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Devoted

A people devoted to spending time with their Lord and Savior. Taking a moment and meditating on a passage of scripture that will fill you with the knowing that our God is above it all.  

In the Old Testament often times things were devoted for destruction, not kept for oneself, cherem . I Corinthians 6:19: “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, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” John Piper would say it this way, “Christ purchased you not only by virtue of his paying a price, but also by your willing surrender to him.” Friends may our lives be an expression of devotion, a people that have forsaken all for the cause of Christ. Devoted no matter what the price.

Monday, August 3rd

“Hard Hearted,” by Bob Elliott

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.  They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.  But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Eph. 4:17-24

Recently I have been engaged in conversation with a young man who is an avowed atheist. He comes from a background where his family is predominately Christians however he is not. He is verbally hostile towards the gospel and adversarial in conversations.

One of the first questions that I asked him in our dialogue is this, If Christianity is true, would he honestly consider becoming a Christian? Unfortunately his reply was no, he would not respond, no matter how compelling the evidence would be.  Then having said that, he still wants to continue discussing the matter. I replied that if his mind was already made up, why would he want to continue? I believe in reality, he loves the fight.

This discussion has challenged my thinking. I love to dialogue with people who are truly seekers. It is delightful to see those being drawn by the Holy Spirit to be curious about the things of God. For those who hold a hard-hearted position and just want to argue, it is much more challenging. Verses 17 and 18 above describe the attitude of my atheist friend very closely. Therefore, I think that there is value in discovering how serious people are willing to be honestly engaged. An open-minded person is who I would want to focus my attention on. However, I am not going to give up on this person, I will pray for God to break through his hard heartedness. The next verse is applicable to this situation. It says, but that is not the way you learned Christ! The condition of his heart is what is most important to address.

The remainder of the text of this scripture is helpful for us to realize that we can be renewed by the Holy Spirit to live a gospel centered life as an example to the world of the goodness of God. Our lives have purpose and meaning that is found in following Christ. A city on a hill can not be hidden.

Friday, July 31, 2020

“The Sovereignty of God” by Gary Bittner

Good morning! Here’s a ‘wake up truth.’ There are somethings about God we don’t know, we don’t understand, and we won’t this side of heaven. And, I’m glad about that. I don’t want to worship a ‘small and limited god that I can figure out.’

We know God is good, and He has different views of our current circumstances than we do. And, in cases where the current circumstances are contrary to His promises you and I get to help decide what happens. We can help determine whether God’s goodness is released toward specific situations or whether the power of sin and Satan is permitted to prevail.

I believe His power is as consistently available today as during His own earthly ministry and that, through His Cross, He has provided the grounds for us to expect and receive victory and deliverance as surely as we may receive forgiveness and sanctification. WE START AT THE

CROSS…. NOT TRY TO ‘GET TO THE CROSS!’ HE PAID FOR OUR SIN OUR VICTORY, OUR HEALING, OUR PROSPERITY, OUR FRIEND’S SALVATION, ALL OF EVERYTHING AT THE CROSS….AND UNTIL AND UNLESS WE COME TO REST IN THE FINALITY OF THE CROSS WE WILL NEVER LIVE IN THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION!

With God nothing is impossible! With Him anything can change and nothing is impossible! Having said that, there is a principal we must become familiar with, and that is…. Without Him, we cannot, without us, He will not.

We must believe and accept our ministry and responsibility of Kingdom extension as a part of the Lord Jesus Christ’s commission that the Church go to the whole world with the whole Gospel to affect the whole culture. Then, once committed to this belief, we can withstand every opposition because we are convinced that the good fight of faith will prevail!

And, we must rest in faith that, in cases where victory is not apparent in the way that we wish, a victory of another order is being brought about by the divine grace of Almighty God.

So, what about this ‘tension’ between what we see as promises of God for things such as healing, revival, salvations, cultural and city transformation and the ‘facts’ regarding our current circumstances.’ The first thing we must address, is that IT’S NOT ABOUT US AND OUR WANTS, IT IS ABOUT HIS PURPOSES, IT’S ABOUT THE KINGDOM, IT’S ABOUT HIS GLORY BEING SHOWN THRU HIS CHURCH! We are seeing only from the ‘human side.’ God sees ‘every side!’ WE TOO OFTEN VIEW GOD’S PURPOSE AS BEING THE SAME AS OUR NEED, AND THEY ARE NOT ALWAYS NECESSARILY THE SAME!

Isaiah 55:7 “Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part….AND WE MUST NOT BE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THIS TRUTH!

God is sovereign, and as such has the absolute right to all things according to His good pleasure (Dan. 4:25, Rom. 9:15-23, I Tim. 6:15, Rev. 4:11, Eph. 1:12). God holds this right because of the perfections of His character and because of His position as creator and governor of the universe. As creator, His dominion is perfect and His decrees are final. Because of His authority as governor, He is to be submitted to and obeyed.

OK, fine…but to rest in this we must, once again, make sure we are clear on some fundamental truths…..First, God is good. This is our ‘default setting.’ Second, sin and Satan- flesh and hell- have fouled up God intended processes for mankind. Third, the redeemed-those who have received God’s gift of life in Jesus-are His main channel of His dealing in grace and goodness on this planet.

So, in light of all we see going on around us today what are we to do? We are to keep praying for the release of His promises and victory but then we are to leave it to God! And after we pray, we need to submit to God’s sovereign will…LET’S NOT FIND OURSELVES ‘FIGHTING AGAINST GOD!’

Please do not take any of this teaching as ‘permission’ to live in passivity…FIGHT! Put on the full armor of God! (Eph. 6) Declare the Word! Speak the truth! Don’t accept the idea that God wants us to tolerate oppression! He has given us power over all the enemy (Luke 10:19) …. ‘I pursued my enemies and did not turn back until they were consumed (Ps. 18:37) Do not merely roll over and whine about the negative circumstances that you might be in right now. Don’t utter prayers of fear and unbelief…. agree with God! PROCLAIM His word and REST in faith….in the totality of WHO God is, not merely in WHAT He can for us, is doing for us or has done for us.

‘Father, I trust you, for You are good. I pray that your perfect will be done in all circumstances. All I desire is to see you glorified, so Lord, be glorified. We submit to your perfect will. Father, I believe that at the cross Jesus finished the work of defeating sin and sickness in whatever forms they manifest themselves. And so Father, because of what Jesus provided by His death and resurrection and because you have given me permission to ask, I pray my desire, and I submit to Your good and sovereign will.

We MUST learn to rest in faith that, in cases where victory is not apparent in the way that we wish, a victory of another order is being brought about by the divine grace of Almighty God. And, if thru hardship and difficulty He can work into us things that He could not if there were never any hardship and difficulty, then He has the right, as God, to use whatever He deems necessary to see the work done in that He desires be done.

God is good, He is for us and not against us. BUT, if things do not turn out like WE want every time, perhaps that is His plan. After all, how can ever know truly know the goodness of God, the love of the Father, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ if we never experience weakness, weariness, discouragement, defeat, coming up short, etc….

Selah.

Thursday, July 30th

“Justification and Sanctification” By Martin Lloyd Jones (Walking with God Day by Day)

Enjoy the clarity that Dr. Jones brings to how we are to understand justification and sanctification. It is so important that we understand the difference of these two theological heavy weights.

“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” I Corinthians 1:30

Let me show you the essential difference between justification and sanctification. Look at it like this: Justification is an act of God the Father; sanctification is essentially the work of God the Holy Spirit. There is this division of work in the blessed Persons of the Trinity. It is the Father who declares righteous and just. It is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies.

               Second, justification takes place outside us, as in a tribunal; sanctification takes place within us, in our inner life. I stand in the court when I am justified, and the judge pronounces that I am free; it is a statement about me, outside sanctification is something that is worked and takes place within.  

               Third, justification removes the guilt of sin; sanctification removes the pollution of sin and renews us in the image of God.

               And therefore, last, by definition justification is a once-and-for-all act. It is never to be repeated because it cannot be repeated and never needs to be repeated. It is not a process but a declaration that we are pronounced just once and forever, by God. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a continuous process. We continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord until we are perfect beyond the veil.

               So there is nothing quite so erroneous and confusing and unscriptural as to mistake the essential difference between justification and sanctification. That is the whole trouble with Roman Catholic teaching and all Catholic piety. If you confess sanctification with justification, you will be doubtful as to whether you are justified or not. If you bring in your state and condition and sin that you may commit, then you are querying your justification. But if you realize that justification is forensic, external, and declaratory, you know that you are justified whatever may be true about you.

 

A THOUGT TO PONDER

Justification removes the guilt of sin; sanctification removes the pollution of sin.

Wednesday, July 29th

“I’ll be there!” by Warren Stroup

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3

Isaiah is prophesying to Jacob and to Israel.  There are no other gods that will be there.  You need not look to the gods of the nations that surround, they will not be there.  There are no gods that will save you. It is God alone that saves. “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.” (43:10,11)

There may be those that would say to you, “How can you be sure that your God is the only god?” The answer is simple, “He declares it to be so.” We need only to let God speak for God. The gods of this world are all created by man, they are images of their own desires and affections. They have created what they want to believe.  We believe in the uncreatable God, the creator of all things.

Look around at the gods of this world, money, fame, power, possessions and the ideals that put man in control. All other religions are man centered, it’s their actions that give them access to their gods.  It’s up to them to create an environment that brings fulfillment and happiness.  If they do everything right they feel good about themselves, this is an ideology that crumbles at their next stumble.  It’s a house of cards waiting to be knocked down by the slightest pressure or failure.  This is man’s attempt to be holy, righteous, happy, or a good person.  It’s a lie that they have built for themselves so that they can survive another day. “He cuts down cedars…He takes a part of it and warms himself…bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it…He prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god’…is there not a lie in my right hand.” (44:14-20)

There is nothing there that will save you, for you cannot save yourselves. 

This is the difference people, we are unable to create a savoir, a champion that will fight our battles, that will give us hope and peace in days of war.  This is where we surrender to our futility and marvel at his ability; give up, surrender to the only true God.  The uncreated God will do what you are incapable of doing, marvel at his great splendor, as he provides access into his throne room of grace. 

It’s not until we realize that God is the only one there, there are no others.  Stop looking at the things of this world as if they have something to offer, they have none!  Allow God to overwhelm you with what he has done for you, everything is set, you bring nothing to the table.  He doesn’t even want a house warming gift. Come empty handed and let him fill you up! 

As you come, trust in this, “God will be there!”

Tuesday, July 28th

Sorry no devotional today, check back tomorrow.

Monday, July 27th

“Are you going to Fish or Fight?” by Bob Elliott

 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Cor. 10:3-5

With all of the turmoil we are finding in 2020, my spirit has become greatly troubled, particularly with all of the street violence directed towards the police while they are expected to just receive the blows without fighting back. Dissenters can throw bricks, it is an unfair fight. The refrain of “no justice, no peace” seems out of place when you look at the perspective of what is good for our nation. I have no problem with protests, however when mayhem sets in, it becomes an injustice supposedly in the name of justice.

The question arising from this troubling scenario is what are we as Christian supposed to do about this? Do we just ignore the situation and move on in our lives? Alternatively, do we attempt to be somehow engaged with our current cultural situation?

My personal tendency has been to get informed about what is going on, internalize the lack of integrity on those practicing injustice, and then just detach and go fishing. After all, it is not my fight. I/ we live in a small rural community, so we can just ignore what is happening in the cities. Right?

Well, no, the answer is not detaching.  One day as I was preparing my fly rod to go fishing, the Holy Spirit spoke to me about this. The question posed to me was; are you going to fish or are you going to fight? Obviously this not a physical form of fighting, it is spiritual in nature. In addition, I love to fish, however there is a higher calling of Kingdom business to accomplish. This question caught me off guard. I know that the right answer is yes, I need to be in this fight, but how do I go about this?

I believe this is a word for all of us. My escape pod is fly-fishing, yours may be something else. I am not saying that these things are bad at all. What I am saying is that we need to be doing something spiritual  while engaging in what is going on around us. The life application bible study notes on this scripture says, “The weapons of our warfare are not physical but spiritual, such as prayer, the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.” This is how we fight our battles.

 This is where today’s scripture provides us with keen insight of how we can be awoken as a church. Our fight is not physical. It is spiritual. Instead of being indignant and judgmental towards these injustices. We can take on the call to pray for the tearing down of these spiritual strongholds confronting us.

I am learning that when I am upset about the evil surrounding us, I can get serious and pray about these things instead of remaining in a cloud of funky thoughts. They say that a significant part of obtaining vision is to realize that there are things that are not satisfactory. This dissatisfaction can lead to breakthrough and casting of vision. I am reminded of the scripture that says without vision; the people perish or cast off restraint.

Let us not be satisfied with the status quo. Let us take our thoughts captive, seek the face of God and ask for restoration, healing, renewal and revival for our nation. There is divine power in the name of Jesus! When we pray, we are tapping into this dunamis.

Friday, July 24th

Enjoy watching a family video by Gary Bittner that is an excellent illustration to the challenge he presents to us today.

WATCH VIDEO

Thursday, July 23rd

Enjoy this video devotional by Galen Troyer.

WATCH VIDEO

Wednesday, July 22nd

“Nothing can separate us!” by Warren Stroup

“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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.” Romans 8:35-38

People of the living God have a love that will endure for all eternity.  There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.  For Christ came that we might be reunited back to the Father, that we might know his amazing love for us, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Scripture does not fail when it comes to expressing the love of Christ for those of us that have been called out of darkness into his marvelous light.  There is nothing in this world that can separate us.  There is a passage of scripture in 2 Chronicles 32, the army of Assyria came up against the nation of Judah.  The king of Assyria sent ambassadors to destroy any thought they might have regarding being saved.  It was during this time that king Hezekiah stood before the people and said, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles. And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.”

The things that oppose us in this world are merely arms of flesh, we have the LORD our God that is fighting for us. 

We need not be dismayed, for he that is with us is far greater than anything that would oppose us.  Be strong and courageous, go into the world and let the gospel shine through us.  Be strengthened that there is nothing that will separate us from Christ Jesus, who has won the battles for us.  In times of distress or uncertainty may we find courage in the absolute truth regarding God’s love for us.

Battles will come, temptation will show its ugly head, these are temporary conflicts, these are reminders that Christ was victorious over it all at the cross.  We have nothing to fear from these trifle attempts to separate us from the love of Christ, for to do so is an impossibility.  Oh, that we might walk in such boldness and confidence every day, declaring the blood of Jesus for it is the weapon by which all our enemies must flee.

Reflect today on the love of Christ that will never depart from you.

Tuesday, July 21th

“HOLD FAST” by Lynn Koehn

What A Beautiful Name It Is…the Name of Jesus!


Have you ever gone to that place in your life where you’ve been so overcome with
amazement, awe and wonder of who Jesus is that all you could do was sit quietly in his
presence! Words paled in comparison to the deep feelings of love and admiration
flooding your heart! For just a moment, you were able to turn off the noise, stop the
commotion, put aside your daily planner and allow everything about you—your heart,
your mind, your will and your emotions to be carried away “from-it-all.” With His arms
securely wrapped around you…you sat quietly and soaked in the sweet, selfless love of
Jesus.


I encourage you to carve out some time in your schedule today…early, in the cool of the
morning - find a quiet place and listen to this song. “What A Beautiful Name It Is” by
Kari Jobe. Sit back, relax and allow these powerful words to calm your heart and refresh your soul! Allow yourself to be encouraged, inspired and empowered by the beautiful, powerful Name of Jesus!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzGX6-PuZxk

Philippians 2:9-11

“Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.”

Whatever circumstances, trials or tribulations we are facing, the name of Jesus is
“greater still!” Let the beautiful, powerful name of Jesus be our first response. Call
upon His name!

You were the Word at the beginning
One with God the Lord Most High

Your hidden glory in creation, Now revealed in You our Christ
Nothing compares to this. The Name of Jesus Christ my King

You didn't want heaven without us
So Jesus, You brought heaven down

My sin was great, Your love was greater
What could separate us now

Death could not hold You, the veil tore before You
You silenced the boast, of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring, the praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again
You have no rival, You have no equal
Now and forever, Our God reigns!
Yours is the Kingdom, Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name, above all names
What a powerful Name it is
Nothing can stand against…
The Name of Jesus Christ my King!
What a Beautiful name it is
The name of Jesus.!

Monday, July 20th

“The Bread of Life” by Bob Elliott

“Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”  Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”  Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.   But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”   John 6:28-40 esv

The context of this scripture takes place just after Jesus has performed the miracle of feeding the 5,000 and also of him walking on the water to meet up with his disciples. Jesus is displaying his divine power in an incredible way. Now he is in conversation with unbelieving Jewish leaders who are extremely skeptical even though Jesus has done amazing things.

Notice how they ask him what they must be doing in order to be right with God. Jesus plainly tells them that the only “doing” they need is to believe in him who God has sent. Jesus says to them… believe in me! That was obviously something that they did not want to hear. They further inquire what sign will you give us so that we may believe, Are you kidding me? Jesus has just performed amazing miracles in their eyesight. Wasn’t that enough proof? They are having a conversation with Emmanuel, God in humanity, yet they can’t comprehend the significance of this encounter. Their minds are closed up, they will never believe, no matter how much evidence is placed before them. I think there is a big difference between people who ask sincere questions and are truly looking for answers in life as compared to those who ask questions based on total skepticism and really are not looking for an answer to their question.

The dialogue continues by moving on to references about how God provided manna in the wilderness to the Jewish nation. The skeptics claim that it was Moses who provided for the people. Jesus corrects them by saying it was God, not Moses that provided the manna. He further tells them that God has also provided himself as the true bread from heaven for all people. He came to bring life to all the nations of the earth. This is so much bigger than what the Jewish leaders can comprehend. They want the bread, but they don’t want Jesus. How ironic that He is standing right in front of them, but they can’t recognize him for who He really is.

 Those who come to Jesus will have their spiritual hunger and thirst satisfied completely.  This is what the Gospel message is all about. The bread of life came down from heaven to declare that those who look upon him and believe in him will have eternal life awaiting them in heaven. Yay God!

Friday, July 17th

Video Devotional by Gary Bittner

WATCH VIDEO

Thursday, July 16th

“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, July 15th

“In Christ” by Martin Lloyd Jones

I was reading a devotional called “Walking with God” written by the amazing theologian Marin Lloyd Jones.  I’m going to share it with you in its entirety.  May you be encouraged how through the regenerating power of God we have been united in Christ Jesus.

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

I CORINTHIANS 15:22

Paul draws a contrast between the union of the unbeliever with Adam and the union of the believer with Christ. This is the great argument in Romans 5, which is repeated in 1 Corinthians 15:22, 49. In Romans 5 the whole argument is that death passed on to all people because of Adam. Why? Because of their relationship to Adam; that is the whole doctrine of original sin. We are all condemned in Adam because of Adam’s sin. He was our representative, he was our federal head; and not only that, we are bound to him, we were in the loins of Adam when he fell. In Adam all died. In Christ all shall be made alive again. That is, it. The relationship of the believer to Christ is the same sort of union and relationship as that old relationship of the whole of Adam’s posterity to Adam. We are all born in Adam, and we are related, we are joined in that way. Yes, but being born again, we are in the same sort of relationship to Christ.

               Regeneration and union must never be separated. You cannot be born again without being in Christ; you are born again because you are in Christ. The moment you are in Him you are born again and you cannot regard your regeneration as something separated and think that union is something you will eventually arrive at. Not at all! Regeneration and union must always be considered together and at the same time because the one depends upon the other and leads to the other; they are usually self-supporting.

               There is nothing that so strengthens my faith and fills me with a longing to be pure as He is pure and to live even as He did is this world as the realization of what I am and who I am because I am a Christian. I am a child of God, and I am in Christ.

A THOUGHT TO PONDER

Regeneration and union must never be separated.

After reading this I was filled with such a peace, that it’s not our actions that identify us with Jesus, it’s His regeneration power.  Our actions do nothing to regenerate us, our actions are a reaction to His regenerating power.  In all that we do, know that we do them from a position of being in Christ.  We didn’t place ourselves here, God did. 

Thank the Lord for making us new!

Tuesday, July 14th

“Striving vs Rest” by Lynn Koehn

The dictionary portrayal of striving is; vigorously exerting oneself, trying harder, making strenuous efforts toward any goal, struggling vigorously, etc. 

Striving to impress or earn someone’s approval is not uncommon.  It can be hereditary or a result of misinformed training.  Striving and working to receive someone’s love and acceptance can be intentional or unintentional.  It can be external, obvious to those who know you or it can be internal, known only to God.

Every Christian is offered two very opposite options to navigating this journey called “life.”  Jesus offers—rest for your soul and the world offers—striving. 

Have you ever stopped and thought, ‘wait a minute, something is not right here?  All I hear and all I read is a continual demand for performance, try harder, exert more effort, more-more-more…then I’ll be happy, satisfied and content.’  This is a failed formula that invariably equals emptiness, discouragement and disaster.  Jesus offers the fail-proof solution to our striving:

“Come to me,

all who labor and are heavy laden,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you,

and learn from me,

for I am gentle and lowly in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matthew 11:28-29

Today, I am inviting you to join me in thanking Jesus for accomplishing everything that needed or could be done to put an end to our striving.  Jesus promises spiritual rest [your heart, your soul and your mind at peace] and eternal rest in the presence of God, beginning right here and right now.  The people in your world desperately need to see someone doing life with their—soul at rest.  Especially now!!

Come to Jesus.  There you will find internal rest.  You will become contagious with the peace-of-God and all those near you will be infected. Social distancing is not required.

Whenever you feel yourself striving, join with me in praise and thanksgiving knowing, “I am a son/daughter of the King! God, You love me and made me special! I know You have good for me regardless of how I feel right now! You are enough. Period.”

Monday, July 13th

“The Claw Has Chosen”, by Bob Elliott

Do you remember the scene in the movie The Toy Story? Buzz Lightyear and Woody encounter the little green 3 eyed aliens inside of an arcade game. Buzz tries to commandeer them to flee from the inside of the game. However, they all respond that the “claw” is who chooses which one will stay and which will go.

These little green aliens display a profound reverence towards the claw and have a sense of awe in the destiny that awaits them. The scripture to look at today is meant to help us develop an attitude and honor, much the same as the little creatures display towards the Claw.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ  as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Eph 3-10

What is incredible is that this scripture reveals that God has chosen us. Yes, even though we respond, it’s His design to rescue us before the creation of the world. He initiates the plan of redemption and fulfills it with himself being the sacrifice for all of our sins.

God’s grace to us is so amazing. The scripture tells us just how lavish this grace is. The term “lavish” is a superlative word. Terry Virgo often describes the meaning of lavish as being scandalous in nature. It truly is wonderful for us to be set free from the law. The scandal is that we receive something that we do not deserve. We deserve punishment for the consequences of our inequity and sins. God says to us, nope that’s not going to happen, instead I have a great reward awaiting you in heaven.

 This is the power of the gospel message that we receive by faith. Our faith is not based on our own strength to muster up. Rather, it is based on the object of our faith being strong and durable. Jesus is the power, he is the rock and anchor to our souls. Because of Jesus, God looks at us as being holy and blameless. How crazy, scandalous and lavish is that?

The Claw has chosen…Us!

Friday, July 10th 

Devotional by Gary Bittner

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Thursday, July 9th

Devotional by Galen Troyer

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Wednesday, July 8th

“Get your mind right!” by Warren Stroup

I can’t help but think about all we have to be glad about as a Christ follower.  One very good practice is to write down in your journal those things that make you glad. There might be two columns, one for natural-temporary things and one for spiritual-eternal things.  The scriptures time and time again illustrate the importance of thinking on things that are Godly, Spiritual or Heavenly. 

When it comes to natural things, the very things that once made us glad now make us sad. It’s the peaks and the valleys of life that drive our emotions.  When our heart is set on spiritual things we no longer live on peaks or in valleys, but we live above them all.  The scriptures give us clear instruction regarding what we should be thinking about.  If you want to live above all the chaos and nonsense, God clearly tells us how.

Let these verses be a personal invitation for you to spend time thinking about things that are out of this world. 

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:1-2

The following verses (Col 3:5-15) give you examples of those things we should be dwelling on.  It’s the things that are beyond this that will give us peace and joy that will last.

“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.” Philippians 4:8

Paul is challenging us to think about the things that bring life, rather than death.  It’s so easy to have our minds turned towards unhelpful things. There is so much propaganda that is milled out every day to keep you from finding peace.  In our flesh we enjoy watching the wreck, in the spirit we enjoy saving the wrecked. Today, be intentional about what you think on, look upon or listen to, you’re a beautiful instrument created by God to play in his symphony, let sweet music ring out to those that are listening.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:5-8

The flesh and the spirit are at war with one another (Galatians 5:16-24). Walk with the Spirit, keep step with the Spirit. Don’t allow the flesh that you have left behind, overtake you.  It’s being a people of the spirit that fills us with confidence and joy to face whatever challenges may come our way.

The final passage in this short devotional is found in Mark 8:33, Jesus is talking to Peter in the midst of the disciples.

But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

There is grave danger in allowing the things of man, earth and flesh fill your mind. What happens in our minds is what gets played out in our lives. We might have even said to someone, “It’s not that big of a deal, I didn’t do it, I was only thinking about it.” Jesus wasn’t just instructing Peter; he was speaking to the disciples. No matter what challenge or difficulty we face, if our mind is set on the things of earth, we’re going to react according to the flesh. 

God is instructing us to get our minds right, for the benefits are lived out through a life that is full of joy and peace.

Tuesday, July 6th

“Expect the Unusual!” by Lynn Koehn

It was an unusual morning.  My wife and I left the house extra early for our usual Sunday morning Starbucks before church.  Being very early we decided to take an unusual route on the outskirts of town to burn a few minutes before arriving at church in time for our usual Pre-Service Prayer.  Here’s where it got even more unusual.  Several car lengths ahead we could see what looked like a mound of clothing or something sitting on the very edge of the pavement. Getting closer, we were shocked to see it was a person scrunched over, facing the ditch with their head buried in their knees.  As we drove closer, we saw that it was a woman, extremely thin with a dirt-covered face and matted hair. We looked at each other and said, “that’s really unusual.”  Less than a minute later we both agreed and made a choice to turn our car around and go back to check on her.  We drove up beside her and asked if we could help her. With a blank, empty stare in her eyes, her instant response was “no.” We next asked if there is anything we could do for her and she just stared at us and shook her head no.  Driving away, we both felt so brokenhearted and helpless and began to pray.  About a half mile down the road, we agreed we should buy her some breakfast and a cup of hot coffee and take it to her.  When we drove up to her again, we asked if she wanted breakfast, she replied “no, thank you” but we left it there anyway. We asked her if she was in danger and again she shook her head no.  

Thank you, Holy Spirit!  As Spirit-filled, Spirit-led believers we desire, anticipate and expect the unusual to be a usual everyday occurrence!   

As I replay this event in my mind, I can see the vivid picture of that extremely thin lady, dirty and sad, sitting in the ditch next to the highway.  I can still feel the intense loneliness in her heart that we sensed as we gave her the cup of coffee and a small sack of hot food.  I can still see the deep sadness in her eyes and sense the overwhelming pain, sorrow and grief in her life as she stared up at us. There is nothing more gut-wrenching than the helpless feeling of knowing someone whom Jesus loves and cares for is so broken, empty, lost and without hope.

This morning I’m inviting you to join Betty and me in two responses to this unusual occurrence.

1).  Ask the Lord to heal the brokenhearted, release the captives and free the downtrodden.

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me;

he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor;

he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted

and to announce that captives shall be released

and the blind shall see,

that the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors,

and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to him.”

Luke 4:18-19 (NLT)

Every person has a story.  Without Jesus those stories often lead to hopelessness, emptiness and brokenness.  Pray that this lady and all those without Jesus will come to Him and receive healing, restoration, freedom and hope! Pray that God will help us respond to those in need of help!

2).  Rejoice! The Holy Spirit is alive and well. He lives in us!  He leads us!  He orchestrates our day!  We didn’t know that person was sitting in the ditch…brokenhearted, lonely and lost…but God did.  We didn’t know why we left the house early or why we drove on that particular road that we never travel on…but God did.  I invite you to rejoice with Betty and me that we are Spirit-filled people.  Rejoice that as Spirit-led people the Holy Spirit makes unusual circumstances and situations normal everyday occurrences…Pray that these situations become our USUAL!!

Monday, July 6th

“Hard wired”, By Bob Elliott

"Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." 1 Cor. 8:6 esv

The context of this beautiful snippet of scripture is where Paul is instructing the Christians in Corinth about a moral dilemma of whether or not they should eat food that has been offered up to pagan idols. So this verse appears to be somewhat removed from the main idea that Paul is navigating. As a result, verse 6 could be easily skipped over without paying much attention to it.

However, this is such a beautiful statement that reveals the trinity of God. One God in essence, three distinct personalities containing this essence or trait. I know it’s kind of challenging to wrap our minds around this. Is God three or is God one? As difficult as this is, we understand that the scriptures are clear in stating that God the father, Jesus Christ the son and the Holy Spirit are all-divine in nature. In addition, this scripture that we are looking at today fully supports this notion.

What we are seeing is the beautiful emphasis of both creation and redemption woven into these things.  They are originated by the Father and implemented through Jesus. Furthermore, the presence of the Holy Spirit being alive and working inside of us is full of promise. Eph. 1:13 states In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

We see the distinct personalities within the Godhead working together in creating the entirety of the universe. We see them working together in perfect harmony and unity to plan the redemption of humanity as well.

We are all made in the image of God, and He desires relationship with us in much the same way that the Father and the Son work together. We are all hardwired with this desire for relationship. Many people don’t realize this need. However, we are fortunate to have this beautiful connection with God. Let’s spend some time worshipping and thanking the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the joy of relationship that we experience and that fulfills our purpose for being.

Let those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!” Ps. 35:27

Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Ps.111:2

Friday, July 3rd

Video Devotional by Gary Bittner

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Thursday, July 2nd

“One Way” by Galen Troyer

Our country today is changing in ways we would not have imagined a few months ago. It seems that almost every day there is a push for more changes. Granted, everything isn’t perfect and we can do better. Violence and destruction will never make us better. So, what are we to do? I’m sure you’ve already given it a lot of thought. Human nature is such that we will never all come to a place of satisfaction and rest on our own.

Jesus is the only one who can bring lasting peace, rest and satisfaction! I am encouraged by all the prayers from around the world that are going up in powerful ways as God’s people are uniting and praying. There are so many in our nation and the world who are without Hope and Jesus Christ is the only one who can give them that Hope.

Luke 15:3-7. Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it in his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent...”

Jesus, increase our passion for all the lost sheep and may there be many who come to you in repentance today and in the days ahead. Amen

May the world see Jesus in our words and actions. We are called to pray for our local, state, national and international leaders... (whether or not we agree with them). “Prayer changes things”

Wednesday, July 1st

“Don’t be Grumpy!” by Warren Stroup

Do you remember Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? One of my favorite Dwarf’s was Grumpy. No matter how hard you tried there was nothing positive that would come out of Grumpy’s mouth. On the chance occasion you did see Grumpy smile it always made me laugh.  

Have you ever woken up and you found yourself in a grumpy mood? Someone inevitably will say, “What happened to you, woke up on the wrong side of the bed?”  If I was to wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I would have had to have rolled over and crushed my little wife.  I don’t think it would be me that was grumpy. There are occasions for the grumps.  You may find yourself even more grumpy based on the season you’re in.  If you’re a Cleveland Brown’s fan that’s every year three weeks into the NFL season and you’re already 0-3, (just kidding…not really!). Whatever might get you down, let these verses be a beacon of light in the midst of the gloom or despair.

"19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”-Philippians 4:19

What a great verse to think on, God is a supplier of your need.  May your needs line up with his plan for you.  If you’re not getting your prayers answered maybe you’re asking for the wrong things.  Take the time to let God teach you how to line your prayers up with his will for you.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." - Matthew 11:28-29.

Boy are there ever seasons when we feel the weight of life pressing in on us.  It’s times like these that we might find ourselves depressed or feeling alone.  What a great time to let this verse resonate in your ears.  Come to him, sit at the feet of Jesus and find perfect rest.  Stop striving and start thriving in his peace.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” –Ephesians 4:29

You may not realize that what comes out of your mouth can really put someone in a bad mood.  Being married some 25+ years I’ve on occasion said something to Kim that took the wind out of her sail.  She may have been full of cheer, but my words turned the mood around.  May our words only be used to build one another up. 

I’ll finish with this verse.

“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

Jesus wants to give you a peace that cannot be taken away, it’s nothing like the world has to offer it’s the same peace that was with him during the storm (Matthew 8: 23-27), the same peace he had in the midst of his accusers (Mark 15:5), and the same peace when they nailed him to a tree (Luke 23:34). 

The mood of a Christ follower need not be like; “Grumpy”, but rather be like, “Happy”.  We have so much to be happy about, let the work of the gospel turn your frown upside down.  Don’t let this life sour your mood for we have an eternity of happiness that awaits all who believe.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”-Romans 15:13

Tuesday, June 30th

“Attitude of Gratitude”, by Lynn Koehn

Psalm 28:7: "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

When was the last time you stopped, took a moment to switch the busy switch to off, unplugged the noise maker, and like the Psalmist realize, “my heart is filled to overflowing with joy!”  And then, before you plug back in, for just a moment, you burst into a song of praise, gratitude and thanksgiving to God!  You may be one of those who is living an “attitude of gratitude” life.  If so, God bless you.  Keep it up.  Most of us, however, go through our day cooking, cleaning, working, kids, pets, ministry and all the other many wonderful and necessary responsibilities that occupy our schedules and then another day is over. 

Today, this very moment my heart leaps for joy!!  Not only am I praising God – but I realize my focus has turned away from the overwhelming tasks that need to get done.  My thoughts have turned from what I need and what I don’t have, what I want and how can I get it, what others have and why don’t I have - to how blessed I am and how grateful I am for God’s blessings and favor in my life!

As I suggested, life is swooshing by at lightning-flash speed.  Can you relate to swooshing and lightning-flash speed?  We wake up in the morning, hit the floor running and before we know it, we “crash” into bed, fall asleep and it’s morning and the routine starts all over again. Monday turns into Friday! You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?

I am challenging myself to begin today purposefully and intentionally allowing my heart, my mind and my soul to be filled with the goodness of God.  I am challenging myself to allow my lips to burst forth in a song of gratitude and praise to God.  I am challenging myself today to faithfully do this every day.  I want to develop a true and honest “attitude of gratitude” in my life!  I invite you to join me!  You will be blessed.  Your family will be blessed.  Others around you will be blessed.  Our church will be blessed.  Most importantly God will be blessed!

Monday, June 29th

“Filled with Fullness” by Bob Elliott

 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullnes