December 2016 Devotion

The Perfect One

 

A major hurdle along the path of discipleship is the recognition that God’s ways are vastly superior to our own.  The struggle occurs when God leads us in one direction and we desire to move in another.  This is especially true when God’s way may appear foolish, ignorant, or chaotic.  These moments challenge our understanding and obedience.

 

During the Second World War, the United States and Russia had a common enemy.  They worked willingly with each other to see the defeat of Adolf Hitler.  Once Germany surrendered, both parties became hostile toward each other.  They no longer shared a goal.  Within weeks, the Cold War began.

 

When God begins the process of discipleship within us we rejoice as we see old enemies vanquished.  After a few seasons, the things He begins to eradicate start to become difficult.  We begin to question in our minds if we are ready to surrender a particular area into His all consuming hands.  Are God’s actions really in our best interest?

 

         “To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.”  (Psa. 119:96, NIV)

 

As difficult as it is, we must defer to the Lord’s boundless understanding rather than our own.  This is the essence of discipleship.  We must accept God’s leadership over every area of our life.  This is not an easy task since our warped will is incredibly entrenched.

 

         “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.”  (Jer. 29:11, NIV)

 

Within God’s unfathomable character are boundless perfection and love.  He wants what is best for us.  This is our motivation to continue along His chosen path of training.  His ways are infinitely superior to our own.

 

         “…as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”  (Josh. 24:15, NIV)

 

Let us not simply keep these as words on a page, but rather embrace these things within our hearts and minds.  May these challenging words motivate us to action.  Discipleship may be difficult; however, the other choices are all filled with incredible suffering, loss, and misery.  In the demonstrated trust of obedience, we find purpose, love, joy and ultimately VICTORY!

 

 

Father, help us to always remember that everything You allow is for our best interests.  May we be diligent in answering and following Your call for our lives.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!

Merry Christmas!

Rev. Dr. Judy Baumgartner

November 2016 Devotion

Hurricane Hope

 

There are some seasons in life when things can become so difficult that we struggle to find any stationary point of reference.  These are times when a lesser hope or faith would crumble completely.  Like the Northern Star, we need something that is very unmovable.  In the life of the Christian Warrior, this becomes the Bible.

 

“Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.”  (Psa. 119:89-90, NIV)

 

In context with the entire one hundred nineteenth Psalm, we discover that the songwriter’s life was in a horribly harsh season.  His entire world must have seemed upside down to him.  In the midst of his incredible chaos, he firmly holds on to the one thing that he knows that is forever fixed.  His constant was the promises of God’s Holy Word.

 

         “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.”  (Psa. 119:92-93, NIV)

 

No matter how horrible the things of the world become, we have our hope in the name of the Lord who forever stands strong.  This is an eternal truth.  Like the psalmist, we must seek this shelter from the storm.  Beloved, this is our only rational option.

 

Storms can be plentiful in our lives, but the Lord remains constant.  When our emotions are a disheveled wreck, His promises can still be trusted.  Sadly, there is a horrible temptation to cling to something else during these moments.  We must ignore these acute temptations.

 

Sweet Jesus, you understand the horrible storm that I am facing.  You know that my hope is waning under this duress. Please strengthen my feeble hands.  Help me to cling to the unchanging promises of the Bible.  Like the psalmist, I recognize that Your loving hands have never failed me before; hence, I can trust you with my difficulties today.  In Your powerful name I pray.  Amen!

October 2016 Devotion

Midnight Prayer

 

Christian Warriors learn to develop a powerful prayer life.  This becomes the most productive activity in our day.  Too often, the important things seem to disappear in the wake of the pressing.  Prayer time becomes a hit or miss scheduling item rather than a paramount priority.  It is wonderful to pray as we go through our daily routines.  It is also important to give God our complete undivided attention.

 

“At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.”  (Psa. 119:62, NIV)

 

In this passage, the psalmist reveals that he has so prioritized his schedule, that the Lord has been given the midnight hour.  In a busy life, sleep becomes a precious commodity.  It is more than difficult to operate from a shortened period of rest.  The psalmist has chosen to interrupt his sleep to give quality time to God.  This could be considered another method of fasting.

 

“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.”  (Psa. 63:6, NIV)

 

I have a friend who has the nickname “Three O’clock Ken.”  For a prolonged season he awoke every morning at three for a time of prayer with the Almighty.  No matter when Ken went to sleep, he was awake at this hour for the express purpose of prayer.  This became his special time with Jesus.  Although others may have grumbled about a lack of sleep, this activity became a tremendous blessing in his life.

 

All of these things remind us to give God our very best rather than what is left over.  He understands our need for rest and will not abuse what we have offered.  Instead, our intimacy with God is further developed during these uninterrupted moments of communication.  We need to check our priorities to ensure that we have not neglected the most important activities of our day.

 

Father, I surrender my most precious time to You for the explicit purpose of communion via prayer.  I love You, Lord.

 

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

August 2016Devotion

What We Can’t See

 

“I call with all my heart; answer me, O LORD, and I will obey your decrees. I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night that I may meditate on your promises. Hear my voice in accordance with your love; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your laws. Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law. Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true.”  (Psa. 119:145-151, NIV)

 

As this long song begins, the psalmist’s greatest desire is to grow deeper with the Lord.  He began this quest enthusiastically.   He recognized that God allowed his suffering so that he could taste victory over sin. Through the latter verses, he expressed extreme discomfort and need.

 

Beloved, in moments of incredible suffering, philosophy is discarded.  We enter into a survival mentality.  Our prayers become a whimper for divine intervention.  The Lord’s presence is incredibly close; yet, we can barely discern it through the fog of anguish.  In these times, it is all God’s efforts – not our own.

 

These cruel moments are wonderfully transformative.  We never emerge from them unchanged.  When we are at the precipice of death, our deepest problems become soft clay in the Master’s skilled hands.  Sadly, this is what it takes to get to the very root of our worst flaws.  Ironically, the pain can be so blinding that we are completely unaware of His repairs.   These horrible situations of acute discipleship yield an incredible blessing that is worth more than gems.

 

Painite is the rarest gem in the world.  Although it was named for its discoverer, British gemologist Arthur Charles Davy Pain, we can see a spiritual connection to its special name.  From the forge of God’s cleansing, something beautiful has emerged.  Like the psalmist, we must trust in the Lord’s purposes even when we cannot think clearly.

 

         “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”  (Psa. 119:165, NIV)

 

Father, You are the potter and we are the clay.  Help us to trust You as You sculpt us into what You want us to be.  In the mighty name of Jesus we pray.  Amen!

July 2016 Devotion

The End of Our Rope

 

When we reach the climax of something, and all alternatives have been exhausted, a common descriptive idiom for this stage is, “I am at the end of my rope.”  The songwriter in Psalm 119 expressed his acute need for Divine intervention.  He pleaded with the Lord for help.  He was “at the end of his rope.”

 

         “I have done what is righteous and just; do not leave me to my oppressors. Ensure your servant’s well-being; let not the arrogant oppress me. My eyes fail, looking for your salvation, looking for your righteous promise. Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees. I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes. It is time for you to act, O LORD; your law is being broken.”  (Psa. 119:121-126, NIV)

 

Sometimes in these situations, God sends more rope.  We may have desired a conclusion, but the Almighty needed an extension.  This is a very hard spiritual lesson.  Within these settings, attitudes of Lordship, trust, and obedience are challenged.  If we can persevere through these moments, incredible spiritual growth occurs.

 

The hardness of steel can be adjusted with heat treating.  These special ovens are designed to hold the material at a precise temperature so that an even temper can be obtained.  This process can take days to complete.  The steel can be cooled slowly or submerged in water for a rapid change in temperature.  This is not a haphazard experiment.  It is meticulous science.

 

When we are suffering, it is difficult to trust in God’s leadership.  We cannot understand what the Lord is doing in these moments; however, we must yield to His plan and purpose.  No one hardens steel so that it can be tossed into a landfill or consumed in the furnace.  It is far too valuable for such folly.  God is never foolish.

 

Dear Lord, I may not understand what you are accomplishing or preparing in my life, but I yield my will to Your holy purpose.  You have neither left nor forsaken me; therefore, I choose to trust You for the miracles that I need today.  You understand my acute need for Your intervention.  I will accept whatever Your hand offers to me in love.  Please send me Your peace for this journey of life.  Thank you for meeting my every need.  In the mighty name of Jesus I pray.  Amen!

June 2016 Devotion

The Jesus Freak

 

“I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.”  (Psa. 119:58-60, NIV)

 

The psalmist wants every area in his life to be in alignment with the Lord.  He longs to do things God’s way.  Further, the Almighty has become the most important entity in his life.  More than a song, this is his passion.

 

In the world today, this songwriter would be classified as “too religious.”  It could be said; “he is so heavenly-minded, that he is no earthly-good.”   The other phrase that comes to mind is “Jesus freak.”  How common it is for people in the workplace to mockingly label someone of this character “reverend” or “deacon.”

 

         “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  (Matt. 5:11-12, NIV)

 

If loving God were a crime, would we receive a lifelong sentence or be released with a general warning?  What evidence would be presented to prove that we have become too sold out for Christ?  Would our checkbook bring validity to the charges.  Would our internet history offer us an acquittal?  The mature Christian Warrior would receive the death sentence in this situation.

 

We are not ashamed of our Savior, the Bible, or the things of God.  Instead, we shout to the world; “JESUS CHRIST IS LORD OF ALL!”  After all, He is our very purpose for living.  We strongly agree with the psalmist, when we desire to see every area of our life in perfect alignment with His divine will.  It is folly to expect the lost world to appreciate our decisions.

 

Dear Lord, we long to have our life in alignment with your holy and perfect will.  Empower us to live a life that brings a smile to Your beautiful face.  Further, help us as we endure the conflicts of this world to keep our eyes upon You.  Strengthen us during moments of persecution.  Please deepen our resolve by the power of your sweet Holy Spirit.  Fill us with Your love so that others may see and consider their own situation.  May all glory and honor be Yours.  In the mighty name of Jesus we pray.  Amen!

 

May 2016 Devotion

Unmoved But Not Unloving

 

There is a fine line between a firm stand for Christ and a harsh unloving attitude. This is a very difficult lesson of spiritual maturity. We need to be firmly committed to Christ; however, if we are unloving, we have failed in this area. The best example is Christ whose love for others was evident during His crucifixion.

 

         “I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them.” (Psa. 119:46-47, NIV)

 

The psalmist is unashamed of his faith. He was willing to stand before a powerful monarch, who with one word could have ended his life. This type of dedication is an essential element of our Christian walk. Like the psalmist, we must be willing to share our faith with anyone without shame or compromise.

 

         “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26, NIV)

 

During the first century, the early church had many martyrs who made a stand for Christ at the expense of his or her life. During this time, there was also zealot Christians, who with their faith would challenge the Roman government. Like the martyrs, they also died violently. The early church considered the martyrs to be heroes and thought those who sought persecution unwise.

 

We must consider our actions carefully. We know that the unsaved world hates Christian warriors. We need to stand firm when we face persecution. Moreover, we need to remember to love others when we are in these situations. If we are properly trained, we will meet Jesus description that we are gentle and wise.

 

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16, NIV)

 

Is this possible? We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we will have the best response for every moment. Further, we need to be fully equipped in our understanding of the Bible so that our actions are always appropriate. Next, we also need to recognize this as a step of maturity. In my opinion, this is an acquired skill like riding a bicycle. We may crash into the neighbor’s hedge a few times as we master this!

 

Father, please help us to love others as You love us. As we share Your love with others, may we stand steadfast in proclaiming Your mighty name as Savior. In Your name we pray. Amen!

April 2016

Green Berets

 

“Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” (Psa. 119:34-37, NIV)

 

The psalmist wisely chooses to spend his time on what is profitable. He beseeches the Lord to change his heart so that his energy will be spent upon holy things that are spiritually prosperous. Although these things are better, they are in direct conflict with our unholy sinful flesh. In this passage, this writer is asking the Lord for deeper discipleship. This attitude is far from common in our world today.

 

Although it seems like madness to the unsaved and the spiritually immature, this plea is a prelude to awesome spiritual maturity. These types of warriors are more than incredible in the Kingdom of God. The psalmist is not volunteering for an easy assignment. He wants to learn to do things God’s way.

 

In the United States Army, there are special forces soldiers, who are known as the “Green Berets.” In my opinion, they are smart, tough, and crazy. These are the “super” soldiers for whom the most challenging assignments are reserved.   When the task seems impossible, these are the heroes who willingly volunteer. Further, they are constantly training to both increase their individual skill sets as well as perfecting common soldier tasks.

 

God is always looking for this kind of warrior. One who will go anywhere and do anything to benefit the Kingdom. The Master is looking for humility, dedication, and determination. He wants someone who willingly surrenders his or her life for the glory of God. Unlike the Green Berets, the only prerequisite for this type of training is a willing heart.

 

         “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”” (Is. 6:8, NIV)

 

Father, may we always be ready when You call. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

March 2016 Devotion

Another Day On The Moon

 

As the astronauts traveled to the moon, they followed a precise flight plan. They did not have the liberty to stay a few extra days because it was such a wonderful experience. If they had chosen this impulsive action, they probably would have exhausted their food, water, and oxygen. As we follow the Holy Spirit’s agenda for our lives, we must also recognize that deviating from His flight plan is dangerous.

 

Perhaps the hardest thing to do in any ministry is to conserve energy whenever possible. This requires an element of trust in the Lord that is not for the spiritually immature. God’s enemy often chooses to attack us so that we drain our energy on what is unprofitable. In other words, if he can get us to worry about something that is beyond our control, he has weakened our defenses. The greatest mistakes are often made when we are spiritually and physically exhausted.

 

The Old Testament prophet, Elisha, is a wonderful example for us to consider. Even on his deathbed, he still served as God’s spokesperson. In this manner, Elisha was better than Elijah, who seemed to struggle in this area. Both of the men served the Lord wholeheartedly. Miracles were present in both of their lives, but Elisha did not waste energy on the unprofitable.

 

         “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1Cor. 13:11, NIV)

 

There are different ways that we can receive this lesson. We can become agitated with our own imperfection. This reaction is unprofitable. If we continue in this manner, we eventually face symptoms of burnout. A better and healthier approach is to start examining activities to determine which areas require realignment with God’s perfect will.

 

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.” (Psa. 119:71-74, NIV)

 

Lord, without You in the forefront, I am nothing. Help me to always give You top priority. In Your name I pray. Amen!