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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.

Friday, May 22nd

Enjoy this short video of encouragement from Pastor Gary Bittner

WATCH VIDEO

Thursday, May 21st

Enjoy this short video of encouragement from Pastor Galen Troyer.

WATCH VIDEO

Wednesday, May 20th

“I Love You, Holy Spirit”, by Warren Stroup

Have you ever tried to describe someone or something and you just couldn’t come up with the word that would encapsulate all you were trying to say?  There are a number of words that have multiple meanings, the Hawaiian word “aloha” means hello, welcome, goodbye and even love. Jesus uses a word to describe the Holy Spirit: parakletos. This word has multiple meanings, Helper, Advocate, Comforter, Encourager, Counselor and Friend. Jesus knew that when he returned to the Father it was “Tag, You’re it Holy Spirit.” This wasn’t a lesser move, but rather a perfect move.  Jesus came to give us a new life, the Holy Spirit has come to help us live it.

Read these passages and stop after each one to give thanks to the Holy Spirit for being exactly what a follower of Jesus Christ needs every day.

John 16:7, (ESV) “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.”

John 14:26, (NKJ) “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

John 16:13, (ESV) “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

1 Corinthians 3:16, (ESV) “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?”

I remember when our kids were growing up and they would ask for help on one of their school projects.  My wife would respond quickly, “go talk to your Dad.” Kim knew that Dad was always up to helping with the latest project assignment.  It’s not that she didn’t want to help, she knew that Dad loved doing projects with the kids. The Holy Spirit loves walking with you, it is his purpose to walk alongside you every day.  My personal favorite Holy Spirit verse in the Bible is found in a letter Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16) I picture this verse as an instruction to the church to walk beside the Spirit every day. This is how we are to do life.  The flesh is waring against the Spirit, if we are to overcome the flesh what better way than to have the Spirit by our side.  The Spirit overpowers everything in the flesh, we need only to allow the Spirit authority to do so.

Have you ever tried to do something only to find out after you’ve exhausted time and energy you were never going to accomplish it alone, you needed help?  This is often how we do life; ALONE, attempting time and time again to do marriage, raise kids, be successful in our career or education, only to find ourselves overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated, hurt, tired and ready to give up. Jesus never intended for us to walk through life alone, the Helper was sent to be with you, to comfort and teach you, to guide and direct you.

The more you walk with the Holy Spirit the more you will love this relationship.  Let the Holy Spirit do what the Holy Spirit does best, Help You!!! 

Tuesday, May 19th

“Feeling Helpless?  It’s just a feeling...it’s not the truth!” by Lynn Koehn

He was eighteen years old. In his life he had no tragic situations and very few unexpected incidences up to this point.  One of his responsibilities at the Montezuma CO-OP Fertilizer plant was to make sure the farmers’ fertilizer tanks did not run low or worse, run out during the growing season.  The tanks were quite large and held thousands of gallons of very expensive liquid fertilizer.  Late one evening, as darkness was setting in, the last thing he needed to do before heading back to town was to close the lid on top of the tank he’d just filled.  The tank was a little taller than him so he needed to stand on something to reach the top.  The two-inch spigot at the bottom of the tank seemed sturdy and a quick and easy footstool.  Well, you can imagine what happened next….!!  He could stop the stream with his right hand, then his left hand, then his right foot, then his left foot!!  The whole time, being miles away from town and having nothing to plug the hole, he was feeling totally, completely and utterly HELPLESS!!  What was he to do?  Draining the entire tank of fertilizer onto the ground was unthinkable and simply not an option.

Have you ever been there?  Do you know someone who has?  Life happens.  Sometimes people find themselves in one of those seasons where it seems like nothing goes the way it should.  Perhaps you’re there right now.  You’re feeling frustrated, anxious and apprehensive.  Frankly, to be honest you are feeling absolutely HELPLESS!  Like the eighteen-year-old, you’re asking yourself, “Now what?”  Maybe you’re crying out, “Jesus, HELP!  I am at my wits end!  I am in the far corner of this field, all alone, my spigot is busted off and there is nothing for me to use to plug this hole.  What am I to do? 

I was reminded of a group of people in the Bible who found themselves experiencing the same feelings and asking the same questions.  Five thousand men plus women and children, gathered in a remote location to hear Jesus speak.  Jesus’ disciples realizing the crowd was getting hungry and there was nothing to feed them, felt totally and utterly helpless.  “What are we to do?” they asked.  I invite you to read this remarkable account with me [Matthew 14:15-21].  As you read, remember, with God NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE!!  With God, you are NOT helpless!!  Let’s read:

15 Now when it was evening, (crunch time, right?  Jesus doesn’t always show up when we think He should.  However, when you’re at your wits end remember this; Jesus always shows up!  Remember the disciples caught in a storm, rowing all night, getting nowhere?  “…just before dawn Jesus came to them, walking on the water!”  Matthew 14:25. He is never too late!)  the disciples came to him and said, This is a desolate place, (true…right now it may feel like you’re in the desert…and all alone.  BUT, my dear friend, remember Jesus’ promise to you!)  

Matthew 28:19 & 20.  “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them I in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.  And surely, I am with you ALWAYS, to the very end of the age.”  (We are never alone!)  

"...and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”  (the spigot is broken off and there is nothing to fix it.  The disciples found themselves in the same predicament: thousands of hungry people and nothing to eat.  Feeling helpless. What are they to do?)  18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.”  (I love this!  Our Jesus has never been nor will He ever be limited by what we have or don’t have!  Remember, He is our ‘Miracle Worker!)   19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied.  (read Psalm 121.  “My help comes from the Lord!   He stands beside you as your protective shade, keeps you from all harm!   The Lord himself watches over you …both NOW and FOREVER!”  Hallelujah!!  “The Lord is our Helper!”  Hebrews 13:6.   We are NOT, have never been and never will be helpless!!)  And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

I will never forget the helpless feeling I had that day.  Both arms were hurting, both legs were tired.  The feelings of helplessness were overwhelming.  I didn’t know what to do.  I felt totally, completely and utterly helpless.  However, just as I was about to give up, take my hand off the broken spigot and drain the entire tank of liquid fertilizer on the ground, I heard the sound of a vehicle! It was my boss. Are you kidding me! How did he know I was out there? How did he know I desperately needed help….at that very moment?  I’m sure I asked those questions and many others but don’t remember the answers.  However, all these years later, I do remember all those feelings that surged through my entire body as he pulled up! As he calmly accessed the situation, pulled a metal plug and a wrench out of his toolbox and plugged the hole, the reassuring feelings of “being-rescued, being-loved & cared-for” to name just a few, swept over me, and overcame and defeated the debilitating feeling of helplessness I was experiencing! 

My dear friends, please be encouraged today.  The next time you sense that helpless feeling beginning to creep in remember this: with God, nothing is impossible!  You are not alone!  Jesus is aware of your situation.  He is with you!  He really, really cares for you!

Resist the feeling of helplessness. It’s just a feeling.  This is the truth!  “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9 

Monday, May 18th

“O Come to the Altar”, by Bob Elliott

Normally we have done a post and then a link to worship. Today I would like to reverse the order. Take some time watching and worshipping in this video, then jump into the devotional, because the thoughts relate closely to the lyrics of this song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYQ5yXCc_CA

 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

    because the Lord has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor;

    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

  to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,

    and the day of vengeance of our God;

    to comfort all who mourn;

 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—

    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;

that they may be called oaks of righteousness,” Isaiah 61:1-3 ESV

I love this passage; it is full of promise and hope!

Jesus quoted this scripture while in the synagogue in Nazareth. In addition, He said “today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  His intentions could not be clearer. He is declaring to the people that He is the messiah, the Lord of all. Only he could complete the weighty tasks listed in Isaiah.

All of the negatives listed such a being brokenhearted, captive, poor, mourning, being covered in ashes and having a faint spirit are fairly common experiences for us. (Well except maybe the ashes part)

For all of these conditions, Jesus provides a way of escape from them. He is the source of promise and hope to bring us out of types of poverty and into the riches of his grace and mercy.

Today, bring your sorrows and trade them for joy, Jesus is calling. O come to altar, the Father’s hands are open wide!

Thursday, May 14th

Enjoy this short video of encouragement from Pastor Galen Troyer.

WATCH VIDEO

Wednesday, May 13th

“Letting Jesus represent you” by Warren Stroup

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (ESV)

Have you ever needed a mediator? Sometimes that’s a good thing, at other times not so good.  The word mediator means: a person who attempts to make people involved in a conflict come to an agreement.  We might look at a mediator as a type of referee, to make sure the two parties fight fairly. I don’t know about you, but I’ve yelled a time or two at the referee in my son’s basketball game. From my vantage point, more like disadvantage point it appeared to me that the referee wasn’t being fair, or they were bias or just plain “blind” …I know, a bit harsh.

We need to be careful that we do not give Jesus this definition. In the New Testament, mediator means: (One who) intervenes to restore peace between two parties. What a beautiful picture of what Jesus Christ has done.  He took a fallen, broken, flawed people and restored them back into relationship with the perfect, exalted, holy God. 

Jesus isn’t our referee, he’s our restorer.  He’s the one that intervened for us, making it possible for us to have a loving, passionate, life giving relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Jesus looked across the table at us and said, “Stop It! You’re only making matters worse. There is nothing you’re going to do to restore your relationship with God, you’ve already done too much!”  It’s at the moment of brokenness and surrender that Jesus structured a new covenant with God.  He being 100% man and 100% God was the only one capable of bringing us back into relationship. I know that there is a temptation to add to what Jesus has done, thinking you can do more to improve on the deal, but don’t be misled. There are enough people that have tried to create their own document on how to be in relationship with God, skipping around Jesus and DIY-ing it. All of them have failed!

It says in John 14:6, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus knew what needed to be done and he chose to do it.  We have a mediator that is more than capable of perfectly representing God to man and man to God.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:14-15 (ESV)

Can you imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have Jesus mediating for us? Oh, right, sure you can, just read the first five books of the Bible.  Jesus took our failed attempts at being in relationship with God and perfected it. He has brought us back into relationship and we get to walk in the blessings of it.

As you take a moment and dwell on the perfection of Christ’s actions and how he on your behalf has brought about redemption, allow the joy of the Lord to overwhelm you.  Celebrate the suffering of Christ and rejoice in your new life.

Jesus representing you is the best thing that’s ever happened to you!

Tuesday, May 12th

"God uses ‘Cracked Pots’"by Lynn Koehn

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… for when I am weak, then I am strong. –2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Paul makes an astounding declaration here.  Have you ever wondered or said… “REALLY?  Really God.  I love you and I know I’ve been called according to your purposes but...right now, compared to others, I feel weak and of no value.”  You might be asking yourself or even saying to God, “I don’t get it.  At this very moment I am feeling utterly powerless and incredibly broken.  Look at all these flaws!  What good could ever come out of this?”  You know what, it’s ok.  We’ve all been there.  Moses and many other big-time Biblical heroes asked those same questions.

Nicky Gumbel, founder of the Alpha Course tells this story.  I find it to be very relatable to today’s topic and tremendously encouraging.  I hope you are reassured and invigorated by reading it today.

A water-bearer in India had two large pots, both hung on the ends of a pole, which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot always arrived half full.  

The poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream:

‘I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts.’

The bearer said to the pot, ‘Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.’

Be bold and courageous.  Do not allow the enemy to side-track and defeat you by giving into his lies.  Jump in with both feet to what God has put before you.  Get involved.  BECAUSE God is with you!  He is for you!

“My grace is sufficient for you…”  Being fully aware of our imperfections, God provides everything we need to accomplish all He has set before us.  “…for my power is made perfect in my weakness [imperfections].”  My weaknesses and imperfections provide opportunities for God to accomplish far more than I know or could think or imagine.  “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…”  Knowing I’ve been selected and chosen by God in spite of my imperfections and weaknesses I, like Paul am prepared, willing and ready for more of God’s power to be released in my life…for His Kingdom and His glory!

Believe God. Be filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit and take advantage of every opportunity to share the love of Jesus.  Faithfully serve God in whatever capacity you’ve been called.  Be ‘All In’ NOW! 

I invite you today to join me in saying, “Here am I God, with all my weaknesses and imperfections, USE ME!”  “…for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Thankfully, God uses cracked pots!

Monday, May 11th

“Born Again to a Living Hope”, By Bob Elliott

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV)

The evidence of promise in this text for us as believers in Christ is breathtaking. Our future in the Kingdom of God is awe-inspiring because of the living hope in the power of Jesus resurrection from the dead.

The description of a “living hope” is provocative. Hope is alive and vibrant, full of expectancy and yearning. It is also durable, in that there is a security that this hope cannot be nullified or extinguished in any way.

The word “hope” is often used in the Old Testament as an equivalence to the word “inheritance.” The promised land was meant to be an inheritance for the Jewish people. The emphasis of the real estate of Israel in connection with the belief of the God of Abraham and Issac and Jacob was deeply woven into that culture.

Likewise, this hope that we have is full of the promise of inheritance.  Inheritance by definition becomes active when a person dies, not beforehand. When Jesus died, he left us the legacy of mercy and grace fully shared in salvation.

It is as if we had a very rich uncle who we loved dearly. When he died, he left us everything, a massive inheritance that has completely changed our financial position in life for the better. Only the reality is that the real inheritance that we have is far greater than the rich uncle scenario. Our faith is founded on the rock-solid truth of the gospel.

Living Hope by Cross Point Music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVooPoF9IJo

Friday, May 8th

“NOW, EVEN NOW HE IS AT WORK……” by Gary Bittner

What time is it? It’s not just 2:47PM, or 8:30AM, or midnight. It’s NOW.

God gave us the night and day, the clock if you will, at creation to allow us to measure and mark our days. But, God is eternal and therefore with Him there is no ‘future’ and there is no ‘past,’ there is no 2:47PM, or 8:30AM or midnight. That is why the statement ‘I Am’ is so powerful, because He is always ‘is’ and will be present in our NOW.  And here’s something to ponder; IF we are in Christ, we have eternal life. IF that is true, perhaps we should live life a bit more ‘in the NOW’ and not worry so much about tomorrow, or yesterday.

Isaiah 43:1-19, various verses (NIV)….

“1 But NOW, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. 11 I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. 12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God. 13 Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?”

16 This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick. 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! NOW (caps mine) it springs up; do you not perceive it? I AM (caps mine) making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

But NOW, this is what the Lord says…. I believe God is always speaking to us. He wants to talk to us NOW, at this moment, not just ‘sometimes.’ Gary, ‘you mean right NOW?’ Yes, NOW.

When we pass through waters, through rivers, through the fire…. God is there, then, NOW.

Know, believe, understand that ‘He is.’ None before Him, none after. Why? Because He is eternal. He can say ‘I AM’ because He always has been.  

Forget the former things, do not dwell (literally ‘tabernacle’) in the past. God is not constrained by time; He wants to be present in your life NOW. If we are always waiting for Him to do something ‘later’ or we keep looking at something that happened ‘back in the past’ we are certainly going to miss what He is doing NOW.

Psalm 118:24 (KJV) “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

If we get so stuck in looking only at yesterday, or get stuck waiting for tomorrow, we will certainly miss today, NOW. And He is here, NOW, for you. He has given us life, a great and wonderful life. We don’t know everything that will happen in this life. All we have is right here, right NOW. Let’s not miss it.

Lord, help me to be present, NOW. With you, with my family, with my friends, my community, in Your purposes, NOW.

Thursday, May 7th

Enjoy this short video of encouragement from Pastor Galen Troyer.

WATCH VIDEO

Wednesday, May 6th

“God is faithful and true” by Warren Stroup

“What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though everyone were a liar…”  Romans 3:3-4b             

Have you ever been in a situation and wondered if God was there or not? Have you thought, that this time, I just don’t see God showing up? Paul speaking to the church in Rome, made it plain that though others may fail you God will not.  God is always going to be faithful and true, even if we don’t understand or see clearly his omnipresence, God is there. 

If you’ve had the opportunity to speak with someone that believes in evolution, many have a running argument with God about how things don’t make sense.  The argument is on the presupposition that everything should make sense.  The thought that man is omniscient or can become omniscient is at the foundation of their humanistic philosophy.  They might say, “given enough time we will figure it out, or it will become known to us.”  Paul is saying to us, that even if man thinks they know what they are talking about, if it is in opposition to God, then man is a liar and God is true. 

God is always going to be true and faithful, man is not.  There is another truth that Paul shares with the church in Corinth, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (I Corinthians 1:25) People can try as they might, but the source of all truth is God, if you try to find truth outside of God you’re going to look foolish. 

You’ve probably heard the tail of the, “Emperor’s New Clothes”. The stewards were told that to not see the new clothes would reveal your own ignorance and stupidity. Though it was plain to them that the Emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes they chose to praise the tailors for creating such beautiful garments.  Church, don’t be duped into believing a lie, even if it means being called a fool yourselves.

Stop for a moment and give thanks to God for his faithfulness that endures to all generations. Allow his faithfulness to give rest to your weary soul.  “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6)

Tuesday, May 5th

“MORE!!!” By Lynn Koehn

Luke 5:4-7 “Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, ‘Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets.’

And Simon answering said unto him, ‘Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net.’

And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net broke.

And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.” 

Come along with me for a second as we replay Simon Peters life-changing encounter with Jesus.  Peter, an experienced career fisherman undoubtably considered himself pretty much an expert regarding where, when and how to best catch fish.  It appears as though he and his fellow fishermen were used to fishing at night and in shallow water.  Over the years, they had become “set” in their ways and developed certain mindsets about fishing.

For months now and perhaps even years, you’ve grown comfortable doing the same thing the same way.  By now, you’ve “settled-in” and have, perhaps settled for LESS, even though you know or knew at one time, that God has MORE in store for you, your family, your church and your community!  After fishing all night, Peter and his fellow fishermen became “ok” with the idea of settling for less.  Actually, as “career fishermen” they even allowed themselves to give into the critical notion of “defeat.”  Until….Jesus!  Jesus shows up and all that changed!!!  Doing things the same way, every time and coming up empty is dangerous.  It has the potential to lead us into the pattern of “settling-for-less.”  Perhaps you’ve been there.  You might even be there today.  You’ve toiled.  You’ve done it the same way, at the same place and at the same time…. every time.  And your boat is empty.  Today, you may be considering giving up.  Or maybe today you find yourself still in the boat but you are parked by the shore…. contemplating.  AND THEN…. JESUS SHOWS UP!!! And everything changes!  Jesus’ timing is always 100 percent perfect!  Just as Peter was about to row away…. empty, Jesus appears and says, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets….again.”  You’ve become very familiar shallow waters.  You’ve become quite familiar with night fishing.  Jesus is saying to someone right now, “NOW is the time for you break out of the familiar and move into the UN-familiar.”  There you will experience MORE!

Jumping to the end of Simon Peter’s interaction with Jesus I want to highlight three key elements that were necessary for Simon to experience God’s supernatural abundance and to become a whole-hearted follower of Jesus.  I encourage you, take a moment to evaluate your life today.  Ask yourself, am I currently receiving all that God has in store for me, my family, my church and my community.  Am I at the right place, at the right time and am I doing life God’s way?  Listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit.  And then, like Peter, say to Jesus, “Nevertheless, I will do it!  It’s out-of-the-box for me but I know you have MORE!”    

Three solid, foundational ingredients to receiving more:

  1. Recognize Jesus when He appears. “Master.”  Peter didn’t say, “Wait….don’t I know you from somewhere?  Remind me again, who are you?”  Peter immediately recognized Jesus.
  2. Admit that your way of doing things may not be the best way. “Nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net.” That doesn’t mean you’ve been doing it wrong all along.  It just means Jesus’ way is always the best!  Be ready and willing to make some changes in your life.  Our routines, familiarities, normalcies, trends and patterns are all subject to change. 
  3. Make the necessary changes Jesus is asking of you. ”And when they had this done,” Procrastination is dangerous.  Jesus knew where that school of fish were and when they were going to be there.  If you hesitate or don’t change, that school of fish may move on or someone else could move in and receive the favor, the blessing and the abundance of God! 

“I realize today Father you have MORE in store for my life.  So…by faith, I launch today, into deeper waters!  I cast my net, believing Jesus, that you know exactly what is BEST for me, my family, my church and my community!  I trust you Holy Spirit for leading me and giving me the strength and wisdom necessary to deal with bursting nets and overflowing boats!!  Thank you, Jesus.” 

MORE!

Monday, May 4th

“John the Baptist and the Lamb of God” By Bob Elliott

The next day he (John) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’  I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.  I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” John 1:29-34 (ESV)

We may be familiar with the phrase “behold the lamb of God” quoted by John the Baptist. We understand that the ramifications of Jesus sacrifice on the cross will be the fulfillment of the Baptist’s statement. Nevertheless, what if we look at this scripture in real time, as it is unfolding, before the passion of Christ?

How awesome the setting must have been. John said that he did not know him, meaning that he was not aware that Jesus (probably his cousin) was to be the messiah until this very moment. John knew that he was related to Jesus, however, he only really knew him as the redeemer of humanity as he saw the Holy Spirit descend and stay upon Jesus. John now realizes how epic this moment in time truly is. His whole purpose of baptizing people is to prepare Israel for this revelation, to reveal the purposes of God.

John’s response is so beautiful.  He humbly declares that he must become less, because Jesus is more. Here is where we should find ourselves as well. It is not about how big we may become, it is about our walking in humility, and making the name of Jesus great. The scripture declares that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to those who walk in humility (James 4:6).

This message is truly foreign to our culture at large, and gives us the opportunity to be different.  This is how we can be salt and light to others around us.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” 1st Peter 5:6

I must decrease: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_KKzWoRBPg

Friday, May 1st

“I Thank Ya’ Lord!!!” by Gary Bittner

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

This is one of my favorite passages of scripture. It gives me hope. Hope that God is not done with me, no matter where I am in life. Hope that freedom is coming over every bondage and every sin and every obstacle in my way.

And most of all, hope that I am BEING transformed into His image. There is a saying I really like. In fact, I think I made it up: “I thank ya Lord, that what is IS not what it WAS and it’s not what its GONNA BE!”

So many believers become frustrated with His process of transformation. The verses above say ‘we are BEING’ transformed, hence that transformation is an ongoing process! Are you convicted of a sin? Good, that’s a sign your ‘in process.’ Are you frustrated with a less than helpful habit you can’t overcome? Good, that’s a sign you’re ‘in process.’ Are you seeing the need for more discipline in some area of your life but you’re struggling to make the change? Good, that’s a sign that you’re ‘in process.’

Don’t become frustrated with the process. As we yield to Him, He will bring about the transformation. The vinedresser needs to ‘dress’ the vine so that vine can be the most fruitful it can be. Is the pruning happening? Good, it’s a sing you’re ‘in process.’ Is the furnace of His love burning away some impurities? Good, it’s a sign that you are ‘in process.’ Is the Lord disciplining you as one of His beloved children? Good, it’s a sign that you are ‘in process.’

God is good, therefore ‘His process of transformation’ is good.

I’ve heard it said, ‘Jesus loves us just the way we are.’ This is a true statement, and I would add ‘but too much to leave us that way!’

I’ve heard it said, ‘Come just as you are.’ This is a true statement, and I would add ‘but don’t expect to stay that way!’

Ephesian 1:11-14 “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

He chose YOU and He has a plan for YOUR life that conforms to His plan for the entire creation.

He chose YOU as a trophy of His grace, for the praise of His glory.

He chose YOU and marked you with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit. This speaks to Him making a ‘down payment’ of the fulness of the Spirit in YOUR life and He will continue to make ‘deposits’ until His work in YOU is completed.

Don’t be frustrated with His process. The only time we should be frustrated is when something that should be happening is not happening. And YOUR transformation IS happening. He promised.

God bless you.

“Father, help me to simply submit to your loving process. I trust you Lord, with ALL my life, ALL the time, ALL the way, I’m ALL IN. I love You Lord.”

Thursday, April 30th

“Let My Words Be Few / Stand in Awe of God” by Galen Troyer

Living in a world with so many uncertainties, pressures and stresses, it is good to remind ourselves every day, that God is in heaven and we are on the earth.  He goes before us and he goes with us.   There are many scriptures that remind us that he is with us and that he gives us peace and rest, especially in our time(s) of need.  Peace and rest also imply a quietness.  We don’t have to strive.  We know that our strength comes from the quietness and rest that only comes from our relationship with him.  We don’t know everything, he does and that is only one of many reasons to Stand in Awe of Him.  As we Stand in Awe of Him, we are changed.   The words we speak reflect our heart.  Why is it so easy for me to speak impulsively?  Standing in Awe of Him can change that.  I don’t want to speak any words that cause the peace and rest to go away.   He helps us, so that when we speak, the words are encouraging, uplifting and full of grace.  

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.  Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.  Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.  God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.  As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.  When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it.  He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.  It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.  Do not let your mouth lead you into sin…. Therefore, stand in awe of God.”   Ecclesiastes 5: 1-6a & 7b

Jesus said he only did the things that he saw his Father doing and so it goes without saying that he only said those things that his Father was saying.  Have you ever wondered why he sometimes didn’t answer questions that were directed at him?  There is no doubt that he was doing what he was supposed to do.   Sometimes more is said by silence than could be said with words.   

Isaiah prophesying of Jesus in Isaiah 53:8 says:

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

“Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer?  What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”  But Jesus remained silent.  The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”  “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.  “But I say to you all: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty one and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Mark 15:60-62

“But I tell you that all will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned.”  Matt. 12:36

There is a great song by Phillips, Craig & Dean: “Let my Words Be Few “

Listen Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36IRLHCJMdQ 

As we Stand in Awe of Jesus, let’s allow Him to extravagantly love us and remind us of all the daily benefits that he “loads” us with.  Even when we fail to live up to our good intentions, he longs for us to run to him.  Someone said recently “The message from God is always the same: “I love you.  I forgive you.  Supper’s ready.”      

Let my words be few and may we always choose his words over our own.

Wednesday, April 29th

“The Lord Bless You” by Warren Stroup

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-27(NIV)

This is a scripture I used to quote to my kids, after praying for them, while putting them to bed.  Isn’t the heart of a parent, one that desires the blessings of the Lord be poured out upon their children.  What a prayer of faith, that declares the blessings of the Lord upon our kids. May they be blessed in knowing the God that has turned his face toward them, in whom they find absolute peace.  No matter what the world throws at them, they will find peace in knowing the God that loves them and blesses them.

Elevation Church put this verse into song, take a moment this morning and let the words of this scripture fill you with His perfect peace.    

Elevation, “The Blessing”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp6aygmvzM4

I can think of so many things that would show up today that might rob you of perfect peace, but we’re not going to dwell on those things. As you start your day, let the blessings of God fill your mind.  Let today be the day where you get ahead of discouragement and say, “Not Today!” We have a God that goes before us, that surrounds us, that protects us and is for us.  One of my life scriptures is found in Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” The answer is, “NOTHING”, talk about peace!

When praying with my kids, I used to conclude this scripture (Numbers 6:24-27) by saying, “Peace, like a river that flows from above, down from heaven to the ones I love.” That’s not found in the Bible, but the declaration was a reminder that the peace I wanted for my kids was found in God.

God’s heart for you is to bless you and keep you.  He holds you firmly in his loving arms, sink deep into his warm embrace.  Allow his love to overwhelm you, let everything else go and let his peace bring rest to your mind and calm to your soul. 

Today is going to be a Good Day!

Tuesday, April 28th

“I’m NOT what I used to be!” by Lynn Koehn

NEWS FLASH: Your record has been expunged!!!

2 Corinthians 5:17(NLT) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Jesus said, “It is Finished.” John 19:30. The cross…[alone] secured forever the Father/Son, Father/Daughter relationship our Heavenly Father desired and planned way before we came into existence.  It’s called, “GRACE…undeserved acceptance!”

This testimony and song by Big Daddy Weave put these scriptures into perspective and really makes God’s grace, our ‘unearned acceptance’ personal and applicable:

‘Redeemed’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maG-oVULdgQ

Here are several key phrases from this song that are life-changing.  Truths that liberate and bring freedom and victory in my life today and every day:

  • Stop fighting a fight that's already been won
  • Because I don't have to be the old man inside of me
  • Cause his day is long dead and gone
  • Because I've got a new name, a new life, I'm not the same
  • Oh, God, I'm not who I used to be, Jesus. Cause I am redeemed.  Thank God. 

I encourage you today to place all of your missed opportunities, doubts and disappointments at the foot of the cross.  I pray you are able to allow the Holy Spirit to infuse your mind, your heart and your life with, “I am, I can and I will.”  Declare with me today that, “I am redeemed by the blood of Jesus!  God is my Father.  I am His child!  I am victorious!  I am Redeemed!”  Let us rejoice with Apostle Paul as he writes to the Believers at Ephesus; (Ephesians 2) v  1-2a, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, v 4-5, But God…., being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.  v 13, But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” 

Monday, April 27th

“Spiritual Vision” By Bob Elliott

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 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.” Romans 8:1-5 (ESV)

This is one of my favorite passages of scripture. It so full of encouragement and hope for the believer in Christ. However, there is a significant challenge of faith embedded in this text. It is almost as if the freedom from sin’s condemnation is too good to be true. Often times we want to continue to dwell on condemning thoughts. Here in this place is where the challenge is. Do we continue to walk in self-reproach? Or alternatively, do we quickly repent from our sin and change our mindset to recognize that we are walking free from condemnation? I hope we choose the latter. Nevertheless, how is it possible to overcome besetting sins that we may repeat over and over?

This scripture is very clear on how we deal with those deeply rooted repetitive sins that cloud our thoughts and frustrate our hope to walk in freedom from condemnation. Surprisingly it is not by our mustering up more willpower. It is not in our own self-strength that we get untangled. Rather it is a refining process where we become more and more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Rather than relying on our own strength and repeatedly failing, we need to quickly realize that when we are in the heat of the battle, that we not give into temptation and condemnation, but reset our minds on the things of the Spirit. The reality here is that Jesus is bigger than any problems we encounter! He paid the supreme and ultimate price for our freedom! When we walk in heavy condemnation, we are basically saying that no, Jesus is not big enough to handle it. This is a lie from the enemy that we cannot entertain.

This is a huge part of what it means to be a spirit-filled Christian. In charismatic circles, there is often an equation that being spirit filled is being baptized by the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. But being filled with the Spirit is much more broad than that one aspect. I love how verse 5 addresses this, “those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit. This is where the deep longings of our soul find meaning and purpose.  This is where spiritual vision is birthed.

Friday, April 24th

“Enjoying His Grace while confined to a space” by Gary Bittner

WATCH VIDEO

Thursday, April 23rd

“How’s Your Love Life?” By Galen Troyer

Way back in December 1971, my girlfriend gave me a Bible for Christmas.  Inside the front cover she wrote: “A man’s love for God can be measured by the love he has for the person he loves least.”  That girlfriend became my wife in 1972.  I’m not sure that Bible influenced my decision to propose to her, however her love for Jesus definitely did!   There have no doubt been times when I was the person she (briefly) loved least; even in those times she loved me! After almost 48 years with her, I’m still very thankful that she said “yes” to my proposal!

The older I get the more I am amazed and thankful at how great our Father’s love is for us-since the beginning of time it has not changed.  His love is not conditional on whether or not there is someone that I hate (“do not like” sounds a bit better)-after all there is a good reason for hating (not liking) them, right?  From the world’s point of view, it’s justifiable; however when one believes and wants what God offers through Jesus, there is no place for hate.  I know that I did not deserve to be loved by God; but he loved me anyway.  And, because I’ve been forgiven, I need to forgive and love others.  Some have experienced terrible wrongs and God knows their pain.  Through Jesus he promises to give strength to forgive and go on to live in freedom-the freedom that Jesus paid for on the cross. The Bible tells us that if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (I Cor 5:17). I no longer live in my own strength because when I gave my life to him, I died and Jesus Christ now lives in me and it’s his strength that makes loving those, that I never could have loved on my own, possible.  Jesus knows me and loves me like no one else ever could.  The freedom and joy that comes from forgiving others and knowing I’ve been forgiven and accepted is truly life changing.

I really like this scripture from The Message:

"If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t have love, I am nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.  If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t have love, I am nothing.  If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but don’t have love, I’ve gotten nowhere.  So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.  Love cares more for others than it does for self.  Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.  Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always me “first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.  Love never dies…

We don’t yet see things clearly.  We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.  But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright!  We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!  But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us to that consummation:  TRUST STEADILY IN GOD, HOPE UNSWERVINGLY, LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY.  And the best of the three is LOVE."    (I Cor. 13: 1-7 & 12-13)

I John 4:20-21 "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."

Wednesday, April 22nd

“Following Jesus, isn’t for wimps!” by Warren Stroup

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

This is a passage of scripture we don’t often want to meditate on, or find in a devotional journal.  We would rather just gloss over this passage and focus on what Jesus has done.  I’m all for what Christ has done, and the Bible is cram packed full with the good news of the gospel.  It’s because of the Gospel that this passage makes any sense at all.  To translate this apart from the gospel would be to subjugate ourselves to the tyranny of dead works.  The gospel sets us free from this type of labor camp, a prison of failed attempts and worthless rewards. 

The gospel places us face to face with the emptiness of our desires and wants.  It brings us further in one moment that a thousand, “Hare Krishna’s” or Buddhist mantras. To better oneself is simply a surrendering of one’s self to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It’s his act that makes us act with such abandonment to our selfish ambitions.  To know him is to yield to him, to forsake all others and pick up our cross daily and follow him.

The cross for you might be different than the cross I