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Devoted

Friday, January 22nd

"We Are His Re-presenters on the Earth" by Gary Bittner

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Thursday, January 21st

Hope in Difficult Times

by Galen Troyer

Our nation and the rest of the world has been affected by the corona virus pandemic for almost a year now and no one knows for certain when it will end. Thankfully, vaccines are now available and that gives us hope that the end is in sight. This pandemic has affected many areas of our society; including, but not limited to, individuals, families, marriages, medical facilities and other businesses, churches, schools, medical and other front line workers, teachers, finances and employment, and the list goes on. The mental health of many has been devastated by illness, loss of loved ones, isolation, anxiety and depression.
Psalm 91: 14-16 (TPT) “If you hold on to me for dear life”, says God, I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know me and trust me. Call on me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you long life, give you a long drink of salvation!
We know God’s promises are true, however when difficult circumstances seem to drag on and on without resolution, it can seem almost unbearable. In addition to challenges brought on by Covid, you or someone you know may be dealing with one or more difficulties such as: “terminal” illness; wayward or rebellious children/grandchildren; addictions; broken relationships; loss of employment and financial stress...and the list goes on.
How do we hold on to Hope and how do we encourage others to have Hope in difficult times? The Bible provides many examples of those who endured through long and difficult times and God never failed any of them. One example is Job, who suffered the loss of all ten of his children along with much physical pain. Even his wife eventually asked him, “why don’t you just curse God and die?”. Job’s response was, “Even if He kills me, I will still trust Him”.
It’s easy when things are going well to believe the promises of God and if anyone has never gone through difficult times (is there anyone like that?) perhaps they’ve not had to rely on these promises to see them through. We know that it’s possible to feel the pain with someone who is going through something we’ve gone through. However we can’t fully comprehend the pain others go through when we haven’t had the same experience.
As we look forward to next week and Prayer and Fasting, I know that many will be praying and God will answer our prayers. Some prayers will be answered next week and other prayers will be answered later. We will never understand why, until we meet him face to face. One thing we can be confident of: God’s timing is perfect and he will give strength and courage to those who are still waiting for answers.
II Cor. 5:16-18 (MSG) So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding graceThese hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eyeThe things we see now are here today and gone tomorrowBut the things we can’t see now will last forever.
 
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approachingHebrews 10:23-25

Wednesday, January 20,

“God’s Church…the Church Triumphant…is Alive and Well!!!” By Lynn Koehn

Award winning gospel singer and song writer, Michael W. Smith and the Gaither Vocal Band recently teamed up with a number of gospel recording artists to produce this powerful rendition of; “The Church Triumphant!” I invite you to click on the link below and listen closely to the amazing truths of this song. Allow these words to bless, encourage and inspire you! The following interludes in particular make me want to shout: “THE CHURCH TRIUMPHANT, IS ALIVE AND WELL!”

“God has always had a people. Many a foolish conqueror has made the mistake of thinking that because he had forced the church of Jesus Christ out of sight, he had stilled its voice and snuffed out its life, but God has always had a people. The powerful current of a rushing river is not diminished because it is forced to flow underground. No, the purest water is the stream that burst crystal clear into the sunlight after it has forced its way through solid rock. There have been thousands, who like, Simon the Magician, sought to barter on the open market that power which cannot be bought or sold, but God has always had a people. Men who could not be bought and women who were beyond purchase. God has always had a people. There have been times of affluence and prosperity when the church's message has been nearly deluded into oblivion by those who sought to make it socially attractive, neatly organized, financially profitable, but God has always had a people. Yes, it's been gold-plated, draped in purple and encrusted with jewels. It has been misrepresented, ridiculed, lauded and scorned but God has always had a people. These followers of Jesus Christ have been, according to the whim of the times, elevated as sacred leaders and martyred as heretics.

Yet, through it all, there marches on that powerful army of the meek: God's chosen people who cannot be bought, flattered, murdered or stilled. On through the ages they march, THE CHURCH…GOD’S CHURCH…TRIUMPHANT…is ALIVE AND WELL!”

“Listen child of God, it’s alive. Discouraged pastor, it's his church and it's still alive. Lonely missionary, sow that seed with confidence. The church is still alive. Old saint, you're not alone or forgotten. The church is still alive. Its alive my broken-hearted friend, it's still alive. Busy mothers, just keep trusting in Jesus, the church is alive. My dear young students, you're not alone out there serving God. The church is still very much alive. And faithful fathers, there's rest in the Lord. God's church is still alive. Cynical skeptic, you have not killed God with your noisy unbelief. He’s still alive!

So, family of God, lift your hands and praise the Lord. GOD’S CHURCH…THE CHURCH TRIUMPHANT…IS ALIVE AND WELL!”

Please take a moment to watch this video. You’ll be glad you did.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xws7I6iX8Jo

Tuesday, January 19th

“Don’t be a Fool” by Warren Stroup

How many decisions do we make without a thought of whether or not we should do it? I’m not talking about choosing between Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch, because the obvious choice is Fruit Loops, but there are decisions that we face that should be presented to another before moving forward.  There are decisions you’re making right now that you should be involving someone else.  Let’s look at what the Bible says about getting help.

Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Ouch, this one stings a bit. A fool thinks he/she is right and doesn’t need another person’s advice.  The opposite of this is that a wise person would seek advice.

Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” I’ve fallen a few times in my life and when I look back on these situations 100% of the time these stubbles could have been avoided if I would have let someone in.  Solomon also writes in Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” There’s something to be said about listening to the smartest man in the Kingdom.

Proverbs 15:22, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” To avoid failure let what you’re thinking be known.  Many people don’t have a person they can talk to, don’t let that be an excuse.  Be intentional about finding a person you can confide in, someone that will hear you and give you sound Biblical advice. 

Proverbs 19:20-21, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” The fool doesn’t look to others, while a wise man listens to advice and only becomes wiser still. It’s not that what others say is always right and you’re always wrong, but rather listening to others may bring some clarity to what you’re already thinking. 

Let these words of wisdom from King Solomon be a help to you today. Don’t let what you’re watching on T.V. or looking at on your phone be the only advice you’re getting.  Let a person you trust that has a Biblical Worldview be your sounding board. There are a lot of decisions you are making that need another perspective, I’d encourage you to open up and let others speak into your life.  You may find this to be very helpful.

Monday, January 18

“Living Sacrifice”, by Bob Elliott

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Rom. 12:1-2 esv

Here Paul is instructing the Christians in Rome. The surrounding culture of Rome was based in hedonism. A very worldly environment for sure. Paul calls the church to stand out from the debased influence of the Roman culture.

We certainly face similar circumstances today, and our calling to be different from the flow of our current post-truth worldview still applies.

The Eerdmans Bible commentary on this scripture brings us some good insights on the matter. It states that Paul “has set forth how to get right and how to keep right with God. He seeks to explain the life of faith in practice and to impress upon his readers the duty of Christian living. The righteousness of God accepted by the believer is an inward experience, which must have an outward expression. At the root, a Christian’s life is one that is consecrated to God, lived not in conformity to the world but rather in transformative fashion to God.” When we truly understand the impact of God’s mercy to us, it becomes a game changer! It is the mercies of God that form the entire ground for Paul’s appeal to present our bodies as a living sacrifice.

The term living sacrifice is interesting as well… Most sacrifices in the Old Testament were dead sacrifices of animals in an attempt for atonement from sin. This example is a type and shadow of Jesus’ sacrifice that grants us this incredible mercy. Jesus died and rose again, transforming death to life. Our becoming a living sacrifice follows this pattern of death to life.

This consecration involves both the body and the mind. The Greek phrase “to present your bodies” implies the word “yield.” This means that we are to use our minds in a yielding capacity to say no to the evils of this world, and to say yes to listening to the Holy Spirit in obedience. The yielding of the life in holy living is well pleasing to God. This living sacrifice includes using our minds, however our minds must be renewed before they can be offered. This is a miracle of transformation. Eerdmans further says “This transformation becomes an adjustment to both temporal and eternal realities. The ideas conveyed by the terms used to express nonconformity and transformation are striking.”

We are pilgrims here in this life. Our current home address is only temporary. Our permanent address is Heaven!!!! This changes our perception in dealing with the challenges and difficulties we face in life.

 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2Cor. 12:9-11esv

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhPVOyzZBqk&list=PLcPH6DSKJVzVEPItICofbC5L1YQNHYJ74&index=20

Petra-Not of this world

Friday, January 15th

"Truth Prevails!" by Gary Bittner

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Thursday, January 14th

"Where Will You Be?" by Galen Troyer

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Wednesday, January 13th

“Let go and Let God!” by Lynn Koehn

I invite you to read 2 Chronicles chapter 20 with me today. I promise, you’ll be inspired, encouraged and challenged. In the previous chapters we read about Jehoshaphat diligently going about the business of ruling and reigning as the King of Judah. He was selecting and appointing judges throughout the land and encouraging the people to return to the Lord. Life was good. All was well. Until…out-of-the-blue he received this devastating news: “You and all the people of Judah are going down!” (v2) “A vast army from Edom is marching against you…” (v3) “Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news.” Suddenly and without warning, he was thrust into a situation that he didn’t ask for, hadn’t planned for and didn’t know a way out.

Right where most or all of us are. Life, for the most part, goes along pretty well…. We go through the day dealing with our “stuff” and ultimately work our way through the situations and circumstances that come along. However, reality is, life is not always roses. Hiccups and “terrifying” news happen! Suddenly, out nowhere, something totally unexpected transpires! The question is; how do we respond? How do we, “let go and let God!”

Let’s take a minute to look at four things Jehoshaphat did in those terrifying moments of feeling overwhelmed and not sure what to do. I believe you’ll be encouraged when you see how creative God is and his miraculous power in our seemingly hopeless situations. I trust you’ll be challenged and inspired when you see what God does when Jehoshaphat, “let go and let God!”

1)   Look to God—FIRST!

Vs. 3-4, “Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lordfor guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. So, people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s help.”

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Matthew 6:33

When King Jehoshaphat prayed “We do not know what to do, but we look to You” he was saying he and the people of Judah were looking to God for the solution to their problem. They didn’t know how God would help them, but they believed He would.  Seek God…first (immediately)! It’s a conscious and deliberate choice.

2)   Remember, “The battle belongs to the Lord!”

Vs. 15, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

This is not a passive, naïve or indifferent posture. Rather it is knowing God, His sovereignty over all and His faithfulness to fight for you. Faith stills our heart, allows God to intervene and gives us the opportunity to witness the power of God at work in our lives.

Zechariah 4:6, Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

1 Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 8:31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

3)   Face your issues.

Vs. 17, “But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lordis with you!”

Like the people of Judah, we don’t know how or when God will bring victory, but we know He will! We are empowered to boldly position ourselves under the mighty hand of God, firmly convinced that we are not in this alone…”for the Lord is with you!”

With God as our refuge, we are safe in His eternal arms. There’s nothing anyone can do to us an

d nothing anyone can take from us that will matter in the end. Our destiny is secure. We can safely confront our circumstances.

4)   Celebrate God’s sovereignty

Vs. 21-22, After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lordand praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang:

“Give thanks to the Lord;
    his faithful love endures forever!”

At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.”

Before Judah ever engaged in battle, God caused their enemies to turn against each other and wipe each other out. The people of Judah never lifted a finger.

Worship, praise and rejoicing not only quiets our hearts, but it allows God to do the impossible…the unusual…the amazing…the incredible!

No matter how big our problems are or how insurmountable they seem, we can praise God because He is LORD OF ALL! He will make a way!

Tuesday, January 12th

“Whom the Son sets free is free indeed!” by Lynn Koehn

Romans 6:20-23, When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right.  And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Free speech, my rights, do-it-my-way have become common expressions in the news media. Sadly, we’ve not only heard people publicly voicing their opinions regarding their interpretation of freedom and how to obtain it, we’ve witnessed horrific destruction and chaos as a result. Whether watching TV, listening to the radio, scrolling through social media, or reading the news, the message is consistent: society will achieve freedom by throwing off constraints, resisting authority, and being able to do what seems right in each individual’s own eyes. The heart of freedom in the world is defined by; living life on our terms. There’s one enormous problem with this: it is futile (leads to destruction). As we read in Romans, “the end of those things is death.”

The Lord tells us that to be truly liberated, we must deliberately place our human tendencies under God’s authority. See Rom. 6:22, “become slaves of God.” By becoming a slave to God, we are purposefully surrendering our individualistic human inclinations to His sovereignty and submitting our self-centered desires and actions to His will, His plans and purposes for our lives. Then…we discover the true freedom and liberty we’ve always longed to experience. Then…we are free to live without shame and regrets. Then…we are free to live the victorious and fruitful life Jesus intends us to live!  We are able to experience a freedom…now “that will last forever!” Rom. 6:22.

A couple thoughts to consider:

  • Buying into the world’s definition of freedom can and will influence your desires and actions.
  • The Holy Spirit is able to reveal aspects of our lives that we’ve not surrendered to God’s authority.
  • Living life without future shame and regrets is what Jesus intends…John 8:36, “whom the Son sets free IS free indeed!”

Monday, January 11th

“More Vision”, by Bob Elliott

Last week in my devotion for the church, I talked about sharpening our conscience and being people with vision and purpose to please God in our thoughts and deeds. Today I would like to continue on that theme. The scripture reference is found in Proverbs. It goes Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

While it is important to note that this scripture is from the Old Testament, so the law is paramount to the author of the text. We live under grace rather than under the law because of the glorious mercy of Jesus. However, the concept of us living a holy lifestyle today is still relevant. We are not to use grace as an excuse or license to just do whatever we want. We are called to be slaves to righteousness. In addition, we are also to walk in freedom. So how do these apparent opposites work together?

Freedom is much more than just doing what you want to do. Freedom from sin brings freedom to us. This may be a bit difficult to explain; however, when we walk as Jesus instructs us to, we are freed up from the effects of darkness on our lives.

Vision can play an important role in helping us to walk in a manner that is pleasing to God. I wish that I could have understood this as a young man, it would have saved me from many heartaches. How often do we tend to think, if I only knew back then what I know now? Things would have been much different.

To our younger people in the church, I would like to encourage you to be filled to the brim with vision for the love of Jesus and the power of his redemption. This can be a conscious choice that you make.

Nancy Pearcey in her book titled Love thy Body says that all Christians are called to holiness, no matter what their feelings about the subject are. “My identity in Christ compels me to live in obedience to God whether my temptations changed or not. Biblical change is not the absence of troubles, but the freedom to choose holiness in the midst of our troubles.”

Temptation by itself is not a sin, let’s be a people who are willing to wrestle with it and not give in to it.

They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony!

Thursday, January 7th

"Don't Neglect Him" by Galen Troyer

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Wednesday, January 6th

“Strong and Courageous”

By Warren Stroup

“After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.” Joshua 1:1-3

Joshua was the leader of the next generation, the people of God that had persevered through the wilderness.  It was his time to take the people forward into the promise land.  The call of God on Joshua’s life is not so different than the call of God on your life.  What is God saying to you as you adventure into the year 2021? What has God spoken over you during the night, the still small voice still ringing in your ears?

The theme of this passage is one of God saying to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.”

When God has spoken to you, giving you clear instructions on what that next step is, what makes you hesitate? What is it that gives you pause when you know what you’re called to do?  Let’s the word of the Lord to Joshua speak to you now.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (1:9) This is a promise you can rely upon; your God is with you.  The courage we have is not because we can see the land mines, or that we have night goggles piercing into the night, our courage comes from his presence. God who is omniscient surrounds you, he goes before you and stands behind you. 

God has seen you through 2020 and he’ll continue to see you through 2021.  Joshua didn’t walk alone; he didn’t lead alone. Joshua was part of the people of God, that were called to possess the land.  You are part of the people of God that have been called to extend God’s territory. 

Let our response be that of those that followed Joshua, “And they answered Joshua, ‘All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.’” (1:16)

Think on this!

What is God calling you forward to do? Will you respond with courage?

Tuesday, January 5th

"How I cope under pressure", Truth Talk by Ed Skipper

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Monday, January 4, 2021

“Sharpen Your Conscience”

By Bob Elliott

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 29:18 esv

I have been thinking about the importance of being people with vision. You see there is a tendency for us to cast off restraint when vision is lacking. Some translations of this verse use the word perish, rather than restraint. The weight of a vision-less lifestyle without restraint can dramatically limit our effectiveness of living a life with purpose to be pleasing to God and walking in the truth.

Our hearts can easily become deceptive and our conscience become so numb to where we find ourselves in a place that we know we should not be.  Nicky Gumbel in his commentary The Bible in One Year describes, “God has given us a conscience so that we know that some things are good and others are evil. But our consciences can be dulled and they need to be sharpened by objective truth.”

All of this tells me that if vision is lacking, then the potential to sin against the Lord becomes more likely.  If this continues, we can come to the point where we become trapped in a repetitive sin that we feel like there is no escape from.

However, That is not what the Bible teaches us. We are free from condemnation, we are not under law, but under gracious grace. We also know that we are not to use this freedom as a license to sin. People with vision, understand what this is all about and focus on making decisions that are pleasing to God.

We need to be a people who have vision.

Vision propels us forward to walk in obedience to God. We understand what His Kingdom is. Truth, love, faith, hope and heaven are very real to us. Vision for these things are spelled out in Phil. 4:8 Finally,brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Now that is vision scripture!

This vision gives us the freedom to choose to reject evil and pursue righteousness. Let’s choose to sharpen our conscience, and walk in the freedom to say no to evil and unrighteousness. I use the word freedom purposely. some think of freedom as the unrestricted pursuit of pleasure, however freedom to choose good over evil may require us to move beyond emotion as being the driver of our decisions. We don’t have to be slaves to sin, rather we are to be slaves to righteousness.

May we set our hearts and minds to walk with vision going forward. I love how Jed and Kimber Johnson describe their missionary journey as being a series of decision points where they freely chose to say yes to God, that is how vision is in play.

Wednesday, December 23rd

“The gift of JOY!” by Lynn Koehn

Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “Joy to the World!” Chris Tomlin - Joy to the World (unspeakable Joy) - Lyrics - YouTube  At one point in the song he sings;

“Joy, unspeakable joy

An overflowing well

No tongue can tell

Joy, unspeakable joy

Rises in my soul

Never lets me go!”

As we plan and make final arrangements to celebrate Christmas with family and friends I’d like us to take a moment to ponder this “Joy, unspeakable joy” we sing of.

“Joy to the world, our Lord has come!” This is a reason for joy, unspeakable joy…rising in my soul! Jesus, our Lord has brought us back into relationship with God our Father! “Christ suffered once for sin, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” 1 Peter 3:18. Jesus took the punishment for sin which resolved the wrath of God against mankind. In Romans 5:8 we read, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us that we might be saved from God’s wrath.” Jesus, our Lord, has come, and when He came, He brought us—peace with God. That is why we sing, Joy, unspeakable joy! “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us” Romans 5:1.

Joy to the world, our Savior reigns is another reason for, “joy, unspeakable joy…rising in my soul!” Ephesians 1:19-21 (NLT) readsI also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.”

True joy comes from within you; it is a free gift from God! I encourage you to stir up that “Joy, unspeakable joy” that is deep down in your soul. Celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior! Allow his love to saturate your life and overflow into the lives of those around you. It is contagious and it will splash onto those you come in contact with. His joy is meant to be shared! Give the gift of JOY!

Tuesday, December 22nd

"An Expert or a Fool?" Truth Talk with Ed Skipper

This morning enjoy an encouraging word that will inspire you to look ahead at what Jesus Christ has promised you.

WATCH VIDEO 

Monday, December 21

“Living in Tension,” by Bob Elliott

We have a tendency to lean on one side or the other. Either we are blessed to be made in the image of God and to be declared righteous by the blood of Christ or we are sin-ridden with a desperately deceitful heart. Which is it? The answer is both.

The bible is clear that we are all guilty of sin, all of us like sheep have gone astray: we have turned-everyone- to his own way.Is.53:6. However, the verse does not end here in calamity. No, the last portion of this scripture says and the Lord has laid upon him, the iniquity of us all.

Tim Keller describes the condition of the human heart as follows. “Sin and evil are self-centeredness and pride that exist in two forms. One form is being very bad and breaking all of the rules. The other form is being very good and keeping all of the rules and becoming self-righteous in the process. If you are avoiding sin and living morally so that God will HAVE to bless and save you, then ironically, you may be looking to Jesus as a teacher, model or helper but you are avoiding him as Savior.” Wow, if both of these polar opposites are sin, how can we even begin to navigate our lives?

If we are trusting in our own goodness alone rather than in Jesus for our standing with God, it becomes an effort based in moralistic deism rather than trusting in Christ’s redemption. This may seem subtle and splitting of hairs, however these there is a huge difference between self-reliance and walking in the unmerited favor of grace.

 I am reminded of a song by D.C. Talk many years ago. The lyrics go “this only serves to confirm my suspicions, that I am still a man in need of a Savior.”  This is so much more than just the patent Sunday school jargon that every question is to be answered by the word “Jesus.” It is walking in the reality that God loves us so much that he was willing to die for us. The difference is grace. Our righteousness must be found in the identity of Christ alone!

Keller goes on to say, “Religion operates on the principle, I obey-therefore I am accepted by God. But the operating principle of the gospel is, I am accepted by God through what Christ has done-therefore I obey. Two people living their lives on the basis of these two principles may sit next to each other in church. Both may pray, give financially and be loyal to family and the church, trying to live decent lives. However they do so out of two radically different motivations, in two radically different spiritual identities, and result in two radically different kind of lives.”

Often times, we only look at the sins of being a bad person doing bad things, we don’t tend to think of our righteous behavior having the potential to miss the mark so badly, however this condition can be really real. Keller concludes, “In Christ, I could know that I was accepted by grace not only despite my flaws, but because I was willing to admit them. The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone.”

This is the transparency of the gospel that frees us from guilt and condemnation. It frees us from being over-serious about every little thing. It provides hope and thanksgiving that we are truly redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

Friday, December 18th

"Let's all just...relax." by Gary Bittner

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Thursday, December 17th

"Job answers God", by Galen Troyer

WATCH VIDEO

Wednesday, December 16

“Walking Alone”, by Warren Stroup

The Bible has some amazing scripture that are for practical living.  We aren’t supposed to do life by ourselves.  Read these verses today and be encouraged that you’re not alone.

John 14:18, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

John 15:26, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”

John 16:7, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

Galatians 5:16 and 25, 16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

There is a relationship we are to have with the Spirit.  Jesus sent the Spirit to us, now all that we need to do is walk with him.  Seems pretty easy, it’s almost fool proof, like there’s no way to mess this one up.  Leave it to us humans and we’ll find a way.  There are so many Christ followers that want nothing to do with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said in Acts 1, “4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Jesus ordered them to wait for the empowering of the Holy Spirit to come upon them.  Church we need the power of the Holy Spirit to equip us for the works we are called to do.  We shouldn’t take a step outside of our homes without walking with the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is the very presence of God that dwells within us. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (I Corinthians 6:19-20)

Jesus has done his part by sending the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us, now let’s do our part and keep in step with him.  There’s an image in my head of when my kids were little and they’d grab ahold of my legs, standing on my feet, as I walked along the path.  They were tired so they’d put their trust in the one that walked alongside them.  They let me do all the work and I loved it!   

The power of the Holy Spirit is waiting to carry us on this journey we call life.  We are not alone, surrender to the Holy Spirits leading today!

Tuesday, December 15th

“Contentment (internal quietness of heart),” by Lynn Koehn

An athletic teenager, Joni Eareckson Tada, now seventy-one, broke her neck in a diving accident when she was 17. Her spinal cord was severed, and she became paralyzed from the shoulders down.

Nearly fifty years later Joni was able to make the following declaration:

“Contentment in confinement has an internal quietness of heart that gladly submits to God in all circumstances. It’s that glad submission that makes your heart quiet down and not be so itchy and restless. But when I say “quietness of heart,” I’m not saying there are no more hardships, no prison bars, no more wheelchairs. No, what I am saying is, there is no more room for a sour disposition, peevish, resentful thoughts. There’s no itchiness to break free or plotting ways to escape. There’s no more fretting that only leads to anxiety. When you believe that Jesus Christ and His strength can see you through the worst of times, contentment shows itself in a sedate spirit that simply relies on Jesus. Contentment comes from many great and small acceptances in life. As the saying goes, when life isn’t the way you like it, like it the way it is. One day at a time with Christ is the key to contentment.”

Contentment is a “must-have!” Especially for Christians and, particularly, in the midst of a global pandemic and all the other confusion plaguing our world. Contentment shields us from being controlled and even derailed by things like; disappointment, frustration, anxiety, etc. Contentment is the fuel that allows the engine to keep moving us forward even in the midst of unsolicited obstacles. Contentment provides us the opportunity to focus on and wholeheartedly run the race and finish the course God has prepared. Contentment allows us to invest time, energy and resources in the lives of other people, His church and the Kingdom of God.

The apostle Paul said he “learned to be content in whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11). The power and strength from Jesus Christ could see him through the worst and the best of situations.

Peter says in 1 Peter 1:3-4, His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.…

We are filled with hope, peace and joy by the Holy Spirit living within us. “In Him we live and have our being.” (Acts 17:28.) His presence destroys anxiousness & unrest & replaces them with love, joy, peace…the fruits of the Spirit.

My challenge to us today is to candidly assess our perception of our situation and circumstances. Each morning, every night, throughout the day, ask yourself, “Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to catapult me above and beyond (far above and beyond) my disappointments, frustrations and my unmet expectations and desires? Am I, “…forgetting what is behind, pressing on, straining toward what God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus!”” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Ask God to give you the internal quietness of heart that gladly submits to God in all circumstances that Joni Eareckson Tada speaks of; so that you too, are free to vigorously move forward with stamina and unstoppable Kingdom building resolve both in the present and the weeks, months and years to come!

Monday, December 14th

“For our Ultimate Good”, By Bob Elliott

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” John 14:15-21 e.s.v.

These are the words spoken by Jesus to his disciples shortly before he was arrested and crucified. He knew that there would be a coming crisis for them. Everything was about to dramatically change. It is here in this setting that Jesus promises them that the presence of the Holy Spirit will bring comfort, guidance and direction to each one.

This promise is not limited to the twelve. It is a sweet promise for every believer in Christ. So the words that Jesus spoke to them are relevant for us today. I love the fact that God has given us the Holy Spirit as a foretaste of our inheritance awaiting us in heaven. We are not alone in our journey of life, the presence of the Holy Spirit brings a perspective of praise and thanksgiving to our hearts.

There is an aspect of mystery in how the Spirit guides and leads us into truth. Particularly in how we navigate how grace and good works interact with each other.

In the book Trusting God by Jerry Bridges, he describes “whenever I teach on the subject of holiness, I always stress that we are responsible to obey God, but we are dependent upon the Holy Spirit for the enabling power to do it. The same principle applies in the realm of trusting God. We are responsible to trust Him in times of adversity, but we are dependent upon the Holy Spirit to enable us to do so. It doesn’t mean that we won’t experience pain. It means that God will work through the occasion of our difficulties for our ultimate good.”

The Holy Spirit helps us to understand that we are not going to ignore our difficulties and pretend that they don’t exist, rather that we acknowledge the challenge and then look to his guidance in the middle of the storms of life.  The Holy Spirit won’t always remove our obstacles, but He will give us the guidance and strength to face them head on and respond in faith. Let’s hold a mindset that says, “God, I don’t understand how all of this is happening, but over everything else, I trust in you to guide me through.”

Thursday, December 10th

“Questions,” By Galen Troyer

Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out. Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice? Romans 11: 33 & 34. MSG

We don’t have to think long in order to answer these questions. We know enough about God that we know that we don’t know enough to explain Him. We know many of His attributes. To name just a few: He is incomparably wise, loving, kind, merciful, powerful, just, and forgiving.

I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” GOD’S DECREE. “For as the sky soars high above the earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.”

Isaiah 55: 8 & 9

Do you enjoy answering questions, or do you sometimes find yourself getting annoyed if the questions keep coming?

There are many times in scripture where God asked questions. Probably, no one comes close to being asked as many questions (on a single occasion) as Job was. Scripture says that Job was an honest man and totally devoted to God. God allowed Job to be severely tested. Towards the end of the testing, after Job, and his friends had done a lot of talking, and questioning; God responds to Job from the eye of a storm. He said: “Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! Stand tall, I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers. Where were you when I created the earth?....”

God went on to ask about 60 more questions. (Read chapters 39, 40 and 41 to see all the questions that God asked Job). It’s important to see Job’s response to God in chapter 42.

My prayer is that we always respond as Job did after God questioned him.

At our best, we can only barely begin to comprehend how great His love is for us. God didn’t reward us according to our sins, but sent Jesus to die for our sins and give us a new life.

Seek the Lord while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand. Let the wicked abandon their way of life and the evil their way of thinking. Let them come back to God, who is merciful, come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness. Isaiah 55: 6&7

Joy to the world, the Lord has come

Let earth receive her king

Let EVERY heart prepare Him room...

Wednesday, December 9th

“Persevering with Joy!”, by Warren Stroup

The Scripture says in Colossians 1:11-14,

“being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

What a passage we find here in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossi.  Paul is giving the people all that they need to persevere.  Church if there was a time in our lives when we needed the fortitude to preserver it’s today.  Reading verses like these should stir our hearts and minds, to find courage and strength to endure. 

Paul’s words are illustrating the change that has come over us, a transference from darkness into light.  This change empowers us to face life differently.  There is a joy that comes over us as we persevere and endure.  This joy comes only from our position of being a kingdom people.  We have been qualified in Christ Jesus to share in an eternal inheritance with all the saints.  The wealth of all the kingdom lay at our disposal. Do you understand what that means? It means there is nothing in this lifetime that the world has to offer that compares to what we have in eternity. 

Think about what awaits you and get excited about the future.  It’s not just what we have today it’s what we have for all eternity.  Allow the excitement of tomorrow empower you to persevere through today.  Because of this eternal perspective there is a smile hidden behind every tear, every hurt, and every disappointment.

The enemy that once held our attention in the dark has lost its hold on us.  We have seen the light and it’s one of those things we can’t unsee. 

Today give him glory, for he has freed you, he has written your transfer papers with the blood of his son and your name has been clearly written for all to see. The joy that you have in being redeemed is a joy that sustains you every day.

Tuesday, December 8th

“Made NEW!” by Lynn Koehn

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come!"  2 Corinthians 5:17(NASB)

NOTE: I like The Message version of this passage. I will include an extended portion of Paul’s declaration at the end of this devotional.

This new life is an abundant life, with a totally new nature and an eternal destiny. This new nature is not a patching-up of the old sin nature, nor a re-training of the old sinful self. God does not patch up the old but makes us something that is entirely new, something different, something wonderful.

If you’ve worked with machinery and equipment and depended on them to function the way they were intended, you will understand these two differing mentalities: (1) save money, buy used and refurbish (2) spend more, buy new and get the job done. I have personally experienced both approaches and have come to understand the purpose(s) of new. I also realize that paying the price for new is a sacrifice. Thank you, Jesus, that “I have been made NEW by your sacrificial death on the cross.”

Jesus has made us brand new and has given us a new destiny. Paul himself was a prime example of a life that was radically changed. From being the greatest persecutor of Christ and His Church, he became one of the most zealous ambassadors for Christ and His Church. Thank you, Jesus, for commissioning and empowering me by the Holy Spirit to, “go into all the world and preach Your Gospel.”

By faith, we have become new creatures with a glorious inheritance. We are positioned in Christ, seated with Him in heavenly places, and have been made joint-heirs with HIM. By the power of the Spirit, we have been born into the family of God! Thank you, Jesus, that we have, “become one with you as you and your Father are one.” John 10:30.

Let us always remember that in Christ we are not the old model, refurbished and repaired. It is not the old life that God reconditions or restores. “Behold…Jesus has made you NEW!”

A New Life 

2 Corinthians 5:14-20 [The Message]

“Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own. Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.”

Monday, December 7th

"Prophetic Prayer" By Bob Elliott

 During a recent Christ Central leadership zoom meeting, I was blessed to be prayed over prophetically in a break out session. The flow of the prayer time revealed two distinct themes. One was an encouragement the other was in the form of correction. While these things were given to me personally, I believe that there is potential for this to be helpful to others in our church as well.

The first word of correction was like this. It is so easy to become distracted from the purposes of God’s kingdom in our current situation. Whether it is social media, political and pandemic strife, or financial challenges; it is important to not let these things overwhelm us.

We can have a rhythm of ebb and flow in our walk with Jesus, times when we are intense about kingdom business and other times when we are just going with the flow of life. The encouraging word that was prayed over me is this; now is a season of time to dig in and explore deep things about Jesus. Raise the temperature by adjusting the thermostat of the flow of your life. Remember that the distractions that you face should not dominate and choke out your greater purposes in life.  Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all of these things shall be added to you. I have a renewed sense of vigor  that is bringing more purpose to pursue. As a result, I am rereading through the bible in one year with Nicky Gumbel, the Alpha course pioneer.

The second theme was the encouragement to walk in a manner of life where you understand the authority that we have in Christ.  The word authority in found 85 times in the New Testament. Most often, it is used in the context of Jesus having authority. This brings comfort to my soul. When we are weak, He is strong. So our position in Christ is not dictated by our emotions, it is trusting in the anchor of Jesus. He holds absolute authority and history is marching forward to his fulfillment of His Kingdom.

The scriptures in Mathew 7 says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

I love the Rock! And I want to walk in obedience to his call upon my life. How about you?

Friday, December 4th"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus...." by Gary Bittner

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Thursday, December 3rd

"Walking and Working Together" by Galen Troyer

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Wednesday, December 2nd

“The Source of it all!” by Warren Stroup

How can anyone live without a source of life?  We are not self-sustaining.  I’ve just recently come across a series called “Alone,” thanks to some of my dear friends. This series is about people being dropped off in the middle of “no-where” and left to survive with only a few tools.  You might think, “I can do this!” Sure in your dreams, but I’ve watched marines and navy seals, weep like a baby with a full diaper and an empty belly.  When they first get dropped off they do three things: look for a camp site, make a fire and find a water source.  They know that the body only has about 3 days without water before it will begin to die.  The body needs a source of life to sustain life. 

Do you know that this is true with your spiritual body as well?  If you think that you will grow strong in the Lord by your own power and might you are fatally mistake.  The source of life flows from the Spirit.  It’s referred to in scripture as the River of God.  The life source of all that grows and flourishes.&nbs