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Judgment & Hope

Posted in Daily Devotions

The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. (Isaiah 62:2-3)

There are two themes that dominate the writings of all the great prophets. They are Judgment and Hope. As far as the prophets were concerned, Israel’s greatness as a nation did not depend on its prosperity or its military might. They knew that a nation’s character was more important than its cash reserves. They did not buy the prosperity Gospel. Israel’s wealthy elite might “have it all,” but they dare not call it the blessing of God if their hearts an d their lives were corrupt. Thus the prophets pronounced judgment on Israel’s sinfulness. Without righteousness and justice there will be a day of reckoning, they thundered. Things will not continue like this forever.

Their pronouncements of judgment, however, must be balanced by their messages of hope. They were not all gloom and doom. When Israel was hurting, when its people were still trying to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land, when there was famine and pestilence and war throughout the country, the prophets again spoke up. Things will not be like this forever, they said. Hang in there. God will not forsake His own.

Judgment and hope, God is always with us. It is our job to welcome God into our lives, no matter what situation we face!

Loving God, help me to call on you and walk with You in all of the ups and downs of life. In Jesus name, Amen.

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To Betray A Friend

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Judas, who betrayed Him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:25)

Do you know the story of a mother who heard a startling scream from her four year old son? She rushed into the playroom to see what was happening. There he sat while his baby sister yanked on his hair with all her might.

“Don’t be upset,” said his mother. “She doesn’t know that it hurts you.”

Several minutes later, the mother again heard sharp screaming, this time from her little daughter. Once, more in the playroom, she asked her son, “what’s wrong with the baby?”

“Nothing much,” he said, “except now she knows that pulling one’s hair hurts.”

It is hard to understand the pain of some act without experiencing it. Jesus in our scripture reading today had experienced the hurt and pain of betrayal. Judas had betrayed a friend.

It might be shocking to realize that Judas was hand-picked by Jesus to be a disciple. Jesus went off by Himself and prayed fervently all night before selecting that inner circle of followers. Jesus obviously trusted Judas, for Judas was the group’s treasurer. He bought the supplies. He paid the bills.

Judas may have been an idealist. It was he who protested when Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, used expensive ointment to anoint Jesus feet. “This ointment is worth 300 denari,” Judas cried. “Why wasn’t it sold and given to the poor?”

Many Christians have asked similar questions when it has come to spending money in the church. We must realize that there has to be a balance between feeding souls and feeding bodies. Judas may have been an idealist, but the writer of John suggests that Judas was not interested in the poor at all. He was a thief and had been embezzling money from the treasury.

Still, it is shocking that after all he had witnessed, after all he had heard, after all he knew about the Jesus, that he would betray God’s Son and his trusted friend.

How have we betrayed Jesus?

Dear Lord, forgive me for betraying You. Thank You for giving me forgiveness through Your death on the cross. Through my failures help me to help those in need. In Jesus name Amen.

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Children Of God

Posted in Daily Devotions

In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4)

Some of us may remember the name Leon Spinks. In the cruel world of professional boxing, Spinks was once the world heavyweight champion. Sometime back, Spinks was quoted as saying this: “People were always asking, after I won the title, ‘Who is Leon Spinks?’” Then he added, “It’s a question I’ve been asking all my life. I didn’t know who I was but I knew I wanted to be somebody…I was tired of being nobody.”

I wonder if anybody had ever told Leon Spinks that even before he was formed in his mother’s womb, the eternal God knew who he was? That is the good news for the day. We matter. We are worth something. Let no one say that we are nobodies. This beautiful world was created for us. The infinite stars would not shine down from the skies if we were not here to behold them. Of even more staggering import is a cross that stands on a hill named Calvary. For it was there that the Son of the living God gave His life in our behalf.

In Sweden there is a saying that “in every man there is a king, and in every woman, a queen. If you speak to them as ‘Your Majesty,’ their majesty will come forth.” May we all live like we are children of God!

Dear God, sometimes I don’t do a very good job of loving myself. Remind me each day that I am Your child! May I also treat everyone I meet as Your child. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Posted in Daily Devotions

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My loving kindness will not be removed from you. And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” says the LORD who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)

Has loneliness ever hung around you, virtually unshakable? English poet John Milton died in 1674. Although the number of his works is large, his greatest writing is Paradise Lost, completed nine years before his death. For all his postmortem fame, Milton endured many difficulties in his life. Perhaps those trials refined his material. There was a painful period of separation from his wife; and at the end of his life, he was almost blind and was only able to navigate through each day’s tasks with assistance. His oppressive loneliness once prompted him to pen this truth: “Loneliness is the first thing that God’s eye named not good.”

It was loneliness that prompted God to look at His Creation and make an adjustment by providing Adam with Eve. It was this same Creator that would later say, “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken.” No matter how distant you are from God now, know that by beginning a relationship with his Son, Jesus Christ, you will never be all alone again–never again. Remember: loneliness can’t exist in the unshakable presence of God’s love.

Heavenly Father, help me to never feel forsaken nor alone. Help me to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit always with me. In Jesus name, Amen.

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The Law & The Gospel

Posted in Daily Devotions

But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail. Luke 16:17

The Law shows us our sin. The Gospel shows us a remedy for it.

The Law shows us our condemnation. The Gospel shows us our redemption.

The Law is the word of despair. The Gospel is the word of comfort.

The Law says pay your debt. The Gospel says, Christ has paid it.

The Law says you are a sinner, despair and you will be damned. The Gospel says your sins are forgiven, be of good comfort, you will be saved.

The Law says make amends for your sin. The Gospel says, Christ has made amends for you.

The Law says your Father in heaven is angry with you. The Gospel says Christ has pacified Him with His blood.

The Law asks where is your righteousness, goodness, and satisfaction? The Gospel says my righteousness, goodness and satisfaction is in Christ the Lord.

The Law says you are bound and indebted to Me. The Gospel says Christ has delivered you from all indebtedness.

He that believes not God’s Word believes not God Himself. The Gospel is God’s Word,therefore, he that believes not the Gospel believes not God Himself.

Heavenly Father, help me to know You as I should. Help me to know the law but accept the true Gospel. In Jesus name, Amen

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Blessed To Be A Blessing

Posted in Daily Devotions

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. (Mark 13:31-33)

Douglas Mayor, a fifteen year old boy who lived in Missouri, had been feeling bad for several days. His mother, Donna, took him to the emergency room where blood tests revealed one of the most agonizing things a parent can learn about a child. Douglas was diagnosed as having leukemia.

During the next forty-eight hours, Douglas endured blood transfusions, spinal and bone marrow tests and chemotherapy. For five days his mother stayed in his hospital room. Douglas became depressed.

During the first day in the hospital, Douglas said to his mother, “I thought you get flowers when you’re in the hospital.” One of his aunts called Brix Florist in St. Louis. His aunt wanted the sales clerk to be aware of the flower arrangement’s significance. “I want the planter to be especially attractive. It’s for my teenage nephew who has leukemia,” she told the clerk. “Oh,” said the salesclerk. “Let’s add some fresh-cut flowers to brighten it up.”

When the floral arrangement arrived Douglas opened the envelope and read the card from his aunt. Then he saw another card. The second card read: “Douglas–I took your order. I work at Brix Florist. I had leukemia when I was seven years old. I’m 22 years old now. Good luck. My heart goes out to you. Sincerely, Laura Bradley.” Douglas’ face lit up.

Often it is the little extra things that we do that make a big difference. Loving things, encouraging things. Whether the world comes to an end today or billions of years from now, we want to be found not sitting on a roof-top looking crazily into the sky, but helping God’s people.

Heavenly Father, it is so easy to get busy and forget about the important work you called me to do. May I use the blessing of you in my life to be a blessing to others. In Jesus name, Amen.

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One Day At A Time

Posted in Daily Devotions

And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.” (Matthew 17:16)

There were times in the disciples’ lives when everything seemed to go wrong. People rejected their message. Some even tried to kill them. There were times when they did their very best and no one responded. Sometimes they were run out of town. Being a follower of Jesus required patience and endurance. It still does.

Faith in God is important when things get rough.  An 86 year old woman was flying for the first time in her life. She heard the following announcement over the plane’s intercom: “This is your captain speaking. Our number four engine has just been shut off because of mechanical trouble.

However, there is nothing to worry about. We will continue our flight with three engines and will land in Chicago on schedule. Also, I have some really reassuring news for you. We have four bishops on board.”

The 86 year old passenger, who had been listening apprehensively called the flight attendant. “Would you please tell the captain that I would rather have four engines than four bishops.”

Where do we get the ability to keep going even when everything appears to be going wrong? From God and God alone. In times of need we receive help from beyond ourselves. Thus we persevere and live one day at a time.

Dear God, thank you for giving me the ability to fulfill what you have called me to do. Help me to be faithful to your call. In Jesus name, Amen.

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I Am God’s Child

Posted in Daily Devotions

For darkness shall cover the earth and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. (Isaiah 60:2)

Isaiah was trying to remind the Hebrews that they were God’s people, even through they were an exiled people. They were scattered in many parts of the world, but they were still God’s people. Just like the Israelite people, we too are a chosen people, because God sent Jesus Christ into the world to be our Savior. We are God’s people. Christ died for us.

This poem says it well:

I may be young; I may be old, But I am somebody, For I am God’s Child.

I may be educated; I may be unlettered, But I am somebody, For I am God’s Child.

I may be black; I may be white, But I am somebody, For I am God’s Child.

I may be rich; I may be poor, But I am somebody, For I am God’s Child.

I may be fat; I may be thin, But I am somebody, For I am God’s Child.

I may be married; I may be divorced or single, But I am somebody, For I am God’s Child.

I may be successful; I may be a failure, But I am somebody, For I am God’s Child.

I may be a sinner; I may be a saint, But I am somebody, For Jesus is my Savior.

I am God’s Child.

Loving God, help me to more fully understand my purpose of being Your child. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Life After Death

Posted in Daily Devotions

The LORD looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God. (Psalms 14:2)

The Hollywood version of life after death is portrayed in Albert Brooks’ movie, “Defending Your Life.” Brooks plays the part of Daniel Miller, an advertising man who is killed by a bus. He finds himself in Judgment City along with many other people. They are ushered into the city with all the efficiency of a bus tour.

Newly arrived persons are taken to what appears to be hotels and told to sleep because they are tired from their transformation. Their assignment is to spend one week in Judgment City reviewing their lives. A defender is assigned to Daniel Miller who explains the process to him. In a courtroom they will review nine days of his life. Then the judges will decide whether or not he will move ahead or return to earth and attempt to live a better life.

The episodes shown on the giant television screen of Daniel Miller’s life reveal a man who is often fearful and afraid to take action. The prosecutor recommends that he return to earth to work on conquering his fears.

While in Judgment City he meets a woman named Julia. Julia brings out the best in Daniel. The last scene of the movie shows Daniel boarding a bus back to earth. Julia has boarded another bus to an unknown destination. Daniel sees Julia and runs toward her bus, clinging to the bus window for dear life. At that moment Daniel is able to conquer his fears and is allowed to join Julia. In typical Hollywood fashion, they both are advanced to a better life.

“Defending Your Life” is only one of several movies that deals with the subject of life after death. LIFE magazine has done featured articles on the same subject. Both believers and unbelievers are asking questions about life on the other side. Devout people will forever want to know what heaven will be like. However, for those who live with Jesus Christ in their hearts, we know our reward will be eternal salvation in the presence of our loving God. That, of course, is the most important point of heaven.

Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me the peace of knowing that with Your resurrection, death is not the end of my story. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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I’ve Stolen Hogs

Posted in Daily Devotions

Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15)

And then there is the story about the battered old man who got up one night during a revival meeting and said: “Brothers and sisters, you know and I know that I ain’t been what I ought to of been. I’ve stolen hogs and told lies, and got drunk, and was always getting in fights, and shooting craps, and playing poker, and I’ve cussed and swore; but I thank the Lord there’s one thing I ain’t never done: I ain’t never lost my religion.”

It is true that we won’t lose our religion when we have done something wrong if we seek God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is important to restoring relationships. Frederick Buechner, a well known Christian writer, said, “To repent is to come to our senses. It is not so much something you do as something that happens. True repentance spends less time looking at the past and saying ‘I’m sorry,’ than to the future and saying ‘Wow!”

We have all heard many criminals say they were sorry for the crime they committed, but many of them continue to be criminals. Did you know that by far most of the people in our jails today are repeat offenders. They may feel sorry for their sins and crimes, but no real change has taken place. You see, true repentance is a matter of changing directions.

The most important change of direction we can make is becoming a faithful disciple of God and our Savior Jesus Christ moment by moment and day by day.

Heavenly Father, may I follow You everyday so that my life will be the best possible example of faithfulness.  Amen.

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