up with you? Do you try to sweep it under the rug…act like it’s no big deal…hope it will just go away?

A beatitude that is helpful is Matthew 5:8…Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. God’s desire for you is a heart that is Christ-centered and free of all the junk that weighs us down…washed clean of all our hurts, habits, hang-ups that plague our lives. One of my favorite sections is Psalm 51:10-12… Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

So, let’s be honest! We have all done things that we wish we could go back and change…but we can’t. And guilt can be overpowering to us. Guilt keeps you from becoming all that God wants you to be. Guilt destroys your confidence; it damages relationships and keeps you stuck in the past. If you want real Joy…you need to let go of guilt. (Just a note…Guilt is the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime. Shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.) This is key…guilt is about what you did…shame is about who you are. We are all guilty of sin, and yet through faith, we are forgiven children of God! And there is no shame in that!

Most of our struggles come from guilt or regret over past issues that you can not change…or from worry and anxiety about tomorrow’s issues that may never happen. Why not live in today’s choices?

How can you get rid of past guilt?

  • Take a personal inventory! Do some personal house cleaning so to speak. Many of you have used this “stay in place” time to do a deep cleaning of your house…finding things that were buried in corners and closets. I encourage you to do the same and look deep into your life. (past and present). Look in all of the so-called closets, basements, attics where you have hidden away stuff…issues that you have hidden hoping to never deal with, repressed, and rationalized away. Many of you hire a “cleaning person” for your house. Ask God to help you “clean your life and heart.” Psalm 139:23-24… Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Dealing with many of your hurts, habits, and hang-ups can get deep and complex, call me if you need help.
  • Accept responsibility for your faults! Be honest, don’t rationalize (that’s just “rational lies”), don’t blame others (to blame is to “be lame”)…just own them. Proverbs 20:27 (TLB)… A man’s conscience is the Lord’s searchlight exposing his hidden motives. (A very important note…If your hurt is that you have been abused by someone…know that it was not your fault and do not take responsibility for someone else’s sins). Talk to someone (like me?) about releasing yourself from the pain.
  • Ask God’s Forgiveness! No sin is so severe that God can’t (and won’t) forgive. 1 John 1:8-9… If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. God in His Mercy, for the sake of Jesus’ death for you, wants to forgive you!!!! How does God forgive?
  • God forgives instantly! Hebrews 4:16 (ncv)… Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it. He already has paid the price and offers you the forgiveness He already procured for you. He never makes you wait or puts conditions on forgiveness.
  • God forgives freely! Romans 3:24 (ncv)… and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ. Nothing you can do to earn, deserve, or pay for forgiveness.
  • God forgives completely! Romans 8:1 (niv)…Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, He has no conditions attached. Nothing you can do to make God not love you…nothing you can do to make Him love you more. HE LOVES YOU UNCONDITIONALLY!

How’s that for freedom from your past and Hope for today!

And when the guilt of past (confessed and forgiven) sins come back…it’s not from God! He promises to remove them as far as the east is from the west! “Any time the devil reminds you of your past…remind him of his future”.

This choice can be very difficult and take a lot of quiet reflective moments. Ask God to guide you through it…. And always know that I am also here to help.

Tuesday - September 22, 2020

You may have heard me tell this story, but it fits so well with today’s devotion!

A pet store delivery truck driver was traveling down the road. Every time he came to a stoplight, he got out of the truck and grabbed a 2×4. He would then run to the back of the truck and start beating on the back doors. This went on for miles, and no one could figure out what he was doing. Finally, a guy pulled alongside him and asked, “what are you doing?” The driver said, “this is a 2-ton truck and I’m carrying 4 tons of canaries. I have to keep 2 tons up in the air, at all times!”

Does that describe your life right now? Is it crazy, out of control, filled with issues and worries, feeling exhausted? Juggling 20 things at one time.

Maybe the coronavirus has turned your life upside down. Maybe dealing with health issues or even the death of a loved one. Maybe finances, loss of work, loss of investments, financial uncertainty. Maybe relationship issues caused by social distancing, or depression caused by isolation.

Maybe something that happened years ago that still impacts you daily. Maybe a hurt like abuse, betrayal, a crime, indiscretion. Maybe a hang-up like an issue with pride, anger, manipulation, depression, anxiety. Maybe a habit like being controlled by alcohol, pornography, shopping, eating.

So, we are at the third choice in our devotions based on a book called Life’s Healing Choices. Many of the ideas and quotes used in these devotions can be found there.

Choice 1 was the REALITY CHOICE. Admitting that you are not God…and life can be unmanageable…. identifying that you are a sinner….and claiming the main issue that impacts your life.

Choice 2 was the HOPE CHOICE. Believing that God exists, you matter to Him, He can help you deal with your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.

So, let me ask you a question…what if you broke your leg? And what if your neighbor was the best orthopedic surgeon? That would be great, right?? Not so fast, knowing you have an issue, and knowing the one who can help is of no value unless you entrust that person with the issue. In other words,…you need to ask the doctor to fix your broken leg.

Well, I hope your leg is not broken, but you have hurts, habits, and hang-ups in your life…and the doctor (Jesus) can help heal that issue. That brings us to choice 3…LETTING GO CHOICE…the Commitment Choice.
Committing your life to Christ’s care and control. Taking your broken leg (I mean your broken life) to the doctor (I mean Jesus) and ask Him to fix it!

Makes sense…right? And yet there can be barriers to you taking this step:

  • PRIDE…thinking you can handle it on your own. The truth is that if you could, you would have already dealt with it! Proverbs 10:8 (TLB)… The wise man is glad to be instructed, but a self-sufficient fool falls flat on his face.
  • GUILT…Ashamed to ask God for help….afraid to admit weakness. Truth is, He already knows about it…and forgives! Psalm 32:5 (NLT)…Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
  • FEAR…Afraid to give up control and surrender your life to the Lord. Afraid of what you might have to give up or change? Truth is God wants to clean it up…turn it around…give new meaning, hope, joy. He wants to set you free from the pain and sadness. Isaiah 44:22…I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.”
  • DOUBT…Not sure if God cares…or if He can help. Remember that it is not the size of the faith, it’s WHO or what you put your faith in that matters the most! (Go back to yesterday’s devotion to review who God is!) Matthew 17:20…Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

So… Are you ready to turn your life and your hurts, habits, hang-ups over to your all Loving Lord? Are you ready to take the broken leg (your hurt, habit, hang-up, and sin…and your future) and ask the doctor (Jesus) to bring healing?

Reflect on and proclaim these action steps:

  • I will believe, trust, and turn my life over to Jesus as my Lord and Savior! Acts 16:31… “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
  • I will read and follow His Word daily (Bible) and use it as my standard! 2 Timothy 3:16…All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness,
  • I will accept and move forward in God’s will and purpose for my life! Jeremiah 29:11…For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
  • I will move forward dealing with my issues by God’s Power and Strength!  Philippians 4:13…I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

Lord, I lift up each person reading these devotions to you. May they know you as Lord and Savior. May they trust that you Love them and that you want to heal them and help them to live a healthy life. Help them to identify the area of their life that is the most unmanageable and out of control. Let them seek your guidance, direction, and choices for them to make. Give them your strength to move forward. Lord, help us to confess that the root of all evil is sin. May each of us confess and repent of our sinfulness and especially our personal signature sins. We thank you for lovingly sending your Son to die in our place… giving us forgiveness and new life. Lord be with us as we navigate this everchanging coronavirus world. Protect us physically, especially those out on the front lines. Give the leaders wisdom, integrity, and compassion as we begin to open things up. Help those who are facing financial storms caused by the closing of businesses. May your church prevail and reach the lost. Amen.

Go back a re-read the verses in this and the last 2 devotions.

Monday - September 21, 2020

John Baker tells a story about some flooding in southern California. The flooding was so bad that they sent out a reporter in a rowboat. The reporter found a lady sitting on her roof watching things float by. The reporter interviewed her as they watched a Weber grill float by, a large golden retriever float by on top of its doghouse, and many other objects. A few minutes later the reporter saw a hat float by…but a little later the hat was now floating back in the other direction…then back and forth about 5 more times. The reporter asked the lady if she knew how it kept floating back and forth. She said, “Oh, that’s my crazy husband. He said he was going to cut the grass come hell or high water”.

Some of you reading that can relate to him. We focus on the lawn while the house is floating away!

On Friday, we looked at the REALITY CHOICE. I challenged you to determine what your hurt, habit, or hang-up is…. And to understand that you are not God…and on your own, you will never be able to fix your hurts, habits, hang-ups. If you did not read that (and other) devotions, you can find them below.

So, how do you make big choices and decisions? Where do you look for the truth? What standard do you use to determine right and wrong…good and bad…wise and foolish? Where do you turn when life gets complicated?

As I listen carefully, I have been noticing that most sentences people speak these days begin with… “I heard someone say ______” or “I read on the internet that __________” or “I can’t remember where I heard it, but ________.”

The truth is that we tend to believe and repeat the things that support our personal views and justify what we “feel” is the best choice.

We tend to “play God” by seeking our direction by following our feelings, or our so-called wisdom, or friends and popular opinion. Let’s be honest “how has that been working for you?

The second healthy choice for you to make is the HOPE CHOICE.

This is when you believe that God exists, that you matter to Him, and that He has the power to help you deal with your hurts, habits, hang-ups.

Do you believe that God exists?

Many people question if there is a God. I was an atheist when younger, so call me if you are wrestling with this question because I have been there as well. The truth is that GOD EXISTS! Hebrews 11:6 (msg)… It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

If you believe that God exists, then, what kind of God is He?

We know that He is:

  • ETERNAL! Always was and will always be Lord. (1 Timothy 1:17)…Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
  • ALMIGHTY! He created and sustains everything good. (Matthew 19:26)… Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
  • ALL PRESENT! He is with you always. (Jeremiah 23:24) … Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? “declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.
  • HOLY! Perfect and good. (Isaiah 6:3) … And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
  • JUST! Does what He says. (Deuteronomy 32:4) … He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.
  • FAITHFUL! Nothing can separate you from His Love. (2 Timothy 2:13)… if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown himself.
  • MERCIFUL! Despite our sinfulness, He forgives us. (Titus 3:5) … He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
  • LOVING! He not only does loving things…He is the definition of Love. (1 John 4:8)… Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Which of these characteristics jumps out at you the most?

In light of your hurt, habit, or hang-up…what is the truth about God?

HE KNOWS ABOUT YOUR SITUATION! Psalm 56:8 (msg)… You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book. You can talk to Him honestly about the storms in your life…. He already knows about them.

HE CARES ABOUT YOUR SITUATION! 1 Peter 5:7…Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. The bible says Jesus wept…He has compassion and wants to walk alongside you…comfort you…guide you.

HE CAN CHANGE (and help) YOU AND YOUR SITUATION! 2 Corinthians 5:17…Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! And in Luke 18:27…Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” And reflect on this verse, Luke 1:19-20…and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,

He wants to transform you…change you to be all that He created you to be.

So spend time today talking with God! Let Him know what is going on in your life. Sit quietly and listen to His gentle voice. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you.

Open the Bible and read about His love for you. Go back over the verses in this devotion to understand that the creator of the universe Loves you!

Tomorrow we will figure out what to do with the fact that you have hurts, habits, hang-ups…combined with the fact that there is an all-loving God who cares for you! We will look at the letting go choice.

Friday - September 18, 2020

Today is the second day of a devotional journey we are taking, to help us to begin living a healthier life and to deal with our hurts, habits, and hang-ups. We will invite the Lord to take us by the hand and help us to make healthy choices and to become all that He has hand crafted us to be! To find our strength, Peace, direction, and Hope in Him alone!

Yesterday, I asked you two personal questions:

  • If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be? How has it impacted you over the years? How has it impacted others? Why is it still an issue?
  • If you could change one thing about your present life, what would it be? How does it impact you? Does your life seem unmanageable? What would you want/need to change, if only you could?

Don’t be too quick to dismiss this question…the answer can change your life forever. I would contend that we all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups in our lives, perhaps:

  • Someone has HURT you. They did something to you, said hurtful things, let you down, excluded you, abused you.
  • You have a HABIT that you can’t stop, and it controls your life. Maybe addiction to gossip, pornography, eating, shopping, alcohol. It has had awful consequences on you, your family, friends, finances.
  • You have a HANG-UP. You can not control things like your anger, pride, grief.

Today I want you to focus on that biggest issue, the one that makes your life the most unmanageable. Focus on that hurt, habit, hang-up. Now, wrestle with this question, “Is that really the issue or is it just a symptom of the real issue?” For instance, let’s say your answer is, My relationship with my spouse is the biggest issue in my life! I would ask “why” do you say that? You might answer:

  • My spouse is always fighting with me….I would ask why?
  • She says I’m lazy and can’t hold a job……why?
  • My bosses don’t respect me….why?
  • They say I am always late for work?….why?
  • Well, I get drunk at night and have a hang-over….why?
  • I have low self-esteem……why?
  • And eventually, those why questions will lead to your biggest hurt, habit. or hang-up!

You can not deal with an issue until you identify it, name it, and own it. Some of the materials that I will be using in this series of devotions come from a book by John Baker called “Life’s Healing Choices.” We used this as a basis for a sermon series years ago. He uses 8 healthy steps or choices (based on the Beatitudes) to a healthier life. This first (and foundational) step is called “the reality choice”…it’s when we admit we are not God and we have an area of our life that is out of control.

Have you ever wrestled with this verse?  Romans 7:15-20 (msg)… What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.  But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

If that sounds like you….Welcome to the human race!

For some of you, you have struggled for years for others, this coronavirus world we are living in has created newer hurts, habits, hang-ups in your life. Either way, God wants you to deal with them…and His Word will lead you through the process. That’s good news because on our own we will fail.

We try to ignore the problem, deny that it’s an issue, rationalize why it’s ok. I talked with a couple whose marriage was broken due to alcohol and abuse. The wife finally called to say that she and the kids moved out. The husband came home to a note that they left… he called me to complain that she left. He said she had a lot of nerve leaving him. I asked him why she left. He said, “I don’t know.” I said try to guess. He said, “she would say I drink too much and get mean.” I asked if it were true and he said “I don’t think so, I could quit anytime and I don’t think I have a problem.” So, I asked him why she thought he did, and he said well “I drink more than anyone else.” I said how much do you drink, he said: “about 5-6 beers a night and that she and the kids don’t understand that it’s not a problem.” That is what denial is all about. He can never fix the problem if he denies it exists.

Many times, we try to play God by controlling our image, controlling other people, and controlling our pain. We will not change until the pain is greater than the fear of change. We try to control our pain. Unfortunately, we are not God! Chevy Chase would come on Saturday Night Live and say “Hi, I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not”…Can you hear God saying to you “Hi, I’m God and you’re not.” This is foundational!!! It’s the start of healing. Matthew 5:3… “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

A tv repairman was asked about the worst kind of damage he had ever seen to a television set he said “The kind that results from people trying to fix their tv on their own!” The first step for each of us is to realize that you are not God and are powerless to fix your hurt, habit, hang-up on your own. The good news is that you don’t have to do it on your own! God’s Word, His church, and pastors like me are there to help you make healthy choices and renew your Joy!

You may be saying…” I don’t like this devotion! It sounds like work, it gets too close to home!”

 Good! These next days can change your life forever! What needs to change in your life? What hurt, habit, hang-up have you been trying but failing to ignore? Stop right now and admit to God that you are powerless to manage this (and all) area of your life. Then commit to working with me as we go through these next devotions.

I thought I would throw in a bonus today. I saw this years ago (by many authors) and thought it was some great advice to live by, they are called the 7 ups:

  • WAKE UP…Begin each day with the Lord. It’s His day, rejoice in it!
  • DRESS UP…Put on a smile! It improves your looks and says something about your spiritual health!
  • SHUT UP…Watch what you say. Don’t gossip. Say nice things. Learn to listen! Think before you speak.
  • STAND UP…Take a stand for what you believe…resist evil…do good!
  • LOOK UP…Open your eyes to the Lord and what He is doing. After all, He is your Savior…who loves you….wants the best for you!
  • REACH UP…Spend time in prayer with adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplications to the Lord!
  • LIFT UP…Lift up those in need…serving, supporting, and sharing! This is especially important in today’s situations!

Today we looked at steps to living a healthy life…to admit we are not God and our lives can be unmanageable. On Monday we will look at the second step… Looking at who is God in your life.

Thursday - September 17, 2020

If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be? How has it impacted you over the years? How has it impacted others? Why is it still an issue?

If you could change one thing about your present life, what would it be? How does it impact you? Does your life seem unmanageable? What would you want/need to change, if only you could?

Sounds like some heavy questions, yet very important ones.

Psalm 139 is a great Psalm about seeking God in our lives, perhaps verses 23-24 can help… Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

About 10 years ago, I came across a program called Celebrate Recovery. The premise of it intrigued me. It was based on the fact that all of us have hurts, habits, and hang-ups in our lives….and that they make our lives seem unmanageable! We don’t seem to know how to deal with them, and so we ignore them, deny them, blame others for them…and continue to make unhealthy choices…and those choices impact us, as well as those around us. I purchased materials, planned, and started a group at RR and it fell flat on it’s face. What was I doing wrong? I started with a light dinner, a worship team leading singing, and followed the materials provided step by step. For all the hope I had…we averaged only 1 person per week for months until I canceled the program. I asked a few people that I felt should have come “why aren’t you coming?” Their answers were interesting. “I’m not celebrating anything” …or “I’m not a heroin addict” …or “I’m not in recovery!” The title Celebrate Recovery was confusing…it did not attract people who really needed it (and we all do!) to come along for the journey.

I asked myself what was I trying to accomplish, what was the message I needed to state? I changed the title to state a fact that we all know that…. LIFE HURTS GOD HEALS!

Why does LIFE HURT? SIN! God created a perfect world (”it was very good”)! Put Adam and Eve into that paradise with one choice (don’t eat the fruit of the tree of good and EVIL…it will harm you!). They sinned…you and I sin…and we are not in the Garden of Eden any longer. Romans 3:23…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and Romans 5:12…Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned. Everything is tainted with sin. People HURT us and we HURT them! We all have sinful HABITS and addictions that cause us to be out of control and cause pain! We all have and are impacted by other people’s HANG-UPS. Things like pride, anger, and grief.

How does GOD HEAL? Well, The God who created the perfect world, hand made you! He loves you in spite of your hurts, habits, and hang-ups. And yet the wage of sin is death, and God is a just God, someone must die for your sins. The good news is that He loves you so much that He cannot imagine spending eternity without you there with Him in His heavenly kingdom. John 3:16…For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. He sent His son, Jesus, to live a perfect life, die in your place, so that He can restore the relationship with you. You have eternal life thru faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. That is good enough, but Jesus goes even further by wanting to help you deal with your hurts, habits, hang-ups…to make healthy choices…to deal with those issues and the collateral damage they cause!

I changed the title of my Tuesday night (7:00) group to LIFE HURTS GOD HEALS about 8 years ago, did an 8 week sermon series on 8 healthy choices we need to make, and hundreds have worked through their hurts, habits, and hang-ups since then.

God knows about your issues and is the only way to healing. John 6:14…Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.

A man named Jack was walking along a steep cliff one day when he accidentally got too close to the edge and fell. On the way down he grabbed a branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down and to his horror, it was more than a thousand feet. He couldn’t hang onto the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb up the steep wall of the cliff. So, Jack began yelling for help, hoping that someone passing by would hear him and lower a rope or something. (“HELP!  HELP!  Is anyone up there?  HELP!”) He yelled for hours, but no one heard him.  He was about to give up when he heard a voice.

“Jack. Jack.  Can you hear me?”

“Yes, yes! I can hear you.  I’m down here!”

“I can see you, Jack. Are you alright?”

“Yes, but…who are you, and where are you?”

“I am the Lord, Jack. I’m everywhere.”

“The Lord? You mean, God?”

“That’s Me.”

“God, please help me! I promise – if You will get me down from here, I’ll stop sinning.  I’ll be a really good person.  I’ll serve You for the rest of my life.”

“Easy on the promises, Jack. Let’s just get you down from there; then we can talk.  Now, here is what I want you to do. Listen carefully.”

“I’ll do anything, Lord. Just tell me what to do.”

“Okay. Let go of the branch.”

“What?”

“I said, let go of the branch. Just trust Me. Let go.”

There was a long silence. Finally, Jack yelled, “Help, help, is there anyone else up there?”

Have you ever felt like Jack?  We say that we want to know the will of God…. but when we find out what it is, it sounds too scary, too difficult.  We decide to look elsewhere. When He says, “Let go of the things that stand between you and Me, and trust Me with your life,” it sounds pretty scary.  But when we let go, we find freedom and safety in His hands.

So…here is my plan for us. With the help of these next devotions, we are going to go on a journey to living a healthier life…to deal with our hurts, habits, and hang-ups. We will invite the Lord to take us by the hand and help us to make healthy choices and to become all that He has hand crafted us to be!

What I want you to do is go back to the beginning of this devotion and pray for God to help you answer those first few questions. If you answer them honestly, it might seem scary at first. Don’t be afraid to answer them because we will work through the healthy steps to a Joy filled, God pleasing, Christ centered life!

Wednesday - September 16, 2020

9-16-2020

Pillsbury Dough Boy wanted for attempted murder

A lady named Linda went to Arkansas last week to visit her in-laws, and while there, went to a store. She parked next to a car with a woman sitting in it, her eyes closed and hands behind her head, apparently sleeping. When Linda came out a while later, she again saw the woman, her hands still behind her head but with her eyes open.

The woman looked very strange, so Linda tapped on the window and said, “Are you okay?” The woman answered, “I’ve been shot in the head, and I am holding my brains in.”

Linda didn’t know what to do, so she ran into the store, where store workers called the paramedics. They had to break into the car because the door was locked. When they got in, they found that the woman had bread dough on the back of her head and in her hands.

A Pillsbury biscuit canister had exploded, apparently from the heat in the car, making a loud explosion like that of a gunshot, and hit her in the head. When she reached back to find what it was, she felt the dough and thought it was her brains. She passed out from fright at first, then attempted to hold her brains in.

Now that is a funny image! And yet we all face times when life is not a funny mistake. Times when we get hit with bad news, bad issues, bad seasons of life! When our minds take us to dark places. Maybe this coronavirus has you in a bad place right now.

We have been talking about prayer, now for the third day. If you missed the other 2 check them out at below!

I shared some of the prayers and the people that I pray for…Here is an important section of my daily prayers.

“Lord, be with those that are lonely and neglected, abused and intimidated, facing fear, pain, grief, distress, depression, anxiety, loneliness, facing hurts, habits, and hang-ups.”

Take some time to carefully ponder that list and identify which of those areas you may be struggling with. It’s a long list and most of us can relate to a few of these at any time in our lives. It’s all part of living in a post Garden of Eden world. Talk to the Lord about the ones that are making your life unmanageable. Turn to the Lord for direction and comfort. Call me and let’s see what a healthy next step can look like. Seek God’s peace that is beyond our human understanding.

John 14:27…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

1 Peter 5:7…Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

 Now, go back over the list and think about those you know who are struggling with one or more of those issues. Maybe a family member, friend, or neighbor.

What would God have you do? Do you realize that you may be the answer to their prayer? God may want to work thru you into their struggles!

1 Thessalonians 5:11…Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.

I saw a devotion that caught my eye, it was about going to the beach and trying to find shells in the sand. We look for the perfect, unbroken ones…the bigger and more beautiful the better. There are countless varieties like conch, scallop, oyster…some from far away washed up on the shore. But what about the broken ones? They tend to get ignored, overlooked, and passed by, or worse yet, stepped on and broken further. No one seems to be seeking them or finding value in them.

It’s the same with people. Do the people that you have identified from my list of brokenness feel like those shells? Do people pass them by for those that seem more “whole?” Do people try to ignore and overlook their brokenness…not sure what to say or do? Maybe too busy to stop and help…thinking let someone else help them.

How about you? Will you stop to help them? What if it were Jesus? Would you offer Him help?  Matthew 25:37-40… “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

So, again I ask you, who can you reach out to? Many have suffered for a long time…while others more recently with coronavirus related issues. Who is God nudging you to call or text? Will you take the time to let them know that you care? Will you listen to their story? Will you tell them that you are praying for them? Do you pray for God to tell you how to help them? Can you refer them to someone like myself for further help? Can you send them a card…or help with a financial issue?

The greatest gift that you have…and that you can give someone is to point them to the Love of Jesus. What if you helped give those that are lonely and neglected, abused, and intimidated, facing fear, pain, grief, distress, depression, anxiety, facing hurts, habits, and hang-ups the gift that they need most?… Invite them into a relationship with the Lord who can replace those negative things with God’s gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control! (Galatians 5:22)

So that is the end of my 3-part devotion to prayer! I wanted to end it with a quote that I read: In prayer, I confess once again that I won’t ever be what I’m supposed to be and do what I’m supposed to do without the forgiving, empowering, and delivering grace of the One to whom I am praying!

Tuesday - September 15, 2020

Yesterday, I laid out some thoughts on prayer. If you missed it scroll down one devotion and you can find it there.

We have the great privilege and joy to be able to talk God about all things…the good and the not so good. And yet, we tend to only pray when things are imploding before our eyes. We cry out for help!

One of my favorite stories (that you may have heard me tell) about tough times is this:

There was an old man who had a beautiful horse. This horse was not only his family’s pride and joy, but it was also a means to an income for the family.

One day, the horse ran away. Fellow villagers visited the old man to give their condolences for such a stroke of bad luck, as the loss of his horse represented a staggering financial blow that would be hard to recover from .“Good luck, bad luck: Who can tell?” replied the old man. “It is as it is. My horse is gone.”

Perplexed at the man’s nonchalance towards the apparent tragedy, the villagers went about their business.

A few days later, the horse returned with a pack of 12 wild horses in tow. Again, the villagers gathered, this time to offer their congratulations at such a stroke of good luck. Now he had 12 more horses with which to make 12 times the income! What a godsend, they said. “Good luck, bad luck: Who can tell?” replied the old man again. “All I see is that 12 more horses have appeared.”

The next week, while breaking in one of the wild horses, the old man’s son fell, and both his legs were broken. What bad luck! The villagers exclaimed. Your son has broken both of his legs. That’s terrible. How will you get your work done? You are too old to do it yourself. “Good luck, bad luck: Who can tell?” was the (now predictable and equally frustrating) answer of the old man. “My son has broken his legs. That is all I know.”

Shortly thereafter, the government forcibly removed all the able-bodied men from the village, as the country had gone to war. The old man’s son, however, was spared since his legs were broken. Good luck, bad luck: Who can tell?

…and on it goes. We tend to live our own lives careening from one “good luck” occurrence to another “bad luck” event? When things are going well, we’re happy and we think God’s will is a good thing. If they are going badly, we get discouraged and think that God must have abandoned us. We end up being tossed about by our circumstances.

Maybe we could stand to take a dose of medicine from the old man in this story, simply observing the events in our lives for what they are instead of drawing grandiose conclusions about the ultimate karma or fate of what has happened to us. To seek God in the midst of the so-called bad luck. To seek God’s direction and Hope as we face those things…to trust that He will walk alongside of us and bring good out of them.

The fact is that we really don’t have to worry in our circumstances, because no matter what, we have hope in Christ.“We know that in everything, God works for the good of those who love him” Romans 8:28. That’s what His good, loving , pleasing will is all about!

So, that was a fun illustration, but what about our everyday “real” life?

I had a lady come to speak with me a number of years ago. She told me her life seemed upside down. She went into work and was told that she had been downsized out of her job. She had a great job at a large bank, head of her department, and was there for 20+ years. Two banks merged and her position went to the other person. “That would be bad enough, she said, but her husband of 23 years announced, “he did not want to be married anymore!” Needless to say, her whole identity was changing in a matter of a week! We talked, she had a great faith in God watching over her and the kids. We talked about keeping her eyes open to God in the midst of the storm. We prayed and she left my office. About a month later she came back in to see me. “God is good!” she said. She announced that she got a new job. “It is better than my old job,” she said! “I thought I had a good job, so I never looked into changing jobs. Losing my job turned out to be a blessing. This new job fits me better in all ways.” She then went on to explain that she could not have handled her husband’s situation while working at the old job but with 3 weeks off, they were able to talk and deal with the best way to end the marriage.

God did not cause her to lose her job or her marriage but as promised, He brought good out of it.

We don’t always see the results that fast and obvious, but we should always trust His Word! That is a great enough story…but in talking to this lady to get her permission to use her story in this devotion, she said the blessings are still coming. A few years later, she was nudged to go on a mission trip she met a great guy on that trip they have been dating for a year now! When you trust the Lord, hang on for the ride of your life!

So, what areas of your life seem like “good luck?” Areas that you feel close to God, can feel His presence, where God’s blessings are overflowing. Do you take time to thank the Lord for each and every one of His blessings in your life? Your physical health, relationships, financial blessings, and emotional state of mind. When all is well thank the giver of all good things! James 1:17… Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Always remember that the biggest issue that you will ever face is that of sin. The fact that left on our own we are doomed to an eternity in hell. But the good news is that Jesus took care of that problem for you…on the cross. He loves you in spite of you! Take time to thank Him right now!

So, let’s get personal, what areas of your life seem like “bad luck?” Times when you don’t feel God with you. (note that the problem is on your side: He will never leave you or forsake you.) For many of you, this coronavirus situation has caused much distress in your life! Life seems upside down, confused, and gloomy. Do you turn to the Lord for strength, guidance, Hope? Like the guy in our horse story, do you look for God in good times and the bad? Do you see this down time as a smaller part of a bigger picture? Do you seek God’s Peace in the midst of the current storm? Deuteronomy 31:6… “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

With God by your side, you will get through this time. The question is, what good will He bring and what changes does He want you to make?

Monday - September 14, 2020

How is your prayer life?

When I ask people that question, I get a wide variety of answers. Some say “Great, I pray before all of my meals.” Others say, “Pretty good, I know I can talk to God when I need Him.” Still, others say, “I don’t pray anymore because He never seems to give me what I ask for.”

I think most of us would roll our eyes at those types of answers, but again I ask you personally “how is your prayer life?”

Let’s start by asking the question. What is prayer? Luther’s catechism says that prayer is speaking to God in words and thoughts. So, what should we pray about? Again, the catechism says we should ask for anything that tends to the glory of God, and our own and our neighbor’s welfare, both spiritual and bodily blessings. We should also praise and thank God for who He is and what He has done. Seems to me, we can talk with God about anything! We can pray silently as well as out loud or even in song. We can pray a memorized prayer like the Lord’s prayer as well as just talking to your Lord. We can pray kneeling, standing, sitting, walking, driving, anywhere, and anytime. We can pray for ourselves, family, friends, people you don’t even know. We can and should pray for forgiveness and restoration. The main point is for you to PRAY OFTEN.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18…Rejoice always, pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

An overweight man decided it was time to shed some pounds. He informed his coworkers that he was going on a diet and would no longer be bringing donuts to the office. He knew it would be hard to resist stopping at the bakery on the way to work, but he committed himself to remain strong and resisting temptation.

His coworkers were surprised one morning to see him arrive at the office with a big box of donuts. When they reminded him of his diet, he just smiled.

“These are very special donuts,” he explained. “When I left for the office this morning, I knew I was going to drive by the bakery, and I wondered if maybe the Lord might want me to have some donuts today. I wasn’t sure, so I prayed, ‘Lord, if you want me to stop and buy some donuts, let there be an open parking place directly in front of the bakery.’ As you know, parking places in front of that bakery are hard to get!”

“So, the parking place was there?” one of his coworkers asked.

“It was a miracle,” the man replied. “The eighth time around the block, there it was!”

Ouch…I don’t think that is what God is looking for in our prayers. We should not try to manipulate God into rubber stamping what we have already decided to do. Reminds me of Jesus. He did not want to have to die on the cross, so He prayed to the Father. He did not demand things go His way, instead, He prayed in Luke 22:42… “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Our prayers should always be in praise and worship…seeking God’s will for our situation and life choices. God (our loving Father) wants us to talk to Him about everything, our concerns, our Joy, our sorrow. But we need to remember that He hears the prayers of all Christians and answers in His own way and His own time.

I want to share my daily prayer life, perhaps it will help yours.

First thing in the morning, I stumble out of bed into a long hot shower (opens my sinuses). While there I talk to God. I thank Him for keeping me safe over the night, thank Him for this new day, seek His direction for the plans and tasks that I have scheduled. I then pray for my family individually by name and situation. Part of that prayer for them is: Lord / make them men and women of God / men and women of integrity / that they know You as Lord and Savior / that they live accordingly / that You bind up Satan and evil and boot him out / and replace that void with more of your Holy Spirit. Take a few minutes to process each section of this prayer…and then offer it up for your loved ones.

Really go back and pray that prayer for your family…then continue on!

After I get dressed, I then walk for 3 miles for exercise. That’s when I pray for others including many of you. I ask for physical, emotional, spiritual, financial blessings. I pray for you to be good stewards of His blessings…to get to know God a little better and to grow a little closer to Him today. I pray for my neighbors, the church, city, issues of the day type things…as well prayers of thanks for His many blessings.

I stay connected with God throughout the day. Short conversations, seeking His will, having a thankful heart for all of His blessings, and inviting Him into each of my thoughts, words, and actions.

Then right before bed, as I am winding down and brushing my teeth, I end the day in a short prayer to God. Thanking Him for the day, assessing how I did with each new opportunity, confessing any way that I have let Him down today. I then ask Him for a safe, healthy, refreshing night sleep for me and for my family.

I am not saying that my way is right for you, but perhaps it helps you make a plan for your time with the Lord. Start out slowly and add as time goes by.

Take a minute to think over what a normal day’s prayer life looks like for you. Do you connect with God regularly and often? Are there any changes He would want you to make regarding your prayer life? Do you praise Him, seek His will, confess, and seek re-direction? Do you lift up the needs of family…friend…co-workers…neighbors? Do you pray for your enemies…and those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior?

In this unique season of all of our lives, are you lifting up those impacted by this current pandemic? Those suffering with the coronavirus, those who have lost loved ones. Those out working in places that put them in danger. Those who are hurting financially, (workers and business owners.) Those seeking food pantry help for the first time. Those who this “stay in place” “social distancing” “isolation” has left them lonely, anxious, and depressed. Are you praying for our nation at seems so divided and angry over social concerns?

Wow….I guess I have really challenged you to adjust your prayer life! Think about it! The creator of the universe has given you a direct line to Him 24/7! You would be a fool not to use it!

You can also leave prayer requests on our connection cards at royred.org.

Friday - September 11, 2020

I spoke with a woman who is very depressed over this COVID world we live in. She is struggling in her loneliness and isolation. I asked her if she liked snow globes. She said yes! I reminded her that the globe needs to be turned upside down and shook before it gets turned back over to become better and more beautiful than before. Our world feels like it’s upside down and shaking but God promises to bring good out of bad!

Yesterday I did a devotion about a lighthouse and how Jesus invites us to use Him as our lighthouse…how He is there for us in the storms that we face. He is there to help us navigate our way safely through physical storms, emotional storms, financial storms, relational storms, and of course spiritual storms….just as He was there for us on this infamous day in 2001. As our lighthouse, He is a centering point on the horizon to keep us on the appointed route without crashing into the rocks and cliffs of life that are all around.

Today, I want to continue that image. Let’s begin with a neat little illustration. This illustration compares discovering God’s will with a sea captain’s docking procedure:

A certain harbor in Italy can be reached only by sailing up a narrow channel between dangerous rocks and shoals. Over the years, many ships have been wrecked, and navigation is hazardous. To guide the ships safely into port, three lights have been mounted on three huge poles in the harbor. When the three lights are perfectly lined up and seen as one, the ship can safely proceed up the narrow channel. If the pilot sees two of the lights, he knows he’s off course and in danger of crashing!

An interesting analogy that can easily be applied to the choices that we make throughout our lifetime.

What are the 3 lights that you want to need to align before you make decisions?

  • Maybe money, time, success?
  • Maybe friends’ opinions, family response, morals?
  • Maybe popularity, career move, comfort?
  • Spend a few minutes answering this question for your daily choices….and then do it again for your big-ticket choices. How do you know if you are on course?

God could have created robots, programmed to act a certain way, with no choices and options. In love, He chose to give us a free will, as well as guidance as to how to make choices that will please Him and to become all that He created us to be. God has provided three beacons to guide us. The same rules of my navigation illustration apply—the three lights must be lined up before it is safe for us to proceed. If only one or two align, we may be in crash mode. I would contend that God’s three harbor lights of guidance are:

  1. The Word of God! God’s Word is His gift to you to help you navigate your journey. His Word is the standard for your walk with the Lord. Your first question should be, “What does His Word say about this choice I am about to make?” Does the Bible speak about this decision…for it or against it? His Word is the foundation for our lives, everything should be built upon it. Psalm 119:105…Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path. I love the way the Message translation puts it… The wicked do their best to throw me off track, but I don’t swerve an inch from your course. I inherited your book on living; it’s mine forever— what a gift! And how happy it makes me! I concentrate on doing exactly what you say— I always have and always will.
  2. Prayer! It’s always wise to talk to wise people in your life before you make any life-changing choices…but remembering that they are human as well. But God, the creator of the universe, wants you to seek His Wisdom! You can talk it over with Him. And yet, there is a problem for many people. We tend to talk AT God instead of WITH God. I encourage you to cut your talking AT God in half and then sit quietly for an equal amount of time. Listen for Him to whisper words of guidance, encouragement, or perhaps alternate plans. Philippians 4:6…Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
  3. Circumstances! Each of us is wired differently, set on different paths, put in different circumstances. Our journeys are different, and we have choices and options moment by moment. Some choices like what “will I eat for lunch” have small consequences…while others like careers, marriage, finances, moral choices can have lasting consequences. God has placed you exactly where you are, uniquely created to make an impact for Him. We have all learned valuable lessons from past circumstances that can help us face new ones. Remember that life is not a spectator sport! God has a plan for you…and wants you to respond to His direction. The question is what would Jesus have you do with your life…and how would He have you respond to your circumstances. As Martin Luther would say, I pray that you are guided by the Holy Spirit in the school of experiences!

God’s Word, the morals, ethics, and priorities that He has given to you should guide you to a safe harbor. 1 Corinthians 10:31…Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Did you notice that it said, “whatever” you do?

So…what is the “whatever” that God has in mind for you?

Take time to assess how these 3 guiding tools can help you to navigate the waters you are traveling today. Are there any storms on the horizon? Are you on the course that God has charted for you? Aligning the 3 lights will assure you that the directions you choose are from God and will lead you safely to accomplish His plans.

For example, what is God saying to you about reading daily devotions? What does He say to you about reading scripture daily? What are you hearing from God about His Word in your prayer life? You are reading this, so it sounds like you are trying to be in alignment with God’s plan to grow closer to Him daily.

How about other areas of your life? Are you in alignment with God’s 3 guiding lights? What is He guiding you to do?

How about weekly worship? On-site Sunday at 8:30 am, 10:00 am, and outdoors at 6:00 pm (weather permitting) or live stream and online worship at royred.org/onlineservices

How about participating in Servant Saturday in October?

How about signing up for a small group or bible study at royred.org. (virtual or in-person options available)

How about reaching out to others during this coronavirus situation?

How about healing some relationship issues that have been broken for far too long?

How about using this stay at home time to re-assess all areas of your life.

Try using the 3 Lights mentioned above in all of your life choices.

Thursday - September 10, 2020

One of the joys of my life and my ministry is the privilege of leading a group that we call LIFE HURTS, GOD HEALS. How is that for a phrase that fits this coronavirus season as well as every other day of your life here on earth?  The premise of this group is that we all deal with hurts, habits, and hang ups in our lives. We tend to deny, ignore, blame others, but that never fixes the problem! These traits make our lives unmanageable and rob us of the Joy Jesus offers us. Well, about 6 months ago we were told we could not meet due to social distancing, so I decided to write a daily devotion for my group. I wanted them to know that they were loved and missed, that they were not alone, that they are part of a bigger group. I wanted them to embrace the fact that God loves them and that He wants us to invite Him into our lives, to help us deal with our hurts, habits, and hang ups.

I love to use illustrations and personal stories to share the Gospel. One of my favorite illustrations (not sure of the original author) can be helpful as we navigate life’s hurts, habits, hang ups.

It goes like this:

In the darkest part of the night, a ship’s captain cautiously piloted his warship through the fog-shrouded waters. With straining eyes, he scanned the hazy darkness, searching for dangers lurking just out of sight. Then His worst fears were realized when he saw a bright light straight ahead. It appeared to be a vessel on a collision course with his ship. To avert disaster, he quickly radioed the oncoming vessel. “This is Captain Jeremiah Smith,” his voice crackled over the radio. “Please alter your course 10 degrees south! Over.”
To the captain’s amazement, the foggy image did not move. Instead, he heard back on the radio, “Captain Smith. This is Private Thomas Johnson. please alter your course 10 degrees north! Over.” Appalled at the audacity of the message, the captain shouted back over the radio, “Private Johnson, this is Captain Smith, and I order you to immediately alter your course 10 degree south! Over.” A second time the oncoming light did not budge. “With all due respect Captain Smith,” came the private’s voice again, “I order you to alter your course immediately 10 degrees north! Over.” Angered and frustrated that this impudent sailor would endanger the lives of his men and crew, the captain growled back over the radio, “Private Johnson. I can have you court-martialed for this! For the last time, I command you on the authority of the United States government to alter your course 10 degrees to the South! I am a battleship!” The private’s final transmission was chilling: “Captain Smith, sir. Once again with all due respect, I command you to alter your course 10 degrees to the North! I am a lighthouse!”

I bet you didn’t see that one coming!

Many of us in today’s world operate like the battleship captain…bigger and more important than anyone else. Going through life as if rules can be changed (or should be changed) to fit our personal needs and desires. Having a “get out of my way” attitude. Commercials egg us on: “Have it your way,” “Rules are made to be broken.” “you only live once so grab all the gusto”

In reality, we can’t always have it our way. We have to conform our lives to a higher truth, a higher authority. Truth is not going to change to accommodate us. We are the ones who must change to conform our lives to what’s true.

So, the question is where in your life do you act like you are the captain of that battleship? It’s your way or the highway. You have learned to rationalize why anything you do is ok…You blame and threaten others when your plan fails….or you didn’t get your way.

Do you act like that battleship in your job, marriage, parenting, finances…or maybe in your spiritual journey? Do you expect others (and even God) to move or change their plans to accommodate yours?

Who is the lighthouse in your life’s journey…the immovable object?

God’s truth is our lighthouse. The truth found in His Word is not going to change to accommodate us. Psalm 119:105…Your Word is a lamp for my feet. A light on my path. His Truth will lead us to safe waters. We are the ones who must change to conform our lives in order to accomplish His plans for our life. Jeremiah 29:11.. .For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Did you notice that there is no asterisk * there that says “unless you have a better plan”…or you “really don’t like God’s plan”.

Jesus is our lighthouse. The Bible teaches that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He will always be there for us. He is dependable. We Christians must conform our lives to His will for us. If He tells us to alter our courses, it’s with faith that we confidently obey. That’s what being a disciple is all about. And the best part is that He always knows best! Lighthouses are especially important when storms appear, and we lose our way! Standing firm guiding us from perils.

And remember what the purpose of a lighthouse is…it’s to warn of hidden dangers, to center us and set as a reference point, to keep us on a safe path to accomplish our God given purpose…to get us safely to port.

God’s Word is the immovable standard by which all will be judged.

Spend some time this week meditating on these questions. What areas could represent the battleship in your life?

What (or who) should be the lighthouse in all areas of your life?

What will happen if nothing is changed/moved?

What is God calling you to change/move?

What hurt, habit, or hang-up is sending you on a collision course?

Is god calling you to change directions in some area of your life? In our Life Hurts God Heals group our goal is to look to God’s Word to help us deal with our hurts, habits, and hangups….to make healthy choices by letting God be the lighthouse…and adjusting our course accordingly.

Wednesday - September 9, 2020

I love to tell stories that can impact our lives. This is one of my favorite stories.

Alexander Papaderos, a Doctor of Philosophy, worked for many years trying to bring peace between the bitterly divided countries of Europe after WWII. His motivation for doing so stems from his childhood and a very odd event that took place. “When I was a small child,” he said, “during the war, we were poor and lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place. I kept one, the largest piece. By scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine – in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find. I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became [mature], I grew to understand that this was a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. The light [or truth] is there, and it will shine in many dark places only when I reflect it.”

He concluded: “I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of the world and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise.”

What comes to mind as you read this?

Sounds like fun as he would reflect the sun’s light into dark places.

We are called to reflect the son’s light into dark places! Biblically we see God and good as light and dark and sin as bad.

In the beginning, there was darkness and so God created light!  Genesis 1:3-4…And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.

God who is the light shares that light with us! John 8:12…When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The knowledge of God produces light in our hearts! 2 Corinthians 4:6…For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

It is supposed to be contagious! We are to let our light shine for others to see Christ! Matthew 5:16…In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

What does all of this mean? 1 John 1:5-7(niv)…This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him, there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Let’s see what the message translation has to say of this verse… This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him.  If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth—we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin.

We all sin (darkness)…through faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior (light) we are forgiven and called to let our light shine for all to see. Luke 8:16…“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

Right about now…I imagine you are a little confused on what to do with all of this…How does it impact my life, and my purpose?

Take some time and ask…what are the “dark” areas of my life? Where and when am I the farthest from God and His plan for me? What daily choices border on darkness? Do I tend to justify why a little darkness is ok?

When you first go into a dark room, you are lost, can’t see where to go. You fumble around, uncomfortable, and afraid. And yet the longer you stay in the dark, the more at home you feel…your eyes adjust, and you navigate freely. It’s the same with the darkness of sin…the longer you spend around it the more comfortable you are with it.

Ask God to reveal His “light” to you. Be in His Word and prayer for guidance and direction.

Just like my opening story…who do you know that needs you to reflect the Son’s light upon them? Maybe they are living in a sinful season of life… in a dark place! Or maybe they do not yet know the True Light. How can you point them to the True Light (of Jesus) as you reflect His Light through your words and actions? I love the Christmas Eve candlelight service! We each get the light of Christ…and then we pass it on to others…and together we shine brightly as His Church. We then get up and leave the church building to go out and be the church…and have our light shine in our circle of influence.

Who in our Coronavirus world can you shine your light on? (pray for them, call someone who lives alone, offer to help a neighbor, drop off some cookies, help a jobless person financially or though the helping hand fund…smile, wave, or say “hi” to a stranger at the grocery store…thank a clerk, police, fire, mail carrier, medical worker, etc.)

Who in our racial unrest world can you shine your light on? Pray for God to soften hearts, unify all people, make needed changes. Use your circle of influence (social media) to bring peace, share stories, be positive. Stop fueling the fire by negative postings.

I end this devotion with a question I saw online by John Krahn. It’s a question for each of us all to ponder daily…

As you got out of bed this morning, did you feel like you belonged to a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God? And tomorrow morning, as the daily grind begins again, will you be thinking as you brush the old ivories, “What ways am I going to declare God’s wonderful deeds today?” Will any of us plot how we might upset the devil, the prince of terrorists? How many of us will let the light of Christ shine through us and be among the darkness dispellers? Will any of us seek to be the light of Christ in a darkening world? Reading the Bible, it becomes evident that Christianity is not a solo proposition. Christianity comes to us through the Christian community. Without a relation to the community or church, our individual Christianity is weakened and incomplete. The church is Christ’s body on earth today. The light of Christ shines in the world through each of us as we take seriously that we are a chosen people belonging to God.

Tuesday - September 8, 2020

In the popular Christmas movie called Home Alone, a family plans a European vacation during Christmastime. Relatives arrived for the big event and the youngest son feels slighted, he rebels and gets in trouble and he gets sent to his room in the attic. While he is there in the middle of a tantrum, he wishes that his family and everyone else would just go away so he could be all alone.

In a bizarre twist… The family overlooks this boy in the attic. They leave for the airport, get on a plane, All the while believing he is with them.

The boy wakes up in the morning…. And discovers no ones at home. He thinks his wishes have been granted… he is delighted…he’s home alone!

For the next few days, he lives alone…. while the mother and the rest of the family try frantically to return to him.

 At first, the boy is filled with joy. He has the run of the house. He eats all the junk food he wants, watches whatever movies he wants, Sleeps wherever he wants, doesn’t have to answer to anyone!

Well, burglars try to break into the house but he takes care of them but then he realizes that he’s now lonely and alone. It wasn’t what he thought it would be He becomes sorry that he treated them so badly desperately wants them back again.

Today I want to take a look at loneliness. This has always existed. God said “it is not good that man is alone”, but for us, this has been heightened by the stay in place, social distancing, and businesses closed world we are living in.

Now, first of all, I want to make sure we all understand the fact that there is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely.

One is a physical state and the other is a state of mind.

Being alone is simply being by one’s self. In other words, there is no one around.

Now if you think about it sometimes being alone can be a good thing. For instance: I imagine a single mother of three small children who dream of getting a babysitter so that she can go to a park and simply be alone. No kids. No demands. No to-do list! I can remember being younger with 4 children and as great as that was. There was never a quiet moment to be alone. Well, one day I came home and to my surprise For whatever reason, no one was there. I was all alone. I have to confess that I didn’t know what to do so I simply laid down on the carpet in the middle of the front room alone at last! And yet a running joke around our house is when no one wants to go somewhere with me I would get a sad face and say… “Alright, I will go ALL BY MYSELF!!!” Even though, I did not want to be alone.

Now being alone can be a good Godly thing!

In Mark 1:35…. We see that Jesus went off to be alone…. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. We all need those times in our life when we are alone, those reflective times, time to contemplate, and assess our lives.

These can be the times when we get closer to God. Years ago, I would take a day for just that purpose…I went to a friend’s house in Vermillion….no one else there…to pray and reflect.

But we also know that being alone can be a bad feeling we feel isolated left out.

I find it interesting that in our prison system today the punishment for breaking the prison rules is isolation or to be put into solitary confinement. I watched a prison documentary. A hardened criminal serving a life sentence says that “isolation should be considered cruel and unusual punishment, that you go crazy and isolation, a person needs human contact!”

And many times, in our life we find ourselves feeling alone due to circumstances. Maybe the death of a spouse, or a divorce, or maybe you’re new in town, those serving our country oversees, when we are away from loved ones, or maybe it’s an empty nest situation. There are seasons of life that we have to go through without a loved one by our side. Maybe you are or have been there?

On the other hand, Loneliness can be a state of mind…. It is to feel depressed or sad, Because of a lack of sympathetic or friendly relationships. And it doesn’t only affect people who live alone. Loneliness belongs to each one of us…. from time to time. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old…rich or poor…Christian or non-Christian. One study I saw showed that one out of four people feels lonely at any given time in the United States. There is a very good chance that sooner or later it will come knocking on everyone’s door.

Loneliness can feel like a painful awareness that we lack meaningful contact with others…. feeling that no one cares about you….. if you suddenly disappeared… no one would send out a search party…Loneliness causes feelings of not thinking anyone thinks you are important, as well as not feeling like you are part of a bigger group. Depressed.

And loneliness is not dependent on how many people are around you… It is dependent upon the level of meaningful relationships with those people.

So, why do we feel lonely in the first place? Well first off… God wired us with emotions, we aren’t robots!

And we were created to live in the community! We were created to have a relationship with God! We were created to have intimate loving relationships with other people and to have meaning and purpose!

Now loneliness takes a few different forms.

Relational loneliness… it comes from not being around people, and let’s face it, our culture reinforces it. After all:  We pay at the pump…. No human contact. We shop online…no human contact. We get our food from a drive-through window or home delivery….little human contact. We work from home. We do our banking at money machines…no human contact!

Robert Brooke told of a trip he made from England and the United States. When he arrived at the dock, he noticed that everyone had relatives standing there to send them off. In the midst of this, he felt lonely. So he called a young boy over and paid him to stand there and wave at him as the boat pulled away from the dock. As the boat pulled away. The young boy stood there waving with all his might as Brooke waved back…… we all need the community to love us and to recognize us! (That is the great value of having a church family)

Another type of loneliness is the emotional loneliness…. Technology today is great! And yet we can … e-mail, text, twitter, Facebook, use chat rooms, message boards, blogs… to stay connected with the people…. and yet those things lack a human touch. And a record number of people are reporting a sense of loneliness and disconnection from other people…. the virtual words are there but the emotions are gone! (even with emojis)

There is a third type of loneliness called spiritual loneliness. One of my favorite songs is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. And yet, do we tend to sing it….but don’t follow through with what it says:

  • I mean if He is your friend …. wouldn’t you want to talk to him often…….to call him regularly…. He’s sitting by the phone (so to speak) just waiting for a call (or prayer) from you.
  • And wouldn’t you want to read his letters to you….thru daily Bible reading…I bet you read your email and texts throughout the day…why not read His Word just as often?
  • And wouldn’t you want to worship Him regularly…to join together with other believers?
  • Sometimes we have spiritual loneliness even though God is just waiting to hear from us!

Well… now that I have you depressed thinking about loneliness!

Back to the song (what a friend we have in Jesus) …. when all the people of this world let us down, Jesus is still there for us, ready to wipe the tears from our eyes! To celebrate when we’re happy, and to comfort us when we are sad…and to embrace you amid loneliness!

There is a section of Romans Chapter 8 that I like to read it funerals:

  • Rom 8:38-39… For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Folks….it is my joy to remind you…. That if you feel lonely and everyone else in this world lets you down…. Jesus is still there…. He still loves you…. Still cares for you…. He still wants a relationship with you…. And still wants to spend eternity with you

So…now what?

If you don’t struggle with loneliness…I want you to do two things:

  • First: I want you to thank God for the meaningful relationships that you have.
  • Second: I want you to identify and reach out to someone who is lonely. Call them up and talk to them…let them know they’re important to you…send them a card…visit them (virtually). You will make a big impact on their life!

 Now if you are facing loneliness:

  • Remind yourself that God is with you, that nothing can separate you from Him or His presence.
  • I suggest that you put little purpose in your life.
  • Get involved in a church project or small group (go to royred.org and sign up for one). You’ll feel good and you will make some friends!  
  •  Be a blessing in someone else’s life, maybe call someone in a nursing home, or hospital, or send a thinking of you card.
  • Bring some cheer into someone else’s’ life.
  • Call me…we can talk. (440-237-7958 ext.118)

Monday - September 7, 2020

What is Labor Day and why do we celebrate it?

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

I once read that Christians see work as both a curse and a blessing. The mandate to toil the earth came with our expulsion from the Garden of Eden, but it also represents a high and noble calling of stewardship over God’s good creation. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’

So enjoy the day off! But remember that you are called to work in a way that glorifies God and to be a good steward of your time, talents, treasures.

We showed a great Labor Day video in our on-site worship services yesterday. If you did not see it, watch this link: https://youtu.be/uJm0-b4-Wng?t=960

Three friends were discussing death and one of them asked: “What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?”

The first of the friends said, “I would like them to say, he was a great humanitarian, who cared about his community.”

The second said: He was a great husband and father, who was an example for many to follow.

The third friend said: I would like them to say, “Look, he’s moving!”

I hope that didn’t offend any of you, but it does fit well with today’s topic of GRIEF.

*Note* The devotions for today and tomorrow are a little longer….but the topic of grief and loneliness are timely and overarching.

I have done some recent funerals during this social distancing season we are in. I thought about how hard it must be to be grieving at a time when friends and family cannot be there to comfort them.

  • The coronavirus, racism, and violence tend to leave us “dealing with our emotions” during these ever-changing times. There are many emotions but one of life’s hardest emotions is grief!
  • Webster defines grief as (intense emotional suffering) (caused by loss). Any loss! It’s a sadness that comes when someone or something (that emotion has been invested into) has been taken away from us.
  • The word grief comes from the Latin “gravis” meaning “heavy”.  Thus, the phrase “heavy heart”.
  • It could be the loss of a loved one…. a relationship…a job…health… self-respect…faithfulness of your spouse. Our stay at home, businesses closed, upside-down world enhances our grief of losing our “normal lifestyle.”
  • The Minirth-Meier book “Healthy Christian Life” tells us that ALL grief generally follows some specific stages.

First, there is the denial stage.  “There must be some mistake.”  This is not happening. Then reality sets in —  the person becomes angry.  They may be angry at many people —  or events  — or even God.  Eventually, the anger will turn inward — feelings of guilt and anger with themselves — they sometimes begin bargaining = they make vows with god = if only things can return to normal. When anger and bargaining don’t fix the problem — depression or genuine grief sets in — it’s a necessary part of the healing process — they need to have a “good cry” so to speak. The final stage — acceptance – it can be reached when promises of God’s Word produce confidence and trust in God — and joy can begin to reappear.  It’s an acceptance of Romans 8:28: “we know that in all things God works for good… (even though we cannot always understand them)…with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.”

Well, remembering all that is not important – the truth is that grief is a… normal healthy process… and that we all do it differently…and that the reality is that it can lead us to a closer relationship with God.

Did you know that even Jesus felt grief? In the story of the death of Lazarus, we see how deeply Jesus was moved by grief.

We see in John 11:5…“Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary and brother Lazarus. There was a very real personal relationship… In verse 33 — 35: “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have they laid him?”  He asked.  “Come and see Lord,” they replied.  and then it says ….”Jesus wept.” 

The crowds were weeping loudly, they were wailing! And we see that Jesus wept, meaning tears. He felt grief…just like you and me.

 We also see that The Holy Spirit grieved. He grieves over our sinfulness. In Ephesians 4:31…And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you are sealed for the day of redemption.

It goes on to tell what the basis of the grief is…. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”

These sinful qualities grieve the Holy Spirit. It goes on in verse 32 to give us attitudes to show others: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

In 1993, rock star Eric Clapton was filled with grief at the death of his son – somehow, the 4-year-old child fell out the window of their 53rd-floor apartment. I only bring it up because of the words he wrote in a song.  The song is filled with his grief…… and then he questions what it will be like… if…. he sees his son in heaven — which is a whole new subject about saving faith — but he gets to the heart of Revelation 21:4 when he sings that there will be “no tears in heaven”.  Our grief is replaced with joy…thru our faith in Jesus.

You see you can find comfort in your time of grief….through faith. The Bible is full of verses showing God’s compassion and mercy for us.

  • 1 Peter 5:7…Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.

It says we can cast ALL our anxiety…(sometimes that anxiety is over changes in your life…..and these days, even changes in the way we gather for worship).

  • Philippians 4:6-7… Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

So, whatever grief you are going through, remember.

  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-5… Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

The Study Bible footnote says that “consolation and encouragement flow to believers…and equips them to comfort others who are in trouble.”

Alexander Nowell… says it this way… “God does not comfort us that we may be comfortable, but that we may be comforters.” That’s what it’s all about. Helping others through tough times …..as Christ comforts us. Are you suffering a loss…call me! Who do you know “grieving” a loss? How can you comfort them?

That’s why we go to funeral homes… to comfort those grieving.

That’s why we visit people in hospitals with a ministry of presence….pray for others facing difficult situations…welcome neighbors into a new home….we do random acts of kindness… make caring phone calls.

The things that we grieve over ultimately bring us back to the blessed assurance of our future destiny – it’s based on God’s love for us – revealed by the Holy Spirit – demonstrated by Christ’s death on the cross. It builds character – strengthens faith – equips us to comfort others and share the Gospel with them.

Friday - September 4, 2020

You may not have ever thought about it, but it can be complicated for a pastor to worship at a church service. Oh sure, we lead worship! But that is different from getting lost in worshiping the Lord. We value those moments when we are not “upfront” leading but instead are being led by another pastor, worship leader, or musician.

I am able to worship like that occasionally at another church like FaithWalk church. To be fed like you are at Royal Redeemer.

I was blessed for many years by going to a pastor’s conference in Pheonix every February. It was a great time for me to “be fed” and to recharge my spiritual batteries. I can remember being lost in the Love of God through music, prayer, messages, and the joy of worshiping with 1000 other pastors and church leaders. I can remember one specific moment that touched me. It was around the year 2000. The worship music was led by Fernando Ortega. He led us in singing “Give Me Jesus”. I encourage you to check it out online. The words are simple and yet life-changing and his voice is incredible!

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus 

And when I am alone
Oh, and when I am alone
And when I am alone, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

And when I come to die
Oh, and when I come to die
And when I come to die, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
You can have all this world
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

Let’s look at these words.

First of all, it tells of total love and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord, Savior, provider, and Redeemer. He is the only place to put your faith. “You can have all this world But give me Jesus.” This is counter-cultural. We are taught by culture, media, and other people that it’s all about what you have. “he who dies with the most toys wins” “have it your way” “grab all the gusto you can get” “eat drink and be merry” “watch out for number one.” And yet we are warned in Romans 1:25  They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. What do you tend to worship and value the most? Maybe your job, car, golf game? The real question is if Jesus is your Lord? Does your day planner/calendar show that to be true? Does your checkbook/bank account show that to be true? Would your friends know that your goal and passion is to be closer to and more like Jesus? Colossians 3:17  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The song looks at 3 times that can enhance your relationship with Jesus:

  • In the morning, when I rise… …This is key to me. Make time to get off on the right foot. First thing when you get up, talk to God. Thank Him for safe night sleep. Ask for Him to walk alongside you throughout the day…better yet, follow Him every day. Get into His Word first thing. Read a section of scripture or a devotional book. (see me if you need ideas). Have some quiet time getting a game plan for the day. Jesus did! Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
  • And when I am alone… The best part of your relationship with the Lord is that you have 24/ 7 access to Him. Thank Him when things are going well (just a short prayer of thanks). Call out to Him when life is tough. (ask Him to calm the storm, to calm your anxiety, to guide your words and actions). And then quietly “listen” for Him to speak to you…maybe in shouts…maybe in whispers. John 10:27-28… My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. The best part is that He will answer you! Jeremiah 33:3… Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
  • And when I come to die…So, the stark reality is that as sinners we will all die. Romans 6:23 The wages of sin is death. And yet death should not cause fear because of what is waiting for us (through faith in Jesus) at that time. Romans 6:23 continues But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus as Lord. Some feel that death is the end nothing more just rotting in the ground. Perhaps they are not singing our song above because they do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

So…now what?

  • Reflect on the words of the song. Make it your prayer each day.
  • Start each day saying “give me Jesus.”
  • Throughout the day stop and say “give me Jesus.”
  • Know that when you die…you will see Jesus.
  • Who do you know that does not know Jesus? 1 Peter 3:15… But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, Imagine the joy you will find when they can sing give me Jesus along with you. Wait for the right moment, pray for God to work through you, do it gently.

*Bonus thought for the day!*

Want to live a great, meaningful, and God-pleasing life? (source unknown)

TEN RULES FOR A HAPPY LIFE

  1. Give something away (no strings attached)
  2. Do an act of kindness (with no expectations in return)
  3. Spend a few minutes with the aged (their experience is a priceless guidance)
  4. Look intently into the face of a baby (and marvel)
  5. Laugh often (it’s life’s lubricant)
  6. Give thanks (a thousand times a day is not enough)
  7. Pray (or you will lose the way)
  8. Work (with vim and vigor)
  9. Plan as though you’ll live forever (because you will)
  10. Live as though you’ll die tomorrow (because you will on some tomorrow)

Thursday - September 3, 2020

In a church service one Sunday, the offering plate came to a little girl at the end of a row. She took the plate, put it down on the floor, and stood in it. When the usher asked her what she was doing, she responded, “In Sunday school I learned that I was supposed to give myself to God.”

Try to imagine the nightly news if we all followed that principle in our lives!  If we all gave ourselves to God’s plans.

Based on all the polarizing news we face each day, I thought we should go back to the basic facts:

  • Romans 3:23… For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is no asterisk there, it says ALL. It’s easy for us to find fault with, to look down at others that we do not agree with, to point out flaws in their opinions, and somehow, we feel justified doing it. It’s only when we admit that we too are sinners as well, that we can mend broken bridges. Confess your sins (without saying “but”…and without blaming others) and seek forgiveness. Ask God to let you look at others through His glasses…of unconditional love.
  • John 3:16…For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Hard to imagine but God loves EVERYONE, died on a cross for every sin and sinner, and offers forgiveness and eternal life through faith to EVERYONE! That person that you look at with contempt is your brother, handmade by God! He died for them!
  • Romans 12:1-2…Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will. This is God’s plan…and God’s solution to this pandemic of hatred we are experiencing. I know that we are hungry for the church to get “back to normal” back to us all in public worship. This verse says we are to “worship” every day every minute. We are not to buy into the conflict that divides us and causes us to choose sides (don’t conform to the pattern of this world) instead we are to let Christ transform our thoughts, words, actions, motives (be transformed by the renewing of your mind).

We all put our hope in something. I read a devotion by Paul David Tripp that got my attention. It started out saying “Every human being places his hope in something, and every human being asks that hope to deliver something.

  • Where have you placed your hope?” It’s an interesting question. We all have hopes and dreams. We envision a better life, a better job, a better world, and then we hope those things will somehow happen, and somehow bring us happiness.
  • Some search for hope horizontally. In situations, experiences, possessions, locations, relationships and I may add they can never deliver because they are all flawed as well. If your hope disappoints you, it’s because you have the wrong source of hope!
  • Our only real hope is found vertically with the one true God. It is only when we become men and women of God, men and women of integrity, when we know and love Jesus as our Savior, and our HOPE that we will make a real difference in the world. In response to the Gospel, we can accomplish God’s plan for us.

Ephesians 1:18…I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.

It starts with a heart change. To see things as God would have you see them. To love the Lord and to love your neighbor.

Jeremiah 17:7…Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.

I pray that you will take time in God’s Word today and every day, to ask Him to reveal His will for you. His plans for you.

  • Confess your sins to Him…seeking His forgiveness and unconditional Love for you. Are there areas of your life that are “off-limits” to God? Are there people (individuals and/or groups) that you “hate” and wish ill will of? Do your words and actions polarize or unify?
  • Pray for peace, love, unity in our churches, communities, and nation. Ask God what you can do…who you can reach out to.
  • Ask God to transform you from the inside out. To give you a heart transplant. A heart that sees all people as children of God…brothers and sisters…people that Jesus died for. As we talked about it yesterday…ask God for peace on earth and let it begin with ME!

Wednesday - September 2, 2020

Romans 12:18 (NIV)…  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18 (msg)…  Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Romans 12:18 (TLB)… Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible.

Have you ever felt the pain of having someone maybe a child make really bad choices? All you wanted was the best for them and now they are out of control. The pain, anguish, disappointment, you cry tears of sadness and you pray they would have a change of heart.

Imagine how God must feel.

He created man in His image and His masterpiece. Gave them a paradise to live in. Instead of focusing on what they had, they lusted for what they did not have -knowledge of evil. Sin entered in, poor choices were made, evil, dissension, violence, and discord are the result of our sinful nature.

I imagine that He has shed many tears as He watches what is happening in this great nation that we live in. Many of us sit and watch the video of people looking at others with hatred, treating them with abusive words and violence. The images are all too common. The pain and issues have been long coming. Many are my age and watched this cycle over and over again.

What is God’s reaction to all of this? LOVE!   And yet it must break His heart.

You may have seen a picture, I have one in my office, of Jesus, weeping over Jerusalem. Luke 19:41 And when He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it.

In the same way, as we watch the news, we weep, and we pray for peace.

Many people have asked me “What they can do? How can they help bring peace?” We pray but then what? Maybe this song will help!

Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller wrote a song in 1955. Vince Gill sang the simple and yet powerful words to this song:

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let There Be Peace on Earth
The peace that was meant to be

With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.

With ev’ry step I take
Let this be my solemn vow
To take each moment and live
Each moment in peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me

I find it interesting that Jill Jackson-Miller, who had been suicidal after the failure of her marriage to screenwriter Felix Jackson, later said that she wrote the song after discovering what she called the “life-saving joy of God’s peace and unconditional love.”

Imagine a world where we all lived by those words.

That was (and still is) God’s plan. Mankind living in peace and harmony with each other and with nature.

It starts with knowing the “life-saving joy of God’s peace and unconditional love.” Our relationship with the Lord is the foundation for our thoughts, words, actions, motives…as well as the way we are to treat others with love and respect.

The result will be that we desire to Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony. Unfortunately, as we have seen, that is not always the case.

Now you may say, “Dave this is a downer of a devotion, I’m not the problem, I am not a violent person, a hateful person, a bigot, or hater. I am not rioting and vandalizing and yelling words of hatred.”

Good, that’s a start. But did you notice it said, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

No…I don’t think it would help if you ran into a violent situation and shouted “stop, stop…we love you”.

But….Do you pray for peace? Worldly peace as well as God’s Peace.

Let’s get personal…and maybe a little uncomfortable.

  • Are you at peace with the Lord? If not, ask Him for it, He is just dying to give you His Peace. Go back and read my August 24th devotion on Peace...
  • Is there peace and harmony in your home…neighborhood…. workplace? If not…be an agent of peace in all areas of your life.
  • Are there people that you are not at peace with? Have you written them off, vowing to never forgive them? Take time to listen to what they are saying…put yourself in their shoes… Ask about their motive and back-story…walk a mile in their shoes!
  • What are your words and actions teaching your kids and grandkids? They are watching, you know.
  • Do you tend to pass judgment on people or groups of people? Take time to hear their story… and to walk a mile in their shoes.
  • Look into your own heart…as you listen to them…hear what they are saying… feel their pain… learn… ask God to transform your heart… work for positive change….be God’s instrument…pray!
  • How about your social media (sorry, I know this will hurt!). Go back and look at your recent posts. Are they beacons of hope and love? Do they build up, mend issues, and bring peace …or are they a vehicle of hate for whatever cause, political battle, self-interest you need the world to know? Imagine if we all used our postings to our circle of influence to spread love and peace.

What can you do?

1 Peter 3:8-9 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

How do we bring peace to divided land ONE PERSON AT A TIME! Each one reaching one. It is contagious!

May your prayer be: Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!

Tuesday - September 1, 2020

I am finishing this devotion series by looking at self-control today… as well as a summary of the series. 

For the last few days, we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I have been taking each of these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS.

Now today we will look at self-control.

The dictionary defines self-control as the ability to control oneself, in particular, one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations.

A Biblical definition of selfcontrol is listed in the Bible as a Fruit of the Spirit – a sign that Christ is in us. If we let our desires lead our decisions, our lives (and our bodies) can quickly spin out of controlSelfcontrol is a discipline that God grows in us when we continually choose to die to our flesh and live in Him.

While his wife sang in the church choir, Mr. Nelsen took the couple’s infant son to sit with him in the worship service. And, as children are so adept at doing, he let out a terrifying scream right in the middle of the pastor’s sermon. Mr. Nelsen got up, took the child in the hallway where he was overheard saying, “Okay, John, just take it easy. Don’t get excited. it’ll be okay. Settle down. Whoa now. Just relax. Relax, John, relax.” When the service ended, the woman who overheard Mr. Nelsen’s conversation with his infant son, remarked to Mrs. Nelsen, “I certainly admire your husband’s patience with your baby John.” “My son’s name is Chris. My husband is John,” the woman replied.

So…How are you doing with self-control? How about food and drink, anger, foul words, smoking? Stop reading for a minute and quietly ask yourself…what area do you struggle with self-control issues?

Titus 2:11-12…For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

I think that we would all agree that the world is out of control! But the bigger question for you is “are you out of control?” Do you feel like a car with a broken steering wheel, bouncing off curbs?

Proverbs 25:28… Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.

I want us to focus on a verse found in 1 Corinthians 9:25… 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.

We all sin…fall short! The wages (results) of sin is death. A broken relationship with a Holy God. On our own, we will perish! And yet, thankfully, God Loves YOU so much that He sent His Son Jesus to fix the problem. He died in your place. He restored your relationship with God. YOU are saved! You have a crown of righteousness in our future.

2 Timothy 4:8… Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

But there is still a problem. We keep on sinning! In our sinful state, we lack self-control. That’s where God steps in with the fruit of the spirit including self-control empowered by God’s Power.

Our verse above about athletes says they go into strict training.

  • How do we go into training to be more Christ-like…to have more self-control?
  • Number one is to read God’s Word daily! Don’t just nod and move on reading this…schedule a time every day to hear what God has to say to you in His Word.
  • We need to pray for God to guide you and equip you to accomplish His plans for you.
  • Be active in His church…worship regularly! Use your gifts to serve those in need.

In addressing a need for self-control…admit your problem. James 1:14… but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. What area of your life is out of control? Do you rationalize why it’s ok? Do you blame others for your actions? Do you say “everyone else is doing it” or “it’s just a little sin” “I could quit anytime.”

Does this sound like you? Romans 7:18-19… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. That’s our sinful nature showing….but God wants to move you past those things…to make Godly choices.

Ask God to give you more self-control! Galatians 5:16 (GMT)… What I say is this: let the Spirit direct your lives, and you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature.

In this series, we have looked at the virtues and characteristics that God is producing in us…through the Holy Spirit. Here is a short way of remembering them: Love is the key. Joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Patience is love enduring. Kindness is love’s touch. Goodness is love’s character. Faithfulness is love’s habit. Gentleness is love’s self-forgetfulness. Self-control is love holding the reins.

I thought the best way to finish this series of devotions on the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT was to use this illustration!

The Maker of all human beings (GOD) is recalling all units manufactured, regardless of make or year, due to a serious defect in the primary and central component of the heart. This is due to a malfunction in the original prototype units, code-named Adam and Eve, resulting in the reproduction of the same defect in all subsequent units. This defect has been identified as “Subsequential Internal Non-morality,” more commonly known as S.I.N., as it is primarily expressed.

Some of the symptoms include:

  1. Lack of self-control
  2. Foul vocal emissions
  3. Amnesia of origin
  4. Lack of peace and joy
  5. Selfish or violent behavior
  6. Depression or confusion
  7. Fearfulness
  8. Idolatry
  9. Rebellion
  10. Loss of direction

The Manufacturer, who is neither liable nor at fault for this defect, is providing factory-authorized repair and service free of charge to correct this defect.

The Repair Technician, JESUS, has most generously offered to bear the entire burden of the staggering cost of these repairs. There is no additional fee required.

The number to call for repair in all areas is P-R-A-Y-E-R.

Once connected, please upload your burden of SIN through the REPENTANCE procedure.

Next, download ATONEMENT from the Repair Technician, Jesus, into the heart component.

No matter how big or small the SIN defect is, Jesus will replace it with:

  1. Love
  2. Joy
  3. Peace
  4. Patience
  5. Kindness
  6. Goodness
  7. Faithfulness
  8. Gentleness
  9. Self-control

Please see the operating manual, the B.I.B.L.E. (BEST Instructions Before Leaving Earth) for further details on the use of these fixes.

WARNING: Continuing to operate the human being unit without correction voids any manufacturer warranties, exposing the unit to dangers and problems too numerous to list, and will result in the human unit being permanently impounded. For free emergency service, call P-R-A-Y-E-R and ask for Jesus.

Monday - August 31, 2020

As we all look at the upside-down world we live in…we tend to wonder what would God have us do today. 1 Corinthians 10:31…Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Many people have asked me “what can I do to help with the racial tension that has struck in many cities?” Obviously, we all need to pray in faith that God will bring good out of every situation, that His Peace will prevail. But I challenge you to… be who God created you to be… in the places He has placed you to be… to every person you have an opportunity to be the Light of Christ to. What I mean by that is to treat everyone that you come in contact with as if they were Jesus. Just as the pandemic gets transferred thru contact person to person…. God’s Love can do the same. If “each one reaches one” and that person does the same…before long, we will all treat each other with respect… and as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

For the last few days, we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We’re talking about what’s going on in the orchard of your life. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I am going to take each of these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, FAITHFULNESS.

Today we will look at GENTLENESS.

The dictionary defines gentleness as the quality of being kind and careful. Your gentleness with a frightened stray dog will eventually convince her to let you feed and pet her. The noun gentleness is perfect for describing the way someone acts when they are soft and calm and sweet to other people.

What is the difference between kindness and gentleness?

It would seem that kindness is more of a singular action, whereas gentleness is more of a “way of life” or method. I do believe that gentleness embodies kindness – that a gentle person is almost certainly going to be kind to others. (Note: both are included in the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT.) 

I read about a guy who took his kids to a fair where they (unfortunately for dad) won 4 goldfish. Not wanting to spend a lot of money on a tank for the fish, he got an old one from the garage. He spent a few hours cleaning it and put the fish in. All is well! The next day one fish died, then the next, and soon all 4 were dead. It didn’t take him long to discover the problem: He had washed the tank with soap, an absolute no-no. His efforts had destroyed the very lives he was trying to protect. Sometimes in our zeal to clean up our own lives or the lives of others we, unfortunately, use “killer soaps” like condemnation, criticism, nagging, fits of temper. We try to force our ideas…using a loud voice and abusive words. We think we’re doing right, but our harsh, self-righteous treatment is more than they can bear.

That’s where gentleness comes in. The Biblical definition of Gentleness is Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.

What does the Bible say about gentleness?

  • We are to be gentle like Jesus! Matthew 11:29…Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
  • Paul was gentle to believers! 2 Corinthians 10:1…By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away!
  • We are to be identified by our gentleness…even when dealing with others. Ephesians 4:2…Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
  • We are to treat others gently! Galatians 6:1…Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

According to Bill Farmer’s newspaper column J:

Upton Dickson was a fun-loving fellow who said he was writing a book entitled Cower Power. He also founded a group of submissive people. It was called DOORMATS. That stands for “Dependent Organization of Really Meek And Timid Souls…if there are no objections.” Their motto was: “The meek shall inherit the earth if that’s okay with everybody else.” Their symbol was the yellow traffic light.

The devotional called “daily Bread” said, Mr. Dickson sounds like he’d be a lot of fun, doesn’t he? What is disturbing about all of this, though, is that many people assume that the ridiculous ideas behind DOORMATS and Cower Power represent the quality of meekness outlined in Matthew 5:5…Blessed are the meek,  for they will inherit the earth. Many think that to be meek (gentle) is to be weak. But the opposite is true. What the Bible is talking about is a powerful virtue. The slogan “strong enough to be gentle” comes close to defining it. True meekness (humble and gentle) is best seen in Christ. He was submissive, never resisting or disputing the will of God. His absolute trust in the Father enabled Him to show compassion, courage, and self-sacrifice even in the most hostile situation.

Now let’s apply this to ourselves. When we are meek (gentle), we will bear insults without lashing out in proud resentment or retaliation. We’ll thank God in every circumstance, while using every circumstance, good or bad, as an occasion to submit to Him. Meekness would be a weakness if it meant yielding to sin. But because it stems from goodness and godliness, it is a great strength.

The need for gentleness (a gentle spirit) shows up most when dealing with people who disagree with us. A book called “God’s Power to Change Your Life” looks at 6 points:

  • Being understanding…not demanding. Philippians 2:4 (lb)don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing. Try to understand their motive and situation. Put yourself in their shoes.
  • Being gracious…not judgmental. Galatians 6:1 (NIV)… Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Wait for the right time, place…and for you to have the right purpose and attitude before approaching them. Don’t have a “holier than thou” attitude. Accept those who have a weak faith without passing judgment. Pray for God to mend their hearts.
  • To be tender without surrender. Proverbs 15:1 (GMT)… A gentle answer quiets anger, but a harsh one stirs it up. One of the best tests of spiritual maturity is how you handle people who disagree with you or are harsh with you. Maintain your right to an opinion but respect their right as well. Remember that yelling and arguing never accomplishes anything good…nor displays gentleness!
  • To be teachable…not unreachable. James 1:19-20 (Phillips)… In view of what he has made us then, dear brothers, let every man be quick to listen but slow to use his tongue, and slow to lose his temper. For man’s temper is never the means of achieving God’s true goodness. It’s a great recipe to gentleness…Be quick to listen…slow to answer…then you will have control of your temper!
  • Be an actor…not a reactor. Romans 12:17,21 (NIV)…17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone…..21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Strength is found in gentleness. Jesus would call it “turning the other cheek.” No knee jerk reactions to others’ bad behavior. Don’t let others control your emotions!
  • Be respectful. 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)…  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to answer everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. Share what God is doing in your life (especially with those who do not know Jesus as Savior) …do it gently and respectfully…Let the Holy Spirit work through you!

So now what?

  • Spend time going over the verses above. Assess how you do with gentleness…at home…at work…with neighbors…with those with different values and lifestyles.
  • How do others see you based on the verse in Philippians 4:5…Let your gentleness be evident to all. Do others see Jesus in you by the way you respond to issues?
  • Stay rooted in God’s Word and Pray for the Holy Spirit to produce gentleness in you.

Friday - August 28, 2020

For the last few days, we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. We have been looking at each of these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS.

Today we will look at Faithfulness.

We are all too often like the little boy whose mother asked him to go into the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup. The little boy didn’t want to go into the pantry alone, and he said, “Mommy, it’s dark in there, and I’m scared.” “It’s all right, Johnny,” she said, “You go in there and get a can of tomato soup. I need it for a recipe.” He said, “But Mommy, it’s dark, and I’m too scared to go in there by myself.” “It’s okay, Johnny,” she said again. “Jesus will be in there with you. Now you go and get a can of tomato soup.” Johnny went to the door and opened it slowly. When he peeked inside, it was dark, and he was scared. His hands began to tremble, but he got an idea. He said, ”Hey… Jesus, if you’re in there, would You hand me that can of tomato soup?”

The definition of faithfulness is a quality of being faithful, loyal, constant, staunch, steadfast, resolute, to be firm in adherence to whatever one owes allegiance. Faithful implies unswerving adherence to a person or thing or to the oath or promise by which a tie was contracted.

Faithfulness is the concept of unfailingly remaining loyal to someone or something and putting that loyalty into consistent practice regardless of extenuating circumstances. Even when going into a dark pantry!

The most famous geyser in America is OLD FAITHFUL! It’s not the biggest geyser in America…nor the most powerful. What makes it famous is it’s faithfulness! It runs like clockwork it’s dependable! But that’s just a geyser. What about us?

Biblically Faithfulness comes from a place of trust and loyalty. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is a confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” As a Christian, it is important to be faithful to God. It is one thing to simply believe in Him, but another to be faithful to Him.

Right about now, you may be saying to yourself “Dave, these devotions are nice, but I feel overwhelmed! I can never live up to all of these virtues we have been looking at!”

Well, That’s a good place to be! On your own, you can not master any of these characteristics of a Christ follower. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. The more time we spend with God through prayer and in His Word…the more FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT will show up in your life.

How do I get faith? The Bible answers that question faith comes from the Word of God. (Romans 10:17…Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.) Fruit grows and matures when it is rooted in God’s Word and watered in prayer. (Colossians 2:6-7… So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.) Use this verse to picture a tree, nourished and held in place by strong roots, built up and growing, strengthened by the sun and rain and overflowing in fruit. You are God’s tree! Be grounded in the Lord!

Our role model for faithfulness is Jesus.

1 Corinthians 1:9…God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Joshua 21:45…Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; everyone was fulfilled.

2 Peter 3:9…The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Look up and focus on the words to the song “How Great is Thy Faithfulness”

We have faith in the faithful one and the Spirit fills us with faithfulness!

So it makes sense that if we want to be faithful (full of faith), we need to have a growing faith. I heard it put this way if you do not use your right arm, it will eventually lose all its power to move. Its muscles must be exercised to stay alive. If you have faith, you must exercise this also. If you don’t, it dies.

Faith in God seems easy on the good days…but it is tested and grows stronger when life gets tough. Faith is a gift to you from God!

A widely known professor in a New England university started out as a practicing Christian, a man of faith. Over the years, however, this all changed. He became known as an agnostic, or an atheist even. He said, concerning that change, that he never consciously abandoned faith. He said, “It was as though I had just put it away in a drawer, and later when I looked for it, it wasn’t there. “God never stopped reaching out to the man but the man had let faith die for want of exercise.

If you have faith, keep it out and keep it active. Faith does not survive packed in an old trunk or kept in cold storage. Some fine musical instruments must be played to survive; leave them idle and they will no longer make music for you. Use the faith you’ve got, and it will grow stronger; fail to use it, and it will weaken and perish. Exercise your faith!

There are many ways of doing this: helping others, loving them; forgiving others, living a noble life; firmly holding high ideals and staying the course God has planned for you. But your faith is best exercised when you ask it to do the thing it alone has the power to do, when you ask it to lift up your soul for the touch of God. This you do when you truly worship him.

So…now what?

  • How would you rate yourself in the area of faithfulness? In your home / family life? In your job? In keeping your promises? In the use of your time, talents, treasures?
  • Are you faithful in your spiritual life, prayers, Bible study, worship, serving?
  • Stop and thank the Lord for giving you eternal life thru faith in the faithful one.
  • How would others rate your faithfulness?
  • How would God rate your faithfulness?

Thursday - August 27, 2020

I want to share a prayer with you that I say every morning for my family. I think it is a prayer that we should share for all people.

Lord, may we be men and women of God, men and women of integrity, may we know you as Lord and Savior and live accordingly. Lord bind up Satan, boot him out of our lives and fill the void with more of your Spirit. 

I pray this for everyone. For all people, races, social-economic class, age, location and political choice. That God’s Peace would prevail.

For the last few days we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I have been looking at each of these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS.

Now today we will look at GOODNESS.

We all like to look good and feel good! We try to be good! We love things that taste good! We want good weather and a good report card!

I bet when you were young, your parents told you to “have fun but be good!” To a kid, (and maybe still for you today) that may seem like a contradiction.

The dictionary defines goodness as the quality of being morally good or virtuous.

The Bible uses the word differently. God uses the word good and goodness 619 times…I guess God thinks it’s an important word, virtue, and FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT.

Biblically in Greek, the word goodness, “agathosune,” means “an uprightness of heart and life”. In addition, Jesus is called the good shepherd” in Scripture, because He laid down His life for His sheep. We are called as Christians to live in a way that reflects the character of Christ.

I saw a devotion that went like this:

Once, during the hours of a quiet, starlit night, above the hills of Bethlehem, from a strange voice there came an announcement this world will never forget. To a few shepherds then – and to all the world eventually – that voice said, “Behold! I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be to all people …”. We cannot be sure what language that messenger spoke – perhaps Hebrew, maybe Aramaic, or possibly some language never named and not understood except by a few. But the message heard that night has been translated into almost every language spoken on this planet. When the message reached primitive England, there it encountered an old Anglo-Saxon word, “godspell,” which meant “good news” and thus the message became the “gospel” and so it has remained ever since. “I bring you good news!” From whatever source, these are welcome words to most people most of the time. But this particular piece of news is especially good because it is good for all people in all times. For almost 2,000 years it has occupied an uppermost place in human thought.

We sin. That’s bad news!

God loves us and sent Jesus to die in our place, that’s good news!

In response to this life giving gift we are to make good, God pleasing choices! We also know that when we get our roots planted in God’s Word fruit will grow Fruit of goodness!

And yet that is not as easy as it seems:

Gal 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

So why would we be weary doing good?

First of all, it’s against our sinful nature! Sin is self-centeredness by definition. It only thinks of what’s best for ME! Left to our sinful nature we think bad things, desire bad things, are attracted to bad things and choose bad things. And yet God calls us to goodness.

Second, Satan wants you to get weary trying to be good. He will tempt you to give up to say “let someone else do it!”, to make not so good (bad) choices instead.

The danger is always present that we will judge before all the facts are known to us. A few years ago “good news, bad news” stories were going around. A man meets a friend and says, I won a thousand dollars in a contest.” The friend replies, “That’s good.” “No, I spent it on a skiing trip to Switzerland and broke a leg.” “That’s bad.” “No, while I was in the hospital I fell in love with an attractive nurse and married her.” “That’s good.” “No, it turned out that she didn’t like the United States and insisted that we had to live in Europe.” “That’s bad.” “No, we set up a home in Paris and I got a job with an export firm.” “That’s good.” “No, the firm went bankrupt and we were soon reduced to poverty.” “That’s bad.” “No, under those difficult circumstances I examined my goals and values and discovered that I was living for the wrong reasons.” “That’s good.” The dialogue goes on and what we discover is that the good and the bad grow side by side. Our judgment at a certain moment often does not take into consideration all the facts.

So how do we know what is good?

Simple we test it with God’s word.

Philippians 4:8-9…Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I like the Good News translation of that verse:

In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you.

Henry Thoreau said, “Be not merely good; be good for something.” That was Jesus’ challenge to the man who wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life. He had been good at making money, in being morally upright and keeping the commandments; but that is not the ultimate good: he must also give of himself and what he has in behalf of others. He needed to also realize that, “The gift without the giver is bare.”

I think a great way to live is by this motto:

Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, At all the times you can, As long as ever you can.

Someone else has expressed the ideal of goodness in a wonderful way, saying, “I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore, that I can do, or any goodness that I can show to my fellow creatures, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Goodness…a FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT is a characteristic of a Christian, it’s a way to live, think, and be. The more time we spend with God in prayer and in His Word the more goodness others will see in us!

So, now what?

  • Go back over the 2 translations of Philippians 4 above. Read them slowly. Think about each word. Are there character weaknesses in your life that would conflict with any of them?
  • Spend time in God’s Word and prayer…Ask the Holy Spirit to produce goodness in your thoughts, words, actions.
  • Ask for God to reveal who could be the recipient of that goodness?

Wednesday - August 26, 2020

Let us start today with a prayer:

Lord we humbly come to you in this time of need! You created a paradise and yet sin has tainted the beauty of your creation. We look around and are overwhelmed by images of a broken world. Galatians 5 reminds us that we see “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, dissensions, and factions.” The front pages are filled with stories of bigotry, anger, and violence. Lord, heal hearts and bring about unity and change. Lord, guide leaders to lead with wisdom, compassion, integrity. Help each of us to take a close look inside ourselves so that we individually would assess and confess our sinfulness…to repent of our thoughts, words, and actions…to look for opportunities to build bridges…to pray for and to point others to you and your Love. Let us each reach out to someone who is hurting. Lord, fill us with your Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control. Lord be with those who are impacted by the pandemic…and those that are impacted by the violence and rioting that has emerged this great nation. Lord we seek peace in our land…and yet it begins with your Peace in our hearts. Amen.

For the last few days we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We’re talking about what’s going on in the orchard of your life. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I have been looking at each of these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE, JOY, PEACE, and PATIENCE.

Today we will look at KINDNESS.

  • Have you ever had someone send you a card thanking you for an act of kindness?
  • Did you notice the look on someone’s face when you showed them kindness?
  • Have you ever called, texted, or sent a card thanking someone for their kindness to you?

We looked at “love” the other day and kindness is love in action. It is being supportive and sympathetic. It is looking out for the needs of others, especially those that are hurting. To reach out to comfort, help, pray for them, and to walk alongside them (and that is exactly what our nation needs right now!)

Sam was invited to his friend John’s home for dinner. John had been married to his wife for nearly fifty years, so Sam was pleasantly surprised at the kindness that John showed his wife. John preceded every request to his wife by endearing terms, calling her Honey, My Love, Darling, Sweetheart, Pumpkin, etc. John hung his head and whispered, “To tell the truth, I forgot her name three years ago.”

SO…that is not what the fruit of KINDNESS is all about!

Kindness is defined in the dictionary as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Affection, gentleness, warmth, concern, and care are words that are associated with kindness. While kindness has a connotation of meaning someone is naive or weak, that is not the case. Being kind often requires courage and strength.

Biblically Kindness is selfless, compassionate, and merciful; its greatest power revealed in practice to our enemies and amongst the least of these. We are called to Love your neighbor; show kindness to EVERYONE. For a perfect role model of Biblical kindness, we need look no further than Jesus! He came that ALL would be saved.

Kindness is a garment that you are to wear…. something that can be seen.

Col 3:12-14 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, 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.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  

Did you notice that it says to “clothe yourself” with these virtues? Many of these words are included in the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT section that we have been looking at! We get up in the morning and choose what clothes to put on, what we will wear, and what others will see and identify us by. So, do you put on kindness. Do others see and hear kindness in your words, actions, motives, passions, and purpose in life? Do you show kindness without expecting anything in return?

Philip McLarty writes:

In 1976 I helped lead a youth group on a trip to Washington, D.C.  We called it the “Citizenship Seminar.”  It was an effort to help high school students make the connection between the world of politics and religion. One of the high points of our trip was a visit with Senator John Tower who, at the time, was Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  He received us into his office graciously and addressed our questions candidly.  One the students asked him about world hunger and the United States foreign aid policy.  I’ll always remember what he said.  He said, “Food is our Number One political weapon.”  Then he went on to explain that, in exchange for grain and other commodities, we expected cooperation and certain concessions from developing countries. I was shocked and dismayed by what he said, and I told him so.  He was diplomatic and polite and, in so many words, told me I was naïve.

Perhaps he was right.  Only this I know: Acts of kindness with a hook are anything but kind.  True kindness expects nothing in return, except the satisfaction of doing what’s right.

I can’t help but think of Jesus’ kindness for the lost, the hurt, the sick, the poor! If we are to become more Christlike each and every day…then we need to treat all people the same as Jesus would!

Julia Carney wrote these words in the mid-19th Century.  They still speak to us today:

“Little drops of water, little grains of sand,
make the mighty ocean and the beauteous land.
And the little moments, humble though they may be,
make the mighty ages of eternity.
Little deeds of kindness, little words of love,
make our earth an Eden, like the heaven above.”

I like to think it’s the little acts of kindness that often go unnoticed that have the best chance of transforming the world around us into the kingdom of God.

So as always, these devotions are meant to impact you, to draw you closer to the Lord and His Word:

  • Who do you know that needs an act of kindness from you? Maybe a smile across the path as you walk? Maybe some help with their yard work? Maybe an offer to shop if they are staying in place? Maybe a surprise plate of cookies? Maybe a phone call to break up someone’s day and to let them know that you care?
  • When you think of “kind” people in your life…who comes to mind? Learn from them! Let them know that you appreciate their kindness.
  • Be open to God nudging you to random acts of kindness.
  • Pray for the Spirit to produce Fruit of the Spirit in your life including more KINDNESS!

Tuesday - August 25, 2020

For the last few days, we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. We have been looking at these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE, JOY and PEACE.

Today we will look at PATIENCE! I find it interesting that as God lists the fruit of the Spirit. He makes us wait to get to patience.

When I have talked with new members in our “Life with God” sessions over the years, I hear that patience is one of their biggest struggles. I must confess that I struggle with this one as well.

It’s not an excuse but the world that we live in doesn’t help:

  • Because of our impatience we invented microwave meals
  • Faster and faster computer speeds. (We feel that we need to call a repairman if we have to wait 2 seconds for our computer to respond to our keystroke.)
  • We have one minute rice, instant coffee, fast food, etc.
  • 1 Corinthians says that “Love is PATIENT”.
  • Throughout the Bible we see people having to wait.
  • Noah waited 120 years for the flood!
  • Moses and the people wandered 40 years before entering the promised land!
  • Abraham waited for a son, Jacob waited for Rachel, Joseph waited in jail, mankind is waiting for the Savior to return.

How many more can you come up with?

One Sunday morning a pastor’s wife was teaching her class of small girls the subject of patience. She asked, “What is patience?” One little girl raised her hand and said, “Patience is when you are sitting in church and the preacher is preaching. You’re just sitting there, and he is preaching. He keeps preaching and you keep sitting there. That’s patience.”

OK…one more funny one!

A couple with three children waited in line at San Francisco’s Pier 41 to purchase tickets for a boat trip to Alcatraz. Others watched with varying degrees of sympathy and irritation as the young children fidgeted, whined, and punched one another. The frazzled parents reprimanded them to no avail. Finally, they reached the ticket window. “Five tickets, please,” the father said. “Two round trip, three one way.”

I heard it say that…Patience is letting your motor idle while you want to burn rubber! We find ourselves  saying “Lord…give me patience…and hurry up!”

So we understand having patience as we wait at the grocery store checkout or the drive through at Starbucks but what are some situations that we need the Holy Spirit to fill us with PATIENCE?

Waiting for:

  • The chemo to do its thing!
  • My job to resume or business to reopen!
  • For live church and small groups to resume!
  • For my marriage to get healthy again!
  • For the Lord to call me home and Him to return!
  • What situation do you need GOD’S PATIENCE____________?

I saw a sermon by James Merritt that looked at 3 areas of patience, I want to share them (and some of his thoughts) with you:

  1. A Patience with Difficult People. We all have been there! I call them the EGR (Extra Grace Required) people! They can test our patience.

James 5:7-8…”Therefore, be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the lord is at hand.” The word patient is the same word sometimes used for longsuffering. In this section…James illustrates patience with the picture of a farmer.

A farmer plants, weeds, waters, cultivates. Every day he does two things: he watches, and he waits. Because he knows that you cannot hurry the harvest, but he also knows that the harvest will come in due time.

  1. A Patience with Demanding Problems. God tells us that “in this world you will have troubles.” We face many problems in our daily lives…and many more due to this pandemic.

James 5:10-11…”My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed, we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”

Now why does he mention Job? Well, think about what Job faced. First of all, he faced destitution. He lost everything that he owned. Then he faced death. His children and grandchildren were wiped out. Then he faced disease. He was covered with terrible sores and boils. Then he faced desertion. Even his own wife basically turned her back on him. Just like Job, every one of us are going to face demanding problems. Just as you cannot hide from difficult people, you cannot run from demanding problems. Now understand that problems are not meant to defeat you, nor are they meant to depress you, nor are they meant to discourage you. They are meant to develop you. Problems are not tools to tear you down, they are tests to build you up.

III. A Patience with a Definite Purpose.

Now why does God allow difficult people and demanding problems into our lives? It is to develop maturity. James 1:3-4…”knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

The word for complete here means mature. God’s goal for you is maturity, and patience may be a bitter plant, but it always bears sweet fruit. For full- blown patience makes for a full-grown Christian. Troubles and troublemakers are in your life to develop longsuffering, and you will never graduate to maturity until you go to the school of hard knocks and learn the discipline of longsuffering, which is patience, perseverance, and persistence.

So….You see, it is by patience that we see God’s work in us, and it is by perseverance we learn God’s will for us.

So…when you are feeling impatient…ask God to slow you down…to trust in His timing…to focus on … Isaiah 40:31…”Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

——-

This was a long devotion but if you want one more funny illustration:

This first grade teacher, and her class of thirty-two first graders, had watched it rain all day long. The last bell had rung, it was time to go home, and this teacher began putting galoshes on all thirty-two of those first graders.

She came to the last little girl and she was so excited that she was about finished with this dirty chore, and she began to put the galoshes on this little girl, and they were unusually tight. She struggled, she strained, she pulled, she tugged, she grunted, she groaned, and finally got the galoshes on that last little girl. Just as she finished snapping them into place, the little girl said: “You know what teacher? These aren’t my galoshes.”

The teacher couldn’t believe it. She struggled, she strained, she pulled, she tugged, she grunted, she groaned, until glistening with sweat, she finally yanked the galoshes off those little girl’s feet. Just at the moment she finally snapped them off, the little girl looked up at her and said: “They’re my sisters and she lets me wear them.”

Monday - August 24, 2020

For the last few days we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We are talking about what’s going on in the orchard of your life. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I have been taking each of these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE and JOY.

Today, I want us to look at PEACE.

Brett Blair tells this story. One of the best newspaper cartoons of all time is Calvin and Hobbes. One day Calvin and Hobbes come marching into the living room early one morning. His mother is seated there in her favorite chair. She is sipping her morning coffee. She looks up at young Calvin. She is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin’s head is encased in a large space helmet. A cape is draped around his neck, across his shoulders, down his back and is dragging on the floor. One hand is holding a flashlight and the other a baseball bat.

“What’s up today?” asks his Mom.

“Nothing, so far,” answers Calvin.

“So far?” she questions.

“Well, you never know,” Calvin says, “Something could happen today.” Then Calvin marches off, “And if anything does, by golly, I’m going to be ready for it!”

Calvin’s mom looks out at the reading audience and she says, “I need a suit like that!”

That’s the way many of us feel as we see the news and deal with life. Sometimes this world seems quite violent and people seem to be at each other’s throats, we deal with upended economies, and odd family dynamics, and the collateral damage of the pandemic. A suit like that might not be such a bad idea! And yet, GOD’S PEACE can protect you from whatever this world throws at you! How about you? Can you say with Calvin, “Whatever may come my way, I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”

Well I don’t think we need to wear a suit like Calvin, but we can have a PEACE in our lives that’s even better.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Did you catch the phrase that says “Not as the world gives.” The world promises peace through the rule of law. Law and order are the only way for a society and a people to experience earthly peace and oddly enough, law and order must be kept by the aggressive use of force. That is the only way that the world can bring about peace. (which by the way, since Cain and Abel earthly peace has never existed)

But here is how Jesus will give you peace. You ask Him for it! You trust in Him as your Lord and Savior. His peace will make its home in your heart. The world’s peace is peace through strength. The Lord’s peace is peace through surrender to Him and His unconditional Love and strength.

We have all been asked: “if you could have any wish what would it be?” I think the most common answer given is “world peace.”

World peace would be great, but God offers a peace that is beyond understanding! So what’s that all about?

God, His Word, and angels often (over 300 times) said “peace be with you”. When people face the toughest circumstances…God says, “Peace be with you!”

God’s Peace is a Spiritual Peace! Rom 5:1-2…Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. Our peace with God is a product of our relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit producing fruit in us. It’s a peace that lives deep in our hearts as we trust God with our life and our circumstances.

God’s Peace is an emotional Peace! Col 3:15-17… Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. HOW DO YOU DO THAT? You Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. We have talked about fruit being a result of deep roots. Are your roots deeply into God’s Word and prayer? Go back and re-read this verse a few times.

God’s Peace is a relational Peace! Rom 12:17-18 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. It’s hard to have peace when there is relational conflict in our lives. Who do you need to make peace with? We can mend broken relationships by taking on the character of Christ. To see past the indiscretions, and see the person that God created and forgives.

So ask yourself… What is robbing you of peace. Is it health, family issues, finances, guilt, grief? I suggest you turn it over to the Lord ask Him for His peace that is beyond our human understanding.

We have all been walking through this pandemic over the last months. It is very real and has caused many issues including, loneliness, depression, financial issues, relationship battles, and many more situations that can threaten to rob us of peace. I saw an illustration (ironically from long ago) about a different (positive) condition that spreads from God to and through contact. It speaks about a very powerful condition spreading in epidemic proportions. The condition originates by faith in Jesus as Savior it is called “God’s Peace“. Here are some signs and symptoms of God’s Peace:

+ An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.

+ A loss of interest in judging other people.

+ A loss of interest in conflict.

+ A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a powerful symptom.)

+ Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.

+ Contented feelings of connectedness with God and with others.

+ Frequent attacks of smiling.

+ An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others…as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.

There is a painting titled “Peace.” It depicts waves crashing against the jagged rocks. It portrays the violence of a crushing storm. It seems anything but peaceful. But down in a small corner of the painting, tucked away in the rocks, is a little bird sitting on her nest totally oblivious to the raging storm. That is peace!

Picture a massive hurricane raging over the ocean. On the surface of the sea the violent winds whip the water into giant waves and create a scene of havoc and chaos. Yet, a mere twenty-five feet below the surface, the waters are clear and calm. The fish there go on living their lives totally unaware of the thunderous tumult just above them. When there is “depth,” there is peace.

I encourage you to re-read the above verses. Get deep into God’s Word! Ask Him to give you HIS PEACE…on good days and when the storms of life are all around you. Ask Him to hold an umbrella over you during every financial, relational, physical, spiritual, emotional storm you encounter.

As we work our way through the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT. I pray that God will produce PEACE in you…as well as through you to others seeking His Peace. Who do you know that is in the midst of chaos? Who needs you to share the peace the God offers?

Friday - August 21, 2020

For the last few days we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I would like to take each of these characteristics one per day. Yesterday we looked at LOVE.

Today, I want us to look at JOY.

In the year 1806, a well-dressed man in his twenties visited a doctor who was renowned throughout London for being able to treat what nowadays we’d call depression, but back then was called melancholia. The patient explained that he felt overcome by a terrible sadness, that he didn’t want to get up in the morning. He could not see any point in his existence. “With your condition I would normally prescribe a course of my patent powders,” said the doctor, “but it so happens that I have recently come across something which will alleviate your condition much more quickly .“You must,” he continued, “go to the Covent Garden theatre to see the pantomime, Harlequin and Mother Goose. This is the happiest thing I have ever seen performed on a stage, tears of laugher ran down my face. Why, sir, I can almost guarantee that watching Grimaldi the clown will cure you completely!” “Ah, but doctor,” said the man sadly, “I am Grimaldi the clown.”

Have you ever felt like that man? Sad, hopeless, depressed… your situation has sucked the joy and happiness out of your life?

Or conversely, maybe today you might say I am happy because things are going my way. It’s sunny out, I won the lottery, I am going on vacation soon. I act happy, talk happy, look happy and maybe even smell happy!

But then tomorrow you find yourself back saying, I’m sad because things don’t go my way, I lost my job, my sports team lost…it always rains on my parade.

Happy and sad are dependent on our situation. It’s like riding a roller coaster of emotions, up one day and down the next. By the way God wired us with those emotions.

And yet, JOY is different – it’s an inside job. The Holy Spirit working in and through you. We have JOY on good days and the not so good days. Why is that? Because God Loves you everyday! Our Hope is in Him. Romans 5:1-5  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You can be full of JOY knowing that God is with you working good in every situation.

You may say “I have a lot of issues stealing my JOY! Maybe the Covid world we live in as zapped you of your Joy! Financial, relational, health issues have drained you!”

And yet, Paul who wrote these words was falsely imprisoned, flogged, shipwrecked, endangered, hungry, thirsty, (read about it in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33). Those were awful situations (just like you may be facing) and yet he was filled with the same JOY that God wants to give you, the JOY of knowing that God is with you and Loves you and has a plan for your life here and into eternity.

Joy is based on who we know (Jesus as your Lord and Savior)! My favorite section of God’s Word is Phil 4:4-7. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! To rejoice….to be JOYful.

Did you notice that it says “always”? Not just when things go your way! Our JOY is a condition of our heart…How do we get that JOY?…. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  JOY IS OUR ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

So…now what? Well this verse says:

  • Don’t be anxious! Be concerned about issues you face. Do what you can and then leave the rest to God. Worry will rob you of your JOY and never fixes the problem anyway.
  • By prayer and petition. Talk to God, listen to Him respond to your concerns. Let Him give you action steps. Find your Hope in Him. The more time you spend with God…the more JOY you will have in your life!!!!
  • With Thanksgiving…Being thankful changes everything! Count your blessings. If you lost a job…be thankful you had one in the first place. If you lost a friend…be thankful that you had a friend. No matter how dark life seems, be thankful for your many blessings and for your loving Lord and Savior. Count your blessings!
  • What does all of that give you….you can “rejoice always” You will find JOY…and God’s Peace! We will look at Peace on Monday.

Thursday - August 20, 2020

Yesterday we started to look at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We looked at: Galatians 5:22-25…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We’re talking about what’s going on in the orchard of your life. We acknowledged that we are all sinful and fall short and celebrate the fact that God loves us anyway!

“Christian character” follows faith and is produced by the Holy Spirit not by merely trying to live by the law. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces faith and Christian virtues. If the goal of the Christian life is to be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I would like to take a look at each of these characteristics one per day.

The first that we will look at is LOVE!

Here is a test for you…which phrase seems out of place?

  • I love pepperoni/double cheese pizza.
  • I love to watch basketball games.
  • I love walking beside a creek.
  • I love my wife of 47 years.

I assume you would see my point. We use the same word for loving pizza and loving a spouse?

We romanticize the word love with song lyrics like… “All you need is Love”, “Love makes the world go around” and even “Love Hurts”. Can that be what God means when He says He loves you?

The Greek (New Testament) language has many words that further describe love.

  • Storge…natural affection like a mom’s love.
  • Eros…A physical/ sexual love
  • Philia…An emotional / brotherly / friendship love.
  • Agape…Unconditional…This is God’s Love for us.

Let’s look at God’s (unconditional) Love.

A new lawyer came to town. New town, new office, No clients. When he saw that someone was coming to his office, he immediately picked up the phone and said, “I’m flying to New York in the Timmons case. It looks like a biggie. And bring Paul in from New Jersey on the Pettus case. Gotta go now, someone just walked in”. With that he hung up the phone, turned to the man, and said “now, how may I help you?” The man replied, “I’m here to hook up your phone!”

The good news is that you do not have to impress God. He loves you with all your short comings!

  • God loves you! We sin and disobey God and what does He do to us in return? He loves us!
  • John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
  • I know that you have heard that verse 100 times but stop and focus on what it says!
  • God Loves YOU! So much that He died in YOUR place (YOUR wage of sin is death). Forgiveness and eternal life are YOURS simply by faith.
  • He loves YOU in spite of YOU! It’s a free gift from God to YOU personally!
  • As a matter of fact…He has to love you because it is who He is! 1 John 4:16 God is love.What a short and yet so powerful verse.

So God loves you now what? In response to His love we are called to love others. And the Holy Spirit wants to produce LOVE in and through us.

  • 1 John 4:19-21 We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Look at it this way: God loves you which produces the fruit that we are looking at (Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control.) And the Holy Spirit fills us with love for God and love for those we interact with. When we strengthen the vertical (with God) relationship…then the horizontal (with others) relationship will follow! Want to be more loving, spend more time with God. His Love will wear off on you!

So what about these verses on love?

John 15:13-17…Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.  This is my command: Love each other.

Each year on Memorial Day our nation focuses on unconditional love. Men and women who gave the ultimate act of love by giving their life for you. For families that have suffered the loss of loved ones who served their country.

These verses point us back to Jesus giving the ultimate act of love on the cross! He willingly died so you will have eternal life.

So the fact is that God is Love and we are to be Christlike…The Holy Spirit produces fruit including Love in our lives, so that we will share that love with others. Jesus was asked of all the commandments which is the most important? Mark 12:30-31 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

So I challenge you to focus on a few things:

  • Thank the Lord for loving YOU in spite of your sinfulness!
  • Devote time every day to prayer and study of God’s Word.
  • Reflect and assess on how the Fruit of Love is growing on the tree of your life?
  • Do people see God’s Love shining through your words and actions?
  • Who can you reach out to today? Perhaps a relationship that has gotten tense recently…too much time isolated together. Perhaps someone lonely, depressed, and isolated in their home. Perhaps someone having financial issues due to the coronavirus world we are living in. Perhaps a neighbor that would LOVE a wave, call, or an act of kindness.

Wednesday - August 19, 2020

So yesterday’s (fruity) devotion was a bit of a downer. We looked at God creating a paradise for man to live in one rule don’t eat from the tree of good and evil. Eve did! Adam did! Each of us do! The good news is that God still loves you, he sent His Son to pay the price for you sins.

Today we will begin to look at what the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT is all about. We begin in Galatians chapter 5. Starting in verse 19 we see the problem: The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. These verses confirm what we talked about yesterday…we are all sinners!

So now what? Do we just throw our hands in the air and say “that’s just who I am so I might as well give in to those sinful ways!” NO! God wants us to be transformed…changed to be more Christ-like. This section of scripture goes on to say…

Galatians 5:22-25…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

This section may be familiar to you. We call this the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT section. We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We’re talking of what’s going on in the orchard of your life. What are you producing?

“Christian character” is produced by the Holy Spirit…not by merely trying to live by the law. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces faith and Christian virtues. We contrast the plural “sinful acts” described in the verses above (vs. 19-21)…with the singular “Godly Fruit” (like a cluster of grapes) listed in Galatians 5:22-25 above. If the goal of the Christian life is be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms.

So, let’s get personal.

  • Which of these virtues or characteristics do you seem to be lacking in?
  • Would your friends recognize these qualities in you?
  • Would a stranger meeting you for the first time see those characteristics in the way you talk and act?
  • If there were 9 buckets filled with these virtues and you could get more of one of them…which would you take?

The fable tells of three merchants who were crossing the Arabian Desert. Because of the heat of the desert they were traveling at night. On that starless night they were crossing over a dry creek bed. As they were crossing a voice in the darkness spoke to them. The voice told them to stop right where they were. Then they were commanded to bend down and pick up the pebbles that were around them in the dry creek bed and put them in their pockets. After they did this they were told to leave and continue on their way and not to camp near the creek bed. The voice from the darkness continued to tell them that in the morning they would be both happy and sad. Being very frightened by all of this, they traveled through the night and did not stop until they could see the sun. With the arrival of the morning they began to look in their pockets. Instead of finding pebbles in their pockets they found precious jewels. Yes, they were both happy and sad. They were happy that they had listened to the voice of the night but they were also sad that they did not pick up more pebbles.

Note that the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT is not something that you earn or buy or go “pick up”…this fruit is a gift of the Spirit…as He works in you and transforms you from the inside out, but:

I want to end this devotion by painting a picture using Colossians 2:6-7… So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Think of a healthy tree…strong roots for strength in the storm, and for nourishment. It grows and is built up with branches and places for birds to rest…overflowing with leaves, flowers, and fruit.

Colossians describes a Christian life (our intimate, spiritual, living union with God) in the same terms:

  • Rooted in God’s Word for strength and nourishment. (do you connect with God and read His Word daily?)
  • Growing to become all that God has planned for your life. Strengthening in your walk as to be a blessing to others. (Are you responding to God’s direction in your life?)
  • To be Christ-like…producing good fruit…living out the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT characteristics and virtues for all to see. (Are you loving others?)
  • Over the next devotions, I want to look at each of these 9 characteristics and virtues, mentioned in these FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT verses.

I encourage you to worship with us at royred.org (also onsite worship Sunday’s 8:30 and 10:00am…as well as outdoor worship at 6:00 pm…weather permitting). While you are online, check out the other tools and opportunities to connect with us. Spend some time looking at the verses that I have used in this devotion and look for God for direction, hope, strength.

Tuesday - August 18, 2020

We have hired a friend (Steve) to do landscaping around our house… it looks great. I assume that many of you have planted flowers and of course the vegetable gardens. Some of you are fortunate enough to have fruit trees! Fruit plays an important part in the story of God’s creation. He personally designed  all of the plants, flowers, trees, fruits and vegetables. I saw this funny fruit story:

Whenever your kids are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even God’s omnipotence didn’t extend to God’s kids. After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve. 

And the first thing he said was: “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?” Adam replied

“Don’t eat the forbidden fruit.” God said

“Forbidden fruit? We got forbidden fruit?….Hey Eve! We got forbidden fruit!”

“No way!”…”Yes way!”. 

“DON’T EAT THAT FRUIT!” Said God…. 

“Why?”

“Because I am your Father and I said so!” said God, wondering why he hadn’t stopped after making elephants. A few minutes later God saw his kids having an apple break and was angry. Didn’t I tell you not to eat the fruit?” the First Parent asked.

Uh huh,” Adam replied.

“Then why did you?”

“I dunno,” Eve answered.

“She started it!” Adam said….”Did not!”…”Did too!”…”Did NOT!”

Having had it with the two of them, God’s punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own. Thus, the pattern was set, and it has never been changed!

Well, that’s not how the story really goes, but it may sound that way in your home. God created paradise. He sat back after each day, looked at His masterpiece and said, “It is good!”

God gave this paradise to Adam and Eve to enjoy. He wanted them to show their love and trust in their Father by having one rule to follow. Following that rule would show God that they loved and trusted Him…and keep them safe.

Genesis 2:15-17…The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.

Sounds pretty simple…enjoy paradise…don’t mess with evil! As we know, Satan tempted Eve. He questioned if she really knew what God said. Genesis 3:1…He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

At first she stood her ground, Genesis 3:2-3…The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” Not exactly what God said, but close enough.

Satan does not stop there; he says that God’s rule is unfair…she deserves the fruit. And Eve gives in. Genesis 3:6…When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Not only did she eat it, but she passed it on to Adam. Sin entered into the world!

Let’s take this story and update it. A parent tells their 7-year-old to play in the yard and don’t wander…you may get hurt, run over by a car, or worse. Everything is going well, after all he has a swing set, basketball hoop, and toys. Then his 9-year-old classmate from the next block comes over to play. He later says, “let’s go over to my house, I have a go cart we can ride”. The 7-year-old says “no, dad said to stay here”. The 9-year-old says, “it will be ok…he didn’t mean my house”. The 7-year-old says “no, he said don’t leave the yard.” The 9-year-old says “dad’s a spoil sport, dad gets to leave the yard and has fun, why can’t you”. The 7-year-old defies dad’s rule and leaves the yard, rides the go cart and gets hurt!

You may be reading this and wondering where I am going with this devotion.

Like the father in the Garden of Eden and the father in my 7-year old’s story ,your Heavenly Father loves you! He wants to protect you, so He has given us rules to keep us safe.

Deep down, we want to obey God…but often fall short! There are 3 things that cause us to break the rules…to eat the fruit to fall short to miss the mark to sin.

  • Satan… He lost and is defeated. He is bitter and wants to take as many of us as he can with him! He wants you to misunderstand and doubt God’s Word. He wants you to question if His Word applies to you. He appeals to our desires and tempts us to turn away from God’s plans for our lives. The 9 year old in my story is not Satan, but many times, he uses those closest to us to tempt us to sin. “Did God really say not to do that” “Come on, everyone else is doing it” “God won’t mind” “If He really loved you, He would want you to have fun” “you deserve it.” We hear these types of words and get tempted to play god…to make and bend the rules. The good news is we have God on our side. James 4:7-8…Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.
  • The Sinful World…Let’s face it, we live in a sin filled world that denies that there even is a God. The world wants to play god by making their own rules…and even bending the rules that exist. But we can turn to God for wisdom and direction. Romans 8:31…What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
  • Our Sinful Nature…Just as you inherited your hair, eyes, physical attributes from your parents…you also received a sinful nature. You were born (conceived) with a sinful nature. Psalm 51:5…Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
    • The Coronavirus is on all of our minds. What is its origin? What is its cause? How would I get it? Is there a cure?
    • We need to be concerned and do our part to overcome this virus…but
    • We were all born with a more deadly disease called sin…Its 100% fatal. It’s called sin. We inherited it. The symptoms that we have this disease are shown from our sinful thought’s words, and deeds.
    • OUCH…WHAT A DOWNER! The reality is that we (like Adam and Eve) sin…and sin separates us from God…. That is bad news!!!

There is GOOD NEWS! It’s the Gospel! 1 John 1:8-9…If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. We sin (it’s our nature) and God forgives (it’s His nature)

Here is what I want you to do:

  • Acknowledge that you are a sinner.
  • Spend time reflecting on your “signature sin.” The sin that you keep having to confess. You say that you will not do it again…but you keep doing it. Maybe you justify it. Maybe you blame others for it. Maybe you rationalize why it is ok.
  • Humbly confess that sin to the Lord. Ask Him in His mercy and for the sake of Jesus death to forgive you.
  • Ask God to help you to avoid the triggers to this sin…or the people that lead you to it. Ask Him to help you make the needed changes to become all He created you to be.
  • Know and thank God for the fact that you are forgiven!

Tomorrow….we will begin to look at a different (and much better) kind of fruit!

Monday - August 17, 2020

Back in March as our world as we knew it became uncertain, I started writing daily devotions to help us focus on our Lord and Savior. I wrote 70 devotions that I sent to you and put them on our website (they are still below). Here we are, a few months later and things are still uncertain. With that in mind, I will be updating 30 of those devotions for the next few weeks Monday thru Friday. I pray that you will read them, ask God to speak to you through them, apply them to your life, and find Hope and Peace. Feel free to forward and share them with others.

I saw a funny story the other day by Wayne Rice:

Disney’s Chip and Dale always got the best of Donald Duck. In one of those cartoons, those pesky chipmunks were taunting him from their little tree hole, about 15′ above the ground. Putting on some spiked shoes, Donald Duck attempted to climb the tree. Fuming and muttering he reached the hole. In a Flash Chip and Dale untie his shoes, and he falls to the ground. Next, he tries using a ladder. When he reaches the top Chip and Dale pushed the ladder over, and Donald tumbles down. For a 3rd assault on the tree he straps a rocket to his back and launches towards the top of the tree. No use. Chip and Dale jolt the rocket off course, and it crashes with Donald Duck still attached. Finally, Donald Duck decides to chop the tree down. With steam coming out of his ears he snatches a big ax and started swinging. Every time the ax hits the tree chip and Dale shake in their perch. In agitated chatter they wonder how to save themselves this time! Meanwhile the tree begins to fall and Donald Duck quacks with glee, certain of his success. Then for no apparent reason the tree not only stops falling but it begins to right itself again. A furious Donald circles the tree, trying to figure out the reason why. The cartoonist reveals it all. Inside the hollow tree. Chip and Dale are pushing with all their might to upright the tree!

This story makes us laugh! We know that it’s impossible to push the tree up from inside the tree! As the tree was falling, their pushing was useless because they had nothing to lean on for leverage. To stop their tree from falling, they would have to brace themself against something and it can not be the tree or their own willpower.

So…How about you?

Have you been (or perhaps you are right now) in a tree that seems to be falling?…..Try as you may, you can’t get it back upright by your own power.

Maybe it’s a coronavirus tree with the weight of health issues, financial issues, loneliness, fear, relationship struggles and the tree seems to be falling. By your own strength, you push as hard as you can, but a crash seems inevitable!

Maybe you are not struggling from corona issues but something else is cutting down your tree maybe emotional, financial, or relationship struggles. Maybe they have been there for years and things seem to be crashing all around you.

The biggest question for you to answer is… who or what are you leaning on? If it’s your willpower, good looks, money, or a rabbit’s foot the result will come crashing down upon you.

I would like to point you to the One to lean on The Solid Rock of Jesus Christ! You can lean on Him to get your life upright and solid. He gives you His Word for time like this. After Moses died and Joshua was to lead the people into the promised land, it must have felt overwhelming like the tree was falling and where were Joshua and the people to lean? On God, His promises, and His Word!

Joshua 1:7-9…Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Isn’t that a great section of scripture? It gives us hope and direction for every struggle we face. By the way…this is Royal Redeemer school’s verse for this year!)

  • Be strong and very courageous! Why? Because you can lean on the Lord…He will be with you wherever you go and whatever you face! He is there with you, for you to lean on and brace against. He is there on the good days and the not so good seasons of life. He wants to change your outlook, your self-image, your Hope, your purpose, and direction… and your next healthy steps.
  • Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips. Make the commitment to get into God’s Word daily! For Joshua it was the Book of the Law (the first 5 books.) We have God’s Word in our Bibles, both the Law to guide us and show our sins and the Gospel to bring us hope and show our Savior. The truth is that God hand made you and wants to spend eternity with you but there is a problem! You (and I) sin, and that sin separates us from God. The good news is that God still loves you in spite of your sins! He sent His son (Jesus) to pay the price for your sins. Our relationship with God is restored! Our response to this free gift is to want to know what God’s plan for our lives is.
  • Meditate on it day and night. Don’t just read it, ask God to speak to you personally and into all of the situations that you face. Spend time and seek God’s guidance for your life. Sit quietly asking for God to speak to you through His Word.
  • So that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Knowing God’s Word is great…but doing what it says is what it’s really all about. Seek God’s will for you. Ask Him to guide your steps so that you can accomplish His plans for your life. Apply God’s Word to each situation you face.
  • Then you will be prosperous and successful. For Christians “success” is measured by God’s definition, not the world’s definition. For Joshua it was to conquer the promised land. What is it that God wants to help you conquer? In what ways will you prosper? How will God use you to impact others? Will He use you to help someone else whose tree is falling?
  • If left alone in our sin and weakness…we will fall…the tree will crash. And yet, God enables you through the promise of His Word to “be strong and courageous”…to face the day and whatever comes your way not to inherit a piece of land like Joshua but to inherit a place in God’s eternal kingdom!
  • Pray that as you get into God’s Word, it will permeate your heart…and transform you into the person God hand made you to be.

If you would like to receive these devotions directly to your email, please contact Pastor Dave Timm at [email protected] and he will add you to the e-mail list.

Final Devotion - Friday - June 26, 2020

I was thinking back to mid-March when life as we knew it suddenly changed. One of the things that changed for me was church buildings being closed. I have been leading a group called Life Hurts God Heals for many years. We suddenly could not meet! I decided that I should write a devotion and send it out to those whose email address I had. I chose to send a new one out every day (Monday thru Friday with online worship over the weekend). The email list grew for many reasons to include 80+ every day. We then decided to put them online along with Pastor Harris’ devotions. There are about 70 of my devotions on this page.

Well, our Life Hurts God Heals group has been meeting outside the church in the parking lot for about a month now and will be moving back into the church’s gathering room this week. You are welcome to join us Tuesday night 7:00-8:30.

With all of that being said…I will be taking a break from writing new devotions. Now that I am partially retired, my wife and I do devotions together most days. I am a great fan of devotions that give God’s Word and then apply it to our daily blessings, as well as our daily struggles. We use 5 different devotional books. When we get to the end of the book, we start over again, re-reading them. We find that they seem fresh and hit us in different ways…because we are in a different place than when we read them the first time.

My desire is for you to go to royred.org click on resources and re-read (or perhaps read for the first time) my devotions starting with my March 23rd one. Read one per day then move on to the next day. As you read, ask God to apply the verses and concepts to where you are in life. How Jesus Loves you…and how Jesus wants you to reach out to others.

My desire is that you worship each week. Royal Redeemer is back to having on-site worship…as well as live-streamed worship.

My offer is to talk with you…or meet with you if you have questions or issues. Call me at 440-237-7958 ext.118.

Join us Tuesday at 7:00.

One more devotional thought for you!

Are you a thermometer Christian or a Thermostat Christian?

Let’s define the 2 words. I heard it explained this way.

“A thermometer reflects the temperature of the environment. It simply reacts to what’s happening around it. If the temperature is hot, it tells you so. If it’s cold, the thermometer reflects that reality as well. It’s a dumb instrument in the sense it doesn’t contain intelligent, multipurpose functionality. It has one purpose and one purpose only.”

Paul urges us to not be thermometer Christians. Romans 12:2…Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

“A thermostat, on the other hand, regulates the environment. It sets the desired temperature of the room and actively works to maintain it within a given range. If the temperature rises above the goal, the thermostat signals the air conditioner to crank up and cool the room down. If the temperature falls below the goal, the thermostat causes the heater to turn on in order to warm the room up. The thermostat is intelligent in the sense it’s always monitoring the environment, and if the temperature gets too hot or cold, it decides what to do to correct the situation.”

Jesus prayed that His disciples would be in the world, but not of the world, that they would be thermostats, not thermometers. Matthew 5:13-15…“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Do not merely reflect the temperature of your environment. Instead, set the temperature.

Our world is far from God’s plan and desire! Don’t join in and compromise. Be who God created you to be…accomplish what He created you to accomplish.

How does that all work in real life? Well we took off our winter gloves and mittens a few months ago…and exchanged them for corona-free surgical gloves! Gloves can do all sorts of things…pick up a magazine…wave hello…scratch your head…shake a hand…protect us from germs. And yet…the glove can not really do anything! It just lies there on the shelf. You can yell at it, get mad at it, give it the evil eye…but it will do nothing without a hand in the glove!

It’s the same way with you. You are helpless to achieve anything unless God is in you!!!

And also, remember that by itself, a thermostat does not do the heating or cooling either! It identifies the need for more heat or cooling and initiates a change to happen….thru the furnace / air conditioner.

God wants you to be the thermostat (the light and the salt) and let the Holy Spirit cause the change! He wants you to let Him into your life (the glove so to speak) so He can accomplish much thru you.

Invite Him into your life… let Him work through you.

Where has God placed you to be a thermostat.

Thursday - June 25, 2020

The children of a well-to-do family decided to give their father a book containing their family’s history for a birthday present. They commissioned a professional biographer to write the book, carefully cautioning him about the family’s “black sheep” – their Uncle George had been executed in the electric chair for murder, and they felt it would be best if the biographer left Uncle George out of the book.

“No need to do that,” said the biographer. “I can report the situation in such a way that there will be no embarrassment to your father or to you. I’ll merely write that Uncle George occupied a chair of applied electronics at an important government institution. He was attached to his position by the strongest ties and his death came as a real shock.”

The Bible teaches us that when you die, there’s nothing else you can do to get ready to meet God. It won’t matter what people write about you or say about you to make you look good. It’s about faith in Jesus.

So in case you don’t know or haven’t thought about it lately:

  • God hand made you…wanting to spend eternity with you.
  • But there is a problem…you are a sinner! We all are! Romans 3:23…  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
  • And yet God still loves you! Romans 5:8… But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Our sin separates us from God (not His Love). Romans 6:23… For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • You are saved…and told to share the Gospel with others. 1 Peter 3:15…  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

Do you believe this? I mean really believe this. The truth is that you were on your way(and deserve) to spend eternity in hell….but Jesus saved you so that you now will spend eternity in heaven!

Do you believe that there is a heaven or hell in your future?

Now…we hear phrases about heaven and hell in our daily conversations. Things like “these cookies taste heavenly…that guy irritates the hell out me…this campground is heaven on earth…it will be a cold day in hell before I vote for him”

Those phrases can make us minimize an important fact.

Here is my point… HEAVEN AND HELL ARE REAL and therefore it follows that real people like you and I are going there! How’s that for a heavy statement!

Matthew 25 talks about it (verse 34)…”Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. (verse 41) “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.(verse 46) “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

So why is it so awkward to talk about it to friends and family? Did you know Satan hopes you don’t talk about it?

It is said that a long time ago there was a conference in hell, and ol’ Lucifer was plotting and scheming how he might catch the human race and keep them from God and heaven.

One fiendish lieutenant came to the master of evil and said, “If you will send me to earth… I will tell the people that there is no heaven to be gained.”

Lucifer said to him, “No, no! They’ll never believe it because there is a little bit of heaven in every heart.”

Another fiend came forward, darker and fowler than the first, and he said to Lucifer, “If you would send me to earth, I would convince the people that they can sin with immunity. That God would continue to love and forgive. That He would never, ever, ever judge anyone – even if they didn’t repent. I will convince them of that.”

The father of darkness said, “No! These humans must not be underestimated. They have a conscience ……and deep within the heart of every human is this sense of righteousness. They know that evil will be punished……. They know that good will triumph over evil.”

A third lieutenant, from the very darkest pit, emerged into the shadow of Lucifer and said, “Master, if you would send me, I would tell them this:

There is no hurry. YOU CAN TELL OTHERS TOMORROW.

And Lucifer said, “Yes, go tell them that!”

Many people think “let someone else tell them!”. Many people consider themselves too sophisticated to believe in the devil and hell. That’s dangerous because they are real. I doubt that the Hollywood version of a guy in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork is what we will find…but the bible speaks of the devil from Genesis 3 through Revelation!!!!

And hell is the end result of not trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior…and living a life that shows that disrespect for His Word. Revelation 21:8… But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars ….(and have not trusted in Jesus’ for forgiveness of these sinful actions)– their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.

The worst part of hell is eternally separated from God and good.

Heaven on the other hand is…Revelation 21:3-4… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

And the best part of this is that it is prepared for and purchased for you…John 3:16…”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

This is where other religions differ from Christianity.

Hindus believe that they need to reach salvation through their own efforts. (following 1 of 4 paths…love, work, knowledge, psychology)

Muslims need to earn favor with God through laws and works. (5 pillars)

Buddhist reach peace through right thinking and living following the 8 fold path to Nirvana.

The bible is very clear that salvation is a free gift from God to you through faith…Ephesians 2:8-9… For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.

So…if we are saved by faith…where does faith come from? Romans 10:17… Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

So…stop and think about…who shared Jesus with you? How did they do it? Why did they do it? Who is God wanting you to share Him with?

I get a disturbing image in my head from time to time.

It can’t happen since there is no sorrow in heaven but…

What would it be like to get to heaven…start looking for “old so and so”. You can not find them, so you ask. You are told “they are not here…no one took the time to tell them about Jesus!”

So…since heaven and hell are real…let’s get real!!!

Who do you know that you are not sure of their relationship with Jesus? Who is God nudging you to reach out to?

Fill in the blanks:

  • Who in your immediate family_________________
  • Who in your extended family__________________
  • Which of your friends________________________
  • Who at work or school________________________
  • Who at businesses you frequent_________________

What is the first step…be ready…Share your Hope…Let the Holy Spirit do the rest!!!

1 Peter 3:15-17… Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad.

Wednesday - June 24, 2020

I recently read about a man who took great pride in being a former Navy Seal. And why not? That’s a very elite group of people. It takes a special sailor to qualify as a Navy Seal. This man told about sharing his military exploits with his grandson’s kindergarten class. This former Seal regaled the children with his war stories. After he finished, hands shot up all over the classroom. The kids were eager to ask questions. He called on one little girl who asked, “So, can you balance a ball on the end of your nose?”

Sometimes learning humility can be painful!

Do you have any Bible verses that you have memorized? I have never been good at memorizing anything…so I gravitate to short (but powerful) bible verses. A great example of such a verse is found in the Old testament. Micah 6:8 (niv)… what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

So…what is humility? The dictionary says it is…” a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.” Some characteristics include…

  • They acknowledge they don’t have it all together. …
  • They know the difference between self-confidence and pride. …
  • They seek to add value to others. …
  • They take responsibility for their actions. …
  • They are filled with gratitude for what they have.

Henry Augustus Rowland, professor of physics at Johns Hopkins University, was once called as an expert witness at a trial. During cross-examination a lawyer demanded, “What are your qualifications as an expert witness in this case?” The normally modest and retiring professor replied quietly, “I am the greatest living expert on the subject under discussion.” Later a friend well acquainted with Rowland’s disposition expressed surprise at the professor’s uncharacteristic answer. Rowland answered, “Well, what did you expect me to do? I was under oath.”

So…what does it mean to walk humbly with your God? I looked online and found some interesting quotes:

  • It was John Riskin who said, “I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own power, or hesitation in speaking his opinion. But really great men have a … feeling that greatness is not in them but through them; that they could not do or be anything else than God made them.”
  • Andrew Murray said, “The humble man feels no jealousy or envy. He can praise God when others are preferred and blessed before him. He can bear to hear others praised while he is forgotten because … he has received the spirit of Jesus, who pleased not Himself, and who sought not His own honor. Therefore, in putting on the Lord Jesus Christ he has put on the heart of compassion, kindness, meekness, longsuffering, and humility.”
  • M.R. De Haan used to say, “Humility is something we should constantly pray for, yet never thank God that we have.”
  • Benjamin Franklin, the early American statesman, made a list of character qualities that he wanted to develop in his own life. When he mastered one virtue, he went on to the next. He did pretty well, he said, until he got to humility. Every time he thought he was making significant progress; he would be so pleased with himself that he became proud.

Humility is an elusive virtue. Even Jesus’ disciples struggled with it. When Jesus learned that they had been arguing about who was the greatest, He responded, “If anyone desires to be first, he should be last of all and servant of all” (Mk. 9:35). Then He took a little child in His arms and indicated that we need to humbly serve others as if we were serving Christ.

Let’s take a look at our opening verse again but this time in the message translation. Micah 6:8 (msg)… It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.

The Bible is full of self-humbling (man bowing down before God)…as well as doxology (man giving praise to God). The healthy heart is one that bows down in humility and rises in praise and adoration.

So…now what? It can seem confusing to ask for humility…while finding Joy in accomplishing much for the Lord (or through the Lord). While it’s hard to avoid those feelings of pride…focus on Who is working through you and Who gets the glory.

God has called you to walk a path…it is different than anyone else’s path. All equally important! Each of us are part of God’s big picture! Don’t let anyone convince you that their path is better than yours…and don’t act like yours is better that theirs.

1 Peter 5:5-6… All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

This topic is especially important in this time of pandemic and social unrest! We need to treat people the way that God treats us…with grace, mercy, forgiveness. To humbly treat them as equals.

All right…this is too good to not include… A husband said to his wife one day, “I’ve noticed that you always carry my photo in your handbag to the office. Why?” His wife said, “When there is a problem, no matter how impossible, I look at your picture and the problem disappears.” The husband puffed himself up and said, “You see how miraculous and powerful I am for you?” And his wife answered, “Yes, I see your picture and say to myself, What other problem can there be greater than this one?”

Tuesday - June 23, 2020

“The church” is not a building…it’s the people!!! We have seen this displayed over the last months due to church buildings being closed…and ministry being done…off campus…. one person at a time.

1 Thessalonians 5:11…Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Here is what a letter written by God to “the church” might sound like:

Dear Christians:  This is My commission to you – in fact, you might even call it a great commission. You are to go to all people everywhere and call them to become My disciples. You are to baptize them and teach them to obey all that I have commanded you. Don’t forget. I will be with you always to help you, even to the end of the world. I will never leave you nor forsake you, because I love you. Please don’t forsake Me.

With all My love,

Jesus Christ

Unfortunately…this might be the response written back by many churches:

Dear Jesus Christ:

We acknowledge the receipt of Your recent communication.

Although your proposal is both interesting and challenging; however, due to a shortage of personnel, as well as several other financial and personal considerations, we do not feel that we can give proper emphasis to Your challenge at this time. A committee has been appointed to study the feasibility of the plan. We do appreciate Your offer to serve as a resource person, and should we decide to undertake this project at some point in the future, we’ll get back to You.

Cordially,

The Christians

Well, Matthew 28 is your letter from God commissioning…YOU.. to…–GO and make disciples of all nations… and to teach them about God’s love and plan and purpose in their lives.  And know that to GO means leaving your comfort zones!

I want to talk about building bridges to unbelievers. The word bridge brings many images to mind from a piece of wood across a creek to the bridge over Niagara Falls. A bridge is a structure that provides a way across an obstacle, hazard, or peril – to safely cross from one side to the other.

Today, I want to focus on 2 specific bridges.

First, the cross of Jesus is our bridge to salvation…. from the peril of our separation from God due to our sinful nature …to eternal life and salvation

There is an old, familiar story (I’m sure you have heard…but powerful) about a man who worked as the operator of the drawbridge in a small town. A train track ran across the bridge, and the operator’s job was to keep the bridge up when no train was coming so that the boats could pass underneath. When a train approached, he was to blow the whistle and let down the bridge. One sunny Saturday morning, the man brought his seven-year-old son to work with him. The boy could play along the river, skip rocks on the water, chase butterflies, or try to catch a fish. Shortly before noon, a passenger train was due to come through the area. The man began to make preparations to let the bridge down so that the train could pass safely across the river. As he examined the bridge, he noticed that someone – a small child – had somehow climbed over the guardrail next to the bridge, and was playing on the very spot where the bridge would come down. As he looked closer, he realized with horror that the child was his son. In desperation, he yelled out his son’s name, but the sound of the approaching train drowned out his screams. He knew he had to make a quick decision. If he lowered the bridge down, his son would die.

If he didn’t, all the people on the train would die as the train plunged into the river. As he screamed in agony, the man thrust forward the lever to lower the bridge just as the train arrived. His son died instantly. And as the train passed by, the people just smiled and waved as they passed by the man in the control booth, with his head bowed low, oblivious to what had just taken place.

Isn’t that what God did for us – the cross of Jesus is our bridge to salvation, but it cost us His Son’s life. Don’t be like those on that train. (oblivious to what had happened)

Do you know what Jesus did for you? Who told you? Have you thanked them?

Second, we will look at ways we can become bridges that lead others to the cross of Jesus. Mark 16:15… He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. For some strange reason, God’s plan for salvation uses people like you and me to be bridges that lead others to the bridge of the cross.

A legend recounts the return of Jesus to heaven after His time on earth. He returned bearing the marks of His earthly pilgrimage with its cruel cross and shameful death. The angel Gabriel approached Him and said, “Master, You must have suffered terribly for people down there.” “I did,” said Jesus.

“And,” continued Gabriel, “do they now know all about how You loved them and what You did for them?” “Oh, no,” said Jesus. “Not yet. Right now, only a handful of people in Palestine know.”

Gabriel was perplexed. “Then what have You done,” he asked, “to let all people know about Your love for them?”

“Well, I’ve asked Peter, James, John, and a few others to tell people about Me. Those who are told will in turn tell others, and the Gospel will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe. Ultimately, all of humankind will hear about Me and what I have done on their behalf.” Gabriel frowned and looked skeptical. He knew that people weren’t dependable. “Yes,” he said, “but what if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? And what if, way down in the twenty-first century, people get too busy to bother to tell others about You? Haven’t You made any other plans?” “No, I’ve made no other plans, Gabriel,” Jesus answered. “I’m counting on them.”

Of course, the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word…and I’m sure some will say that’s the Pastor’s job…and it is! – but God has placed you right where you are! He has placed you in the path of non-believers…and folks facing the storms of life. It’s up to you to take Jesus seriously and to go and preach the Gospel to the people in your circle of influence….with words as well as actions.

Now, we know that a bridge provides a way across a peril or hazard. Who can you be a bridge to?….so they can cross over the perils of sin…death…the devil … maybe…Family members? Co-workers? Fellow students? Neighbors? Business associates?

And what perils are they facing …..what chasm to cross over?….perhaps:

  • Valleys of grief
  • Low spots of despair
  • Pits of spiritual battles
  • Rivers of anger and hatred
  • Floods of anxiety and depression
  • Rapids of lifestyle choices

1 Peter 5:15… But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

These storms, tough times, and life changes are great times to share Christ! We need to be sensitive to these times of transition in those around us. This season of COVID 19 and it’s collateral damage is a great time to reach out to others.

Matthew 5:16… In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

You see, you may not think your witness for Christ does any good, but it does. Obviously, your ultimate hope is that your friends will come to know the Lord; however, that’s not the only result that can come from being a witness. You never know how God will use what you do for him. Even when you can’t see the results of your obedience, you can trust that God will take what you do and use it to bear fruit.

So…Make a list of those that you have in your circle of influence that do not know Jesus as Lord. What ways are you modeling your faith to them? Can you share how Jesus has impacted your life?

Who do you know that knows the Lord, but they are living an unhealthy lifestyle? Can you reach out to them (gently)…using “I” sentences? Can you ask them if you can pray for them?

Who do you know that is facing financial, emotional, relational, spiritual storms? Can you offer to help them in some way…or just be there to listen to them?

Monday - June 22, 2020

A flock of wild ducks were flying in formation, heading South for the Winter. It formed a beautiful V in the sky and was admired by everyone who saw them from below. One day Wally, one of the wild ducks in the formation, spotted something on the ground that caught his eye. It was a barnyard with a flock of tame ducks who lived on the farm. They were waddling around on the ground, clacking merrily, and eating corn that was thrown on the ground for them every day. Wally liked what he saw. “It sure would be nice to have some of that corn” he thought to himself… and all this flying is very tiring. “I’d like to just Waddle around for a while!” So, after thinking it over for a while, Wally left the formation of wild ducks, made a sharp dive to the left, and headed for the barnyard. He landed among the tame ducks and began to waddle around and quack merrily. He also started eating corn. The formation of wild ducks continued their journey South, but Wally didn’t care. “I’ll rejoin them when they come back North in a few months” he said to himself. Several months went by and sure enough Wally looked up and spotted the flock of wild ducks in formation heading North. They looked beautiful up there…And Wally was tired of the barnyard. It was muddy, and everywhere he waddled, nothing but duck doo. “It’s time to leave” said Wally. So, Wally flapped his wings furiously and tried to get airborne. But he had gained some weight from all his corn eating, and he hadn’t exercised his wings much either. He finally got off the ground, but he was flying so low that he slammed into the side of the barn. He fell to the ground with a thud and said to himself “Oh well, I’ll just wait until they fly South in a few months. Then I’ll rejoin them and become a wild duck again.” But when the flock flew overhead once more, Wally again tried to lift himself out of the barnyard. He simply didn’t have the strength. Every Winter and every Spring, he saw his wild duck friends flying overhead and they would call out to him. But his attempts to leave were all in vain. Eventually, Wally no longer paid any attention to the wild ducks flying overhead. He hardly even noticed them. He had, after all, become a barnyard duck.

Sometimes we get tired of being “wild ducks”…. in other words followers and Jesus Christ. It’s not always easy to be obedient to God and to discipline ourselves to hang in there for the long haul. When we’re feeling that way, that’s when Satan tempts us to fall out of formation and to join the barnyard ducks of the world. And yet, look what happened to Wally. He thought he would just “check it out” for a while…and then leave when he wanted to. But he couldn’t do it. And sin is just like that! Sin is a trap! Sin has a way of changing us into people we don’t even want to become. Eventually we lose touch with who really are. We… (YOU and I) are in fact… the sons and daughters of the Most High!

Let’s take a look at this illustration…and a look at Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). We will then apply this to our lives:

  • caught his eye…Wally was intrigued by something new…that someone else had, that looked good. In the same way…Eve was intrigued by something that was not for her, that looked good.the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye.”
  • liked what he saw…Wally liked what he saw. Eve liked the idea of being like God. and also desirable for gaining wisdom”
  • started eating corn…Wally was hooked once he ate the corn. In the same way, Eve gave into the temptation. she took some and ate it.” And life was never the same.
  • slammed into the side of the barn…Wally had to face the consequences of his actions. Eve (and Adam) now knew evil and sin. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” They now had to face the stark reality and consequences of sin!
  • i’ll just wait…Wally became comfortable in his new identity as he became a barnyard duck. He no longer lived in the freedom of the air. Eve became a sinner. No longer able to live in the garden. So the Lord God banished him (and her) from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”

So…let’s get personal…and maybe a little uncomfortable! Read Genesis 3 slowly.

  • What secret things have you let catch your eye? You convince yourself that a little look, a little touch, will be ok!
  • What have you not only just glanced at but now like what you see? Perhaps you spend more time with and have started to fantasize about what it would be like.
  • The more time you spend in this place the more likely you will start eating corn. At first you justify why it’s ok…”it’s just a little….I can stop anytime I want…no one will know…everyone else is doing it”…and then you slam into the side of the barn so to speak….You face the reality and guilt of your actions.

Wow…this got heavy didn’t it? But, we can deny it, but it is true!!! ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”We are all sinners and we all have fallen short. We are all like Wally. But the good news is that “we are all justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ.”

Here is what I want you to do…..Read Genesis 3 and ask yourself:

  • Do I know what God’s Word says…Will I know right from wrong? Do I know what His will is for me? (why not start reading His Word in the Bible or read a devotional every morning).
  • Do I let culture try to trick me as to what is right and wrong…Do I let culture define what is good and bad…acceptable and forbidden?
  • Who do I spend time with that is leading me astray… to bad thoughts, values, and behaviors?
  • In what areas am I in a “slow fade” to sinful behavior?
  • Who needs me to nudge them back on track?
  • Spend time right now in prayer…ask God to reveal areas that He wants to clean up.

Friday - June 19, 2020

I want to begin with a bizarre ancient Jewish parable about 2 farmers.

Years ago, Bert was careless and knocked down the fence between their property and some horses got out. He said he was sorry, but Hal would not forgive him. He held a bitter grudge for years. One night, Hal was awakened by an angel of the Lord who said “God will bless you with 3 wishes but there’s one condition, your neighbor will get a double portion of whatever you get”

Well, Hal woke up his wife up and told her about their good fortune. They thought about what to ask for. Right away he asked to break out of poverty by getting a 1000 head of cattle. No sooner than he asked when they had heard the sounds of a 1000 cattle on the farm. He praised God and began to make provisions for his new cattle.

A few days later he was in the back 40 when he looked over at his neighbor’s property. He was reminded that his neighbor got 2000 cattle. His joy disappeared. He would never forgive Burt…and the thought of him prospering sent Hal into a rage. His joy was gone. He couldn’t eat or sleep.

Well a few days later he remembered that he had 2 more wishes. The old joy returned. They always wanted descendants. So, they asked the Lord to give them a son. Short time later his wife announced she was pregnant. They were overjoyed when their son was born. They took him to the synagogue to share their good fortune with those who had gathered.

But they had hardly sat down when their neighbor Bert stood up to say.” God has been good to our community, last night my wife and I had twin boys.”

Upon hearing this Hal was enraged… all he could think of was revenge.

He went home and asked for his 3rd wish. “Lord please blind me in one of my eyes. I can’t stand to see my neighbor who once hurt me prosper. I would gladly sacrifice half my vision for the satisfaction of knowing he will never be able to see what you have blessed him with.”

 No sooner had he said these words, when the angel who started the whole process came again. “Why son of Abraham have you turned to such dark desires. Can’t you see what your unforgiving heart has done to you. I will not Grant your final wish. For you will never see joy in your life due to your bitterness and unforgiving heart. I was not going to tell you this the angel said. But it was Burt who I offered to give 3 wishes to in the 1st place. He wished that I would give his 3 wishes to you instead!

WOW…I bet you didn’t see that one coming! Hatred, Jealousy, and revenge are like a cancer that spreads and can destroy all of our Joy!

It reminds me of the story of Joseph (not Mary’s husband…the other Joseph):

Joseph’s brothers were angry with him. Part of it was his own fault since he told them about dreams that he had of them bowing down to him…. And part of it was that his father loved him more than the other sons. And he showed it. Look at the great robe of many colors he gave him. Well jealousy caused his brothers to sell him into slavery. But despite all that happened…we saw that “the Lord was with Joseph.” He rose in the ranks and Potiphar put him in charge of everything. But round 2 of the battle comes when Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him. He resists, acts with integrity, but she lies, and he finds himself in prison…but “the Lord was still with him.” It seems that everyone including the cup bearer…and it even seemed like God had forgotten about him. But a few years later God brings good out of the mess that Joseph went through. He interprets pharaoh’s dreams. They store grain during 7 good years of crops. So, they’re ready for the 7 years of famine. Joseph becomes the 2nd most powerful man in Egypt. And as irony would have it…many years after being sold into slavery his brothers come looking to buy some grain. They don’t recognize Joseph, but he recognizes them.

So…what would you have done if you were Joseph?

Throw them in prison…Torture them…Kill them…Laugh in their face…at least send them home with no food! Well…Joseph did not seek revenge for his brother’s actions, but instead he offers them complete forgiveness, and welcomes them back into his life!

Genesis 50:19-21…But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

How could he forgive them?

Well….He followed Jesus’ example! Jesus was totally undeserving of the suffering, He went through for you and I….and yet we read.

Luke 23:32-34…..When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals — one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Forgive those that are crucifying Him? Well…It is even better news for us! Jesus paid your price…and God forgives everyone who sins against Him. (and that includes you)!

Acts 10:43……All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Yah…but that was Jesus…what about us? Well, Peter asked about forgiveness… Matt 18:21-22…. Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Not long before she died in 1988, in a moment of surprising candor in television, Marghanita Laski, one of our best-known secular humanists and novelists, said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.”

The best part of forgiving others who have hurt us… is that it heals us as well.

There are six powerful words following the tearful scene when Joseph and his brothers are hugging and kissing: Genesis 45:15…Afterward his brothers talked with him.

Life could never be the same again.  I wonder whether they had ever really talked with each other before this day…but now they talked!

Please don’t cheat yourself out of some precious relationships just because somebody somewhere along the way had a falling out.Forgive one another as God has forgiven you…and afterwards…START TALKING.  Reconcile!  Rebuild those relationships!

At weddings I love to use a verse that gives us all direction in life:

Col 3:12-14…Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, 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.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

In Joseph’s case, it is clear that this is no longer the boastful, pride-filled dreamer of his youth, but the journey the Lord has led him down has led to being a servant leader.And as a servant leader, he is ready to forgive his brothers and to let the Lord heal this broken relationship.

So now what? Do you say, “nice devotion” and go on your way unchanged? Or do you apply it to your life? Do you make amends? Who have you been withholding forgiveness from? What will you do about it? Forgiving is hard! But necessary to please God…and to be healthy and Joy filled. I read a devotion by a guy named Roy Smith.

Take this weekend to ponder and apply each of these 8 steps:

1) Begin by assuring yourself that compared to Christ’s suffering you haven’t been seriously wronged at all.
2) Recall the many kind deeds that have been shown to you, perhaps even by the person who has harmed you.
3) List the benefits you have received from the Lord.
4) Thank Him for blessing you with His love and forgiveness each day.
5) Make an honest effort to pray for the one who has injured you.
6) Go even further by looking for an opportunity to help them.
7) If the offense is especially hard to forget, try to erase the pain by thinking gracious and generous thoughts. (Give the pain over to God)
8) Finally, before you fall asleep at night, repeat slowly and thoughtfully that phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

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My next devotion will be Monday. Worship with us online at royred.org starting Saturday at 5:30. A lot of other resources to be found there as well. Onsite worship will start June 28th. To attend, please reserve a spot online at www.royred.org or call the church starting each Monday at noon.

Thursday - June 18, 2020

MATTHEW 7:24-27…“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Years ago, a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. He was constantly advertising for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that rage along the Atlantic coastline, wreaking havoc on buildings and crops!

Finally, a short, thin, middle aged man applied for a job. “Are you a good farmhand?” the farmer asked.

“Well, I can sleep when the wind blows” answered the little man. Although puzzled by the answer, the farmer desperate for help, hired the man.

The little man worked hard around the farm, busy from dusk till dawn, and the farmer was satisfied with his work.

Then one night the wind howled loudly from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed his lantern and rushed next door to the farmhands sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled “get up, a storm is coming, tie things down before they blow away!”

The little man rolled over in his bed and said firmly “no sir, I told you I can sleep when the winds blow”

Enraged at the farmhand’s response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot, but instead he hurried outside to prepare for the storm.

To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarps, cows were in the barn, chickens in the coop, shutters tightly secured, and everything was tied down.

The farmer then understood what the hired hand meant…and he also returned to bed to sleep while the wind blew!

In short…the foundation was set to withstand the upcoming storm! So, how about you? When life’s storms come around (and you know they do) is your foundation secure in Jesus Christ…can you sleep when the winds of life blow?

The Message translation of the above verse (with emphasis) puts it this way…“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter (a wise man) who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.  “But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter (a foolish man) who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.

So, Are you building your life on a foundation of Jesus…or the world?

By the way…The foolish man probably thought he beat the system! No foundation…moved right in…sitting by the fireplace…in his lazy boy…feet up…watching tv. He was probably laughing at the neighbor digging a foundation. But who was laughing in the end?

Interesting to note that both houses may have looked the same on the outside!

We can be the same way…we want a foundation built on a relationship with Jesus…but we look for the easy, one hour on Sunday method. We may not be willing to invest the time to build a solid foundation on God and His Word.

Many times, we get so wrapped up in “life” that we fail to connect with our God who gives us that life!

Once upon a time, a very strong woodcutter asked for a job in a timber camp. The pay was good and so were the working conditions. For those reasons, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he would work. The first day, the woodcutter felled 18 trees. “Congratulations,” the boss said. “Great job!” Motivated by the boss’ words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could only bring down 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder yet, but he could only manage 10 trees. Day after day, he finished with fewer trees. “I must be losing my strength,” the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on. “When was the last time you sharpened your axe?,” the boss asked. Sharpen? I’ve had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been so busy trying to cut trees…. 

Pretty profound! Are you too busy to “sharpen your axe” so to speak? Too busy to build a strong foundation on Jesus as your Lord. If you are too busy for the Lord, then you are just plain too busy!

Is your foundation strong when the storms come…because they will come? And remember that the storms will come whether your foundation is strong or not!

In our bible story the house faced 3 types of storms…Rain on the roof…wind against the structure…flood on the foundation. They all came at the same time.

We get hit with many types of storms…and maybe many at once.

I knew a woman whose husband died (emotional storm)…she went to his funeral visitation and fell down the steps and broke her leg (physical storm)…got it air casted, came back and got locked in the bathroom stall (situational storm)…and then a snow storm came at the cemetery. Life can be tough (we are not in the garden of Eden!)

  • Maybe you have a physical storm! (health issues…maybe coronavirus…or the “C” word)
  • Maybe you have a financial storm! (lost work and or benefits due to a job loss…or maybe poor stewarding)
  • Maybe you have an emotional storm! (loss of job, death of a loved one, loneliness, depression)
  • Maybe you have a spiritual storm! (Life has been tough, and you wonder if God cares…or you don’t feel like He hears your prayers)

Regardless of the storm… Psalm 46:1… God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. The storm will come but Jesus can be your solid ground to stand on, and to hold an umbrella over you.

I encourage you to assess the condition of your foundation…

  • Is it based on God’s Word? Upon the fact that God hand made you, that you are a sinner, and yet you are precious to Him. The fact that Jesus paid for your sins…that He loves you unconditionally?
  • If you have a foundation of sand (worldly values) ask Jesus to be your sure foundation. Seek His will and purpose for your life… through bible reading and prayer. (Talk to me about next steps)
  • Remember that a foundation is there to build upon…not to be a vacant lot. Our baptism starts the building…but what does God want to build on you?

Wednesday - June 17, 2020

Have you felt or even said things like: ”I’m useless”…“I wish I looked like so and so”…“I have no talent”…“I would serve the Lord but I have no gifts and abilities”…“I’m not a good speaker or singer”? Do you ever focus on your weaknesses and not how God can use those same weaknesses to glorify Him?

This is a great story that I loved to share with the confirmation class.

A water bearer in India had two large pots hanging at the ends of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house. The other pot had a crack in it, and by the time it reached its destination, it was only half full. Every day for two years the water bearer delivered only one and one-half pots of water to the master’s house.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments-perfect to the end for which it was made. The poor little cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfections and miserable that it could accomplish only half of what it had been designed to do. After two years of what the imperfect pot perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer and said, “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.”

“Why?” asked the bearer, “What are you ashamed of?”

“Well, for these past two years, I have been able to deliver only half a load of water each day because this crack in my side allows water to leak out all the way back to the master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all this work without getting the full value of your efforts,” the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion, he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot noticed the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because half of its load had leaked out once again.

Then the bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path and not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I’ve always known about your flaw and took advantage of it by planting flower seeds on your side of the path. Every day as we walked back from the stream, you watered those seeds, and for two years I have picked these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just what you are, he would not have had this beauty to grace his house.”

As I said this was a great illustration for the 7/8 graders because, as you know many young people feel awkward and have a low self-esteem….afraid to try for fear of failure (actually we tend to carry those thoughts right into adulthood.) Life can be all about comparing yourself to the media version of “normal”.

Have you ever felt like that cracked pot? (note…I’m not calling you a crackpot…which is an eccentric, foolish person). But do you ever feel imperfect and ashamed?

Let me remind you that YOU were HAND MADE BY GOD!

Psalm 139:13-16(msg)… Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

Let me remind you that YOU are a MASTERPIECE! Ephesians 2:10…For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I really want you to focus on a section of God’s Word found in Ephesians 2. Ephesians 2:8-9… 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. God loves you exactly the way you are…but loves you too much to have you stay that way!!!! God loves you in spite of you! God has an eternal plan for you!

God created YOU to be who you are…to accomplish what only you can accomplish!!! Ephesians 2:10 (msg) puts it this way… He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

YOU are unique…YOU have a unique shape (I’m not talking about your figure!)

  • Spiritual gifts…. How has God “gifted’ you?
  • Heart…What are you passionate about?
  • Abilities…What do you do well?
  • Personality traits…How are you wired?
  • Experiences…What are your life experiences and or ministry experiences?

There is only one you…and God, knowing you intimately, has a plan for you…cracks and all! Jeremiah 29:11… For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

So…I have given you a lot to think about.

  • Re-read the verses that I have given in this devotion…. how do they apply to you personally?
  • Pray for clarity as to God’s plan for you…. daily small plans, as well as, big picture plans.
  • Boldly step forward to fulfill that plan. God can use you “warts, cracks, weaknesses” and all.
  • Our new member class (Life With God) uses the SHAPE profile to identify potential ways to use your SHAPE to God’s glory. You can contact Bennie at [email protected] for information on taking this profile test.

Tuesday - June 16, 2020

A young lady named Sally and her mother had a violent shouting match about the dent she put in her mother’s car. After the confrontation, the father tried to console her. “What did your mother say about the dent in the car?” he asked. “Dad, do you want me to leave out the swear words?” “Please,” he replied. Sally said, “Then she didn’t say anything.”

That mother failed to realize that words also can leave “dents” in people–but more than that they can poison the soil of a relationship. Dents can be hammered out of a car–they are much more difficult in human beings.

Let’s play a game of “I SPY”….I SPY a two-ounce slab of mucous membrane enclosing a complex array of muscles and nerves that enable our bodies to chew, taste, and swallow. And Equally significant, it is the major organ of communication that enables us to articulate distinct sounds so we can understand each other.

What am I ? (A TONGUE)

Have you ever told someone to “hold their tongue?” Try it! Really…hold your tongue and say… “JESUS LOVES ME THIS I KNOW FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO”.

Or , have you ever had someone tell you to “bite your tongue?”Gently bite your tongue and say…“JESUS LOVES ME THIS I KNOW FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO”.

We know that your tongue helps you speak, taste your food, and even show your “not so Christ-Like” side. James says that relatively small items (Like a bit in a horse’s mouth, a rudder on a large ship, a spark in a dry forest…and your tongue) can have a big impact POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE.

James 3:3-6…When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.  Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Have you ever said something and immediately wished you could take it back? Join the club!

But you can’t….It’s like the water crashing over Niagara Falls.

Have you ever spoken with rage and anger…and then saw the damage it did?

Or on the flip side…Ever spoken a kind word and saw the look on the face of the person you lifted up with your words?

Or maybe you shared the Gospel with someone who was overwhelmed with guilt?

It’s odd to realize that all of our words pass over that same tongue…the good and the bad….the sweet and the sour…words that build up and words that tear down!

Do you remember as a child going to the doctor with a sore throat or with allergies.

The first thing the doctor would say: “Let me see your tongue.” Then the doctor would take a tongue depressor, which always tasted terrible, and nearly choke you to death…peering into your mouth.

The doctor would always say, “It was important to examine the tongue.” The tongue is a great help to determine our physical health.

A BAROMETER OF WHAT’S GOING ON INSIDE YOUR BODY!

Does it seem like a contradiction to you? I mean curses and blessings come out of the same mouth!

James 3:9-10… With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.

It’s funny that we can’t wait for a baby to say their first words…we smile if its “mommy” or “daddy” and then we can’t get them to stop talking! I read that the average man speaks 7,000 words per day! The average woman 20,000 words per day!! (I’M SURE THERE IS A MESSAGE THERE…BUT I’M NOT TOUCHING IT) But, that’s 7.3 million words spoken per year!!! If you live to be 70…..511 million words!!! So…the question to ponder is…What percentage of your words were used to glorify the Lord?

So…Simply put: we all talk a lot…..Now you can see why God is concerned about it–and desires us to GLORIFY HIM WITH EACH OF OUR WORDS.

And yet if we are honest, we see that many times we use our tongue to do harm:…To verbally abuse a spouse, child, co-worker, or that person who sees life differently than we do, a fellow student. We use our words to put down a person because of their race…or social status…or political view.

But we also use that same tongue to build up:

  • To tell a spouse–I love you.
  • To tell a child–I am proud of you.
  • To ask a coworker–Can I help you?
  • To hold a fellow Christian’s hand—and ask….Can we pray together?
  • To knock on a neighbor’s door and say Welcome to our neighborhood.

James 3:7-10(msg)… This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?

Why is this so? Well, the truth is that our words come from our heart! The tongue is a tattletale that tells on the heart and disclose the real person.

Ever look at a bumper sticker and wonder who is driving the car? “YOUR KID MAY BE AN HONOR STUDENT, BUT YOU ARE STILL AN IDIOT”. They got one chance to share a thought with the world…and that’s it? Or who is driving these cars? “LEARN FROM YOUR PARENTS MISTAKES…USE BIRTH CONTROL”, “I LOVE CATS…THEY TASTE LIKE CHICKEN”, “FORGET THE JONESES…I KEEP UP WITH THE SIMPSONS”, “HARD WORK PAYS OFF IN THE FUTURE…BUT LAZINESS PAYS OFF RIGHT NOW”, “BE KIND TO YOUR KIDS…THEY’LL CHOOSE YOUR NURSING HOME”. 

Don’t get me wrong…some are funny…but it is a reflection of the person who owns the car. The words on the outside of the car are often a reflection of who is on the inside! Well…..The words that come out of your mouth…are an indicator of who you are on the inside! The same is true for us. What you fill yourself with will eventually come spewing out! We are called to choose and use our words wisely!!!!

SO THE QUESTION FOR YOU TO PONDER IS:

  • What’s the condition of you heart?
  • What “rolls off your tongue” that would not please God? (gossip, cursing, arguing, lying)
  • What can you do to fix this problem?
  • It starts by cleaning your heart!
  • How do you clean your heart? It is simple!
  • Fill it with good and noble things…. Godly things.

Philippians 4:8…Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Make yourself more Christ-like on the inside will make your words pure and sweet…uplifting and wholesome…. a blessing to those who hear them.

  • Who needs you to speak words that lift up and encourage?
  • Who have you torn down and you need to make amends with?
  • Who is watching you…and learning from what you say…and how you say it?
  • Who needs to hear the Gospel? Who needs to be told that Jesus Loves them…died for them…and wants to transform them?

A few final thoughts:

  • KEEP YOUR WORDS SOFT AND SWEET…YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU WILL HAVE TO EAT THEM!
  • PROFANITY IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT OF YOUR STUPIDITY!
  • A LIE IS A COWARDS WAY OF GETTING OUT OF TROUBLE!
  • THE TRUTH IS AS CLEAR AS A BELL…BUT IT ISN’T ALWAYS TOLLED!

Monday - June 15, 2020

Alexander Papaderos, a Doctor of Philosophy, worked for many years trying to bring peace between the bitterly divided countries of Europe after WWII. His motivation for doing so stems from his childhood and a very odd event which took place. “When I was a small child,” he said, “during the war we were poor and lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place…. I kept one, the largest piece…. By scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine – in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find. I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became [mature], I grew to understand that this was a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. The light [or truth] is there, and it will shine in many dark places when I reflect it.”

He concluded: “I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of the world…and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise.”

What comes to mind as you read this?

Sounds like fun as he would reflect the sun’s light into places that were dark.

We are called to reflect the Son’s light into places that are dark! Biblically we see God and good as light….and dark and sin as bad.

In the beginning there was darkness and so God created light!  Genesis 1:3-4…And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.

God is the light and shares that light with us! John 8:12…When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The knowledge of God produces light in our hearts! 2 Corinthians 4:6…For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

It is supposed to be contagious! We are to let our light shine for others to see Christ! Matthew 5:16…In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

What does all of this mean? 1 John 1:5-7(niv)…This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Let’s see what the message translation has to say of this verse… This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him.  If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth—we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin.

We all sin (darkness)…through faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior (light) we are forgiven and called to let our light shine for all to see. Luke 8:16…“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

Right about now…I imagine you are a little confused on what to do with all of this…How does it impact my life, and my purpose?

Take some time and ask…what are the “dark” areas of my life? Where and when am I the farthest from God and His plan for me? What daily choices border on darkness? Do I justify why a little darkness is ok?

When you first go into a dark room, you are lost, can’t see where to go. You fumble around, uncomfortable, and afraid. And yet the longer you stay in the dark, the more at home you feel…your eyes adjust, and you navigate freely. It’s the same with the darkness of sin…the longer you spend around it the more comfortable you are with it.

Ask God to reveal His “light” to you. Be in His Word and prayer for guidance and direction.

Just like my opening story…who do you know that needs you to reflect the Sun’s light upon them? Maybe they are living in a sinful season of life… in a dark place! Or maybe they do not yet know the True Light. How can you point them to the True Light (of Jesus) as you reflect His Light through your words and actions? I love Christmas Eve candlelight service! We each get the light of Christ…and then we pass it on to others…and together we shine brightly as His Church. We then get up and leave the church building to go out and be the church…and have our light shine in our circle of influence.

Who in our Coronavirus world can you shine your light on? (pray for them, call someone who lives alone, offer to help a neighbor, drop off some cookies, help a jobless person financially or though the helping hand fund…smile, wave, or say “hi” to a stranger at the grocery store…thank a clerk, police, fire, mail carrier, medical worker, etc.)

Who in our racial unrest world can you shine your light on? Pray for God to soften hearts, unify all people, make needed changes. Use your circle of influence (social media) to bring peace, share stories, be positive. Stop fueling the fire by negative postings.

I end this devotion with a question I saw online by John Krahn. It’s a question for us all to ponder daily..

As you got out of bed this morning, did you feel like you belonged to a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God? And tomorrow morning, as the daily grind begins again, will you be thinking as you brush the old ivories, “What ways am I going to declare God’s wonderful deeds today?” Will any of us plot how we might upset the devil, the prince of terrorists? How many of us will let the light of Christ shine through us and be among the darkness dispellers? Will any of us seek to be the light of Christ in a darkening world? Reading the Bible, it becomes evident that Christianity is not a solo proposition. Christianity comes to us through Christian community. Without a relation to the community or church, our individual Christianity is weakened and incomplete. The church is Christ’s body on earth today. The light of Christ shines in the world through each of us as we take seriously that we are a chosen people belonging to God.

Friday - June 12, 2020

*Note:* (this devotion for today is a little longer… but the topic of loneliness is timely and in some way touches us all.)

In the popular Christmas movie called Home Alone…. a family plans a European vacation during Christmastime. Relatives arrived for the big event and the youngest son feels slighted… he rebels and gets in trouble…and he gets into his room in the attic….. while he is there in the middle of a tantrum, he wishes that his family and everyone else would just go away so he could be all alone.

In a bizarre twist… The family overlooks this boy in the attic. They leave for the airport, get on a plane, All the while believing he is with them.

The boy wakes up in the morning…. And discovers no one’s at home. He thinks his wishes have been granted… he is delighted…he’s home alone!

For the next few days, he lives alone…. while the mother and the rest of the family try frantically to return to him.

 At first the boy is filled with joy. He has the run of the house. He eats all the junk food he wants, watches whatever movies he wants, Sleeps wherever he wants, doesn’t have to answer to anyone!

Well…burglars try to break into the house……but he takes care of them…… but then he realizes that he’s now lonely and alone. It wasn’t what he thought it would be…. He becomes sorry that he treated them so badly…. desperately wants them back again.

 

Today I want to take a look at loneliness. This has always existed (God said…it is not good that man be alone), but has been heightened by the stay in place, social distancing, and businesses closed world we are living in.

Now, first of all…. I want to make sure we all understand the fact that there is a difference between being alone…And feeling lonely.

One is a physical state and the other is a state of mind.

Being alone is simply…. Being by one’s self. In other words, there is no one around.

Now if you think about it sometimes… being alone can be a good thing. For instance: I imagine a single mother of three small children who dreams of getting a babysitter…. So that she can go to a park….and simply be alone…. No kids…. no demands….and no to do list! I can remember being younger…. With 4 children…….and as great as that was…. There was never a quiet moment to be alone. Well one day I came home… and to my surprise…. For whatever reason…. No one was there…. I was all alone…. I have to confess…. That I didn’t know what to do…so I simply laid down on the carpet in the middle of the front room…. alone at last! And yet…. a running joke around our house is when no one wants to go somewhere with me…I would get a sad face and say…”alright I will go…ALL BY MYSELF!!!” (I did not want to be alone)

Now being alone can be a good thing!

In Mark 1:35…. We see that Jesus went off to be alone…. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. We all need those times in our life …when we are alone…. those reflective times…. Time to contemplate…. And assess our lives. These can be the times when we get closer to God. Years ago, I would take a day for just that purpose…I went to a friend’s house in Vermillion….no one else there…to pray and reflect. But…. we also know that being alone can be a bad feeling…. we feel isolated…. left out. I also find it interesting that in our prison system today the punishment for breaking the prison rules is isolation…. to be put into solitary confinement. I watched a prison documentary…. A hardened criminal…. Serving a life sentence…. Says that isolation…. Should be considered cruel and unusual punishment…. that you go crazy and isolation…. a person needs human contact!

And many times, in our life we find ourselves feeling alone due to circumstances. May be the death of a spouse…or a divorce…or maybe you’re new in town…those serving our country oversees…. when we are away from loved ones…Or maybe it’s an empty nest situation. There are seasons of life that we have to go through without a loved one by our side. Maybe you are or have been there?

On the other hand, Loneliness is a state of mind…. It is to feel depressed or sad, Because of a lack of sympathetic or friendly relationships. And it doesn’t only affect people who live alone. Loneliness belongs to each one of us…. from time to time. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old…rich or poor…Christian or non-Christian. One study I saw showed that one out of four people feel lonely at any given time in the United States. There is a very good chance that sooner or later it will come knocking on everyone’s door.

Loneliness can feel like a painful awareness that we lack meaningful contact with others…. feeling that no one cares about you….. if you suddenly disappeared… no one would send out a search party…causes feelings of: Not thinking anyone thinks you are important. Not feeling like you are part of a bigger group. Depressed.

And loneliness is not dependent on how many people are around you… It is dependent upon the level of meaningful relationships with those people.

So, why do we feel lonely in the first place? Well first off… God wired us with emotions, we aren’t robots!

And we were created to live in community! We were created to have a relationship with God! We were created to have intimate loving relationships with other people and to have meaning and purpose!

Now loneliness takes a few different forms.

Relational loneliness… it comes from not being around people, and let’s face it, our culture reinforces it. After all:  We pay at the pump…. No human contact. We shop online. We Get our food from a drive-through window or home delivery. We work from home. We do our banking at money machines.

Robert Brooke told of a trip he made from England and the United States. When he arrived at the dock, he noticed that everyone had relatives standing there to send them off. In the midst of the embraces he felt terribly lonely. So he called a young boy over, and paid him to stand there and wave at him as the boat pulled away from the dock. As the boat pulled away. The young boy stood there waving with all his might as Brooke waved back…… we all need community to love us and to recognize us!

Another type of loneliness is the emotional loneliness…. Technology today is great! And yet we can … e-mail, text, twitter, facebook, use chat rooms, message boards, blogs… to stay connected with the people…. and yet those things lack human touch. And a record number of people are reporting a sense of loneliness and disconnection from other people…. the virtual words are there but the emotions are gone! (even with emojis)

There is a third type of loneliness called spiritual loneliness. One of my favorite songs is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. And yet, do we sing it….but don’t really follow through with what it says:

  • I mean if He really is your friend …. wouldn’t you want to talk to him often…….to call him regularly…. He’s sitting by the phone (so to speak) just waiting for a call (or prayer) from you.
  • And wouldn’t we want to read his letters to us….thru daily Bible reading…I bet you read your email throughout the day…why not read his word just as often?
  • And wouldn’t we worship him regularly…with other believers. (We are planning onsite worship starting June 28th. Find details on royred.org/reentry)
  • Sometimes we have spiritual loneliness even though God is just waiting to hear from us!

Well… now that I have you depressed thinking about loneliness!

Back to the song (what a friend we have in Jesus) …. when all the people of this world let us down, Jesus is still there for us, ready to wipe the tears from our eyes! To celebrate when we’re happy, and to comfort us when we are sad…and to embrace you in the midst of loneliness!

There is a section of Romans Chapter 8 like to read it funerals:

  • Rom 8:38-39… For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Folks….it is my joy to remind you…. That if everyone else in this world lets you down…. Jesus is still there…. He still loves you…. Still cares for you…. He still wants a relationship with you…. And still wants to spend eternity with you

So…now what?

If you don’t struggle with loneliness…I want you to do two things:

  • First: I want you to thank God for the meaningful relationships that you have.
  • Second: I want you to identify and reach out to someone who is lonely. Call them up and talk to them…let them know they’re important to you…send them a card…visit them (virtually).You will make a big impact in their life!

 Now if you are facing loneliness:

  • I suggest that you put little purpose in your life.
  • Get involved in a church project or small group. You’ll feel good and you will make some friends.
  • Or identify someone who seems to be in a worse condition than you… Be a blessing in their life… maybe call someone in a nursing home… or hospital… or send a thinking of you card.
  • Bring some cheer into their life.

Thursday - June 11, 2020

Three friends were discussing death and one of them asked: “What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?”

The first of the friends said, “I would like them to say, he was a great humanitarian, who cared about his community.”

The second said: He was a great husband and father, who was an example for many to follow.

The third friend said: I would like them to say, “Look, he’s moving!”

I hope that didn’t offend any of you, but it does fit well with today’s topic of GRIEF.

*Note* The devotions for today and tomorrow are a little longer….but the topic of grief and loneliness are timely and overarching.

I have done some recent funerals during this social distancing (10 or less) season we are in. I thought about how hard it must be to be grieving at a time when friends and family cannot be there to comfort them.

  • The coronavirus/racism/and violence tend to leave us “dealing with our emotions” during these ever changing times. One of life’s hardest emotions is grief!
  • Webster defines grief as (an intense emotional suffering) (caused by loss). Any loss! It’s a sadness that comes when someone or something (that emotion has been invested into) has been taken away from us.
  • The word grief comes from the Latin “gravis” meaning “heavy”.  Thus, the phrase “heavy heart”.
  • It could be the loss of a loved one…. a relationship…a job…health… self-respect…faithfulness of your spouse. Our stay at home / businesses closed, upside down world enhances our grief of losing our “normal lifestyle.”
  • The Minirth-Meier book “Healthy Christian Life” tells us that ALL grief generally follows some specific stages.

First there is the denial stage.  “There must be some mistake.”  This is not really happening. Then reality sets in —  the person becomes angry.  They may be angry at many people —  or events  — or even God.  Eventually the anger will turn inward — feelings of guilt and anger with themselves — they sometimes begin bargaining = they make vows with god = if only things can return to normal. When anger and bargaining don’t fix the problem — depression or genuine grief sets in — it’s a necessary part of the healing process — they need to have a” good cry” so to speak. The final stage — acceptance – it can be reached when promises of God’s Word produce confidence and trust in God — and joy can begin to reappear.  It’s an acceptance of Romans 8:28: “we know that in all things God works for good… (even though we cannot always understand them)…with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.”

Well, remembering all that is not important – the truth is that grief is a… normal healthy process… and that we all do it differently…and that the reality is that it can lead us to a closer relationship with God.

Did you know that even Jesus felt grief. In the story of the death of Lazarus we see how deeply Jesus was moved by grief.

We see in John 11:5…“Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary and brother Lazarus. There was a very real personal relationship… In verse 33 — 35: “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have they laid him?”  He asked.  “Come and see Lord,” they replied.  and then it says ….”Jesus wept.” 

The crowds were weeping loudly, they were wailing! And we see that Jesus wept, meaning tears. He felt grief…just like you and I.

 We also see that The Holy Spirit grieved. He grieves over our sinfulness. In Ephesians 4:31…And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you are sealed for the day of redemption.

It then tells what the basis of the grief is…. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”

These sinful qualities grieve the Holy Spirit. It goes on in verse 32 to give us attitudes to show others: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

In 1993, rock star Eric Clapton was filled with grief at the death of his son – somehow, the 4-year-old child fell out the window of their 53rd floor apartment. I only bring it up because of the words he wrote in a song.  The song is filled with his grief…… and then he questions what it will be like… if…. he sees his son in heaven — which is a whole new subject about saving faith — but he gets to the heart of Revelation 21:4 when he sings that there will be “no tears in heaven”.  Our grief is replaced with joy…thru our faith in Jesus.

You see you can find comfort in your time of grief…. through faith. The Bible is full of verses showing God’s compassion and mercy for us.

  • 1 Peter 5:7…Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.

It says we can cast ALL our anxiety…(sometimes that anxiety is over changes in your life…..and these days, even changes in the way we gather for worship).

  • Philippians 4:6-7… Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

So, whatever grief you are going through remember.

  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-5… Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

The Study Bible footnote says that “consolation and encouragement flows to believers…and equips them to comfort others who are in trouble.”

Alexander Nowell… says it this way… “God does not comfort us that we may be comfortable, but that we may be comforters.” That’s what it’s all about. Helping others through tough times …..as Christ comforts us. Are you suffering a loss…call me! Who do you know “grieving” a loss? How will you comfort them?

That’s why we go to funeral homes… to comfort those grieving.

That’s why we visit people in hospitals with a ministry of presence.

Pray for others facing difficult situations.

Why we welcome neighbors into a new home.

Why we do random acts of kindness… phone calls.

The things that we grieve over ultimately bring us back to the blessed assurance of our future destiny – it’s based on God’s love for us – revealed by the Holy Spirit – demonstrated by Christ’s death on the cross. It builds character – strengthens faith – equips us to comfort others and share the Gospel with them.

Wednesday - June 10, 2020

You may not have ever thought about it, but it can be complicated for a pastor to worship at a church service. Oh sure, we lead worship! But that is different from getting lost in the Lord. We value those moments when we are not “up front” leading… but instead are being led by another pastor, worship leader, musician. I was able to worship like that at FaithWalk church last week. I was blessed for many years by going to a pastor’s conference in San Diego every February. It was a great time for me to “be fed” and to recharge my spiritual batteries. I can remember being lost in the Love of God through music, prayer, messages, and the joy of worshiping with 1000 pastors and church leaders. I can remember one specific moment that touched me. It was around 2000. The worship music was led by Fernando Ortega…He led us in singing “Give Me Jesus”. I encourage you to check it out online. The words are simple and yet life changing!

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus
 

And when I am alone
Oh, and when I am alone
And when I am alone, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

And when I come to die
Oh, and when I come to die
And when I come to die, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
You can have all this world
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

Let’s look at these words.

  • First of all, it tells of total love and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord, Savior, provider, and Redeemer. He is the only place to put your faith. You can have all this world But give me Jesus. This is counter cultural. We are taught by culture, media, and other people that it’s all about what you have. “he who dies with the most toys wins” “have it your way” “grab all the gusto you can get” “eat drink and be merry” “watch out for number one.” And yet we are warned in Romans 1:25…  They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. What do you tend to worship and value the most? Maybe your job, car, golf game? The real question is if Jesus is your Lord? Does your day planner / calendar show that to be true? Does your check book / bank account show that to be true? Would your friends know that your goal and passion is to be closer to and more like Jesus? Colossians 3:17…  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The song looks at 3 times that can enhance your relationship with Jesus:

  • In the morning, when I rise…This is key to me. Make time to get off on the right foot. First thing, talk to God. Thank Him for a safe night sleep. Ask for Him to walk alongside you throughout the day…better yet, follow Him every day. Get into His Word first thing. Read a section of scripture or a devotional book. (see me if you need ideas). Have some quiet time getting a game plan for the day. Jesus did! Mark 1:35… Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
  • And when I am alone…The best part of your relationship with the Lord is that you have 24/ 7 access to Him. Thank Him when things are going well (just a short prayer of thanks). Call out to Him when life is tough. (ask Him to calm the storm, to calm your anxiety, to guide your words and actions). And then quietly “listen” for Him to speak to you…maybe in shouts…maybe in whispers. John 10:27-28… My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. The best part is that He will answer you! Jeremiah 33:3… Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
  • And when I come to die…So, the stark reality is that, as sinners we will all die. Romans 6:23…the wages of sin is death. And yet death should not cause fear because of what is waiting for us (through faith in Jesus) at that time. Romans 6:23 continues But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus as Lord. Some feel that death is the end…nothing more…just rotting in the ground. Perhaps they are not singing our song above because they do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

So…now what?

  • Reflect on the words of the song. Make it your prayer each day.
  • Start each day saying “give me Jesus.”
  • Throughout the day stop and say “give me Jesus.”
  • Know that when you die…you will see Jesus.
  • Who do you know that does not know Jesus? 1 Peter 3:15… But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, Imagine the joy you will find when they can sing give me Jesus along with you. Wait for the right moment, pray for God to work through you, do it gently.

 

*Bonus thought for the day!*

Want to live a great, meaningful, and God pleasing life? (source unknown)

TEN RULES FOR A HAPPY LIFE

  1. Give something away (no strings attached)
  2. Do a kindness (and forget it)
  3. Spend a few minutes with the aged (their experience is a priceless guidance)
  4. Look intently into the face of a baby (and marvel)
  5. Laugh often (it’s life’s lubricant)
  6. Give thanks (a thousand times a day is not enough)
  7. Pray (or you will lose the way)
  8. Work (with vim and vigor)
  9. Plan as though you’ll live forever (because you will)
  10. Live as though you’ll die tomorrow (because you will on some tomorrow)

Tuesday - June 9, 2020

In a church service one Sunday, the offering plate came to a little girl at the end of a row. She took the plate, put it down on the floor, and stood in it. When the usher asked her what she was doing, she responded, “In Sunday school I learned that I was supposed to give myself to God.”

AHH… Try to imagine the nightly news… if we all followed that principle in our lives!

Based on all the polarizing news we face each day, I thought we should go back to the basic facts:

  • Romans 3:23…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is no asterisk there, it says ALL. It’s easy for us to find fault with, to look down at others that we do not agree with, to point out flaws in their opinions, and somehow we feel justified doing it. It’s only when we admit that we too are sinners as well, that we can mend broken bridges. Confess your sins (without saying “but”…and without blaming others) and seek forgiveness. Ask God to let you look at others through His glasses…of unconditional love.
  • John 3:16…For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Hard to imagine but God loves EVERYONE, died on a cross for every sin and sinner, and offers forgiveness and eternal life through faith to EVERYONE! That person that you look at with contempt is actually your brother, handmade by God!
  • Romans 12:1-2…Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. This is God’s plan…and God’s solution to this pandemic of hatred we are experiencing. I know that we are hungry to get “back to church… back to worship”. This verse says we are to “worship” every day…every minute. We are not to buy into the conflict that divides us and causes us to choose sides (don’t conform to the pattern of this world)… instead we are to let Christ transform our thoughts, words, actions, motives (be transformed by the renewing of your mind).

We all put our hope in something. I read a devotion by Paul David Tripp that got my attention. It started out saying “Every human being places his hope in something, and every human being asks that hope to deliver something. Where have you placed your hope?” It’s an interesting question. We all have hopes and dreams. We envision a better life, a better job, a better world….and then we hope those things will somehow happen, and somehow bring us happiness..

Some search for hope horizontally. “in situations, experiences, possessions, locations, relationships” and I may add they can never deliver because they are all flawed as well. If your hope disappoints you, it’s because you have the wrong source of hope!

Our only real hope is found vertically…with the one true God. When we become men and women of God…Men and women of integrity…when we know and love Jesus as our Savior and our HOPE. In response we can then live accordingly!

Ephesians 1:18…I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.

It starts with a heart change. To see things as God would have you see them. To love the Lord and to love your neighbor.

Jeremiah 17:7…Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.

I pray that you will take time in God’s Word today (and everyday), to ask Him to reveal His will for you. His plans for you.

  • Confess your sins to Him…seeking His forgiveness and unconditional Love for you. Are there areas of your life that are “off limits” to God? Are there people (individuals and/or groups) that you “hate” and wish ill will of? Do your words and actions polarize or unify?
  • Pray for peace, love, unity in our churches, communities, and nation. Ask God what you can do…who you can reach out to.
  • Ask God to transform you from the inside out. To give you a heart transplant. A heart that sees all people as children of God…brothers and sisters…people that Jesus died for. As we talked about yesterday ask God for peace on earth and let it begin with ME!

Monday - June 8, 2020

Romans 12:18 (niv)…  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18 (msg)…  Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Romans 12:18 (tlb)… Don’t quarrel with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, just as much as possible.

Have you ever felt the pain of having someone (maybe a child) make really bad choices? All you wanted was the best for them and now they are out of control. The pain, anguish, disappointment… you cry tears of sadness… and you pray they would have a change of heart.

Imagine how God must feel.

He created man… in His image… His masterpiece. Gave them a paradise to live in. Instead of focusing on what they had…they lusted for what they did not have (knowledge of evil). Sin entered in… poor choices were made… evil…dissension… violence… discord are part of our sinful nature.

I imagine that He is shedding many tears as He watches what is happening in this great nation that we live in. Many of us sit and watch the video of people looking at others with hatred…treating them with abusive words and violence. The images are all too common…. the pain and issues have been long coming. Many are my age and watched this cycle over and over again.

What is God’s reaction to all of this? LOVE!   And yet it must break His heart.

You may have seen a picture (I have one in my office) of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. Luke 19:41…And when He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it.

In the same way, as we watch the news, we weep… we pray for peace.

Many people have asked me “What they can do? How can they help bring peace?” We pray…but then what? Maybe this song will help!

Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller wrote a song in 1955. Vince Gill sang the simple and yet powerful words to this song:

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let There Be Peace on Earth
The peace that was meant to be

With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.

With ev’ry step I take
Let this be my solemn vow
To take each moment and live
Each moment in peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me

I find it interesting that Jill Jackson-Miller, who had been suicidal after the failure of her marriage to screenwriter Felix Jackson, later said that she wrote the song after discovering what she called the “life-saving joy of God’s peace and unconditional love.”

Imagine a world where we all lived those words.

That was (and still is) God’s plan. Mankind living in peace and harmony with each other and with nature.

It starts with knowing the “life-saving joy of God’s peace and unconditional love.” Our relationship with the Lord is the foundation for our thoughts, words, actions, motives…as well as the way we are to treat others with love and respect.

The result will be that our desire is to Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony. Unfortunately, as we have seen, that is not always the case.

Now you may say, “Dave this is a downer of a devotion, I’m not the problem, I am not a violent person, a hateful person, a bigot, or hater….I am not rioting and vandalizing and yelling words of hatred.”

Good, that’s a start. But did you notice it said “Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me”

No…I don’t think it would help if you ran into a violent situation and shouted “stop, stop…we love you”

But….Do you pray for peace? Worldly peace as well as God’s Peace.

Let’s get personal…and maybe a little uncomfortable.

Are you at peace with the Lord? If not, ask Him for it, He is just dying to give you His Peace. Go back and read my May 28th.

Is there peace and harmony in your home…neighborhood…. workplace? If not…be an agent of peace in all areas of your life.

Are there people that you are not at peace with? Have you written them off, vowing to never forgive them? Take time to listen to what they are saying…put yourself in their shoes… Ask about their motive and back-story…walk a mile in their shoes!

What are your words and actions teaching your kids and grandkids? They are watching, you know.

Do you tend to pass judgement on people or groups of people? Take time to hear their story… and to walk a mile in their shoes.

Look into your own heart… listen to them…hear what they are saying… feel their pain… learn… ask God to transform your heart… work for positive change….be God’s instrument…pray!

How about your social media (sorry, I know this will hurt!). Go back and look at your recent posts. Are they beacons of hope and love? Do they build up, mend issues, and bring peace …or are they a vehicle of hate for whatever cause, political battle, self interest you need the world to know? Imagine if we all used our postings to our circle of influence to spread love and peace.

What can you do?

1 Peter 3:8-9…Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

How do we bring peace to divided land… ONE PERSON AT A TIME! Each one reaching one. It is contagious!

May your prayer be… Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!

Friday - June 5, 2020

*Note…this devotion is a little longer. I am finishing this devotion series by looking at self-control today… as well as a summary of the series. Be sure to read it to the end.

For the last few days, we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We’re talking about what’s going on in the orchard of your life. We acknowledged that we are all sinful and fall short…. And we celebrate the fact that God loves us anyway! “Christian character” follows faith and is produced by the Holy Spirit…not by merely trying to live by the law. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces faith and Christian virtues. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I am going to take each of these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS.

Now today we will look at self control.

The dictionary defines self-control as the ability to control oneself, in particular, one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations.

A Biblical definition is selfcontrol is listed in the Bible as a Fruit of the Spirit – a sign that Christ is in us. If we let our desires lead our decisions, our lives (and our bodies) can quickly spin out of controlSelfcontrol is a discipline that God grows in us when we continually choose to die to our flesh and live in Him.

While his wife sang in the church choir, Mr. Nelsen took the couple’s infant son to sit with him in the worship service. And, as children are so adept at doing, he let out a terrifying scream right in the middle of the pastor’s sermon. Mr. Nelsen got up, took the child in the hallway where he was overheard saying, “Okay, John, just take it easy. Don’t get excited. it’ll be okay. Settle down. Whoa now. Just relax. Relax, John, relax.” When the service ended, the woman who overheard Mr. Nelsen’s conversation with his infant son, remarked to Mrs. Nelsen, “I certainly admire your husband’s patience with your baby John.” “My son’s name is Chris. My husband is John,” the woman replied.

So…How are you doing with self-control? How about in regard to food and drink, anger, foul words, smoking? Stop reading for a minute and quietly ask yourself…what area do you struggle with self-control issues?

Titus 2:11-12…For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

I think that we would all agree that the world is out of control! But the bigger question for you is “are you out of control?” Do you feel like a car with a broken steering wheel, bouncing off curbs?

Proverbs 25:28… Like a city whose walls are broken throughis a person who lacks self-control.

I want us to focus on a verse found in 1 Corinthians 9:25… 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.

We all sin…fall short! The wages (results) of sin is death. A broken relationship with a Holy God. On our own we will perish! And yet, thankfully, God Loves YOU so much that He sent His Son Jesus to fix the problem. He died in your place. He restored your relationship with God. YOU are saved! You have a crown of righteousness in our future.

2 Timothy 4:8… Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

But there is still a problem. We keep on sinning! In our sinful state we lack self-control. That’s where God steps in with the fruit of the spirit including a self-control empowered by God’s Power.

Our verse above about athletes says they go into strict training. How do we go into training to be more Christ-like…to have more self control?

Number one is to read God’s Word daily! Don’t just nod and move on reading this…schedule a time every day to hear what God has to say to you in His Word.

We need to pray for God to guide you and equip you to accomplish His plans for you.

Be active in His church…worship regularly! Use your gifts to serve those in need.

In addressing a need for self-control…admit your problem. James 1:14… but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. What area of your life is out of control? Do you rationalize why it’s ok? Do you blame others for your actions? Do you say “everyone else is doing it” or “it’s just a little sin” “I could quit anytime.”

Does this sound like you? Romans 7:18-19… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. That’s our sinful nature showing….but God wants to move you past those things…to make Godly choices.

Ask God to give you more self-control! Galatians 5:16 (gnt)… What I say is this: let the Spirit direct your lives, and you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature.

In this series we have looked at the virtues and characteristics that God is producing in us…through the Holy Spirit. Here is a short way of remembering them: Love is the key. Joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Patience is love enduring. Kindness is love’s touch. Goodness is love’s character. Faithfulness is love’s habit. Gentleness is love’s self-forgetfulness. Self-control is love holding the reins.

I thought the best way to finish this series of devotions on the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT was to use this illustration!

The Maker of all human beings (GOD) is recalling all units manufactured, regardless of make or year, due to a serious defect in the primary and central component of the heart. This is due to a malfunction in the original prototype units, code-named Adam and Eve, resulting in the reproduction of the same defect in all subsequent units. This defect has been identified as “Subsequential Internal Non-morality,” more commonly known as S.I.N., as it is primarily expressed.

Some of the symptoms include:

  1. Lack of self control
  2. Foul vocal emissions
  3. Amnesia of origin
  4. Lack of peace and joy
  5. Selfish or violent behavior
  6. Depression or confusion
  7. Fearfulness
  8. Idolatry
  9. Rebellion
  10. Loss of direction

The Manufacturer, who is neither liable nor at fault for this defect, is providing factory-authorized repair and service free of charge to correct this defect.

The Repair Technician, JESUS, has most generously offered to bear the entire burden of the staggering cost of these repairs. There is no additional fee required.

The number to call for repair in all areas is: P-R-A-Y-E-R.

Once connected, please upload your burden of SIN through the REPENTANCE procedure.

Next, download ATONEMENT from the Repair Technician, Jesus, into the heart component.

No matter how big or small the SIN defect is, Jesus will replace it with:

  1. Love
  2. Joy
  3. Peace
  4. Patience
  5. Kindness
  6. Goodness
  7. Faithfulness
  8. Gentleness
  9. Self control

Please see the operating manual, the B.I.B.L.E. (BEST Instructions Before Leaving Earth) for further details on the use of these fixes.

WARNING: Continuing to operate the human being unit without correction voids any manufacturer warranties, exposing the unit to dangers and problems too numerous to list, and will result in the human unit being permanently impounded. For free emergency service, call P-R-A-Y-E-R and ask for Jesus.

Thursday - June 4, 2020

As we all look at the upside down world we live in…we tend to wonder what would God have us do today. 1 Corinthians 10:31…Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Many people have asked me “what can I do to help with the racial tension that has struck in many cities.” Obviously, we all need to pray…in faith… that God will bring good out of every situation, that His Peace will prevail…. But I challenge you to… be who God created you to be… in the places He has placed you to be… to every person you have an opportunity to be the Light of Christ to. What I mean by that is to treat everyone that you come in contact with as if they were Jesus. Just as the pandemic gets transferred thru contact person to person…. God’s Love can do the same. If “each one reaches one” and that person does the same the same…before long, we will all treat each other with respect… and as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

For the last few days we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We’re talking about what’s going on in the orchard of your life. We acknowledged that we are all sinful and fall short…. And we celebrate the fact that God loves us anyway! “Christian character” follows faith and is produced by the Holy Spirit…not by merely trying to live by the law. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces faith and Christian virtues. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I am going to take each of these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, FAITHFULNESS.

Today we will look at GENTLENESS.

The dictionary defines gentleness as the quality of being kind and careful. Your gentleness with a frightened stray dog will eventually convince her to let you feed and pet her. The noun gentleness is perfect for describing the way someone acts when they are soft and calm and sweet to other people.

What is the difference between kindness and gentleness?

It would seem that kindness is more of a singular action, whereas gentleness is more of a “way of life” or method. … I do believe that gentleness embodies kindness – that a person who is gentle is almost certainly going to be kind to others. (note…both are included in the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT) 

I read about a guy who took his kids to a fair where they (unfortunately for dad) won 4 goldfish. Not wanting to spend a lot of money on a tank for the fish, he got an old one from the garage. He spent a few hours cleaning it and put the fish in. All is well! Next day one fish died, then the next and soon all 4 were dead. It didn’t take him long to discover the problem: He had washed the tank with soap, an absolute no-no. His efforts had destroyed the very lives he was trying to protect. Sometimes in our zeal to clean up our own lives or the lives of others, we unfortunately use “killer soaps” like: condemnation, criticism, nagging, fits of temper. We try to force our ideas…using a loud voice and abusive words. We think we’re doing right, but our harsh, self-righteous treatment is more than they can bear.

That’s were gentleness comes in. The Biblical definition of Gentleness is Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.

What does the Bible say about gentleness?

  • We are to be gentle like Jesus! Matthew 11:29…Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
  • Paul was gentle to believers! 2 Corinthians 10:1…By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away!
  • We are to be identified by our gentleness…even when dealing with others. Ephesians 4:2…Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
  • We are to treat others gently! Galatians 6:1…Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

According to Bill Farmer’s newspaper column, J. Upton Dickson was a fun-loving fellow who said he was writing a book entitled Cower Power. He also founded a group of submissive people. It was called DOORMATS. That stands for “Dependent Organization of Really Meek And Timid Souls if there are no objections.” Their motto was: “The meek shall inherit the earth if that’s okay with everybody else.” Their symbol was the yellow traffic light.

The devotional called “daily Bread” said, Mr. Dickson sounds like he’d be a lot of fun, doesn’t he? What is disturbing about all of this, though, is that many people assume that the ridiculous ideas behind DOORMATS and Cower Power represent the quality of meekness set forth in Matthew 5:5…Blessed are the meek,  for they will inherit the earth.. Many think that to be meek (gentle) is to be weak. But the opposite is true. What the Bible is talking about is a powerful virtue. The slogan “strong enough to be gentle” comes close to defining it. True meekness (humble and gentle) is best seen in Christ. He was submissive, never resisting or disputing the will of God. His absolute trust in the Father enabled Him to show compassion, courage, and self-sacrifice even in the most hostile situation.

Now let’s apply this to ourselves. When we are meek (gentle), we will bear insults without lashing out in proud resentment or retaliation. We’ll thank God in every circumstance, while using every circumstance, good or bad, as an occasion to submit to Him. Meekness would be a weakness if it meant yielding to sin. But because it stems from goodness and godliness, it is a great strength.

The need for gentleness (a gentle spirit) shows up most when dealing with people who disagree with us. A book called “God’s Power to Change Your Life” looks at 6 points:

  • Being understanding…not demanding. Philippians 2:4 (lb)…Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing. Try to understand their motive and situation. Put yourself in their shoes.
  • Being gracious…not judgmental. Galatians 6:1 (niv)… Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Wait for the right time, place…and for you to have the right purpose and attitude before approaching them. Don’t have a “holier than thou” attitude. Accept those who have a weak faith without passing judgement. Pray for God to mend their hearts.
  • To be tender without surrender. Proverbs 15:1 (gnt)… A gentle answer quiets anger, but a harsh one stirs it up. One of the best tests of spiritual maturity is how you handle people who disagree with you or are harsh with you. Maintain your right to an opinion but respect their right as well. Remember that yelling and arguing never accomplishes anything good…nor displays gentleness!
  • To be teachable…not unreachable. James 1:19-20 (phillips)… In view of what he has made us then, dear brothers, let every man be quick to listen but slow to use his tongue, and slow to lose his temper. For man’s temper is never the means of achieving God’s true goodness. It’s a great recipe to gentleness…Be quick to listen…slow to answer…then you will have control of your temper!
  • Be an actor…not a reactor. Romans 12:17,21 (niv)…17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone…..21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Strength is found in gentleness. Jesus would call it “turning the other cheek.” No knee jerk reactions to others’ bad behavior. Don’t let others control your emotions!
  • Be respectful.1 Peter 3:15 (niv)…  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. Share what God is doing in your life (especially with those who do not know Jesus as Savior) …do it gently and respectfully…Let the Holy Spirit work through you!

So…now what?

  • Spend time going over the verses above. Assess how you do with gentleness…at home…at work…with neighbors…with those with different values and lifestyles.
  • How do others see you based on the verse in Philippians 4:5…Let your gentleness be evident to all. Do others see Jesus in you by the way you respond to issues?
  • Stay rooted in God’s Word and Pray for the Holy Spirit to produce gentleness in you.

Wednesday - June 3, 2020

For the last few days, we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We’re talking about what’s going on in the orchard of your life. We acknowledged that we are all sinful and fall short…. And we celebrate the fact that God loves us anyway! “Christian character” follows faith and is produced by the Holy Spirit…not by merely trying to live by the law. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces faith and Christian virtues. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I am going to take each of these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS.

Today we will look at Faithfulness.

We are all too often like the little boy whose mother asked him to go into the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup. The little boy didn’t want to go into the pantry alone, and he said, “Mommy, it’s dark in there, and I’m scared.” “It’s all right, Johnny,” she said, “You go in there and get a can of tomato soup. I need it for a recipe.” He said, “But Mommy, it’s dark, and I’m too scared to go in there by myself.” “It’s okay, Johnny,” she said again. “Jesus will be in there with you. Now you go and get a can of tomato soup.” Johnny went to the door and opened it slowly. When he peeked inside, it was dark, and he was scared. His hands began to tremble, but he got an idea. He said, ”Hey… Jesus, if you’re in there, would You hand me that can of tomato soup.”

The definition of faithfulness…is a quality of being faithful, loyal, constant, staunch, steadfast, resolute, to be firm in adherence to whatever one owes allegiance. Faithful implies unswerving adherence to a person or thing or to the oath or promise by which a tie was contracted.

Faithfulness is the concept of unfailingly remaining loyal to someone or something and putting that loyalty into consistent practice regardless of extenuating circumstances. Even when going into a dark pantry!

The most famous geyser in America is OLD FAITHFUL! It’s not the biggest geyser in America…nor the most powerful. What makes it famous is it’s faithfulness! It runs like clockwork…dependable! But that’s just a geyser. What about us?

Biblically Faithfulness comes from a place of trust and loyalty. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is a confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” As a Christian, it is important to be faithful to God. It is one thing to simply believe in Him, but another to be faithful to Him.

Right about now, you may be saying to yourself… “Dave, these devotions are nice, but I feel overwhelmed! I can never live up to all of these virtues we have been looking at!” Well, That’s a good place to be! On your own, you can not master any of these characteristics of a Christ follower. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. The more time we spend with God through prayer and in His Word…the more FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT will show up in your life. How do I get faith? The Bible answers that question… faith comes from the Word of God. (Romans 10:17…Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.) Fruit grows and matures when it is rooted in God’s Word and watered in prayer. (Colossians 2:6-7… So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.) Use this verse to picture a tree… nourished and held in place by strong roots…built up and growing… strengthened by the sun and rain…overflowing in fruit. You are God’s tree! Be grounded in the Lord!

Our role model for faithfulness is Jesus.

1 Corinthians 1:9…God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Joshua 21:45…Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

2 Peter 3:9…The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Look up, focus on the words, and sing “How Great is Thy Faithfulness”

We have faith in the faithful one…and the Spirit fills us with faithfulness!

So…it makes sense that if we want to be faithful (full of faith), we need to have a growing faith. I heard it put this way….if you do not use your right arm, it will eventually lose all its power to move. Its muscles must be exercised to stay alive. If you have faith, you must exercise this also. If you don’t, it dies.

Faith in God seems easy on the good days…but it is tested and grows stronger when life gets tough. Faith is a gift to you from God!

A widely known professor in a New England university started out as a practicing Christian, a man of faith. Over the years, however, this all changed. He became known as an agnostic, or an atheist even. He said, concerning that change, that he never consciously abandoned faith. He said, “It was as though I had just put it away in a drawer, and later when I looked for it, it wasn’t there. “God never stopped reaching out to the man but… the man had let faith die for want of exercise.

If you have faith, keep it out and keep it active. Faith does not survive packed in an old trunk or kept in cold storage. Some fine musical instruments must be played to survive; leave them idle and they will no longer make music for you. Use the faith you’ve got, and it will grow stronger; fail to use it, and it will weaken and perish. Exercise your faith!

There are many ways of doing this: helping others, loving them; forgiving others, living a noble life; firmly holding high ideals and staying the course God has planned for you. But your faith is best exercised when you ask it to do the thing it alone has the power to do, when you ask it to lift up your soul for the touch of God. This you do when you truly worship him.

So…now what?

  • How would you rate yourself in the area of faithfulness? In your home / family life? In your job? In keeping your promises? In the use of your time, talents, treasures?
  • Are you faithful in your spiritual life, prayers, Bible study, worship, serving?
  • Stop and thank the Lord for giving you eternal life thru faith in the faithful one.
  • How would others rate your faithfulness?
  • How would God rate your faithfulness?

Tuesday - June 2, 2020

I have shared a prayer with you that I say every morning for my family. I think it is a prayer that we should share for all people.

Lord, may we be men and women of God… men and women of integrity…may we know you as Lord and Savior… and live accordingly!

I pray this for everyone. For all people, races, social-economic class, age, location, political choice. That God’s Peace would prevail.

For the last few days we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We’re talking about what’s going on in the orchard of your life. We acknowledged that we are all sinful and fall short…. And we celebrate the fact that God loves us anyway! “Christian character” follows faith and is produced by the Holy Spirit…not by merely trying to live by the law. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces faith and Christian virtues. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I am going to take each of these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS.

Now today we will look at GOODNESS.

We all like to look good and feel good! We try to be good! We love things that taste good! We want good weather and a good report card!

I bet when you were young, your parents told you to “have fun…but be good!” To a kid, (and maybe still for you today) that may seem like a contradiction.

The dictionary defines goodness as the quality of being morally good or virtuous.

The Bible uses the word differently. God uses the word good and goodness 619 times…I guess God thinks it’s an important word, virtue, and FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT.

Biblically…In Greek, the word goodness, “agathosune,” means“an uprightness of heart and life” … In addition, Jesus is called the good shepherd” in Scripture, because He laid down His life for His sheep. We are called as Christians to live in a way that reflects the character of Christ.

I saw a devotion that went like this…Once, during the hours of a quiet, starlit night, above the hills of Bethlehem, from a strange voice there came an announcement this world will never forget. To a few shepherds then – and to all the world eventually – that voice said, “Behold! I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be to all people …” We cannot be sure what language that messenger spoke – perhaps Hebrew, maybe Aramaic, or possibly some language never named and not understood except by a few. But the message heard that night has been translated into almost every language spoken on this planet. When the message reached primitive England, there it encountered an old Anglo-Saxon word, “godspell,” which meant “good news” and thus the message became the “gospel” and so it has remained ever since. “I bring you good news!” From whatever source, these are welcome words to most people most of the time. But this particular piece of news is especially good because it is good for all people in all times. For almost 2,000 years it has occupied an uppermost place in human thought.

We sin…that’s bad news!

God loves us and sent Jesus to die in our place…that’s good news!!!!

In response to this life giving gift…we are to make good, God pleasing choices! We also know that when we get our roots planted in God’s Word fruit will grow…Fruit of goodness!!!

And yet that is not as easy as it seems:

Gal 6:9….. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

So why would we be weary doing good?

First of all, it’s against our sinful nature! Sin is self-centeredness by definition. It only thinks of what’s best for ME! Left to our sinful nature we think bad things…desire bad things…are attracted to bad things…and choose bad things. And yet God calls us to goodness.

Second, Satan wants you to get weary trying to be good. He will tempt you to give up…to say “let someone else do it!”, to make not so good (bad) choices instead.

The danger is always present that we will judge before all the facts are known to us. A few years ago “good news, bad news” stories were going around. A man meets a friend and says, I won a thousand dollars in a contest.” The friend replies, “That’s good.” “No, I spent it on a skiing trip to Switzerland and broke a leg.” “That’s bad.” “No, while I was in the hospital I fell in love with an attractive nurse and married her.” “That’s good.” “No, it turned out that she didn’t like the United States and insisted that we had to live in Europe.” “That’s bad.” “No, we set up a home in Paris and I got a job with an export firm.” “That’s good.” “No, the firm went bankrupt and we were soon reduced to poverty.” “That’s bad.” “No, under those difficult circumstances I examined my goals and values and discovered that I was living for the wrong reasons.” “That’s good.” The dialogue goes on and what we discover is that the good and the bad grow side by side. Our judgment at a certain moment often does not take into consideration all the facts.

So…How do we know what is good?

Simple…we test it with God’s word.

Philippians 4:8-9…Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I like the Good News translation of that verse… In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are goodand that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you.

Henry Thoreau said, “Be not merely good; be good for something.” That was Jesus’ challenge to the man who wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life. He had been good at making money, in being morally upright and keeping the commandments; but that is not the ultimate good: he must also give of himself and what he has in behalf of others. He needed to also realize that, “The gift without the giver is bare.”

I think a great way to live is by this motto: Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, At all the times you can, As long as ever you can.

Someone else has expressed the ideal of goodness in a wonderful way, saying, “I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore, that I can do, or any goodness that I can show to my fellow creatures, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Goodness…a FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT… is a characteristic of a Christian…it’s a way to live, think, and be. The more time we spend with God in prayer…and in His Word the more goodness others will see in us!

So, now what?Go back over the 2 translations of Philippians 4 above. Read them slowly. Think about each word. Are there character weaknesses in your life that would conflict with any of them?

Spend time in God’s Word and prayer…Ask the Holy Spirit to produce goodness in your thoughts, words, actions.

Ask for God to reveal who could be the recipient of that goodness?

Monday - June 1, 2020

Let us start today with a prayer:

Lord…We humbly come to you in this time of need! You created a paradise and yet sin has tainted the beauty of your creation. We look around and are overwhelmed by images of a broken world. Galatians 5 reminds us that we see “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, dissensions, and factions.” The front pages are filled with stories of bigotry, anger, and violence. Lord, heal hearts and bring about unity and change. Lord, guide leaders to lead with wisdom, compassion, integrity. Help each of us to take a close look inside ourselves so that we individually would assess and confess our sinfulness…to repent of our thoughts, words, and actions…to look for opportunities to build bridges…to pray for and to point others to you and your Love. Let us each reach out to someone who is hurting. Lord, fill us with your Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control. Lord be with those who are impacted by the pandemic…and those that are impacted by the violence and rioting that has emerged this weekend. Lord we seek peace in our land…and yet it begins with your Peace in our hearts. Amen.

For the last few days we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We’re talking about what’s going on in the orchard of your life. We acknowledged that we are all sinful and fall short…. And we celebrate the fact that God loves us anyway! “Christian character” follows faith and is produced by the Holy Spirit…not by merely trying to live by the law. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces faith and Christian virtues. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I am going to take each of these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE, JOY, PEACE, and PATIENCE.

Today we will look at KINDNESS.

  • Have you ever had someone send you a card thanking you for an act of kindness?
  • Did you notice the look on someone’s face when you showed them kindness?
  • Have you ever called, texted, or sent a card thanking someone for their kindness to you?

We looked at “love” the other day….and kindness is love in action. It is being supportive and sympathetic. It is looking out for the needs of others, especially those that are hurting. To reach out to comfort, help, pray for them, and to walk alongside them (and that is exactly what our nation needs right now!)

Sam was invited to his friend John’s home for dinner. John had been married to his wife for nearly fifty years, so Sam was pleasantly surprised at the kindness that John showed his wife. John preceded every request to his wife by endearing terms, calling her Honey, My Love, Darling, Sweetheart, Pumpkin, etc. John hung his head and whispered, “To tell the truth, I forgot her name three years ago.”

SO…that is not what the fruit of KINDNESS is all about!

  • Kindness is defined in the dictionary as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Affection, gentleness, warmth, concern, and care are words that are associated with kindness. While kindness has a connotation of meaning someone is naive or weak, that is not the case. Being kind often requires courage and strength.
  • Biblically Kindness is selfless, compassionate, and merciful; its greatest power revealed in practice to our enemies and amongst the least of these. We are called to Love your neighbor; show kindnessto EVERYONE. For a perfect emblem of Biblical kindness, we need look no further than Jesus! He came that ALL would be saved.
  • Kindness is a garment that you are to wear…. something that can be seen.

Col 3:12-14… Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, 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.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  

Did you notice that it says to “clothe yourself” with these virtues…many of these words are included in the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT section that we have been looking at! We get up in the morning and choose what clothes to put on…what we will wear…what others will see on us. So, do you put on kindness. Do others see and hear kindness in your words, actions, motives, passions, and purpose in life? Do you show kindness without expecting anything in return?

Philip McLarty writes…In 1976 I helped lead a youth group on a trip to Washington, D.C.  We called it the “Citizenship Seminar.”  It was an effort to help high school students make the connection between the world of politics and religion. One of the high points of our trip was a visit with Senator John Tower who, at the time, was Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  He received us into his office graciously and addressed our questions candidly.  One the students asked him about world hunger and the United States foreign aid policy.  I’ll always remember what he said.  He said, “Food is our Number One political weapon.”  Then he went on to explain that, in exchange for grain and other commodities, we expected cooperation and certain concessions from developing countries. I was shocked and dismayed by what he said, and I told him so.  He was diplomatic and polite and, in so many words, told me I was naïve.

Perhaps he was right.  Only this I know: Acts of kindness with a hook are anything but kind.  True kindness expects nothing in return, except the satisfaction of doing what’s right.

I can’t help but think of Jesus’ kindness for the lost, the hurt, the sick, the poor! If we are to become more Christlike each and every day…then we need to treat all people the same as Jesus would!

Julia Carney wrote these words in the mid-19th Century.  They still speak to us today:

“Little drops of water, little grains of sand,
make the mighty ocean and the beauteous land.
And the little moments, humble though they may be,
make the mighty ages of eternity.
Little deeds of kindness, little words of love,
make our earth an Eden, like the heaven above.”

I like to think it’s the little acts of kindness that often go unnoticed that have the best chance of transforming the world around us into the kingdom of God.

So…as always, these devotions are meant to impact you, to draw you closer to the Lord and His Word:

  • Who do you know that needs an act of kindness from you? Maybe a smile across the path as you walk? Maybe some help with their yard work? Maybe an offer to shop if they are staying in place? Maybe a surprise plate of cookies? Maybe a phone call to break up someone’s day and to let them know that you care?
  • When you think of “kind” people in your life…who comes to mind? Learn from them! Let them know that you appreciate their kindness.
  • Be open to God nudging you to random acts of kindness.
  • Pray for the Spirit to produce Fruit of the Spirit in your life including more KINDNESS!

Friday - May 29, 2020

For the last few days, we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We’re talking about what’s going on in the orchard of your life. We acknowledged that we are all sinful and fall short…. And we celebrate the fact that God loves us anyway! “Christian character” follows faith and is produced by the Holy Spirit…not by merely trying to live by the law. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces faith and Christian virtues. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I am going to take each of these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE, JOY and PEACE.

Today we will look at PATIENCE! I find it interesting that as God lists the fruit of the Spirit…He makes us wait to get to patience.

When I have talked with new members in our “Life with God” sessions over the years, I hear that patience is one of their biggest struggles. I must confess that I struggle with this one as well.

It’s not an excuse but the world that we live in doesn’t help:

  • Because of our impatience…we invented microwave meals!!
  • Faster and faster computer speeds. (we feel that we need to call a repairman if we have to wait 2 seconds for our computer to respond to our keystroke.)
  • We have Minute rice…instant coffee…fast food, etc.
  • We looked at LOVE 2 weeks ago, well, 1 Corinthians says that “Love is PATIENT”
  • Throughout the Bible we see people having to wait.
  • Noah waited 120 years for the flood!
  • Moses and the people wandered 40 years before entering the promised land!
  • Abraham waited for a son, Jacob waited for Rachel, Joseph waited in jail, mankind is waiting for the Savior to return. (how many more can you come up with?)

One Sunday morning a pastor’s wife was teaching her class of small girls the subject of patience. She asked, “What is patience?” One little girl raised her hand and said, “Patience is when you are sitting in church and the preacher is preaching. You’re just sitting there, and he is preaching. He keeps preaching and you keep sitting there. That’s patience.”

OK…One more funny one!

A couple with three children waited in line at San Francisco’s Pier 41 to purchase tickets for a boat trip to Alcatraz. Others watched with varying degrees of sympathy and irritation as the young children fidgeted, whined, and punched one another. The frazzled parents reprimanded them to no avail. Finally, they reached the ticket window. “Five tickets, please,” the father said. “Two round trip, three one way.”

I heard it said that…Patience is letting your motor idle while you want to burn rubber!…..We find ourselves  saying “Lord…give me patience…and hurry up!”

So…We understand having patience as we wait at the grocery store checkout…or the drive through at Starbucks….but what are some situations that we need the Holy Spirit to fill us with PATIENCE?

Waiting for:

  • The chemo to do its thing!
  • My job to resume…or business to reopen!
  • For live church and small groups to resume!
  • For my marriage to get healthy again!
  • For the Lord to call me home…and Him to return!
  • What situation do you need GOD’S PATIENCE____________?

I saw a sermon by James Merritt that looked at 3 areas of patience, I want to share them (and some of his thoughts) with you:

I. A Patience with Difficult People. We all have been there! I call them the EGR (Extra Grace Required) people! They can test our patience.

James 5:7-8…”Therefore, be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the lord is at hand.” The word patient is the same word sometimes used for longsuffering. In this section…James illustrates patience with the picture of a farmer.

A farmer plants, weeds, waters, cultivates. Every day he does two things: he watches, and he waits. Because he knows that you cannot hurry the harvest, but he also knows that the harvest will come in due time.

II. A Patience with Demanding Problems. God tells us that “in this world you will have troubles.” We face many problems in our daily lives…and many more due to this pandemic.

James 5:10-11…”My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed, we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”

Now why does he mention Job? Well, think about what Job faced. First of all, he faced destitution. He lost everything that he owned. Then he faced death. His children and grandchildren were wiped out. Then he faced disease. He was covered with terrible sores and boils. Then he faced desertion. Even his own wife basically turned her back on him. Just like Job, every one of us are going to face demanding problems. Just as you cannot hide from difficult people, you cannot run from demanding problems. Now understand that problems are not meant to defeat you, nor are they meant to depress you, nor are they meant to discourage you. They are meant to develop you. Problems are not tools to tear you down, they are tests to build you up.

III. A Patience with a Definite Purpose.

Now why does God allow difficult people and demanding problems into our lives? It is to develop maturity. James 1:3-4…”knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

The word for complete here means mature. God’s goal for you is maturity, and patience may be a bitter plant, but it always bears sweet fruit. For full- blown patience makes for a full-grown Christian. Troubles and troublemakers are in your life to develop longsuffering, and you will never graduate to maturity until you go to the school of hard knocks and learn the discipline of longsuffering, which is patience, perseverance, and persistence.

So….You see, it is by patience that we see God’s work in us, and it is by perseverance we learn God’s will for us.

So…when you are feeling impatient…ask God to slow you down…to trust in His timing…to focus on … Isaiah 40:31…”Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

——-

This was a long devotion but if you want one more funny illustration:

This first grade teacher, and her class of thirty-two first graders, had watched it rain all day long. The last bell had rung, it was time to go home, and this teacher began putting galoshes on all thirty-two of those first graders.

She came to the last little girl and she was so excited that she was about finished with this dirty chore, and she began to put the galoshes on this little girl, and they were unusually tight. She struggled, she strained, she pulled, she tugged, she grunted, she groaned, and finally got the galoshes on that last little girl. Just as she finished snapping them into place, the little girl said: “You know what teacher? These aren’t my galoshes.”

The teacher couldn’t believe it. She struggled, she strained, she pulled, she tugged, she grunted, she groaned, until glistening with sweat, she finally yanked the galoshes off those little girl’s feet. Just at the moment she finally snapped them off, the little girl looked up at her and said: “They’re my sisters and she lets me wear them.”

Thursday - May 28, 2020

For the last few days we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We are talking about what’s going on in the orchard of your life. We acknowledged that we are all sinful and fall short… And yet we celebrate the fact that God loves us anyway! “Christian character” follows faith and is produced by the Holy Spirit…not by merely trying to live by the law. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces faith and Christian virtues. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I am going to take each of these characteristics one per day. So far, we have looked at LOVE and JOY.

Today, I want us to look at PEACE.

Brett Blair tell this story…..One of the best newspaper cartoons of all time is Calvin and Hobbes. One day Calvin and Hobbes come marching into the living room early one morning. His mother is seated there in her favorite chair. She is sipping her morning coffee. She looks up at young Calvin. She is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin’s head is encased in a large space helmet. A cape is draped around his neck, across his shoulders, down his back and is dragging on the floor. One hand is holding a flashlight and the other a baseball bat.

“What’s up today?” asks his mom.

“Nothing, so far,” answers Calvin.

“So far?” she questions.

“Well, you never know,” Calvin says, “Something could happen today.” Then Calvin marches off, “And if anything does, by golly, I’m going to be ready for it!”

Calvin’s mom looks out at the reading audience and she says, “I need a suit like that!”

That’s the way many of us feel as we see the news and deal with life. Sometimes this world seems quite violent and people seem to be at each other’s throats, we deal with upended economies, and odd family dynamics. A suit like that might not be such a bad idea! And yet, GOD’S PEACE can protect you from whatever this world throws at you! How about you? Can you say with Calvin, “Whatever may come my way, I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”

Well…I don’t think we need to wear a suit like Calvin, but we can have a PEACE in our lives that’s even better. John 14:27…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Did you catch the phrase that says “Not as the world gives.” The world promises peace through the rule of law. Law and order are the only way for a society and a people to experience earthly peace…and oddly enough, law and order must be kept by the aggressive use of force. That is the only way that the world can bring about peace. (which by the way, since Cain and Abel earthly peace has never existed)

But here is how Jesus will give you peace. You ask Him for it! You trust in Him as your Lord and Savior. His peace will make its home in your heart. The world’s peace is peace through strength. The Lord’s peace is peace through surrender to Him and His unconditional Love and strength.

We have all been asked: “if you could have any wish what would it be?” I think the most common answer given is world peace.

World peace would be great, but God offers a peace that is beyond understanding! What’s that all about?

God, His Word, and angels often (over 300 times) said “peace be with you”. When people face the toughest circumstances…God says, “Peace be with you!”

God’s Peace is a Spiritual Peace! Rom 5:1-2…Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. Our peace with God is a product of our relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit producing fruit in us. It’s a peace that lives deep in our hearts as we trust God with our life and our circumstances.

God’s Peace is an emotional Peace! Col 3:15-17… Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful……HOW DO YOU DO THAT….. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. We have talked about fruit being a result of deep roots. Are your roots deeply into God’s Word and prayer? Go back and re-read this verse a few times.

God’s Peace is a relational Peace! Rom 12:17-18…..Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. It’s hard to have peace when there is relational conflict in our lives. Who do you need to make peace with? We can mend broken relationships by taking on the character of Christ. To see past the indiscretions, and see the person that God created and forgives.

So… Ask yourself…What is robbing you of peace. Is it health, family issues, finances, guilt, grief…? I suggest you turn it over to the Lord…ask Him for His peace that is beyond our human understanding.

We have all been walking through this pandemic over the last few months. It is very real and has caused many issues including, loneliness, depression, financial issues, relationship battles, and many more situations that can threaten to rob us of peace. I saw an illustration (ironically from long ago) about a different condition that spreads from God to and through contact. It speaks about a very powerful condition spreading in epidemic proportions. The condition originates by faith in Jesus as Savior…it is called “God’s Peace“. Here are some signs and symptoms of God’s Peace:

+ An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.

+ A loss of interest in judging other people.

+ A loss of interest in conflict.

+ A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a powerful symptom.)

+ Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.

+ Contented feelings of connectedness with God and with others.

+ Frequent attacks of smiling.

+ An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others…as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.

There is a painting titled “Peace.” It depicts waves crashing against the jagged rocks. It portrays the violence of a crushing storm. It seems anything but peaceful. But down in a small corner of the painting, tucked away in the rocks, is a little bird sitting on her nest totally oblivious to the raging storm. That is peace!

Picture a massive hurricane raging over the ocean. On the surface of the sea the violent winds whip the water into giant waves and create a scene of havoc and chaos. Yet, a mere twenty-five feet below the surface, the waters are clear and calm. The fish there go on living their lives totally unaware of the thunderous tumult just above them. When there is “depth,” there is peace.

I encourage you to re-read the above verses. Get deep into God’s Word! Ask Him to give you HIS PEACE…on good days and when the storms of life are all around you. Ask Him to hold an umbrella over you during every financial, relational, physical, spiritual, emotional storm you encounter.

As we work our way through the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT. I pray that God will produce PEACE in you…as well as through you to others seeking His Peace. Who do you know that is in the midst of chaos? Who needs you to share the peace the God offers?

Wednesday - May 27, 2020

For the last few days we have been looking at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We have been focusing on Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We’re talking about what’s going on in the orchard of your life. We acknowledged that we are all sinful and fall short…. The fact that God loves us anyway! “Christian character” follows faith and is produced by the Holy Spirit…not by merely trying to live by the law. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces faith and Christian virtues. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I would like to take each of these characteristics one per day. Yesterday we looked at LOVE.

Today, I want us to look at JOY.

In the year 1806, a well-dressed man in his twenties visited a doctor who was renowned throughout London for being able to treat what nowadays we’d call depression, but back then was called melancholia. The patient explained that he felt overcome by a terrible sadness, that he didn’t want to get up in the morning. He could not see any point in his existence. “With your condition I would normally prescribe a course of my patent powders,” said the doctor, “but it so happens that I have recently come across something which will alleviate your condition much more quickly .“You must,” he continued, “go to the Covent Garden theatre to see the pantomime, Harlequin and Mother Goose. This is the happiest thing I have ever seen performed on a stage, tears of laugher ran down my face. Why, sir, I can almost guarantee that watching Grimaldi the clown will cure you completely!”…..“Ah, but doctor,” said the man sadly, “I am Grimaldi the clown.”

Have you ever felt like that man? Sad…hopeless…depressed…your situation has sucked the joy and happiness out of your life?

Or conversely, maybe today you might say….I am happy because things are going my way…It’s sunny out, I won the lottery, I am going on vacation soon. I act happy…talk happy…look happy…and maybe even smell happy!

But then tomorrow you find yourself back saying, I’m sad because things don’t go my way…I lost my job…my sports team lost…it always rains on my parade.

Happy and sad are dependent on our situation. It’s like riding a roller coaster of emotions, up one day and down the next. By the way God wired us with those emotions.

And yet, JOY is different…it’s an inside job. The Holy Spirit working in and through you. We have JOY on good days and the not so good days. Why is that? Because God Loves you! Our Hope is in Him. Romans 5:1-5… Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You can be full of JOY knowing that God is with you…working good in every situation.

You may say…I have a lot of issues stealing my JOY!

And yet, Paul who wrote these words was falsely imprisoned, flogged, shipwrecked, endangered, hungry, thirsty, (read about it in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33). Those were awful situations (just like you may be facing) and yet he was filled with the same JOY that God wants to give you…the JOY of knowing that God is with you and Loves you, and has a plan for your life here and into eternity.

Joy is based on who we know (Jesus as your Lord and Savior)! My favorite section of God’s Word is…Phil 4:4-7……Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Did you notice that it says “always”? Not just when things go your way! Our JOY is a condition of our heart…How do we get that JOY?…. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  JOY IS OUR ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

So…now what?

  • Don’t be anxious! Be concerned about issues you face. Do what you can and then leave the rest to God. Worry will rob you of your JOY and never fixes the problem anyway.
  • By prayer and petition. Talk to God, listen to Him respond to your concerns. Let Him give you action steps. Find your Hope in Him. The more time you spend with God…the more JOY you will have in your life!!!!
  • With Thanksgiving…Being thankful changes everything! Count your blessings. If you lost a job…be thankful you had one in the first place. If you lost a friend…be thankful that you had a friend. No matter how dark life seems, be thankful for your many blessings and for your loving Lord and Savior. Count you blessings!
  • What does all of that give you….JOY…and God’s Peace! We will look at Peace tomorrow.

Tuesday - May 26, 2020

I hope that you had an awesome Memorial Day weekend….That you worshiped with us…that you took time to reflect on those that gave their lives for our country…and that you focused on the Love of Jesus who gave His life for your salvation.

On Friday I had us take a look at the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. We looked at: Galatians 5:22-25…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We’re talking about what’s going on in the orchard of your life. We acknowledged that we are all sinful and fall short…. And celebrate the fact that God loves us anyway!

“Christian character” follows faith and is produced by the Holy Spirit…not by merely trying to live by the law. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces faith and Christian virtues. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms. I would like to take each of these characteristics one per day.

The first that we will look at is LOVE!

Here is a test for you…which phrase seems out of place?

  • I love pepperoni/double cheese pizza.
  • I love to watch basketball games.
  • I love walking beside a creek.
  • I love my wife of 47 years.

I assume you would see my point. We use the same word for loving pizza and loving a spouse?

We romanticize the word love with song lyrics like… “All you need is love”, “love makes the world go around” and even “love stinks”. Can that be what God means when He says He loves you?

The Greek (New testament) language has many words that further describe love.

  • Storge…natural affection like a mom’s love.
  • Eros…A physical/ sexual love
  • Philia…An emotional / friendship love.
  • Agape…Unconditional…God’s Love.

Let’s look at God’s (unconditional) Love.

A new lawyer came to town. New town…new office…No clients. When he saw that someone was coming to his office, he immediately picked up the phone and said, “I’m flying to New York in the Timmons case. It looks like a biggie. And bring Paul in from New Jersey on the Pettus case. Gotta go now, someone just walked in”. With that he hung up the phone, turned to the man, and said “now, how may I help you?” The man replied, “I’m here to hook up your phone!”

The good news is that you do not have to impress God…He loves you with all your short comings!

  • God loves you! We sin and disobey God…and what does He do to us in return? He loves us!
  • John 3:16…For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
  • I know that you have heard that verse 100 times…but stop and focus on what it says!
  • God Loves YOU! So much that He died in YOUR place (YOUR wage of sin is death). Forgiveness and eternal life are YOURS simply by faith.
  • He loves YOU in spite of YOU! It’s a free gift from God to YOU personally!
  • As a matter of fact…He has to love you because it is who He is! 1 John 4:16…God is love. What a short and yet so powerful verse.

So…God loves you…now what? In response to His love we are called to love others. And the Holy Spirit wants to produce LOVE in us.

  • 1 John 4:19-21…..We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Look at it this way: God loves you…which produces the fruit that we are looking at (Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control.) And the Holy Spirit fills us with love for God and love for those we interact with. When we strengthen the vertical (with God) relationship…then the horizontal (with others) relationship will follow! Want to be more loving, spend more time with God. His Love will wear off on you!!!!

So what about these verses on love? John 15:13-17…Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.  This is my command: Love each other.

Yesterday, on Memorial Day…We focused on unconditional love. Men and women who gave the ultimate act of love by giving their life…for you. For families that have suffered the loss of loved ones who served their country.

It also points back to Jesus giving the ultimate act of love on the cross! He willingly died so you will have eternal life.

So if God is Love and we are to be Christlike….The Holy Spirit produces fruit including Love for us to share with others. Jesus was asked of all the commandments which is the most important? Mark 12:30-31…….Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

So…I challenge you to focus on a few things:

  • Thank the Lord for loving YOU in spite of your sinfulness!
  • Thank the Lord for those who gave their lives for your freedom to worship the Lord!
  • Devote time every day to prayer and study of God’s Word.
  • Reflect and assess on how the Fruit of Love is growing on the tree of your life?
  • Do people see God’s Love shining through your words and actions?
  • Who can you reach out to today? Perhaps a relationship that has gotten tense recently…too much time isolated together. Perhaps someone lonely, depressed, and isolated in their home. Perhaps someone having financial issues due to the coronavirus world we are living in. Perhaps a neighbor that would love a wave, call, act of kindness.

Memorial Day - Monday - May 25, 2020

On this Memorial Day I want us to focus on a verse. John 15:13-17…Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. We will dig deep into the fruit known as LOVE tomorrow, but 2 applications of this verse are appropriate for us on this Memorial Day:

  • We live in a great country with countless freedoms…including the freedom of religion. That freedom came at a great cost! Today, take some time to reflect on those who in love “laid down their lives” for you. Ask yourself, who/what do you love that you would lay down your life for?
  • We have a Loving God who sent His Son Jesus to “lay down His life” for you. The most incredible part of this is Romans 5:8…But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! Now that’s unconditional love! Take time today to thank the Lord for His unconditional Love for you. Who do you need to show that kind of love to?

Friday - May 22, 2020

So…yesterday’s (fruity) devotion was a bit of a downer. We looked at God creating a paradise for man to live in… one rule… don’t eat from the tree of good and evil. Eve did! Adam did! Each of us do! The good news is that God still loves you…sent His Son to pay the price for you sins.

Today we will begin to look at what the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT is all about. We begin in Galatians chapter 5. Starting in verse 19 we see the problem: The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. These verses confirm what we talked about yesterday…we are all sinners!

So now what? Do we just throw our hands in the air and say “that’s just who I am so I might as well give in to those sinful ways!” NO!!! God wants us to be transformed…changed to be more Christ-like.

Galatians 5:22-25…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

This section may be familiar to you. We call this the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT section. We’re not speaking of spiritual apples, grapes, pears, or peaches here. We’re talking of what’s going on in the orchard of your life. What are you producing?

“Christian character” is produced by the Holy Spirit…not by merely trying to live by the law. The indwelling Holy Spirit produces faith and Christian virtues. We contrast the plural “sinful acts” described in the verses above…with the singular “Godly Fruit” (like a cluster of grapes) listed in Galatians 5:22-25 above. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects His character must be fruit that is very pleasing to Him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms.

So, let’s get personal.

  • Which of these virtues or characteristics do you seem to be lacking in?
  • Would your friends recognize these qualities in you?
  • Would a stranger meeting you for the first time see those characteristics in the way you talk and act?
  • If there were 9 buckets filled with these virtues and you could get more of one of them…which would you take?

The fable tells of three merchants who were crossing the Arabian Desert. Because of the heat of the desert they were traveling at night. On that starless night they were crossing over a dry creek bed. As they were crossing a voice in the darkness spoke to them. The voice told them to stop right where they were. Then they were commanded to bend down and pick up the pebbles that were around them in thedry creek bed and put them in their pockets. After they did this they were told to leave and continue on their way and not to camp near the creek bed. The voice from the darkness continued to tell them that in the morning they would be both happy and sad. Being very frightened by all of this, they traveled through the night and did not stop until they could see the sun. With the arrival of the morning they began to look in their pockets. Instead of finding pebbles in their pockets they found precious jewels. Yes, they were both happy and sad. They were happy that they had listened to the voice of the night but they were also sad that they did not pick up more pebbles.

Note that the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT is not something that you earn or buy or go “pick up”…this fruit is a gift of the Spirit…as He works in you and transforms you from the inside out, but:

I want to end this devotion by painting a picture using Colossians 2:6-7… So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,  rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Think of a healthy tree…strong roots for strength in the storm, and for nourishment. It grows and is built up with branches and places for birds to rest…overflowing with leaves, flowers, and fruit.

Colossians describes a Christian life (our intimate, spiritual, living union with God) in the same terms:

  • Rooted in God’s Word for strength and nourishment. (do you connect with God and read His Word daily?)
  • Growing to become all that God has planned for your life. Strengthening in your walk as to be a blessing to others. (Are you responding to God’s direction in your life?)
  • To be Christ-like…producing good fruit…living out the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT characteristics and virtues for all to see. (Are you loving others?)
  • Over the next devotions starting on Monday, I want to look at each of these 9 characteristics and virtues, mentioned in these FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT verses.

Over the weekend, I encourage you to worship with us at royred.org. While you are there, check out the other tools and opportunities to connect with us. Spend some time looking at the verses that I have used in this devotion….and look for God for direction, hope, strength.

Thursday - May 21, 2020

We had some landscaping done around our house last week… it looks great. With Memorial Day approaching many of you will be planting flowers and of course the vegetable gardens. Some of you are fortunate enough to have fruit trees! Fruit plays an important part in the story of God’s creation. He hand made all of the plants, flowers, trees, fruits and vegetables. I saw this funny fruit story:

Whenever your kids are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even God’s omnipotence didn’t extend to God’s kids. After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve. And the first thing he said was: “Don’t.”…..”Don’t what?” Adam replied…..”Don’t eat the forbidden fruit.” God said….. “Forbidden fruit? We got forbidden fruit?….Hey Eve! We got forbidden fruit!”…”No way!”…”Yes way!”. “DON’T EAT THAT FRUIT!” Said God…. “Why?”…..”Because I am your Father and I said so!” said God, wondering why he hadn’t stopped after making elephants…… A few minutes later God saw his kids having an apple break and was angry….Didn’t I tell you not to eat the fruit?” the First Parent asked….”Uh huh,” Adam replied….”Then why did you?”…”I dunno,” Eve answered….”She started it!” Adam said….”Did not!”…”Did too!”…”Did NOT!”… Having had it with the two of them, God’s punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own. Thus, the pattern was set, and it has never been changed!!!

Well, that’s not how the story really goes, but it may sound that way in your home. God created paradise. He sat back after each day, looked at His masterpiece and said, “It is good!”

God gave this paradise to Adam and Eve to enjoy. He wanted them to show their love and trust in their Father by having one rule to follow. Following that rule would show God that they trusted Him…and keep them safe.

Genesis 2:15-17…The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.

Sounds pretty simple…enjoy paradise…don’t mess with evil! As we know, Satan tempted Eve. He questioned if she really knew what God said Genesis 3:1…He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” At first she stood her ground, Genesis 3:2-3…The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,  but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” Not exactly what God said, but close enough. Satan does not stop there; he says that God’s rule is unfair…she deserves the fruit. And Eve gives in. Genesis 3:6…When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Not only did she eat it, but she passed it on to Adam. Sin entered into the world!

Let’s take this story and update it. A parent tells their 7-year-old to play in the yard and don’t wander…you may get hurt, run over by a car, or worse. Everything is going well, after all he has a swing set, basketball hoop, and toys. Then his 9-year-old classmate from the next block comes over to play. He later says, “let’s go over to my house, I have a go cart we can ride”. The 7-year-old says “no, dad said to stay here”. The 9-year-old says, “it will be ok…he didn’t mean my house”.The 7-year-old says “no, he said don’t leave the yard.” The 9-year-old says “dad’s a spoil sport, dad gets to leave the yard and has fun, why can’t you”. The 7-year-old defies dad’s rule and leaves the yard, rides the go cart and gets hurt!

You may be reading this and wondering where I am going with this devotion.

Like the father in the Garden of Eden…and the father in my 7-year old’s story…your Heavenly Father Loves you! He wants to protect you, so He has given us rules to keep us safe.

Deep down, we want to obey God…but often fall short! There are 3 things that cause us to break the rules…to fall short…to miss the mark…to sin.

  • Satan…He lost and is defeated. He is bitter and wants to take as many of us as he can with him! He wants you to misunderstand and doubt God’s Word. He wants you to question if His Word applies to you. He appeals to our desires and tempts us to turn away from God’s plans for our lives. The 9 year old in my story is not Satan, but many times, he uses those closest to us to tempt us to sin. “Did God really say not to do that” “Come on, everyone else is doing it” “God won’t mind” “If He really loved you, He would want you to have fun” “you deserve it.” We hear these types of words and get tempted to play god…to make and bend the rules. The good news is we have God on our side. James 4:7-8…Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.
  • The Sinful World…Let’s face it, we live in a sin filled world that denies that there even is a God. The world wants to play god by making their own rules…and even bending the rules that exist. But we can turn to God for wisdom and direction. Romans 8:31…What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
  • Our Sinful Nature…Just as you inherited your hair, eyes, physical attributes from your parents…you also received a sinful nature. You were born (conceived) with a sinful nature. Psalm 51:5…Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
    • The Coronavirus is on all of our minds. What is its origin? What is its cause? How would I get it? Is there a cure?). We were all born with a more deadly disease called sin…Its 100% fatal. We inherited it. The symptoms that we have this disease are shown from our sinful thought’s words, and deeds.
    • OUCH…WHAT A DOWNER! The reality is that we (like Adam and Eve) sin…and sin separates us from God…. That is bad news!!!

There is GOOD NEWS! It’s the Gospel! 1 John 1:8-9…If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. We sin (it’s our nature) and God forgives (it’s His nature)

Here is what I want you to do:

  • Acknowledge that you are a sinner.
  • Spend time reflecting on your “signature sin.” The sin that you keep having to confess. You say that you will not do it again…but you keep doing it. Maybe you justify it. Maybe you blame others for it. Maybe you rationalize why it is ok.
  • Humbly confess that sin to the Lord. Ask Him in His mercy and for the sake of Jesus death to forgive you.
  • Ask God to help you to avoid the triggers to this sin…or the people that lead you to it. Ask Him to help you make the needed changes to become all He created you to be.
  • Know and thank God for the fact that you are forgiven!

Tomorrow….we will look at a different (and much better) kind of fruit!

Wednesday - May 20, 2020

I saw a funny story the other day by Wayne Rice:

Disney’s Chip and Dale always got the best of Donald Duck. In one of those cartoons, those pesky chipmunks were taunting him from their little tree hole, about 15′ above the ground. Putting on some spiked shoes, Donald Duck attempted to climb the tree. Fuming and muttering he reached the hole. In a Flash Chip and Dale untie his shoes, and he falls to the ground…Next, he tries using a ladder. When he reaches the top Chip and Dale pushed the ladder over, and Donald tumbles down…..For a 3rd assault on the tree he straps a rocket to his back and launches towards the top of the tree. No use. Chip and Dale jolt the rocket off course, and it crashes with Donald Duck still attached… Finally, Donald Duck decides to chop the tree down. With steam coming out of his ears he snatches a big ax and started swinging. Every time the ax hits the tree chip and Dale shake in their perch. In agitated chatter they wonder how to save themselves this time! Meanwhile the tree begins to fall and Donald Duck quacks with glee, certain of his success. Then for no apparent reason the tree not only stops falling but it begins to right itself again. A furious Donald circles the tree, trying to figure out the reason why. The cartoonist reveals it all. Inside the hollow tree. Chip and Dale are pushing with all their might to upright the tree!

This story makes us laugh! We know that it’s impossible to push the tree up from inside the tree! As the tree was falling, their pushing was useless because they had nothing to lean on for leverage. To stop their tree from falling, they would have to brace themself against something…. and it can not be the tree or their own willpower.

How about you?

Have you been (or perhaps you are right now) in a tree that seems to be falling?

Try as you may, you can’t get it back upright by your own power.

Maybe it’s a coronavirus tree with the weight of health issues, financial issues, loneliness, fear, relationship struggles….and the tree seems to be falling. By your own strength, you push as hard as you can, but a crash seems inevitable!

Maybe you are not struggling from corona issues but something else is cutting down your tree…maybe emotional, financial, or relationship struggles…Maybe they have been there for years…and things seem to be crashing all around you.

The biggest question for you to answer is… who or what are you leaning on??? If it’s your willpower, good looks, money, or a rabbit’s foot… the result will come crashing down upon you.

I would like to point you to the One to lean on…. The Solid Rock of Jesus Christ! You can lean on Him to get your life upright and solid. He gives you His Word for time like this. After Moses died and Joshua was to lead the people into the promised land, it must have felt overwhelming…like the tree was falling…and where were Joshua and the people to lean? On God, His promises, and His Word!

Joshua 1:7-9…Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Isn’t that a great section of scripture? It gives us hope and direction for every struggle we face.

  • Be strong and very courageous! Why? Because you can lean on the Lord…He will be with you wherever you go and whatever you face! He is there with you, for you to lean on and brace against. He is there on the good days and the not so good seasons of life. He wants to change your outlook, your self-image, your Hope, your purpose, and direction… and your next healthy steps.
  • Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips. Make the commitment to get into God’s Word daily! For Joshua it was the Book of the Law (the first 5 books.) We have God’s Word in our Bibles, both the Law to guide us and show our sins…and the Gospel to bring us hope and show our Savior. The truth is that God hand made you and wants to spend eternity with you…but there is a problem! You (and I) sin, and that sin separates us from God. The good news is that God still loves you in spite of your sins! He sent His son (Jesus) to pay the price for your sins. Our relationship with God is restored! Our response to this free gift is to want to know what God’s plan for our lives is.
  • meditate on it day and night. Don’t just read it, ask God to speak to you personally and into all of the situations that you face. Spend time and seek God’s guidance for your life. Sit quietly asking for God to speak to you through His Word.
  • so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Knowing God’s Word is great…but doing what it says is what it’s really all about. Seek God’s will for you. Ask Him to guide your steps so that you can accomplish His plans for your life. Apply God’s Word to each situation you face.
  • Then you will be prosperous and successful. For Christians “success” is measured by God’s definition, not the world’s definition. For Joshua it was to conquer the promised land. What is it that God wants to help you conquer? In what ways will you prosper? How will God use you to impact others? Will He use you to help someone else whose tree is falling?
  • If left alone in our sin and weakness…we will fall…the tree will crash. And yet, God enables you through the promise of His Word to “be strong and courageous”…to face the day and whatever comes your way…not to inherit a piece of land like Joshua…but to inherit a place in God’s eternal kingdom!
  • Pray that as you get into God’s Word, it will permeate your heart…and transform you into the person God hand made you to be.

Tuesday - May 19, 2020

So, here we are at the end of this 8-day devotional on dealing with the hurts, habits, and hang-ups that steal our joy, and make life seem unmanageable. Hopefully, you are working through each of these devotionals. I pray that you are identifying your issue, acknowledging who your Lord is, turning your issue and life over to Him, assessing and confessing your faults, making changes, repairing relationships, and getting into a time in God’s Word and of prayer.

Today we will look at The Sharing Choice… Recycling Plan. This is when you yield yourself to God to be used to bring the Good news to others by example and by your words.

A key fact is that God never wastes a hurt! What does that mean? Well, we have seen that in this world we will have trouble, pain, hurt, disappointment, etc. God knows about your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.

He will respond to them in 3 ways:

  • He will help you find healing and to make healthy choices.
  • He will use them to draw you closer to Him.
  • He will use you to help others going through similar issues.

GOD NEVER WASTES A HURT!

I see it all the time. An alcoholic with time in sobriety sponsors a newer alcoholic, a divorced person walks along side of someone facing divorce, a cancer survivor sits with someone getting chemo for the first time, a person loses a loved one and a grief support group welcomes them in…and the list is endless.

This is God’s recycling plan! 2 Corinthians 1:4 (nlt)… He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

I envision our life as a Christian like a team of mountain climbers. The climb is difficult but together they can succeed… encouraging each other… watching and learning from the climber ahead of them…avoiding the dangerous hidden crevasses… finding solid ground to walk on. They are led by a map produced by someone that has gone ahead of them… who has given direction and warning. When the leader of the mountain climbing team reached the peek, does he stop to rest and enjoy the view? Of course not, he helps the next person who in turn helps the next.

So…We are all on a journey and at times it seems like we are climbing a steep mountain. Jesus is leading the way, He gives us His Word to guide our steps… as well as His church to walk with us. Our job is to watch out for the person following behind us… to encourage, lead, help them find solid ground. You can help them navigate the rough terrain… point out where you slipped and fell… point them to the map, and the writer of that map (God).

Many times, this begins by “sharing your story” with someone who God has placed in your path.. Here are some suggestions for sharing your story with someone:

  • Be humble! Remember this is a testimony not a bragamony. Your job is to tell the story of what your hurt, habit, or hang-up was (is) and how God has led you to a healthier place. It’s one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. And then share who that bread is! John 6:35…Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Jesus is the bread that gives life…Hope…Joy…direction…strength to face the battles we all face. Your story can give hope and guidance to someone a few steps behind where you are in your journey.
  • Be real! Be honest about your hurts and faults. Let them know that you are transparent, vulnerable, and real with them. James 5:16…Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. God wants to recycle your progress into someone behind you in the journey. You might be a lighthouse to someone else’s storm…. leading them to the ultimate Lighthouse (Jesus).
  • Don’t lecture! You will never argue or force someone into healing, healthy choices, or into heaven. God wants you to be a witness not a defense attorney! You have heard it said that you may be the only Bible someone reads…this is true especially if they are going through a tough time where they may feel God is distant, or that He is the cause of their issues. Use “I” sentences. Tell how God helped you move forward and found healing.

You may say… “Let someone else do it” or “that’s the pastor’s job.” Truth is that you can reach people that the pastor can’t. God has placed them in your circle of influence “for a moment like this”

This is your calling! Acts 20:24… But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

So…now that we have finished the last 8 devotions dealing with hurts, habits, and hang-ups…now what? Hopefully, you are working through the healthy choices…connecting with the Lord daily…and making progress. Remember it’s a lifelong journey and that I and the church are here for you. Remember God is with you! 2 Corinthians 5:17… This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! God hand made you…and saved you…wants you to be the best version of you that you can. He will lead you to make those healthy choices. He never made you to go through this world alone! Together you are stronger than alone. There is someone that needs to hear your story…you may be the answer to their prayer!

If you have received comfort, hope, direction from someone when you went in a tough spot…call them and thank them!

Do you know someone going through a tough experience that you have already gone through? Look for an opportunity to share your story with them.

One last note:

Some of you may have read these last devotions and said, “that’s nice but I don’t have any hurts, habits, or hang-ups.” Here is a partial list that the Life Hurts God Heals group put together: issues with pride, stress, gossip, poverty, self-esteem, fear, anger, jealousy, selfish, anxiety, depression, bitterness, worry, guilt… addiction to pornography, food, smoking, alcohol and drugs, sex, money, gambling, tv, shopping, work…the hurt of any loss, grief, disease, all forms of abuse, rejection, criticism, gossip, lies, betrayal. If any of these sound close to home…go back and re-read these 8 devotions. Call me for help and support 440-237-7958 ext.118.

Monday - May 18, 2020

I hope that you had an awesome weekend! I pray:

  • That you took time to worship with us online at royred.org (the worship services are still there…as well as many other ways to connect with God and with us as a church, as well as devotionals, group info, children’s ministry)
  • That you spent time praying and reading God’s Word… applying it to your life and situation.
  • That you processed through what your biggest hurt, habit, hang-up is.
  • That you will let God lead you through this day… to accomplish His plans for you… and to know that He loves you.

The last 6 devotions that I have written are part of a series designed to help you deal with the past…trust the Lord with your future…and guide you through each minute of today. So far in this series of devotions we have looked at:

  • The Reality Choice… Admitting that you are not God…and life can be unmanageable…. identifying the main issue that impacts your life.
  • The Hope Choice… Believing that God exists, you matter to Him, He can help you deal with your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
  • The Letting Go Choice… the Commitment Choice. Committing your life to Christ’s Love, care, and control.
  • The Coming Clean, House Cleaning Choice… Taking time to examine your past and to confess your faults…first to yourself…and then to God. Many find it very helpful to confess them to a trusted person…to own them and release them.
  • The Transformation Choice…making changes. This is when you begin to be who God created you to be! This is when you voluntarily submit to every change that God wants you to make and to humbly ask Him to remove any character defects.
  • The relationship Choice…repairing relationships. This is when we evaluate all of our relationships…offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us…and make amends for the harm we have done to others.

I keep repeating these steps because they are great tools for you to use throughout your lifetime. They can be used today, tomorrow, each day of your life until God calls you home to a place where we will not need them. God tells us that “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Life happens…and it can be painful. These tools will work for each hurt, habit, hang-up you will encounter.

Today we will look at The Growth Choice…maintaining momentum. One of the greatest Joy’s we have is that God wants to communicate with us! In this choice you will commit to reserving a daily quiet time with God…for self-examination…Bible reading…and prayer. You do this to know God and His will for your life…and for the power to follow His will!

 

A middle-aged woman went to New York and up to the 23rd floor of an apartment building. She knocked on the door and a beautiful young woman opened the door. Incense came wafting out, music was playing, she was wearing a sarong, and she was clapping little bells. The young woman asked “are you here to see the great Bagone? The one who knows all, sees all, tells all, understands everything, and is in ultimate control”? The middle-aged woman said” Yes, tell Sheldon his mother is here!”

Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are just “Sheldon” or whatever your name is. We need to be reminded we don’t know it all, we are not God, and that on our own we will fail, fall, make poor choices, sin, and “be human”. I hope that you have been working on the previous choices and making some progress with healthy Christ-centered living. Be careful not to slip back to old habits. We all need a regular time to recharge our batteries and update our navigation system. Let’s take a closer look at this growth Choice:

  • Commit to reserving a daily quiet time with God. Figure out a time that works for you. Make it the same time each day. Find a place with no distractions. Remember to use the ACTS of prayer: A= adoration…C= confession…T=thanksgiving…S= supplication (requests). Find a quiet place, talk to the Lord, sit and listen to Him whisper in your ear. This works best for me first thing in the morning, asking for direction for my day. Jesus did this often. Mark 1:35…Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Luke 5:16…but Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. If He needed to do that…we should as well!
  • For self examination…This works best for me right before bed. I assess how the day went, both where I made poor choices, and who I was able to impact for the Lord. I can reflect on how I am doing with my physical health, my spiritual health, my emotional health, and my spiritual health.
  • Bible reading…God knew that life in our sinful world would be complicated and confusing. That we would face many hurts, habits, and hang-ups. That we would face temptations and options. He loved us so much that He wrote you a love letter…A book that tells us who He is and who He created you to be. His promises to you and how we are to live as His children. Some think of it as Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth.
  • Do this to know God and His will for your life. God loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for your sins. That’s His part…our part is to follow His lead with our thoughts, words, deeds…so we can accomplish His plans. Jeremiah 29:11(esv)… For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Have you figured out what His plans are for you yet? Plans using your personal passions, abilities, interests and resources. Ask the one who Lovingly made you what His purposes are for you.
  • And for the power to follow His will! I hope that you have realized that you cannot be all you were created to be on your own power. The good news is that you do not have to… Ephesians (esv) 3:20…Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. Ask God to lead you and equip you.

Hopefully you can see that this step or choice is an everyday maintenance choice. Just as you refresh and update your computer… you need to refresh and update your walk with the Lord. Tomorrow we will finish this devotional series as we see who you can reach out to.

Jesus’ disciples were confused on how to pray…He taught then the Lord’s prayer. The healthy choices that we have been looking at are found within this prayer:

  • Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name (The Reality Choice) realize I am not God. (The Hope Choice) Believe God exists.
  • thy kingdom come; (The Sharing Choice) Yield yourself to be used by God. (We will cover this tomorrow.)
  • Thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. (The Transformation Choice) Submit to the changes God wants you to make.
  • Give us this day our daily bread. (The Letting Go Choice) Submit to God’s care.
  • And forgive us our trespasses, (The Coming Clean Choice) Examine and confess your faults.
  • as we forgive those who trespass against us. (The Relationship Choice) evaluate all of your relationships and repair broken ones.
  • And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. (The Growth Choice) Reserve a daily time with God.
  • For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Note: The choices that we are talking about are in part found in a book called “Life’s Healing Choices” by John Baker. Know that it is only by God’s choice that we are saved. He has chosen us. We had nothing to do with it. We do not deserve it. And yet, Because we are saved by Grace through faith…we respond by making healthy…Christ-centered…God pleasing choices.

Friday - May 15, 2020

I hope that I have not lost any of you with this series of devotions. I know it is pretty deep…but it will bring back the Joy of the Lord to your life! Today is the last of the 3 devotions (in this series) that tend to be harder, more time consuming, and emotional! That can be a good thing because it can help you deal with past issues and present consequences. Hang in there, honestly working thru the material, and spend quiet time with the Lord.

So far we have looked at:

  • The Reality Choice… Admitting that you are not God…and life can be unmanageable…. identifying the main issue that impacts your life.
  • The Hope Choice… Believing that God exists, you matter to Him, He can help you deal with your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
  • The Letting Go Choice… the Commitment Choice. Committing your life to Christ’s Love, care and control.
  • The Coming Clean, House Cleaning Choice. Taking time to examine your past and to confess your faults…first to yourself…and then to God. Many find it very helpful to confess them to a trusted person…to own them and release them.
  • The Transformation Choice…making changes. This is when you begin to be who God created you to be! This is when you voluntarily submit to every change that God wants you to make and to humbly ask Him to remove any character defects.

There’s a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father. On Saturday 800 “Pacos” showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.

Forgiveness is one of the most common pieces of our hurts, habits, hang-ups. It is at the core of many of our issues.

Today we look at… The relationship Choice…repairing relationships. This is when we evaluate all of our relationships…offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us…and make amends for the harm we have done to others.

Wow…I can almost hear some of you closing this devotion and saying “no thank you!” “I’m not going there” “I will never ask so and so to forgive me, it was there fault anyway” or “I will never forgive them even if they come begging me.”

Let me share 2 verses from the beatitudes with you. Matthew 5:5…Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth(those who say they are sorry) and Matthew 5:7… Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (those who forgive others)

My story above about Paco and his father can help us to understand the need to make this next healthy choice.

First of all: many of us are like Paco. We carry around a load of guilt, wanting forgiveness, but not knowing where to find it. The good news is that just as Paco’s father ran an ad in the newspaper…God the Father ran an ad in His Word saying that Jesus died for you. He invites you into His mercy and grace. You are invited to receive His unconditional forgiveness.

Second…we are called to heal relationships with others as well. (forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us). A peace filled life is centered on asking and giving forgiveness. Now you may ask “Why should we forgive others?”

  • Because God has forgiven you! Colossians 3:13 (tlb)…  Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. People who feel forgiven find it easier to forgive others…remind yourself that God forgave you!!! He did make you beg, earn, wait for forgiveness.
  • Because resentment doesn’t work! Job 18:4 (gnt)… You are only hurting yourself with your anger. Will the earth be deserted because you are angry? Resentment is unreasonable (you are only hurting yourself), unhelpful (it won’t change the past, the problem, or the other person), and unhealthy (resentment is a cancer that will eat you alive).
  • Because you will need forgiveness in the future! Mark 11:25 (nlt)… But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. Try as you may…you have a sinful nature…you will sin and need forgiveness (many times)

Note…Remember that forgiving someone does not mean that the hurt did not happen, or that the pain is not real, or that it was ok, or they can do it again…..It means that you will no longer carry the pain, releasing it to the Lord to deal with.

How should I ask for forgiveness from others that I have hurt?

  • Pray first…ask God to give you wisdom.
  • Ask yourself how you would want to be approached if the situation were reversed.
  • Do it at the right time! Ecclesiastes 8:6 (esv)… For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him.
  • Do it with the right attitude! Ephesians 4:15 (nlt)… Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
  • Do it in an appropriate way! Proverbs 12:18 (esv)… There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Be careful what you say…when you say it… and how you say it…and your motivation behind it.

Remember that your job is to offer forgiveness or ask for forgiveness…you are not responsible for how they respond to you! Reconciliation is the goal, but you are responsible for your half!

Questions to ponder this weekend about forgiveness:

  • Why is it so hard for you to forgive people that hurt you?
  • How many times should you forgive someone? (Hint)…Matthew 18:21-22 says Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
  • Who is someone you should forgive?
  • Who have you hurt and youneed to seek their forgiveness? What is your first step?

My next devotion will be on Monday. I strongly encourage you to worship with us this weekend at royred.org. I encourage you to check out the other tools to spiritual growth found there. Also, take time this weekend to work through these last 6 healthy choices. The good news is that the next 2 choices that I will cover on Monday and Tuesday are not so deep. They will be tools to maintain a healthy Christian life.

Thursday - May 14, 2020

I pray that you are working your way through these last few devotions. I know it can be tough. I know that many of you are wrestling with hurts, habits, hang-ups… and I know that it can be emotionally draining. I also know that there can be a lot of collateral damage that goes along with these issues.

Yesterday’s and these next 2 devotions can be hard, time consuming, and emotional! That’s a good thing because it can help you deal with past issues and present consequences. Hang in there, honestly work thru the material, and spend quiet time with the Lord.

I encourage you to be real and honest. Ask God to guide you through this journey to a healthy, Christ-centered, Joy filled life! If you have missed any of the last 4 devotions, go back and read (or reread) them.

So far we have looked at:

  • The Reality Choice… Admitting that you are not God…and life can be unmanageable…. identifying the main issue that impacts your life.
  • The Hope Choice… Believing that God exists, you matter to Him, He can help you deal with your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
  • The Letting Go Choice… the Commitment Choice. Committing your life to Christ’s Love, care and control.
  • The Coming Clean, House cleaning Choice. Taking time to examine your past and to confess your faults…first to yourself…and then to God. Many find it very helpful to confess them to a trusted person…to own them and release them.
  • Now today we will look at The Transformation Choice…making changes. This is when you begin to be who God created you to be! This is when you voluntarily submit to every change that God wants you to make and to humbly ask Him to remove any character defects. Sounds simple, right? Of course not! But it will be life changing!

Imagine that you are dealing with a habit of alcohol…you admit it’s a problem…you trust in a program that can help…you commit your life and addiction to God…now what? Well you must make some changes. You can not stop at the bar and think, I will just watch others drink, God will protect me. Changes need to happen! Changes to what you fill your mind with, places you go, people you hang out with, and other triggers.

Note…We are all sinners! Jesus died for our sins! We confess and thru faith are forgiven! That’s the beginning and the foundation! But now what? Now we make healthier choices and become more Christ-like…one step at a time!

I am a basketball fan; I love to watch the game. A major truth is that players play and coaches coach. What is the coach’s job? To observe and to make changes for a better outcome. God wants to “coach” you to a better outcome as well!

I read an illustration that works well for today. It’s about being in a boat and the autopilot is set for east, but you want to go west. You push and pull with all your might and finally manage to force the boat west for a while. As long as you hold on with your own strength the boat keeps going west…but soon you tire of fighting against the boat’s pre-programmed direction, and you let go…and the boat goes east as programmed. Every time you try to force the boat west, you are going against its pre-programmed direction. It’s a losing battle.

That’s how it is when we try to go against our own internal autopilot (sinful nature). By our own willpower we try to force a new behavior, but we get tired and let go. On our own we will go off the diet, get involved in another unhealthy relationship, start smoking again, burst into anger, etc…and inevitably we revert back to unhealthy choices! We can not do it alone! But the good news is that we do not have to do it alone!

Romans 12:1-2…Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This change will not be easy, and it will not be overnight, but it is so important!

It gets summarized in today’s beatitude found in Matthew 5:6 (gnt)… Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!

When I pray for myself each day, I ask God to help me “be the best Dave Timm I can be.” I then envision me playing follow the leader right behind the Lord. I ask Him to lead my thoughts, words, and actions…to keep me close behind Him…to keep me from wandering to the right or the left…and to stay at the pace He has set for me.

So…now what? We know we need to change, but how? Well, first we need to acknowledge that on our own we can’t! The only way to change the direction of our lives is to reset the autopilot. That’s what this Transformation Choice is all about.  Our verse above in Romans says be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Our sinful nature, the world around us, and Satan are all trying to taint our minds! By God’s power your mind can be changed, and your autopilot reset. Sounds good but how do I begin?

  • Go back and look over the last 4 healthy choices to be focused on your main issue and then on the Lord’s strength.
  • Focus on one hurt, habit, hang-up! Proverbs 17:24 (tev)…An intelligent person aims at a wise action, but a fool starts off in many directions. Just as you cannot clean your room, cut grass, and grocery shop at the same time…you cannot tackle all your life issues at once. Ask God to help you figure out what to tackle first. You may see that many of them are intertwined anyway.
  • Focus on God’s power and not your willpower! Philippians 4:13 (nlt)… for I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength. On your own you will most likely fail (how are your New Year’s resolutions holding up?) God has great plans for you, and He wants to enable you to make changes…and let Him transform you from the inside out.
  • Focus on the good things, not the bad! Philippians 4:8 (niv)… Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. What you focus on dominates you…where is your attention focused and where is it leading you? Stay focused on all that is good…stay focused on your blessings…and on the giver of those blessings…your Loving Savior.
  • Focus on progress, not perfection! Philippians 1:6 (tlb)… And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns. Turn this process over to God and be open to every change he wants you to make….one day at a time.

The fact is that we all sin…and have habits and hang-ups. We live in a sinful world and consequently we all have hurts. The good news is that God loves you unconditionally. In the midst of your biggest battles, He is there. He knows that left on our own power we will fall short. He wants to transform you!

Just like within a chrysalis the old body parts of a caterpillar are undergoing a remarkable transformation called metamorphosis, to become the beautiful parts of a butterfly…. God wants to transform you into the masterpiece that He created you to be!

I told you that this journey to healthy living was going to be challenging! The best advice I can give is to be honest with yourself…and honest with God! The truth is that I am just scratching the surface on these steps or choices. They are all points on a map for a trip you want to take. You need to go through each point to get to the destination. Keep reading the map that I am laying out…but go back and work through each of the stops along the way.

Wednesday - May 13, 2020

I hope that you have been following along and spending time working through these steps to healthy choices, and that you will continue with me on this journey. So far, we have looked at:

  • The Reality Choice… Admitting that you are not God…and life can be unmanageable…. identifying the main issue that impacts your life.
  • The Hope Choice… Believing that God exists, you matter to Him, He can help you deal with your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
  • The Letting Go Choice… the Commitment Choice. Committing your life to Christ’s Love, care, and control.

(If you missed any of these devotions, go back and scroll down.) Some of the materials are taken from a great book called Life’s Healing Choices. I encourage you to order a copy. I will be quoting sections for the next few devotions.

Also, when we can meet face to face again… I invite you to our Tuesday group at Royal Redeemer.

Know that dealing with your hurts, habits, hang-ups is a process. I am giving you daily tools, but it takes weeks or months to truly work through each of these steps. Some may seem easy…others can be more difficult.

(WARNING…the next 3 devotions can be hard, time consuming, and emotional! That’s a good thing because it can help you deal with past issues and present consequences. Hang in there, honestly working thru the material, and spend quiet time with the Lord.)

Today we will look at a more difficult, but very important choice. John Baker calls this the Coming Clean, Housecleaning Choice. This is when we need to wrestle with our past. We saw in the Letting Go choice that we have a God of Grace and Mercy… A God that is forgiving when we confess and repent. This Housecleaning Choice is when we get real, examine, and confess our past mistakes to ourselves and to God.

A State trooper pulled behind a speeding truck and turned on his flashers, but the truck kept going.  The trooper got right up on his bumper, but the truck kept going. The trooper then turned on his siren, but the truck sped up! Finally, the truck ran out of gas and rolled to the side of the highway. The truck driver rolled down his window, and the trooper asked, “Did you see my lights?” “Yes sir, I did” responded the driver. “Did you see me following right on your bumper?” “Yes sir, I did.” said the driver. “Did you hear my siren all those miles?” again the driver said, “Yes sir, I did.” Finally, the trooper asked, “Then why didn’t you stop?” The driver answered “To be honest, about 2 years ago my wife ran off with an Ohio State Trooper. I was afraid you were trying to bring her back to me!”

Does that story hit home for you? Are you afraid of your past catching up with you? Do you try to sweep it under the rug…act like its no big deal…hope it will just go away?

A beatitude that is helpful is Matthew 5:8…Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. God’s desire for you is a heart that is Christ-centered and free of all the junk that weighs us down…washed clean of all our hurts, habits, hang-ups that plague our lives. One of my favorite sections is Psalm 51:10-12… Create in me a pure heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

So, let’s be honest! We have all done things that we wish we could go back and change…but we can’t. And guilt can be overpowering to us. Guilt keeps you from becoming all that God wants you to be. Guilt destroys your confidence; it damages relationships and keeps you stuck in the past. If you want real Joy…you need to let go of guilt. (Just a note…Guilt is the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime. Shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.) This is key…guilt is about what you did…shame is about who you are. We are all guilty of sin, and yet through faith we are forgiven children of God! And there is no shame in that!

Most of our struggles come from guilt or regret over past issues that you can not change…or from worry and anxiety about tomorrow’s issues that may never happen. Why not live in today’s choices?

How can you get rid of past guilt?

  • Take a personal inventory! Do some personal house cleaning so to speak. Many of you have used this “stay in place” time to do a deep cleaning of your house…finding things that were buried in corners and closets. I encourage you to do the same and look deep into your life. (past and present). Look in all of the so-called closets, basements, attics where you have hidden away stuff…things that you have hidden hoping to never deal with, repressed, and rationalized away. Many of you hire a “cleaning person” for your house. Ask God to help you “clean your life and heart.” Psalm 139:23-24… Search me, God, and know my heart;test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.Dealing with many of your hurts, habits, and hang-ups can get deep and complex, call me if you need help.
  • Accept responsibility for your faults! Be honest, don’t rationalize (that’s just “rational lies”), don’t blame others (to blame is to “be lame”)…just own them. Proverbs 20:27 (tlb)… A man’s conscience is the Lord’s searchlight exposing his hidden motives. (A very important note…If your hurt is that you have been abused by someone…know that it was not your fault and do not take responsibility for someone else’s sins). Talk to someone (like me?) about releasing yourself from the pain.
  • Ask God’s Forgiveness! No sin is so severe that God can’t (and won’t) forgive. 1 John 1:8-9… If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. God in His Mercy, for the sake of Jesus death for you, wants to forgive you!!!! How does God forgive?
  • God forgives instantly! Hebrews 4:16 (ncv)… Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it. He already has paid the price and offers you forgiveness. He never makes you wait or puts conditions on forgiveness.
  • God forgives freely! Romans 3:24 (ncv)… and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ. Nothing you can do to earn, deserve, or pay for forgiveness.
  • God forgives completely! Romans 8:1 (niv)…Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, He has no conditions attached. Nothing you can do to make God not love you…nothing you can do to make Him love you more. HE LOVES YOU UNCONDITIONALLY!

How’s that for freedom from your past and Hope for today!

And when the guilt of past (confessed and forgiven) sins come back…it’s not from God! He promises to remove them as far as the east is from the west! “Any time that the devil reminds you of your past…remind him of his future”.

This choice can be very difficult and take a lot of quiet reflective moments. Ask God to guide you through it…. And always know that I am also here to help.

Tuesday - May 12, 2020

You may have heard me tell this story, but it fits so well with today’s devotion!

There was a pet store delivery truck driver traveling down the road. Every time he came to a stop light, he got out of the truck and grabbed a 2×4. He would then run to the back of the truck and start beating on the back doors. This went on for miles, and no one could figure out what he was doing. Finally, a guy pulled alongside of him and asked, “what are you doing?” The driver said, “this is a 2-ton truck and I’m carrying 4 tons of canaries. I have to keep 2 tons up in the air at all times!”

Does that describe your life right now? Is it crazy, out of control, filled with worries, and exhausting?

Maybe the coronavirus has turned your life upside down. Maybe dealing with health issues or even the death of a loved one. Maybe finances, loss of work, loss of investments, financial uncertainty. Maybe relationship issues caused by social distancing, or depression caused by isolation.

Maybe something that happened years ago that still impacts you daily. Maybe a hurt like abuse, betrayal, a crime, indiscretion. Maybe a hang-up like an issue with pride, anger, manipulation, depression, anxiety. Maybe a habit like being controlled by alcohol, pornography, shopping, eating.

So, we are at the third choice in our devotions based on a book called Life’s Healing Choices. Many of the ideas and quotes used in these devotions can be found there. (If you missed the last 2 devotions, it’s important that you scroll down to catch up!)

Choice 1 was the REALITY CHOICE. Admitting that you are not God…and life can be unmanageable…. identifying that you are a sinner….and claiming the main issue that impacts your life.

Choice 2 was the HOPE CHOICE. Believing that God exists, you matter to Him, He can help you deal with your hurts, habits, and hang-ups.

So, let me ask you a question…what if you broke your leg? And what if your neighbor was the best orthopedic surgeon. That would be great right?? Not so fast, knowing you have an issue and knowing the one who can help is of no value unless you entrust that person with the issue. In other words,…you need to ask the doctor to fix your broken leg.

Well, I hope your leg is not broken, but you have hurts, habits, and hang-ups in your life and the doctor (Jesus) can help heal that issue. That brings us to choice 3…LETTING GO CHOICE…the Commitment Choice. Committing your life to Christ’s care and control. Taking your broken leg (I mean your broken life) to the doctor (I mean Jesus) and ask Him to fix it!

Makes sense…right? And yet there can be barriers to you taking this step:

  • PRIDE…thinking you can handle it on your own. The truth is that if you could, you would have already dealt with it! Proverbs 10:8 (tlb)… The wise man is glad to be instructed, but a self-sufficient fool falls flat on his face.
  • GUILT…Ashamed to ask God for help….to admit weakness. Truth is, He already knows…and forgives! Psalm 32:5 (NLT)…Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
  • FEAR…Afraid to give up control and surrender your life to the Lord. Afraid of what you might have to give up or change? Truth is God wants to clean it up…turn it around…give new meaning, hope, joy. He wants to set you free from the pain and sadness. Isaiah 44:22…I have swept away your sins like a cloud.I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist.Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.”
  • DOUBT…Not sure if God cares…or if He can help. Remember that it is not the size of the faith, it’s WHO or what you put your faith in that matters the most! (Go back to yesterday’s devotion to review who God is!) Matthew 17:20…Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

So… Are you ready to turn your life and your hurts, habits, hang-ups over to your all Loving Lord? Are you ready to take the broken leg (your hurt, habit, hang-up and sin) and ask the doctor (Jesus) to bring healing?

Reflect on and proclaim these action steps:

  • I will believe, trust, and turn my life over to Jesus as my Lord and Savior! Acts 16:31… “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
  • I will read and follow His Word daily (Bible) and use it as my standard! 2 Timothy 3:16…All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
  • I will accept and move forward in God’s will and purpose for my life! Jeremiah 29:11…For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
  • I will move forward dealing with my issues by God’s Power and Strength!  Philippians 4:13…I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

Lord, I lift up each person reading these devotions to you. May they know you as Lord and Savior. May they trust that you Love them and that you want to heal them and help them to live a healthy life. Help them to identify the area of their life that is the most unmanageable and out of control. Let them seek your guidance, direction, and choices for them to make. Give them your strength to move forward. Lord, help us to confess that the root of all evil is sin. May each of us confess and repent of our sinfulness and especially our personal signature sins. We thank you for lovingly sending your Son to die in our place… giving us forgiveness and new life. Lord be with us as we navigate this everchanging coronavirus world. Protect us physically, especially those out on the front lines. Give the leaders wisdom, integrity, and compassion as we begin to open things up. Help those who are facing financial storms caused by the closing of businesses. May your church prevail and reach the lost. Amen.

Monday - May 11, 2020

I hope you had a chance to worship your Lord and Savior over the weekend! I pray that you also took time to sit quietly to examine your life and to determine the biggest issue you face. I was asked to make this email list Bcc….but know that you are not alone…80 others (and they forward this as well as online readers) are dealing with life’s issues just like you are.

John Baker tells a story about some flooding in southern California. The flooding was so bad that they sent out a reporter in a rowboat. The reporter found a lady sitting on her roof watching things float by. The reporter interviewed her as they watched a Weber grill float by, a large golden retriever float by on top of it’s doghouse, and many other objects. A few minutes later the reporter saw a hat float by…but a little later the hat was now floating back in the other direction…then back and forth about 5 more times. The reporter asked the lady if she knew how it kept floating back and forth. She said “oh, that’s my crazy husband. He said he was going to cut the grass come hell or high water”.

Some of you reading that can relate to him. We focus on the lawn while the house is floating away!

On Friday, we looked at the REALITY CHOICE. I challenged you to determine what your hurt, habit, or hang-up is…. And to understand that you are not God…and on your own, you will never be able to fix your hurts, habits, hang-ups. If you did not read that (and other) devotions, you can find by scrolling down to my other devotions.

So, how do you make big choices and decisions? Where do you look for the truth? What standard do you use to determine right and wrong…good and bad…wise and foolish? Where do you turn when life gets complicated?

As I listen carefully, I have been noticing that most sentences people speak these days begin with… “I heard someone say ______” or “I read on the internet that __________” or “I can’t remember where I heard it, but ________.”

The truth is that we tend to believe and repeat the things that support our own personal views and justify what we “feel” is the best choice.

We tend to play God by seeking our own direction by following our feelings, or our so-called wisdom, or friends, and popular opinion. Let’s be honest “how has that been working for you?

The second healthy choice for you to make is the HOPE CHOICE. This is when you believe that God exists, that you matter to Him, and that He has the power to help you deal with your hurts, habits, hang-ups.

Do you believe that God exists?

Many people question if there is a God. I was an atheist when younger, so call me if you are wrestling with this question because I have been there as well. The truth is that GOD EXISTS! Hebrews 11:6 (msg)… It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

If you believe that God exists, then, what kind of God is He?

We know that He is:

  • ETERNAL! Always was and will always be Lord. (1 Timothy 1:17)…Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
  • ALMIGHTY! He created and sustains everything good. (Matthew 19:26)… Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
  • ALL PRESENT! He is with you always. (Jeremiah 23:24) … Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?”declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.
  • HOLY! Perfect and good. (Isaiah 6:3) … And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LordAlmighty;the whole earth is full of his glory.”
  • JUST! Does what He says. (Deuteronomy 32:4) … He is the Rock, His works are perfect,and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.
  • FAITHFUL! Nothing can separate you from His Love. (2 Timothy 2:13)… if we are faithless,He remains faithful, for He cannot disown himself.
  • MERCIFUL! In spite of our sinfulness, He forgives us. (Titus 3:5) … He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
  • LOVING! He not only does loving things…He is the definition of Love. (1 John 4:8)… Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Which of these characteristics jumps out at you the most?

In light of your hurt, habit, or hang-up…what is the truth about God?

HE KNOWS ABOUT YOUR SITUATION! Psalm 56:8 (msg)… You’ve kept track of my every toss and turnthrough the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book. You can talk to Him honestly about the storms in your life…. He already knows about them.

HE CARES ABOUT YOUR SITUATION! 1 Peter 5:7…Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. The bible says Jesus wept…He has compassion and wants to walk alongside of you…comfort you…guide you.

HE CAN CHANGE YOU AND YOUR SITUATION! 2 Corinthians 5:17…Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! And in Luke 18:27…Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” And reflect on this verse, Luke 1:19-20…and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,

He wants to transform you…change you to be all that He created you to be.

So…spend time today talking with God. Let Him know what is going on in your life. Sit quietly and listen to His gentle voice. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you.

Open the Bible and read about His love for you. Go back over the verses in this devotion to understand that the creator of the universe Loves you!

Tomorrow we will figure out what to do with the fact that you have hurts, habits, hang-ups…combined with the fact that there is an all Loving God who cares for you! We will look at the letting go choice.

Friday - May 8, 2020

Today is the second day of a devotional journey we are taking so we can begin living a healthier life… to deal with our hurts, habits, and hang-ups. We will invite the Lord to take us by the hand and help us to make healthy choices… and to become all that He has hand crafted us to be! To find our strength, Peace, direction, and Hope in Him alone!

Yesterday, I asked you two personal questions:

  • If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be? How has it impacted you over the years? How has it impacted others? Why is it still an issue?
  • If you could change one thing about your present life, what would it be? How does it impact you? Does your life seem unmanageable? What would you want / need to change, if only you could?

Don’t be too quick to dismiss this question…the answer can change your life forever. I would contend that we all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups in our lives…perhaps:

  • Someone has HURT you. They did something to you, said hurtful things, let you down, excluded you.
  • You have a HABIT that you can’t stop, and it controls your life. Maybe an addiction to gossip, pornography, eating, shopping, alcohol. It has had awful consequences on you, your family, friends, finances.
  • You have a HANG-UP. You can not control your anger, pride, grief.

Today I want you to focus on that biggest issue, the one that makes your life the most unmanageable. Focus on that hurt, habit, hang-up. Now, wrestle with this question…”is that really the issue… or is it just a symptom of the real issue?” For instance, let’s say your answer is… My relationship with my spouse is the biggest issue in my life! I would ask “why” do you say that? You might answer:

  • My spouse is always fighting with me….why?
  • She says I’m lazy and can’t hold a job……why?
  • My bosses don’t respect me….why?
  • They say I am always late for work?….why?
  • Well, I get drunk at night and have a hang-over….why?
  • I have a low self esteem……why?
  • And eventually those why questions will lead to your biggest hurt, habit. or hang-up!

You can not deal with an issue until you identify it, name it, and own it. Some of the materials that I will be using in this series of devotions comes from a book by John Baker called “Life’s Healing Choices.” He uses 8 healthy steps or choices (based on the Beatitudes) to a healthier life. This first (and foundational) step is called “the reality choice”…it’s when we admit we are not God and we have an area of our life that is out of control.

Have you ever wrestled with this verse?  Romans 7:15-20 (msg)… What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.  But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

If that sounds like you….Welcome to the human race!!!!

For some of you, you have struggled for years…..for others, this coronavirus world we are living in has created newer hurts, habits, hang-ups in your life. Either way, God wants you to deal with them…and His Word will lead you through the process. That’s good news because on our own we will fail.

We try to ignore the problem, deny it’s an issue, rationalize why it’s ok. I talked with a couple whose marriage was broken due to alcohol and abuse. The wife finally called to say that she and the kids moved out. The husband came home to a note and called me to complain that she left. He said she had a lot of nerve leaving him. I asked him why she left. He said “I don’t know.”…I said try to guess. He said “she would say I drink too much.”…I asked if it were true and he said “I don’t think so, I could quit anytime and I don’t think I have a problem.”…So, I asked him why she thought he did, and he said well “I drink more than anyone else.”… I said how much do you drink, he said “about 5/6 beers a night and that she and the kids don’t understand that it’s not a problem.”….that is what denial is all about…He can never fix the problem if he denies it exists.

Many times, we try to play God by controlling our image, controlling other people, and controlling our pain. We will not change until the pain is greater than the fear of change. We try to control our pain. Unfortunately, we are not God! Chevy Chase would come on Saturday Night Live and say “Hi, I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not”…can you hear God saying to you “Hi, I’m God and you’re not.” This is foundational!!! It’s the start to healing. Matthew 5:3… “Blessed are the poor in spirit,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

A tv repairmanwas asked about the worst kind of damage he had ever seen to a television set…he said” the kind that results from people trying to fix their tv on their own!” The first step for each of us is to realize that you are not God…and are powerless to fix your hurt, habit, hang-up on your own. The good news is that you don’t have to do it on your own! God’s Word, His church, and pastors like me are there to help you make healthy choices and renew your Joy!!!!!

You may be saying…”I don’t like this devotion! It sounds like work…it gets too close to home!” Good! These next days can change your life forever! What needs to change in your life? What hurt, habit, hang-up have you been trying but failing to ignore? Stop right now and admit to God that you are powerless to manage this (and all) area of your life. Then commit to working with me as we go through these next devotions.

I thought I would throw in a bonus today. I saw this years ago (by many authors) and thought it was some great advice to live by, they are called the 7 ups:

  • WAKE UP…Begin each day with the Lord. It’s His day, rejoice in it!
  • DRESS UP…Put on a smile! It improves your looks and says something about your spiritual health!
  • SHUT UP…Watch what you say. Don’t gossip. Say nice things. Learn to listen!
  • STAND UP…Take a stand for what you believe…resist evil…do good!
  • LOOK UP…Open your eyes to the Lord and what He is doing. After all, He is your Savior!
  • REACH UP…Spend time in prayer with adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplications to the Lord!
  • LIFT UP…Lift up those in need…serving, supporting, and sharing! This is especially important in today’s situations!!!

Today we looked at the first step to living a healthy life…to admit we are not God and our lives can be unmanageable. On Monday we will look at the second step…Looking at who is God in your life.

My next devotion will be on Monday. Be sure to go to royred.org over the weekend to worship with us…and to check out many other options to enhance your spiritual journey…and to connect with us! Thank moms if you can…and thank God if He has called them home.

Thursday - May 7, 2020

If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be? How has it impacted you over the years? How has it impacted others? Why is it still an issue?

If you could change one thing about your present life, what would it be? How does it impact you? Does your life seem unmanageable? What would you want/need to change, if only you could?

Sounds like some heavy questions…and yet very important ones.

Psalm 139 is a great Psalm about seeking God in our lives, perhaps verses 23-24 can help… Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

About 10 years ago, I came across a program called Celebrate Recovery. The premise of it intrigued me. It was based on the fact that all of us have hurts, habits, and hang-ups in our lives….and that they make our lives seem unmanageable! We don’t seem to know how to deal with them, and so we ignore them, deny them, blame others for them…and continue to make unhealthy choices…and those choices impact us, as well as those around us. I purchased materials, planned, and started a group at RR and it fell flat on it’s face. What was I doing wrong? I started with a light dinner, a worship team leading singing, and followed the materials provided step by step. For all the hope I had…we averaged only 1 person per week for months until I canceled the program. I asked a few people that I felt should have come “why aren’t you coming?” Their answers were interesting. “I’m not celebrating anything” …or “I’m not a heroin addict” …or “I’m not in recovery!” The title Celebrate Recovery was confusing…it did not attract people who really needed it (and we all do!) to come along for the journey.

I asked myself what was I trying to accomplish, what was the message I needed to state? I changed the title to state a fact that we all know that…. LIFE HURT GOD HEALS!

Why does LIFE HURT? SIN! God created a perfect world (”it was very good”)! Put Adam and Eve into that paradise with one choice (don’t eat the fruit of tree of good and EVIL…it will harm you!). They sinned…you and I sin…and we are not in the Garden of Eden any longer. Romans 3:23…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and Romans 5:12…Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned. Everything is tainted with sin. People HURT us and we HURT them! We all have sinful HABITS and addictions that cause us to be out of control and cause pain! We all have and are impacted by other people’s HANG-UPS. Things like pride, anger, and grief.

How does GOD HEAL? Well, The God who created the perfect world, hand made you! He loves you in spite of your hurts, habits, and hang-ups. And yet the wage of sin is death, and God is a just God, someone must die for your sins. The good news is that He loves you so much that He cannot imagine spending eternity without you there with Him in His heavenly kingdom. John 3:16…For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. He sent His son, Jesus, to live a perfect life, die in you place, so that He can restore the relationship with you. You have eternal life thru faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. That is good enough, but Jesus goes even further by wanting to help you deal with your hurts, habits, hang-ups…to make healthy choices…to deal with those issues and the collateral damage they cause!

I changed the title of my Tuesday night group to LIFE HURTS GOD HEALS about 8 years ago, did an 8 week sermon series on 8 healthy choices we need to make, and hundreds have worked through their hurts, habits and hang-ups since then.

God knows about your issues and is the only way to healing. John 6:14…Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.

A man named Jack was walking along a steep cliff one day when he accidentally got too close to the edge and fell. On the way down he grabbed a branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down and to his horror it was more than a thousand feet. He couldn’t hang onto the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb up the steep wall of the cliff. So, Jack began yelling for help, hoping that someone passing by would hear him and lower a rope or something. (“HELP!  HELP!  Is anyone up there?  HELP!”) He yelled for hours, but no one heard him.  He was about to give up when he heard a voice.

“Jack. Jack.  Can you hear me?”

“Yes, yes! I can hear you.  I’m down here!”

“I can see you, Jack. Are you alright?”

“Yes, but…who are you, and where are you?”

“I am the Lord, Jack.I’m everywhere.”

“The Lord? You mean, God?”

“That’s Me.”

“God, please help me! I promise – if You will get me down from here, I’ll stop sinning.  I’ll be a really good person.  I’ll serve You for the rest of my life.”

“Easy on the promises, Jack. Let’s just get you down from there; then we can talk.  Now, here is what I want you to do. Listen carefully.”

“I’ll do anything, Lord. Just tell me what to do.”

“Okay. Let go of the branch.”

“What?”

“I said, let go of the branch. Just trust Me. Let go.”

There was a long silence. Finally, Jack yelled, “Help, help, is there anyone else up there?”

Have you ever felt like Jack?  We say that we want to know the will of God…. but when we find out what it is, it sounds too scary, too difficult.  We decide to look elsewhere. When He says, “Let go of the things that stand between you and Me, and trust Me with your life,” it sounds pretty scary.  But when we let go, we find freedom and safety in His hands.

So…here is my plan for us. With the help of these next devotions, we are going to go on a journey to living a healthier life…to deal with our hurts, habits, and hang-ups. We will invite the Lord to take us by the hand and help us to make healthy choices and to become all that He has hand crafted us to be!

What I want you to do is go back to the beginning of this devotion and pray for God to help you answer those first few questions. If you answer them honestly, it might seem scary at first. Don’t be afraid to answer them because we will work through the healthy steps to a Joy filled, God pleasing, Christ centered life!

Wednesday - May 6, 2020

Pillsbury Dough Boy wanted for attempted murder

A lady named Linda went to Arkansas last week to visit her in-laws, and while there, went to a store. She parked next to a car with a woman sitting in it, her eyes closed and hands behind her head, apparently sleeping. When Linda came out a while later, she again saw the woman, her hands still behind her head but with her eyes open.

The woman looked very strange, so Linda tapped on the window and said, “Are you okay?” The woman answered, “I’ve been shot in the head, and I am holding my brains in.”

Linda didn’t know what to do, so she ran into the store, where store workers called the paramedics. They had to break into the car because the door was locked. When they got in, they found that the woman had bread dough on the back of her head and in her hands.

A Pillsbury biscuit cannister had exploded, apparently from the heat in the car, making a loud explosion like that of a gunshot, and hit her in the head. When she reached back to find what it was, she felt the dough and thought it was her brains. She passed out from fright at first, then attempted to hold her brains in.

Now that is a funny image! And yet we all face times when life is not a funny mistake. Times when we get hit with bad news, bad issues, bad seasons of life! When our minds take us to dark places. Maybe this coronavirus has you in a bad place right now.

We have been talking about prayer, now for the third day. If you missed the other 2 devotions, scroll down to view them!

I shared some of the prayers and the people that I pray for…Here is an important section of my daily prayers.

“Lord, be with those that are lonely and neglected, abused and intimidated, facing fear, pain, grief, distress, depression, anxiety, loneliness, facing hurts, habits, and hang-ups.”

Take some time to carefully ponder that list and identify which of those areas you may be struggling with. It’s a long list and most of us can relate to a few of these at any time in our lives. It’s all part of living in a post Garden of Eden world. Talk to the Lord about the ones that are making your life unmanageable. Turn to the Lord for direction and comfort. Call me and let’s see what a healthy next step can look like. Seek God’s Peace that is beyond our human understanding.

John 14:27…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

1 Peter 5:7…Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

 Now, go back over the list and think about those you know who are struggling with one or more of those issues. Maybe a family member, friend or neighbor.

What would God have you do? Do you realize that you may be the answer to their prayer? God may want to work thru you into their struggles!

1 Thessalonians 5:11…Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.

I saw a devotion that caught my eye, it was about going to the beach and trying to find shells in the sand. We look for the perfect, unbroken ones…the bigger and more beautiful the better. There are countless varieties like conch, scallop, oyster…some from far away washed up on the shore. But what about the broken ones? They tend to get ignored, overlooked, and passed by, or worse yet, stepped on and broken further. No one seems to be seeking them or finding value in them.

It’s the same with people. Do the people that you have identified from my list of brokenness feel like those shells? Do people pass them by for those that seem more “whole?” Do people try to ignore and overlook their brokenness…not sure what to say or do? Maybe too busy to stop and help…thinking let someone else help them.

How about you? Will you stop to help them? What if it were Jesus? Would you offer Him help?  Matthew 25:37-40… “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

So, again I ask you, who can you reach out to? Many have suffered for a long time…while others more recently with coronavirus related issues. Who is God nudging you to call or text? Will you take the time to let them know that you care? Will you listen to their story? Will you tell them that you are praying for them? Do you pray for God to tell you how to help them? Can you refer them to someone like myself for further help? Can you send them a card…or help with a financial issue?

The greatest gift that you have…and that you can give someone is to point them to the Love of Jesus. What if you helped give those that are lonely and neglected, abused and intimidated, facing fear, pain, grief, distress, depression, anxiety, facing hurts, habits, and hang-ups the gift that they need most?… Invite them into a relationship with the Lord who can replace those negative things with God’s gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control! (Galatians 5:22)

So…that is the end of my 3-part devotion on prayer! I wanted to end it with a quote that I read …..In prayer, I confess once again that I won’t ever be what I’m supposed to be and do what I’m supposed to do without the forgiving, empowering, and delivering grace of the One to whom I am praying!

Tuesday - May 5, 2020

Yesterday, I laid out some thoughts on prayer. If you missed it scroll down one entry and you can find it there.

We have the great privilege and joy to be able to talk God about all things…the good and the not so good. And yet, we tend to pray more when things are imploding before our eyes. We cry out for help!

One of my favorite stories about tough times is:

There was an old man who had a beautiful horse. This horse was not only his family’s pride and joy, but it was also a means to an income for the family.

One day, the horse ran away. Fellow villagers visited the old man to give their condolences for such a stroke of bad luck, as the loss of his horse represented a staggering financial blow that would be hard to recover from .“Good luck, bad luck: Who can tell?” replied the old man. “It is as it is. My horse is gone.”

Perplexed at the man’s nonchalance towards the apparent tragedy, the villagers went about their business.

A few days later, the horse returned with a pack of 12 wild horses in tow. Again, the villagers gathered, this time to offer their congratulations at such a stroke of good luck. Now he had 12 more horses with which to make 12 times the income! What a godsend, they said.“Good luck, bad luck: Who can tell?” replied the old man again. “All I see is that 12 more horses have appeared.”

The next week, while breaking in one of the wild horses, the old man’s son fell, and both his legs were broken.What bad luck! The villagers exclaimed. Your son has broken both of his legs. That’s terrible. How will you get your work done? You are too old to do it yourself. “Good luck, bad luck: Who can tell?” was the (now predictable and equally frustrating) answer of the old man. “My son has broken his legs. That is all I know.”

Shortly thereafter, the government forcibly removed all the able-bodied men from the village, as the country had gone to war. The old man’s son, however, was spared since his legs were broken. Good luck, bad luck: Who can tell?

…and on it goes. We tend to live our own lives careening from one “good luck” occurrence to another “bad luck” event? When things are going well, we’re happy and we think God’s will is a good thing.If they are going badly, we get discouraged and think that God must have abandoned us. We end up being tossed about by our circumstances.

Maybe we could stand to take a dose of medicine from the old man in this story, simply observing the events in our lives for what they are instead of drawing grandiose conclusions about the ultimate karma or fate of what has happened to us. To seek God in the midst of the so-called bad luck. To seek God’s direction and Hope as we face those things…to trust that He will walk alongside of us and bring good out of them.

The fact is that we really don’t have to worry in our circumstances, because no matter what, we have hope in Christ.“We know that in everything, God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). That’s what His good, loving , pleasing will is all about!!

So, that was a fun illustration, but what about our everyday “real” life?

I had a lady come to speak with me a number of years ago. She told me her life seemed upside down. She went into work and was told that she had been downsized out of her job. She had a great job at a large bank, head of her department, and was there for 20+ years. Two banks merged and her position went to the other person. “That would be bad enough” she said, but her husband of 23 years announced, “he did not want to be married anymore!” Needless to say, her whole identity was changing in a matter of a week! We talked, she had a great faith in God watching over her and the kids. We talked about keeping her eyes open to God in the midst of the storm. We prayed and she left my office. About a month later she came back in to see me. “God is good!” she said. She announced that she got a new job. “It is better than my old job,” she said! “I thought I had a good job, so I never looked into changing jobs. Losing my job turned out to be a blessing. This new job fits me better in all ways.” She then went on to explain that she could not have handled her husband’s situation while working at the old job…but with 3 weeks off, they were able to talk and deal with the best way to end the marriage.

God did not cause her to lose her job or her marriage….but as promised, He brought good out of it.

We don’t always see the results that fast and obvious, but we should always trust His Word! That is a great enough story…but in talking to this lady to get her permission to use her story in this devotion, she said the blessings are still coming. A few years later, she was nudged to go on a mission trip…she met a great guy on that trip…they have been dating for a year now! When you trust the Lord, hang on for the ride of your life!

So, what areas of your life seem like “good luck?” Areas that you feel close to God, can feel His presence, where God’s blessings are overflowing. Do you take time to thank the Lord for each and every one of His blessings in your life?Your physical health, relationships, financial blessings, emotional state of mind. When all is well…thank the giver of all good things! James 1:17… Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Always remember that the biggest issue that you will ever face is that of sin. The fact that left on our own we are doomed to eternity in hell. But the good news is that Jesus took care of that problem for you…on the cross. He loves you in spite of you!Take time to thank Him right now!

So, let’s get personal, what areas of your life seem like “bad luck?” Times when you don’t feel God with you.(note that the problem is on your side: He will never leave you or forsake you.) For many of you, this coronavirus situation has caused much distress in your life! Life seems upside down, confused, and gloomy. Do you turn to the Lord for strength, guidance, Hope? Like the guy in our horse story, do you look for God in good times and the bad? Do you see this down time as a smaller part of a bigger picture? Do you seek God’s Peace in the midst of the current storm? Deuteronomy 31:6… “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

With God by your side, you will get through this time. The question is, what good will He bring and what changes does He want you to make?

Monday - May 4, 2020

How is your prayer life? When I ask people that question, I get a wide variety of answers. Some say “great, I pray before all of my meals.” Others say, “pretty good, I know I can talk to God when I need Him.” Still others say, “I don’t pray anymore because He never seems to give me what I ask for.”

I think most of us would roll our eyes at those types of answers, but again I ask you personally “how is your prayer life?”

Let’s start by asking the question…What is prayer? Luther’s catechism says that prayer is speaking to God in words and thoughts. So, what should we pray about? Again, the catechism says we should ask for anything that tends to the glory of God, and to our own and our neighbor’s welfare, both spiritual and bodily blessings. We should also praise and thank God for who He is and what He has done. Seems to me, we can talk with God about anything! We can pray silently as well as out loud or even in song. We can pray a memorized prayer like the Lord’s prayer as well as just talking to your Lord. We can pray kneeling, standing, sitting, walking, driving, anywhere and anytime. We can pray for ourselves, family, friends, people you don’t even know. We can and should pray for forgiveness and restoration. The main point is for you to PRAY OFTEN.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18…Rejoice always,  pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

An overweight man decided it was time to shed some pounds. He informed his coworkers that he was going on a diet and would no longer be bringing donuts to the office. He knew it would be hard to resist stopping at the bakery on the way to work, but he committed himself to remaining strong and resisting temptation.

His coworkers were surprised one morning to see him arrive at the office with a big box of donuts. When they reminded him of his diet, he just smiled.

“These are very special donuts,” he explained. “When I left for the office this morning, I knew I was going to drive by the bakery, and I wondered if maybe the Lord might want me to have some donuts today. I wasn’t sure, so I prayed, ‘Lord, if you want me to stop and buy some donuts, let there be an open parking place directly in front of the bakery.’ As you know, parking places in front of that bakery are hard to get!”

“So, the parking place was there?” one of his coworkers asked.

“It was a miracle,” the man replied. “The eighth time around the block, there it was!”

Ouch…I don’t think that is what God is looking for in our prayers. We should not try to manipulate God into rubber stamping what we have already decided to do. Reminds me of Jesus. He did not want to have to die on the cross, so He prayed to the Father. He did not demand things go His way, instead He prayed in Luke 22:42… “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Our prayers should always be in praise and worship…seeking God’s will for our situation and life choices. God (our loving Father) wants us to talk to Him about everything, our concerns, our Joy, our sorrow. But we need to remember that He hears the prayers of all Christians and answers in His own way and His own time.

I want to share my daily prayer life, perhaps it will help yours.

  • First thing in the morning, I stumble out of bed into a long hot shower (opens my sinuses). While there I talk to God. I thank Him for keeping me safe over the night, thank Him for this new day, seek His direction for the plans and tasks that I have scheduled. I then pray for my family individually by name and situation. Part of that prayer for them is…Lord / make them men and women of God / men and women of integrity / that they know You as Lord and Savior / that they live accordingly / that You bind up Satan and evil and boot him out / and replace that void with more of your Holy spirit. Take a few minutes to process each section of this prayer…and then offer it up for your loved ones.
  • Really….go back and pray that prayer for your family…then continue on!
  • After I get dressed, I then walk for 1-3 miles for exercise. That’s when I pray for others including many of you. I ask for physical, emotional, spiritual, financial blessings. I pray for you to be good stewards of His blessings…to get to know God a little better and to grow a little closer to Him today. I pray for my neighbors, the church, city, issues of the day type things…as well prayers of thanks for His many blessings.
  • I stay connected with God throughout the day. Short conversations, seeking His will, having a thankful heart for all of His blessings, and inviting Him into each of my thoughts, words, and actions.
  • Then right before bed, as I am winding down and brushing my teeth, I end the day in a short prayer to God. Thanking Him for the day, assessing how I did with each new opportunity, confessing any way that I have let Him down today. I then ask Him for a safe, healthy, refreshing night sleep for me…and for my family.

I am not saying that my way is right for you, but perhaps it helps you make a plan for your time with the Lord. Start out slowly and add as time goes by.

Take a minute to think over what a normal day’s prayer life looks like for you. Do you connect with God regularly and often? Are there any changes He would want you to make regarding your prayer life? Do you praise Him, seek His will, confess and seek re-direction? Do you lift up the needs of family…friend…co-workers…neighbors? Do you pray for your enemies…and those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior?

In this unique season of all of our lives, are you lifting up those impacted by this current pandemic? Those suffering with the coronavirus, those who have lost loved ones. Those out working in places that put them in danger. Those who are hurting financially, (workers and business owners.) Those seeking food pantry help for the first time. Those who this “stay in place” “social distancing” “isolation” has left them lonely, anxious, and depressed.

Wow….I guess I have really challenged you to adjust your prayer life!!! Think about it! The creator of the universe has given you a direct line to Him 24/7! You would be a fool not to use it!

You can also leave prayer requests at royred.org. I will continue on this topic of prayer in my next 2 devotions.

Pastor Dave – (call me at 440-237-7958 ext. 118 if you need to talk).

Friday - May 1, 2020

Yesterday I did a devotion about a lighthouse and how Jesus invites us to use Him as our lighthouse…how He is there for us in the storms that we face. He is there to help us navigate our way safely through physical storms, emotional storms, financial storms, relational storms, and of course spiritual storms. As our lighthouse He is a centering point on the horizon to keep us on the appointed route without crashing into the rocks and cliffs of life that are all around.

Today, I want to continue that image. Let’s begin with a neat little illustration. This illustration compares discovering God’s will with a sea captain’s docking procedure:

A certain harbor in Italy can be reached only by sailing up a narrow channel between dangerous rocks and shoals. Over the years, many ships have been wrecked, and navigation is hazardous. To guide the ships safely into port, three lights have been mounted on three huge poles in the harbor. When the three lights are perfectly lined up and seen as one, the ship can safely proceed up the narrow channel. If the pilot sees two of three lights, he knows he’s off course and in danger of crashing!

Interesting analogy that can easily be applied to the choices that we make throughout our lifetime.

What are the 3 lights that need to align before you make decisions?

  • Maybe money, time, success?
  • Maybe friends’ opinions, family response, morals?
  • Maybe popularity, career move, comfort?
  • Spend a few minutes answering this question for your daily choices….and then do it again for your big ticket choices.

God could have created robots, programmed to act a certain way, no choices and options. In love He chose to give us a free will, as well as guidance as to how to make choices that will please Him and to become all that He created us to be. God has provided three beacons to guide us. The same rules of navigation apply—the three lights must be lined up before it is safe for us to proceed. If only one or two align, we may be in crash mode. I would contend that God’s three harbor lights of guidance are:

  1. The Word of God! God’s Word is His gift to you to help you navigate your journey. His Word is the standard for your walk with the Lord. Your first question should be, “What does His Word say about this choice I am about to make?” Does the Bible speak about this decision…for it or against it? His Word is the foundation for our lives, everything should be built upon it. Psalm 119:105…Your word is a lamp for my feet,a light for my path. I love the way the message translation puts it… The wicked do their best to throw me off track, but I don’t swerve an inch from your course. I inherited your book on living; it’s mine forever— what a gift! And how happy it makes me! I concentrate on doing exactly what you say— I always have and always will.
  2. Prayer! It’s always wise to talk to wise people in your life before you make any life changing choices…but remembering that they are human as well. But God, the creator of the universe, wants you to seek His Wisdom! You can talk it over with Him. And yet, there is the problem for many people. We tend to talk AT God instead of WITH God. I encourage you to cut your talking AT God in half and then sit quietly for an equal amount of time. Listen for Him to whisper words of guidance, encouragement, or perhaps alternate plans. Philippians 4:6…Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
  3. Circumstances! Each of us are wired differently, set on different paths, put in different circumstances. Our journeys are different, and we have choices and options moment by moment. Some choices like what “will I eat for lunch” have small consequences…while others like careers, marriage, finances can have lasting consequences. God has placed you exactly where you are, uniquely created to make an impact for Him. We have all learned valuable lessons from past circumstances that can help us face new ones. Remember that life is not a spectator sport! God has a plan for you…and wants you to respond to His direction. The question is what would Jesus have you do with your life…and how would He have you respond to your circumstances. As Martin Luther would say, I pray that you are guided by the Holy Spirit in the school of experiences!

God’s Word, the morals, ethics, and priorities that He has given to you should guide you to a safe harbor. 1 Corinthians 10:31…Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Did you notice that it said “whatever” you do?

So…what is the “whatever” that God has in mind for you?

Take time to assess how these 3 guiding tools can help you to navigate the waters you are traveling today (are there any storms on the horizon?)…Are you on the course that God has charted for you? Aligning the 3 lights will assure you that the directions you choose are from God and will lead you safely to accomplish His plans.

For example, what is God saying to you about reading daily devotions? What does He say to you about reading scripture daily? What are you hearing from God about His Word in your prayer life? (You are reading this, so it sounds like you are trying to be in alignment with God’s plan to grow closer to Him daily.)

How about other areas of your life? Are you in alignment with God’s 3 guiding lights? What is He guiding you to do?

How about online worship (at royred.org)

How about participating in Servant Saturday?

How about reaching out to others during this coronavirus situation?

How about healing some relationship issues that have been broken for far too long?

How about using this stay at home time to re-assess all areas of your life.

Try using the 3 Lights mentioned above in all of your life choices?

Pastor Dave

(call me at 440-237-7958 ext.118 if you need to talk)

My next devotion will be Monday. Take time this weekend to worship with us online at royred.org. I suggest you use the traditional service one day and the contemporary one the other day. Not only watch it…but actually participate…worship your Lord and Savior!!!!

Thursday - April 30, 2020

One of the joys of my life and my ministry is the privilege of leading a group that we call LIFE HURTS GOD HEALS. How is that for a phrase that fits this coronavirus season as well as every day of your life!  The premise of this group is that we all deal with hurts, habits, and hang ups in our lives. We tend to deny, ignore, blame others, but that never fixes the problem! These traits make our lives unmanageable and rob us of the Joy Jesus offers us. Well, about 6 weeks ago we were told we could not meet due to social distancing, so I decided to write a daily devotion for my group. I wanted them to know that they were loved and missed, that they were not alone, that they are part of a bigger group. I wanted them to embrace the fact that God loves them and that He wants us to invite Him into our lives…to help us deal with our hurts, habits, hang ups.

Those devotions quickly spread to others wanting to receive the devotion through email (over 80 now)…and many of you forward them to family and friends….and some of you have found them at royred.org (resources). All of my past devotions can be found there.

I love to use illustrations and personal stories to share the Gospel. One of my favorite illustrations (not sure of the original author) can be helpful as we navigate life’s hurts, habits, hang ups. It goes like this:

In the darkest part of the night, a ship’s captain cautiously piloted his warship through the fog-shrouded waters. With straining eyes, he scanned the hazy darkness, searching for dangers lurking just out of sight. Then His worst fears were realized when he saw a bright light straight ahead. It appeared to be a vessel on a collision course with his ship. To avert disaster, he quickly radioed the oncoming vessel. “This is Captain Jeremiah Smith,” his voice crackled over the radio. “Please alter your course 10 degrees south! Over.”
To the captain’s amazement, the foggy image did not move. Instead, he heard back on the radio, “Captain Smith. This is Private Thomas Johnson. please alter your course 10 degrees north! Over.” Appalled at the audacity of the message, the captain shouted back over the radio, “Private Johnson, this is Captain Smith, and I order you to immediately alter your course 10 degree south! Over.” A second time the oncoming light did not budge. “With all due respect Captain Smith,” came the privates voice again, “I order you to alter your course immediately 10 degrees north! Over.” Angered and frustrated that this impudent sailor would endanger the lives of his men and crew, the captain growled back over the radio, “Private Johnson. I can have you
court-martialed for this! For the last time, I command you on the authority of the United States government to alter your course 10 degrees to the South! I am a battleship!” The privates final transmission was chilling: “Captain Smith, sir. Once again with all due respect, I command you to alter your course 10 degrees to the North! I am a lighthouse!”

I bet you didn’t see that one coming!

Many of us in today’s world operate like the battleship captain…bigger and more important than anyone else. Going through life as if rules can be changed (or should be changed) to fit our personal needs and desires. Having a “get out of my way” attitude. Commercials egg us on: “Have it your way,” “Rules are made to be broken.” “you only live once so grab all the gusto”

In reality, we can’t always have it our way. We have to conform our lives to a higher truth, a higher authority. Truth is not going to change to accommodate us. We are the ones who must change to conform our lives to what’s true.

So, the question is where in your life do you act like you are the captain of that battleship? It’s your way or the highway. You have learned to rationalize why anything you do is ok…You blame and threaten others when your plan fails….or you didn’t get your way.

Do you act like that battleship in your job, marriage, parenting, finances…or maybe in your spiritual journey? Do you expect others (and even God) to move or change their plans to accommodate yours?

Who is the lighthouse in your life’s journey…the immovable object?

God’s truth is our lighthouse. His truth found in His Word is not going to change to accommodate us. Psalm 119:105…Your Word is a lamp for my feet. A light on my path. His Truth will lead us to safe waters. We are the ones who must change to conform our lives in order to accomplish His plans for your life. Jeremiah 29:11.. .For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Did you notice that there is no asterisk * there that says “unless you have a better plan”…or you “really don’t like God’s plan”.

Jesus is our lighthouse. The Bible teaches that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He will always be there for us. He is dependable. We Christians must conform our lives to His will for us. If He tells us to alter our courses, we have no choice but to obey. That’s what being a disciple is all about. And the best part is that He always knows best!!!! Lighthouses are especially important when storms appear, and we lose our way! Standing firm guiding us from perils.

And remember what the purpose of a lighthouse is…it’s to warn of hidden dangers, to center us and set as a reference point, to keep us on a safe path to accomplish our God given purpose…to get us safely to port.

God’s Word is the immovable standard by which all will be judged.

Spend some time this week meditating on these questions. What could represent the battleship in all areas of your life?

What (or who) should represent the lighthouse in all areas of your life?

What will happen if nothing is changed/moved?

What is God calling you to change/move?

What hurt, habit, hang-up is sending you on a collision course?

Is god calling you to change directions in some area of your life? In our Life Hurts God Heals group our goal is to look to God’s Word to help us deal with our hurts, habits, and hangups….to make healthy choices by letting God be the lighthouse…and adjusting our course accordingly.

Wednesday - April 29, 2020

A few weeks ago, I read some headlines that bothered me and caused me to ponder their statements: “Coronavirus: can the government force churches to close?”…“Forced closing of House of Worship during Coronavirus”…“These churches refuse to close” and many more with similar impacts.

SO…let’s examine a headline that most news feeds will not print. GOD’S CHURCHES ARE NOT CLOSED…AND HIS HOME CHURCHES HAVE GROWN! The way we “do Church’ may look a little different as we have social distancing and isolation, but God is certainly bigger than a virus!!!!! And His church will prevail. Matthew 16:18… And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (the message translation says) a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.

What is church? First of all, it is not a building. The church is the people! The communion of saints…the total number of those who believe in Christ. The Holy Spirit gathers and preserves the church. God uses the church to accomplish His purpose for us. Matthew 28:19-20… Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Where is the church? The Holy Christian Church is found where the Gospel is taught, and sacraments administered. The local congregation gathers around Word and sacrament.

What did the early Christian church look like? Acts 2:42-47…They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

WOW…I love that picture! Did you notice it was not limited to one location or one activity? They met daily in homes and temple courts. They studied, had fellowship, shared with those in need, met together, ate. They praised God, enjoyed each other…and God blessed them with growth.

I started thinking about a church like Royal Redeemer prior to the coronavirus world. We met in the sanctuary or in the activity center for worship, had Bible study, fellowship, Life Groups, school, children’s ministries, food. We praised God and enjoyed each other. We also went off campus…home life groups, Bible studies, fellowship, visited the sick, shut ins, home communion recipients, nursing home visits, food distribution, and much more. We also feed thousands with Care and Share dinner, Food distribution days, Servant Saturdays. And the Lord blessed us with growth. We were called or commissioned the same as in the year 33ad “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

But what about church life today, in the midst of social distancing, stay in place, isolation. Is it true that the church is closed? NO! Is our commission any different? NO! We are still called to go and make disciples of all nations. YES! It just looks a little different for now.

  • We still worship…we do it online for now!
  • We still study God’s Word…reading the bible privately, online studies, online groups and devotionals like this one and Pastor Harris devotions.
  • We still visit the sick, shut ins, hospital…but it’s typically with calls, skype, cards, and virtual hugs.
  • We still gather but in smaller groups now, we gather in our homes…which are places of worship. We gather thru zoom meetings, neighbors sitting in the driveway 6 feet apart.
  • We still feed many through the Food Pantry…. now serving 10 families a day, as well as 84 families on food distribution day.
  • We still offer words of Hope to those that life has hit hard…words of encouragement to those questioning the future, Words of forgiveness for those feeling guilt, conversations with those wrestling with hurts, habits, and hang ups.
  • And the Lord still blessed us.

So…what is your personal role in this coronavirus church season. For years I have used this:

CH_ _CH….what’s missing? The answer is “UR”!Well, I hope UR (you are) not missing from God’s church. The fact that you are reading this tells me you are connection with God and His Church….that’s great! Is your home a house that serves the Lord? Joshua 24:15….. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Are you worshiping as a family, doing bible study and devotions together, are you watching out for family, friends, and neighbors? Are you donating to churches, and to folks that you know are struggling, food pantries?  Are you praying for those hit hard by the virus and it’s collateral damages? Are you looking for opportunities to share the Good News with someone who needs to know that God and His church are alive and well?

Tuesday - April 28, 2020

Matthew 7:24-25… “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

I recalled a story from a home we bought in Seven Hills in 1987. We were very excited to move in. We bought it from my parents’ lifelong friends who were retiring to Florida. Much to our surprise a big rain came and flooded our basement! That would be bad enough, but as we were still moving in, all of our boxes of things were put down there until we figured out where they would go…including our wedding pictures! We called the previous owners who were upset that we would accuse them of selling a flawed house, and in turn never spoke to my parents again.

It was too expensive to hire someone to dig up the basement…so I decided to do it myself, to get a shovel and for the next 3 months, after working all day, I would dig. I needed to go down 6 feet to get to the drainage tiles, meaning the dirt had to be thrown 12 feet out of the hole. When it rained the dirt washed back down into the hole. So, now that you see the situation…I will get to the (now funny) part.

My 90-year-old neighbor did not need a tv because every night I was his entertainment as he would get a chair, his glass of lemonade, and sit on the border line of his property and watch me dig. He never spoke…just watched. After 3 months, I had dug the whole back of the house, and most of the side of the house, when he got up and told me to get out of the hole and wanted to show me something. He led me to a specific spot in my front yard and said dig here. To humor him, I put the shovel down and stepped on it. The whole area caved it. He then spoke his words of wisdom and said “I told them so!” I asked why he never told me over these months of watching me dig, he said you didn’t ask!Apparently, when the owners were selling, they were in Florida and the septic tank was crushed for a new sewer line, the construction guys did not connect my sump pump to the new line. Water pumped out of my house right back into my basement!!!!! It cost $10.00 for a plastic pipe to fix the problem.

I imagine you are laughing right about now…and wondering where is Dave going with the devotion for the day:

In reality, we are all flawed houses! Oh, on the outside we look good…we try to sell ourselves as flawless, but when the storms of life come along, we leak. God’s word is very clear that we all sin and fall short of God’s will for us. We are flooded by the consequences of our sin, which is death. Those with a solid foundation of God’s Word can withstand the flood waters better…but sin always looks for a way to seep into our lives.

I decided to do it myself!…God never planned for us to be Lone Ranger Christians. The Lone Ranger had Tonto, Adam had Eve, Paul had Barnabas, Moses had Aaron, and Jesus sent them out 2 by 2. Who are those special people that God has placed in your life to walk alone side of you, as a spiritual partner? Some may feel all alone, and yet God has provided His church. People to get down in the hole and dig with you. We have resources online, small groups, Life Hurts God Heals, and pastors like me.

My neighbor never spoke…he just watched. Who do you know that is walking outside of God’s plan, making poor choices, digging a deeper hole every day. You watch, but don’t want to get involved…or are afraid they won’t receive your observations graciously. And yet they need someone to call it to their attention…to point out where the real problem lies. To point out the solution in God’s Word. My neighbor had the truth about my basement but never shared it. He let me flail for months and then said “you didn’t ask!” God wants you to take the initiative. Don’t make those people that God has placed in your life flail aimlessly because they have not asked you. Take the lead, create a relationship, wait for the right moment, with grace approach them and share the truth of God’s Word.

Until I found out what the real problem was, I had the wrong fix in mind. The reality was it was easy to fix the problem. You, and those you know and love, all have the same sin problem. The symptoms may look different, but sin is always at the center of it. There is only one fix…and His Name is Jesus. 1 John 1:8-9… If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Build your life on the only sure foundation…Jesus Christ!

So…now what? Well, I hope you have a dry basement….but the question is how do you find the leaks in your Christian walk, and how do you fix them?

  • First of all, CONNECT with God every day! Pray throughout the day for guidance. Read His word daily and / or devotionals like this one.
  • Then, take action, FOLLOW HIS LEAD. What is He calling you to do, to change, to fix, to become? Step out in faith and let the Lord walk alongside of you. He may point out flaws for you to work on…or someone He wants you to walk alongside of.
  • God loves you unconditionally…and He calls you to LOVE SOMEONE! Who do you know that needs a smile, a call, a card or phone call, a wave over the back fence?
  • God fixes your sin problem, He restores your relationship with Him….and then wants you to RESTORE RELATIONSHIPS as best as you can. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt you…ask forgiveness from those you have hurt.

Monday - April 27, 2020

Have you ever prayed “Lord what do you want me to do in this particular situation I am facing…or during this hard season of my life?” I think we have all been there! Maybe you are asking those questions right now. Unfortunately, many times we ask God the question, but we then quickly stick our fingers in our ears, turn up the radio, and hope we don’t really hear His answer. He may ask us to do something hard, out of our comfort zone, time consuming. Acts 9:1-18 tells of God asking someone to do something he would rather not do.

This is a section about a guy named Saul who hated the followers of Jesus, was going to Damascus to cause evil to them, throw them in prison, have them killed. God thought this would be a good time to get Saul’s attention. You can read about it in Acts 9 starting in verse 1.

But….I want to talk about another guy who God used to reach Saul…in a way that made no sense and was very scary to a guy named Ananias! He is one of my bible heroes!

Acts 9:10-15… In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered.

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.  In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.  And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 

Now… Those directions seem simple enough, but, talk about the uncertainty of that request and the fear of following God’s plan. Think about it…Go help that guy, who by the way, came with a plan and the authority to throw you into prison or have you killed. But, we see that in spite of the uncertain outward circumstances for Ananias and Saul…. God was in control, accomplishing his plan of restoration in the life of Saul. We see that Ananias followed God’s nudge, stepped out in faith (read Acts 9:17-19), and God blessed all of our lives as Saul became Paul who wrote many New Testament books about God’s love for us to study in the Bible.

God used Ananias to change the biggest opponent of Christianity, Saul, into the greatest evangelists, Paul…. Whose godly inspired words we read in the Bible…. Words that inspire us to face the uncertainties of our life.

So how about you?

When situations seem tough…God is nudging you and yet you’re facing uncertainty what do you do? Do you join the FUD CLUB…the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt club? Have you ever felt God calling you to do something…Or to go somewhere…And you say ”you got to be kidding me God.” “You want me to do what?”

When you are filled with uncertainty and fear do you question God’s plans for your life? We have all had to choose our next step…to either follow God or ignore Him! We have all come to that proverbial “Y” in the road… and had to choose which way to go.

DR SEUSS’ gives us some wisdom about trying to go our way and God’s way at the same time. Did I ever tell you about the young Zoad? Who came to a sign at the fork of the road? He looked one way and the other way too. The Zoad had to make up his mind what to do – Well, the Zoad scratched his head, And his chin, and his pants. – And he said to himself, “I’ll be taking a chance. If I go to Place One, that place may be hot. So how will I know if I like it or not. On the other hand, though, I’ll feel such a fool. If I go to Place Two and find it’s too cool. In that case I may catch a chill and turn blue. So Place One may be best and not Place Two. Play safe,” cried the Zoad, “I’ll play safe, I’m no dunce. I’ll simply start off to both places at once.” And that’s how the Zoad who would not take a chance. Went no place at all with a split in his pants.

Well… I have to admit… that I have split my pants a time or two not able to make the decision to trust God and move forward. I had to choose to follow God’s nudge 30 years ago, to quit my job, take a lower pay, become a youth and sports minister at Royal Redeemer. It was scary, seemed foolish, had no idea what it would look like. I took His lead…followed God’s nudge and He blessed my ministry.

So…how about you? What is God whispering in your ear?

  • About your finances, relationships, health, spiritual journey.
  • What is He saying about this coronavirus situation and how it is impacting you.
  • If you are struggling with loneliness, health issues, or financial uncertainty…is He nudging you to make some changes, to trust Him in the storm, to reach out to the church for help, to connect with Him in prayer and bible study?
  • Or perhaps He is saying “I have blessed you to be a blessing to others”. Does He want you to reach out with a phone call to someone to give them hope…or to help with a financial issue…or donate food or masks…or toilet paper. Is God calling you check in on your neighbors…or participate in the upcoming Servant Saturday weekend?
  • Is He saying take your fingers out of your ears so you can hear me. Is He calling you to be a modern day Ananias and lead someone to the loving arms of the Lord. This pandemic is a great time to point people to the loving arms of our Lord and Savior!

Pastor Dave

Call me if I can help 440-237-7958 ext.118

Friday - April 24, 2020

I wonder how many of you, like me, when we were kids would play with matchbox cars… or even today when we are playing with little children… we make that familiar sound… ZOOM-ZOOM!

Well, as most of you know ZOOM has a whole new meaning in today’s world. It is one of many cloud-based video conferencing tool that can bring people together as you virtually meet online. This can be used to have virtual meetings with a team of co-workers (like we do as a Royal Redeemer staff) or for friends and family. This can be very comforting to those families who are isolated from each other due to the coronavirus.

So, you have your family on the screen, what do you talk about? First of all, I would suggest you do not bring up politics! You cannot talk sports because there aren’t any to talk about. I might suggest that you have each person give a word (or small phrase) for the day. A word that describes how they are feeling. My family had words like grateful, anxious, long, hungry, and tired. You may hear words like:

Lonely, Lost, Afraid, Joyful, Peaceful, Rested, Bored, Hopeful

These group conversations can be a great way to share, interact, and respond to one another, and to be part of a bigger group. Ever wonder what it would be like if God were part of your Zoom chat group…how He would respond to your word for the day? The Bible has many verses from God to you…for whatever your word for the day is. Perhaps He would say things like:

  • Lonely…(Deuteronomy 31:6) Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
  • Lost…(Luke 19:10) For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.
  • Afraid…(Deuteronomy 31:8) “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
  • Joyful…(Psalm 94:19) When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.
  • Peaceful…(John 14:27) Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
  • Rested…(Hebrews 4:9-10) There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.
  • Bored…(Colossians 3:23) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
  • Hopeful…(Jeremiah 29:11) For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

So…continue to stay connected with family and friends any way you can…find peace in God’s word.

I would suggest that you “ZOOM” with God everyday…throughout the day. You will find that it’s easier than zooming with friends online (and no time limit!) …. and requires less equipment than the family / work Zoom. All you need to do is to find a quiet spot (may be hard if you are in a home with 5-6 people) and talk to God through prayer…and then listen to His whispers in your ears. You can also find His Love, Peace, Joy, direction and strength in His words to you in the Bible. Tell Him your word for the day and then know that His Word will address all of your feelings. If your word for the day is positive then thank Him for the many blessings, He has showered upon you…If you word for the day is a downer then look to Him for strength, direction, and hope.

This coronavirus world that we live in can make you feel lonely, isolated, fearful. Talk to God about those feelings. Seek His will, ask Him to guide you to take action when you can control situations and make a difference… and to be patience in situations out of your control…and wisdom to know the difference.

Trust in the Lord for HE is good!

Pastor Dave

My next devotion will be Monday. The goal is for you to worship online at royred.org over the weekend. Why not participate in both contemporary and traditional (maybe one Saturday night and one Sunday)?

Royred.org has many other links to devotions, bible study, children’s ministry, giving options, Pastor John’s message, and much more! You will also find any of my devotions that you may have missed.

Thursday - April 23, 2020

We all have our own spiritual journey and they involve other people. Maybe a mom or grandma that first took you to church, introduced you to Jesus, modeled Christian living for you. Maybe it was a friend that invited you to a life group or bible study where you really studied God’s Word. Maybe it was a pastor who you connected with. People that have been instrumental in your spiritual journey. Our journeys all look different, and hopefully draw you closer to the Lord with each new day. Take some time today to thank those who have been instrumental in your spiritual journey. I pray that your journey leads you to know the Lord a little better and love Him a little more each and every day! One of the people that God has put in my life has enhanced my knowledge of God’s Word and my desire to serve God each day… is Ken Braun. He is one of my mentors as well as a great friend. We were communicating this week and he had an idea for a devotion…so I asked him to write it… here it is!

THANKS FOR THE FIRST RESPONDERS

At this point in the pandemic, we are so thankful for the first responders, the people on the front lines who are giving us hope and security. Thanks to the doctors and nurses, the grocery store workers, the food industry laborers, the police and fire personnel.  We owe them a great debt.

But there is another First Responder Who we thank and praise and turn to during this scary time: Jesus, our great Rescuer. He came into our world that was suffering under the pandemic of sin, showing itself day by day with sickness of soul, egotism, heartache and death.

Paul put it this way: “When the time had come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, born under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”  Galatians 4:4

God sent Jesus, not to provide an inoculation so we wouldn’t catch the sin-disease.  It was too late for that. We all had it! Jesus came to provide a cure for it. On earth, He showed people how it looked to be free of the disease.  He came not to be served but to serve. Matthew 20:28 Healing, dealing compassionately with all, thinking of others before self.

On the cross he took every virus of sin on the earth, every possible occurrence of it from day one of the world until the last day of it into His body. He became sin-sick and died to wipe out the disease.  He is the cure.  Those who see that, live new lives, lives that aren’t overcome by the disease, and lives that know where to go for  the only cure when the disease attacks and tries to infest.  They turn to Christ for another dose of forgiveness.

As those of us who are Christ-followers are called Christians, or little Christs, so we are also little first responders.  We are those who are freed from sin to look to bring life to others.  Be a little first responder.  Look around for where you can bring some life in the middle of: home confinement, job loss,  sickness and sometimes death.  Make the phone call, send the card, say “thank you” to those who are front line workers, pray for those God brings across your path.  As He did not come to be served but to serve, you can reach out to bring the sure medicine of the love and forgiveness of Christ to others.

Thanks Ken for a great devotion!

If you need to talk to someone give me (Pastor Dave) a call at 440-237-7958 ext.118

Wednesday - April 22, 2020

Many of you have come to my office and seen a picture that means a lot to me.

Study this picture, what does this picture say to you? It reminds me that God hears my prayers and always answers them. He always knows what is best for me and has a better plan than I could even begin to imagine.

Have you been like that little girl, cherishing something, thinking you need it…can’t live without it….and all the while God has a better plan?

Ephesians 3:16-21 comes to mind… it says “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

The verse starts out with us “being rooted” in God’s Love! Do you believe that God Loves you unconditionally? Do you believe that He hears and that He answers your prayers? Now, He is not a genie in a bottle, that you can rub and get 3 wishes. He is a loving Father that looks at all of life from a 30,00 foot view. He has been with you from conception thru your last breath. He sees where every piece of your life’s puzzle fits….and some don’t fit!

Imagine a 14 year old gets invited to a party up the street…everyone will be there! He asks mom. Mom knows that the parents are out of town and there are older kids living there with a tainted reputation. Mom answers the request with a “no, sorry you can’t go”. The kid is obviously disappointed and thinks he got ripped off by a mom who just doesn’t love him! And yet mom answered the request in a loving, caring, and wise way.

God does the same! Sometimes we don’t understand or see the bigger picture. That’s when trust comes in!

There is a song by Laura Story called “Blessings” that I think fits well in this topic. I suggest you listen to it…but here are the words, focus on the refrain:

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
As long as we have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Are you in a season of rain, tears, and sleepless nights? Do you have the faith to see and trust that God is working through your tough situation. Do you trust His promise that He will bring good out of it? Romans 8:28…And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.…..the (MSG) translation says…That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Do you believe that? Do you trust that the Lord loves you?

So how about the coronavirus? Did God cause it? NO! Does God promise to bring good out of it? YES! How can that be?

Well…We will have to wait and see, but we have a new respect for teachers, doctors, nurses, clerks, delivery people, police, fire. We have slowed down and spent time with family. We have found many ways to be generous and to care for others. We can hardly wait to go to church…to be the church. We have looked beyond ourselves by making thousands of masks for people to wear. We have learned the value and find joy in dinner as a family. And we faithfully pray for God to draw us close to Him.

Tuesday - April 21, 2020

If I were to ask you to answer the question “If you died today would you go to heaven, and why?”… what would you say?

  • Yes…I have never killed anybody or robbed a bank.
  • No…there is no afterlife…this is all we get.
  • I hope so, but I’m not sure.
  • Yes… I tithe my income.
  • Have to see if I can do enough to earn my way in.

So, let me help you figure out what the Bible has to say about this question.
Ephesians 2:8-9…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.

For it is by grace…a free gift, unmerited favor, forgiving love. Mercy is when you don’t receive what you deserve (eternity in hell)…Grace is when you receive what you don’t deserve. (eternity with the Lord)

You have been saved…Saved from yourself and your sinful nature. Saved from the eternal consequences of sin…the wages of sin. We are saved thru faith in Jesus; we get Salvation from God’s wrath that our sins deserve.

Through faith…Faith that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, who lived and died in your place, who rose so you can have eternal life.

And this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…No human effort can accomplish even part of it…you can’t do anything to earn your way into heaven…it’s a free gift.

Not by works…Nothing you can do. You cannot earn or buy forgiveness….the good news is that you don’t have to…Jesus did it all for you on the cross.

So that no one can boast…No one can take credit for salvation. You are saved in spite of who you are, what you do, think and say.

What does this all mean?… thru faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior…you are saved! You have eternal life! You will spend eternity in heaven. It’s God’s promise… he paid the price!

So, let me ask you again…“if you died today would you go to heaven, and why?”

Hopefully…you answer that with an emphatic… Joy filled… absolute… YES!

So, you are saved…..now what? Well the next verse answers that question. Ephesians 2:10…For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We do not do good works to try and save ourselves… but because we are saved, God has plans for us!

For we are God’s handiwork…You are a masterpiece, handmade by God, a work of art! I imagine He has your picture on His refrigerator.

Created in Christ Jesus to do good works…To do acts of kindness to God’s Glory. How has God “wired” you…what are your passions, gifts, abilities…and how can you use them to glorify others and accomplish God’s plan. Remember that, you may be the answer to someone else’s prayers.

Which God prepared in advance for us to do. God has plans for you to accomplish. Plans that are unique to you. Plans that He has equipped you to accomplish. Not because you have to do them to be saved…but plans for you to do in response to being saved.

Jeremiah 29:11… For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I suggest that you have quiet time with the Lord. Thank Him for loving you, forgiving you, promising you a place in His heavenly kingdom. Then, ask Him to show you the plans He has for you. Who has He created you to be? What plans does He have for your life, your relationships, your finances, your career, your recreation and relaxation.

After you have a handle on that…what plans does He have for you in regard to the coronavirus situation? How can you stay safe and healthy? Who can you help? Who needs a prayer, a phone call, some cookies dropped off to, a bill paid, an invite to a Skype or Zoom type visit, info on church resources, what personal changes should you learn and make in your life?

Monday - April 20, 2020

Have you heard or said things like…”I am afraid that I will get the coronavirus”, I am afraid that my job will not be there”, I am afraid I will not be able to pay my electric bill” “I am afraid my loved one in a nursing home is not safe”, and the all too common “I an afraid I will run out of toilet paper”?

Can you tell me what these words have in common? Geniophobia Consecotaleophobia, Microphobia, Megalophobia, Peladophobia, Pogonophobia, Chaetophobia, Panophobia?

They are all phobias…FEARS! They are the fear of chins, chopsticks, small things, large things, bald people, beards, hair, everything. (with barbers closed, we may all have the one about a fear of hair!)

Now, maybe we laugh at these funny names, but there are 15 pages of phobias….things we FEAR…About 750 named phobias from A to Z.

The most common ones:

  • Fear of spiders – (50% of all women fall into this category)
  • Fear of flying
  • Fear of confined spaces
  • Fear of death
  • Fear of heights

I have a fear of heights! Funny story, many years ago Sue and I got free tickets to go to a Sandi Patty concert. Sue was pregnant and the seats were in the very top row. The show was over and I told her to let me go first to help her down the steps….I stood up, looked down, and fear overcame me…my pregnant wife had to lead this scared guy down the steps!!!!

The fear of heights can protect me from walking too close to a dangerous cliff…but it can also prevent me from a beautiful view of God’s creation below.

Now, I want you to take a minute and think of 2 fears you have. One that you have had for a long time…and one that is new, this pandemic has you now fearing.

FEAR is defined as… an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

So…about now, you are thinking what all of this have to do with being a Christian!!!

Well here are 2 verses to get us thinking:

  • Deut. 10:20… Fear the Lord your God and serve him.
  • Joshua 1:9 – “Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

One verse says to fear but the other says do not fear? The first verse says FEAR THE LORD…. That’s what it says!….and yet the fear of God sounds strange doesn’t it?

So in one passage speaking of the things of this earth it means to fear or to not fear earthly things based on what they are ….. but in another passage as it refers to God, fear here means to hold in awe. Same word two meanings depending on who the object of the fear is.

Martin Luther says “we should fear and love God” so that we… Don’t curse, swear, lie deceive or don’t kill or don’t commit adultery.  Well, that “fear and love God” isn’t about being afraid of some meanie, it’s about a total awe of God’s power and a fear of disappointing God. When I was young my parents never hit me to punish me…but my dad had “the look” of disappointment. I would almost wish he would have given me a good spanking, because I did not want to disappoint or let this loving man down. Likewise, we should be in awe and never want to disappoint our God who Loves us unconditionally…and verses like Joshua 1:9 remind us that He is with you wherever you go.

But what about our earthly fears?   I put those fears in 3 categories:

  • Things we need to fear. Healthy fear!
  • Irrational Fears
  • What I call “mis-directed fear”

First, from an earthly bodily point of view, there are things to fear.  They will hurt you…..they are healthy fears:

Like mom said – “Don’t run with scissors in your hand or a Lolli pop in your mouth or putting your hand on the stove. We need to fear things like taking drugs, playing with guns, driving drunk, not wearing safety equipment when skate boarding or handling chemicals. The intruder at night …or the gang of thugs in the unlit parking lot. The coronavirus… Those are known dangers that are a real possibility to harm you….and God wired us with a sense of fear….to warn us …to alter our actions. For instance because of the fear of coronavirus we wear a mask, wash our hands, and keep a social distance.

But, then there are the irrational fears like the fear of walking under a ladder, or monsters under your bed, or the number 13….or in my case the fear of roller coasters….which even though they are 300 feet up in the air….they are on a track that holds them in place hundreds of times a day.  I read that 95% of things that we fear NEVER happen!! A German Proverb addresses this kind of fear. ”Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is”

But, let’s get to the heart of the issue of fear. What I call mis-directed fear.  We do something wrong, but we fear the wrong consequence while doing it.

So you’re speeding and you see a police car – you hit the brakes afraid of getting a ticket…fear of the consequences of getting caught… but don’t even think about God’s disappointment with you for breaking the law. You hide that dirty magazine or video from your mom so you won’t get in trouble… but you don‘t feel the guilt of disappointing God with your sinful lusts.

You are afraid your income tax return will get audited and they will find those false tax credits you claimed but don’t think about God’s disappointment about our view of stealing.

Well, in each of these situations, you should be afraid of the consequences.  A $120 speeding ticket; grounded for a week; must pay taxes due with a penalty added.

But, I have to tell you those consequences are nothing compared to God’s disappointment when we don’t own up, confess, and repent. When don’t think of God in awe….when we do not fear disappointing God enough to change our behavior.

Now….as saved Christians….one thing we don’t have to fear is the death of our bodies….That’s because we’re saved, we have eternal life. Knowing that God loves you that much…should cause you to be in awe of God…and to want to change your behavior to glorify Him.

Coincidentally (or God-cidentally), as I was writing this devotion my wife called out to me “listen to this post by Carol Martin…” —- “Fear does not stop death, it stops life…and worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles!”

Where do the 2 fears you wrote down at the beginning of this devotion fit into the 3 categories of fear?

So…Be in awe of God…fear disappointing Him with your behavior…Trust God’s Word to guide your life, have a healthy fear for things that can harm you…trust God in other situations …change the things God wants you to change…and trust God when He says…  Isaiah 41:10… So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Lord, there are a lot of uncertainties in our lives right now. Those uncertainties can lead to fear. Help us to cast those fears and anxieties to you because you care for us. Remind is of the certainty of your Love and the fact that you are still Lord. Draw us close to you through Bible study, prayer, devotionals, and quiet time with you. If there are things we need to do or attitudes to change then nudge us. Let us to truly be in awe of you and your Love for us. Watch over and protect those serving in dangerous positions such as, medical personnel, fire, police, postal, store clerks, delivery and truck drivers, restaurant workers. Give wisdom to the leaders as they map out next steps. May these strange times bring about permanent changes in attitudes of love, compassion, kindness, and community. Amen.

Friday - April 17, 2020

So, if I were to ask you “who are you?” What would you say?

Maybe you would give your name, or say I’m a husband or a wife, a son or a daughter, a doctor, landscaper, a Christian, I’m lonely, depressed, or perhaps you would say I’m a successful business owner, or a failure, or an American, or I am one of the many with coronavirus?

We define ourselves in many ways…through relationships, careers, accomplishments. For some the “stay in place order” has impacted the very things that you would say define who you are! Things like jobs, friends, health are in flux right now. But I want to talk about the real essence of WHO YOU ARE. Psalm 139 can help us get started.

Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)…For you created my inmost being;you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Read that verse a few times, let it sink in. Think about what this says…YOU ARE hand made by the Lord!

The message translation puts it this way:

Psalm 139:13-16 (MSG)…Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

Read this translation, focus on the underlined phrases and how they define who YOU ARE. Identify the words me, I, my. There are 14 times that God speaks about you personally.

So…The bible is written to help you answer 2 questions… who is God? AndWHO ARE YOU? (in light of who God is.)

YOU ARE a child of God! Adopted into His family! And heir to His kingdom! Romans 8:15…The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Let that sink in…you can call God “daddy”…He is your loving father!

YOU ARE a masterpiece! Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)…  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. You are not a mistake or mishap…God never makes junk!

YOU ARE not a finished product…. Romans 12:2…Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. You are meant to grow, to transform into who you are to become in Christ. Created to transform like a caterpillar into a butterfly. The old self is gone and every new day is a new opportunity to get to know God a little better and to love Him a little more.

YOU ARE meant to accomplish God’s plan for your life! Jeremiah 29:11… For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. God wants to use you to accomplish His plans. Maybe God wants to use you to be His answer someone else’s prayer. Maybe they are praying for a friend, someone to ease their loneliness, someone to show them that you care about them, someone to meet their felt needs? The need is even greater during this pandemic world that we live in. What is God’s plan for you?

YOU ARE cared for! The Lord is with you at every stage of your life! Isaiah 46:4…Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Focus on those words…sustain, made, carry, rescue. Find Peace in the fact that God loves you unconditionally. YOU ARE LOVED!

YOU ARE a missionary! Matthew 28:19-20…Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So think about this verse. Jesus has accomplished His mission on the cross and will be ascending. He does not say “have a great life” “make a lot of money” “look out for # 1”. He says that you have a job to do…”to make disciples”, followers of Jesus….and the best part is that He says He will be with you on your journey.

Maybe God is calling you to go to a distant land (when travel resumes), or maybe to be part of the May 8-10 Servant Saturday, or maybe to connect with the neighbor that lives next door, a family member, a co-worker, a fellow student?

So, what is this devotion all about? It’s about YOU and WHO YOU ARE! To remind YOU that you were made to be YOU…unique, gifted, Loved, and called to reflect the Love of the Lord to all those in your circle of influence! Be creative in these unusual times, reach out to others!

Pastor Dave

My next devotion will be Monday. Take time this weekend to worship with us online. Also spend time checking out the other tools that are on our website….to submit a prayer request, make a donation, find study materials, devotions, podcasts, kids ministries, and much more!

Call me at 440-237-7958 ext. 118 if I can help.


Here is a little humor to brighten up your day (courtesy of Mark M.)

The world has turned upside down.

Old folks are sneaking out of the house, and their kids are yelling at them to stay indoors!

This virus has done what no woman had been able to do…cancel all sports, shut down all bars, and keep men at home!

Do not call the police on suspicious people in your neighborhood!

Those are your neighbors without makeup and hair extensions!

Does anyone know if we can take showers yet or should we just keep washing our hands?

I never thought the comment “I wouldn’t touch him/her with a 6 foot pole” would become a national policy, but here we are!

Hello Alexa……… what’s the weather this weekend?

Alexa:……. It doesn’t matter – you’re not going anywhere.

Can everyone please just follow the government instructions so we can knock out this corona virus and be done?!

I feel like a kindergartner who keeps losing more recess time because one or two kids can’t follow directions.

Thursday - April 16, 2020

I started my Good Friday sermon with a statement that certainly fits our current situation…I opened that sermon saying:

YOU KNOW…THE NUMBER ONE TOPIC OF DISCUSSION THESE DAYS IS THE CORONA VIRUS AND Its IMPACT…. ITS SCARY NEWS….WE NEED TO BE AWARE…AND KNOW IT CAN BE DEADLY! BUT THERE IS A DIFFERENT VIRUS OR DISEASE…MORE COMMON…AS A MATTER OF FACT WE ALL HAVE IT…IT’S HEREDITARY….AND IT’S 100% FATAL…DEATH IS THE RESULT THE DISEASE IS CALLED SIN…YOU SHOW ITS SYMPTOMS DAILY…HOURLY…. MINUTE BY MINUTE. NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT IT. ONLY ONE CURE. AND THAT’S WHAT GOOD FRIDAY IS ALL ABOUT!

Let’s look at this today. We have every expert (and every want to be expert) tell us all about coronavirus. We hear all about what it is, where it came from, what to do if you have it, how to avoid it, can we make a vaccine to prevent it, can we flatten the curve, etc. I am thankful that we live in a time where technology can give us so many answers to help us fight this virus.

So…what about the disease called sin?

  • Where did it come from? We see the first case of sin in Genesis 3:6…When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. God put Adam and Eve in paradise…gave them everything good…one rule, one choice. Don’t eat from a tree that will cause pain and evil. They wanted to be god and make their own rules…. And sin entered God’s creation!
  • Who has it? Each one of us has it! It’s hereditary, we are born with this sinful nature. Romans 3:23…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. You and everyone else suffers from this condition. Born with sinful nature and add to it daily.
  • How do you know that you have it? We have the disease called SIN…and we show the symptoms of it by the Sins that we commit. Our words, thoughts, actions, motives that fall short of God’s plan for us. The things that glorify ourselves rather than the Lord. Romans 7:15-20…I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. You can isolate, wear a mask, keep social distancing and wash your hands…but sin will still control you!
  • What happens when you have it? Well, unfortunately it is 100% fatal. It always leads to death! Romans 6:23…For the wages of sin is death. Ouch! Can’t I just buy a way out, try harder, wish I were better? NO! On your own the end is not pretty…an eternity in a very warm climate, separated from God and all that is Good.
  • Is there a cure? Yes! The cure was secured on Good Friday! John 3:16…For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Romans 5:19… For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

You see the truth is that God could not stand the thought of spending eternity without you there with Him…that He paid the ultimate price for you to be free from the consequence of this disease called sin. He became sin on the cross to heal you!

So, let me ask you a question. If you knew of a cure for the coronavirus…if you could save the lives of countless people who have that deadly virus, what would you do? Would you hoard it for yourself, hide the knowledge that you have, keep it a secret? I assume you would share the plan with the whole world!

So…since you know of the cure for the sin disease, what will you do with it? Will you share it? Will you save lives? Will you share the secret with your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow students, with everyone you can reach?

Why not start by sharing this devotion with someone. Why not call someone, text someone, social chat with someone? Why not pray for them?

The world is eager and hungry for good news about the coronavirus and a cure!… Well, they are even more hungry and eager to find the Lord in the midst of this upside-down world. Read God’s plan for you as you read God’s Word daily. Pray for God to guide you as to who you can share the cure with. Talk to God and then sit quietly listening for His as He whispers in your ear.

Lord…we look back and judgmentally wonder why Adam and Eve would disobey you and bring sin into your paradise. And yet when we are honest with ourselves, we admit that we are no better. We sin and fall short of your plans for our lives daily, hourly, minute by minute. Lord, heal us, transform us, change our hearts, lead us to confess and repent. Help us to connect with you and your Word daily…to glorify you with our lives. Lord, use us as instruments in your hands to reach others, to show them the way to forgiveness and eternal life. Help us to boldly proclaim that you have overcome sin, the devil, and the world. Amen.

Wednesday - April 15, 2020

In my devotion yesterday, I told about the bank robbery I witnessed. If you did not read about it yesterday, go back and read it. The police gathered us together (just like in your favorite police tv show) wanting to get all of the facts. I was blown away by the fact that we did not agree on what just happened. What channel were they watching because their “facts” did not match my “facts”! To this day it amazes me that I saw 2 men, one tall and one short, both were Black and in their 30s. Others saw 1 man or 4 men…of assorted sizes and ages. So why is it that we all saw the same event differently?

Well…we view all of life thru our own “world views”.  A world view is the lens thru which we see the world around us. It’s our set of beliefs, assumptions we have (that may be true, partially true, or entirely false) about all of life. It’s a framework of beliefs, values, and conduct. It is our view of important questions like: Is there a God, what is real, and how do we know right from wrong. Our worldview helps us choose who to date, what to eat, and what is my purpose in life. It is thru this worldview that we see the world, we make decisions, interpret choices. It can cause 20 people in a bank to create our own perception of the facts. Our world view is influenced by family, experiences, education, social and economic situation…but most of all your view of God.

Each of us in the bank that day saw the robbery thru their worldview lens. There was only one truth that day and yet it looked different and impacted each person differently.

So…how does this apply to us today? Well we all see life differently based on the way we were brought up, our life situations, the stories of our past, dreams of the future….and of course the truth of who God is and how you respond to His Word and His Truth. Unfortunately, not everyone looks to God’s Word for what is true!

  • Some define truth by their feelings…How they feel about something and what do they want the truth to be…the problem is that feelings are fickle and will always deceive you!
  • Some define truth by their thoughts…What they think is true…their logic becomes their God. The problem is that our minds are tainted by sin and will lead us astray
  • Some define truth by friends and popular opinion…I think we can see that that view is ever changing. What is true today may not be true tomorrow…and that can never be good!
  • Some define the truth by Jesus, and His Word…His Word becomes our compass to the truth. His Word will transform our feelings, thoughts, opinions, and of course our actions. His Truth will never let you down…it will “set you free”. I love the fact that Jesus identifies Himself as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”
  • So…how can you know the TRUTH??? Know Jesus! Know His Word! Read it daily! Apply it to your life! Share it with others! Let the truth of His Word guide your thoughts, words and actions!
  • I pray to the Lord daily for my family to be “men and woman of God…men and woman of integrity…may they know you as Lord and Savior…and then live accordingly…may you bind up Satan and all that is evil…and fill that void with more of your Holy Spirit”
  • I like the devotion that I had read in Today’s Light, it put it this way… “When we meditate on God’s Word…think about it, roll it over and over in our minds, and talk to God about it…the Holy Spirit deposits the Truth in our hearts. It’s like a spiritual bank account from which he can draw to help us in times of decision, temptation, or challenge to our faith”

Speaking of the truth of God’s Word…..

Proverbs 2 :1-9… My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,  and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.

 Lord…Thank you for this day and for your love fo