Daily Devotions for Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: It Takes Faith


Today’s Scripture:   Romans 4:18-21  Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 
Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 


A striking Christmas card was once published with the title “If Christ Had Not Come”. It was founded upon our Savior’s words “If I had not come”  in John 15:22. On the card is a picture of a pastor falling into a short sleep in his study on Christmas morning and dreaming of a world into which Jesus had never come. In his dream he found himself looking through his home, but there were no little stockings in the chimney corner, no Christmas bells or wreaths of holly, and no Christ to comfort, gladden and save. He walked out to the street, but there was no church with its spire pointing to Heaven. He came back and sat down in his library, but every book about the Savior had disappeared. The doorbell rang and a young boy asked the preacher to visit his poor, dying mother. He hastened with the weeping child, and as he reached the home he sat down and said, “I have something here that will comfort you.”  He opened his Bible to look for a familiar promise, but it ended with Malachi. There was no Gospel and no promise of hope and salvation, and he could only bow his head and weep with her in bitter despair. Two days later he stood beside her coffin and conducted the funeral service. There was no message of consolation, no hope of heaven.


I can’t begin to image what life would be like without the reality of Jesus Christ and the hope of heaven. But wait. Didn’t all the saints of the Old Testament have to live that way? This story plays an emotional tune on our heart strings, but the truth is that it is in error. If the Pastor had the Old Testament message, but not the New Testament, he would still have the promises of God that the Messiah was coming. There would still be hope. There would still be a message of consolation. His faith could have been like the faith of Abraham, who against all hope, believed the promise of God. The pastor in story could not have been a true man of faith. He did not believe the prophecies of the Old Testament and use them to give hope to a dying woman. He did not give glory to God by being persuaded that what was promised would someday be fulfilled. He wavered through unbelief.


We tend to do the same thing with the promises of God. We set them aside in unbelief if they have not been fully delivered. We hopelessly take our lives into our own hands when our patience to wait on God runs out. We stop seeking His kingdom and righteousness because all the other things promised to us aren’t being added to us fast enough. Our prayers are more like wishes written to Santa rather than words of faith in the promises of God. We move from event to event and day to day with hardly a thought about the imminent return of Jesus Christ to take us to glory. Life tends to be all about us and our plans, when faith calls us to make life all about God and His glory.


What would our faith look like if we were living prior to the birth of Jesus? Ideally I would like to think that we have an advantage living now. But in reality, our faith is probably weaker. We may tend to take for granted what we know to be true. We may be like the husband who stops romancing the love of his life after the wedding. We tend to live primarily with the expectations of more and better for ourselves in this life, rather than in eternity. We focus on solutions to our own sad situations when we should be focused on the salvation of souls. We have subtly surrendered to sight while God is calling us to fearlessly follow by faith. The Bible is clear – without such faith it is impossible to please God.


The foundation of true faith is solely based on one’s proper understanding of God. Faith is only ever as valid as the object of the faith. If you want your faith to increase, learn more about the object of your faith. So the big question is this – “Who do you know God to be?” How you answer that question determines the level and maturity of your faith. In today’s Scripture, Abraham knew God to be the God of power – power to fulfill promises. At other times of his life He knew other characteristics of God. Somewhere in each of our lives right now there is a weakness in our faith because we don’t sufficiently know the nature and character of God. He has promised to reveal Himself to those who seek Him, and in that revelation our faith will be strengthened. Seek Him today. Inquire of His Word and His Spirit. Ask God to reveal something new about Himself to you, and you will see how your faith will grow, your fears will cease, and His promises will become reality.


Pastor John

Daily Devotions for Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Daily Devotions

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: The Big News


Today’s Scripture:   John 1:1-4, 14  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.


In December 1903, after many attempts, the Wright brothers were successful in getting their “flying machine” off the ground. Thrilled, they telegraphed this message to their sister Katherine: “We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas.” Katherine hurried to the editor of the local newspaper and showed him the message. He glanced at it and said, “How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas.” He totally missed the big news–man had flown!


How many people will miss the big news this year. They will focus on family coming home for the holidays, the meals they will share, and the gifts they will exchange. But they will miss the big news – God became man and dwelt among us, revealing the glory of God by bringing grace and truth to us. Jesus, the Word, who created all things, became flesh so that His life would be the light of men. But far too many don’t see Him. Far too many don’t understand that He is real, and that until they meet Him they are not. They may exist, but they do not really live. They are without hope in an increasingly hopeless world. They are without true light in a dark world, and every light they think will work doesn’t. The darkness has overwhelmed them.


Even their attempts to understand God and His Word are tainted by the premise of pride. You see, even when they try to see God they can’t, because their eyes have been blinded by their own will. If you want an example of this, check out this article from this week’s Newsweek Magazine. www.newsweek.com/id/172653/output/print. In an attempt to make news, they have missed the real news. Jesus, the perfect representation and manifestation of God, came to save us from our sin and give us the gift of eternal life. He stepped out of eternity and became real to us.


Little Jimmy is four. His dad is in Iraq. He hasn’t seen him for over a year. He’s forgotten what it’s like to be swooped up in his dad’s arms and embraced in a giant hug. All he sees is a picture on the table in the kitchen. One day he says to his mother, “If only dad could step out of that picture and be real….”


Christmas means that in a sad day of sin when man had almost forgotten God, He stepped into the world in the form of His Son. He became flesh to identify with us. He became our sin to make it possible for us to identify with Him. And to all who receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)


I know the season is busy. I understand the rush. But don’t miss the big news. And don’t miss the opportunity to share it. Some will not understand. But there will be those who are ready to listen. Just ask Angel, Dwayne, and Donna – three people who heard the message on Sunday and came forward to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. They didn’t miss the big news.


Pastor John


Daily Devotions for Thursday, December 04, 2008

Daily Devotions

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: The Ultimate Difference-Maker


Today’s Scripture:   Colossians 1:15-20  [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Two days ago I received an email from my friend Bruce. I thought at first it might be an invitation to go golfing, but I was soon to discover it was an invitation to something much more important. His timing was perfect. Here we are at the start of another Christmas season, and people are looking for something that will make a difference in their lives. The giving and receiving of gifts offers a respite from the normal drudgery and despondency of life. We seem to need a Santa-like affirmation that we’ve been nice and not naughty. Auto workers are looking for a congressional Christmas present. Retail store owners and operators are looking for customers. The citizens of our great country are looking for hope, placing it primarily in newly elected officials. The world in general is looking for financial stability. People are longing for peace and security.


All those who place their faith and hope in this world will be disappointed. But as my friend reminded me, all those who place their hope and faith in Jesus Christ will be transformed. I trust that the devotional that he shared with me will be a great start for you to this Christmas season, and will be the beginning of seeing Jesus Christ as the ultimate difference-maker in our lives. Here’s what Bruce said…


I was just reading in Dr. David Jeremiah’s Turning Points Magazine and Devotional and was really touched by part of an article. Dr. Jeremiah this month is using some of Dr. Suess’s characters for Christmas analogies, like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Horton Hears a Who. In describing the Who of Christmas that we need to listen for, he says, “the first syllable of Christ-mas gives us the Who, it is Christ. The babe enshrouded in swaddling clothes and lying quietly in the splintered hay was—and is—the Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. He is the Light of the World and the Bread of Life. He is the King of Kings, the King of the Ages, and the King of the Jews. He is Emmanuel— God with us.”


“As he slumbered between ox and donkey, tended by Joseph and Mary, He was God in disguise, the Incarnate Deity, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”


“The whole teaching of the Bible and of Christianity in all it’s major branches is that Jesus Christ was and is the infinite God Himself: pure, perfect, sinless, and holy. He is the Ancient of Days, the Everlasting Lord, the Ruler of Eternity, and the Maker of the Ends of the Earth. He’s the Second Person of the Triune God.”


“It was the Great I Am who created the nocturnal skies under which shepherd boys watched their lambs, who formed the glittering stars into which eastern Magi peered with interest, and who birthed the creation into which He descended in the fullness of time.”


“As the church father Aurelius Augustine, put it: He it is by whom all things were made, and who was made one of all things; who is the revealer of the Father, the creator of the mother; the Son of God by the Father without a mother; the Son of man by the mother without a father; the Word who is God before all time, the Word made Flesh at a fitting timefilling the world, lying in a manger.”


“He is both God and Man”.


How’s that for someone who made a difference in our lives?


Pastor John


Daily Devotions for Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Obedience


Today’s Scripture:   1 Samuel 15:20-22   But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”
But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”


King Saul is in trouble. After being told by the LORD to destroy all of the Amalekites and their possessions, he is now trying to justify his disobedience by saying that God should honor good intentions. After all, shouldn’t God be pleased that they had selected all the best of the cattle and sheep so they could be sacrificed to the LORD? If God had instructed them to do that, then yes, He would be pleased. But good intentions do not make up for disobedience. Besides, Saul only came up with the idea of sacrifice after he had been caught with the goods.


There is an old saying of disputable origin that says, “Hell is paved with good intentions.”  In our modern day it has been amended to state, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  But it is action that proves the heart, not intentions. An ounce of accomplishment is worth a ton of good intention. But being the people we are, stuck in the rut of self-affirmation, we prefer to defend our actions with the justification of our intentions. Unfortunately, we don’t treat others the same. Ian Percy, a modern day motivational speaker and leadership guru, said it this way – We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.


This was true of Saul. He preferred, as I suspect we all do, to be judged by his intentions rather than his actions. But that is not God’s way. The truth is that actions are always the reflection of intentions. Like Saul, we have simply learned how to generate justifiable intentions after the fact of the action, thus attempting to defend our honor and image. This simply won’t cut it with God, and Samuel let’s Saul know it. He states very clearly to him and to us that the end never justifies the means, especially when the end is revised from the original intent. The only thing we are ultimately responsible for is obedience to the LORD. Explicit obedience. Unquestioning obedience. Trust-in-the-One-who-knows-the-end obedience. There is to be no self-justification. No mid-course compromise. Just obedience.  In the fulfillment of your duties, let your intentions be so pure that you reject from your actions any other motive than the glory of God and the salvation of souls (Angela Merici, early16th century).


We don’t honor the intentions of the priest and the Levite who passed by on the other side of the road when a man lay in the ditch fighting for life. We honor the Good Samaritan, who acted. God did not honor the intentions of Saul; He was looking for action. You see, what you do is what you really believe to be true. Want proof? Read carefully what Saul says to Samuel as he tries to defend his actions with imaginary intentions. “The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.” Did you catch it? Saul referred to the LORD as Samuel’s God, but not his own. His actions were the product of what he believed to be true, or in this case didn’t believe to be true.


So the next time you do something spontaneous and then try to catch up to the consequences with imaginary intentions, remember this – your actions prove what you truly believe. Your intentions may indicate what you want to believe, but your actions prove what you really believe. Maybe your intentions simply prove who you want others to think you are. Either way, it’s pretty discouraging and downright dangerous to live such a double life. Make some changes. Start thinking about intentions before you act. Let the LORD be your God, and let His life be lived in and through you. It’s called sincerity, and the obedience it produces is what God delights in.


Pastor John

Daily Devotions for Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Daily Devotions

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Trusting God


Today’s Scripture:   Psalm 84:15-17   Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn.


Yesterday’s devotional stimulated several responses from readers, and I would like to share one of their stories. It comes from a former member of our church who now lives in the Twin Cities. She writes,

I’ve been asking God for more faith and to help me be more faithful. He brought that to mind today as I was unexpectedly lying in an MRI machine. He showed His faithfulness to me by getting me into an open-sided machine within 2 hours of ordering the test (I didn’t have the chance to get too worked up about it). It was for my right wrist and, no, they could not put only my arm in. I asked!  After 2 tries to get me in, (I’m BIG time claustrophobic!) I was finally in for 45 minutes. I started out so panicked that I couldn’t even remember Psalms 1, which I have had memorized for years. So I just talked to God, sang songs, and quoted what scripture I could remember. By the end of the 45 minutes my left arm, that had been holding on to the outside of the machine so that I would not be dragged further in, was almost resting by my head with just my fingertips holding on. I had remembered all of Psalms 1 including my new verse in 1 Cor 2:12. I was still a little stressed but no longer panicked. God just kept reminding me that He was still there and in control and as long as I stayed focused on Him, everything was going to be OK. And it was!


The moral of the story is: God will not let me be put into a situation above what, together, He and I can handle…and keep reviewing my Scripture verses.


Marian Green


Practical applications of trust. We all experience such opportunities daily. We choose to either prod through problems feeling deprived or pass through them focused on God’s promises. Every circumstance of life is an opportunity for the practical application of trust in God.


In just a few days, 13 to be exact, our church will lose a couple of valuable people. Dudley and Inge Donaldson will be leaving for a minimum of two years for the mission field in Swaziland. God has called them to this great adventure and miraculously provided almost all of their funding in less than 8 months! Hallelujah! But they will be greatly missed and hard to replace. Inge has been our office administrator for almost three years now. We thank God that He has provided a gifted and qualified replacement. Through this entire process we have all learned to trust God and stand on His promises. We are so blessed to be their sending church, but we will miss them so much.


Just the other day Inge was having a tough day, and experiencing one of those “issues” that drags us down. Then she remembered something she had been told by a former spiritual mentor – five steps to handling tough situations. She has printed these five steps out on little yellow cards and carries them with her as a reminder to trust God. Let me share them with you.

  1. Give the situation to God – turn it all over to Him and trust Him with the outcome.
  2. Do the right thing – no matter how you are tempted to manipulate the situation for your own benefit, always and only do the right thing.
  3. Be honest with your feelings – tell God and tell others how you really feel. Don’t cover up.
  4. Tell yourself the truth – focus on what you know to be true about the situation and the people involved, and let those truths control your emotions.
  5. Exercise grace – always grant the benefit of the doubt.


What great advice. I’m going to carry one of those cards in my pocket. Make one up for yourself and laminate it. Then practice the steps. Then you will experience the promises of Psalm 84, which says, Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn.


Pastor John


Daily Devotions for Monday, December 1, 2008

Daily Devotions

Monday, December 01, 2008


Current Study: People Who Made a Difference         


Today’s Topic: Trust God


Today’s Scripture:   Psalm 84:10-12  Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.


What a week it was. I sure missed my time at the computer each morning. I thought I would be spending the days deer hunting and using up my vacation time. Instead I spent three days sick in bed. It was the worst gun deer season ever. But I really didn’t feel all that bad about it because I just kept thinking about the big buck I got during the archery season. He will be on my wall soon. Life is a lot more fulfilling when we are thankful for what we have instead of envious of what we don’t have.


There are blessings to be found in every circumstance of life. Sometimes we need to be reminded of simple lessons like that. We need our attitudes adjusted. I received a reminder like that yesterday in church. My attitude wasn’t bad, but my cold was really annoying me. I had made it through the first service with only two coughing spells, and they weren’t bad. Well, the first one was because I missed the mute button on my microphone and coughed right into it, bringing a collective gasp from the congregation. I think several of them were frustrated that I had awakened them from a nice dream. As I sat in the front row for the second service, a young man named Tom leaned forward during the offering and told me he had a story for me. It’s just what I needed to hear.


Tom is a new believer, and is serious about his faith. He told me that he had been having a bad day at work on Saturday. He works in a fast food restaurant, and the customers had been frustrating him all day. Imagine that – on the weekend after Thanksgiving customers being annoying. Anyway, several of his previous customers had paid for their food with quarters. He had grown tired of counting change. Why couldn’t someone just be normal and hand him paper money? He turned around from his station and confessed to the Lord that he was frustrated, and asked God to bless him. He turned back to his cash register to help the next customer. After taking the order, the customer handed him a five dollar bill. He looked at it as he placed it in the cash drawer, and there, written in hot pink ink on the bottom of the bill, were the words you are blessed.


As he told me the story, he showed me the bill. He had exchanged one of his own for it, and said he was going to carry it in his wallet as a reminder to trust God. I could see in his eyes that God had taught him an incredible lesson. I needed the reminder as well. You see, no matter how frustrated we may be at the circumstances of life, we are blessed when we trust in God. It’s so simple. So why is it so hard to practice every minute of every day? It’s because we are more envious of what we don’t have than we are thankful for what we do have. I didn’t get to shoot any deer. I didn’t get to hunt as much as I wanted to. I didn’t get to see my boys shoot any deer. I did get to see all of my grandchildren. I did get to spend three days watching sports center and football. I did get to spend extended time meditating on God’s word and preparing for Sunday’s sermon. I did get to see God use that to touch several lives and initiate change. It’s our choice what to dwell on. We get to choose what to think about. We get to choose our attitude. The great preacher Chuck Swindoll said it this way.

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.

As for me, I will choose to remember that I am blessed, because I trust in the LORD. How about you?

Pastor John