The Welcome Mat

November 16, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Cheri Cowell –

Hospitality is big business today. Businesses even hire outside firms to help them offer better hospitality. These experts look at everything from the colors of the walls to the scents in the air. They train people on the best practices and explain that it is often the little things that say, “You are important here.”

God felt the same way about His temple.

It was to be God’s welcome mat to the whole world. Through it and the people He chose to oversee it, all the nations of the earth were to be welcomed into God’s presence. Isaiah had recorded God’s hospitality training manual for the temple leaders in chapter 56, verses 4-8, but over the years that system had been corrupted. Instead of welcoming people, the temple system had become a way to exclude people. In Mark chapter 11, we see that during Passover week, a time when all the nations would gather in the city, Jesus was angry about how His Father’s house was being used. The temple should have rolled out welcome mat, but instead, it put up barriers, and Jesus could no longer take it.

Jesus quotes Isaiah and Jeremiah, passages that the temple leaders would have known well. They knew what they were doing was wrong, but when confronted they chose to blame the messenger rather than look at their own sin. When reading this passage it is easy for us to point fingers at the temple leaders, but the question still rings true for us. How welcoming are our houses of prayer? Are peoples of all nations, social and economic status, educational levels, physical ability, and religious affiliations welcomed by us? Do we make it easy for those who are different to join in and feel a part of our family?

PRAYER: Dear, God, please forgive us for turning Your house into a den of thieves, robbing Your intended purpose for us to be the welcome mat for all to come to You. Help me be aware of those who may need the hand of hospitality extended to them in the name of Jesus, the Messiah.

“On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers” (Mark 11:15-16 NIV).

Invited

November 5, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Cheri Cowell –

Twenty-four hour news coverage is wonderful when something big is happening and we need to know what’s going on, but sometimes it can be so intrusive. Such is the case when a tragedy strikes and a camera is shoved in the faces of grieving parents who just discovered their child is never coming home. Or a heartbroken husband caught between his anger that his wife’s life was brutally ended and the news reporter’s request for a compassionate response to the search party volunteers. At times like these I want to turn my head, turn off the TV, or change the channel. I feel like we are intruding into someone’s personal and private anguish.

I feel the same way when I enter the garden where Jesus is praying in Gethsemane. It is almost too painful to watch, to personal a moment to intrude upon, too private a moment for us to be a part of. But we are invited there. We are invited to see all that human suffering and anguish can bear. We are invited in to see and to experience.

Can you imagine yourself there in the garden with Jesus that night? Picture what His demeanor must have been, what His clothes looked like. Was the night air still or was there a breeze? Can you hear the noise of the city in the background? Can you smell the scent of spring in the air? As Jesus prays, is He speaking aloud? Is He angry with God or pleading? Does He sound like He’s talking with someone He knows well, and who knows Him well? Look closely now as Jesus struggles with the decision. Don’t turn away. Look into His eyes. See the pain, and yet feel the love. This is the love He has for you and for me.

PRAYER: God, as I read the Scripture today, allow my prayers to be filled less with words and more with emotions as I pour out my awe and gratitude to You who loves me so.

“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:39-46 NIV).

Sitting On A Hill

November 1, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Family

By Cheri Cowell –

I just heard a news report that parents and young children are not getting enough sleep. I hope they didn’t pay a lot for that bit of research because you and I could have told them that.

My husband and I require different amounts of sleep. I need so much more than he does, but both of us need our down time. We spend that time in different ways, but just like this sleep study suggested, all of us need renewal time. For us, as Christians, we also need God time. Time we spend alone with Him is precious time. Yes, we are to study and pray, but we also need to just sit and be still. We need to listen, and be renewed. Jesus needed that same thing.

I never paid much attention to this passage until this week when it jumped off the page at me. It is not often used at Easter, and is easy to overlook. Just like our need for quiet time with God is easy to overlook, it would have been easy for Jesus to keep preaching, knowing He only had a few days left. How many times have I said, “I have so much to do before I can rest tonight?” Even Jesus, the Son of God, the Holy One Himself, knew He needed to renew each night.

It’s true. Parents, children, and everyone else in America are not getting enough rest. And every Christian can probably use more time to sit on a hill and be still with God.

PRAYER: I praise You today for the example Jesus gave of what I need to do when feeling overworked, overburdened, and overtired. Help me set aside the big to-do list each night, and to spend a few minutes with You sitting on a hill in stillness.

“Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple” (Luke 21:37-38 NIV).

Hope for the Hopeless

October 6, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Cheri Cowell –

Several years ago, a New Living translation of select scripture verses was compiled in a booklet called The Book of Hope, and given free of charge to anyone calling in response to a series of commercials aimed at those who may have lost all hope. With the days following Christmas and New Years being the ones with the highest numbers of suicides, these commercials were created to reach the millions who are without hope and may choose this way of escape. There are many reasons psychologists have given for this yearly phenomenon, but depression seems to be the common denominator.

In Webster’s dictionary, one of the definitions given for depression is hopelessness. Without hope there is no reason to go on, no purpose in life; without hope that things will change, improve, move towards some goal or purpose, there is no future. And without a future there is no reason for a now. So what is in this booklet? It contains the words and promises of God.

The writer of this psalm calls on God to deliver him from death and famine. We know, however, that God does not deliver all who trust in Him from these horrors of life, yet we can still place our trust in Him because…well, because His is the only one big enough to hear our cries, to be there with us in the midst of our struggles, and to deliver us “home” to heaven when our time has come. Without hope in someone bigger than you or I, life can become too much to handle.

Our hope is indeed in Him whose unfailing love is our greatest promise from His Word: The Book of Hope.

PRAYER: God as I bow my head, I trust You sense my fears, understand my struggles, and know my need for a life raft of hope. Help me cling to Your Word as an assurance of the hope available to me. I rest in that hope and rejoice in the promises of Your unfailing love.

“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness. To deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us,
according as we have hoped in You” (Psalm 33:18-22 NASB).

Weak, and Proud of It

September 26, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Life Topics

By Cheri Cowell –

“I just can’t go on,” the cry for help rises as a chorus from thousands of counseling rooms around the country.

There are many reasons for this cry, but one of the most common is despair and depression. I’m not talking about clinical depression, and if you have been feeling this way for a long time and it is affecting your ability to function, please see a counselor, for no one should have to suffer when help is available.

The kind of despair and depression I am referring to is a sense that the world’s problems are just too big, and we see ourselves as powerless and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the demands on our time and ability.

But God has an answer for our despair. It is called grace.

God’s grace is His unearned and undeserved favor. It is God, withholding what we deserve and instead giving us His acceptance and love. When He says His grace is sufficient, He is saying that when we fully realize He is giving us His love instead of what we deserve, that should be enough for us. If we were sufficient in ourselves and did not need His grace, then we could handle all of life’s problems on our own and we wouldn’t need Him.

However, since we are not sufficient and are instead weak and powerless, we need Him. It is only because we need Him, because we are weak, that He can be strong for us. His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. When we see our weaknesses as opportunities for God to show His power, we can join Paul in saying, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

PRAYER: I praise You, God, for Your unmerited favor, for Your sufficient grace. Help me when I am feeling weak, to see my weakness as an opportunity for You to show Your power through me.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).

 

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