Cross

 

 







 



Devotionals for Women

 

 

 

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[Black and White Photo of a 1950s teacher and her students]


Eyes in the Back of Your Head

“Therefore let him who thinks he
stands take heed lest he fall.”
—1 Corinthians 10:12 NKJV

When I entered first grade at age five, I sat in awe of my teacher, my very first. I adored her, I believed everything she told us, and I hung on her every word. From the day she told us that she had eyes in the back of her head, I watched and looked and speculated as to how that could possibly be.

It took me years to understand that we had rascals among us. And, this false assertion became her way of dealing with them. Nevertheless, it has given me a perfect example of the word “circumspect.” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary states that word means, “look around,” or “be cautious.”

I believe Scripture uses this idea often. God wants us to “watch where we are going,” to “guard our feet.” The book of Proverbs often uses the word, “guard” to indicate our need for circumspection against sin and watchfulness against the Enemy who would hurt us.

Proverbs 4:23, tells us:

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

Or, read Philippians 1:9-11, from The Message, and take note of what Paul wrote to these early Christians:

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

God wants us to look around and live a life totally aware of sin that may have invaded our lives, so that we may propely deal with such sin and live as an example of Christ’s holiness to a needy world. As we move forward in our walk with Christ, pretend that you have eyes in the back of your head!

—Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017

 

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[Photo of clasped hands]


Hannah’s Gethsemane

“In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed
to the Lord… Then she went her way and ate
something, and her face was no longer downcast.”
—1 Samuel 1:10, 18

This story of Hannah in 1 Samuel tells us of a wife in a shameful position. She had no child. Not only that, but her husband had another wife who had given him sons and daughters and who tormented her with accusations. Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, made an annual trip to the tabernacle in Shiloh to offer sacrifices to the Lord.

On one occasion, Hannah could bear her pain no longer. As she wept and prayed, Eli the priest heard her and blessed her with the promise of a son. As a result of this promise, Hannah agreed to wean the baby and then bring him back to forever serve the Lord in the tabernacle.

Here’s what Beth Moore says about this story:

God had a plan. A marvelous plan. He allowed Hannah to be childless so that she would petition God for a child… He also allowed Hannah to be deeply desirous of a child so she would dedicate him entirely to the Lord. He sovereignly planned for His word to come through Eli at the temple so that she would return him to the exact place where she made the vow. Why? Because God had a plan for Samuel that was far more significant than even the most loving set of parents could devise.1

Now, how does this correspond to Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane? I see it this way.

Most often the battle over submission to God’s will comes before the actual sacrifice such submission requires. Look at Jesus in the garden. Matthew 26:37-39 tells us:

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled...going a little further, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

We read that Jesus left His disciples three times and went to pray the same prayer. He struggled with the enormous sacrifice and pain He knew was coming.

After a time of extended prayer, it appears that Jesus had found peace with regard to His submission that He made to the Father. Notice what He says in Matthew 26:45-46:

“Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer.”

We see in both stories of submission to God’s perfect will the battle and the peaceful outcome. God moved on Hannah’s heart so that her love for God eclipsed her desire to hold on to her son. God moved on Jesus’ heart so that His love for God, and for us, eclipsed His fear of the pain. In both cases, God enabled them to do His will. The struggle took place long before the sacrifice.

Has God spoken to you about something He wants you to do for Him? Do you yet struggle with the difficult decision you must make to obey? Has He promised you something if you will give it back to Him—not holding onto it for your own pleasure?

For you, like Hannah and like Jesus Himself, God promises you His amazing peace and will give you all the strength and help you will need to follow whatever He asks of you. God bless you, as you submit to His wonderful plan!

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1 Moore, Beth. Portraits of Devotion. Nashville:B&H Publishing Group, 2014. p. 8.

—Posted: Monday, March 13, 2017

 

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[Photo of a mosaic jar]


Dead Flies

“Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment,
and cause it to give off a foul odor.”
—Ecclesiastes 10:1 NKJV

Something ruined! And, it was something with such an intentional, pleasure-causing purpose as an expensive perfume. Now it’s ruined! And, by what? A stray fly coming in through the palace window into the boudoir of a wealthy maiden. The perfume, created with such skill by a talented apothecary expert, totally spoiled by the ugly presence of a filthy, common fly.

When compared to the witness of a fine Christian, we are reminded that even this witness can be spoiled by the entrance of a foul, habitual sin. I love the way that Charles Haddon Spurgeon puts it:

No matter though the vase be alabaster, and the perfume the most delicate, dead flies would destroy the precious nard, and even so minor faults will spoil a fine character. Rudeness, irritability, levity, parsimony [stinginess], egotism, and a thousand other injurious flies have often turned the exquisite perfume of a Christian’s life into a pestilent odor to those who were around him.1

In comparison, the Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, expresses God’s intent for us to live in such a way so that those around us effectively “smell” the sweet aroma of Christ. He puts it like this:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are perishing.

God’s intention for us, to live in such a way that we spread His Presence like a fine perfume, can be ruined by the entrance of our sinful sloppiness, as though we left the lid off the bottle of perfume and flies entered. We can only remedy this by coming to Him with confession and repentance—to receive His restoration and forgiveness—so that we can have a new start under the power of His Holy Spirit.

During this time of Lent, let us examine our lives for those “dead flies” that mix in the stench of sin with the life-giving perfume of Christ that He created us to exhibit.

May He spread abroad His love through the fragrance of our lives, purified by His precious blood.

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1 Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1964. p. 325.

—Posted: Monday, March 6, 2017

 

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[Photo of a pocket watch]


Our Inheritance

“Now there is in store for me the
crown of righteousness, which the
Lord, the righteous Judge, will
award to me on that day—and
not only to me, but also to all
who have longed for his appearing.”
—2 Timothy 4:8

My mother wrote my name on a label attached to a baby blanket that she had kept for me from my Grandmother’s items. My other Grandmother put my name on a pendant watch that came from my Great Grandmother’s estate. Although I never bought them, I claimed them as my own because my name appeared on them.

If we call ourselves Christians because of the work of Jesus on the cross, we all can lay claim to an inheritance of salvation from our sins and the blessing of eternal life because the blood of Jesus has placed our names on these great gifts. Although we did not sacrifice to buy these precious items, they have become ours through the gift of God through His Son, Jesus.

As Charles Haddon Spurgeon explains:

There is one crown in heaven which the angel Gabriel could not wear; it will fit no head but mine. There is one throne in heaven which Paul the apostle could not fill; it was made for me, and I shall have it.1

The Psalmist David assures us, too, of our inheritance— some of which we may even enjoy in this life. Read this in Psalm 31:19:

How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.

Whenever we travel, it reassures us when we hear that someone has reserved a room for us, or has put our name on a rental car reservation, or even has bought us a ticket to an event. We will have every right to claim those items when we arrive.

In just the same way, God is storing up for us a place (John 14:1-3), and along with that place, He has reserved special items that will surprise us. He has reserved these special gifts out of the inheritance planned before the foundation of the world.

Truly, when we see our names written down by our Savior, we will rejoice in the goodness and amazing love our Lord has shown toward us. Praise His name!

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1 Spurgeon, Charles Haddon, Morning and Evening. McLean, Virginia: MacDonald Publishing Company, Public Domain. p. 20.

—Posted: Monday, February 27, 2017

 

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[Photo of a Music Classroom]


Too Much Strength

But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are
still too many men. Take them down to the
water, and I will sift them for you there.”
—Judges 7:4

On several occasions, Joanne and I had talked since she left my school system for another in a neighboring suburb. Things in her new school seemed so ideal.

She reported that she had practically no discipline problems. When she wanted a piece of expensive percussion equipment, the principal went to the administration for her. With very little deliberation, they approved her request. Obviously, they thought nothing of spending thousands of dollars on her program.

Frankly, it was enough to make me a little bit jealous! Why, in my school system, we lived with discipline problems as the “stuff of life.” Money stayed tight all around—so much so, that we wondered from year to year if we would even still keep a music program.

Why does God often call Christians to difficult places? I imagine He has a myriad of reasons. But, for one thing, He wants to show His power in the face of incredible odds.

Some of us can greatly benefit from His daily reminder that we need Him or we won’t make it through. Like He did to Gideon, God sometimes decreases the things that we lean on, so that we will instead lean on Him alone.

God had already taken down the size of Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 10,000. But, God planned to take the army to an even smaller size, leaving Gideon with only 300 men! But, God said, “With the 300 men… I will save you.”

Later in the story, we read that these 300 men pursued the enemy kings and captured them, routing their entire army. God had a plan to show His ability in the face of impossibilities.

If you despair because it appears you can’t possible succeed in the place God has placed you, remember Gideon. Trust God that, in your situation—though it may continue in a way far from ideal—He will show you His wonderful ability to step in and take control on your behalf.

—Posted: Monday, February 20, 2017

 

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[Photo of a doctor examining a foot]


The Antiseptic

“For the word of God is living and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it
penetrates even to dividing soul and
spirit, joints and marrow; it judges
the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
—Hebrews 4:12

Having lived with a diabetic husband with numerous foot wounds over the years, I know something about how a sharp scalpel can cut keenly, and how a good surgeon can separate bad skin from good. God’s written Word does this for us and enables us to separate even thoughts and intents that displease Him.

In an ordinary wound, just the antiseptic alone begins the process of exposing the germs and cleansing the skin. All of this brings great pain to the healthy foot and has a way of warning against doing anything that would require such pain again.

Now often, we think we can stick our fingers in our ears and sing “La La La! I can’t hear you!” to deafen ourselves to the relentless voice of the Holy Spirit when He uses the Word of God to reveal our sin. By doing this, we can avoid the pain for a little while.

However, without the stinging anguish of the antiseptic and the cutting of the surgeon’s scalpel, the wound will not heal. The infection will rage and spread in the body. We will experience the greater pain of loss of limb, or life itself. So it is in our spiritual lives where God’s Word is the antiseptic and the Holy Spirit is the compassionate surgeon.

King David knew how it felt to have an aching wound of sin and a need for the deep cleansing that only God could give. After fighting the pain for a season, on hearing God’s Word through a godly man, the Prophet Nathan, David spoke these words, recorded in various verses of Psalm 51:

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin… Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow… Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Sometimes, God requires us to take drastic action against a sin. Sometimes, long-standing sin, which has caused an infection deep within us, needs a radical remedy. God requires an application of the stinging antiseptic and the agony of the surgical cutting, in order to set us free of the disease of sin.

As we come face to face with our loving Savior each day—during our quiet time with Him—let’s allow His Word to do its work in our hearts. And, let’s listen to what He would have us do to open and cleanse us so that we can be healed. Praise be to God that He has given us His mercy through Jesus Christ!

—Posted: Monday, February , 2017

 

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[Photo of the scales of justice]


Unequal Blessing

“Make us glad for as many days as
you have afflicted us, for as
many years as we have seen trouble.”
—Psalm 90:15

Sometimes it seems that troubles come one on top of another in waves too big to handle. In our agony, we cry for a break and long for days of quiet and peace again. On these kind of days, we pray the prayer that Moses wrote in Psalm 90.

God often answers this kind of prayer, although usually not in the ways we expect. Whether we have gone through persecution by the enemy, sickness, financial ruin, or loss, God has His marvelous ways of tipping the scales of blessing to overcome, or at least diminish, the pain we experience.

However, even if we never see relief from that which we suffer, we can be assured that, in the life to come, we shall rejoice in His goodness to us. Romans 8:18 tells us:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

I like to look through the stories of the Judges of the Old Testament. This book tells how the Israelite nation would turn from God and go their own way. God would allow this disobedient behavior to continue until His chosen people would cry out to Him for relief.

Often, we read of how they suffered oppression for a few years, but when God sent a judge to govern them, the land had peace for a much longer time. This happened over and over again, and represents to us the great mercy and grace of our God, who doesn’t extract the just penalty that our sins deserve. As David wrote in Psalm 103:10:

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

What a glorious God we serve. He knows our weaknesses. He allows us to suffer loss and pain. But, He also blesses us with His grace and favor—not in meager supply, but in abundance. Praise Him for His lavish love on us, and take heart from the words of Psalm 30:5:

His anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

—Posted: Monday, February , 2017

 

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[Photo of a boy looking through a pair of binoculars]


Searching and Finding

“God did this so that men would seek him and
perhaps reach out for him and find him,
though he is not far from each one of us.”
—Acts 17:27

What child doesn’t enjoy a good hunt? From Easter eggs to a game of “Hide and Seek,” children delight in the fun of searching and finding. Frustration only sets in when the pastime becomes too difficult. Even “Where’s Waldo” can become discouraging if the red and white stripe shirt and the big round glasses don’t appear in a reasonable amount of time.

God delights in lovingly creating a sort of “Hide and Seek” game for us. He wants us to seek Him, to hunt for clues that He has written all over creation, all over our lives, and in His written Word. He wants us to know the joy of finding Him. He has promised that if we earnestly seek Him, we will find Him. In Matthew 7:8, Jesus said:

For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

As another illustration of the sincere desire He looks for in seekers, Jesus told a two verse parable in Matthew 13:45-46:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

He wants us to seek Him and He wants us to find Him. Searching reveals our earnest desire and finding reveals our greatest joy in Him.

From an old gospel hymn:

All my life long I had panted
   for a draught from some cool spring
That I hoped would quench the burning
   of the thirst I felt within.
Hallelujah! I have found Him Whom my soul
   so long has craved!
Jesus satisfied my longings;
   Through His blood I now am saved.1

Much like it would disappoint a parent to have a child look hard for something and never find it, God waits and watches us to see if, with the sincerity of a true seeker, we hunt for Him until we find Him. Oh the joy!

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1 Williams, Clara Tear. “All My Life Long I Had Panted.” Hymns of Faith and Life. Winona Lake, Indiana: Light and Life Press, 1976.

—Posted: Monday, January 30, 2017

 

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[Photo of a girls with a pencil balanced on her nose]


Distracted

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered,
“you are worried and upset about many
things, but only one thing is needed.
Mary has chosen what is better, and
it will not be taken away from her.”
—Luke 10:41-42

Trisha was one of those children: always attracted to the wrong things, but always busy. On one visit to her classroom, I observed her moving from pencil sharpener to sink, to closet, back to her desk to play with her crayons and erasers. She did all of this in just a few minutes. In the hallway one day, I watched her stop to stare at a piece of fuzz on the carpet! In my class, I required that she sit next to me in the front of the room, so that she could have a reasonable chance of paying attention.

Trisha usually kept quiet. Yet, her distractibility would keep everyone’s eyes on her. She seemed like such a happy child—but thoroughly happy for absolutely the wrong reasons. She allowed things to interfere with the place where her attention should focus. We can have this problem too.

Like me, have you sometimes sat down to meet with the Lord in the morning and before long found your mind on something else? Usually, when I get distracted at such times, I remember something I need to take care of in the kitchen, or an email I forgot to send. Or, worse yet, I worry about something that turns my mind away from the right things.

Jesus wants us to sit at His feet and listen to Him. As students ourselves, God justifiably wants us to give Him our complete and undivided attention. Where will our strength, wisdom, love, patience, and the true satisfaction of our needs come from if we neglect to focus on Him?

In Colossians 3:1-2, the Apostle Paul tells us that we have the responsibility:

“…to set our hearts on things above… to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

If we have difficulty concentrating on His voice in the morning when we spend time alone with Him, how can we hope to hear God’s voice during the busy day ahead?

—Posted: Monday, January 23, 2017

 

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[Drawing of Saul kneeling before Samuel]


While Looking for Donkeys

Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s
father Kish were lost, and Kish said to
his son Saul, “Take one of the servants
with you and go and look for the donkeys.”
—1 Samuel 9:3

The surprising event described in the Scripture above, in my own experience, might as well have read: “Now, while she was vacuuming the bedroom.”

In just such a setting, a life-changing phone call came to me from the music supervisor I did not know from a nearby town. A recently hired music teacher had resigned. They needed a long-term substitute. I later learned she had resigned because of the behavior of the unruly students.

I took the position on a temporary basis. Two months later, I had a full-time job. And, 26 years later, I retired from that same school system.

Scripture shows us many examples of the way God turns the lives of ordinary people in a new direction. Saul, the son of Kish, while looking for donkeys came upon the prophet Samuel, whom God had prepared. To Saul’s complete surprise, he received an invitation to dinner and a proposal to become the first king of Israel.

Another man, shepherding the flock of his father-in-law, was jolted out of a hum-drum day with the sight of a burning bush. Drawing near, he hear a call from God to help deliver the Israelites from servitude in Egypt and lead them through the wilderness for forty years. You can read this story of Moses beginning in Exodus 3.

Then, in Genesis 24, we read of Rebekah. She had a custom of drawing water at the well with the other women of her village during the evening. One evening, as she went about what she believed to be a normal “run” for the water, she met a man sent by the prophet Abraham to search for a wife for his son Isaac. God led this servant to her. The servant convinced Rebekah of God’s call and took her back to become part of the patriarchal family whose line eventually produced the Messiah.

We do well to consider the ways in which God has made critical “turns” in our lives. Most of these cannot be explained away as co-incidences. They happen as God’s sudden way of answering prayer, or introducing us to a new place in which to serve Him.

Whether or not we realize it, God prepares us over a long period of ordinary, routine days. He hears every prayer and has a way in which to answer. Sometimes He does so with an extraordinary occurrence. Other times, He answers with the word, “Wait!”

Have you prayed and prayed until you begin to think God has ignored your requests and that, for some reason, His answer must be “No!”? Instead of becoming discouraged, believe that God has you in His mind, and can turn your situation around with a remarkable twist in your daily life.

Trust Him to show you His direction in astonishing ways. And, have your heart ready to receive His surprise!

—Posted: Monday, January 16, 2017

 

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[Photo of a person watching TV]


First Hand Knowledge

“My ears had heard of you, but
now my eyes have seen you.”
—Job 42:5

Imagine that someone telephones you to report that you have won a cruise to the Mediterranean. The caller tells you that you will soon receive, in the mail, everything you need to know about this cruise.

Waiting and watching, one day you see a large envelope in your mailbox. You grab it with some excitement and anticipate that it contains the expected information. You run quickly inside and open the package only to find that you had actually won a DVD travelogue of exotic exploration. The brochure with the video invites you to put the DVD in your player, sit down in your favorite chair, and be whisked away to such exotic places as Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Naples, Rome, and Venice.

Your puzzlement is soon overcome by disappointment. Your “cruise” is purely imagination. This DVD excursion totally steals your enthusiasm for the prize you had awaited. You had wanted to breathe the salt air, feel the sun on your skin, and poke your toes into those advertised blue waters. Your dream did not include staying put in your living room and watching as someone else experienced the reality while you get to observe their cruise by way of the video.

It seems that some people experience the Christian life in this way. They feel satisfied “visiting” church, or hearing others talk about how Christ has blessed them. They may even consider themselves Christians because they have had enough Christian education to know the basics of the gospel.

Yet, I believe some people who claim to be Christian really only know Jesus second-hand. They do not know Him as a personal Friend, as the Savior from their sin, or as the Bread of Life that they feast on daily. They seem satisfied with a virtual Christian life—a DVD of the experience—and not the real experience itself.

Then, there are some of us who do know Christ, have met Him personally, have let life crowd in, and have forgotten to include Him in every aspect of our lives. We have left any real-life experience with Him. And, in its place, we have satisfied ourselves with a remembrance of a past blessing, or of a time of genuine closeness to Him.

The beginning of a new year makes a perfect time to reverse this trend of substitution. Consider the personal invitation of the God of Creation, through the writer of Hebrews, who says in Hebrews 10:22:

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith

We should never allow ourselves to be satisfied with a mere second-hand knowledge of a God who is so great and wonderful. Let the prayer of Paul to the Ephesians speak to you of God’s will for you this new year, as found in Ephesians 1:17-19:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparable great power for us who believe.

Let’s expect a year of the genuinely real experiences of knowing our Lord better. May we never settle for someone else’s story or decide to remain as bystanders in the Christian life.

—Posted: Monday, January 9, 2017

 

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[Photo of tuning a piano]


Tune Up

“Let us examine our ways and test
them, and let us return to the Lord.”
—Lamentations 3:40

Calendar milestones make good times to re-evaluate our love for God, our progress toward holiness, and our obedience to Christ and His Word. To get the New Year started right, we ought to perform a spiritual self-examination, or spiritual tune-up.

Having worked with musical instruments all my life, I recognize the importance of the “tune-up.” Every year or so, the piano needs a good going over to make sure every note perfectly sounds in relation to every other note. It’s also important to note that pianos and pipe organs go in and out of tune based on the temperature of the room in which they are housed. This is much like our spiritual lives, which can sometimes go in and out of tune in relation to the culture that surrounds us.

Those instruments that play with other instruments need tuning adjustments more often. Every good band and orchestra requires its players to “tune” before beginning each rehearsal and every performance. This means each musician must carefully listen with a concentrated focus, in order to modify the sound of each note in relationship to the notes played by the other instruments.

New Year’s makes a great time to spiritually “tune-up” our lives. As we take time to get alone and wait before God, it will necessitate our listening carefully in silence and a keen focusing of our minds and hearts before Him.

First of all, the Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 13:5-6, suggests:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.

Secondly, Paul suggests self-examination before we partake of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. In other words, before we “make spiritual music” alongside our brothers and sisters in the faith, Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians 11:28:

A man (or woman) ought to examine himself (or herself) before he (or she) eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself (or herself).1

The great Methodist founder, John Wesley, believed in the concept of self-examination. In fact, he believed in this important activity so much so that he wrote a liturgical service in which he provided God’s people an opportunity to renew their covenants with God.

Wesley records in his Journal 2 the following at the end of this service in 1755:

…all the people stood up, in testimony of assent, to the number of about 1,800 persons.

The Journal entry closes with:

…such a night I scarce ever saw before.

The success of this liturgical service of self-examination resulted in the publication of a “Covenant Service” written in 1780, and used for many years on New Year’s Eve. This solemn act of commitment helped Christians of that generation begin each year with a “fresh slate” before the Lord.

Let’s purpose to assure that this New Year will offer us a time of reflection, renewal, and rededication for the days ahead. Let’s ask God to “tune” our hearts in relation to His heart and in harmony with those other Christians with whom we worship.

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1 I’ve inserted the feminine pronouns parenthetically in recognition of the common pracice of the New Testatment Greek language of using male pronouns in general descriptions that apply to all human beings, namely “male-men” and “female-men.”
2 Bible, Ken, compiler, “John Wesley’s Covenant Service” in Wesley Hymns. Kansas City: Lillenas Publishing Co., 1982. Pp. A-2, A-3.

—Posted: Monday, January 2, 2017

 

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[Photo of the score of the Hallelujah Chorus]


Bravo!

“Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent
reigneth. The kingdom of this world is
become the Kingdom of our Lord and of
His Christ, and He shall reign forever
and ever. King of kings and Lord of lords,
and He shall reign forever and ever.”
—Revelation 19:6; 11:15

Most people will recognize those words as the text of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. It has become a custom to stand during the singing of this chorus. King George II, attending the first performance of this work in 1741 was so moved by the glorious music that he stood. The audience followed his example and since that time, kings and commoners have stood in honor of the Lord God Omnipotent.

Whether we stand in honor of the King of Kings, or kneel before Him, God spoke these words through the Apostle Paul, echoing words of the Prophet Isaiah, found in Philippians 2:9-11:

Therefore God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above very name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Humans find bowing to anyone difficult. But, kings and world leaders seems especially troubling because of their exalted place among men and, more often than not, their lack the kind of humility God will some day require from all of His creation. For an amazing story of a king whom God turned around, study the story of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2 - 4.

Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the very large kingdom of Babylon, thought so much of his own power that he had a 90-foot-tall statue of himself erected for all to worship. He boasted of his greatness and flew into a murderous rage at anyone refusing to bow before him. But, God took Nebuchadnezzar through some phenomenal experiences and brought him to a place of genuine humility. Read the testimony of this king from Daniel 4:37:

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

We should pray for world leaders that they, too, may recognize the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And, like King George II, honor Him by standing, or kneeling before Him.

hen you listen carefully to the famous “Hallelujah Chorus” this Christmas, get a sense of the greatness of Christ’s power, the awesomeness of His loving reign, and the honor truly due Him from us all!

 



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—Posted: Monday, December 26, 2016

 

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[Graphic of Santa holding a blank Naughty or Nice List]


Naughty or Nice?

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is
revealed—a righteousness that is by faith
from first to last, just as it is written:
“The righteous will live by faith.”
—Romans 1:17

I imagine you recognize these song lyrics:


You better watch out, you better not cry,
Better not pout, I’m telling you why:
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.

He’s making a list and checking it twice,
Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice,
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.

He sees you when you’re sleepin’,
He knows when you’re awake,
He knows if you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake.1


With stories like the one in this song, and the use of the well-worn “Elf on the Shelf,” we try to persuade our children to “be good,” so that Santa will bring them the gifts they want for Christmas. While it all seems harmless enough, I wonder if our tales of Santa have somehow crept into our theology of God at Christmas and the rest of the year, as well.

The culture in which we live seems to hold that God, if He is even real, somehow acts toward us as a “Santa.” He knows everything and sees everything about us. He makes judgments as to our fitness for His Kingdom based on some kind of “naughty or nice” quotient.

Now, it should not surprise anyone who truly believes in God that He is omnipresent—always present in all places at all times—and omniscient—possessing a complete knowledge of all things. However, the theological concept of “grace dispensed according to merit” raises a completely different point.

Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that we can do nothing to gain God’s favor:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God—not of works, so that no one can boast.

But what about punishment—the “lump of coal” so to speak? The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:1-2:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

We see that neither our good deeds, nor our transgressions of God’s law, have any effect on our salvation or our place in God’s Kingdom. Jesus, and He alone, took care of that. If we acknowledge His gift of grace through faith, we do not stand condemned. Instead, we have all the gifts that He paid with His lifeblood to give us.

So, let’s rejoice in a perfectly just, all-seeing, Sovereign God, whose gifts come to us without anything we can give to Him. Rather, He freely and lovingly provides us with all things solely through the Gift of that Baby born so long ago. That kind of favor should cause great gratitude to well up within us and result in lives of grace and compassion to others.

Our expectation to see our Savior, bringing incorruptible gifts to us, should energize us to do good deeds far beyond the supposed eyesight of one “Jolly Old Elf”!

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1 Coots, J. Fred, and Haven Gillespie, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. New York: Leo Feist, Inc., 1934.

—Posted: Monday, December 19, 2016

 

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[Photo of three young children dressed in their Christmas clothing]


Christmas Outfits

“To him who is able to keep you from falling
and to present you before his glorious
presence without fault and with great joy—
to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty,
power and authority, through Jesus Christ our
Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
—Jude 1:24

How many mothers and grandmothers take pride in dressing their children in matching, festive, adorable Christmas outfits? Most, I would say. They want to show the world, through their holiday greeting cards and long-kept family albums, the pride of their lives—their children.

Never have I seen such pictures of children showing their runny noses, dirty or torn shirts, or their sagging dirty diapers, or with them squirming and crying for the camera. Even though, from time to time, these same adorable children can look this very un-adorable way, moms always work to put their little ones in the right light for others to see.

Our God does this with us! He brags on us, dresses us in spiritual finery, and speaks of us in glowing terms, even while He knows, all to well, our defects and ugly secrets.

Even at creation, we find that God dressed us in the image of His very own spectacular splendor. Psalm 8:5 says of Jesus:

You made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor.

Now that outfit comes complete with a tiara! Since we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we, too, become dressed in His glory by our loving Father.

Jesus wants us to look perfect, so He provided a way through His death. Colossians 1:22 tells us:

Now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

He presents us to the Father as perfect in Him.

Not only did He wash and cleanse us, dress us in His glorious righteousness, but He has seated us for our portrait in the heavenly realms to show off His riches that we now wear! Ephesians 2:6-7 reveals:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in the kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Our enemy, Satan, may accuse us day and night (Revelation 12:10), but our Savior and God, the Lord Jesus Christ, claims us as His own. Having put our faith in His work, He showcases us like a proud parent and presents us to all of heaven and earth as His beautiful children.

May the knowledge of this kind of marvelous grace cause us great joy as we dress for this Christmas season!

—Posted: Monday, December 12, 2016