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Posted in Daily Devotions

Make vows to the LORD your God, and perform them; let all who are around him bring gifts to the one who is awesome. (Psalm 76:11)

God’s people are the meek of the earth, the quiet in the land, that suffer wrong, but do none. The righteous God seems to keep silence long, yet, sooner or later, he will make judgment to be heard. We live in an angry, provoking world; we often feel much, and are apt to fear more, from the wrath of man. What will not turn to his praise, shall not be suffered to break out. He can set bounds to the wrath of man, as he does to the raging sea; hitherto it shall come, and no further. Let all submit to God. Our prayers and praises, and especially our hearts, are the presents we should bring to the Lord. His name is glorious, and he is the proper object of our fear. He shall cut off the spirit of princes; he shall slip it off easily, as we slip off a flower from the stalk, or a bunch of grapes from the vine; so the word signifies. He can dispirit the most daring: since th ere is no contending with God, it is our wisdom, as it is our duty, to submit to him. Let us seek his favor as our portion, and commit all our concerns to him.

I read a story that was about the very bashful young man who was hesitant about demonstrating his affection for his sweetheart. “Oh, but that I were an octopus,” he said one night, “that I might wrap all eight arms around you.” His impatient sweetheart replied, “Don’t worry about having eight arms. Just make better use of the two arms you already have.” That is what we must do in doing the work of Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t worry about whether or not we have the gifts to follow. We simply need to use what gifts we have to follow Christ and to do God’s will.

Doing otherwise is simply a waste of time.

Dear God, may I realize more fully today the wonderful gifts you have given me. May I respond to your call in fulfilling your will for my life in touching your people with love and forgiveness. In Jesus name, Amen.

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What Is Really Important

Posted in Daily Devotions

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz once said, “I’ve been on the top and I’ve been on the bottom. At Arkansas my first year, we won the Orange Bowl. Then everybody loved me. “They put me into the Arkansas Hall of Fame and issued a commemorative stamp in my honor. The next year we lost to Texas, and they had to take away the stamp, because people kept spitting on the wrong side of it. Life is full of highs and lows, and for many of us it is hard to be humble. But when we deny our own pleasures and desires, and put God first, then we begin to understand what is really important to be filled with God’s desires of love and hope.

Jesus tells us today, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” The cross here is a very important symbol. Carrying the cross means we carry a burden of helping others, it means God is important, it means we have hope, it means we have forgiveness, it means we use our financial resources to help others, and it means we want to share God’s love, forgiveness, and hope with our family, our friends, and our co-workers.

When we deny ourselves, we put God first.

Dear Lord, you gave up so much for me. Now, guide me as I deny my wishes for yours. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Who Will You Follow?

Posted in Daily Devotions

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (Mark 8:32)

Jesus teaches self-denial to His disciples not only with His words but also by His actions. Notice that His call to self-denial comes immediately after predicting His own sacrificial death. He is the supreme model of the self-denial to which He calls others. He even denies Himself any urge to avenge Himself or to threaten His persecutors for what they had done to Him. In Jesus’ example, we see that, by committing ourselves to God who judges rightly, we deny ourselves the temptation of worldly lusts.

I read a story once of a Sunday School class that was talking about heaven. A little girl said, “If you are good, you’ll go to heaven.” A little boy asked, “Where do you go if you are bad?”

The little girl replied emphatically, “To the principal’s office.”

Choosing to go God’s way is not so much about being good or bad, but it does have a lot to do with who guides our lives God or our own desires.

In our scripture reading today, Peter says to Jesus, “You’re crazy.” You are not going to suffer and die. You see Peter and the disciples had a different idea about what the Messiah would be like. He saw the messiah as an earthly king or president, who would restore Israel’s freedom and power. The disciples were looking for their own desires to be met, not God’s desire that Jesus would become the savior of the world.

We are being asked today to choose who we will follow. There are many surveys that say lots people in our society believe in God. But belief in God does not constitute living God’s way. For when we live God’s way, we will be willing to suffer with those who suffer, and we will make sacrifices so that God’s work will get done in and through the church.

Loving God, help me say yes to serving you in every way possible. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Forgive & Let Go

Posted in Daily Devotions

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6.14)

Those who come before Him unwilling to forgive others cannot expect God to show them the love and mercy they desire. God will not show them the mercy and love they will not extend to others! If we forgive others when they injure us, our Father will forgive us.

How are we to conduct ourselves in forgiving others? We must forgive, even if the offender does not ask to be forgiven. We should treat the one who has injured or offended us with kindness, not harboring any grudge nor speaking of that individual with condemnation. We should always be ready to do him good if the opportunity arises. This is a tall order!

Why act this way when it goes so strongly against human nature? First, it produces peace. Second, it sets the example for the offending individual—and for everyone else—of what God considers right and proper.

One of the hardest tasks any of us has is to forgive someone who has hurt us. Leo Buscalgia tells about one of his students who was jilted by her boyfriend. The young woman felt both hurt and rejected. At the time she felt she would never get over it. In her confusion she didn’t understand her intense feelings to cause him harm in some way. It is a natural to want to hurt someone who has hurt us. This young woman had never been so hurt before in her life. Deep down, though, she knew she had to forgive. As she wisely put it, “I’m the one in pain, so I’m the one who’s got to do something about it!”

She would have to forgive the young man for her own sake. Her pain was so intense that she was unable to study or concentrate. At her lowest point she even contemplated dropping all of her classes. She tried to build new relationships but failed. Finally she realized that if she wanted to go on with her life she would have to forgive and forget. And she did forgive. No longer is she a slave to her anger, spite, hate, and hurt.

It’s hard to forgive someone who has hurt us. We think of ways we could get even. Sometimes we just want to write the person off and ignore them as if they no longer exist. It’s difficult to forgive. And yet the one thing we all have in common is that we have all been hurt by someone else. It may have been intentionally or accidentally, but we’ve all been there. How we respond is the key.

Dear God, help me to forgive and let go. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Posted in Daily Devotions

“When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.” (Matthew 18.24-27)

Jesus told a parable. A certain king wanted to settle accounts with his servants so he called them in one by one. There was a servant who owed the king ten thousand talents – a vast sum of money. It would be impossible for the servant to ever pay off his debt. He would have to work 150,000 years to earn ten thousand talents. The average person could not even comprehend such a gigantic sum. Jesus exaggerates the figure deliberately. He wants us to see that the servant could never pay the debt off no matter how hard he worked, no matter how much over time he put in, no matter how many weekends he worked. It was downright impossible.

The king was ready to sell the servant along with his wife and children into slavery because he could not pay his debt. The servant fell on his knees and pleaded with the king. “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” Out of pity, Jesus said, the king forgave the entire amount of the debt. The servant was free. The only thing he owed the king was a big thank you. What a relief! He and his family would not be sold into slavery. He was free. Thanks to the goodness of the king he didn’t owe a cent.

We don’t run into such a generous attitude very often. When we do, it makes our day.

The king in this story represents God who sent Jesus to pay our debt. What an awesome gift! Our response should be generous too in our forgiveness and grace to one another.

Heavenly Father, may I be as generous as you have been to me. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Forgive One Another

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Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

Simon Peter had a question for Jesus. “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive?” It seemed like a logical, well-thought-out question. Perhaps someone had done something to hurt Peter. Maybe Peter’s question was simply in response to Jesus’ teachings. For whatever reason Peter wanted to know how many times he should forgive. Before Jesus has a chance to answer, Peter suggests, “As many as seven times?”

Seven seemed like a good number. Indeed, seven was regarded as the perfect number. Seven was a Biblical number; the world was created in seven days. Peter thought he gave an exceptional answer. The rabbis instructed persons to forgive someone only three times, and if there was a fourth then God would take care of the person. Peter was more generous, he doubled the amount and added one more for good measure. “As many as seven times?” Peter might have thought that he finally had the right answer. To forgive someone who has wronged you or has hurt you seven times is a lot. The average person finds it extremely difficult to forgive even once. To forgive someone seven times was more than twice the amount required by Jewish law. Jesus answered Peter, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.” The old standard of forgiveness was inadequate. Jesus offered a new teaching on forgiveness.

Dear God, help me to forgive like you have forgiven me. In Jesus name, Amen.

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We Need One Another

Posted in Daily Devotions

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13.35)

God’s act of love in giving His Son defines the ultimate requirement of true love, the giving of our most beloved possession in sacrifice for another’s gain. We can understand, then, that godly love will almost always have sacrifice involved in its giving. Sacrifice is the essence, the essential or vital part, of love.

God’s love originates in Himself, was manifested in His Son, and is perfected in His people. God’s love is perfected in us when we reproduce it in or among ourselves, primarily in our fellowship. We either use love and perfect it or lose it. This partly explains the apostle John’s intense concern about fellowship. What concerned him is not just an optional blessing to believers, but a fundamental outlet for the manifestation and perfection of God’s love among and in the saints.

One hundred and fifty-five persons were flying home from Australia on Friday, February 24, 1989. A cargo door failed, and a huge hole was ripped open in the side of the plane. Nine persons perished when the pressurized air inside blew them into the thin, rarefied air at 24,000 feet.

Kerry Lappan, age 31, was sitting by the fateful hole that day. After the plane was safely on the ground Kerry described what happened. “The whole plane was falling to pieces,” she said, “and I thought, ‘This is it!’ but there was a man in front of me. ” Kerry did not know the man sitting in front of her. But in her own words, “he was–a wonderful, wonderful man.” He held my hand,” she said, “and he comforted me. It was so loving and so comforting to have someone’s hand to hold.”

In truth, that is what the church is all about. There are times when we need someone to hold our hand–to listen to us–to pray for us. The church at its best fosters a sense of community among people who may come from different backgrounds and who may even hold different beliefs. The people on the airplane did not choose each other. We in the church do not choose each other but once someone enters our fellowship it is our responsibility to be a caring community. It’s always comforting to have someone’s hand to hold. We need one another.

God of love, help me to show the love you have given to me. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Posted in Daily Devotions

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5.1)

Back in the 1960s, there was a serial mystery thriller on television that ended each episode with the hero caught in some terrifying predicament. People talked all week long about how he would get out of this scrape. And then they’d tune in faithfully the next week just to find out. Even the producers of the program sat on edge. That’s because the writer didn’t prepare his scripts in advance. When one episode was finished, he still had to write the next one. And then, one week, he really outdid himself. He wrote a scenario in which the hero was caught in a totally impossible situation! There was no way that he could break free! And on the set they shook their heads. Now what’s he going to do? Then came the next script. And there, at the top, was a single line. It said, “With one uncontrollable bound, our hero was free.” It made no sense. But that really wasn’t the point, was it? Nobody really wanted freedom, or resolution, or peace to come for the man. That isn’t why they watched! It was the thirst for freedom that was important. The craving. The longing. The hoping. The scheming. The new plans and counter-plans each week. Freedom is a thirst. And the quest of freedom itself is a driving force in our lives.

That’s what Paul was facing with the Galatian Christians. They had thirsted for freedom, for life, for love, for acceptance, for something that really mattered. And in Paul’s preaching they had found it. In the love of Jesus Christ it became real for them. But still, somehow, the craving went on. Freedom is never something that you can hold in your hand. It’s ongoing, ever-developing. And that’s why the thirst in their souls continued.

Father, may I continue to thirst for you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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