Seeing through Trees

June 20, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Peter Lundell –

Paralleling my mother’s apartment is a thick stand of trees. Summer grows an impenetrable green. Autumn drops the leaves to uncover winter skeletons of branches through which I see all houses on the other side. Spring buds restart the cycle.

The cycle helps me overcome temptation. Through the sameness of daily life and annual events, I’m tempted to feel a sense of permanence, as if the people I know will always be there and the things I do, I will continue to do. But behind the appearance of sameness lurks an ending. Always.

Children feel as if their parents will always be there to watch over them. Adults feel as if they’ll go to work at the same place for eternity. Meeting relatives or old friends feels as if they’ll always be there next season, and that I will too. For thousands of years people have probably felt the same way. But there always lurks an ending.

Most of us prefer permanence and sameness to change. We like familiar, predictable, and comfortable. But permanence and sameness are temporary, even illusory. So I’ve started to resist that sense of permanence, the feeling of sameness. To do so, I must willfully embrace change and accept that no one and nothing will be around forever.

And when I do that, I live better.

A sense of permanence and sameness lulls a person into a daze that can cloud life for decades. Change and the cycles of life are often challenging or agonizing. But embracing change—as Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything”—prepares us for the difficulties.

And that wakes us up to live more fully here and now. Our hearts embrace and our minds understand God’s hand in life.

And our eyes just might discover our path into eternity.

PRAYER: “Father, open my eyes to see through the things in my life that seem so permanent, so the same. Enable me to see beyond them, where You will take me. I trust You to enable me to face whatever I must.”

BIBLE VERSE: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, NIV).

Truest Worship

June 13, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Carin LeRoy –

Recently my neighbor knew a family who had a fire in their house, and she asked if my husband had a spare pair of shoes she could take to the husband. We remembered a pair of casual nice leather shoes that didn’t fit my husband that were never used. They were sitting in the closet gathering dust, so I gave her the pair. My neighbor was grateful, and I felt good they were going to someone in need. As I thought about those shoes, I began to think that giving those was not a sacrifice because we couldn’t use them anyway.

How much do we sacrifice for others? As Christians, we go to church most Sundays, give our tithe, attend small group, maybe give a gift to a missionary and fill our lives with good and honorable things. But these things are not sacrifice. Mothers forgo a career to raise their children; fathers give up comfort and peace to work hard and support their family; and parents forfeit their desires for their children’s needs. These are ways we sacrifice for family.

When we are self-absorbed, we focus on our own needs and desires and are not willing to give for the sake of others. Many marriages fall apart because one or both partners refuse to compromise or meet the needs of the other. Sacrifice means we are willing to deny ourselves in order to bless others or to bless God. We relinquish for the benefit of another.

I think of a missionary pilot and friend who flew a small single-engine plane for years helping others. He flew into isolated areas taking in supplies and food, carrying out those needing medical care and making sure that he was meeting the needs of those in his area. His work cost him his life one day as his plane crashed into the side of a mountain after encountering bad weather. He sacrificed for others.

Do we live a life of sacrifice? Or are we self-absorbed? Christ is our ultimate example. In Scripture we read in Philippians that “Christ made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant.” Why? Because He knew that living in obedience to God’s will was worth the sacrifice of his own life—even death on a cross. Out of His great love, Christ left all the glories of heaven and His deserved place beside His father to sacrifice His life for us.

As we move into this new year, let’s remember that a life of obedience and a willingness to sacrifice is the truest form of worship.

PRAYER: Lord, thank You for Your great sacrifice and willingness to come to earth and die for my sins. Keep me mindful that a life of true worship stems from a life of obedience and sacrifice.

“You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross! As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow– in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11 NET).

“Before” Still Gives You A Choice

June 4, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Jarrod Spencer –

If you are like me, you’ve probably had many moments where you either knew or felt that you shouldn’t have said something, could have said something differently, or wonder if someone took it wrong what you said. These are not fun moments. They can aggravate you like a rock in your shoe. You think about it, worry about it, and want to fix the situation.

Though easier said than done, there are some ways we can prevent that feeling. It comes from a poem titled “Before You”, by William Arthur Ward…

Before you speak, listen.
Before you write, think.
Before you spend, earn.
Before you invest, investigate.
Before you criticize, wait.
Before you pray, forgive.
Before you quit, try.
Before you retire, save.
Before you die, give.

Not all of these are situations where you make a mistake and have to go back to correct it. However, they are some simple, everyday, applicable phrases to help us through some situations in life. Some of them may impact you more than others. Some may make you really look within. Some might be what you wish someone else would keep in mind.

“Before” is a powerful word that says things are at the fork in the road. “After” is when you chose to take a path. “After” is no turning back; “before” is when the option of taking another route is possible.

Try to put the “Before You” tool in your pocket to pull out at the many opportune times that will come about in your lifetime.

PRAYER: Father, help me to listen, think, earn, investigate, wait, forgive, try, save, and give as I go through life.

BIBLE VERSE: “The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (I Kings 19:11-13 NIV).

Celebrating a Cancelled Christmas

May 24, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Elaine James –

Have you ever come across three words that you thought were so simple, but ended up meaning so much?

Last year my husband announced to our family “I am cancelling Christmas.”A question came to mind: “Does that mean we are cancelling the true meaning of Christmas, too?”

The only words that my husband and I had on our minds as Christmas approached was “our family needs alone time and the only way we felt we could accomplish that would be to get away.”

As any baseball lover knows, at the end of the World Series, the MVP gets asked the question, “You have just won the World Series. What are you going to do next?” The MVP always answers “I’m going to Disney World!”

When we asked my baseball loving husband “Where are we going for Christmas?” he answered: “We’re going to Disney World!’

Twenty six years of family tradition were cancelled, replaced with airline tickets, a house rental and a rented van. With a sketchy itinerary, my husband, our four kids, daughter-in-law, girlfriend and I headed to Florida for a Christmas vacation. On the plane, I prayed “Lord, please don’t let us forget the true meaning of Christmas.”

We arrived in Orlando, got our rental car and proceeded to our rented house, but our GPS misguided us and we ended up lost in a town called Celebration, designed by Walt Disney.

We corrected our directions and navigated our way to the entrance of our rental home, in a neighborhood called Legacy Park. The directions instructed us to enter and find the subdivision called The Retreat.

Stop!

Did you catch those three names of those places? I get the chills thinking that my husband just made random reservations, never realizing the name of the neighborhood or subdivision we would be staying in.

It was truly three divine words. A message from God! We were called to celebrate, have a retreat and leave a legacy.” We celebrated the birth of our Lord in a little town called Celebration, which just so happens to have adorned their town with several nativity scenes. We retreated from our busy lives, which gave us time as a family to reunite, cry from laughter and love one another. We left a legacy with our kids celebrating the true meaning of Christmas.

I have come to realize that sometimes 3 simple words may not be so simple, after all.

PRAYER:  Lord, thank You for mercy. Help us to find more ways to celebrate, retreat and leave Your legacy.

BIBLE VERSE:  “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV).

 

Whatever

May 7, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Worship

By Rosemary Flaaten

What is on today’s to-do list? Is it to put the finishing touches on the big presentation? Is it to clean up a lingering mess in the storeroom? Is it to grade papers? Is it to get to your exercise class? Is it to have lunch with your daughter? Our lives are full of tasks, some menial and routine, others extra special. Whatever the task you will tackle today, God has gifted you with this opportunity for a purpose, and His directive is for you to do your work in such a way that it glorifies Him.

It doesn’t matter if you are a teacher, plumber, corporate executive, child care attendant, nurse, computer programmer or salesperson, God has called us to do our work to the best of our ability. Usually if we do our work well there is affirmation that comes our way. We may even get paid for the work we do. But momentary compensation, affirmation or esteem should not be our primary purpose for our work. The Apostle Paul instructs us that “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV)

Synonyms for the word “whatever” include all, everything, and encompassing. The “whatever” in this scripture is not just talking about the ministry you lead at your church, the Sunday School class you teach or the shut-ins you visit on the weekend. Rather, it encompasses everything we do –working, driving, eating, sleeping, chatting, and exercising. Everything is an act of worship and should be done so that God is glorified, uplifted and extolled.

This may seem plausible when all is going well, your coworkers are picking up their share of the work, your boss is congenial and you feel confident in your abilities. It takes a much greater commitment to see the opportunities to glorify God when the project list is too long, your employees are threatening mutiny and your friend just screamed at you. Glorifying God in all we do is not dependent on situations. It is to occur in spite of our situations.

What are you tempted to do poorly or exclude from your “whatever” list?

PRAYER: Help me this day to choose to glorify You in all that I do – from the menial to the meaningful.

BIBLE VERSE: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV)

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