Fan into Flame

By Carin LeRoy –

My teenage son is a huge fan of the reality program “Man vs. Wild,” which shows people are surviving in isolated places across the globe. They scale rock faces, cross icy rivers, sleep in trees and eat strange, wiggly creatures. On almost every episode, they must make a fire. They gather bits of dry tinder, rub two sticks together until smoke forms, then blow gently until a flame sparks. Gingerly, they add kindling until they have a blaze large enough to cook food or warm themselves. That effort makes me thankful I have an electric stove where I turn a knob to cook.

In reading through Paul’s admonishment to Timothy, we see how he was encouraged develop the gifts given to him by God. He says, “I want you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,” (2 Timothy 1: 6 NIV). I was reminded of the effort it takes to start a fire. It isn’t easy. They search for the right materials, rub sticks until their hands are sore and work hard to get that fire started. Soon they are rewarded with a blaze big enough to provide warmth.

We are each bestowed with gifts given to us by God in order to use them to minister to others. These abilities need developing; to be fanned into a flame. We start small and gain confidence. Soon we watch as God utilizes them in an even greater way. Just as it takes effort to start a fire, we must work to cultivate those areas where God has bestowed our spiritual gifting. Usually, these gifts are something that comes naturally to us, and we enjoy them!

Charles Spurgeon, the great British preacher from the nineteenth century, said that we should not only be using our gift, but we should also work to improve it. If you feel you are gifted in an area but lack the confidence to serve, then start small. Be diligent and soon you will see God using your gifts for an even greater impact.

PRAYER: Lord, thank You for giving me a spiritual gift to use for others. Help me to be diligent in using, developing and improving that gift for an even greater impact for Your glory.

QUOTE: “And then, again, we must stir up our gift because it needs stirring. The gifts and graces of Christian men are like a coal fire which frequently require stirring as well as feeding with fuel…there must be stirring and fires go out sometimes for lack of it. There are times with us when we become dull and heavy, doing little or nothing–restless, indifferent. Then it is that we require rebuking. If there is a solid bottom of real grace in us, we only need the poker that we be stirred up and straightway the fire begins to burn.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

A Season of Peace

May 20, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Personal Growth

By Susan Dollyhigh

Gathering around the kitchen table at the homeless shelter, we lit the purple Advent candle that symbolizes peace. Peace that is sometimes in short supply for those living at the shelter. Peace that is sometimes elusive in my life as well.

This small group of women and I talked about the different things we once used to fill our soul’s desperate need for peace: relaxing music, bubble baths, soothing candles, food, cigarettes, and even turning to the escape found in alcohol and drugs. We talked about addictions that had destroyed all illusions of peace for some—along with jobs, relationships, and even health.

We discussed what happens when the music is turned off, the bath water grows cold, and the candle melts down into a puddle of cold wax. We commiserated about feeling miserable after a food binge and how the desire for one cigarette just produces the desire for another. We agreed that when the high is gone and a hangover has taken its place, we are left once again searching for peace.

As we talked, we began to realize what a wonderful gift peace actually is. But how do we find true and lasting peace? How do we hold on to peace when our situations are anything but peaceful? We found the answer in Isaiah’s prophecy that a child would be given us whose name would be the Prince of Peace.

We reflected on the times when we had turned to Christ seeking peace and how He had always proven Himself faithful. In that small kitchen, with the flame flickering on the candle of peace, peace began to flicker in our souls as well. No, our situations hadn’t changed but our minds and souls had been transformed by the peace of God that transcends understanding.

Glory to God in the highest, for to us a child was born and He is the Prince of Peace.

QUOTE: “Remember this. When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw far from light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. This is also the case when people withdraw from God”.
~Augustine

BIBLE VERSE: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV).

Characterology

By Rosemary Flaaten –

I love learning new words, especially when they have fifteen letters in them. I recently heard the word “characterology”. I immediately was drawn to understand its true meaning. “Ology” refers to the study of something and “character” could be described as the combination of features and traits that form our individual nature. So, characterology is taking a good hard look at who we truly are, especially when no one else is around or watching us.

This resounds with the psalmist David who cried out to God to study his character. “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV).

One of the Holy Spirit’s roles is to illuminate sin in our lives. Sure we’d rather call them character flaws, but things like pride, envy, and deception are not just imperfections, they are sins. Like Adam and Eve, we will try to hide our sin from God, others and even ourselves. I often make the study of my character as superficial as possible. I skim over actions and attitudes that fall outside of God’s desires for my life, choosing to slough over them rather than confess and change them. I cheapen God’s grace by ignoring the repentance to which He calls me.

All too often the study of my character is at a third grade level rather than a more advanced level of spiritual maturity. The hard work of characterology, involving true study, will bring about maturity and transformation. Being a student of the character of Jesus will help me become more astute at discerning and responding to the Holy Spirit’s revelations of the offensive ways in me.

Characterology is more than a big word. It is an advanced class in spiritual formation into which we can to delve wholeheartedly with God’s guidance.

PRAYER: Lord, I ask for courage to delve into the study of my character.  Thank You for Your love and grace in the midst of my mess.

BIBLE VERSE: “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” (Psalms 51:6 NIV)

A Different Kind of Christmas

By Peter Lundell –

On my first Christmas back in the U.S.A. after years of being a missionary in Japan, I got so absorbed into the warm, fuzzy feelings of carols, activities, and atmosphere that even after the new year, I was lost in a daze of holiday bliss, and I had become almost useless for anything else. After I snapped out of it, I toned myself down to simply enjoy Christmas.

As years passed, I grew increasingly tired of activities and expectations: buy gifts, practice for the Christmas pageant, write the annual family info letter/card/whatever was less work, buy more gifts, prepare for guests, clean up after guests, drop dead. By December 26th, I was just glad to be done with the Christmas hassle.

In that Grinch-minded time, I realized that tragedies at home and around the world never took a day off. They cruelly invaded life anywhere, anytime, even on the holidays.

So why did Jesus come in the first place? I doubt it was for parties, presents, and programs. One of my favorite verses for Christmas is 1 John 3:8: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” Spiritual warfare! Not very warm and fuzzy. And while Jesus walked around on earth, His mission was to “preach good news to the poor,” and to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:8).

In God’s eyes, Jesus’ coming—and thus Christmas—is less about holiday cheer and more about relieving oppression and overcoming spiritual darkness. We see that good work happening through believers, especially the church, when we rise to be what we’re meant to be.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, this year, and in the years to come, I will celebrate Your incarnation by doing more of what You did and called me to do—and less of what the hyperactive, self-centered, money-and entertainment-obsessed world around me does. As I do,
I will have joy and purpose in the season in ways I never have before.

BIBLE VERSE: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8, NIV).

Buckle Up! Adventure Calls.

By Jarrod Spencer –

“In this world you will have trouble.” “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

These Bible texts are not likely what people would put into an evangelism book. John 16:33, Acts 14:22, and II Timothy 3:12 are the verses above, and they paint the Christian life in a way that may not be appealing. Usually we emphasize a life that is attractive to people by talking about grace, forgiveness, and the new life that will follow one’s conversion.

Those topics are important for people to hear and there is nothing wrong with these supporting texts. However, the Christian life is filled with lots of adventure – some peaks, some valleys.

In a new television series titled Pan Am the pilot episode ends by one experienced stewardess telling a rookie stewardess as they are getting ready for takeoff to “Buckle up! Adventure calls.”

As I heard that line I thought of the life of a Christian. Some Christians may have rarely experienced such adventure. I would challenge those to look over their life and consider that they may be “pew warmers.” They come to the church building, take part in the activities, and go about their life. They experience nothing deeper in their Christian life. It is superficial Christianity.

Why is it superficial? Partly because they do not take risks. Risks in putting their faith in an invisible God. Risks in showing their faith. Risks in getting out of their comfort zones. They do what is safe.

About a year ago, someone contacted me to ask if I could help them with their marriage. This kind of help does not mean putting a band-aid on the bleeding wound and sending them out to play. It requires an investment of time, and I had a schedule that was full. Buckle up – adventure calls.

“I need to talk; I think I may be going to jail.” I was met head-on with a statement like this once, immediately after coming home from the office. I was ready to be home for the evening, but I left to invest time in that person, and did not make it home until eleven o’clock that evening. Buckle up – adventure calls.

I never know what is in store for the day. As I “take off” each day I need these words – buckle up, adventure calls!

PRAYER: Thank You Father for letting me team up with You and see the adventures that have come my way as a result of making faith more tangible. I love teaming up with You to see what we’ll join together on throughout the day.

BIBLE VERSE; “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17b-18 NIV).

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