September 2019

STREET SMARTS

“I, (Jesus), am sending you, (His 12 disciples), out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16 NIV)

Shrewd (sHrood): adjective meaning having or showing sharp powers of judgment

Perhaps in today’s vernacular, we would call this “street smarts,” which is the ability to read into someone’s motives or actions. Jesus wanted this tempered with innocence, purity, and love. They were to expect the worst while giving their best.

Little has changed today. As leaders we, too need this supernatural judgement. Our motives must be centered in love. Much damage has been wrought by impure leadership. Being in ministry for selfish gain destroys lives.

“Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey or extra tunic, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.” (Matthew 10:9-10 NIV)

“Then he, (Jesus), said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his lfe will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24 NIV)

“And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27 NIV)

All of these warnings remind us that self-sacrifice is a requirement. The cross is a place of execution where our agenda must die. This willingness to die for God conflicts with our natural instinct for self-preservation. Little wonder the world thinks we are nuts!

Perhaps self-sacrifice is the hardest part of discipleship. Daily abandonment of our will includes; popularity, worldly wisdom, security, safety, acceptance, and freedom. Upon completion we become a reflection or image of Christ. It’s tough!

Lord, grant me wisdom to adhere to and appreciate Your instruction. My desire is to please You. AMEN!

August 2019

Discipline

Psalms 94:12-13 (NIV)

 Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord,
    the one you teach from your law;
you grant them relief from days of trouble,
    till a pit is dug for the wicked.

Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV)

My son, do not despise the LORD’S discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Proverbs 12:1 (NIV)

Whoever loves discipline love sknowledge, bur he who hates correction is stupid.

Proverbs 10:16-17 (NIV)

He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

A loving reprimand is a powerful tool that God uses o everyone. All of us are sinners and experience discomfort. We are reminded by the servant of our Lord, that difficulties are not always a result of pain. Therefore, we should learn without judging others.

Finding joy, wisdom, understanding, and peace through the discomfort is a demonstration of spiritual maturity. The standard for right or wrong is the Bible. It is beneficial to consider Scripture to understand pain. We should also be encouraged through the process.

Prayer:

I thank You Holy Spirit for loving us enough to provide us with correction. Help us to keep discipleship in proper perspective. Without Your enlightenment we stumble in spiritual blindness. Therefore, we invite You into our lives even when it hurts or we struggle to comprehend. Please give us the words to encourage others. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN!

July 2019

MEANINGLESS

Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.

The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.

The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (NKJV)

The bible’s use of meaningless is very powerful. It is very freeing because it helps with the stresses of life. For example, when stressed, this reminder can bring peace.

Medical conditions can cause stress. Financial situations can cause stress. Relationships can cause stress. Emotional upheaval can cause stress. And the list goes on and on. But if we confess all this and give it to God, He sends us relief. Confession relieves and brings release. (Yippee, hooray!!)

Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why [a]are you anxious for the rest? (NKJV)

“Behold, God is exalted by His power;
Who teaches like Him?
 Who has assigned Him His way,
Or who has said, ‘You have done wrong’?

 “Remember to magnify His work,
Of which men have sung.
 Everyone has seen it;
Man looks on it from afar.

 “Behold, God is great, and we do not know Him;
Nor can the number of His years be discovered. (NKJV)

June 2019 Devotion

A QUEST FOR WISDOM

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (James 1:5-8 NIV)

James’ recipe for wisdom is a three-part process. First, we must ask God for His generous gift. Next, our request must be made with faith. Finally, we must not doubt that the Lord will provide. Who among us does not want to be smarter?

A wind-blown sea wave is a powerful image. With one swoop a whole neighborhood can be destroyed. Hurricanes are powerful; however, a New England Nor’easter is also a destructive dynamo. A Pacific Ocean tidal wave can occur with no warning whatsoever. Who can forget the mudslides wiping out million-dollar estates perched precariously along the California coast?

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine (Jesus) and puts them into practice is like a wiseman 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 fall, because it had its foundation 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 ad the winds blew and beat against that house, ad it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:23-27 NIV)

The key to avoid being “double-minded” is putting wisdom of Christ into practice. In this manner, we are operating in faith. To be completely candid, the “doubt” part is a struggle at times.

Most people learn to trust God one area at a time. For example, a New Jersey freeway is terrifying for many rural drivers. It can take a while to learn how to trust the Lord’s promises to never abandon us. This is especially true when our kids are driving! In time, many learn to surrender these fears to the Lord. Once free, our houses are built upon “the Rock” and wisdom prevails.

Dear Jesus, please help us with wisdom. We want to build our houses upon the rock rather than shifting sand. Remind us that only through divine wisdom can we taste victory. Cure our hearts from being “double-minded.” We thank you for being or priest and intercessor. We love You! AMEN?

May 2019 Devotion

THINKING DIFFERENTLY

Engineers and mechanics think differently. Essentially, both methods of understanding are correct, important, and useful. When the problem is a leaky water pump, the mechanic’s skilled hands are better than expensive theory. Conversely, when the water pumps keep leaking, engineering is superior.

Our faith in God works in a similar manner. We build our understanding of God based on our experiences, education, and faith. Grandma’s faith is neither superior or inferior to the smartest theologians. Having differing levels of understanding is very beneficial to the Body of Christ.

What I love about God is His ability to interact with people on the exact level of their understanding. He loves the simple prayers of the children just as much as the deep questioning of the intellectual. He seems equally comfortable teaching the spiritual first graders and theologians such as Calvin. Luther, Augustine, and Tertullian. This is an incredible display of God’s brilliance.

To God belong wisdom and power, counsel, and understanding are his, (Job 12:13)

We need to let God teach us. The textbook for this journey is the Bible. Through its pages, we grasp deeper understandings of theology. God’s Word works on every level. The simple stories of the patriarchs are just as significant as complex theology found in Romans and Leviticus. Therefore, we all need to be diligent in our studies.

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. (Hebrews 4:12)

April 2019 Devotion

FRUSTRATED WITH THE ALMIGHTY

There have been dark moments in my life that challenge my relationship with God. It’s not a matter of questioning His existence or role in my life. Those issues were settled decades ago. Instead, these issues occur during times when his inaction frustrates me. An injustice Hi seems to be ignoring or a difficulty that is not corrected are items that feed my discontent.

Please, understand that I love God. He is my everything. He rescued my life from the pit of spiritual destruction. His sacrifice on the cross is wonderfully precious. I belong to Him.

It is difficult to understand why our trust I god is woefully shallow at times. How fortunate we are that God’s personality is deeper than ours. He understands our frustrations and comforts discontent. Further, he is unmoved by our inappropriate emotional weaknesses.

But I trust in you, O LORD: I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. (Psalm 31:14-16)

I have discovered that it is best to keep working through our emotional difficulties. In god’s time, He always addresses our problems. His solutions have been both surprising and wonderful. Therefore, we can choose to trust Him even on the days when we are frustrated.

March 2019 Devotion

CASUAL DOESN’T WORK

I have a few acquaintances who are nice people; however, our relationships have not developed into a trusting friendship. Moving from casual into something more takes time. Ironically, we can struggle in this area with God. He wants to be our best friend. Often, we want to keep our distance from Him

A casual, or acquaintance type, relationship with God does not work. He wants to be much more than this in our lives. Yet, when I spend time with God, His desire for my discipleship is overwhelming. To be perfectly transparent, there are times when I would rather watch television than overcome a spiritual hindrance. The Holy Spirit within me is more than willing to cooperate with God; however, my sinful nature resists.

The Lord says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up onluy of rules taught by men.” (Isaiah29:13)

Does anyone want to have this horrible heart condition that was revealed to Isaiah? A casual relationship with God is not possible. Our Lord desires to be part of our everyday life. He is much more than another chore.

Time with God is always beneficial. I am always refueled, replenished, and refreshed when our relationship is healthy. There is o excuse for my spiritual slothfulness. Forgive me Lord. Let’s move forward instead!

January 2019 Devotion

WIDE AWAKE It is always hard for me to rest the night before I have to do something I do not want to do. My mind races with questions, fears, anxious thoughts, and concerns. When I do sleep, my dreams are uneasy. Further, it difficult for me to pray when I am distraught. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:2) Since I cannot sleep, does this mean that I have exhausted the love of God? No, God still loves me dearly. I am just having a very bad night. The momentary insomnia provides the evidence that I am struggling with my faith. This is not necessarily a hopeless situation. Increasing our faith is somewhat like bodybuilding. We must walk through difficult scenarios to become spiritually stronger. Each person seems to have his or her are of weakness. Just as the muscles will fail on occasion, we, too, will have our moments of spiritual malfunction. Fortunately, these things are quickly corrected with prayer, trust, empowerment from the Holy Spirit, and hope. In short, God comforts and restores us. Our wounds serve as a reminder not to fail on the next occasion. I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:1-4)

December 2018 Devotion

PEACE ON THE WATER

Jesus spent much time on the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. Although they traveled through a few storms, it was often a quiet place of peace. This enabled Jesus to sped special times with His team of future leaders. The boat seemed to be just he right size for such expeditions.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. The, because so many people were coming and going they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

So, they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. (Mark 6:30-32)

Our alone time with the Lord is significant. We, too, need to seek a place of peace when our life becomes too busy for prolonged. Periods. Often, it is a matter of prioritization. It may be necessary to schedule these moments so that they are not missed.

Is it okay to spend money on leisure? In my opinion, if the result is quiet time with the Lord, then it is acceptable. If the activity adds to our busyness, then it is unprofitable. Remember that a serene walk costs very little.

Jesus’ ministry was more than busy. Crowds followed Him throughout the region. The water provided a place of peace, or a vehicle to a solitary place, that was difficult to find elsewhere.

Does your schedule need more quiet time with the Lord? What can be re-prioritized? If Jesus rested His disciples, are we exempt? God instituted the seventh day of rest a s gift for His people. We may not be subject to Old Testament Law; however, the wisdom of the idea is obvious. When are your special moments with the Master?

November 2018 Devotion

DAILY BREAD

We have plenty of squirrels our backyard. These ambitious creatures are forever foraging. Their nests bulge with surplus; yet, they are driven to find more. Their strength is in their ability to acquire.

It is uncommon for God to give s a surplus. More often He provides what we need for each day. This can be difficult for people who have a squirrel mentality. Learning to live one day at a time is problematic. The Lord is faithful while the situation remains uncomfortable.

He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.’” (Words of Jesus, Luke 11:2-3)

God wants to be our source of strength and stability. He does not want our acquisitions or surpluses to be our security. This keeps us actively seeking His provisions. The Lord is not attempting to enslave, but rather understands our desperate need for constant fellowship with Him. This interaction is vital to our spiritual health.

If we only speak with God when we are uncomfortable and communication is His greatest desire, is it any wonder we are in constant need? This is an important principle. The more time we spend in fellowship with Him, the more peaceful life becomes. Even when the difficulties do not change. His solace makes life sweet.

The application for this is obvious. We need to prioritize our time with the Almighty. He has all that we need. Further, we don’t have to be alarmed or disturbed by His “daily provisions.” He knows that we require an additional allotment in the morning.