Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Inside Places

Submitted by Lara Cook
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10
 I have to be honest.  If you show up at my house unannounced, I will be happy to see you but likely pretty embarrassed about my “lived in” house.  It’s not filthy, but it’s not company ready until I know company is coming.  Although I will let you in the front door, there are many places I will not let you in, like my closets and drawers, or some cabinets.  These inside places in my life need some attention before I want them on display.  
The inside places in our lives often get neglected because out of sight, out of mindworks. They get shoved to the back of the priority list when no one can see it.  We don’t usually deal with the messy closets and drawers until we can’t stuff another thing inside it and we don’t have a choice.  Our hearts can be another inside place in our life that we close off and don’t want anyone to see.  The deep depths of our heart can become a storage shed for all the undealt with hurt and issues of our lives.  We shove them inside the unseen places and try to forget them.  Out of sight, out of minddoesn’t always work here.  We may be effectively hiding it all away from the world, but it is not really out of our sight and it doesn’t stop the wounds from festering.  We get hurt, we sin and are ashamed and we tuck it all out of sight. We shut the door so no one knows and we work hard to keep everyone out, including God.  But a cluttered heart can make you sick, and can destroy your life and peace.  
Thankfully we have a God that wants our hearts as they are.  Like a good friend or a close family member, He is not turned away by the mess.  He wants all the unseen, hidden pain and clutter. He wants the messy, broken, discarded shards of our lives we have hidden away.  God loves us, no matter what we have hidden in our inside places and He longs to bring light into our hearts.  Let God in to take care of the inside places of your heart.  Only His grace and strength are strong enough to handle our hidden inside places and make us new again.    He knows what needs to be healed and what needs to go.  Give your heart to him today and let Him clean out the deep hidden places!  

Scripture to Claim:
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.  Psalm 51:6

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Light it Up!

Submitted by Lara Cook
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands…  2 Timothy 1:6

We all have different strengths.  Some of these strengths are better defined as “gifts”. God has equipped His children with gifts that we should use for His glory.  In the scripture above, Paul is writing his second letter to Timothy from prison.  He encourages Timothy and then reminds him tofan into flame the gift of God– or get excited!  Get moving!  He was telling Timothy to develop his God-given talents and use them.  
It is easy to become bored or apathetic with our gifts.  Sometimes it can feel like we are stagnating because we are not sure exactly how to use the gifts we have, so we don’t do anything.  Nothing makes Satan happier than for Christians, with flaming gifts from above, to feel inadequate and sit paralyzed in the “I have nothing to offer”zone.  The bible says the enemy has flaming arrows that he fires strategically and continuously at us.  Well, we have flaming arrows to be fired out in Jesus name!  
How can we fan into flame the gift of God in us? Most of the time our gifts are aligned with our passions.  If you don’t know your gifts, think about what you are passionate about.  How can God use you in this capacity?  If you know your gift but feel stuck, strike a match and ignite the gift you have.  Pray, learn, find a mentor, volunteer, set it on fire in any way you can! Ask God to show you ways to use your gift and look for opportunities to learn and grow.  
We have a responsibility to share Christ and the gift of His salvation with the world.  We have the power to do so from God, and we also have gifts that help us share Him with the world.  We have everything we need, we just have to keep the flame burning.  It is easy to let the world put out our flames.  That is exactly why Paul is encouraging Timothy to fan the flame so it doesn’t go out.  Diligently feed it with Bible study, prayer, fellowship, worship and knowledge.  What can you do today to fan into flames the gift of God in you?  

Scripture to Claim:
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Perfect Attendance

(submitted by Kerry Patton)
“I can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
And The Award Goes To…
This week I was blessed to attend the award ceremonies for my younger two children’s 2017-2018 academic school year.  Both Benjamin and Sydney received accolades of achievement for high grade point averages for the year.  
The academic achievement award that I always esteemed to receive though wasn’t the “A” or even the “A-B” honor roll…it was the Perfect Attendance award.  Yes, I knew that it was important to make straight A’s, and if not, then A’s and B’s would be stellar; and they didn’t give college scholarships for perfect attendance.  But I always esteemed the kids who never missed a day of school. How remarkable would that have been, I thought.  But it seemed like every year, our family of four kids would get hammered by some flu bug or stomach virus that would lay us all low for two or three days and it would be done.  
Perfect Attendance…Really, all you must do is show up every day for the whole nine months of school and you win the recognition.  Yet in 13 years, Kindergarten through Senior year graduation, I never had perfect attendance.  My friend Holly Harmon had perfect attendance just about every year!  I marveled at that.  I asked her “How do you do it? Never getting sick!” to which she replied: “Who said I was never sick? Unless you were puking your guts up…you went to school!  We’d be like – ‘Mom, I have a fever of 101’…and Mom would say ‘You’re fine.  Take these Tylenol and go get on the bus.  You’re going to school…’”  You just show up…no matter what.  Now, that’s a bit different isn’t it.

“80% of Success in life…”  
“…is just showing up.”Woody Allen has been credited with this quote since he first made the statement in 1977.  We really do have to finish the mental mathematics here though.  If 80% of success is showing up, then that last 20% must contain something very unique, something very important, something elemental and irreplaceable for success to occur.  If we take all of this and place it around our Christian faith, we can’t simply surmise that success in the Christian walk is simply showing up.  But the mathematics are quite similar here as well, because we can’t simply say “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…” and that’s the end of it.  Certainly, showing up as a believer in Christ is a very important part of our lives, but it mustn’t stop there.  
It has been speculated that Woody Allen’s quote may well have been a derivative of a Thomas Edison quote: “ninety per cent of a man’s success in business is perspiration.” In 1869 Fanny J. Crosby wrote her hymn “To The Work” and in 1871 set it to music written by W. Howard Doane.  Crosby’s words not only reflect a work ethic that is largely unknown to contemporary times, but also an urgency for the work of Christ that the body of Christ would do well to rediscover:

“To the work! To the work! We are servants of God;
Let us follow the path that our Master has trod;
With the balm of His counsel our strength to renew,
Let us do with our might what our hands find to do.
Toiling on, toiling on,
Toiling on, toiling on,
Let us hope and trust,
Let us watch and pray,
And labor till the Master comes.

To the work! To the work! Let the hungry be fed;
To the fountain of life let the weary be led;
In the cross and its banner our glory shall be,
While we herald the tidings, “Salvation is free!”
To the work! To the work! There is labor for all;
For the kingdom of darkness and error shall fall;
And the love of our Father exalted shall be,
In the loud swelling chorus, “Salvation is free!”
To the work! To the work! In the strength of the Lord,
And a robe and a crown shall our labor reward,
When the home of the faithful our dwelling shall be,
And we shout with the ransomed, “Salvation is free!””

So, it would seem, that Perfect Attendance in this Christian work and walk is not simply a matter of believing in Christ Jesus unto salvation, and just showing up in life, but remembering that showing up in the Christian life also means to “Take up thy cross and follow me.”…as said Jesus in Matthew 16:24.And this is not said to suggest any “works salvation” misunderstanding.  We are yet “saved by grace through faith, not by works, lest any man should boast.”Clearly spoken by Paul in Ephesians 2, verses 8-9.We each of us desire that praise at the end of this life when we will stand before our Lord and hear him say “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Oh Lord Jesus, quicken our hearts and strengthen our hands as we long to serve you this day.  Particularly if we have misunderstood our role and responsibility as your disciples, put us to the work, and let us bring in great harvest for you!  In your name I pray, Amen.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day – Remember!

The face of the LORD is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteouscry, and the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.  Psalms 34:16-19
Over the past century, more than 35 million men and women answered the call to arms in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and countless unnamed military engagements. More than half a million of them never came home.  Some died in battle, others in captivity; all died too soon. There should be no debate about our debt to the Patriots who have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives heeding the nation's call to service.
Memorial Day is more than the start of summer. It is a chance to pause and Rememberthe sacrifices -- remember the gallantry and bravery -- Remember the fallen.  It’s a day America sets aside toRemember those citizens who took a few steps farther than most.  These men and women volunteered to don a uniform, raise his or her right hand and swear to defend the Constitution against all enemies. While millions of Americans have taken those extra steps, for thousands it would be their final footsteps.
It’s for those whose feet will never tread upon the earth again that we Remember on this single day of the year.  The bravest of the brave, heroes we called soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines or coast guardsmen.  None took the oath knowing their time on earth would end too early. They had hopes, dreams, desires; they thought about the future.  But these people didn’t return, at least not as they left. Most returned to a lonely ramp at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. 
As we go about our everyday lives we shouldn’t be admonished if we don’t Remember them with sadness and mourning. After all, life isn’t about grieving every day.  So, as we go about our lives, we will take one day to accomplish one single task: Remember.  While enjoying the freedoms that came with the sacrifice of someone we never met, we should Remember.  While we enjoy the freedom to be who we are, Rememberthat somewhere someone will shed a tear, something they’ve done every single day since they received the most terrible news they will ever receive.
To those families; the children, the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, the husbands and wives, we say thank you. Thank you for the sacrifice your loved one made for us, and for the sacrifice you live through every single day. We can never change what has happened, but we can always do one single thing: Remember.
Jesus Christ was another soldier who fought a battle for you and me, and sacrificed His life, all for our eternal freedom.  He still fights for you and me today and will until the end of time.  Remember His sacrifice for your life and your freedom. 

Scripture to Claim:
For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken, Says the LORD who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Lord Our Banner

Exodus 17:8-16
A flag can tell us a lot about a nation and its people. It becomes a symbol of that body. A flag or a banner can become so revered that it can cause men and women to fight to their death for its cause. A flag is usually displayed in a prominent place to let everyone know who has occupied that place. Every army in the world fights under a flag that has no power in and of itself but signifies who is fighting and indicates the power and resources at their disposal. If we are Christians, we can confidently fly God’s banner because we have been given access to all of God’s strength and resources.

I. In This Life You Will Encounter ObstaclesAnd DifficultiesThat Will Try And Hinder God's Plan For You.  Exodus 17:8

Anythingin your life that blocks you from doing what God wants done is your Amalek.

·      A troubled relationship- Amalek
·      A debilitating illness- Amalek
·      poorviewof self and ability - Amalek
·      A tragic, unforeseen circumstance– Amalek
Sometimes you need to assume responsibility and be willing to fight, just like Joshua and his men.

II. The Fight To Overcome These Obstacles And Difficulties Is Both PhysicalAnd Spiritual.  Exodus 17: 10-13

If we wantvictoryin the valley there must be prayeron the hilltop.

You and I are given authorityover the power of the enemy

III. The Lord Revealed That VictoryIs Found Under His AuthorityExodus17: 14-16

God has planted His flag on our lives to show that He is victoriousIt is up to you to keep that banner flying high in your life nomatterwhatcircumstance comes your way.  

JehovahNissi, the Lord our Banner, waves over you. As believers in Christ, you must realize that you are more thanconquerors.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Study the Word of God

The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives. Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established.  Proverbs 16:1-3 NASB
Life is filled with decisions regarding right and wrong. Right is not so hard to discover as it is to desire and perform. Why should we do what is right?  Christian living is living according to God’s standards and purpose.  The Bible and the Holy Spirit become important to decision making and “Jesus is Lord” is the statement of this philosophy.  Make the decision to let God be God. You'll never make progress in this area as long as you refuse to give up control!  
Study the Word of God.- The only way you're going to get to know God and his character is to study his Word. It won't take long before you're able to judge situations and circumstances with a new view.  God and his Word carry the ultimate authority in determining whether something is right or wrong.
Prayer and meditation are primary actions in determining personal values and morality.– A life submerged in prayer and meditation in God’s word is the only sure way to living a life based on His values and not the world’s.  
The following are some guidelines to follow when making decisions or deciding if something is in accordance with God’s standards:
Tests for Right 
·      Test of affect - How will this affect me, others, God's work, my testimony?  Seriously, we hardly ever think about this when we are caught up in a situation, or a “moment” when we might lose self-control. We don’t think about the consequences of our decisions until it’s too late.  Then we have become the person we never wanted to be.  Yes, there is mercy and forgiveness, but there is not reversal. What you do and the decisions you make become a part of your story forever, good and bad.  
·      Test of secrecy or openness - Do I care if anyone else knows?  Do you really want your parents, friends, co-workers, family, neighbors, or other church members to know this about you? What about your children?  Do you care if they see you in this situation? How about your God?  He is there already.  Can you still go through with this?  
·      Test of universality - What if everyone did this? -  What kind of an impact would this make on the world if everyone was doing it?  What if all the Christians were doing it?
·      Test of prayer - Can I ask God to go with me? – If you would not let God come, that is an automatic no.  Don’t do it.  
The key to a happy life is never making wrong decisions.  But we are human and we will make mistakes.  God gives us all the guidance we need to make the right choices in life.  We don’t always take His words to heart and for some reason, we don’t understand the pain involved in living with wrong choices until we make wrong choices!  Thankfully it is possible to overcome these places in life with God’s help, but not without scars.  Follow His guidance, pray unceasingly and think long and hard before making choices, or agreeing to choices others make for you – for they don’t have to live with your consequences.  Youdraw the lines in your life according to God’s direction for your life.  

Scripture to Claim:
In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men. Act 24:16

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Solid Reasons for Righteous Living

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Titus 1:5
One of the hardest things to live with is regret. Start doing what is right today and save yourself some hard lessons in life.  Here are some solid reasons for doing the right thing:
Do what is right because it creates proper characterCharacter is displayed by what people do, not what they think or believe.  Doing the right thing often leads to thinking of the right way by the positive results we receive. A solid truth is, “DO what you want to BE.”   Doing what is right normally leads to being around others who do what is right. Friends have great impact on character.
Do what is right because it benefits othersNo man is an island, no man stands alone - Therefore, your right decisions bless my life and others around you. In the same sense, wrong actions, attitudes or responses affect much more than the individual doing them.  Surround yourself with people who are further along in the journey. There is no reason to learn every lesson yourself when you have perfectly good examples right in front of you. Take advantage of this counsel and learn from the mistakes of others so your own learning curve is not so steep. You can take comfort in knowing that one day your mistakes may serve to help someone else. 
Do what is right because it’s fulfilling and purposeful Very little pleasure or fun does anything constructive or beneficial.  God’s guidance means that a fair question is, “What did you do this week or even today that furthered the kingdom?”
Fulfillment is a much higher feeling than pleasure. It gives a sense of self-worth and dignity. 
Do what is right because it displays God in you.True morality without God is impossible.  For, without his direction, proper behavior in all situations is impossible.  The man who disdains God may be good but he won’t be right.  Right is more than good…it is the proper thing at the proper occasion for the proper purpose.  Many times, what we are doing wrong in our lives is not just ethical but destructive to someone or ourselves because of when we do it, how much we invest in it to the loss of better things or what we do not do in order to do it.  There is nothing wrong with work, sports, shopping or even religion until they get out of balance. 
Do what is right because wrong is sin and separates you from God.Truth is truth regardless of whether it is accepted or followed.  The truth is that sin is condemned by God and punished.  You cannot live wrong and be right with God.  It is God’s joy to lead us into an abundant life, not for us to experience the destructive nature of sin or wrong.  Sin will be condemned and destroyed.  Beware being connected to it when it is. 
How are you living your life?  Always doing whatever you want, when you want to without regard to affect?  Doing what everyone else does without considering personal responsibility?  Acting in accordance with conviction and yet not really knowing where those convictions came from?  Following God trusting that his direction is the best for your life?  Never give up. Let yourself off the hook. Be glad about your progress. You didn't start showing poor judgment overnight and you won't always show good judgment now, just because you want to. Little by little as you gain wisdom from God's Word, you'll begin to see the results reflected in your decisions. 
Scripture to Claim:
If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  Matthew 16:24

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Little Bit of Hope for Today

Submitted by Lara Cook
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.  Psalm 71:5

God does not fail at keeping His promises.  He always keeps His word.  We can only grasp how great and precious God’s promises are when we realize how much we need them.  Maybe you are smack dab in the middle of needing some extra hope today, or maybe today is a great day and things are good.  Either way, enjoy some of the promises of God listed below and tuck them away in your heart.  Carry them with you and remember in good times and bad how magnificent are the promises of God. 
He Gives Hope to the Hopeless - Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
He Helps Restless Souls be StillJohn 14:27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
He Binds the Broken HeartedPsalm 147:3: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He Sets Captives Free from DarknessLuke 4:18: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…
He Gives Strength to the Weak Isaiah 40:29: He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.
He Gives RestMatthew 11:28: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
He Gives VictoryRomans 8:37: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
He Gives SalvationRomans 10:9: …because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
He Gives Eternal Life- Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
He Gives Beauty for Ashes – Isaiah 61:3-To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own gloryNIV
He Gives Gladness for Mourning - Isaiah 61:3 - O 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, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. ESV
These promises are just the beginning of the promises He made.  He is a merciful and grace filled God who protects, provides, gives freedom, and peace. Bask in His love and the certainty of His word today.  

Scripture to Claim:
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Be the Light

Some material taken from sermons by Van Houser and Sam Nobles
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house.. Matthew 5:14-15
God’s plan to show His love to the world is not through a building with a sign above the door that says Church. It is through you and I that He plans to show His love.  Every believer is meant to be a point of light to a dark world.  People are watching you!  What they see has an influence on them.  And it should. You see, Jesus told us that we would have an influence in this world.  The Christian life is a life that is both influential and purposeful when lived under the control of God.
The world is a dark place, and it is getting darker by the minute. The culture and the society in which we live is growing dim, and we are called to be the light this world needs.  Without the light of Jesus Christ, the world operates in spiritual darkness.  Light is designed to show reality - things as they are and not as you have concluded them to be.  We can bring the light of Jesus to the darkness of this world and offer new life in Him.  
Does your life make a difference? What kind of difference do you make? Jesus is clear that we are to make a difference.  We are to be a light.  Sometimes that may mean showing mercy, showing truth, standing for what is right, showing kindness, helping people, and many other things.  Being a light means covering the darkness with the love of Christ.  
Jesus said, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12  When we follow Jesus, we reflect His light to the rest of the world. We only shine when we reflect Hislight.  There is nothing in us apart from Him that shines.  We are sinful creatures and sin does not reflect light, but darkness. But Jesus in us reflects His pure light to others, drawing attention and glory only to Him.  This beautiful reflection of Christ in our lives cannot be stopped, because we are light.  Let your light shine!  

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr

Scripture to Claim:Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."    Matthew 5:16

Monday, May 21, 2018


Some material taken from sermons by Van Houser and Sam Nobles
You are the salt of the earth… Matthew 5:13a

According the insight of Urban Dictionary, "salty," when used as a slang term, can be used to describe someone who is "angry, agitated, or upset," as well as someone who is "mean, annoying, and repulsive." A more nuanced and specific definition of the word, which also comes from Urban Dictionary, details it as, "The act of being upset, angry, or bitter as result of being made fun of or embarrassed. Also, a characteristic of a person who feels out of place or is feeling attacked."  Those are harsh words to describe someone.  Although these are negative definitions of the word, but for Christians, it means something different altogether.  
If you go by the definition above, salty is not something you want to be called.  But according to God’s dictionary, we should all strive to be salty.  Saltiness is a good thing to be if you are a Christian. Salt is a very versatile and important mineral.  Salt is important to our bodies because it regulates the water content in our bodies. It is important for good health and totally transforms food.  In the ancient days, salt was a precious commodity, even used as payment sometimes. Before there was refrigeration, salt was used to slow the decaying process of meat and other foods so it would be edible for longer periods of time.  In His statement above, Jesus was referring to the Christian witness and influence we can have on the moral decay of the world we live in.   Salt will also make you thirsty. Thirst is the natural result of eating salty foods.  As believers, we are to be so salty in our schools, our jobs, and our social events that we create a thirst in the society and culture of which we live.   Once a thirst is created, we then have the Living Water, who is Jesus Christ, to offer them in order to quench their thirst.  Once a thirst is created, we then have the Living Water, who is Jesus Christ, to offer them in order to quench their thirst.  Our job as the salt of the earth is to make others thirsty for Jesus by how we live our lives.  

How Can We Lose Our Saltiness?
How can we lose our saltiness or influence with the rest of the world?  When we act in ways that are not Christian we definitely lose our influence with the world. When we judge and discriminate we lose our influence also.  When we act like the world, why do they need to look our way?  Loss of saltiness happens when we have nothing different to offer the world.  In order to be an influence, we have to look different.  We need to have something that they want – such as peace, integrity, honor, obedience at all cost.  

Are you salt on your job? At home? At school? Or have you mixed in the culture so much that you think, talk, and act just like everybody else?  If we stay close to God, there is less of a chance that our saltiness will be worn away by the world.  By abiding in Him we can stay salty and have the greatest influence for Him in this world.

Scripture to Claim:…but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.  Matthew 5:13b

Devotional Archive