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).

Spiritual Muscle

November 14, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Personal Growth

By Donna McCrary –

Stress. Fatigue. Exhaustion. Strenuous. These words are not typically associated with making things stronger; except in the world of muscle building. Look up any blog or “How-to guide” on ways to increase muscle and you will find phrases such as ‘trigger the muscle building process by stressing the muscle;’ ‘fatigue the muscle to breakdown muscle fibers;’ ‘work the muscle to the point of exhaustion;’ or ‘muscle fibers will breakdown after strenuous exercise.’ The process to develop stronger muscle requires exercise designed to rip tiny fibers in the muscle. After a time of rest, the muscle will heal and become stronger.

Is spiritual muscle built in the same manner? In order for us, as Christ Followers, to grow stronger and become more resilient in our faith must we first be stressed, fatigued, and exhausted by strenuous experiences?

A quick journey through the scriptures confirms that spiritually fit people experienced times of stress, fatigue and exhaustion. Think about it. Living inside a great sea creature for three days like Jonah had to be a little stressful. Standing in front of a nine-foot-something warrior must have been stressful for David, the puny red headed baby of the family. Spending the night with hungry lions in a den must have been exhausting for Daniel. The one that makes me laugh is Peter. Image how stressed, frustrated and exhausted Peter had to be to scream at a little girl who simply asked if he knew Jesus. Big Peter versus little girl. Little girl wins. Now that is stress!

God uses stressful, exhausting, strenuous experiences in our life to help us strengthen our spiritual muscle. These times of intense training break down the fibers of who we are. Then after rest and healing, it produces stronger spiritual fibers because we gain a deeper understanding of who we are in Christ. During these strenuous training periods we recognize our strength comes from Christ. We recognize the truth of His Word. We stretch our faith to extents we did not think possible. Each training session requires us to build spiritual muscle.

Every soldier has to go through exhausting training exercises before they reach the battlefield. Every athlete participates in strenuous training before game day. Every farmer labors beyond fatigue before they reap the fruit. Every Christ Follower experiences seasons of stress, exhaustion, and fatigue in order to produce strong spiritual muscle.

Don’t forget – Training is hard but victory is sweet!

PRAYER: Father, help me desire to grow stronger in You even though that could mean struggles and difficult circumstances. Help me embrace the training necessary to fulfill the purpose You have established for me.

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4 ESV).

Looking For the Tears

November 13, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Family

By Cynthia Ruchti –

It wasn’t easy to pull off, but when my two oldest kids were toddlers—Amy (3 ½) and Matt (1)—every Friday my friend and I used their afternoon nap as an opportunity to meet together to pray. With our Bibles open on my dining room table, my friend and I stopped the whirl of homemaking for an hour and focused on praying for our homes, our husbands, our children, our trivial and anything-but-trivial heart concerns.

One afternoon, when the intensity of our love for our children brought tears to our eyes as we bent over our Bibles, I felt a tug on my sleeve. Amy’s nap had ended early that day.

We brought our prayer time to a close so I could attend to my daughter’s little girl needs.

Later that day, I found Amy kneeling on the seat of my chair, her elbows on the table. The thin pages of my Bible rustled like sun-crisped leaves as she turned them.

She knew her alphabet but could read few words other than “No,” “Yes,” “Mom,” “Dad,” “Love.”

“Honey, what are you doing?”

Amy didn’t stop turning pages. “I’m looking for the tears.”

My tears for her on the pages of God’s Word.

“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

My daughter was impressed—as was I—with a life-altering truth: A caring mom turns to God’s Word and leaves her tears there.

PRAYER: Father God, how often have I neglected to impress Your truths on the hearts of my children? Make me ultra-sensitive to those opportune moments. And as the context of that biblical teaching encourages, may they first be impressed on my own heart.

“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up,” Deuteronomy 6:7 NIV.

Turbo Teaching

November 10, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Humorous

By Hally Franz –

What do the terms “upper cut,” “speed bag” and “cross” all have in common? They are new moves that I am learning in the Turbo Kick class I recently joined. At this point, I must issue a disclaimer. I am not really a turbo-kick kind of girl. There is not one thing about me that screams “I can really throw a jab” or “check out my great bob and weave.” I don’t have a bob, a weave or any good boxing moves. Not yet, anyway…

Since I am coming clean about my lack of athleticism, I will also admit that it is much more in my nature to begin my day with a diet soda and a chocolate muffin, than it is protein and fruit juice. And, I am often tempted to skip the gym for other activities like laundry, reading my latest book club assignment, or volunteering at my children’s school. Like a kid sometimes, I don’t always do what is good for me.

Today, however, I was a good girl. I landed in class on time with several other women, and we worked hard for a full hour. As new moves were introduced and the pace grew more intense, our instructor encouraged us with enthusiastic shout-outs like “you got it,” “you feel good” and “you look good.” Initially, I was thinking that while Kelly looked good, I looked like a goof. But, as the class went on, I started to feel powerful, confident, and pleased that I’d tackled the class.

Great teachers do that for their students. They are excited about what they are doing, and they motivate reluctant learners along the way. When I think about my own children’s teachers, I am thankful for those who have shown a passion for learning. My favorite teachers challenge their students. They instill in them the knowledge that they can do wonderful things, and students feel proud of their accomplishments.

If my gym instructor can help this book-club gal to embrace boxing, what can the teachers of the Bible show us? If teachers can motivate students to win spelling bees and produce mind-blowing science projects, what might we be inspired to do when we examine the lives of Esther, Jonah and David? Here’s a quick 1-2. If we start our day with a lesson from His word, we will be much more empowered and confident as we seek to serve Him.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, guide my study so that I may learn from the real-life Bible heroes and 1st century Christians in Your word. Help me, in my 21st century life, to be motivated and inspired by their eternal examples of faith.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9 NIV).

Too Tired to Budge

November 8, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Life Topics

By Carin LeRoy –

Do you ever feel like life is too busy? I do. When we take on more than we should, life seems to pass by in a blur of activity and busyness. At the end of a day, we’re stressed and exhausted.

The Bible gives a great example of this in Exodus 18. When Moses was leading the Israelites, he served as judge for the people each day settling disputes from morning until evening. I’m sure when his day was finished, he felt much like we do at the end of our hectic days – too tired to budge.

When his father-in-law, Jethro, came for a visit and observed his long days, he said, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone,” (Exodus 18: 17,18 NIV). Jethro then suggested that Moses should train and appoint godly leaders to help him do the work. Moses saw the wisdom in Jethro’s advice and listened to him. By doing so, his own load lightened.

Just as Jethro observed Moses’ overload of work, do we have friends or family that think our days are too full of activity? Do they advise us to reduce the stress and busyness in our lives? If so, then maybe we need to take their advice to slow down and evaluate how to change our schedule to lessen our own workload. There’s nothing “spiritual” about having a to-do list that goes from morning until evening. Maybe we need to take the advice of others, like Moses. Slowing down, delegating or eliminating might just be the right thing to do.

PRAYER: Lord, if I need to lighten my workload, please give me wisdom to know what I need to eliminate from my schedule. Give me a heart, like Moses, to listen to the wisdom of others that desire to speak truth into my life.

“Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves” (Exodus 18: 24-26 NIV).

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