Holiness: A Saturated Heart

November 25, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Carin LeRoy –

Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China in the mid-late 1800s, is known for the impact that he made in reaching the Chinese people with the gospel. He is considered one of the greatest missionaries. As we look at his zeal to reach people in a cross-cultural context, we see some of the decisions that gave him the ability to have great influence on a culture that mistrusted a foreigner. Although he received much criticism from the missionary community, he began to dress in traditional clothing, wear his hair in the customary queue (or braid), and learn the culture and customs. He learned the language so well that when speaking, others could not tell he was a foreigner. This gave him great ability to mingle and move around to share the gospel. He immersed himself in the culture in order to look, speak and act like the Chinese.

As we continue to look at holiness in the life of the believer, another aspect that marks a holy life is knowing and obeying God’s word. As Christians, we need to be so saturated in God’s word that we intuitively understand its application to life’s situations. In doing so, our lives become so sensitive to the Holy Spirit that we know the right choice. In Scripture we read, “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against you…I rejoice in following Your statues as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on Your precepts and consider Your ways. I delight in Your decrees; I will not neglect Your word” (Psalm 119: 11, 14-16 NET).

Knowledge and obedience go together as we seek to follow God. Not only do we know what His word says about behavior, lifestyle choices and attitudes, but we obey it. Holiness means we have a heart that is saturated with God’s word in order to look, speak and act like He desires. We understand God’s desires and act upon that knowledge. Because we are immersed in His word, we develop a sensitivity to the Lord and a strength that makes it easier to obey. Just as Hudson Taylor immersed himself in Chinese culture to be identified with them, we need to endeavor to be identified solely with Christ. Let’s learn what it means to have a heart that is saturated with the knowledge of God’s word and a willingness to obey it.

PRAYER: Lord, give me a desire to be saturated in Your word so that I learn what it means to live a life of holiness. Help me to abide in Your word, respond with sensitivity to Your Holy Spirit, and strive to live a life of obedience.

QUOTE: “It is time for us Christians, to face up to our responsibility for holiness. Too often we say we are “defeated” by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient. It might be well if we stopped using the terms victory and defeat to describe our progress in holiness. Rather we should use the terms obedience and disobedience” (Jerry Bridges).

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).

Wanna-be Scrapbooker

October 26, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Donna McCrary –

I’m a wanna-be-scrapbooker. I have the pictures, books, pens, papers, and stickers. I even own the cool tote that neatly keeps my tools together while they linger in the closet, collecting dust. I love the thought of preserving memories of birthdays, holidays and vacations with flare. Thumbing through pictures and experiencing the memories of the past is an enjoyable pastime. My passion stems from the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

As a writer, trying to convey a principle or evoke a connection can be a mind boggling task. But a picture can do that in an instant. Pictures are worth a thousand words because they instantaneously connect a person to an event, concept, or emotion.

I think God is also a wanna-be-scrapbooker. He uses word pictures throughout scripture. He paints numerous pictures and puts them in a book knowing generations would be able to connect to the principles He is describing.

Just look at some of the snap shots He uses to describe His Word.

Food: picture a big juicy steak, a warm apple pie and chocolate. Food is something we consume every day; something many of us don’t go without. Something that is necessary for energy, nourishment. God wants us to crave and hunger for His word more than food. Jesus says, “Man cannot live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt.4:4).

Sword: a deadly weapon used to defend and kill. razor sharp, made of hard steel, protection. God’s Word will cut out the sinful aspects in a believer’s life. God’s Word serves as protection in daily battles (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12).

Fire: destructive, hot, burning, consuming. Fire is used to purify. Once impurities (bad habits, poor choices, negative thoughts, anger, addictions, etc.) are removed a beautiful impression of God shines through (Jeremiah 23:29).

Light: illumination, source of brightness, opposite of darkness. God says His Word will help us determine the right choices to make (Psalm 119:105). Where there is light, darkness cannot prevail.

Mirror: source of true reflection. A mirror cannot lie. God’s Word is a true reflection of Jesus. Look into it daily. Study the reflection. Does it match the image and character of Jesus?

If not, keep consuming the food, using the sword, and allowing the fire to purify. Soon a beautiful reflection of Christ will start to emerge.

Enjoy God’s scrapbook. It is delightful pastime!

PRAYER: “God, help me crave Your Word more than I crave the things of this world. Help me to use Your Word to guide my decisions today. Give me a willing spirit to allow Your Word to penetrate the depths of my heart and purify my thoughts and actions. May Your Word change me.”

“Be like newborn babies who are thirsty for the pure spiritual milk that will help you grow and be saved” (1 Peter 1:2).

Have You Ever Thought of Fasting?

October 17, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Rosemary Flaaten –

Fasting. Isn’t that just for the Super-Spiritual-Christian? Isn’t that what you do the morning you have to weigh-in for your weekly weight loss program?

I hate fasting. I hate feeling hungry. Maybe it’s some deep fear that if I don’t eat when food available, there might not be any left. “Eat now, or your food will be sent to starving children in Africa and you’ll regret not cleaning up that plate” says a voice from the past. Probably though, it’s much more about a stubborn human will that has a stronghold on my heart that is fighting tooth and nail to not lose its grip on my life.

The heart of spiritual disciplines, such as fasting, is to take part in an activity where the Holy Spirit enables us to do something that we cannot do by willpower alone. Fasting gives us a physical means to experience what must become a spiritual reality in our lives.

The dictionary describes discipline as “an activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill.” Spiritual discipline helps us practice the regime of detachment. We need to engage in activities that help us to let go of our attempts to do it our own way. Peter said it this way: “Abstain from fleshly lusts which ward against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11 NIV). Fasting, as a spiritual discipline, affords us such an opportunity.

When I abstain from food, my desire for indulgence takes a beating, propelling me into an offensive stance against my fleshly will. There is a recovering of lost territory and a moving into previously unoccupied territory. Realms of my will that had been ruled by my flesh are now occupied by the Holy Spirit. Fasting sharpens my dependence on God.

Let me be honest. When the topic of fasting surfaces, my human will still resists. However, I have experienced the joy and freedom that comes with disciplining my desires and detaching from its stronghold. As I practice the discipline of fasting, my resistance is turning to acceptance and I suspect that someday, as I grow in maturity and wisdom, I will embrace it.

PRAYER: Lord, give me the desire to follow You even into the discipline of fasting so that I might grow in my likeness of You.

“His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love” (Ephesians 4:16 The Message).

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