Friday, October 31, 2014

The Greatest Costume

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!’ John 1:29
When I was a child I loved to dress up.  I would put on grown up clothes and shoes and dance around like I was Cinderella at the ball.  How fun it was to pretend that I was already a grown woman living my own life.  Now I am a grown woman living my own life and I find that at times I am still trying to pretend that I am someone else. 

Thousands of years ago when Jesus walked the earth, he was in costume also in a way.  He was the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords but if you had passed him on the street, you would never know.  He didn’t wear a crown or a purple robe.  He did not carry a scepter and he did not live in a palace. He looked like an ordinary person.  He did not grow up as a prince would.  He was born in a stable and raised by a humble carpenter and his wife.  He was in disguise His whole life for the most part. He had people in His life that knew who He was because of prophecy and because of the testimony of His life and miracles He performed.  They could see through His disguise and see who He truly was.  They could tell by His actions that He was the Savior, the Son of God.  He showed love, mercy and compassion to those around Him.  So, no matter what He wore on the outside, no matter what His disguise was, His life revealed His true person. 

Disguising Christianity
How about you?  Are you disguising Christianity?  Are you hiding behind the mask of Christianity or do your actions and your words line up?  Are you hiding behind other masks?  You may think you are hiding but sometimes people can actually see right through the masks.  You are actually only hiding from yourself.

The sad thing about wearing masks is that we cannot move closer to who God created us to be with our masks on.  Masks always make shallow what God has intended to be deep; friendships, marriages, families and churches. Everything in our lives gets cheated when we choose to be fake. 
It takes courage to live with no masks; to be vulnerable, broken, to ask for help, to be real.  How would you look without your mask? How would your friendships be different?  How would your marriage be different?  How would your relationship with God be different?

We need to take off our masks and let people love us and accept us exactly as we are. 

God sees who we truly are anyway.  He knows our heart, hears our thoughts even when we never speak them.  He sees the “real us”, flaws, mistakes, failures, and He loves and accepts us unconditionally anyway. We can pretend to the world, but not Him.  There is no where we can escape His love, and no mask we can hide behind tko get away from Him.  We just need to take off the mask and allow Him to love us! 

Scripture to Claim:
Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.  Psalm 139:7-12

Thursday, October 30, 2014


(Submitted by Kerry Patton)
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Psalm 1:1-6

 Studying Side by Side
One of my favorite Bibles to read is a parallel Bible which features Luther’s 1912 German translation on the left column and an English translation on the right of each page.  This arrangement is very helpful for me as I wrestle my way through reading a passage in German, and can easily find help in the right column from the English for words I am not familiar with. 

Why do this? Historically, much of classic Christian theological literature is written in the German language.  For this reason, German, as well as Hebrew and Greek are often referenced and studied by ministers and Christian teachers.

I also find that the German language sometimes paints with ‘brighter colors’ so to speak.  For instance, in Matthew chapter 2, verse 1 we find the account of the birth of Jesus, and the detail of the Wise Men coming from the east. 

We know the word “east.” We know where east is.  East is where the sun comes up.  The sun rises in the east.  In Luther’s translation of the New Testament, he translates the story as follows (in an English transliteration): “Some Wise Men came from Morning-land...”  Morning-land!  I love that!  It’s the same thing as saying “from the east…” but the colors of the words are just a little more descriptive.

So, last night, I’m studying in Psalm chapter one…Here the writer is comparing the living of both the wicked, and the righteous.  Reading the German text, I find a word that I wasn’t familiar with: Gottlosen. Looking at the English translation, it doesn’t take long to correlate that Gottlosen means ‘wicked.’

Gottlosen. Wicked.  Huh.  So, then I began to consider the German word further.  Gottlosen is a two-part word.  The first part is: “Gott”, meaning “God” and the second part is “losen”, meaning “Loose.”  These together render: Gottlosen…God-loose.  The wicked are those who are “God-loose.”
I found this information to be very enlightening.  Think: loose…as in – unattached, unbound by, unsecured, detached… We could even go so far as to suggest that those who are God-loose are unguided by God can’t we?  We can, because those out of touch…unconnected to God are not connected to his guidance, unaided by his Holy Word, nor his Holy Spirit.  No wonder the wicked are wicked… They aren’t connected to God!!  They are God-loose.

More than anything I want to be connected to…bound to…attached to our Heavenly Father!  I want to be found to be RIGHTEOUS!! I want to be PLUGGED-IN to God!! I do NOT want to be Gottlosen… God-loose.

Psalm 63:1-8 paints a portrait of King David’s passion to stay connected to his Heavenly Father.  As you read these words, pray their meaning from your own desire to be in fellowship with God:

“A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your loving-kindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.”


Almighty God, How easy it is to be unplugged!  No wonder the wicked are so lost!  I’m so very thankful that by your love and mercy I have come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Help me Lord to always be plugged into you…connected to you…even bound to you.  Keep me in close fellowship.  You know how easily I am distracted.  But I want our connection to be strong!  Keep me in your Word. Keep me in communication with you.  Let our fellowship be strong, and constant.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fear as a Foe

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" Romans 8:15

As we continue our brief look at fear and its influence on our lives we acknowledge that fear can be healthy or unhealthy.  As a protector and motivator it serves us.  But when we are captured by a spirit of fear we serve it.  As a foe, fear works against us internally to sabotage healthy living.  When we’re assailed by threats from the outside, we sometimes disable ourselves with fears from within that can turn obsessive.

This sabotaging fear distorts our perception of ourselves and the reality of the dangers we face.  It erodes confidence that we can handle a particular threatening relationship or situation and come out of it intact.  This form of anxiety undermines even the best of plans with insecurity, inadequacy, and self-doubt, which leads to a loss of heart that is crippling, and increases our vulnerability to danger.
Insecurity is tied to our core longing for love and acceptance. We desire to love others, but the frightening reality is that there is no guarantee that anyone will love us in return. Ultimately, insecurity leads to a fear of intimacy and results in withdrawal.

Inadequacy taps into our desire to make a significant difference in life—to know that we matter. We want to know that our life has meaning and purpose.  But past failures in our performance undermine our confidence that we will ever make the kind of difference in life that we dream of.

Self-doubt grows out of our feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Upbringing, especially the impact of parents, goes a long way to shape our self-confidence. Doubters are paralyzed by “what if’s.”  Often, underneath a perfectionist’s flurry of activity is fear—the fear of failure (“I’ll never be able to measure up and be enough”) and the fear of success (“If I do succeed, I’ll never be able to keep it going”). Doubters fear trying, so they quit.

We must learn to conquer and even use our fear.
Many people choose safe lives in which failure (and therefore, real success) is highly unlikely. They never take risks, and they never fail; but they also die without any real service. They may never make a mistake, but they’ll also never make a difference.  Fear that strips us of vitality and zeal to live well must be dismantled.  But we must be careful not to handle fear in a way that aggravates instead of reduces the problem.

Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The definition of courage is to act confidently in the face of fear.  God has provided His Spirit and His promises for us to walk in courage.  May we walk with boldness being aware of danger but confident in God’s care.

Scripture to Claim:
Say to those with anxious heart, "Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come, But He will save you."  Isaiah 35:4   

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Function of Fear

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? Psalms 56:3-4

As we saw in yesterday’s devotion, fear can cause a great deal of damage in our lives.  However, fear can also play a healthy role in our lives.  God created us with this emotion and its power for a very specific reason.  So, what is the function of fear? When is it helpful? When is it harmful?  Let’s take a closer look at what fear does for us. 

Because life is full of dangerous situations, fear is not only unavoidable but often necessary.  In the realm of emotions, fear is like friction.  Too much friction heats things up, wears them out prematurely, and hinders movement.  With too little friction, things can quickly get out of control and dangerous.  That’s true about fear as well.  We need fear to keep things from spinning dangerously out of control. But too much fear can suffocate creativity and reduce life to mere survival.

A certain amount of fear and anxiety is good for us. Healthy fear can serve us well by:

1.    Warning us of danger. The primary function of healthy fear is to warn us of danger.  It alerts us to our vulnerability and urges us to take precautions.  It’s foolish not to be afraid when the shrillness of a blaring smoke alarm pierces the stillness of a restful night’s sleep.  You would be ignoring a warning signal that danger lurks nearby and you are at risk.

·      In much the same way that pain functions in the body to alert us that we’ve been injured and are in need of medical assistance, fear grabs our attention and prepares us for dealing with danger by either getting out of harm’s way or by confronting the danger head-on.

·      The Bible illustrates the healthiness of self-preserving fear in the presence of danger.  On several occasions, David fled for fear of his life from the presence of a jealously murderous King Saul.  Joseph and Mary, in obedience to an angel that spoke to him in a dream, fled from Bethlehem and escaped to Egypt because they feared the wicked King Herod would attempt to kill Jesus.

In all these cases, fear was appropriate because the danger was real. It isn’t cowardly or wrong to be afraid of life-threatening danger. When recognized and heeded, the warning alarm of fear can help us to live wisely and more safely in a dangerous world.

2.    Motivating us to excel. All of us deal with deadlines of one sort or another. If you don’t meet them, you’re dead! Or at least you wish you were. Properly harnessed, the fear of failure can be a powerful motivation to do your best.  The apostle Paul spoke of the fear of God’s final judgment as a powerful motivation in his ministry to persuade others of the hope of the gospel.  Not only did he want others to escape the wrath of God as their judge, but he also wanted the approval of God as he stood before Him for his reward.

But fear is not always a friend. It can go awry—and often does. When it does, it becomes a foe to be reckoned with.  We will share some thoughts on that tomorrow.  Today, recognize that healthy fear can be a protection and a motivator.  To say it simply, we must not fear fear.  Properly handled fear can be an asset to our lives.  Thank God today for the way He made us to live in a fallen world.

Scripture to Claim:
Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin."  Exodus 20:19-20  

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