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Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on July 19, 2017, 10:41:33 pm »
Monday, March 20, 2017   

Wearied and Dissatisfied
Anne Carlson Kennedy

Today’s Verse Powered by the New Living Translation
“Because I am righteous, I will see you. When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.”  - Psalm 17:15

There is so much cause for dissatisfaction in the course of one single day. You can try to get a grip on your own life, your own choices and plans, but not having control over anybody else’s life means that we all wander around frustrating others and being frustrated by them. There’s the ruination of the beautiful couch by a mean cat with claws, the breaking of the beautiful hand painted platter by a child who doesn’t know what his right hand nor his left hand is doing, the misunderstanding that’s left a fragile friendship practically shattered. Frustration and woe. Dissatisfaction.  As for me, though, I shall be satisfied. I shall find it enough. And the source, the substance of my satisfaction, will be his likeness; the likeness of the one to whom the psalm is written. Who, in the very image and nature of God, became man so that I, even I, could look into his face and hear his voice and be satisfied.  There wasn’t anything about him that would have made me take a second look. There wasn’t anything in me that recognized or knew enough to know him. But that he called my name, and lifted up my head, and gathered up all the frustration and difficulty into himself. So, I shall be satisfied yet more when I behold him face to face; but I am pretty satisfied now, known as I am, by him and not another.
Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on July 19, 2017, 10:37:47 pm »
Friday, March 17, 2017   

The Grid
Karen Ehman

Today’s Verse Powered by the New Living Translation
“The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.”  - Proverbs 15:28

If we are to pursue righteousness, we must heed the advice of Proverbs 15:28: “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers” (NIV).

Notice it says “the heart.” It doesn’t say “the mouth.”  Sometimes it’s too late to avoid damage by the time the words tumble out of our mouths. When I don’t first pause to pray and ponder in my heart, hurtful words may pour out. To avoid causing heartache and even regret, I’ve learned to contemplate words secretly in my heart, which means running my thoughts through the grid of Scripture before I ever let the words escape from my lips. Back and forth. Back and forth. Searching for just the right and righteous fruitful combination.  Are you ready to begin carefully weighing your words today?

The result will be a delightful offering, pleasing to you, to the hearer, and to God.
Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on July 19, 2017, 10:30:08 pm »
Thursday, March 16, 2017   

Discerning Silence
Karen Ehman

Today’s Verse Powered by the New Living Translation
“Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”  - Proverbs 10:19

As the Amplified Bible version of Proverbs 10:19 says, “When there are many words, transgression and offense are unavoidable. But he who controls his lips and keeps thoughtful silence is wise.”

Have you ever let your constant stream of words get you in trouble?

I sure have more than once. When we constantly run our motor mouths, we create a situation with a greater chance of saying something that offends or that we’ll later regret. It is nearly unavoidable, as Proverbs 10:19 clearly states. The solution?

It’s found in the latter half of the verse we must seek to control our tongues and instead employ the tool of thoughtful silence. Thoughtful silence doesn’t mean we never speak; it means we need to zip our lips to avoid uttering something we will later wish we could take back. It means we must give careful and prayerful thought to the words we might speak, using discernment to decide if we should speak at all.  Today, let’s not just watch what kind of words roll off our lips; let’s also prudently monitor how many. Constantly running motors whether machine or mouth are prone to malfunction, thereby causing a mighty mess.
Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on July 19, 2017, 10:24:57 pm »
Wednesday, March 08, 2017   

Elijah: The Exhausted Prophet
Sally Clarkson and Joel Clarkson

Today’s Verse Powered by the New Living Translation
“‘Go out and stand before me on the mountain,’ the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.”  - 1 Kings 19:11–13

Elijah had given his whole life into the service of the Lord. He had stood for righteousness in a time of great darkness. Yet no matter his efforts, the tide of disbelief, wickedness, and unfaithfulness rose up like a wave within the people of Israel, crashing down upon him in fury.  On a mountain, after a mighty firestorm, on a gentle breath of wind, Elijah caught a faint whisper. It was God, speaking with a still small voice. Elijah understood; God wanted him to rest. He had been running, wrestling with issues far beyond his control; he had lost perspective, lost hope. In the midst of that senselessness, God wanted to give Elijah the peace that a gentle whisper of assurance brings.  Just like Elijah, we can become so caught up in the difficulties of our lives that we lose perspective and begin to burn out. In those moments, we may feel like nothing can possibly get better. We are tempted to ask why God won’t help us fix things, why he won’t put everything in order for us. It is exactly in those moments that God wants us to be still, not to try to find his will in the storms all around, but instead to rest in his peace. Sometimes in the midst of crisis we need to take a moment to pause and let the Lord minister to us. Sometimes the most godly thing to do is to fight the good fight; at other times the most godly thing to do is to sleep, to receive nourishment through food and drink, and to wait on the Lord instead of struggling to find answers on our own. Let the Lord who is the king over all storms put his peace in your heart today.
Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on July 17, 2017, 10:19:04 pm »
Tuesday, March 07, 2017   

Ruth: The Persistent Daughter
Sally Clarkson and Joel Clarkson

Today’s Verse Powered by the New Living Translation
“When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. ‘Is it really Naomi?’ the women asked.  ‘Don’t call me Naomi,’ she responded. ‘Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?’”  - Ruth 1:19–21

Without warning, everything fell apart. Naomi’s sons, the bulwark of the family after Elimelech’s death, both passed away suddenly, leaving the women of the family on their own. Ruth, swimming in the sea of her grief, looked to her mother-in-law for comfort. But Naomi had changed. Now Naomi was lost, cast behind a veil of mourning.  The hardest thing was the pain Ruth saw in Naomi. She knew her mother-in-law was in anguish. Those first few weeks were a time of suffering with Naomi in her darkness. Finally, Ruth decided to act. She decided it was her responsibility to take care of herself so she could provide for Naomi until her mother-in-law could function again.  Do you feel trapped in the mire of someone else’s depression?

Are the inner mental workings of someone you love confusing and disorienting?

When trying to understand the mental struggles of our family members, it is so easy to allow them to set the tone in our hearts and become filled with confusion and frustration. Sometimes, instead of trying to comprehend or fix their problems, the best thing we can do is to bear with them patiently, praying for their healing, while at the same time pursuing a stable, healthy life of our own.  Sometimes, choosing to be healthy even in the midst of the poor decisions of those around you is the most powerful weapon against chaos. You have the power, given to you by the Holy Spirit, to cling to hope. You have the power to do what is necessary to create spaces that allow you to breathe, be restored, and enjoy life. Today love those who struggle with mental issues by helping yourself so that you can support them in their time of need.
Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on July 17, 2017, 10:13:05 pm »
Monday, March 06, 2017   

Job: The Suffering Father
Sally Clarkson and Joel Clarkson

Today’s Verse Powered by the New Living Translation
“Then Job replied to the LORD: ‘I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?” It is I and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. You said, “Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.” I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.’”  - Job 42:1–6

How could he, a man of faithful goodness, be allowed to suffer so much?

That question gnawed at Job day in and day out. Finally, he demanded that God give an answer for his suffering.  God did respond; he gave Job a glimpse of what few men are able to see, the vastness and glory of creation, and God’s powerful hand within it. Humbling himself before God, Job accepted that he might simply be unable to understand certain things.  Do you find yourself in dire circumstances beyond your control?

Are you striving with God, trying to understand how he could allow such suffering?

You have good company in Job. And yet, as with Job, sometimes trying to comprehend the whys of our lives is a futile process that only brings us more grief. Sometimes peace is found when we simply rest in God’s goodness and leave the big questions to him. He is our father and our comforter. He is over all and sees us in our time of trial. His vision goes far beyond ours, and even though we may not understand why we must endure difficulty, God is faithful to guide us through it.  Tragedy is a painful wound that the world gives to all of us in time; despair is a self-inflicted injury that refuses to heal because it rejects the Healer. When we let go of our need to control and understand, we are giving ourselves into the hands of the One who can make us whole again, despite our wounds.
Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on July 17, 2017, 10:00:47 pm »
Friday, March 03, 2017   

Our Peace
Rebekah Lyons

Today’s Verse Powered by the New Living Translation
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”  - Isaiah 26:3

Recently I accidentally locked myself in a tiny bathroom in a 100-year-old house on the cliffs of northern California. The house was empty, my phone had just died, and no one in our group would return for a couple hours. It’s amazing how quickly one’s brain and body can process this sort of information. Within five seconds, I panicked.  I looked up, and noticed a small window. If I hoisted myself up on the toilet just right, I could barely squeeze through, so I did. Once out, I forced back tears, up high on the ledge, before scaling to the ground as I trembled with adrenaline.  After such an experience, I could focus on how frail I still am, five years after a season of struggling with panic disorder. But instead, I chose to focus on the fact that Jesus made a way out. Through the past few years, when faced with anxiety, the words of David became my cry: “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.  He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.  He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Ps. 18:6, 16, 19, NIV).

And in some special and rare moments, I would feel “perfect peace” (Isa. 26:3) when all was still and Jesus was close. Where the weight of the responsibility faded to black and the still waters and green pastures of Psalm 23 became front and center.  Today I’m reminded that we can never know peace without the Prince of Peace because Jesus is our peace. His very presence, alone, calms the raging storm, as we fix our eyes and step out of the boat. So if you feel like you’re carrying weight that’s sucking the air from your lungs, Jesus simply says, “Release.”

It may not feel easy, but it will open wide the gates for his presence to fill.
Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on June 29, 2017, 02:14:48 pm »
Monday, February 13, 2017   

Everyday Choices
Dorothy Littell Greco

Today’s Verse Powered by the New Living Translation
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”  - 1 John 3:16

What differentiates a loving, joyful, intimate marriage from a disappointing, frustrating one is the willingness and commitment to be changed, to say yes to God’s transforming work, and to become increasingly holy with each passing year. Transformation is a lifelong process that’s equal parts hard work, faithful waiting, and supernatural intervention.  Though miracles do abound, we never become saints in the truest sense of the word overnight. If our experience is at all typical, transformation happens at a glacial pace. Becoming holy is slow and arduous because we’re stubborn sinners but also because being transformed into the image of Christ is meant to change every aspect of our lives.  God’s love is not theoretical; it’s a crown of thorns pressed into Jesus’s brow, nails driven through sinew and bones, and ultimately, his brutal death. First John 3:16 reads, “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us.”

Few of us will literally die for our spouses. Instead, we will be asked to lay down our agendas, our preferences, and sometimes even our dreams.  God offers us opportunities to tangibly and sacrificially love our spouses on a daily, if not hourly, basis. We love when we apologize for our harshness rather than pretend it didn’t happen. We love when we push past our fatigue and serve each other at the end of an exhausting week. We love as we extend grace, perhaps particularly when they have done nothing to deserve it. Such acts of love are fragrant offerings, much like when Mary poured nard on Jesus’s feet (Luke 7:36–38).  Jesus Christ is the ultimate reference point for what it means to love sacrificially. His obedience cost him everything: his reputation, his well being, his comfort, his life, and when he gave up his spirit even his connection to God the Father (Matt. 27:46). Sacrificial love is never cheap, nor does it happen coincidentally. It’s a countercultural choice that we have to willingly and repeatedly make.
Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on June 29, 2017, 02:06:21 pm »
Tuesday, February 14, 2017   

Abiding in Love
Dorothy Littell Greco

Today’s Verse Powered by the New Living Translation
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”  - John 15:4–5

How do we offer this countercultural love to our spouses?

First, we experience God’s love for ourselves and then learn to depend on his faithful provision. Though we seldom dwell on this reality, we love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). He created us with a primal longing to receive his love.  This longing takes up residence in our souls and compels us to seek after the source.  The imperfect, inconsistent love we receive from our parents and our siblings, from our friends and our spouses, only whets our appetites to the possibility of something more satisfying. Through painful trial and error, we learn that the perfect version can be found only in Christ. As we regularly receive his love, it empowers and emboldens us to offer it to others.  To remain on the path of transformation and continue to love our spouses sacrificially, we must stay connected to God. His love is not meant to be a onetime download. We need regular, even daily, upgrades. Jesus’ instruction to his disciples applies to us today: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4–5).

By staying connected to the Father, we not only receive his love but also discern how he is at work in our beloved’s life. He gives us the capacity to see beyond our spouses’ present limitations and preexisting wounds so that we can affirm God’s call even when the clouds of doubt obscure their vision. After speaking words of hope over our spouses, we then walk shoulder to shoulder, in sickness and in health, in poverty and in abundance, to help them realize that call.
Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on June 29, 2017, 02:01:03 pm »
Wednesday, February 15, 2017   

Have Mercy
Dorothy Littell Greco

Today’s Verse Powered by the New Living Translation
“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”  - Titus 3:4–7

Grace is favor: something delightful that is completely undeserved, unexpected, and freely given. For example, salvation is a gift from God that we cannot earn (Eph. 2:5–9). Grace helps us grow in sacrificial love because it reminds us that our spouses do not owe us anything. Because we are recipients of God’s generous grace, can we offer any less to our husbands or wives?

In the context of our marriages, we have regular opportunities to extend grace by going beyond what’s expected to bless our spouses. Grace is saying, “I know it’s your turn to give the kids a bath/cook dinner/walk the dog, but I’ll do it.”

Grace is easy when we’re well resourced and not so easy when we’re tired or stressed.  Mercy carries with it connotations of being spared, pardoned, or forgiven for something we did or perhaps didn’t do. It is a manifestation of kindness and love, particularly when something else is deserved. Referencing Titus 3:5, poet Luci Shaw writes, “Now, as we yield ourselves to be washed in grace’s laundry, the scandal of undeserved mercy acts on us as God’s unlikely bleach.”

Yes and amen! The Lord is merciful to us even though we regularly break his commands. Extending mercy fosters sacrificial love because it prevents us from judging one another and hardening our hearts.
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