May 2017

HAVE WE FORGOTTEN?

 

1 Peter 1:17-23 New International Version (NIV)

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

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. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

 

Have we forgotten what it is like to be “not saved?”  In other words, have we, as Christians – those who claim Jesus as Savior – bought with a price – with all our sins under the blood of the Lamb – forgotten what is like to live without Jesus? It is easy to do.

When we first “get saved” and turn our lives over to Christ, we have that insatiable desire to remove ourselves from all the sins and baggage of our past and to be totally immersed in becoming more Christ-like – and well we should.  We should focus on allowing God to have His way with us. To totally surrender all of ourselves and lives unto Him to do with as He sees fit for our own good and for the glory of His Kingdom.

However, after awhile, we find that we have become “cocooned” or “fortressed” in a world where everyone is as we are: Christians. In this “world” we can easily become unaccustomed to dealing with those who do not “walk the Christian walk or talk the Christian talk.” Or if we do interact with the unsaved, it is with the intent to evangelize or “win them to Christ.” But do we ever really just sit down and get to know them without any ulterior motives. Do we ever really have a heart and/or a deep love for them simply as a fellow human being created by God? Do we mingle with them as Christ did?

First, let’s remember what it was like to live without the saving grace knowledge of Christ. Second, let’s be Christ-like in our endeavors to love others as He first loved us. Third, may we expect nothing in return, i.e. a conversion story or notches in our “led them to Christ” belt. Fourth, if we are blessed to lead them to Christ, may we remember to give God all the glory. Ultimately, may we allow them to grow at their own pace in accordance with the Lord’s perfect plan for their lives. Our job is to love them; it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to bring them into the Kingdom.

 

April 2017 Devotion

WE ARE IN A WAR: ARE YOU PREPARED?

 

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. (2Timothy 2:3-4)

 

We are at war. I am not speaking of any of the current physical warfare occurring around the world, but war of a spiritual nature.  As followers & soldiers of Jesus Christ, we should be prepared in a far more superior nature than that of any soldier fighting physical warfare.

 

The Bible shares many strategies for preparing for the tactics of our enemy – Satan.  We are instructed in Ephesians 6:10-18 to put on the WHOLE/FULL armor of God.

 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 

Christians experienced in spiritual warfare usually remember to follow Ephesians 6:10-18.  However, one major area is virtually overlooked – the mental/emotional preparation mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:3-4.  We forget to detach from everything that may draw our focus away from our Commander In Chief – Jesus Christ. We must stay in one accord with His plan. Do not deviate from His battle plan. No one knows the enemy better than Jesus. He triumphed over him many times – the ultimate win being the one Jesus achieved with His death on the cross and His resurrection.

 

It is said that if a soldier does not know himself or his enemy, his chance of survival in war is zilch. If a soldier knows himself, but does not know his enemy, his chance of survival is minimal. If a soldier knows himself and knows his enemy, his chance of survival in war is very good. Follow Ephesians 6:10-18 AND 2 Timothy 2:3-4, put your trust in the Lord and follow Him. Yes, we are in a constant spiritual war with our enemy, but with the Lord on our side, victory is ours!

 

Father, help us as we struggle daily with the enemy. May we remain focused on You and Your plan as we continue our life-long process (war) of separating from sin and becoming more Christ-like until You return to take us home. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

March 2017 Devotion

 

THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT

2 Corinthians 1:3-11(NIV)

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.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[
a] about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we

 have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

 

God understands what we are going through.  He does not “leave us hanging.” He goes with us every step of the way.

 

Nothing takes God by surprise. He has a plan for each area of our lives. With our focus on Him, we can succeed even through the darkest of times/situations.

 

Once the difficult time has passed, the result is that we can minister to and help equip others who will be/are experiencing what we have gone through.  God does not waste one ounce of suffering. Praise His Name!

 

February 2017 Devotion

Who’s On The Phone?/The Voice of the LORD

 

John 10:27

My sheep hear my voice; and I know them, and they follow me.

 

How do we know it’s His voice we are hearing – can we be sue/confident?

 

It’s like our caller id’s on our phones ….– we want to be guaranteed it is God we are listening to – sometimes not only that, but we want Him to tell us every little detail about what we are to do and we want assurance it be successful/a profitable outcome for us!

 

Good news for us –  we can know who’s voice we are hearing and if what that entity is saying is for our benefit/well-being.  Most of John 10 is Jesus explaining who He was and how His followers/flock know Him.

 

He has provided us with filters and checks/balances:

 

  1. Scripture – Scripture is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God declaring His design and purpose for mankind (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:21) For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it  penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.” (Hebrews 4:12-14)   His Word easily divides our complicated bodily systems into three parts – physical body/ joints-marrow(our outermost part) ; soul- mind, emotion, will; spirit (inner, yet recognizable like our outer, physical bodies).  Let there be no doubt – there is no double-speak here.  God plainly states how it is.  God does not lie.  He has no reason to lie – what He benefit from lying?  It is not in His character.
  2. Holy Spirit – God the Father has sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Counselor. The third person of the Godhead/Trinity is with us as soon as we accept Christ as our Savior.  Every believer has a right to be baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-8 and Luke 24:49) for empowerment in effective service and witness.  Upon salvation, you are given or filled with gifts and empowerment – use them.  First, the indwelling where you are convicted of sin; then the infilling (often needs refilling) where gifts and empowerment for service are given; and the baptism – speaking in tongues. For some, all happen instantaneously, for others a little at a time.  Most importantly, allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.  He will only do what you allow.
  3. Word of Knowledge/Word of Wisdom- 1 Cor. 12:8 – Holy Spirit gives us –(personal prophecy)
  4. Godly Counsel – people you trust – still, test the spirits 1 John 4:1-3. King David, as well as others, had long-trusted friends/advisors that gave ungodly counsel – Joab and Abiathar, the priest said Adonijah should be king during the transition of King David and King Solomon.
  5. Circumstances & Timing – this one can be difficult on its own, but when combined with the other checks and balances, can help
  6. Confirmation – Can proceed from others who may not even know all of your situation, but God has divinely given them a word to corroborate/verify/testify what He has spoken to you
  7. The Peace of God – authenticate/substantiate

 

Remember God’s goodness and what He has already done for you.   God’s not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?  (Numbers 23:19)

 

January 2017 Devotion

Smarter?

 

There was a hotel advertising campaign a few years ago that featured ordinary people becoming extraordinarily smart after a night in this particular brand of hotel.  After one night in this hotel, a businessperson was able to offer tips to a brain surgeon.  The ads were amusing; however, the stories always seemed ridiculous.  Clearly, we cannot increase our intelligence with a few hours of slumber.

 

“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word.”   (Psa. 119:97-101, NIV)

 

The psalmist claimed that he became wiser when he studied God’s Word.  So much so, that he had more insight than his teachers, elders, and his enemies.  Because the Bible empowers, like the songwriter, the more time we spend with it, the smarter we become.  This is a remarkable miracle that occurs each time we study scripture diligently.

 

A few years ago, I had the pleasure to work with an engineer who was formally employed by a prestigious automobile company.  His understanding of the automobile was incredible.  Further, his insight enabled another coworker to transform his son’s pinewood derby car into the fastest machine in the area.   The more time we spent with him, the more we knew about vehicles.

 

God is the one who designed humans.  As we study His thoughts about humanity, we gain understanding beyond our peers.  From the subtle nuances of frustration to the unbelievable destructive power of pride, The Almighty can fathom it all.  The psalmist’s discovery, that we can grow in understanding as we study what the Holy Spirit has written, still applies today.

 

         “For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”  (Prov. 2:6, NIV)

        

         “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  (Heb. 4:12, NIV)

 

According to these passages, we can become smarter as we study the Word of God.  Like studying with the greatest professor, our understanding deepens tremendously as He reveals things to us.  This means that our personal Bible study time needs to be a priority.  May the Almighty bless us as we venture into His infinite wisdom.

 

Father, thank You for providing us Your Holy Word.  Help us in our daily reading to develop a full understanding of all You have for us.  May we grow deeper in You.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!

 

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!