Then and Now

March 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Rosemary Flaaten –

We all love life-change stories. Someone was once a drug addict, living on the streets, and now they have a family and are a contributing member of society. Someone was bankrupt, and now they own a multimillion dollar business. Someone chose adultery, but now have returned to their marriage and are loving, honoring and devoted to their spouse.

Then-and-now stories are inspirational. They give us hope that, despite the mistakes we have made, we can enter a new present that will enable a future of change.

Reflecting on then-and-now stories made me think of my own story of transformation. No, I never lived on the street, suffered bankruptcy or cheated on my spouse. But, before asking Jesus to be my Lord, I lived a life without God.

The apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossian church gives a then-and-now story that mirrors my life: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21-22 NIV).

Before I committed my life to Christ, I was fearful of death, failure and just about anything that went “boo” in the night. Now, I have an abiding trust in God’s goodness and His plan for my life. I may not get it right all the time -– actually I will not get it right all the time – but God, in his amazing grace and love, picks me up and sets me back on the path of grace.  He never shames me, but simply loves me and draws me further to a likeness that reflects His character.

What’s your then-and-now story? How has God’s presence in your life brought about transformation? What change has come about in your life because of God? I encourage you to tell others your story of transformation. Don’t ever feel its not dramatic enough to speak about. Every little step of change is worth celebrating. The angels are rejoicing, so let’s celebrate on earth, as it is in heaven.

PRAYER: Lord, I ask for opportunities to share my story of the difference You have made in my life.  Use it for Your glory and to further Your kingdom.

BIBLE VERSE: “Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy” 1 Peter 3:15 (The Message).

What Does God Want?

March 17, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Art Fulks –

It was a common conversation that I have with believers. Someone wanted me to know and understand his position about a decision that he had to make. I first told him that I loved him and that I wanted God’s best for him. But after listening and probing a bit, I heard something that really troubled me. He said he was going to make a list of pros and cons before making a final decision.

Why does that bother me so much? As followers of Christ, our process for making decisions should be different from that of the world. Yet what we too many times do is avoid the most important question: “What does God want?”

If we believe that God has our best interest at heart and has the power to bring into our lives that best if we follow Him, then why avoid asking the question? I asked that exact question and I believe this person answered it very accurately. He said, “I am not sure I want to know the answer.”

There are many decisions in my life that I wish now would have been preceded by this critical question. Certainly God gives us wisdom and intellect to figure out what to have for dinner. But how often do we get God’s perspective on weightier matters such as finances, relationships, vocation, education, etc.? When we do not ask God for His guidance in the most important decisions, we relegate our lives to asking God to bless our decisions.

God has given us His Spirit in order to make discerning choices. Opinions are everywhere and may even be godly. But as 1 John 4:1-6 tells us, we can ultimately know that our decision-making is sound based on two criteria: (1) Does it glorify Jesus Christ? and (2) Is it consistent with the teaching of God’s Word? If our ultimate goal in life is to glorify Jesus Christ, then it will also be for our best. And God gave us His Word as the fully sufficient resource to all of the questions of faith and life. You can depend on it.

BIBLE VERSE: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…’” (I John 4:1a NASB).

A Suspicious Thought

March 7, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Rosemary Flaaten –

I generally don’t think of myself as a suspicious person. One of my strengths is positivity and, perhaps  to a fault, I see the best in people, believing them to be trustworthy. But, I’ve noticed a sliver of suspicion, not so much about others but towards God. Oswald Chambers is noted as saying that the root of all sin is the suspicion that God is not good.

Our first parents, Adam and Eve, aligned themselves with the questioning of the serpent, “Is that really what God said?” Up until that moment, they believed that God loved them, and that He had their best interests are heart. That simple question flooded their minds with doubt and sin was ushered in on the wheels of suspicion.

We do the same thing. Deep in our souls we wonder, “Is God really good?”

I’m not going to offer a trite response, instead, I offer you this challenge: Take two pieces of paper, placed side by side. At the top of one, write “good” and on the top of the other write “bad”. With pen in hand, start creating a list on each page of all the things in your life that fit on either one of those pages. Things such as a house to live in would go under the good. It may not be big or fancy and it may have a large mortgage, but if you have a roof over your head, then it goes on the “good” page.

Family members and friends should be listed on the “good” page. Perhaps, within those relational spheres there are unhealthy relationships. Those names can go on the “bad page,” only if nothing good has ever come of those struggles.

Hopefully, our physical or emotional health is readily placed on the “good” page. But, there are seasons in our lives when our health is more bad than good, so place it accordingly.

I am amazed that my accumulation of “good” heavily outweighs my “bad”. The prolific blessings in my life give evidence that God’s promise through Jeremiah continue in my reality: “I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them” (Jeremiah 32:40).

God’s goodness is truly astounding!

PRAYER: O God, enlighten the eyes of my heart that I will see your goodness so prolifically bestowed on me and then grant me a heart of gratitude.

BIBLE VERSE: “Your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6 NIV).

Putting the Pieces Together

February 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Hally Franz –

Now that the summer season is thoroughly behind us and trip pictures have been downloaded, uploaded, developed and printed, I have an observation about different types of vacationers. As friends and family shared their summer experiences, I noticed that no two sets of travelers do summer fun in the same way.

Some work-worn individuals enjoy timeless days lounging on the beach. They take long naps and enjoy cool drinks and good meals. If they feel energetic, they may read a book, but they savor the “down time.” Their goal is to become rejuvenated by soaking in as much peace and quiet as the world will allow. I’ll call them “meditators.”

While the first group may be luxuriating in some tropical paradise, a second group may be bound for Washington, D.C. Group two are those who want to see things. They crave opportunities to visit new places including national parks, monuments, historical sites, museums, zoos and pop culture destinations. They view vacation as a time to learn and expand horizons. They are the “learners.”

There are those among us that can’t resist an amusement park full of roller coasters. While I am decidedly not this type of vacationer, I know a few who need thrill and excitement to fully enjoy time off. Bungee-jumping and hang-gliding may be just what adventurous friends need when they seek to escape the daily grind. Of course, they are “risk-takers.”

Lastly, do you know folks that long for the great outdoors? Our country is rich with natural wonders, and many find solace in scenic vistas that abound. Whether it is vast mountain ranges or golden plains, group four is inspired and energized by those God-made images. They are “admirers” of God’s handiwork.

Do we approach our faith like we do our time off? Do we pray and listen intently for God’s word without taking time to study it? Are we willing to take chances and talk to others about God, but fail to make time to worship and praise our Lord? Meditating, studying, evangelizing and praising are all important elements of our faith. While each of us finds certain components easier or more natural than others, perhaps we should seek to do it all. We may find that when we build a balanced faith, we find just what we need and He desires.

PRAYER: Wise and wonderful God, help me to value and attend to all aspects of my Christian faith. Guide me in the activities of prayer, Bible study, witnessing to others and worship, so that I may more completely serve You.

BIBLE VERSE: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16 NIV).

A God of Details

February 19, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Carin LeRoy –

When Jesus lived on earth, he did many miraculous things – turning water into wine, healing the sick, driving out demons and walking on water, to name a few. As we read about his life in Scripture, we sense that he is not ordinary; He is someone with power and authority.

While reading John 21 recently, I was struck with something else: God loves details. In this chapter, we read about the miraculous catch of fish. Eight of the disciples had fished all night, but caught nothing. This was their livelihood, so it could be the difference of not putting food on the table for their family.

Early the next morning standing on the shore Jesus calls out, “Friends, have you caught any fish?”

“No.”

“Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some,” Jesus said.

Obeying, they threw the net on the right side and brought in a huge haul of 153 fish – so heavy that seven strong men were unable to haul it in the boat. Although this is miraculous in itself, there is one detail that popped out at me: “…but even with so many the net was not torn,” (John 21:11 NIV).

Repairing torn nets was a necessary job of fisherman because even one hole would ruin the net’s integrity and limit the next catch. They could be torn by fish, rock or debris and hours could be spent each day repairing a damaged net to insure optimal results for the next time fishing.  This probably was their biggest haul of fish ever, yet God made sure that it did not tear. This wasn’t coincidence.

I love that God included this in Scripture. He not only provided them with more than enough for the morning catch, but he made sure they didn’t spend all day repairing a torn net. He wanted them to sit around the fire with Him.

Another detail I love? He provided breakfast. He sat on the shore cooking food for their return. He gave them bread and fish, (verse 13). They were exhausted and hungry after a night of fishing. Jesus fed them. Jesus took care of his disciples. He will take care of us, too. We have a powerful God that loves us – even down to the smallest details.

PRAYER:  Lord, thank You that even the details don’t escape Your attention. Help me not to take for granted all the ways that You look after me each day.

BIBLE VERSE: “Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are You?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish,” (John 21: 12,13 NIV).

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