Yet Without Sin

May 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Cynthia Ruchti –

In all the artwork—paintings, sculptures, etchings, stained glass—of the crucifixion, have you ever seen Jesus on the cross with a smile on His face? The art comes from artists’ imaginations, clearly, since there was no photography at the time. But did any change the natural grimace into a grin?

It seems a ridiculous question. Who would expect Jesus to have smiled through that kind of agony, despite how courageous, strong, and divine? It would seem closer to insanity than joy if He had been laughing His way through being crucified, or had cracked a smile while the crown of thorns cracked his skin open. How would it have served His Father’s purposes if He had treated the crucifixion lightly, even if He could have risen above the pain to “give His mama a little grin”?

But did the sober, tortured, pained expression on His face mean He’d lost His faith? Of course not.

Then why do we judge others when they feel their anguish deeply and walk through seasons when the pain of their situation puts a tortured expression on their faces?

Years ago, a woman told me that when her mother died of a sudden heart attack, she and her sister—both young moms at the time—traveled together by train to the funeral. The woman telling the story said her tears flowed softly and freely most of the train trip. Her sister chided her to stop crying, shaming her for being sad. “Mom’s in heaven. Get a grip. We should be celebrating for her. Quit with the tears.”

The woman heeded her sister’s rebuke, wrongly thinking her tears were a sign of weak faith. It was decades before she allowed herself to cry again.

Jesus felt the full brunt of the agony He bore, but we’re told even then He was without sin. Grief and sadness are natural reactions to pain. We trust God with our lives, trust Him in dire circumstances, trust Him in the blackest of moments—as Jesus did—and still experience deep grief.

A recent news report told the story of yet another prominent figure—a person of profound faith—whose son committed suicide. I pray no well-meaning person tries to tell that dad and mom to quit crying. Their agony is not sin. It’s the human heart’s response to tragedy. Faith can remain strong, even when the tears flow.

PRAYER: Jesus, I’m in awe of how much Your cross is still teaching me, all these years later. Father God, Your Word tells us there is—there IS—a time to cry. Increase my sensitivity to those around me who wear their anguish on their faces. Help equip me to be a better listening ear and leaning post until their tears subside.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV).

Waiting for the Right Word

April 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Cynthia Ruchti –

“Oh, that was unfortunate,” my husband said when a television reporter inadvertently chose a word that was so close to the right one, but not quite. It went something like this:

“Harmony Corners police officers were called to a rural home Saturday night to investigate an alleged claim of invasion of privy.”

We’ve heard and read others over the years. Comedian Norm Crosby made his living messing up words just enough to entertain his audiences.

My father-in-law’s battle with hearing issues created some laughable moments. We took a family trip to Lion Country Safari in Florida one year. He persisted in calling it Lion Country Sapphire. It wasn’t a one-time slip-up. Grandpa was convinced the right word was “sapphire.” So he said it…a lot.

Whenever we think about that trip, we remember elephants, water buffalo, lions, tigers, gazelles- and the color blue.

Was it all a hearing problem? He hadn’t gone far in school before his father needed him on the farm. But he seemed unconcerned that some words didn’t make sense. Like Pepsicola, Florida. Or calling his Oldsmobile Sierra a “Sahara,” his apparent desert-mobile.

My husband observed, “Maybe Dad felt self-conscious about his lack of education. Maybe he’d been bullied as a child. His poor self-esteem might have exasperated the problem.”

“You mean, exacerbated?” We broke into hysterics.

I’m grateful God was careful about the way He expressed himself to us through His Word.

“Cast your careers upon the Lord, and He will sustain you.” You mean, cares, Lord?

I can almost hear God saying, “Yeah. Those too.”

PRAYER: Lord, You, the unerring One, speak eloquently to my heart. Help me catch every nuance, the significance behind Your word choices. Help me keep my sense of humor about my verbal slip-ups, but walk so close to You and pay such careful attention to Your world and Your people that they are few.

“For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things. And if anyone does not offend in speech [never says the wrong things], he is a fully developed character and a perfect man, able to control his whole body and to curb his entire nature” (James 3:2 Amplified Bible).

And Do Good

March 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Cynthia Ruchti –

“Stronger” is my word-of-the-year, whispered to my spirit when I asked the Lord what I should specifically focus on for 2013. A few years ago, the thought was Brave and Bold. Last year, it was Enjoy. And I did. So this year? Stronger.

For me, that means stronger in spirit. Stronger in my relationships. Stronger in a business sense. And…cough, choke, gasp…stronger physically. My knee replacement is healed. Time to move more.

When I decided—rather than just continue to toy with the idea—that it was time to get serious about getting stronger, which in my case can’t help but get my weight in better alignment, I considered the kinds of things that make up my normal diet, and what was going to have to be jettisoned.

I eat gluten-free of necessity. So cake, donuts, cookies, pies, breaded and deep-fried foods have long been absent from my table, except for the occasional yummy gluten-free variety that passes the taste test…which means very few.

What does that leave, Lord? I distinctly heard him say, in a holy, resounding voice, “Potato chips.”

Ouch. Really? I mean, I have so few legitimate indulgences. Even I recognize the ridiculousness of that statement in light of world-wide poverty and hunger.

What I’m realizing is that I can’t just eliminate a bad thing—too many potato chips—without filling in that gap with a good thing—like cucumbers and carrot sticks. If I eliminate without replacing, all the sensations like crunch and chew and “full” start to rebel.

Jesus talked about it when he cast out a demon. In essence, He said, “Plug the hole or nine worse ones will come in to take its place.”

I read it in the Psalms just today. “Turn away from evil and do good” (emphasis mine). God did not merely tell us to turn away from the wrong things, but to replace them with good. Turn away AND…

PRAYER: Father God, in every area of life, help me grasp how the harmful or worthless things I turn from need a counterpart of something good to take their place. Watch less TV? Spend more time in Your Word? Eliminate potato chips? Ex-er-cise.

“Turn away from evil and do good,” (Psalm 34:14a NLT).

He Lost His Head

February 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Cynthia Ruchti –

“I promise it won’t hurt.”

“I’ll be there on time. I promise.”

I heard it again the other day. A dad promised his young son something not within his power to control. “I promise we’ll find your bike.”

He can promise they’ll try as hard as they can to find it. But no dad can truthfully promise the bike will be found.

King Herod feared John the Baptist. He was confused and convicted by John’s teaching, but the Bible tells us the king liked to listen to him.

John the Baptist was a truth-teller who plainly told Herod he was in an adulterous affair with Herodius, his brother’s wife. Herod had John arrested but gave him preferential treatment because he understood John was a righteous, holy man.

But Herod made a foolish promise for a foolish reason. He liked the way Herodius’ daughter danced. He promised her anything she wanted.

The girl, egged on by her hateful mother, asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. “The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her.” (Mark 6:26 NIV)

Herod knew the right thing to do. But he caved to the wrong thing because he’d made a rash, unwise promise. And John the Baptist lost his head because of it.

What kind of trouble can parents cause when they promise something to please a child, but can’t deliver on the promise? We can promise we’ll do our best. We can promise the pain is survivable and temporary. We can promise we’ll try. But only God’s promises are unfailingly reliable, because He has the power to control the outcome.

PRAYER: Lord, keep me from making ridiculous promises, and keep me faithful to my Christ-created promises to You.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘yes’ in Christ.”( II Corinthians 1:20 NIV)

That’s Going to Leave a Mark

January 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Cynthia Ruchti –

I remember more than once hearing my mother comment on some childish prank with the words, “Be careful. That’s going to leave a mark.”

She may have been talking about slipping the old fashioned kind of clothespins—someone does remember clothespins, right?—over our noses. Or she may have been referring to the practice of grabbing a sibling’s wrist with both hands and twisting in opposite directions. “Snake bite!” Followed by hysterical laughter and a chase scene.

“Be careful. That’s going to leave a mark.”

One of my sons, who shall remain anonymous, stuck a suction cup to his forehead the day before school pictures. Left a mark.

I wonder how many moms peer through a tattoo parlor window at their teen son or daughter and think that thought.

The phrase resonates today in a different way for me. What if I focused even more attention this year on making my life one of worship, worshiping the Lord every chance I get, in every circumstance, no matter the situation or how difficult it is, and for even the smallest moment of joy? What if…?

What if I determined to weave worship into every life experience in a more intentional way than I already do? What if I gave voice to the praise in my heart more often?

That’s going to leave a mark.

It’s bound to leave a mark on my life.

What a beautiful, invisible tattoo it would be if this new year were marked as a year of worship, if my life were one continuous stream of ceaseless praise to the God who made me, the God who planned out my days, the God who already knows what this year will hold, the One who sustains me through it all!

Ceaseless praise. That’s going to leave a mark.

PRAYER: Even though I know others will be watching, Lord, this is really between You and me. Hold me to this course, I pray! Hold me to the commitment to make worship a re-MARK-able part of this new year.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise for our God. Many people will learn of this and be amazed; they will trust the Lord” (Psalm 40:3 CEB).

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