Devoted

Friday, July 23rd

Who is Jesus?

By Ed Skipper

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Thursday, July 22nd

Always Faithful

By Galen Troyer

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Wednesday, July 21st

No Punishment, No Bondage

By Ed Skipper

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Tuesday, July 20th

“Yes…He Can, He Did and He WILL!”

By Lynn Koehn

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiSgxlD4kqM

 “Yes He Can” recently released by the sibling Cain trio.

 

This song makes me smile on the inside every time I hear or watch the video. I hope it blesses, encourages and fills your heart with joy as well.

 

Did He move every mountain?
Did He part every sea?
Yes, He did
So yes, He can
Did He defeat the darkness?
Did He deliver me?
Yes, He did
So yes, He can

Cause I've seen too much
Now I can't deny
He's come through every single time
From the beginning until the end
He did, He will, He can

 

These are just a few of the undeniable declarations in this song. Before you listen to the rest of the song, let me remind you of the words Abraham declared to his son Isaac [Genesis 22:1-14] as they were climbing up Mt. Moriah to worship (v5) and make a sacrifice of burnt offering (v2) to the Lord. You may sense a little trepidation in Isaac’s question, “Father, the fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham’s answer is incredibly astonishing. He not only calms his son’s fear but helps him to remember…God CAN, God DID and HE WILL! (v8).

 

This is where the name, “Jehovah-Jireh! The Lord WILL provide” originated. Jehovah-Jireh is not “The Lord Did provide,” but “The Lord Will provide.” In other words, Jehovah-Jireh does not simply commemorate a past occasion or intervention; it anticipates and even promises future Divine providence and provision. That is what this song is declaring; “He did, He can and He will.”

 

The next time you are facing an “unknown” or a seemingly “impossible” listen or watch this video. Remember, our God is the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the same yesterday, today and forever!

 

“God can, He did and He WILL!”

Monday, July 19th

Who is a Minister?

By Bob Elliott

We often tend to think that the word minister (or ministry) is connected with the notion of a church leader. Someone who is a pastor or a lay leader in the church. While this is generally true, there is a much broader context that should be considered.

Every Christian is called to ministry and to be a minister. You see the word means ‘to serve.’ We have the unique opportunity to serve in a capacity that no other person has. Your world, your sphere of influence, your personality are all connected together in a beautiful tapestry of opportunity to reflect the glory of God.  

I know this may sound a bit trite, especially when we go through seasons of extreme difficulty. However, there is always the opportunity before us to consider how we can minister to others, no matter the circumstances.

How can we accomplish this? The answer is found in responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is constantly ministering  to us, in the deepest part of our lives. Second Corinthians 3: 17 & 18 says,  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

This imagery is so beautiful! John Wimber described this kind of ministry as “meeting the needs of others with the resources of God.” Therefore, it is not by might or by power, but by the spirit says to Lord.

Wonderfully, this type of ministry is available to us all, with or without the title of being a pastor.

 

Friday, July 16th

Glean and Go

By Gary Bittner

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Thursday, July 15th

Knowing vs.

Knowing About

By Galen Troyer
“Jesus doesn’t just give you what you need; Jesus is what you need.” -Louie Giglio
How would you describe the difference between knowing Jesus and knowing about Jesus? Many people know about Jesus, yet don’t know him; and they haven’t yet realized that they need him.
Is it easier to think about what Jesus gives you and me; more than about the great need you and I have each day for him? He loves it when we come to him, he desires relationship with us. I never knew real peace and the reality of his love and care for me until I gave my life to him. He is worthy of our love and adoration; he paid the ultimate price- death- for our salvation.
I love what Jesus said to the woman at the well after he’d asked her for a drink, “if you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10
The woman then asked Jesus “where can you get this living water?” And Jesus replied Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water that I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” John 4:13
All of us who have realized our need for Jesus and have given our life to him, now have that “spring of water” in us. We have eternal life in Jesus, because of Jesus! Jesus, God’s Son, is who everyone needs. It’s the only way to gain eternal life. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24
We have good news to share with those who don’t know Jesus. He wants to give us what we need each day, to share that good news with those we meet. Ask him for what you need.

Wednesday, July 14th

Forgiven Much

by Warren Stroup

It continues to amaze me how much God forgives.

We have a hard time forgiving someone for wearing our clothes without permission. I remember yelling at my younger brother when he used my things without asking. It wasn’t the first time, he did it all the time.  Why should I forgive him when I knew he was going to do it again and again?

There’s an illustration given to us by Jesus after Peter asked, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” I could imagine Peter feeling pretty good about himself, it seems like seven is a very gracious number. Jesus’ response probably took his breath away, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” If Jesus response wasn’t shocking enough, he continues here with an illustration of what the kingdom of heaven could be compared to.

Take a moment this morning and read through this demonstration of forgiveness, keeping in mind that God is this type of master. This example should equip us with the compassion to forgive others. 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who decided to collect the money his servants owed him. When the king began to collect his money, a servant who owed him several million dollars was brought to him. But the servant did not have enough money to pay his master, the king. So the master ordered that everything the servant owned should be sold, even the servant’s wife and children. Then the money would be used to pay the king what the servant owed.

“But the servant fell on his knees and begged, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything I owe.’ The master felt sorry for his servant and told him he did not have to pay it back. Then he let the servant go free.

“Later, that same servant found another servant who owed him a few dollars. The servant grabbed him around the neck and said, ‘Pay me the money you owe me!’

“The other servant fell on his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything I owe.’

“But the first servant refused to be patient. He threw the other servant into prison until he could pay everything he owed. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very sorry. So they went and told their master all that had happened.

“Then the master called his servant in and said, ‘You evil servant! Because you begged me to forget what you owed, I told you that you did not have to pay anything. You should have showed mercy to that other servant, just as I showed mercy to you.’ The master was very angry and put the servant in prison to be punished until he could pay everything he owed.

“This king did what my heavenly Father will do to you if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:25-35, New Century Version)

Forgiveness is not something we hold onto, it’s something we give freely. 

Lord help us to be a forgiving people, no matter what someone has done, may we forgive as graciously as our Heavenly Father forgives.

Monday, July 12th

Anointed

By Bob Elliott

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.  And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Cor 1:20-22 e.s.v.

It is important for us to realize that all of us are anointed by God. This anointing is not just for super-spiritual Christian leaders or speakers. No, the Bible is clear that God has given all of us the power to overcome sin, temptation and evil. Do you know that this anointing gives us access to God in prayer and worship? This anointing also empowers us to proclaim God’s message to others.

God has imparted the Holy Spirit to us for the purpose of equipping us for service, what ever that may look like in our lives. We are the people of promise and hope for our generation. This presence of the Holy Spirit is like a down payment for what is yet to come.

When purchasing property, the first step that the buyer does when writing the contract is to place a sum of money known as earnest money. This financial commitment lets the seller know that the buyer is serious about the intent to buy.

Like-wise, the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives is God showing us his intentions for us to be kingdom people. Our inheritance is so special, it is awesome. Our anointing that we receive is only the tip of the iceberg of what God has in store for us. Let’s all walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Let’s be intentional about our walk and relationship with Christ.

Friday, July 9th

The Year of the Lord's Favor

By Gary Bittner

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Thursday, July 8th

Don't be a Fool

By Galen Troyer

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Wednesday, July 7th

What are You Looking For?

by Warren Stroup

Have you ever laid awake in bed at night thinking about all your family needs? My kids need new clothes, my wife needs a nicer house and we have nothing to eat in the cupboards.  Every month it’s the same cycle and your anxiety level is going through the roof. 

Jesus gives us some instruction, while talking to his disciples and the crowd during his sermon on the mount. He says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” It’s not that we don’t need shelter, food and clothing. It’s that we need God more! This passage in Matthew 6 is speaking directly to what Abraham Maslow called physiological needs (food, shelter, clothes, water, air, sleep etc.).  Once these needs are met, we move onto other needs. Maslow coined this as our Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow’s theory assumes that man is a social animal and he always desires for more and more. His desire is what motivates him to meet the needs he’s lacking. He says, “a satisfied need can never work as a motivator.”

Jesus is throwing a wrench into this theory. What if humanity could focus their attention away from their needs? What if their needs were no longer their primary motivation? Jesus is saying this very thing. We are called to love him and love others. The rest is up to him.  When this is our new paradigm, the anxiety of meeting our own needs will go away. We will become anxious for nothing.  

Here’s the key, seek first the kingdom of God. Let this be all the motivation you need.

Paul says in Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom God is not a matter of eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” There is so much more to this life than just meeting various physiological needs.

The real question is; do we trust God enough to seek him first?

The church in Philippi was so generous to Paul. In his letter to them he wrote. “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:18-19) The principle here is that when we are loving God and loving others, it is God who will supply what we need according to his wealth, his riches. His resources are far greater than anything you can accumulate.

Here's what’s crazy!  As a Christian, our motivation is something we already have. Sorry Maslow.

Jesus Christ!

He gave of himself completely, we are lacking nothing in Christ.

What are you looking for? You were lost and he found you!   

 

Tuesday, July 6th

Declaration of Freedom

By Lynn Koehn

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident…...” Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. I am grateful for our American independence and the freedom(s) afforded us on that day. There is however, as Christians, an even greater independence granted us. We could refer to it as our “Declaration of Freedom.” This undeniable, unquestionable (self-evident) declaration is not only life-giving here and now but for all eternity.

 

“So, if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John 8:36 [New Living Translation]

 

Once we, you and I, were “dead in our trespasses” [Ephesians 2:1-3]—bound, enslaved, held captive, corrupted and controlled by sin [Rom. 5:12-20]. Then…, Jesus!

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free.” [Luke 4:18]

Jesus broke the chains of sin, opened the prison doors and walked us out from behind those walls! Sin lost its power! Our sinful habits, our ungodly thoughts and attitudes lost control! Guilt, shame and condemnation were annihilated! We ARE “free indeed!” [John 8:36 NIV]. Perhaps the most liberating truth in all of Scripture. The Jury, the Judge, the Executioner, King Jesus has set us free!

 

Romans 8:1 [The Passion Translation]

“So now the case is closed. There remains no accusing voice of condemnation against those who are joined in life-union with Jesus, the Anointed One.”

 

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! [Romans 8:1 NIV]

 

May these self-evident truths encourage, inspire and bless you today.

 

“Thank you, Jesus for annihilating the bondage of sin in me. Giving me freedom to accept eternal life and walk in a love-relationship with you in this life and in the life to come!”

Monday, July 5th

The Night with a Mosquito

By Bob Elliott

I have been going through the Bible in one year by Nicky Gumble. Recently I read one of his devotions titled The Night with a Mosquito. I found this fascinating and so I will share some of his ideas about this subject with you today.

There is an African proverb that goes like this; “if you think that you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.” This one little bug becomes more and more significant as the night wears on.

Obviously, this “difference” of the mosquito is in a negative connotation, but the principle of significance is the same. Sociologists tell us that even the most introverted person will influence 10,000 other people during his or her lifetime. This is so encouraging to me. I/we have the opportunity to have a significant impact to literally thousands of others.

I look at all of this in the context of us being salt and light to the world around us. Do you remember pastor Warren’s post last week about being Ezekiel being willing to obey God, even when it seems crazy to do so? Well, think of this in the setting of potential impact for extending the Kingdom of God. When we become willing vessels for the power and love of God to flow through us, there is bound to be good things happening.

So, don’t think of yourself as being frail, weak or insignificant. We can make a difference, so be looking for opportunities to share your faith with others in a tangible way.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2Cor12:9-10 esv

 

 

Friday, July 2nd

There was Jesus

By Gary Bittner

Have you ever asked 'God, where are you?' In the midst of a difficult trial or circumstance, when maybe things at work or home or in the checkbook are not going so well, have you said 'God, you promsed to be with me, always, but where are you now?' Has God ever asked you to do something that you might think is too hard for you, that maybe is 'above your paygrade?' 
 
When we find ourselves 'up against it' it's easy to forget that indeed He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. I'm not going to list all the promises about that. Rather, I want to take us to a passge that explains WHY we can move forward, get over, get through because of WHO is leading us, asking us, protecting us.....
 
When God first appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush, Moses asked him, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:13–14) (bold mine). 
 
One scholar explains, “I AM should thus be understood as referring to [God’s] being the creator and sustainer of all that exists and thus the Lord of both creation and historyall that is and all that is happening.” 
 
Amen. I AM is with us, going before us, making the way. I love the book of Isaiah, I especially love chapter 43. I encourage you to read the whole chapter, but particularly verses 16 thru 19...."16 This is what the Lord says, he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (bold mine). 
Now, I know 'I am' in Isaiah is not the same word/words as in Exodus, but the 'I am' in Isaiah shows us that He Is Aways doing/working/making on our behalf, and that is my encouragement to us all, we can count on God, always and forever.
Watch this video, 'There Was Jesus' and be blessed

Thursday, July 1st

PEACE

By Galen Troyer

 

How do you define peace? I asked Siri for it’s definition of peace and here’s what I got: Freedom from disturbance; Quiet and Tranquility.

 

Most of us if given a choice, prefer living in peace and safety, rather than in chaos and/or danger. Do you know that it’s possible to be at peace in chaotic and even dangerous situations? And, it’s also possible to have unrest (lack of peace) when it’s quiet and peaceful around us.

 

You may have experienced both, or you may be asking, “how can that be?” In our own strength it’s difficult at best, and our feelings and emotions might be like Job’s, who said when he was being tested: “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil” (Job 3:26 NIV).

 

True peace is experienced in our heart. It’s not determined by our circumstances and/or what’s going on around us. Allow these scriptures to sink in as you read them:

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. (Pr 14:30 NIV)

Do you want to live a long, good life, enjoying the beauty that fills each day? Then never speak a lie or allow wicked words to come from your mouth. Keep turning your back on every sin,and make “peace” your life motto. Practice being at peace with everyone. ( Ps 34:12-14 TPT)

You, God, keep them in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because they trust in you. (Is 26:3 ESV)

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. (Ps 85:10-11 ESV).

 

There isn’t anything in this world that compares to the peace that God offers. His peace is more than enough for anything we may face. The Apostle Paul wrote this to the church in Philippi- notice that the instructions are followed with a promise.

Don’t be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7 ESV)

Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27 ESV)

 

I’m reminded of these words from an old gospel song entitled “In the Shelter of His Arms”: When my soul was disturbed with sorrow, when my heart was burdened with sin; Jesus opened His arms of mercy, and tenderly took me in.

There is peace in the time of trouble, there is peace in the midst of the storm; there is peace though the world be raging, in the shelter of His arms.

 

When you find yourself troubled and unable to be at peace, run to Jesus- He’s always close and He’s always ready and willing to hold you and wrap his arms around you. You will find peace in Him. That’s a wonderful promise.

 

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.

(Num 6:24-26 ESV)

 

Wednesday, June 30th

Not what I thought

 by Warren Stroup

Does God ever asked you to do the unexpected? It’s at that moment you are face to face with the reality of trusting God. Do you ever wonder why there are so many illustrations in the Bible where people are asked to do the craziest things? I’ve recently read through Ezekiel; this poor guy seemed out of his ever living mind.

Ezekiel 4:4-5, “…lie on your left side, and place the punishment of the house of Israel upon it. For the number of days that you lie on it, you shall bear their punishment. For I assign to you a number of days, 390 days…” If that wasn’t enough when he was finished with this demonstration, he was to roll over and lie on his right side for 40 more days. What’s amazing is that Ezekiel did it without grumbling. He was more concerned about what God wanted than what he wanted.  When was the last time you grumbled at the Lords request?

The more we spend time with God and allow him to speak to us, the more we’re going to hear God ask us to do strange and wonderful things.  I would challenge you to invite God to speak to you. Let him know that whatever he asks of you, you’re going to do. No questions asked, just simple obedience.  Do you remember how you felt when your kids obeyed without complaining? It was amazing, wasn’t it. Let’s give the Lord a little shock and simply do what he’s asking of us. 

Isn’t it time that the church begins to do the crazy things God is asking her to do? There is nothing more wonderful than letting God be God and us responding to his sovereign authority.

  

Tuesday, June 28

Speaking Kind Words

By Lynn Koehn 

Proverbs 16:24 [New Living Translation]

Kind words are like honey—

     sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

 

Proverbs 15:4 [Amplified Bible]

“A soothing tongue (speaking words that build up and encourage} is a tree of life,

     but a perversive tongue (speaking words that overwhelm and depress) crushes the spirit.”

 

Proverbs 18:4

“A person's words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.”

 

We cannot underestimate the effect that a few kind words can have on a person at any given time. Sweetness to the soul, health to the body, life-giving, and refreshing to name just a few!

 

Allow these scriptures to encourage you as you speak kind and soothing words that will become life-giving, like that of a bubbling brook, in the midst of a contentious and troublesome culture. Look for and acknowledge something good about as many situations and circumstances as possible. Ask the Holy Spirit every morning to help you speak “soothing and kind” words to the people you encounter, knowing that for some, your words are like medicine….honey to the soul, health for the body, life-giving and refreshing! Intentionally look for the positive in one another and speak of it glowingly.

 

Speaking soothing and kind words to others is actually good for us, personally. It becomes an antidote to our societal frustration and outrage. Intentionally speaking kind words to one another dispels the contentious feelings within us and allows the fragrance of Christ to emanate out of us to those we encounter.

 

Colossians 3:17 [The Passion Translation]

“Let every activity of your lives and every word that comes from your lips be drenched with the beauty of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. And bring your constant praise to God the Father because of what Christ has done for you!”

 

God has blessed us with so many positives. Why should we waste time with words of death when we can speak words of life? Take the high road! Your soothing and kind words will have a positive effect on everyone you meet.

 

Proverbs 12:25 [The Passion Translation]

“Anxious fear brings depression,

……but a life-giving word of encouragement can do wonders to restore joy to the heart.”

 

 “I thank you Father for helping me today with my words. May they be uplifting, encouraging, and dripping with honey. I thank you Holy Spirit for preventing me from speaking divisive words and helping me to speak words that bring hope and are life-giving. May every word I speak be bathed in the fragrance of Jesus!”

 

Monday, June 28th

911

By Bob Elliott

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Ps.91:1-6 esv

I love this particular psalm. Being a Paramedic for 30 years, I have considered this passage to be one of rescue in times of trouble. If I was having difficulty or facing challenges, I would say to myself, 911. That is Psalms 91:1!

In addition to 911, the following 5 verses help to bring more meaning to what it is to dwell in the shelter and protection of the most high God. He is faithful and worthy of our placing trust in Him.

The theme for this scripture is that even through the difficulties of pestilence and real life arrows being pointed at us, God will provide shelter and relief from the storm.

Tim Keller has recently stated that after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, “as long as Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is true, then everything will be OK.” He has come to grips with his diagnosis and declares that as long as he is living, he can find shelter in God being his fortress, no matter what the external circumstances are.  This is an example of real faith in action. God will provide safety and protection for us, even beyond the grave.

You see, we are built to be eternal creatures that will spend our days in the presence of God. Life here on earth is just a blip on the radar screen of time. We are pilgrims in a strange land here. However, we have a hope available to us that the world can not offer. This is something that we can display to others, it is the meaning of this hope to a lost and dying culture around us.

 

Friday, June 25th

What We get Wrong about Prayer

By Ed Skipper

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Thursday, June 24th

"A Sterling Reputation", by Galen Troyer

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the maker of them all. (Prov. 22: 1&2 NIV)
And, here’s how the Message Bible says it: A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich; and a gracious spirit is better than money in the bank. The rich and poor shake hands as equals- God made them both. (Prov. 22:1&2 MSG)
Sterling is defined as: highest in quality.
And, a gracious spirit is one that is courteous, kind and patient.
Our first grandchild was born in the late ‘90s. This exciting event happened early in the morning on the 22nd day of the month. Later that day, I read this chapter and was inspired to write her a letter, referring to verses 1 and 4. ( I also mentioned that her grandma was at the hospital four times that day to see her!)
Do you ever look back and think or say, “I wish I’d done that” or “I wish I wouldn’t have done that”? Well, I wish I’d written each of my grandchildren a letter on the day they were born. I love them all the same and I’ve written them all letters at various times, but I missed that opportunity.
The things we do, or don’t do, every day, make us who we are.
Our reputation isn’t something that we get to define. It is defined by those who know us; and others we have interaction(s) with, who may not know us. Jesus has called us to be a light to this world; however, the world’s approval is not what we’re looking for.
I John 3: 15-17 reads: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
In order for God’s Grace to grow and flow effectively through us to the world, we need each other. We were created to “do good works”; to “love each other fervently”; to “love God with all of our heart, soul and mind” and to “love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.”
God’s approval is our desire. May we hear him say “Well done”.

Wednesday, June 23rd

“God Circles Us!” by Warren Stroup

It was January of this year that we started what’s called a “Circle Prayer Team”. It’s a group of people that have decided to come together and draw a circle around specific God size prayers. It’s within this circle we remain until God answers our prayers.  You might think this rather audacious of us, such a bold move before almighty God. It’s from this position of tenacity that God honors our petitions.  Long before we ever started drawing circles, God has drawn circles around us.

Psalm 32:7, “Thou Shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.”

God honors those that come boldly before the throne room of grace. It’s so easy to quit and say, “I guess God’s not awake this morning, or God must not be listening today.” God is constantly teaching us, guiding us, discipling us. We quit before he’s through.  There is so much we can learn in persistence. In the very beginning of the book of James it reads, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

To some of us, praying may be considered more of a trial than a blessing.  It is through persevering that God finishes the good work that he has started in you. There are so many times that we pray, “one and done” prayers.  It’s as if we’re checking boxes, so when people ask us if we’ve prayed about it, we can say, “Yep, I prayed, must not be God’s will for me.”

Let’s take prayer out of the “should do” category and place it into the “must do” category.  It says in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people…pray”, shouldn’t that read, “When my people…pray”?  We are the only ones that can change from being an “if” people, to a “when” people. Prayer should not be our last choice, but rather our first choice. It’s like being picked last on the playground, “I guess we’ll take Warren, since we have to.” Prayer should be the first player we choose; we can’t play the game without prayer!

As you take time today, consider being a person of prayer.  This is different from a person that prays, the difference being one is about the need and the other is about the relationship.  God wants you to know, worship and obey him, what better way to start than through prayer.

This coming fall, we are going to take a Prayer Journey together. In preparation for that journey I would ask each one of you to read, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson.  This book is going to challenge your perception of prayer. Please go to amazon and purchase one, today.

God wants to awaken you to a life of prayer, a life of deep relationship with Him.

Tuesday, June 22

The Transformational Power of the Gospel

By Ed Skipper

Watch Video

 

Monday, June 21

Blind Spots

By Bob Elliott

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.         1st Cor. 13:8-13 esv

In this familiar passage in 1st Corinthians chapter 13, the famous love chapter, we see a beautiful picture of how we are to love one another. This is the example of modeled behavior that sends a distinct message to the world around us. The scripture says that they will know that we are Christians by the love that we share with one another. Our church is to be a model of love to Lebanon and our surrounding area. We are here to serve our community.

It is interesting to note in this passage that maturity from a child to adult describes a putting away of childish things. This is in the context of growing in love. The implication here is specific about getting rid of the selfishness we had as children. This can be challenging for many of us. We can have blind spots of selfishness that we do not realize. However, this may be obvious to those around us.

The first three verses in the chapter states, If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. It is so important for us to model a philo or brotherly love to others around as much as possible.

How has your love quotient been lately?  If you find it at the bottom end of a 1-10 scale, I would encourage you to break out of your normal routine and spend some time intentionally with God. When you realize the magnitude of love that He has for you, it translates into an attitude for gratefulness and this can strengthen and build your love quotient towards others.

 

 

Friday, June 18th

Entering into His Rest

By Gary Bittner

https://youtu.be/mRG9hsbY28I

Thursday, June 17th

"Jesus wept" by Galen Troyer

This is the shortest verse in the Bible. These two words from John 11:35 tell us much about who Jesus is. A few days before, he’d gotten the word from Mary and Martha that their brother, Lazarus was sick. Even though Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, he waited a few days before going to see them. When he arrived, Martha went out to meet him and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
(John 11: 21-27).
Martha then went and found her sister Mary and told her that Jesus had come and was asking for her. Mary got up quickly and went to him. Friends who were in the house with her, followed her, assuming she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
John 11:32-36
Jesus is touched by our pain and sorrow. He was full of compassion for people during his life on earth; He cares deeply for us today and identifies with us during these times more than anyone else can. His love for us is so great that he did something for us that no one else could have done. He gave his life by death on the cross, making a way for us, who by faith believe in Him, can live in eternity with Him forever! (See John 11:25-26).
Back to Lazarus:
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there for four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. John 11: 38-45
If you haven’t already done so, today would be a good day to put your faith in Jesus!

Wednesday, June 16th

“Designed by God” by Warren Stroup

I like how the Message Bible paraphrases, Psalms 139 13-16.

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

We are face to face with a culture that wants to be designer god. How can we take the place of the one that created all things? How can we step in and assume the role of creator, when we are the created? The audacity of a people that want to take over the design responsibility, from the designer, is so egocentric. From our genesis, to today the heart of man is to replace God with ourselves, it’s not until we are awakened to the Gospel, do we surrender design back to God. 

Being a people that are called to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40), we are fighting against the cultural tide.  We can read in Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” This is clear instruction to be selfless, not selfish. We are called to live in a position of denying what we want and surrendering to what God wants. It’s from this position that we put down our old nature and embrace the new.

God doesn’t need our help with design, he already has a plan and a purpose for us. Jeremiah prophetically speaking says something powerful to the Israelites while they were in captivity in Babylon, “I know the plans I have for you…” The rest of the passage is specifically for the people in captivity, but there is a Biblical principle here that should help us as we look to the future. God has a plan for you! As we just read King David; so eloquently describe, how God knows us intimately. Can we not trust him with our lives.?

Church let us be confident in Designer God, trust Him to lead you well. His plans are far greater then your own.

Tuesday, June 15th

Thinking God Thoughts!

By Lynn Koehn

 Pastor Gary shared an applicable and timely message Sunday, June 13, 2021. If you missed it I recommend you to go to www.therivercenter.net and watch it. Gary concluded the message with this encouraging challenge: “Think of yourself as ‘crossed-over’ people.” Which means we are living NOW in the favor, the blessings and the promises of God! The challenge is in our thinking. When ‘opposition’ stares us in the face, the immediate challenge becomes ‘our thoughts.’ Where do I allow my thoughts to go? How do I process and deal with the situation in my thinking?

 

The Bible is clear that we will encounter spiritual warfare in our thoughts. Scripture is also clear that we have access to “divinely powerful” weapons. The word of God assures us that by activating our God-given powerful weapons, we are destroying flawed and debilitating thoughts that will eventually lead us away from living in God’s favor, His blessings and His promises.

 

Read Paul’s encouraging words from 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 in the Amplified Bible. “For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ, being ready to punish every act of disobedience, when your own obedience [as a church] is complete.”

 

If we are going to “live” in the promises of God we must, by activating His powerful weapons, bring erroneous and paralyzing thoughts into captivity. Destroy (annihilate) them before they rob you of God’s best. As Pastor Gary said, “the enemy of best is good.” Don’t settle for good. Capture and demolish every thought that will eventually prevent you from experiencing life in the Promised Land.

 

Philippians 4:8 [Amplified Bible], “Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].”

 

Take heart: as God empowers you to focus your mind on the right things, it will become easier. It is possible to live a life aware of our thoughts and taking them captive! God gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us to do just that!

Monday, June 14th

In the Grip of Grace

By Bob Elliott

I am so comforted by the grace of God. It never ceases to amaze me of how blessed we are to receive the unmerited favor of God Almighty.

Max Lucado in in book titled In the Grip of Grace puts it like this, “This is what we want to know. Does God really love us forever? We want to know; how does God feel about me when I am a jerk? When I snap at anything that moves; when my thoughts are gutter level; when my tongue is sharp enough to cut a rock. How does he feel about me then?”

That’s the question. Can I drift too far? Wait too long? Slip too much? Did I out-sin the love of God? Lucado says “the answer is found in one of life’s sweetest words… GRACE!”

Grace and Gospel go together like peanut butter and jelly, or a soup and sandwich. The good news of the gospel is the declaration of grace to overcome all of our shortcomings. It is not partial or incomplete, His grace covers everything. That’s why it is so amazing. It can be hard for our minds to comprehend the totality of it all. However, the reality of grace is that it is really 100% real.

Ponder the achievement of God. He doesn’t condone our sin, nor does He compromise His standard. He doesn’t ignore our rebellion, nor does he relax His demands. Rather than dismiss our sin, He assumes our sin and, incredibly, super incredibly sentences Himself.

God is still Holy, sin is still sin; and yet we are redeemed.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:38-39 esv

 

 

Friday, June 11th

Hope in Eternity

By Ed Skipper

Watch Video

Thursday, June 10th

HOLD FAST

By Galen Troyer 
Therefore, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. -Hebrews 10: 19-25
This portion of scripture begins with “Therefore” which indicates reference to earlier in this chapter where the author (Paul), explains that Christ’s death fulfilled God’s will. “...By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified....” (Vs 10-14)
Jesus came to do God’s will. He was never about Himself, rather He was always about doing His Father’s will. Because of His blood that was shed for us, we “have boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus”. Look again at the three “lettuces” in verses 19-25: let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith..; let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering..; let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.. Oh how we need His strength to continually stir up the “let us” in our lives! Imagine how different our communities, our nation and our world would be.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4: 14-16)

Wednesday, June 9th

Loving People Next…

by Warren Stroup

Could it be that we have missed what it means to love people next? Have we put our own spin on how we love? I believe that we can’t understand what it means to love others until we grasp the magnitude of God’s love for us. 

Read this familiar passage…

“Teacher, which command in the law is the most important?” Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ All the law and the writings of the prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:36-40 (NCV)

His right to command us is sourced from his own demonstration of love. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV) I can’t think of a greater expression of love than to love those that stand in direct opposition of us.  If you read this passage further it says, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.” There is nothing in us that is deserving of God’s love or compels God to love. His love is free from obligation or worth. His love is a characteristic of his nature, God is love. It’s not something contrived, or influenced by another, it’s just who he is. 

This bring us to our response. God, the source of love has commanded us to love. We are to express this love on people; no one is specifically mentioned so we can assume it means ALL people. To love our neighbor is to love the unloved, the enemy, the friend, the stranger, the outcast, the imprisoned, the orphan, the lonely, the family member, the church etc…

If you truly believe that God loves you, you will love. It’s taking what you believe and expressing it through action.

Being in Ukraine with Jed, Kim, Max and Morgan, we witnessed people that have responded to God’s love. There is nothing these boys/men have done to deserve the love showered on them, they are just loved.

Let us discover God’s love and allow our lives to be a demonstration of it.

 

Tuesday, June 8th

The Manna Miracle

By Lynn Koehn

I pray you will be encouraged and challenged by the following excerpt from The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. God’s primary desire, I believe, is for us to be in relationship with Him. Not so much about us being comfortable and content. Self-sufficiency, as Batterson states, is a product of human efforts and leads to; “distance-from-God” (isolation.) I encourage you to look beyond your surroundings or your situation or circumstance. Look intently into the eyes of Jesus. He is your Provider! He is your Sustainer! He is your Way Maker, your Light in the Darkness…your Miracle Worker!! Batterson uses the account of God providing manna in the desert to clearly define the pitfalls of self-sufficiency and the blessings of codependence on God. Be blessed as you read. RUN to Jesus!

 

“Here’s my take on the manna miracle: The manna was a daily reminder of their daily dependence on God. God wanted to cultivate their daily dependence by providing for their needs on a daily basis. Nothing has changed. Isn’t that the point of the Lord’s prayer? Give us today our daily bread.” 

 

We want a one-week or one-month or one-year supply of God‘s provision, but God wants us to drop to our knees every day in raw dependence on Him. And God knows that if he provided too much too soon, we’d lose our spiritual hunger. He knows we’d stop trusting in our provider and start trusting in the provision.

 

One of our fundamental misunderstandings of spiritual maturity is thinking that it should result in self-sufficiency. It’s the exact opposite. The goal isn’t independence; the goal is codependence on God. Our desire for self-sufficiency is a subtle expression of our sinful nature. It’s a desire to get to a place where we don’t need God, don’t need faith, and don’t need to pray. We want God to provide more so we need him less.”

 

 

Monday, June 7th

Draw Close to God

By Bob Elliott

“God opposes the proud
 but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:6-8a esv

We are all born for relationship, it’s in our DNA. And part of a good relationship involves honesty with one another. If one party is deceptive, or lacking in honesty, it creates a lack of trust in that relationship.

Concerning our relationship with God, He is always forthright and honest in all of His ways. The challenge is on our end of the equation. The first thing that Adam and Eve did after their fall was to try to run away and hide from God. This seems to be a natural reaction for us. We want to try to hide our mistakes.

God comes to Adam and Eve and asks them the question, who told you that you were naked? This question is given for Adam and Eve’s benefit. He already knew the answer in advance. Their response is classic blame shifting. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent. God is looking for humble honesty in his people, even when things are tough. Rick Warren in the book titled