Daily Devotions Tuesday Sept. 30, 2008

Daily Devotions

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Walk By Faith, Not Sight


Today’s Scripture:  Genesis 45:4-7   Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.


Joseph’s life is an incredible story of faith. He made a difference for so many people because he was able to look beyond the immediate circumstances and trust God to be working to bring about a result that would be good for all. People who can see God at work even when all human rationale says otherwise are people who really make a difference.


In the story, Joseph was the favored son of his father Jacob, who would later be called Israel. Joseph had been born to Jacob in his old age, so he received very special attention. His brothers were jealous. They plotted to eliminate him. The plan was changed at the last minute and resulted in Joseph being sold into slavery, eventually in Egypt. While there, he proved himself a worthy leader, and was placed in charge of the household of one of Pharaoh’s officials. After being falsely accused of rape, he was imprisoned. Then, after earning the respect of both prisoners and guards, he was overlooked for release after being promised he would be. Finally, after interpreting a dream for the Pharaoh, he was recognized as the most discerning and wise man in Egypt, and placed in charge of the palace and the whole land of Egypt. All this by the time he was thirty years old.


Joseph used his wisdom to plan for the future. During times of abundance, he put away a portion of the crops and stored them in reserve for the times when there would be drought. When the famine came, countries from all over the world came to Egypt to buy grain. Meanwhile, Jacob, who thought his son Joseph was dead, sent his brothers to Egypt to get grain. Then, after that supply was exhausted, he sent them again. It was during this trip that Joseph decided to reveal himself to his brothers. Imagine the fear that must have overwhelmed their hearts and minds when they realized that the teenager they had sold into slavery now held power over their very lives. Some would call it karma, others might say that what goes around comes around. Here was Joseph’s chance to get even and even ahead.


But not Joseph. He was a man who walked by faith and not by sight. He trusted God. He saw the bigger picture. People who can see the bigger picture make a difference. It’s really easy to get bogged down in the minutia of the immediate. It’s pretty stressful to be overwhelmed by the details. It’s only when someone comes along and reminds us of the bigger picture that we are relieved. We need people around us who can see the whole puzzle, or who at least can show us how to trust the One who created the picture.


Life is full of uncertainty right now. But then, it always has been. There’s a supposed economic crisis that causes fear. Banks are failing because people didn’t follow Joseph’s economic policies of saving to eliminate all borrowing. People who had done nothing wrong end up paying a high price for the bad choices of others. But at those critical times, we have two choices – the same choices Joseph had. We can turn to the world for our solutions, or we can turn to the God who holds the world in His hands. Jesus holds the answers to all of the everyday problems that you face. I guess you can try to deal with your problems on your own without a belief in Jesus Christ, but there will be no permanent solutions and the end result will be failure and destruction. But with a faith in Jesus Christ that looks beyond the immediate, you will realize how insignificant the financial crisis is in comparison with the big picture of God’s plan for the eternal redemption of people’s souls.


There will be a lot of talk today about what we are going to do to rescue America from financial collapse. As you get involved in those discussions, please make sure one thing is perfectly clear: your faith is in the plan and purpose of God and not the politics of the people. This is the time when faith is needed most, and people of faith must lead. Do not be distressed. God has this under control. His plan is being perfected. His purpose is being fulfilled. His people have been sent ahead to provide for a great deliverance, and that deliverance is spiritual, not financial. Keep your focus on Christ, and walk by faith, not sight. You will make a difference.


Pastor John

Daily Devotions Monday Sept. 29, 2008

Daily Devotions

Monday, September 29, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Spiritual Surgeons


Today’s Scripture:  Luke 5:31-32   Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”


From a physical perspective, many of us know the difference a good surgeon has made in our lives. I have had a nearly ruptured appendix removed, two hernias repaired, and major sinus reconstruction. I know, they should have fixed the outside of the nose while they were at it, but they didn’t. None of those surgeries was pleasant, but each was necessary to restore physical health.


Today’s story of a person who made a difference comes from our own Inge Donaldson, the office administrator at our church. She and her husband, Dudley, are missionary appointees to Swaziland, and are in the final stages of fund raising. Inge needed surgery. Spiritual surgery. It wouldn’t be pleasant, but it was essential for spiritual health. Here’s her story.


The person who has made the biggest impact on my life is Dr. Henry Brandt, a Christian psychologist.  He was married to a good friend of mine whom I met on the mission field. When it became apparent that I was a pretty miserable Christian (and a missionary at that!), my friend Marcey invited me to stay with her and Dr. Brandt to figure out what the problem might be.  Dr. Brandt pulled no punches.  He asked me right off if I was willing to make changes in my life – because if I wasn’t, then he saw no need to waste his time or mine.  As he took me through the Scriptures, it didn’t take long for me to realize that my problem was sin.  I had been pretending to be someone I wasn’t.  Always eager to say yes to anything asked of me (isn’t that what missionaries do?), I was actually saying “no” on the inside.  Outwardly I was a helpful missionary, but inside I was grumbling and complaining and not at all happy.  As a skillful surgeon, Dr. Brandt used God’s Word to reveal other areas of my life that needed changing.  It took some time, but gradually, as I acknowledged my sin and repented before God, I changed from a miserable Christian into a joyful one. He taught me what it means to “walk in the spirit” and he always said that circumstances do not create our spirit, they reveal our spirit.  So if I get mad because I have to wait in line at the grocery store, it’s not the waiting in line that makes me angry, the waiting merely reveals the anger that’s already inside of me.  He taught me that anger is only one letter away from danger and I needed to pay attention when my circumstances revealed a negative spirit in me and to deal with it right away and not let it fester.  Dr. Brandt not only taught me how to live out biblical principles, he modeled it!  He is the most Christ-like person I’ve ever met and I’ll be forever grateful for having known him. God used Dr. Brandt to teach me important lessons that have stuck with me and will enable me to be a better missionary this time around!


You may have a need right now for some spiritual surgery. Believe it or not, God has qualified and gifted some people near you in your life to perform it. It may be your pastor, your elder, a friend, or a family member. They are qualified because God has provided them with the surgical instrument necessary to make the proper incisions. That instrument is wisdom, and God has granted it to anyone in Christ who asks for it. Don’t try to operate on yourself. The Great Physician has equipped a staff of spiritual surgeons all around you. Make an appointment with one of them, and trust their diagnosis. You will find the healing you are longing for.


Pastor John

Thursday Devotions 09/25

Daily Devotions

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: He’s Still Painting


Today’s Scripture:  2 Corinthians 5:1, 5-9  Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands…Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 


I don’t think he ever realized how much of an impact he had on people. Every brush with him left a mark. It was hard to tell he had even been there sometimes, except for the new look he left behind. Old stains, scratches and scars would be invisible after he was done. With meticulous care he would cover every part of the problem, using a variety of strokes to insure complete restoration. He would reposition himself when necessary, climbing to any heights, so that even the farthest corners could be touched and transformed. He brought color to otherwise drab circumstances. When necessary he would even stir the pot a little to bring consistency. He wasn’t locked in to one way of doing things. He had a variety of techniques and tools to tackle any test. He could spray on love, roll on grace, and brush on forgiveness. In fact, he painted all three of those things on me. Painting was what he loved. Now he knows how great of a painter he was, because he painted lives for the Master, and the Master has personally shown him his handiwork.


For those of you who are not from Calvary, I am speaking of a man of God with whom we all served. He was an Elder at our church, and this morning at around three a.m. he climbed his last ladder. At the top were the waiting arms of the Master Painter of lives, and he was welcomed into them. Jim Russell is with Jesus. His work is done, but his painting continues. His life will continue to make brush marks on ours. He will add consistency to our lives as we are stirred by his faith and faithfulness. He will continue to paint over the stains and scars of our lives with the brush strokes of forgiveness he demonstrated to us. Every time we see a ladder, he will continue to challenge us to climb to new heights to reach people who need to be touched and transformed. Even though he is now in a place that needs no painting, he is still painting, and we are his canvas. We always were, and that’s why he made such a difference.


Pastor John

Wednesday Devotions 09/24

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic:   Combining Encouragement with Challenge


Today’s Scripture:  Matthew 16:21-25   From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”


Sometimes encouragement and challenge come in the form of admonition or rebuke. We don’t like those times of confrontation, but they are necessary. Our attitude towards the people who have the courage to address our issues can make all the difference.


In today’s Scripture, Jesus must address a serious issue in Peter’s thinking. He does it bluntly and firmly, but not without proper foundation and teaching of Kingdom principles. In the long run, His confrontation with His disciples made a difference in their lives. He challenged them and encouraged them, even though at the time they may not have thought it very encouraging.


I want to follow up on yesterday’s devotional with a story of encouragement and challenge from one of our readers. This comes from Terri, who said a former boss she had made a real difference in her life.


In 1991 I was an executive assistant to a Corporate VP.  He and I got along well, but in all honesty, he was flakey (for lack of a better description) and had personal problems that I was unaware of at the time.  Part of my job was making him look good, so I did my best to “cover for him” when he wouldn’t make it in for an executive meeting—and I thought I was doing a good job of it.  But over the course of a couple years, I realized I had also become “flakey” – coming in when I wanted to and leaving when I wanted to.  I had no heart left in my job but continued to cruise through for the paycheck, knowing my boss would always “cover for me” as I did for him.


One afternoon, he had a meeting with his boss, the Sr. VP. After the meeting he asked me to go with him into a conference room.  He told me that he had just been let go from the company.  It was no secret that his boss didn’t like him. However, I found out right then that his boss also did not like me by default.  I would be given a couple weeks at the company to search for other internal opportunities and then would also be let go.


Within 15 minutes of finishing that discussion with my boss the Sr. VP came down the hall and told me quite sternly to get up to his office.  His administrator had gone into labor 2 months earlier than expected and he let me know (in no uncertain terms) that I would fill in for her while she was gone. He told me what he had observed about me, and that he felt I was pretty much worthless, but that I would have to do until he could find a replacement.  I could look for other opportunities in the company, but was told that he would never provide a reference for me.  I wanted to walk out the door and never come back, if I could hold back the tears—but I didn’t leave or cry.  I knew I was the best at what I did and just hoped I had the opportunity to prove that. My intentions were out of spite, however. 


A month later, when I arrived at the office (yes, about ½ hour late because I thought he was scheduled for a meeting), he was sitting in his office with the HR manager and asked me to join them.  I was provided with an official warning letter that I would be terminated immediately if I failed to be on time one more morning. I signed the letter to acknowledge I understood and the HR manager left the office.  My boss just sat there and stared at me with a serious look on his face.  The silence drove me insane and I started trying to ramble to him about my promises of doing better. He held his hand up for me to stop talking. 


He asked me how long I thought it took to change something.  Again my nervous rambling started. He held up his hand for me to stop talking again and said “it takes that long” and snapped his fingers.  He continued “the only thing that takes time is making the decision to change.  Once you are serious and make the decision to change, it happens like that (again, snapping his fingers).”  His gaze never left my eyes and he was talking sincerely—a side of him I felt I’d never seen before.  It was a profound moment for me because I realized that he was absolutely right. I also realized he must think I’m worth something to even take the time to have this brief exchanged.


Instantaneously my attitude changed, which triggered a series of changes in my work life and personal life.  He and I formed one of the best working relationships I’ve ever had in my career.  Although 17 years later, he is no longer with the company, I still am and continue to grow professionally from the difference he made in my life. We still keep in touch and I’ve had the opportunity to thank him for being someone who made a difference in my life. When I did, it was his turn to cry.


Sometimes we need people who will be blunt and firm with us, especially when we understand that they are doing it for our good. If we can get past the initial defense mechanisms of pride we have set up to protect ourselves from hurt, we will probably see the potential benefit of growth. We all need to listen to the truth that is being spoken rather than reacting to how it is being presented. Most people with the courage to challenge us are doing it for the right reason. Listen to them. It will make a difference.


Pastor John




Tuesday devotions 09/23

Every Monday through Thursday I write a daily devotional for the people of my church and my friends. You are invited to get in on what God is teaching me from the truth of His Word – the Bible.

Daily Devotions

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic:   Combining Encouragement with Challenge


Today’s Scripture:  John 21:16   Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”


As a young man I was very confused. Everything I did was an attempt to make people like me. Most of it failed miserably, and had exactly the opposite result. If you were to ask anyone from my high school graduating class what I was like, they would use the word “jerk” to describe me. I’m not making this up – it’s true. When I got to college, I was able to create a new persona and made it work for a while. But I was still not living out the life of Christ in me, but trying to earn the favor of people by adapting to whatever I thought they wanted me to be. I never believed I was worth much, which was pride in a most dangerous form.


In the Spring of my freshman year, I got a phone call from my brother Paul. He was planning on attending the same college I attended, and asked me if he could by my roommate for the coming year. I was overwhelmed. I think it was one of the best days of my life. My younger brother, whom I envied for his popularity and abilities, wanted to bunk with me. Of course I said yes. When we arrived at school that year, we immediately began making plans with the other guys on our dorm floor for our intramural football and basketball teams. Of course, my brother would be the quarterback, the position he played in high school. I never got to play high school football, but I played endless hours with my brother in the yard when I was younger. I knew him, and I discovered that he knew me. We became an unstoppable combination of touchdown passes. We also played pretty good pass defense. I believe we went undefeated for two years in a row.


Then basketball season came. I had played on the freshman team, but when my brother I decided to play intramural ball with him. At five foot eleven inches I was the tallest guy on our dorm floor, so I got appointed to play center, a position I had never played before. One of our first games was against the faculty, and the head basketball coach was on that team. He stood six foot ten and weighed at least 250. I was a mere 145 pounds. Of course, I was getting manhandled inside and we were losing the game. At halftime my brother looked at me and said, “John, we need you. You can do better. Take control of the inside and get us some rebounds.” I’ve honestly never had anyone tell me anything more personally significant in my life. I was needed. Someone believed in me. Someone trusted my abilities. It was a life-changing moment for me.


The second half was completely different. I discovered that the coach couldn’t jump very well, but I could. I discovered he was slow, and I was quick. I discovered I could exert some strength and actually move him around. I had the most fun of my life. We won the game, and went on to win a lot more as well. All because one person, my brother, saw past my failures and flaws, and combined encouragement with a challenge. He made a difference in my life.


Jesus did that for Peter, too. After denying Christ three times, and giving up hope of ever accomplishing anything of value, he had gone back to fishing. Jesus meets him where he was, and combines encouragement with challenge. He takes whatever level of love Peter is able to give Him, and provides him an opportunity to use it to do something great. It was Peter’s life-changing moment.


How many people do you know who need encouragement combined with challenge? They don’t need us to point out their flaws. They don’t need to be reminded of their dysfunctions. They need someone to believe in them. And how will they ever know that God does if God’s people don’t? Everyone is of value to God. He died for all. He wants to save all. So find one of them today, and tell them something that encourages them and gives them the courage to accept a challenge. Then, when they know you care, they will want to know why you care. That’s when you get to tell them about Jesus. It will change their life.


Pastor John