Category Archives: Devotional

September 2016 Devotion

All Of My Ways

 

The bass guitar is a wonderful instrument.  It is rather simple to learn; yet, its true rhythm is more emotional than intellectual.  You have to “feel” this instrument – not just follow notes or chords on a page.  When we listen to an expert, such as Marcus Miller, we hear the instrument become animated.

 

         “all my ways are known to you.”  (Psalm 119:168, NIV)

 

Although our lives may seem very complex to us, they are extremely simple in contrast to the created universe.  As in the example of the bass guitar, we can intellectually grasp that God understands all of our ways.  However, our emotions struggle with this connection.  Through discipleship, we learn to let the Holy Spirit lead our lives rather than allowing our own twisted egos to have free reign.  This principle is the limiting issue to our spiritual maturity.  We may love the Lord dearly, want everything He has for us, and desire that our lives are pleasing to Him, but still rebel against His leadership.

 

         “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.””  (Mark 14:38, NIV)

 

As the psalmist began his long song, he desired spiritual maturity.  Through the verses, we have seen his perseverance through incredible suffering.  He recognized that God allowed the difficulties to strengthen his dependence and devotion.   Most amazingly, the song ends with a cry for more.

 

         “May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.”  (Psalm 119:171-176, NIV)

 

Holy Spirit, may we allow You to do Your work in our lives.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!

Rev. Dr. Judy Baumgartner

July Devotion – The Narrow Way

The Narrow Way

 

         “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:12-14, NIV)

 

Often, our Christianity will place us in conflict with the lost world around us. According to Jesus, the road to life is an unpopular one. This means that others will neither understand nor appreciate the decisions that we have made. Sadly, they are lost because they do not understand.

 

         “Though I am lowly and despised, I do not forget your precepts.” (Psa. 119:141, NIV)

 

Frequently, those on the wrong path will despise us. Another common experience is being ignored. This is all part of rejection. If they do not love Christ, why would they value His followers? During these difficult moments, we must hold unswervingly to the God who has called us.

 

         “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands are my delight. Your statutes are forever right; give me understanding that I may live.” (Psa. 119:143-144, NIV)

 

Food, clothing, and shelter, are all on the list of life’s essentials. The psalmist includes wisdom, which is an item we do not often consider. After deep contemplation, we discover that the songwriter is correct in that wisdom is more vital than oxygen. Eternal life, which is more important than our earthly existence, depends upon our understanding and commitment to the “narrow, unpopular road.”

 

Father, thanks for showing me the road less traveled. Help me to walk it with all diligence. Grant me wisdom that I might make the right choices today. Enable me to show others this better path that I have found in You. Comfort my emotional, spiritual, and physical wounds that I have received in Your service. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I might bring delight to Your loving heart. In the mighty name of Jesus I present these requests. Amen!

 

Rev. Dr. Judy Baumgartner

April 2015

Revelation For Today

 

Discipleship is more than taking unholy things out of our lives. God also provides instruction and empowerment. Within a few short seasons, we long for the Revelation of God with earnest desire. We seek knowledge of what God wants, fresh directions, and reassurance of His promises.

 

         “I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.” (Psa. 119:131-133, NIV)

 

Longing to know what to do when our world is falling apart is a common experience for God’s children. It is a prayer of desperation, repentance and at times, great sorrow. When things become exceptionally difficult, our memory of past victories becomes short. We long for constant reassurance that we are in the center of God’s perfect will.

 

Like many things in life, this can be both positive and negative depending upon the application.   It is very good when we begin to consider the opinion of God in our daily lives. Conversely, it is equally foul when we forget what He has commanded. A problem in this area is rapidly exposed when His direction is “Wait.”

 

We need to talk to God about our problems and difficulties. Further, we must take the time to listen to what He is saying. This is a two-way communication.   Listening to God develops throughout our warrior training. When our situations become “eleventh hour,” the ability to wait and receive are thoroughly tested.

 

When I was a child, we owned a stove that had an immature technology. One of the burners had a “brain.” This was little more than a simple thermocouple and an electronic gas valve. We quickly decided that it was retarded. It had an uncontrolled mind of its own. It was difficult to cook anything using this particular burner. When we act in a similar manner, is it any wonder that we accomplish little for God?

 

Discipleship transforms us from an uncontrolled conflicted mess of emotions and thoughts into something beautiful. It becomes wonderfully sweet to discover our true purpose for living. Friendship with God is beautiful beyond words. Like the psalmist, we long for the loving direction of our Hero.

 

         “I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.” (Psa. 119:131, NIV)

Rev. Dr. Judy Baumgartner

Discoveries Within The Facets

By Rev. Dr. Judy Baumgartner

One of the best parts of Bible study is exploring something new. As we grow in Christian maturity, we discover passages in the Bible that directly address our difficulties. Although we may have previously read the verses, something new seems to jump from the pages.   I love these discoveries in God’s Word.

 

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matt. 13:45-46, NIV)

 

I was walking in the mall a few days ago when I saw an employee in the jewelry shop beaming as he gazed into his magnifier. I knew that he had discovered something amazing. Since the store was empty, I decided to ask him what he had seen. Within moments, he was delightfully showing me his discovery. He had found a special hidden laser etching on his Rolex watch. Although he had worked with fine jewelry for many years, this excited him.

 

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.” (Psa. 119:18-20, NIV)

 

Like the jeweler, the psalmist had discovered that the Bible is an incredible treasure. Within the facets of its passages, awesome discoveries are made. Indeed, it is vast enough for an entire lifetime of exploration. It is far better than a simple watch or an incredible pearl.

 

Personal Bible study is not supposed to be a monotonous daily chore, but an incredible intimate interaction with the Almighty as He reveals things to us that are not obvious within the passages. I appreciate good cooking, and I enjoy making my own kitchen discoveries. Still, it is better when a gourmet chef shares his or her secrets with us. May our time of personal Bible study be more wonderful than an afternoon with Julia Child.

 

Lord, we want to grow deeper in the knowledge of You and Your ways. May our priority of the day be time spent with You and Your Word. In Your mighty name we pray. Amen!

The Treadmill

By Rev. Dr. Judy Baumgartner

Perhaps one of the most useless machines is the treadmill. Upon it, we can toil for hours accomplishing little. Although the machine benefits our overall health, the labor is fruitless. It would be far better to expend less energy while enjoying tangible results.

 

Even worse is sin, which destroys resources without offering any benefit. Has someone’s life become better because he or she became an alcoholic? Has a child ever benefited from his or her parent’s drug addiction? Our world is full of broken people in the wake of such meaningless activity.

 

         “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways.” (Psa. 119:1-3, NIV)

 

The psalmist discovered the key to spiritual prosperity.   This is living a life that pleases the Lord. Everything else is meaningless. The psalmist freely acknowledges his failure to live by the Lord’s holy standards; yet, he recognizes the incredible benefits from doing things “God’s way.” After deep contemplation, he has resolved to change his future actions.

 

The essence of discipleship is learning to live a better life through the power of the Holy Spirit. This does not happen over a weekend. Instead, our training encompasses the rest of our lives. It is a difficult challenge, but can anything compete with the blessings of God? His favor is far better than anything else this world has to offer.

Walking with God is not like the treadmill. What we learn through the process is well worth the effort. We taste sweet victory over sins that seemed to dominate our lives. Finally, the journey ends in the loving presence of our Lord. What could possibly be better than this?

 

         Father, help us to stay the course as we grow ingrace and continually increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. In Your mighty name we pray. Amen!

A View From Psalm 119

A Reflection of Psalm 119

Rev. Dr. Judy Baumgartner

 

The longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119. Its verses are packed with insight into discipleship. The psalmist’s understanding of God’s training process is comforting. This song reveals passion, wisdom, hope, faith, and ultimately, a love for God.

 

“Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.” (Psa. 119:66-68, NIV)

 

The psalmist recognizes that affliction is all part of the discipleship process. He has learned to rejoice in his suffering. He is not a masochist, but rather one who celebrates accomplishments. Although the psalmist’s road was arduous, he ultimately tastes sweet victory.

 

Graduation day is a wonderful celebration. It is a fantastic opportunity for the whole family to celebrate the student’s accomplishments. The same hands that grasp the diploma are the ones that cramped during tests, taking notes, and typing. How hollow it would be to receive such a prize without earning it.

 

God’s discipleship process is tailored for each of us. The lessons we learn, and the order in which we experience them, are vastly different for each individual. God’s graduation-day type celebration occurs in the next life rather than this one. Therefore, let us choose to be diligent students who desire to please our Teacher.

 

         “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees.” (Psa. 119:10-12, NIV)

 

         Father, help us to live our lives as pleasing to You. May we learn under Your guidance. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

 

Leadership

The Steps To Becoming A Great Leader

By Rev. Dr. Judith L. Baumgartner      

 

Joshua 1:1 – 9

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

“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.”

 

Leadership is difficult. Though replete with benefits, it is also comprised of pitfalls. Today, more than ever, our leaders are bombarded to compromise their positions and themselves.

 

With all the scandals involving top leaders of private and public enterprise, it is apparent that some in current leadership positions are falling prey to impropriety. They are not upholding the moral standards or fulfilling the job requirements that befit the traits expected of a leader. The power wielded, the prospects of financial gain, and the lucrative side benefits are too tempting for most to encounter unscathed. Companies and government agencies are scrambling to stop the downward spiral of effects due to unethical and ineffective behavior and practices.

 

Perhaps that is why the market is flooded with books, manuals, and training on how to be a successful, ethical leader. Moreover, to meet the increasing requirements for further training, multitudes of colleges and universities now offer graduate degrees in ethics and effective leadership, while businesses and government spend thousands – if not millions – of dollars designing and implementing new programs to meet demands of developing leaders and increasing productiveness.

 

One would expect that with so much emphasis on and opportunities for increasing ethical and effective leadership that summative results would be positive. Sadly, that is not the case. Daily reports of corruption at high levels in all specters of public and private enterprise are broadcast across the U. S. and abroad.

 

Conceivably this “epidemic” is on the rise because society – as a whole – is looking in the wrong place for the answers to the leadership problems. They look to secular solutions such as more training, education, or stringent procedures to stop the onslaught of mismanagement in the ranks. However, as they have seen from their own media headlines, this has been futile. They should, instead look to God and His Word.

 

The Bible is the best, most complete manual not only for healthy, happy living, but also for the steps that should be taken to be an effective, righteous leader. It provides a step-by-step outline for ethical and effective leadership. Furthermore, God Himself demonstrated how to lead. The Biblical writers provided us with a written description of His teachings. A summarized version is provided below as a quick reference list.

 

Steps to be followed for an effective leader (God’s Way):

  1. Commit yourself totally to the Lord – get right with God
  2. Pray for His guidance – actively seek Him and listen
  3. Trust Him – He keeps His promises
  4. Follow His plan – do what He says
  5. Be a servant to your subordinates – even Jesus, Creator of all, was a servant to His creation
  6. Stay focused on the Lord and His word to persevere and be above reproach – do not be afraid to lead in righteousness and do not be tempted by Satan

 

More detailed descriptions are available in the Scriptures. Read them. Better yet, read the whole book. The Bible contains the best action stories and is the ultimate instruction manual. The information it contains is priceless!

 

Father, thank You for Your Word – The Bible. May we read it cover to cover and refer to it daily as the supreme guide for loving and living. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

Information Overload

Information Overload

By Rev. Dr. Judith L. Baumgartner 

September Edition

2 Corinthians 5:7

For we walk by faith, not by sight.

 

Technology has made Information availability so prevalent that we have become overwhelmed as well as dependent. With easy accessibility has come expectancy. With the all the past and current events of the world just one click away, we are expected to be masters of all knowledge. We become enslaved to our PDAs for the latest news on our BFs, stock prices, game scores, weather, etc. You name it; we can locate it and be updated about it any time of the day or night. Addicting? Yes. Overstimulating? Yes. Indoctrinating? Yes. We are progressively relying on technology to answer all our questions and solve all of our problems. This is disconcerting.

 

Subsequently, though technology has provided a catalyst for spreading the Gospel, we must keep it in perspective. We cannot allow it to overtake our lives and we particularly cannot permit it to replace the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit directs us with His counsel. Technology leads us by sight. Let us walk by faith, not by sight.

 

Father, may we check Your Word as often as we check our phone, email, and/or text messages. May the Holy Spirit, not our PDAs, guide our thoughts and plans. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!