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His Own Children

Posted in Daily Devotions

Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. (Revelation 3.20)

J. Wilbur Chapman used to tell a story of a soldier who was mortally wounded. His buddy Jim stayed by him through his long and lonely illness to the very end.

“Jim, I’m going to die,” Charlie whispered to his friend. Knowing Jim had no family of his own, Charlie added, “But I want you to go back to my mother and take my place there.”

“But Charlie, your mother doesn’t know me,” Jim reminded his dying comrade, “and she would not allow me to come into her home and live as a son.”

“I will write her a letter and you will take it to her,” Charlie explained.

The letter told the mother of her son’s ill fortunes, of his wounds, and of his suffering, and how Jim had stuck by him day and night through it all. The letter closed like this, “Mother, receive Jim for my sake.”

Jim carefully tucked the letter away in his waistcoat. After the close of the war he went to Charlie’s hometown and sought out the mother’s home. He knocked at the door and stood waiting, ragged and worn from the ravages of war, a very unsightly character.

As the lady opened the door, she looked upon him and thought him to be just another beggar passing by. But Jim handed her the letter through the half-opened door. She read it, recognizing her son’s handwriting. When she read the last line, “Mother, receive Jim for my sake,” the expression on her face changed, tears of deep emotion welled up inside, and she threw the door open wide, receiving Jim “for Charlie’s sake.”

According to our Bibles, that sort of acceptance is the story of the cross. God accepts us as His own beloved children for Christ’s sake. We may not understand why it had to be this way. But we look at the cross and we see there an open door.

Dear God, help me to open the door for Jesus.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Intimate and Ultimate

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He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those who are with young. (Isaiah 40.11)

In his book Reality and Prayer, John Magee writes that we can only know God if we realize that He is both intimate and ultimate. His very nature is ultimate, awesome, majestic, omnipotent, and without limits–”holy, holy, holy.” Yet at the same time, God’s spirit lives within us and guides us through each day of our lives. God allows Himself to be known, to be in relationship with His creatures, to come before His throne boldly, to call Him “Father.” This is the intimate side of God’s nature. In order to fully grasp His nature, we must consider both His intimacy and His ultimacy.

God reached out to us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, He dwells with us today. What an awesome reality that is!

A TV movie once told the story of a young man named Eric. Eric was struggling through a bout of despair caused by cancer. There was a touching moment when Eric stood with his father on the beach of their summer home.

“Daddy,” Eric said, “remember how I wanted to swim across the bay with you? We got halfway across and I said I couldn’t make it. You reached and held on to me. Well, Daddy, I don’t think I can make it this time.”

At that moment Eric’s father quietly gathered his son in his arms and said, “I won’t let you go down this time, either. Put your arms around my neck, and we’ll go on together.”

Do you understand? That’s how much God loves us. That’s how completely we can trust Him.

Dear God, hold me in your arms and help me to Make It.,  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Seek Peace

Posted in Daily Devotions

Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34.14)

You and I do not have what we have today by our own efforts alone. There is no greater myth than that of the self-made man or woman. We owe an enormous debt from the moment we come into this world. We live in a cruel world where tyrants would impose their will on others. It would be nice if we lived in a world where people always played by the rules. But such a world does not yet exist. We do not know what dangers may yet await us.

When the war between the states flared up, a young Texan enlisted and marched off to fight with his friends. “We won’t be gone long,” he claimed, “cause we can lick them Yankees with broom sticks.”

Four years later when the fighting was finally over, the young man came home, a beaten man. One of his neighbors asked, “What happened? I thought you were gonna beat them Yankees with broom sticks.”

“We could have,” replied the young man, “Except we couldn’t get ‘em to fight with broomsticks.”

We are called to be instruments of peace. We are in this world but not of this world. We are strangers in a strange land. All things are in God’s hands and will be established, not by our might, but according to the will of our Father.

“He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Micah 4.3)

Heavenly Father, let me be an instrument of your peace. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Human Approval

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Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1.10)

Paul says, “You can see that I am not trying to please you by sweet talk and flattery; no, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please men I could not be Christ’s servant.” Here is a paradox. The harder you try to impress people, the sillier you become. If you seek to impress God, you will eventually make the kind of impression you desire on people.

Imagine that a man is given a present by one of his friends. The present is neatly wrapped in a small box with a pretty bow on top. Imagine that the man opens the box and discovers a huge diamond inside. He is flabbergasted at his friend’s extravagance, and thanks him effusively. But then the man takes the gift home, removes the diamond from the box, and tosses it into the trash can! Incredibly, he puts the box and the bow on his fireplace mantle. When visitors come to the house, he proudly shows them the box and the ribbon. He explains that the box once contained a precious diamond, but that he threw it away because he liked the wrapping better. His friends are speechless and leave the house shaking their heads at the man’s obvious lack of discernment.

The box in that story is the body, and the diamond is the soul. We take great pains to display the box to the world. We feed it, paint it, want it to be attractive at all times. But, sadly, we forget the diamond inside the box. We neglect the soul that is eternal and most precious. How foolish to spend all our energy and attention on the box and neglect the diamond.

So it is with those who try to impress the world and forget that their primary audience is God. If we live for God, we will become the kind of people who impress the world.

God of love, help me not to be concerned with impressing those around me, but to honor you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Desire To Change

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Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9.3-4)

CHANGE IS DIFFICULT, BUT IT IS POSSIBLE. St. Paul is the best evidence of that. He had been a fierce persecutor of the Christian community. Suddenly, he became its most eloquent spokesperson. His story has been repeated millions of times throughout history. People can and do change. However, there is usually a progression.

WE MUST WANT TO CHANGE. We change when it is too painful to remain as we are.

Workers in Akron, Ohio, are busy restoring an unpretentious home, seeking to return it to its Depression-era appearance. It was once the home of Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, commonly known as Dr. Bob. It was Dr. Bob who along with Bill Wilson created Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

A National Historic Landmark and a State Historic Site that opened to the public in 1985, the house is visited by many who travel there simply to have a cup of coffee. They want to sit for a few moments in the kitchen of the house where Dr. Bob and Wilson launched the program in an effort to keep each other sober. Although it got off to a slow start, AA gradually grew into an international organization that has helped countless individuals achieve and maintain sobriety.

There are thousands of members of Alcoholics Anonymous who can tell you that change is possible. But you have to want to change. Few people even attempt change unless staying like they are is more painful.

Dear God, help me to change from my sinful ways to your ways of love and grace. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Capture the Vision

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For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps. (1 Peter 2.21)

There is a scene in the original KARATE KID movie that is quite striking. The main character, Daniel, is befriended by the wise and elderly maintenance man, Mr. Miyagi. Daniel goes to see Mr. Miyagi and finds him trimming a delicate bonsai tree. Daniel is fascinated by this, so Miyagi tells him to try his hand at it. Daniel replies that he doesn’t have any idea how to do it. Miyagi encourages him to try. First, he tells Daniel to close his eyes. Then Miyagi tells Daniel to picture in his mind the way he wants the tree to look when he is finished. Daniel concentrates fixedly on every single detail of the tree. Miyagi asks him if he has got the tree in his mind. “Then,” Miyagi says, “open your eyes and begin.” Daniel starts slowly to trim the tree. Every move is deliberate and focused. Then he stops, unsure, and asks, “How do I know if my picture is right?” And Miyag i replies, “If the picture comes from your heart, then it must be right. Just trust your picture.”

People who study human behavior tell us that visualization is a powerful tool for people who want to improve themselves. If you can see yourself as being more healthy, then you can probably become healthier. If you can see yourself as successful, that picture will guide you to making better choices. Of course there are limits to this. Visualizing yourself six-feet tall will not make it so. Still, seeing ourselves as we might be–as God created us to be–can motivate us to be more like our savior.

Dear God, help me to visualize myself as being more like Jesus my Savior. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Servant of the Kingdom

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“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many.” (Mark 10.45)

There is an ancient story called “The Servant of the Kingdom.” It is about a man who’s a servant. One day he meets a genie. The genie gives him one wish, but warns him to be careful what he wishes for.

The man wishes to be waited on, for others to serve him hand and foot. Things go great for awhile. But soon the luster wears off. He tires of people catering to his every whim. He grows bored. Finally, he goes looking for the genie. He says “I can’t stand it. I want to go back to serving people. I’d rather be in hell than live like this.” The genie replies, “Where do you think you’ve been the last 90 days?”

And there is truth to that little story. We were not created to be served but to serve. The happiest people in this world are people who out of their own volition serve others. There’s nothing you can do for yourself that will yield greater rewards.

God of love, help me to serve your people with joy. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Strong Foundation

Posted in Daily Devotions

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” (Matthew 7.26-27)

There are a lot of different types of soil on which contractors can build, limestone, bedrock, or chalk. But Jesus says there are only two types of soil on which you can build a life. You either build your life on rock or you build it on sand. There is no other option given to us. Take note of this first example. Jesus said that a wise man came and built a house on rock. He was a prudent man, an intelligent man. It was not a solitary rock, not one small cluster of rocks, but a large cliff, a mountain.

Luke records these words of Christ and he quotes Jesus as saying the wise builder “dug down” deep into the earth to lay his foundation. That part of the country where Jesus lived and from where He was preaching was rocky terrain. He recognized that rock was a prime base for building anything. But there was another type of soil of which Jesus spoke. That was sand. Christ said, “but everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man.” Jesus used the word “foolish,” which in the actual Greek, is moro. It is the word from which we get our word moronic or moron. This guy was a moron. He was a foolish man because he built his house on sand. There were dry river beds in Palestine. Th ey were leveled out by streams and rivers. The land around those dry river beds was extremely flat. No preparation of the land was necessary. This foolish builder thought, “I’ll save time, I’ll save money and I’ll save energy in putting it right here where the ground is already flat.”

There are some sharp differences between these two builders. One of the builders, the wise builder, had a long view. He was looking far enough ahead so as to prevent having to reconstruct his house. The other guy, the foolish builder, was spiritually confronted with two goods, the good for the moment and the good for the long run, and it was the long run that the wise builder had in mind. Certainly it took more time to dig deep into that rock and build a foundation, but his work paid off.

Jesus is saying he wants us to work harder on our relationship with God than anything else in our lives.

God of love, may I continue to build my faith and life on a solid relationship with you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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