February 20 Devotional

Here in the part of the country that I live, in the fall months of the year we have something that can be very enjoyable, or frustrating (depending on your sense of direction).  The farmers here plan ahead and grow a field of corn.  Once the corn is full-grown, they cut paths that form some kind of shape (if you are in a helicopter you can enjoy the shape).  They call this field a “corn maze.”  People line up by the thousands and pay money to get lost in the corn maze for hours.  I have gone to a corn maze a few times and usually with a group from our church.  We make it a competition, dividing up by teams or families to see who can find the exit fastest.  I will readily confess, I have never once been on the winning team.

 

Someone on my team always claims to know the fastest way out of the corn maze … claims are not always true.  Today I read a verse in Micah that made me think about who I am following today.  “For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever” (Micah 4:5).

 

Who are you following today?  Quickly you will tell me that you are not worshipping idols, and that you are following God.  The wooden and stone idols that the people of Micah’s day were following had no more chance of making it into eternity than that car you polish weekly … that computer you spend so much time admiring everyday … that phone you can’t leave home without … that FaceBook page you must constantly refresh … that TV show you cannot miss … that football/baseball/basketball/hockey team you must stay home from church to watch.  OOOPPPSSS, I moved from preaching and went to meddling (that’s old-fashioned language for prying into you business).

 

Let’s face it; idol worship is just as real today as it ever was in the past.  If we are not careful we will erect idols of our own making in our own Christian home.  Take the challenge today that Micah made so clearly here in this verse.  Join him today in saying that you will walk in the name of the LORD your God forever and ever.  Read this quote below and surrender your entire heart, mind, plans (both present and future), loves, commitments … your entire life forever and ever to Him.  You will not regret it!

 

Whatever you yield to God He accepts – What He accepts He cleanses – What He cleanses He fills – What He fills He uses.  The process begins with you – it ends with God.” – Unknown

February 19 Devotional

We traveled to Israel in 1996 for a ten-day tour of that area.  It was one of the most incredible times I have had in my life.  To be in the area where our Bible was written and in the places it was written about was really exciting.  I remember one day traveling to the northern border to an area that the Israeli army had burrowed cave-like hiding area’s to protect their border.  I clearly remember the many fences on either side of the road.  Each had an obvious warning sign attached to it.  When we asked our guide what the signs said, he explained that there were still many “live” mines in that area from the time of the war in 1967.  These land-mines had never been deactivated, and still posed a danger to anyone venturing into those areas.

 

I was very glad for the warning signs on the fences.  I am also thankful that God places warning signs throughout the Bible for us to avoid dangerous areas in our Christian lives too.  In the second-to-last book of our Bible, Jude gives us this warning sign: “These are murmurers, complainers, walking after own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage” (Jude 16).  These are the warning signs God gives us for the people around us today.

 

BEWARE of people who are constantly murmuring and complaining – God does not want you to be around people that will make you think that complaining is the natural way to do things.  RUN!

BEWARE of people who follow only their fleshly desires; for money, possessions, the attention of others; self-gratification.  They will either draw you into their addictions, or they will use you to satisfy them.  RUN!

BEWARE of people who flatter you and speak in such a way as to draw you in to their trap of half-truths.  There are plenty enough politicians and preachers today who are guilty of this.  Be careful if you do not see their message matching the Word of God.  RUN!

BEWARE of people who are only interested in hearing the applause of men.  They are dangerous … why?  These people will do anything to hear that applause.  They are driven by the need for popularity and they are not good role-models for you.  RUN!

 

The key to all this is this“ building up yourselves on your most holy faith,‚ praying in the Holy Ghost,ƒ keep yourselves in the love of God, „looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ …” (Jude 20-21).

 

God has given you a … Mind to think – Heart to know – Will to decide.” – Dr. Ted Camp

February 18 Devotional

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself” (Proverbs 18:2).

 

I have noticed that human beings are almost always convinced that their way is the best way.  When we believe that we are always (or almost always) right, we then tend not to search for truth, but simply to search for a way to reinforce our own opinions.  Here is the simple devotional thought for you today … Don’t be so busy trying to prove your point of view, or your opinion true that you miss the heart of God.

 

Regardless of how strongly you are convinced that your point of view on a subject is correct, it is a good practice to ask for God’s opinion first.  Think about how much time you spend each day trying to convince yourself that what you think about something is right.  Have you ever been alone and had an argument with yourself about something?  I have done that many times.  It is funny when I finish arguing with myself, I then convince myself that I know what I’m doing, even though I’m not even sure I won the argument!

 

There have been times in my life that I have argued a point with someone and I was fully convinced that I was right … that is, until I came to the end of my argument and realized … I was wrong!  I hate when that happens!  The truth that we all need to come to is that we do not have all the answers we will need for life.  This verse says that if we are not careful, we will spend all our time seeking to prove our heart to be right, rather than looking for the truth God has for us.

 

I want to encourage you today to search out God’s heart for whatever you are facing today.  He has a specific plan for your life, and it’s perfect.  His plan is the only perfect plan for you.  He has a will for your life, and it’s perfect.  His will is the only thing that will bring you ultimate satisfaction and joy.  He gave you an entire Bible to guide your steps and to give you the opportunity to have a successful life here on this earth.

 

The only way you can access God’s plan is to open His Word everyday as you open your heart to its truths.  Don’t be a fool and only focus on your own heart.  You already know that in your heart dwelleth no good thing.  You know that it’s deceitful and desperately wicked.  Don’t trust your heart, trust His! With humility and a surrendered heart, there is opportunity for wisdom in your life and for your future.

 

You must go forward on your knees.” – J. Hudson Taylor

February 17 Devotional

In a time when nothing seems to be stable and dependable, I am thankful that God is God.  I am grateful that regardless of how my health is … God is still God.  I am thankful that whether the value of the dollar goes up or down … God is still God!  I am relieved to know that regardless of who is in the position of political power … God is still God!  I am thankful that no matter what the challenge is that is waiting for me today … God will still be God!

 

I would recommend that each of you read the entire chapter of Psalm 46.  It is an amazing collection of encouraging verses for times just like we are living in.  The last verse of the chapter is what captured my attention today.  “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.  Selah” (Psalm 46:11).  Think a little bit with me about how strong God showed Himself to Jacob and the nation of Israel.

 

God allowed Jacob to have a blessing and birthright that he did not earn or deserve.  God has given us many blessings in spite of how many times we have turned our back to Him.  God allowed Joseph, Jacob’s son, to be taken into captivity in order to save Jacob and his other sons and their families during a famine.  God has provided for each of us repeatedly in ways we cannot explain, or fully understand.  God provided a heritage for Jacob that continues today with the twelve tribes of Israel.

 

Just as you can look at the life of Jacob in the Bible, you can see in your own life how God has blessed you beyond what you deserve too.  I am thankful that God has always been the place that I could run to hide when I feel troubles closing in around me.  I am thankful that when I am facing a challenge that is far beyond my wisdom that I can lean on His Word He has given me for knowledge.  I am grateful that when my heart rejoices to over-flowing and I don’t have words to speak, He can understand the language of my heart.

 

I am thankful that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  When troubles come and we take the roll, God is never absent!  When I need strength to make it through a day … there He is.  When you need a place to hide today, run to Him … God is still God!  What a wonderful thought for the remainder of this day!  God is still God!

 

Did it ever occur to you that nothing ever occurred to God?” – Curtis Hutson

February 16 Devotional

In my opinion, some of the saddest verses in the entire Bible are found in the book of Jonah.  From the point where God clearly directed Jonah to go to Nineveh and he headed in the opposite direction … to the great fish swallowing him and Jonah describing his surroundings as hell … to being thrown up onto the shore …  There are a number of bad things revealed in the book of Jonah … but, none of these is the worst.  Here it is …

 

And God saw their works, that they [the people of Nineveh after Jonah preached to them] turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do unto them; and He did it not.  But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry” (Jonah 3:10-4:1).

 

You have heard this preached before, I am sure, but read that first verse of chapter four one more time: “But it DISPLEASED Jonah EXCEEDINGLY, and he was VERY ANGRY.”  What a horrible evangelist Jonah was!  He preached the message of God (which always carries the power of God with it despite the messenger), and then he was disappointed when God moved in the hearts of men.

 

Jonah had a problem that I am afraid many of us have today as well.  Jonah’s main problem was not that he hated Nineveh so much.  The problem that he had that many of us share is that Jonah forgot how wretched he was before God saved him.  That’s right, I used the word “wretched.”  I have noticed that our modern hymnals and song-books have changed that word in the old hymns to something that sounds much better.  The truth is that we are all WRETCHED, and lost in our sin, without hope apart from God’s grace.

 

Many of us are guilty of the same thing today.  We love to look down our spiritually pious noses at the horrible sinners that are all around us today.  We have a much easier time praying for the fire of God to come down and consume the sinners around us than we do praying for God to give us just one more chance to witness to those same people before it is too late.

 

I did not write this today to pound you into dust.  I wrote it today to encourage you to ask God to give you the same heart for souls that He has today.  God wants all the “Ninevites” to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ!  He is not willing that any should perish, but that all sinners would repent.  Will you have the same heart as God today?  It’s your choice

 

You have one business on earth – to save souls.” – John Wesley

February 15 Devotional

Life is tough.”  “There are traps and “pit-falls” everywhere I turn.”  “The challenges I will face today will be far more than I can handle.”  “Where do I turn when I am faced with a fork in the road?”  “I don’t have the strength or wisdom for the problems I am going to face today.”

 

You may have said some of these things in the past week, and you were being honest about what was in front of you.  We are living in a very challenging time in the history of the world.  Things that we once thought were sure, have crumbled and failed.  Companies we thought would always be in business have become bankrupt and are gone.  Governments we once thought strong have shown signs of weakening and some have fallen.  Where is the strength coming from today?

 

The psalmist wrote these words many years ago about the nation of Israel, but they hold the answer to the questions we have for our own future.  “For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favor unto them” (Psalm 44:3).

 

There is a place of peace and security close to the heart of God.  This world we are living in will constantly pull at you to draw closer to it, but I want to encourage you today to realize that the strength you are looking for in the challenges of life, is found in an intimate relationship with God and Him alone.  Your money will not be able to meet the needs you will have in the future. Your health is not guaranteed.  Your retirement plan is not necessarily going to be around by the time you retire.

 

The strength you are looking for cannot be provided by someone else.  It is only found in a vibrant relationship with our living God!  He was the One that opened the door for Israel to go into the Promised Land.  He was the One responsible for defeating giants like Goliath.  He was the One that parted the Red Sea.  He is the One Who will fight for you as you walk with Him today in 2012.

 

There will certainly be challenges ahead of you today that are outside your ability to provide.  Be sure, those challenges are not too big for God.  Lean into Him and allow Him to show Himself powerful on your behalf.  He is ready and willing to work for you.  You must surrender all that you have! You will not regret it for one second.

 

When God guides – God provides.” – Adrian Rogers

February 14 Devotional

Today is Valentine’s Day … a day many have said was invented by Hallmark® as a way to sell more cards.  You can think what you will, but I know it is a day no husband should ever miss.  Not so much because of the consequences that come when you miss, but because telling the person you love that you love them is never a bad thing.  I believe love is the greatest gift God ever gave mankind.  We can be sure that the only way we know how to love each other is because God started it all by loving us.  Before my wife and I were married, we chose Psalm 34:3 as our verse to live by.  It says simply, “Oh magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:3).  We claimed that verse for our lives together (and still try to live it today), but we will share it with you today.  This time let’s look at the verse as us joining with God to love those around us with this kind of love.  Think for a few moments with me today about God’s love … and then make it your goal today and everyday to love the people God has placed in your life with the same kind of love.

 

God made a man to walk with Him and provide fellowship and an outlet for His Divine love.  That man sensed a need for a help-meet.  God provided that for him.  God then instructed the couple not to eat of two specific trees in the Garden He had made for them.  Of course, they did not obey and sin – the one and only thing that could separate this omnipotent God from those He had created in His love.  Now is where we see that Divine love proved to us.  Rather than God exacting some vengeance on Adam and Eve (by the way, He could have … the Bible tells us that vengeance belongs to the Lord), He instead offered them a Redeemer and some clothing (the first animal sacrifice for sin) [Genesis 3:15, 21].

 

This is the first example of the depth of genuine love.  God’s love for us is not based on what we could do for Him, but on His choice to love us UNCONDITIONALLY.  No strings attached with His love.  Beyond that, His love was UNIVERSAL – reaching to sinners of all shapes and sizes – reaching to the “worst” as well as the “best” of us.  There are two things I want to close with today by way of application for us about God’s love.  First, we need to accept it in order to please Him.  Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but we must accept it for ourselves.  Second, we need to copy His love for us as we love those around us.  Let’s decide to magnify the Lord today by loving the people God placed in our lives!

 

Little acts of kindness bring great rewards.” – Unknown

February 13 Devotional

Being a kid is a great thing.  You get to do all the things that people do before they become mature and dignified.  I remember on day peeling an orange and looking at the bright orange skin, thinking to myself; “I bet that bright orange skin would taste good.”  I then proceeded to bite off a pretty large piece of that orange peel.  Just in case none of you have ever experienced the sensations that attack your mouth when eating an orange peel, I will just tell you this … what is inside that orange peel is much sweeter than what is on the outside.

 

The same thing is true of you.  What is inside you is far more important the shell that everyone sees.  You can dress up … comb all your hairs … brush your teeth … put on deodorant … pluck those unruly eyebrows … put lip-stick on … and a bunch of other things I have no idea about.  The reality is that what is inside you is far more important than all that “’paint” on the outside of the old barn.

 

When Israel was in the middle of captivity, God the Holy Spirit inspired the Old Testament prophet, Zechariah to pen these words: “And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be My people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee” (Zechariah 2:11).  What great hope for Israel … what great hope for us today!  As you wallow through this life, failing often, succeeding infrequently, be encouraged that there is hope!  The challenge for each believer today is to empty yourself of all those things you think are so attractive, and allow the Spirit of God to be seen in what you say, do, and think.

 

I am so encouraged to think that the God of the universe has seen enough value in me to allow the Holy Spirit to indwell me.  I am such a pitiful testimony many days of my life, but I know if I will just allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in my life, He will show this world the answer to the cries of their heart!  God’s plan has always been to reach “many nations” through His indwelling His people!  The Holy Spirit of God is in reality “in the midst of thee” today.  The question is … have covered His presence with our greed, our selfish desires, our hatred/prejudices, our plans and dreams, our dreams for the future, our _________?  This hurting world needs to see the fruit produced by a spirit-filled life.  Can they see God’s work in the midst of you today?  Let His light shine out of you today!

 

The only thing God is interested in is people.” – Jerry Falwell

February 12 Devotional

The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of the diligent man is precious” (Proverbs 12:27).  My father always told me when I was growing up, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”  What he was placing into my character was the idea that whatever I put my hand to do; I should be giving my full effort in it.  My parents re-iterated this message to me in many ways beginning at a very early age.  I have found that younger people today don’t seem to value the things they own so much as the older generation did.  I think part of the reason for that is that almost everything is given to them with little or no effort on their part.

 

Three valued possessions come to my mind immediately.  One of my early jobs was that of a paper-boy.  Every weekday afternoon I delivered the local newspaper to our neighborhood.  Early Sunday mornings before church, I delivered the bigger Sunday version of the paper.  Because of this job (paying a whopping $7 per week), I was able to purchase a really sturdy bike complete with baskets on either side of my rear wheel.  Later I added turn-signals I purchased at the same bike store, and I thought I was surely the talk of the town.  The money I spent on that bike was well spent, because I valued that bike all the way through my childhood.  Then one Christmas I came down the stairs in our house and saw the most beautiful red mini-bike in the entire world.  Half of that mini-bike was my Christmas present … the other half was a lesson in the value of a red mini-bike.  You see, I had to pay for that other half.  I rode that mini-bike until it would not ride any more and had the time of my life for a number of years on it.  When I graduated from high school, my parents helped me pay my way through college; however, every dime I made for those four years while working Christmas vacation and summer time went to paying off that school debt.  The value of my education still is tender on my heart to this day.

 

The lesson of Proverbs 12:27 is that we ought to work hard for the things that mean something to us, and their meaning will last for a life-time.  Looking for a hand-out will lead us to taking for granted the blessings of life.  Work hard today for the things you value, and make those things the same as the things God values.  You will not regret it for your entire life.

 

Be miserable, or motivate yourself.  Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.” – Wayne Dyer

February 11 Devotional

On January 23rd, 2011 one of our daughters lost a dear little baby boy named Joseph David at just two days short of her third month of the pregnancy.  On that very day, I read Psalm 71 and just “happened” to read these two verses: “For Thou art my hope, O Lord God; Thou art my trust from my youth.  By Thee have I been holden up from the womb: Thou art He that took me out of my mother’s bowels: my praise shall be continually of Thee” (Psalm 71:5-6).

 

I was reading this chapter today and saw Joseph’s name written in the column of my Bible, and the thought occurred to me that it was about this same time that the infamous Roe V Wade decision was made.  On January 22nd, 1973 the court made the decision that it was man’s decision whether or not a baby had the right to live or be killed.  Abortion was legalized exactly thirty-eight years and one day before Joseph entered into the presence of our Heavenly Father.  All this got me to thinking about that little song we learned in Sunday School when we were just children.  “Jesus loves the little children; all the children of the world; red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

 

The Bible does not lie … life is precious in the sight of God.  Now, I am not going to use this devotional today to debate when life begins (I believe Psalm 71:6 makes it clear that it begins long before we see that little baby with our eyes); and I am not going to use this devotional today to debate the issues of pro-life or pro-death.  I want you to consider this thought … your life is precious to God today; what are you using it for?

 

I have noticed that we human beings love to point out the faults of others, while ignoring our own short-comings.  I am 100% against abortion and euthanasia, but I am also 100% for using the life God gives you to its fullest potential for the glory of God.  I don’t want to waste one minute God has given me to use for Him.  I don’t want to waste one talent or ability God has given me to use for Him.  I don’t want to waste one opportunity God will place in front of me to represent Him.  This life we have been given is far too valuable to waste a single second!  Don’t complain about what you cannot do today … do what you can with all your might.  Life is precious!  Please don’t waste away the precious time God has given you for this day!

 

Jesus will judge us not only for what we did, but also for what we could have done and didn’t.” – George Otis