Giving Comfort in the God Zone

April 18, 2021 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Hally Franz –

Peer pressure is not just for kids. My own sister has inflicted considerable pressure upon me regarding texting. She is frustrated that I don’t yet have that capability with my cell phone. I am very content to keep it that way.

My husband and I recently purchased laptops for our son and me. My home computer is nearly seven years old, and we needed an upgrade. Ivan immediately came home and began using his laptop, excited to be liberated from the community computer. However, I have yet to open mine. The fear of some complicated log-on, download or set-up process has me stalled.

I am fairly proficient with a few computer programs, but I resist technology. I don’t join lots of sites and rarely make on-line purchases. And, are you ready for this? We still have “free” TV in our home.

Technology is not my area of expertise. It is not in my comfort zone. While it is hard to function in our society without using and sometimes even embracing technology, some people find it easy to avoid having a relationship with God. In a culture where many deem a smartphone a greater necessity than an hour in worship, we need to make it as easy as possible for others to connect and commune with believers and our Heavenly Father.

Do we take time to invite the un-churched into our church homes, encouraging rather than pressuring them to learn more about Jesus and His saving grace? When visitors enter our buildings, are we willing to patiently teach them about Christian concepts that may be totally foreign to them? Or, do we express frustration when they resist moving from their comfort zone into unknown territory?

The truth is that my computer competency will not enhance my prayer life nor study of His word. No high-tech communication devices or e-readers are needed. While it may be wise for me to expand my technology knowledge for success here on earth, it is absolutely essential for me to broaden my theology knowledge to ensure eternity in heaven.

Let’s help our brothers and sisters do the same.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me to be easily approachable and welcoming to our church visitors. May they find it joyful, rather than stressful, to begin their own journeys of faith.

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,” (2 Timothy 2:24-25 NKJV).

Lullaby For All of Us

April 9, 2021 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Cynthia Ruchti —

She’s mellowed considerably in twelve years, but when our first grandchild was a toddler, she’d slap her little pink hands over her ears and in a voice that sounded like foot-stomping say, “Don’t sing!”

The first few times it was funny. Because she was born into a musical family, we thought her faux-tantrum must have been toddler humor. But it wasn’t. She meant it. For reasons we’ll never understand, something about our singing—no wisecracks, please—grated on her young nerves.

It was a trick slipping the “Happy Birthday” song past her at family celebrations.

One song remained firmly entrenched in my repertoire, though. With my children and now my grandchildren, I’m allowed the honor of being the first to sing into those downy soft ears, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” It’s a lullaby that soothes an hours-old troubled heart or the aged heart hours away from eternity.

How much time have I spent singing that lullaby since my daughter was born, then my sons, then my granddaughters and grandsons? How many repetitions of the greatest truth, the most potent comfort, the sweetest sentence ever uttered?

Jesus loves me.

Even now, I can’t look at those three words without a sense of awe-struck wonder. Imagine! Jesus loves me.

I can spread my arms wide and dance across a mountain meadow—“The Sound of Music” style—or I can whisper-sing it to a colicky child and know it is the truest of statements and the most life-changing.

The lullaby tradition with new babies is intentional. My heart longs for that singular thought to be imprinted early on each child’s brain. Whether they remember it or not, and no matter what life brings or the choices they make, they will all be told that the first song they heard in their life’s journey was the most significant.

Jesus loves me.

AUTHOR QUOTE: Take comfort today as Jesus sings that song into your heart’s “ear,” a lullaby that never grows old.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35 NIV)

Oooo, Ahhhh

March 29, 2021 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Cheri Cowell –

I love fireworks! One Fourth of July I had the privilege of viewing them from the bow of a boat anchored in the river. With each burst of color the water surrounding me reflected the beauty that filled the sky. As I watched the dazzling show above and around me I became as a little child, filled with awe and emotion. I beamed from ear to ear, and spontaneously commented with each boom on the majesty displayed in the sky.

On the return home after the fireworks I thought about how glorious it will be when Christ comes again to take His throne. It will be more glorious than any fireworks show can ever be, and my heart will soar more than it ever could while viewing anything man-made. For such a time as this we were created: to fall in adoration at the spectacle of our Lord taking His rightful place as the sovereign power ruling over all the earth. Won’t that be a magnificent day?

Some scholars believe Daniel’s visions prophesy the fall of the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Still others label this as a second coming prophesy. Either way, the clear message is that God (the Ancient of Days) sits on the throne, overseeing a judgment (court) with books that detail the sins of those who oppose Him. At His will, He will destroy these men and women with their own boastfulness. Then the Son of Man (Jesus Christ) will take His place as ruler over all. All the people, of every tribe and nation, will worship our Lord forever! Won’t that be a magnificent day?

PRAYER: Dear God, penetrate me deeply today with the vision and reality of Your great return. Help me prepare for Your second and final coming. To You be the glory, forever and ever.

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14 NIV).

Little Lost Sheep

March 20, 2021 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Susan Dollyhigh –

The blonde curls bounced as the small girl pranced down the aisle. The pastor had called for the boys and girls to join him for the children’s message. The blonde-haired girl wiggled her way into the circle of children sitting on the floor.

The pastor sat down, smiled, and said, “Good morning, boys and girls.”

“Good morning!” they called back to him.

“Boys and Girls, I’ve lost one of my stuffed toys.” The pastor’s expression changed and his eyes became downcast. “I know I had it when I got here this morning. I have lots of other toys, but every one of them is very important to me. I will be upset if my little sheep is lost. Have any of you seen it? It’s white and fuzzy…”

The blonde-haired girl spotted it first, pointed to the podium, and said, “There it is!”

The pastor looked up, and his mouth fell open. He stood, ran over, and picked up the toy. He hugged it to himself, and then placed it on his shoulders. “Thank you so much for helping me find my lost sheep. Will you rejoice with me? “

The pastor smiled and clapped his hands, and the children joined in.

“The Bible teaches us that we are like sheep and sometimes stray away from God. That makes God very sad, but He never gives up on us. He keeps searching for us and calling to us. He wants to draw us back into His arms. He even sent Jesus, His Son, to save those who are lost. Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t give up on His lost sheep? I am, because “I once was lost, but now I’m found!” The pastor prayed, “Dear Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd. Thank you for coming to save those who are lost. Amen.”

I thought that was the end of the children’s message, but there was more to come.

The children began to find the way back to their seats, but the blonde-haired girl just stood there. Her eyes grew wide and she scanned an endless sea of faces.

“Jenny,” someone called as he quickly made his way down the aisle.

“Daddy! Jenny smiled with relief, and ran towards her daddy.

Jenny’s daddy picked her up, and held her close. Jenny looked into her daddy’s eyes, and said, “I was just like the little lost sheep, Daddy, and you found me.”

“Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:3 – 7 NIV).

Back to Bethel

March 10, 2021 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Art Fulks –

In following Christ, most (if not all) of us experience dry times when we feel like a failure. Due to testing or sin, we feel far from God, at least from the perspective of an intimate relationship. There are times when I would rather people not know that I am a pastor. If they saw the caverns of my heart, they would not find much evidence that I am pursuing God.

When dry times come, it may seem like the thing to do is to try harder or to be more disciplined. And it may be necessary. However, I am reminded in the Scriptures that trying harder is rarely the answer to a spiritual drought. The Book of Genesis gives us two examples that have really helped me on the journey.

The answer: Go back to Bethel.

Where is Bethel? It may be the place where God made a promise to you, like Abram in Genesis 12. It may be the place where you made a vow to God, like Jacob in Genesis 28. But you are confident that you met with God there. It is the place where you experienced His grace, forgiveness, encouragement, correction, or conviction. No matter what the original circumstance, you know without a doubt that you connected with God.

For some of us, the physical Bethels may be geographically unreachable when we need them. But it probably was less about the geography of the circumstance and more about the context of our heart. For some, Bethel may have been a painful place on the first trip and a bit uncomfortable to revisit. However, we are not looking to relive a memory. We earnestly desire to encounter our faithful and loving Heavenly Father in an intimate way.

In my life, one Bethel was a hillside in Southern Ohio where I went to camp as a teenager. Another was a chapel in North Carolina where God gripped my heart with a desire to do something impactful for His Kingdom. One was the first tee on a golf course in Georgia where a mentor taught me the concept of investing in others. And one was a church parking lot on the other side of town where God called me to the ministry where I am today. Even a pastor has need to go back to Bethel sometimes.

“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel, and live there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau” (Genesis 35:1 NASB).

“And he built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him, when he fled from his brother” (Genesis 35:7 NASB).

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