WORDDEVO: "The Weekly Word with Rick Warren" [11-25 thru 12-02] DEVOTIONALS

 

Seven Days of Devotion
The Weekly Word is a Collection of Devotionals to be read on the Day Listed and presented freely as a service to and for the Body of Christ and Believers throughout the World that We may Hear God Speak to us as the Spirit of God gives us ears to hear and eyes to see what God would have for us daily in relationship to Him. 

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) 

The third principle for connecting with people is to be constructive with your words.

Use your words to build people up. Ephesians 4:29 says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (NIV). God wants us to take these words and use them to build people.

Did you know that the words that come out of our mouths are like a tool? Sometimes they're like a sledgehammer. We swing away without thinking and end up with a pile of relational rubble. Sometimes they're like a saw, cutting people down. If we keep using these tools, inevitably our relationships are going to suffer.

One reason we aren't constructive with our words is we don't realize how powerful they are; yet, I bet you can still remember things people said to you in a thoughtless way as far back as grade school or college. That's how powerful words are. They leave a lasting impact. So when it comes to your mouth, think of it as a power tool and be very careful with it.

Here's how to build instead of destroying with your words --

1.  Stop excusing. Stop saying, "I didn't really mean to say that." Realize that what you say impacts everyone around you.         

2.  Talk less. If it's a power tool, you don't have to use it as much. One of the reasons we get in trouble is we just talk too much sometimes. We need to talk less and then ...

3.  Listen more. If I listen more, I can understand people's needs. 

4.  Start building. Think first of all, "What do they need?" How can I use a word of encouragement to build them up? How can I use a word of challenge to make a difference in someone's life? How can I use my words to build up the people I love the most?

  MONDAY

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV) 

When it comes to forgiveness, we're tough negotiators. We open with an offer like, "I'll forgive you, if . . . ." Then, we follow with a subtle concession that sounds like a confession: "I can't forgive her until she learns her lesson."

When we think the other side is stonewalling, we take off the gloves: "If I forgive him, he'll just think he got away with it."

We think we're negotiating for God; we think we're negotiating for their souls; we think we're negotiation for justice, when all we're really doing is negotiating for control over the situation.

Truth says we can't conduct these negotiations. We're ambassadors of the King, and we represent, not our own, but the King's intentions as well as his character. The King says forgive and that means we forgive. See the period at the end of the previous sentence? We forgive.

The King's instructions are clear and unambiguous: If you forgive those who sin against you, then the King will forgive you for your sins against him. If you don't forgive those who sin against you, then the King won't forgive you for your sins against him. No room for negotiation there.

Anything else, such as saying, ""I'll forgive him, if . . ." isn't really forgiving; it's just negotiating, and God's court of justice will not recognize contracts made without kingly authority or permission.

The question is not should, if, or can someone be forgiven; the true question is will you make the choice to forgive?

TUESDAY

"He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Psalm 23:3b (NIV) 

Sometime we're afraid of making the wrong decision. And that creates stress.

We might be facing a decision about a major issue -- 'Should I hold on or should I let go?' 'Should I get in or should I get out?' 'Should I get married?' 'Should I find a new job?' 'Should I move?'

When you can't make up your mind, you stagger through life. In fact, the Bible says when we remain double-minded, we become unstable in everything we do (James 1). The Greek word for unstable literally means "stagger like a drunk."

But God says there is an antidote to our indecision? Psalm 23:3 tells us, "He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." We handle the stress of decision-making by letting God guide us.

You may be thinking, But I've tried this! You asked God to guide you but then you became more confused than before. You still couldn't figure it out. You wonder, Why is knowing God's will so difficult?

Is God playing games with us? Of course not! God wants to guide us. He wants us to know His will more than we want to know it. Our problem is we often look for the wrong thing when we're trying to find God's will. 

For example, some of us look for a feeling. We want to be swept off our feet by some emotion so we can say, "That's how I know what God's will is!" Some of us want a methodical approach to God's will. We want somebody to give us a recipe, a formula to apply. But God's will is not a recipe.  Some of us take a magical approach to God's will.  We're looking for God to do some fantastic sign—write it in the sky, call us on the phone, send us a telegram. 

All of these ways lead to frustration and cause us to miss God's will. God's will is not a feeling or a formula or something He wants you to be frustrated or fearful about. 

So how do you know it? How do you let God guide you in the right path? Over the next few days we'll look at several things the Bible tells us will help determine God's will.

But for today, the important thing to understand is that God does not want you confused and he does not want you stressed over making any decision. He is there, guiding you every step of the way.

This is his promise, so you can believe this to be true: "He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalm 23:3 NIV)

 
WEDNESDAY

"He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way." Psalm 25:9 (NIV) 

The Bible says there are several things we need to do to receive guidance from God, but the very first thing is this:

I need to admit I need a guide!

Sheep, by nature, tend to wander off the path. The Prophet Isaiah says, "All of us like sheep have strayed away! We have left God's paths to follow our own." (Isaiah 53:6 NLT)

This is why we often don't know God's will. The truth is most of the time we don't want to follow God or anybody else. We want to go our own way. We don't want to admit we need direction or that we need a guide. 

Another thing about sheep is that they have poor vision. They can't see very far ahead. That's why, on a path, they don't know if it is heading toward a cliff, and that's why they need a shepherd. We can't see the future. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, much less next year or ten years from now. We don't even know what's going to happen this afternoon.

God made you so that you would not be able to see into the future no matter how much you try. Even with all the gimmicks to predict the future, you don't really know what's going to happen. Why did God do this? He did it so you would depend on Him.

Because we can't see into the future, we often stumble.  Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (NIV). We've all made decisions that at the time seemed right but later on turned out to be wrong. Some paths lead to dead ends and we end up off track. That's why we need to admit, "God, I need help."

 
 
  THURSDAY

"If you want to know what God really wants you to do, ask him . . . but if you don't ask in faith, don't expect the Lord to give you any solid answer." James 1:5-6 (LB) 

"Have you ever asked God for something and didn't expect to get it? That's why you didn't get it."

The Bible says when we ask God for guidance, we need to believe he will give us that guidance.

Jesus said, "Ask and it shall be given, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door will be opened" (Luke 11:9 NIV). Ask, seek, knock—ASK. God wants you to learn to ask. 

God is willing to give wisdom: "If you want to know what God really wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; but . . . if you don't ask in faith, don't expect the Lord to give you any solid answer" (James 1: 5-6 LB). 

God wants to direct you in life, but two things need to line up:  You have to ask the right person—God, and you have to ask with the right attitude—in faith, expecting an answer. 

Have you ever asked God for something and didn't expect to get it? That's why you didn't get it. God works in our lives according to faith. So many times we say, "God, please guide me!" and we walk away not even waiting for guidance. We just immediately start to work. We say, "God, I want you to give me wisdom, help me make the right decision." But we don't really expect Him to do that. We think it all depends on us. 

God has promised to give us wisdom, if we will ask. Wisdom is seeing life from God's point of view. Wisdom is the ability to make decisions the way God makes decisions.

Think about this: God never makes a bad decision. He never makes a mistake. He says if we trust Him and listen to Him, He will guide us. But we must ask in faith.
 
FRIDAY

God's family is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:15b (GW) 

"None of us can fulfill God’s purposes by ourselves."

You are called to belong, not just believe.

Even in the perfect, sinless environment of Eden, God said, "It is not good for man to be alone." (Genesis 2:18 NIV)

We are created for community, fashioned for fellowship, and formed for a family, and none of us can fulfill God's purposes by ourselves. The Bible knows nothing of solitary saints or spiritual hermits isolated from other believers and deprived of fellowship.

The Bible says we are put together, joined together, built together, members together, heirs together, fitted together, and held together and will be caught up together. (1 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 2:21, 22; 3:6; 4:16; Colossians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:17)

You're not on your own anymore!

While your relationship to Christ is personal, God never intends it to be private. In God's family you are connected to every other believer, and we will belong to each other for eternity. The Bible says, "In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Romans 12:5 NIV)

Following Christ includes belonging, not just believing. We are members of his Body—the church. C. S. Lewis noted that the word membership is of Christian origin, but the world has emptied it of its original meaning. Stores offer discounts to "members," and advertisers use member names to create mailing lists. In churches, membership is often reduced to simply adding your name to a roll, with no requirements or expectations.

To Paul, being a "member" of the church meant being a vital organ of a living body, an indispensable, interconnected part of the Body of Christ. We need to recover and practice the biblical meaning of membership. The church is a body, not a building; an organism, not an organization. (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 6:15; 12:12-27)

God's purposes for his church are identical to his five purposes for you. Worship helps you focus on God; fellowship helps you face life's problems; discipleship helps fortify your faith; ministry helps find your talents; power helps fulfill your mission. There is nothing else on earth like the church!

 

SATURDAY

 

Love your spiritual family. 1 Peter 2:17b (MSG)

 

"You discover your role in life though your relationships with others."

 

As I mentioned yesterday, the church is a body, not a building; an organism, not an organization.

For the organs of your body to fulfill their purpose, they must be connected to your body. The same is true for you as a part of Christ's Body. You were created for a specific role, but you will miss out on this if you're not attached to a living, local church. You discover your role in life though your relationships with others.

The Bible tells us, "Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we?" (Romans 12:4-5 MSG)

If an organ is somehow severed from its body, it will shrivel and die. It cannot exist on its own, and neither can you. Disconnected and cut off from the lifeblood of a local body, your spiritual life will wither and eventually cease to exist. (Ephesians 4:16)

This is why the first symptom of spiritual decline is usually inconsistent attendance at worship services and other gatherings of believers. Whenever we become careless about fellowship, everything else begins to slide, too.

The Bible says, "Love your spiritual family." (1 Peter 2:17b MSG)

Membership in the family of God is neither inconsequential nor something to be casually ignored. The church is God's agenda for the world. Jesus said, "I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it." (Matthew 16:18 NLT)


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Proverbs31Women: "Weekly Womens Study" Sunday thru Saturday (11-25_12-02) BIBLE TEACHINGS

 

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

SUNDAY

 

Hidden Potential

Tracie Miles 

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!" 
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Devotion:
Christ sees your value and hidden potential. Do you?

I was challenged by this thought recently after putting my son to bed.

Every night, I receive the same request when I tuck him in. He looks at me with big, blue eyes, pokes his bottom lip out for sentimental effect, and asks for a bedtime story. Last night was no exception. As usual, I skimmed the contents of his room. Searching for an item that might plant a story idea in my head, I noticed his gray sock monkey.

Instantly, my thoughts started weaving a tale about an old gray piece of cloth that lived on a shelf in a fabric store for many years. The story easily unfolded in my imagination as my little man sat wide-eyed, intently listening to the details.

When the story ended, I kissed my son goodnight and immediately felt a gentle whisper in my spirit reminding me of the truth held in today's key verse. "You were once just like that little, old piece of fabric, but God transformed you into a new creation, too."

You see, I started the bedtime story by explaining how this dull, gray piece of fabric would sit quietly on the shelf each day, desperately longing for someone to notice him. From his place on the dusty shelf, he had a bird's eye view of all the beautiful fabrics that held so much more potential.

He admired the fabrics of vibrant orange and pink polka dots that would one day be transformed into frilly toddler dresses; the fabrics with elegant stripes that would make fine draperies for beautiful homes; the fabrics with tassels and shimmering coins dangling from their edges; and the myriad of fun fabrics, adorned with colorful cartoon characters.

But he was just a boring old piece of gray fabric.

Nothing special. Nothing elegant. Nothing valuable. Old. Outdated. Worthless.

Certainly nothing worthy of being transformed into anything new and wonderful.

One spring day, a frail elderly woman wandered into the store. The gray piece of fabric could tell she was a seamstress by the wrinkled tape measure around her neck and the rusty thimble on her finger.

As she meandered around the store, continually brushing wisps of white hair from her face, she seemed to be searching for something special. Suddenly, her eyes fell upon the little piece of gray fabric tucked shyly away in the corner.

He dared to think that maybe, just maybe, she would see potential in him.

As the woman drew closer, his heart began to race. She gently picked him up and headed towards the cash register, adding buttons, fabric scraps, and thread to her hands along the way.

When the seamstress returned home, she diligently set about her task. Gradually she transformed the piece of old gray fabric into an adorable new sock monkey, to be loved and cherished by her grandchildren. He made a difference in the hearts of children for many generations.

The little piece of gray fabric, who thought he had no purpose, was transformed into something new in the hands of the seamstress. Although he felt worthless at one time, she looked beyond what he was; beyond his old life as a scrap of fabric. She saw him as something new, and helped him discover his value and hidden potential.

After telling my son this story, God gently reminded me how I once felt much like that old piece of gray fabric sitting on the shelf. Ashamed, overlooked, unimportant, and paling in comparison to others. I didn't see how anything about me or my past — any of the old stuff — could be valuable. I felt like a scrap of leftover material.

I believe God helped my imagination soar that night while sitting on the edge of my child's bed. He helped me remember that I have been transformed by Him, and although I spent most of life not seeing my hidden potential, He always had a plan and a purpose for me.

Just like that little piece of gray fabric, which was transformed from something old into something new, we are new creations in Christ.

Remember, Christ sees your value and hidden potential. And He wants to help you see it, too.

Dear Lord, help me remember that I became a new creation when I accepted You as my Savior, and that my value is in You and You alone. Thank You for Your promise of having a plan and a purpose just for me. Help me to embrace the plans You have for me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

 

Application Steps:
Ask God to help you understand your value in Him.

Reflections:
Would my life be different if I believed how valuable I am to God? If I believed that "the old has gone, the new is here"?

What hidden potential might God see in me?

Power Verses: 

Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (NIV)

Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (NIV)

 

MONDAY

 

Shocked by My Own Advice
Lysa TerKeurst 

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." 
Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

Devotion:
The choice is mine. If I want to be a sold out somebody for God, I have to break away from the everybody crowd.

Today's key verses are not easy for a girl who wanted nothing more growing up than to fit in. Don't cause waves. Don't stand out. Don't stand up. Don't rock the boat of norm in anyway. Just go with the flow in the same direction as everyone else.

But somewhere along my Christian journey, going with the flow started to bother me.

Verses like the one above in Matthew 7 and Romans 12:2, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind," started to mess with my status quo existence.

Conformed or transformed? The choice is mine. If I want to be a sold out somebody for God, I have to break away from the everybody crowd.

This is a message I shared with my son one day when he came to me scared. He admitted things had gone a little too far with his girlfriend and wanted help processing what to do. They hadn't crossed every line but enough that he knew they were headed in a dangerous direction.

We sat on the back deck and processed the situation together. We read a list of empowering Scripture verses seeking to filter every part of this situation through God's truth. In the end, he and his girlfriend came to the realization they needed to break up. It's really hard to put things in reverse after certain lines have been crossed.

I walked back into the house after that conversation with two things running through my brain. I was thrilled my son came to me to talk about such a sensitive issue. What an honor to breathe Truth into his physical struggle.

But, I was also feeling a little panicked at the realities of parenting older teenagers. And that feeling led me straight to the pantry, convinced I needed some chocolate. I deserved some chips! As I loaded my arms full of treats, I was suddenly struck by a gut wrenching question. How can I expect my son to apply Truth to his area of physical struggle but refuse to apply it to my area of physical struggle?

Ouch. I was shocked by my own advice.

If I wanted to model what it looks like to live out truth in my physical struggles, I would have to break up with unhealthy choices. God made me to consume food, but food was never supposed to consume me.

Making healthy choices with my food would have to be part of my breaking away. I would have to distance myself from my distraction if I wanted to become truly transformed.

What's your distraction? What's the one way you can start to break away from the everybody crowd?

The everybody crowd says, "if it feels good it is good." The everybody crowd says, "don't deny yourself... that's so old school." The everybody crowd says, "everybody's living it up – so should you."

Conformed or transformed? The choice is ours. If we want to be a sold out somebody for God, we have to break away from the everybody crowd.

Dear Lord, I want and need to live apart from the everybody crowd. Free me of my distractions. Remove my insecurities. Help me to follow You with my whole heart. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

 

Application Steps:
The choice is ours. If we want to be a sold out somebody for God, we have to break away from the everybody crowd. Look at your life and honestly determine if there is any area where you need to break away from the crowd.

Reflections:
Am I living as conformed or transformed?

Do I have any distractions right now that are keeping me from being a sold out somebody for God?

What is one way I can start to break away from the everybody crowd?

Power Verses:
Matthew 6:33, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (NIV) 

1 Peter 5:8, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (NIV)

 

 

 

TUESDAY

 

Drowning In or Drowning Out Distractions?
Karen Ehman 

"I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints — 
but let them not return to folly." Psalm 85:8 (NIV)

Devotion:
I am the lightest of sleepers. And being awakened at night by noises is often a disastrous recipe for exhaustion. That's why I love my white noise machine; a round, little electronic contraption that sits beside my bed. It's my nightly sanity-saver.

Before I obtained this clever contraption, I lost sleep due to a snoring spouse or midnight-snacking teenager. As a result, I was cranky and cantankerous; frazzled and fruitless. As a sleep-deprived soul, I became unproductive, easily distracted and down-right ineffective at life.

Thankfully, now my nocturnal helper ushers me quickly to la-la land (and allows me to stay there) with one of its many options: waves crashing, birds chirping, or a thunderstorm gently rolling in. The steady, constant stream of soothing sound magically drowns out any background distractions.

I have found the same to be true with our spiritual lives. If we want to focus on the importance of listening to God though prayer, Bible study and time simply sitting still before Him, we must drown out all distractions.

When our screaming schedules, messy houses, unpaid bills, or idle pastimes such as television or the Internet aren't intentionally blocked for a time, we will never reach the important stage of resting and receiving direction from God each day.

Jesus Himself was a master at drowning out distractions. A quick read through the New Testament will find Him often withdrawing to a lonely corner, getting up early to pray or locating a place of calm focus amidst a clanging throng of people.

Jesus purposed to find peace among the pandemonium.

Likewise in the Old Testament, the Psalmists often list peace, calm, and quiet as gifts given to those who earnestly seek the Lord and desire to walk in His ways.

Embedded in today's key verse is such a promise to us as well: peace to God's people. But the precursor to experiencing that peace is listening to what the Lord has to say. And for listening to occur, we have to be able to actually hear from God, focused and free from all that clamors for our attention.

So, just as I plug in my slumber device each night, we must also unplug for a time each day. Shut off the phone; the TV; the laptops and iPads. Ignore the dishes, the paperwork and the screaming schedules so we can drift off to a peaceful place where sweet Jesus is waiting — desiring for us to be still and listen long enough to actually hear Him speak to our hearts.

Drowning in so many daily distractions can keep us from hearing God's voice. Let's purpose together to drown out our distractions instead, and tune in to the life-giving Word. He is the only steady source from which we can ever find true and lasting peace.

Dear Lord, give me courage to unplug, determination to focus and patience to listen. I want to bask in Your peace and walk in Your ways. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

 

Application Steps:
Why do we as modern-day believers not value and practice alone, silent times?

On a scale of 1 to 10, when it comes to getting unplugged, alone and free from distractions, (1 being calm and focused; 10 being completely discombobulated and distracted) where do you fall?

1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Reflections:
What are the distractions, duties and dilemmas that most clamor for my attention in my life right now?

Which of these can I simply not eliminate from my life?

Are there any that I could eliminate (responsibilities I've taken on or trivial distractions and pastimes)? As I ask God to show me what can be eliminated, I'll make bold plans to resign from those activities that are keeping me from spending time with and hearing from Him.

Power Verses:
Psalm 46:10a "Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God." (Amplified)

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY

 

Meeting Henry
Holly Good, Assistant to Lysa TerKeurst

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." Philippians 2:3 (NIV)

Devotion:
He sat across the aisle from me, talking to himself. I had boarded a plane very early one morning in TX, after a weekend women's conference where I was serving with Lysa. I casually glanced over at him and thought, "Oh boy, this will be interesting." And I closed my eyes to settle in.

After several minutes, he realized he was in the wrong seat. He jumped up, grabbed his belongings and crossed the aisle to join me. And once again, I thought, "Oh boy, here we go."

I was a bit nervous to be honest. We exchanged pleasantries and I closed my eyes again, waiting for the plane to take off. He continued to mumble to himself as he looked out his window.

Several more minutes passed. I tried to fall asleep. And then finally, deep in my heart I felt compelled to talk to my seat mate, even though there was still a part of me that begged for my eyes to remain closed; shut off in my comfort zone.

"Tell me about yourself," I reluctantly smiled.

He told me his name was Henry. Then he started asking me just as many questions as I was asking him. With every answer I gave, he would kindly respond, "Well that sounds good."

I looked around somewhat apologetically as Henry continued to dialogue with me in a very loud tone.

It was then that I profoundly felt three words rush into my mind, "This is Me."

I stopped. I pondered. I swallowed. And I blinked.

"You, Lord?" I hesitantly questioned.

"This is Me," I gently but clearly sensed again. And then, "Look at Me."

I reflected for a moment and remembered, "'...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:40.

My perspective abruptly softened. I looked at Henry with inquisitive eyes as he chatted away. I examined every detail on his face. I noticed his scruffy beard and bushy eyebrows and I looked deep into his eyes, which he told me did not work very well.

Henry was traveling to attend his grandmother's funeral several states away. He was about to see his father, whom he hadn't had contact with in 25 years. As our conversation unfolded, I learned that Henry had been born with a birth defect called Poland Syndrome. He had a small left hand with fingers that didn't move and permanent paralysis in the upper left side of his body. He dropped out of high school several years earlier because students were not nice to him.

I listened with interest as we talked about his love of computers. I was captivated by his knowledge, and continued with a long list of questions. We happily shared my granola snack over an animated conversation as he talked and I listened.

All of my previous inhibitions had completely vanished.

The last words Henry spoke to me were, "People never talk to me like you have."

I blinked back tears as I helped him read his connecting boarding pass. I gently smiled goodbye. But my heart was sad as we got off the plane. You see, I knew how close I was to being like everyone else. So very close. And how many times in the past I was like everyone else.

I had ministered to women the entire weekend, but I was resistant to talk to the fragile soul right beside me, begging for attention.

Meeting Henry changed me that day.

Meeting Henry taught me to pray daily for eyes to see deeper, ears to listen more intently and a heart to humbly embrace new perspectives.

Open the eyes of my heart Lord. I want to see others the way You do. Because when I do, I learn.

And the more I learn, the more I am drawn closer to the One who created it all.

Who might be your Henry today?

Dear Lord, I want to know You more. Help me to see beyond my normal routine and humbly embrace those around me with a desire to learn. Please teach me Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

 

Application Steps:
Read the short but encouraging book of Philippians in the New Testament to discover the true joy that comes from knowing Jesus Christ.

Reflections:
How did this devotion challenge you personally?

How will it challenge you to consider your reactions to those around you?

Power Verses:
Philippians 2:5, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." (NIV)

James 4:14b, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (NIV)

Psalm 86:11, "Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." (NIV)

 

 

 

THURSDAY

 

What the Ravens Know
Marybeth Whalen

"He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call." Psalm 147:9 (NIV)

Devotion:
I watch as the bird perches aloft a swinging power line, oblivious to the current pulsing through his perch. He raises his beak and sings in the direction of the clouds above, his song more insistent than melodic.

Until I read today's verse I might've assumed that the raven was calling for his mate or trying to out sing the other birds. But with today's verse on my mind I wonder if he is not doing what all of God's creation inherently knows to do: call on their Creator for their needs.

Ravens are pretty plain as birds go. Missing the distinct markings of a bluebird or cardinal and the unique talents of the woodpecker or hummingbird, ravens strike me as being least likely to get God's attention. And yet, the Psalmist mentions this unremarkable bird in Psalm 147:9. He points out that when they call, God hears them and He provides for them.

Maybe today you are feeling unremarkable, forgotten, lacking anything special. You might be feeling plain, all black feathers in a forest full of bright plumage. Why would God answer your call? You have nothing to offer in return.

This verse assures us that God doesn't respond based on who we are or what we have to offer. He responds because we are His, plain and simple. He responds because it is in His nature to provide. Our call initiates His response. We must believe that with all our hearts and stand on that truth as we wait for that response.

I know that's easier said than done.

Perhaps you have been waiting a long time. Maybe you are feeling hopeless that your prayers will ever be answered. Or perhaps you are losing faith that He even hears.

I've been there, too. There have been times when I looked into tomorrow and saw blackness as dark as the feathers of a raven. Days when I read a verse like Psalm 147:9, and thought to myself, "Yeah, right. He might answer that bird, but He isn't answering me."

And in those times I've wondered what I needed to do to get God's attention. In John 6:28-29 the people ask Jesus what they must do to do the works God requires. They want to please God and they know Jesus holds the key as to how they can do just that. As they wait anxiously for His answer, I imagine they are expecting a laundry list of possibilities, bullet points they can jot down and refer to later.

Instead Jesus tells them that the work of God is simply to believe in the One He has sent. Jesus knew that believing is work. It is heart work. To believe in Jesus even when He seems far away or unresponsive is some of the hardest work we will have to do as we follow Him. But that is all what He asks us to do.

The ravens know that He always provides and they sing with confidence in that, no matter what their circumstances are. Oh how I want to do the same in my life. Will you join me today, singing, believing and standing on His promises as we persevere in song.

Dear Lord, today I am going to keep singing and trust that You will answer my call because I believe You love me and want the best for me. I am going to do the work that You require and trust Your provision. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

 

Application Steps:
Today when you start to worry about the situation you're in, remember the raven confidently singing to his Creator. Then do the same. You might want to turn on some praise music and actually sing or you might want to read some Psalms or journal your own unique "song" to God. Whatever you do, keep in mind the work that is behind believing God.

Reflections:
Why did Jesus describe believing as work? Have I found it hard to believe at times?

Power Verses:
Psalm 145:16, "You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." (NIV)

Psalm 90:14, "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." (NIV)

 

 

 

FRIDAY

 

 

Craving Connection
Renee Swope

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)

Devotion:
Do you ever catch yourself checking email repeatedly? One morning I checked my email as soon as I woke up. Then I made breakfast and checked it again. Had my devotional time and checked it again. Ran some errands and when I got home, checked it once more.

Now, I admit I have a thing about keeping white space in my inbox, but this was about more than managing emails.

I was going back for a reason. I sensed the Holy Spirit nudging me to pause and ask myself, "Why do you keep checking your email?"

I sat there and let my heart respond honestly. I wasn't sure if it was God or me answering, but my thoughts intertwined with His Spirit whispered: You keep coming back because your heart longs for connection with a friend.

Yet no matter how many times I checked email, it was never enough to satisfy my craving.

Somewhere in the busyness of life I had let many of my friendships reduce to quick connections via email. Over the past year my schedule had gotten so full with kids, school projects, family needs, investing time in my marriage, and new responsibilities at work that something had to give.

I didn't want it to be my family, so I asked God to help me find balance.

I had sensed Him leading me to cut back on the amount of time I spent talking on the phone, socializing with neighbors and hanging out with friends. Although I hadn't completely cut out my friendships, my face-to-face connection time with friends had been reduced to a minimum.

That morning as I sat at my computer, I realized I had not found balance. The pendulum had swung too far. Here I was checking email repeatedly, trying to fill a God-created need for relationships with a white screen and black alphabet keys.

My heart was craving more. God had revealed the source of my incessant email checking and shown me that I needed to fill the lonely place in my spirit with friends I could talk to and share life with — in person.

That day I called one of my closest friends. She happened to be available so I turned off my computer and took a break from work to spontaneously meet her at a coffee shop.

It was just what I needed: face-to-face, heart-to-heart, eye-to-eye connection and conversation.

I know friendships are not easy to build. They take time. And time is limited with lives that keep us so busy. But in this age of technology, it's important to evaluate things in our lives that create a false sense of connection like email, television, text messaging and overboard activities.

Although these things are okay in moderation, they can't substitute real-life relationships.

So what about long-distance and internet friendships? Aren't they important, too? Yes, they are. But God created us for relationships where we can see each other, hug each other and talk to each other face-to-face.

We need to pull away from our computers and televisions to intentionally carve out time for friends that are in close proximity. Times where we can meet face-to-face to share what's going on in our lives. Today's key verse instructs us not to give up meeting together to worship and encourage one another. As we see here and throughout the Bible "meeting together" is important to God.

Jesus needed face-to-face connections, too. So He surrounded Himself with intimate friends — first His Father, then His close friends John, Peter and James and then the other nine disciples.

He also had friends like Mary, Martha and Lazarus. People He spent time with sharing meals and having conversations about spiritual truths that applied to their everyday lives. Through His example we see how important it is to satisfy our craving for connections by spending face-to-face time with friends.

So, who will you connect with face-to-face this week?

Dear Lord, You created me with a need for friends. Yet, I find myself rushing through my days with little time for heart-to-heart connections. Help me to seek You first as my ultimate Friend, and then reach out to others so I can have and be a close friend. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

 

Application Steps:
Make a list of one or two friends you enjoy being with. Call them on the phone to encourage them and set up a time to get together.

If you're not sure who to call, ask God to show you someone you can begin a friendship with. Invite them to join you for lunch or to go for a walk together this week.

Reflections:
How often do I check email or my Facebook page? Do I crave connection?

What are some steps I can take this week to develop a new friendship or strengthen an old one?

Power Verses:
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" (NIV)

"I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." John 15:15b (NIV)

 

 

SATURDAY

 

The Unsaved Christian
Lysa TerKeurst

"These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." Matthew 15:8-9 (NIV)

Devotion:
God wants us to have a relationship with Him. But what does this really mean?

Recently, I met a woman about my age at a conference where I was speaking. I don't know many details about her life but I do know she's been going to church for a long time.

And she's been serving, giving, and doing all the right church stuff.

But, something was missing.

"I never could quite put my finger on it until I heard your message," she whispered. "I never knew what it really meant to have a relationship with Jesus. But hearing you explain it, something clicked. I walked forward today. I gave my heart to Jesus."

I wondered: what part of what I shared made this profound click happen in her soul?

Of course, it was the Holy Spirit moving... but somehow in the midst of me sharing the broken places of my life, things came together in hers.

It got me thinking about us doing life together here through this daily devotion. Each day we spend a few minutes together over the internet learning how to navigate life as Jesus girls. But all that we talk about is for nothing if our hearts stay far from Jesus.

It's not about momentary motivation to make it through today.

It's not about spiffy quotes to ponder and put into practice.

It's not about relationship tactics and turnkey solutions.

It's not about bite-size pieces of peace to make life a little more manageable.

It's not about making our lives look and feel a little better.

It has to be about Jesus. And drawing our hearts into His reality. His grace. His love. His hope. His forgiveness. And most of all the free gift of salvation because of Him.

Have you ever felt like this woman who couldn't put her finger on what was missing? Have you ever felt like you bounce from one religious activity to the next, but your heart feels far from God? Sweet sister, can we chat?

God doesn't want us to have a religion. A religion is where we follow rules hoping to do life right, and serve God out of duty because we think we have to.

God wants us to have a relationship. A relationship where we follow Him. And we serve God not out of duty but out of delight because of the realization of who we are in Him.

For years, I went to church to get a little "God goodness" in my life. But it was like putting fresh paint on rotting wood. I was living just like those talked about in Isaiah 29:13, "The Lord says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.'"

I realized I didn't need to be just following the rules; I needed to be following God Himself.

I didn't need a little "God goodness" to rub off on me... I needed God to invade the deepest parts in me.

So, I knelt down in the midst of my messy, chaotic, confused life... and started a relationship with Him by simply saying yes.

Yes, I am a sinner in need of a Savior.

Yes, I acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God, sent to die on a cross and be resurrected on the third day to save me from my sins.

Yes, I want Jesus to be the Lord and Master of my life.

Yes, I am now and forever will be a forgiven and saved child of the Almighty God.

Yes, I will follow Jesus today, tomorrow, and every other day I'm blessed with on this earth.

Oh sister, let me quiet the voice of Satan screaming to resist this process. He wants to trip you up by whispering how you won't be able to live this out perfectly. Jesus has never ever asked for us to be perfect. He simply wants us perfectly surrendered. I often pray, "Oh Jesus... I am such a mess, but I am Yours. Show me... help me... forgive me... reassure me... and pour Your tender mercy upon me."

And He does.

And He always will.

My imperfections are safely tucked within the reality of His perfection.

And I simply press on by continuing to say YES moment by imperfect moment... day by imperfect day.

Dear Lord, I am such a mess, but I am Yours. Show me... help me... forgive me... reassure me... and pour Your tender mercy upon me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

 

Application Steps:
In this devotion I stated "So, I knelt down in the midst of my messy, chaotic, confused life... and started a relationship with Him by simply saying yes." Think of simple ways you can say yes to God today. How would that look? Would that change the way you are living your life?

Reflections:
God wants us to have a relationship. A relationship where we follow Him. And we serve God not out of duty but out of delight because of the realization of who we are in Him. What does this look like? How can I serve Him today with a pure heart?

Power Verses:
Psalm 53:2, "God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God." (NIV)

Mark 7:8, "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." (NIV)

 

 

 

Proverb 31 Women

http://worddevomorningsproverbs31women.blogspot.com/


WORDDEVO: "The Weekly Word with Calvary Chapel Blogs" [11-25 thru 12-02] Devotional

Seven Days of Devotion

The Weekly Word is a Collection of Devotionals to be read on the Day Listed and presented freely as a service to and for the Body of Christ and Believers throughout the World that We may Hear God Speak to us as the Spirit of God gives us ears to hear and eyes to see what God would have for us daily in relationship to Him. 

 

Contributed by Calvary Chapel Magazine

He Lived in God's Grace 

Story by Debra Smith 

Part 1: 

As attendees exited the room after a Bible study session at a family camp in California, Brad Lambert reclined on the small carpeted stage. He stared at the ceiling, tears of deep humiliation trickling toward his ears. After recently becoming an assistant pastor, Brad had just “preached”—sort of. At 10 the previous night, he had been issued a surprise request to teach in the morning. Terrified at the thought of speaking extemporaneously, he had stayed up until 3:30 a.m. preparing. When he stood up to teach the next morning, Brad recounted, “I couldn’t think. I couldn’t even read my own notes. And the verses I knew in my sleep, I couldn’t remember.” He endured 20 minutes of agony before sitting down after declaring, “I’m sorry, but I need to conclude this message now.”

Brad lay back, seeking invisibility. Please, God, don’t ever let me teach again, he silently prayed. “As I lay there in despair,” Brad described, “suddenly Bob came up and read, 'For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh'" (2 Corinthians 4:11).

Brad reflected, “He wasn’t afraid to approach me, even as I was ‘lying in a pool of blood’ emotionally. That was Bob: He would find the hurting person and somehow counsel them back to life.” During subsequent years as both served at Calvary Chapel Vista, CA, and its CC Bible College, the two became close friends. Bob impacted Brad deeply, especially Bob’s emphases on the believer’s sufficiency in Christ and on God’s grace. “Bob constantly talked about the great contrast between the death and insufficiency we have in ourselves and the life and sufficiency we have in Christ,” Brad testified. “And the grace of God—for living. Those words pound in my head, in my heart, as I remember Bob. God gives us grace, not only for salvation, but for living. God doesn’t stop with saving us; He empowers us to live a life pleasing to Him. When I understood that, everything changed. I was transformed. It was like I’d been born again—again.”

In December 2011, Pastor Bob Hoekstra passed away at age 71. Founder and director of Living in Christ Ministries (LICM), Bob’s life in ministry included 14 years as senior pastor of Calvary Bible Church in Dallas, TX; 11 years as senior pastor of CC Irvine, CA; and 10 years as director of International Prison Ministry, which was founded by his father, Chaplain Ray Hoekstra. Bob and his wife, Dini, raised three children. His last few decades involved teaching at churches, Bible colleges, and conferences worldwide on topics including biblical counseling, growing in grace, and contending for the faith.

 

  MONDAY

 

Powerfully Proclaiming Christ 

by Debra Smith 

Him we preach [Christ in you, the hope of glory], warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. Colossians 1:28

“The purpose of LICM could be stated most concisely as a ministry of ‘Proclaiming Christ to Christians,’” wrote Bob on LICM’s website. “In order to grow in maturity, wholeness, fruitfulness, and Christ-likeness, we must be feeding on the truth from God’s Word about the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Bob’s oldest son Dean recalled, “Giving Christ to unbelievers was not enough for Dad. His vision was to give Christ to believers as well; discipleship was his passion. For what does our Lord tell us in the Great Commission, but to go ‘and make disciples’ [Matthew 28:19b]? How easily we fall into the trap of believing that the Great Commission is about making a decision for Christ. It is not; it is about making daily decisions for Christ. Do we take a young recruit who decides to be a soldier and kick him out the door? No. We know that a battle awaits, and the temptations are strong.” Even stronger are the sinful human tendencies to exalt self over God, Dean contended. Bob’s mission was to proclaim Christ in order that believers in Jesus might die to self and grow into His likeness.

“Bob proclaimed Jesus in deed, not word only,” said Jodi Possenti, who met Bob while she was studying and he teaching at CC Vista’s Bible College. “He was so much like Jesus. When I met him in the early 1990s, he was so gracious, gentle, and patient that I thought, Can this guy be like this all the time?” Through circumstances that Jodi saw as divinely arranged, she joined LICM staff in 2006. “By serving alongside Bob daily,” Jodi remarked, “I saw that his Christlike character was indeed unwavering. It was obvious that he spent much time with the Lord; he was permeated with Jesus.” Before working at LICM, she continued, “I was kind of anxious, not really at peace within. But Bob’s example was life-changing for me. I now have peace in Christ as a result of being discipled in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. I was taught to embrace ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27).”

 

 

TUESDAY

 

Ripples of Grace 

by Debra Smith 

Associate Pastor Brian Brodersen of CC Costa Mesa, CA, whose close friendship with Bob lasted decades as both held various ministry roles, said, “The greatest way Bob showed me his friendship was by praying for me. James 5:16b says, ‘The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.’ Bob was that righteous man. His prayers and counsel gave me confidence regarding huge decisions, including our family’s move to England to plant a church. He was honest and didn’t flatter yet always spoke gently in love. … His tremendous ability to take younger guys under his wing made him a father figure to many. At pastors’ conferences he was sought out for wise counsel; he was a pastors’ pastor.”

LICM staff member Shahn Flood recalled, “Bob spoke very little of his pre-Christ days. When he did, he would call himself a ‘scoundrel,’ referring to the spiritual bankruptcy of a life apart from Christ. Then he would quickly follow with a triumphant, ‘But God … !’ That was one of his favorite phrases; it embodied the transforming grace of God that he loved so much.” When Shahn joined the LICM staff in 2002, he continued, “I was very shy. The first time Bob asked me to teach the Bible, I was terrified, very aware of my inadequacy. But he encouraged me and provided counsel and prayer throughout, pointing to God’s sufficiency.” Sharing that ministry opportunity was one small example, Shahn said, of how Bob encouraged others to walk in the sufficient grace of Christ that he so vigorously preached.

Grace Amidst Suffering 

Bob lived his last two years with severe abdominal pain, which mystified the many specialists he visited in a fruitless search for a diagnosis. During Bob’s hospitalizations, family members observed him witness to medical personnel countless times. Bob’s son Matthew recalls him praying, “Oh Lord, please don’t let me waste my words,” before sharing Christ with a nurse through intense pain. Matthew reflected, “I don’t think he ever complained once. There are not many people who can receive pain from the hand of God and turn around and worship Him. But he did. He wanted it all to be about glorifying the Lord.”

Dini and the Hoekstras’ daughter and son-in-law, Heidi and Joe Ceballos, now oversee LICM and International Prison Ministry. The ministries continue to distribute Bible teaching materials to the body of Christ, including prisoners in the U.S. and abroad.

 

 

 
 

 

WEDNESDAY

Love The Whole Church p1

Kellen Criswell

 

[This is part 1 in a three part series]

In case you haven’t read your Bible lately, Jesus is absolutely crazy about His church!  The Bible describes us as “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”[1]  I only pay high prices for things that are really important to me.  How valuable do think Jesus’ people must be to Him that He would pay for their lives by giving His own? 

The truth is Jesus doesn’t just love His people; He wants them to share His love with each other.  Jesus was clear on this when He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”[2]  I believe that if we would love the church as we should we need to have a broad biblical understanding of the church.  This post begins a three part series on the church.  And my goal in the series is to remind us about three important ways we need to understand the church, in hopes of provoking a fresh outpouring of love toward the church from all Jesus’ people who read it.      

The first aspect of the church we will consider is the universal church.  The universal church consists of all individual followers of the biblical Jesus who have been born-again through faith in the biblical gospel.[3]  For those who don’t know, the term gospel means good news.  When used in the biblical sense, it refers to the good news about what God has done for all people so they can be restored to a relationship of peace and acceptance with Him.[4] 

The Bible tells us that God created humans to know Him and be known by Him.[5]  But our first human parents disobeyed the loving restrictions God placed upon them to protect their relationship with Him.  Through that act of disobedience they became spiritual criminals.  We know that law-breakers in society deserve to face the consequences of breaking the law.  In the economy of God it’s no different.  And sinning against the only holy God of the universe brings with it the highest consequence imaginable—the death penalty.[6]  As a result of their sin, our first human parents began to experience death in all its forms—relationally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.[7]    

All of us have followed in the footsteps of our first human parents in rebellion against God, and are subject to the same consequences.  We are sinners (those who miss the mark of inherent and behavioral righteousness God desires us to hit) by nature and choice, and experience death in all ways possible.[8] 

But there’s good news!  The good news is that God came to earth as the man Jesus Christ on a great rescue mission of love two-thousand years ago.[9]  He lived a life of perfect obedience to the divine law.  He never once had a sinful thought, engaged in sinful behavior, or sinful fantasy.[10]  He died the criminal’s death we deserve to die on a cross, in our place, for our sins.  He rose from death, conquering Satan, sin, demons, death, and hell for all.[11] 

When a person understands their guilt and need of God’s forgiveness and trusts in what Jesus did on their behalf, God saves them.[12] Their spiritual crimes—past, present, and future—are forgiven.  The perfect life Jesus lived in their place is credited to their spiritual bank account.[13]  The Holy Spirit comes to live in them and He brings them to spiritual life for the first time.  As Paul said, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”[14]   

Every time a person believes the gospel and becomes born-again, the universal church grows a little bit more.  In spite of what denomination, movement, local church, or culture they may come to associate with, they are part of God’s forgiven people, His church. 

Many times I’m so consumed in the things going on in my own heart, family, and church that I don’t give much thought to Christ’s people in other lands and cultures.  Maybe that’s true of you as well.  What would it look like for us to demonstrate love for the universal church right now, today? Christ cares that we love one another and express a spirit of unity with all His people.  This was His prayer:            “I pray  . . . for those who will believe in Me . . .  that they all may be One . . . .”[15]

May the lives we live clearly declare our “faith in the Lord Jesus and . . . love for all the saints.”[16] 

 


[1] Acts 20:28 NKJV

[2] John 15:12 NKJV

[3] Hebrews 12:22-24

[4] Romans 5:1-3

[5] Colossians 1:16

[6] Romans 6:23

[7] Genesis 3; Ephesians 2

[8] Romans 5:12

[9] John 1:1-3; 14; 17-18

[10] Hebrews 4:15

[11] 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

[12] Ephesians 2:8-9

[13] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[14] 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

[15] John 17:21-22 NKJV. Paraphrase.

[16] Ephesians 1:15 NKJV. Emphasis Added

 

 

 

THURSDAY

Receiving One Another

Brian Brodersen

 

 

In the seventh verse of the fifteenth chapter of Romans, Paul says, “Receive [or accept or welcome] one another … to the glory of God.” Christian unity glorifies God! Remember the prayer of Jesus in John 17:20–21? “I pray … for those who will believe in Me … that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent me.”

Since Christian unity glorifies God, and Christian unity testifies to the truth of the gospel, Satan is always looking to cause division; and Christians seem to go along with his efforts more often than not. My church is better than your church; my denomination is better than your denomination; my pastor is better than your pastor; my Bible version is better than your Bible version; our doctrine is purer than your doctrine, etc. These are sadly the sentiments of many believers toward their fellow Christians. The long history of the church has been filled with infighting and division, mostly over non-essential doctrinal issues and varying methodologies of ministry.

There have been divisions over baptizing methods; those who believe in dunking can have no fellowship with those who sprinkle. There have been divisions over methods of evangelism. Some say that giving an invitation to come forward is manipulation and gives a false sense of hope to people who might not really be saved; therefore, we cannot work with those who give that type of invitation. Some say the “sinner’s prayer” isn’t found in the Bible, so it’s wrong to lead people in that prayer, and we will not participate in such a thing. Some say that a particular evangelist doesn’t really preach the gospel because he doesn’t emphasize sin enough, so we won’t support his outreaches. There seems to be no end to the things that we Christians can come up with over which to divide. Then there are the hot topics like speaking in tongues, the rapture of the church, God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, and on it goes, with believers dividing against one another depending on one’s view of these non-essential issues.

There are also opinions about ministry methods that often divide Christian leaders. We warn people from our pulpits to beware of this or that church down the street, creating suspicion in people’s minds about the legitimacy of a particular ministry and teaching them to be suspect of Christians who don’t do things the way we do at our church. This is reality, it’s tragic, and it’s wrong. We are judging God’s servants, yet we justify it by claiming that we are being discerning. How do I know this is happening? Because I have been guilty of it on numerous occasions in the past and have had to repent of it, as the Lord has not only convicted me but also proven me wrong in my evaluation many times over. How did that happen, you might ask? Well, I started meeting good, godly, solidly converted people who got saved and were members of some of those congregations. Whoops. Sorry, Lord, for dissing Your people!

Now, I’m not one of those who is crying for unity at all costs, nor am I minimizing the importance of sound doctrine or suggesting that we seek unity at the expense of truth. But what I am saying is that too many times we are overemphasizing minor, non-essential doctrinal issues rather than looking to come together with other brothers and sisters around the major and essential doctrines of the faith.

When evaluating other ministries and church leaders, we should not be questioning whether they are Baptist or Pentecostal or Presbyterian or Anglican or Charismatic or Methodist or Calvary Chapel or Purpose-Driven or Seeker Sensitive or whatever other network or category there might be.

Here are the issues we should be concerned about: Do they believe in One God who is Triune in nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Do they believe that God the Son was born of a virgin and took upon Himself human nature for the primary purpose of dying in the place of sinners, that He did die in our stead and through that death provided our redemption, that He then bodily rose again from the dead the third day? Do they believe that He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father and He will come again in glory to establish God’s everlasting kingdom? Do they teach that no one can be saved apart from personal faith in Him, that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, eternal Word of God, without error in all that it teaches and the final authority for faith and practice among Christians? Anyone who believes these things is your brother or sister and a member of God’s family and beloved by the Father, regardless of whatever other banner he or she might rally under. So to criticize, judge, and slander them is to grieve the Holy Spirit, promote division (which God hates, see Proverbs 6:19), and detract from the witness of the church. This kind of behavior blinds people to the love of God and the power of the gospel.

 

Will we ever get beyond this? Let’s hope so. We cannot change the past, but we can determine to have a different future, and it begins with taking the Word of God to heart and no longer judging one another. For after all, “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).

 


 

  FRIDAY

 When to Make Peace With God

Bob Coy

Sixty years from today, you probably won't be here. 30 years from today – in the time it takes to pay off a mortgage – you're dead! You can refinance your house, but you can't refinance your life.

I recently read a story in the paper about a high school boy - a basketball player - who just lost his dad. He died in his sleep (he was only a year older than I am). Now this teenager is without a father. Out of habit, he'll look up into the stands to look for Dad and someone he probably doesn't know will be sitting in his dad’s seat. It makes me lie awake at night and wonder: when is MY last day?

Now 

Statistics are sobering. Ten out of ten people die. It would be wise to make peace with God right now. It's not a given that you’ll get Heaven. Many people think it's as if God has a big scale where he weighs your good deeds against your bad. If your good deeds outweigh the bad, then Heaven is your reward. If not… well, you still think God should let you in.

But the Bible doesn’t teach that. It says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” [John 3:36 NKJV]. The Book that gives us Heaven also gives us Hell.

People would love it if I only talked about Heaven and Grace. But I teach the Word of God - the whole counsel of God. I have an obligation to teach from Genesis to Revelation. If I teach Grace, I have to teach Judgment. If I teach Heaven, I have to teach Hell. I don't get a personal prerogative. I must teach the truth.

When is the right time to make peace with God? Right now. Today!

Honestly 

How should you make peace with God? Honestly. Be honest with God. Some people approach God deceitfully because they only want to escape Hell. Don’t try coming to God with your old bag of sins hidden behind your back. He knows that you don’t want a real relationship with Him. God knows the secrets of your heart. When you come to God with secrets, you'll run to your sins rather than to Him when the trials of life come your way. 

How do we pave the way for or more honest relationship with God? Drop the bag and come to God for the right reasons. God knows that the sins in your bag will kill you. He's asking you to hand over the sins you love because they're poison. Be honest with Him and ask for His help. You'll find that He has all the power necessary. But you need to come honestly.

Faith 

Why should we make peace with God? It's a matter of faith. Your faith is reward-able.  Faith is the result of an honest, transparent relationship with God.  It is by faith that you can live the abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10. But a warning precedes the promise: The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.

Your enemy is at work to destroy your faith by causing you to focus on what you see rather than God who can’t be seen. Satan knows that when you shift from faith to sight, you won't talk to God. You depend on you for what you need rather than God.

The only way to prove authentic, genuine love for God is through faith.

Here 

Where do you make peace with God? Make peace with God right here. One day of serving God is better than a thousand days doing anything, anywhere else. When you do that, God gifts you a place in His Kingdom all the way into eternity. Today is the day of salvation.

God doesn't just gift us heaven for a time that’s there and then, though. The Kingdom of Heaven is for here and now. Don't put it off. Make peace with God now, honestly, by faith, right here.

 

SATURDAY

The Cross of Christ

Brian Brodersen

 

In eternity past God the Son made the decision to save sinners by dying in their place. He also chose the means by which He would die. He chose death by crucifixion! Death by crucifixion is arguably the most painful, most shameful form of execution ever devised by man.

Why then did Jesus choose the cross?

Two reasons come to mind. One, Jesus’ death on the cross displayed most clearly God’s abhorrence of sin and the punishment that sin merits. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross was the most vivid display in all of history of the wrath of a holy God against sin. On the cross, Jesus was being numbered with the transgressors and bearing in His own body and soul the punishment sin deserves. The cross testifies to the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the absolute holiness of God.

Two, in the cross Jesus was identifying fully with a suffering humanity. Man has suffered immensely throughout history: disease, disaster, injustice, cruelty, torture, heartbreak, death—history is a long tale of suffering and woe. In His love, Jesus chose to experience the full impact of what sin had done to the human race. The cross testifies to the immeasurable compassion of the Son of God for suffering sinners!

This is a special week where we as the people of God take time to reflect on the great love of the Father—a love that was demonstrated in Him giving up His only Son to die in our stead. As we meditate and reflect on the cross over these next few days, may the Holy Spirit move us to a greater love, appreciation, and adoration of our Savior who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross.

Come and see

Look on this mystery

Lord of the universe

Nailed to a tree

 

Christ our God

Spilling His holy blood

Bowing in anguish

His sacred head

 

Sing to Jesus

Lord of our shame

Lord of our sinful hearts

He is our great Redeemer

 

Sing to Jesus

Honor His name

Sing of His faithfulness

Pouring His life out unto death

 

Sing to Jesus

His is the throne

Now and forever

He is the King of heaven

 

Sing to Jesus

We are His own

Now and forever

Sing for the love our God has shown

 

(“Sing to Jesus”; Studio Series, Fernando Ortega)

 

 

 

 THE WEEKLY WORD WITH CALVARY CHAPEL BLOGS

Can be found here

http://theweeklywordcalvarychapel.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

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