Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1
Kurt hid behind the dumpster. His nose rebelled against the overpowering odors leaking over the side of the bin. He couldn’t risk getting caught, not now, not when he’d just met the woman he planned to marry one day. His thoughts bounced from remorse for the things he’d done to jubilation over his feelings for this woman. He could hear footsteps enter the passageway.
“Kurt, you in there? No use hiding. We’ll find you one way or the other.” The rough voice crackled with evil intent.
That voice and his heavy footsteps came closer. The monstrosity Blake called his lieutenant seemed to be on the other side of the garbage bin now. Kurt shivered. If that man caught him, it would be the end of life as he knew it.
Kurt cautiously peeked around the corner. A piece of rust flaked off the bin and lodged itself in his eye. He blinked. Tears blurred his vision making the large man leaning on the other corner appear all the more intimidating. Kurt felt bile rise in his throat. He’d never felt this much fear before.
“Bliss, forget him.” Another man hollered down the alleyway. “His gambling debt’s been paid. The boss says to let him go.”
Kurt watched as Bliss turned toward the voice. “Aw, come on. Can’t I hit him a little?” He pounded one massive fist into the palm of his other hand. His hands looked to Kurt as they were the same size as Kurt’s head.
The distant voice appeared to shout from the street now. “Naw. Boss says to let ‘im go. He may be of some use to us one day.”
Bliss walked away from the dumpster. He followed the other man toward the street all the while cursing his bad luck. He seemed to really enjoy hurting people.
Kurt sighed in relief. He sank onto the wet pavement at his feet. His knees were shaking and he felt sure he was going to be sick. “That was close,” he muttered. “I wonder who paid the money.” Then he began to think about the consequences of someone paying his gambling debt. “Why would they do that?”
Christ did that for us. He paid the debt we owe a just and loving God and there is no way we can ever repay Him. We deserve the anger that God has for the sin in our lives but because Christ covered our sins with His body, we are free from God’s wrath. This is a free gift to us, one that we only have to accept even when we don’t fully comprehend the enormity of what Christ endured.
Kurt does not know the truth about Christ yet but have you accepted this free gift? Do you know other people who need to know how much God loves them? Keep in mind that acceptance requires repentance, an admission from the heart that what we have done is wrong. We then turn away from the sinful lifestyle we engaged in and walk step by step in freedom from sin’s bondage with Christ.
Father, thank You for a love so outstanding I am not able to fully understand. I accept that love gift and want nothing more than to live my life pleasing You and sharing my faith with those who still don’t know about your love for them. AMEN.
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Mark 8:36-37
Samuel walked along the darkened hallway of the university. He’d made it. He had earned his BA. The four long years of struggling to understand the vast amount of knowledge his teachers pumped into his head had paid off. He couldn’t wait to get home, sleep in his old bed, and begin looking for a job.
His parents raised him to believe in God. They’d taken him to church every Sunday and practiced what the preacher said. He’d left for college believing that God was real, that his parents were right, and that he’d always have that belief. Not so. He learned during the past four years that his parents were wrong. Not their fault, of course. They were just uneducated and fell under the spell of Pastor Davies.
Samuel raced towards his truck parked in a lot adjacent to his dorm room. He threw the last of his belongings into the bed of the truck and got into the driver’s side. “It’ll be interesting when I try to tell the folks that their beliefs are a bunch of bunk.” Samuel started the engine and headed toward his home town, a few hundred miles to the east.
Samuel had gained the world’s view about God and lost his soul. He would not be successful in trying to convince his parents he was right. In fact they would mourn his loss as if he’d lost his life.
Too many young people leave for school to gain a higher education. In the process they lose the only education worth attaining, their walk with God. They may have gone to church every Sunday, as Samuel did. They may even have taught in Sunday School, gone on retreat weekends with the youth group, or attended conferences where they had their faith buoyed up for the next school year. Yet, when they head off for a college whose atheistic belief system overpowers any attempt at campus ministry, they lose their faith.
Do you seek the world? Do you strive to attain a higher education and are you in awe of those who seem to know more than you do? The one textbook that never changes, no matter what, is the Bible itself. There’s nothing wrong with more education providing you keep your priorities straight and make God #1 in your life. Don’t let those who hold a skewed belief system try to tell you what to believe. Seek God’s truth in the only book that holds it…the Bible.
Father God, I long to seek your truth, no matter where I go. Help me balance my time at school or at work with time for You so I can keep my perspective straight. AMEN.
And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. Daniel 6:23b
“Danny boy. What’s this I hear about you talking to the cops?” Drake folded his huge, tattooed arms over his chest. “The boys tell me you ratted us out. That true?”
“No. I spoke to my brother-in-law, who happens to be a cop but that’s all. What du ya take me for?” Danny began to pray inside. He was a new believer but his confidence in his Lord was strong. He also knew what happened to any of the gang members who talked about the club to anyone, let alone the cops.
Drake’s eyes narrowed to slits. He squinted toward the man who’d informed him of Danny’s duplicity. “Bear tells me you talked. You callin’ him a liar.”
Danny sighed. No matter what he said, he’d be in a fight, maybe to the death. “I told you. I talked to Jenna’s brother but not about anything that goes on here. We’re family. I have to talk to him when he visits, don’t I?”
“Let’s settle this the way the Indians used to.” Drake scowled. “You two fight. The one left breathing is the one who is telling the truth.”
Gang members began to assemble, surrounding the two who would fight to the finish. Danny prayed all the harder. He knew he was telling the truth but Bear was named because of his size. He was a lot heftier than Danny. Bear took a swing, missed, and then scrunched up his fist for another attempt to knock his opponent off his feet. Danny side-stepped quickly and Bear swung again. Again he missed.
Two hours later, Danny was still standing, Bear was exhausted, and gang members had dissipated, bored at the outcome. Drake decided to let the matter drop until they could check out Danny’s story and he ordered the fight to end. God had brought Danny through the fire, with little more than a few scratches to his neck and face.
God delivers us one of three ways when we are faced with a storm in our lives. He either delivers us from the storm, through the storm, or by the storm. If Danny had lost the fight and died, He knew that he would be in God’s presence that very day. So God would have delivered him to his heavenly home by the storm he faced.
Do you face a storm in your life? Are you confident that God will deliver you? Daniel was thrown into a fiery furnace, and then into a lion’s den with hungry, fearsome animals that could lick the skin right off a man. God delivered him through both those storms and he will deliver you. Just seek Him before you try to fix the mess yourself.
Father, I do want Your deliverance in my life, whatever form that takes. I will trust that You will deliver me from, through or by the storm and that whatever means You choose will be the best for me. AMEN.
I said, “Oh that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” Psalm 55:6
“Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away.” Dixie sang the words silently. The tubes running down her throat made talking and singing impossible but her heart soared anyhow. It wouldn’t be long now. God would let her fly through the gates of heaven and she’d see Him face to face.
“To a Home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away.” She closed her eyes. God was watching, she knew. His timing was perfect. The machines by her bedside whirred and whistled, beeped and blinked, giving her some measure of relief from the pain but it never was gone all together. Her entire family would be with her tonight and she could hardly wait. Over the last few weeks they’d taken turns being there by her bed but tonight, they’d all come at once.
“When I die, hallelujah, by and by, I’ll fly away.” Dixie knew that her Savior was waiting to take her home. She had that assurance and had read about His love and the home He’d prepared for her for a long time now. She’d taught her children about this home in heaven and they knew where’d she’d be as soon as she closed her eyes for the last time.
Dixie had a peace the nurses found incomprehensible. Another patient, in the next room, moaned, complained and griped about the care, or according to her, lack of care she received. She was miserable and her family didn’t want to be with her at all. In fact they came as seldom as they could. That woman feared her passage into the unknown. Even though she believed death meant the end of her, she really wondered about eternity, if there was such a thing, and she was scared.
Do you long for your eternal home or are you fearful of the day when you’ll breathe your last? Do you look forward to flying, to looking into the very face of God or do you fear it? Christians can know where they will be the minute after they take their last breath. They have the assurances from the Word of God.
Lord, I have never asked you into my heart and I do fear what will become of me when I die. Please come into my heart and give me peace about Your eternal home. AMEN.
As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. Luke 10:38-39
Georgia finished setting up her tent, inflated her air mattress, and then set the cooler of cold drinks beside her chair outside the tent. She popped the tab on a diet coke and waited. She knew she might have the chance to talk with the leader of the group and she wanted to be ready.
Georgia was part of a motorcycle gang. She cooked, cleaned, and did whatever the men asked her to do. She was not allowed to speak until spoken to and was never allowed to approach one of the men on her own. Her man had to be with her. Today, she’d caught the eye of the leader. If he was interested in her, she’d move into his tent and the rest of the gang would show her more respect. She hoped.
In contrast, God, the Almighty Creator of the Universe, allows us to sit at His feet any time we want to. We don’t have to go through channels, wait for Him to notice us, or beg for an audience. He’s there as soon as we seek Him. God created us to need His presence, to bask in His love as often as we can.
In the above verses, Jesus told Martha not to worry about the little things. He said that Mary had chosen the best thing, the most important thing and that He would not take that away from her. Mary loved the Lord, as did Martha. But Mary chose to soak in His presence, to absorb His every Word.
Do you soak up the presence of the Lord whenever you can? Do you absorb His Words so that you can minister to those around you? The Bible refers to us as God’s Holy vessels. If we are empty, we have nothing to give someone else. On the other hand if all we do is study, worship, and praise, but never minister to another, our faith becomes stagnant. A vessel can only hold so much. It needs to be emptied so it can be filled again.
Dear Lord, fill me with Your presence. Prepare my heart to minister to the people You place in my path. Remind me to sit at Your feet and listen, learn and worship You on a regular basis. AMEN
Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10
Jen sat quietly on her back deck. She listened. No television, no radio, no phone, no computer reminding her of an appointment, and no noisy air conditioner. It was so peaceful. All she could hear were the birds and an occasional squirrel scampering over her roof, or the coo of a morning dove. God’s peace.
In contrast, she remembered the rally she’d just returned home from. Loud pipes roared through the campground long into the night making it close to impossible for anyone to sleep. But then the rally goers weren’t there to sleep. Music blared from large speakers into the wee hours and the crowd passing by Jen’s campsite was non-stop.
Jen picked up her book, a new devotional that fed her spirit in preparation for another weekend. God’s Words soothed her tired soul as she closed her eyes to talk with Him amidst the warm morning breezes. This was an oasis, this quiet time, a simple time to refresh and be still before the Lord in the quietness of His creation. Jen’s heart burst with love for the One who created such a peaceful environment.
God wants us to find a balance between working for Him and sitting at His feet. Mary and Martha, two of His closest friends, were both right. We need to be working but we also need to find time to be still, to quiet our hearts and listen to what God would have us learn from Him and about Him.
Are you rushing around, hither and yon, working for the Lord in Sunday School, at Christian rallies, at secular rallies, and in a variety of other ministry events that are near your doorstep? When you come home from a rally, have you discovered that you’re tired, worn out, and just plain not looking forward to the next weekend?
This is the time to spend quality time in God’s presence. Let Him refresh you for the next ministry opportunity. Let Him place His thoughts and His words on your heart so that you will have something to give when the occasion arrives.
Lord, thank you for allowing me to be still in your presence. Thank you for providing a place in my home to do that and Lord, refresh me, fill me with the tools to minister when next the chance to do so comes. AMEN
Another of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many? John 6:8-9
Gloria bowed her head. She’d never prayed before but she knew that asking the Lord into her life was important, a step she should have taken long before this. Anyhow, now she would commit her life to the one person who cared the most for her wellbeing. “Jesus, I’m sorry for the choices I’ve made, for going my own way. Please come into my heart and make me a new person, clean from the inside out. Oh, and Lord, if you see fit, would you take away this drug habit. Thank You.”
She straightened her clothes. “I need a shower,” she said to no one in particular. “I wonder if the water is hot.” The pipes in the dingy apartment clanged as if in answer. Gloria walked toward the only other room and began to undress. She stepped under the warm spray and quickly washed last night’s filth from her body. She’d worked the streets for three years in order to feed her habit. Every morning she vowed never again but by evening, she was hurting so badly she went out again.
The soap and water felt so good but it was already turning cold. Gloria stepped out, toweled herself off and then dressed in cleaner clothes. She had nothing that was really clean since she had to go to the Laundromat and money for that chore went into her arm. She smoothed the wrinkles out the best she could and then began to look around for something to eat.
“Hmm. I’m hungry this morning. Let’s see…” Her cupboards had hardly anything in them but she managed to find a few crackers and some peanut butter. “This’ll have to do.” She spread a thin layer on a cracker and munched, enjoying the taste for the first time on a long time. “Lord, I guess making a commitment to you has given me some taste buds back.” She chuckled.
The rest of the day, Gloria spent at work. She stocked shelves at a local grocery store and usually the sight of the food didn’t temp her one bit but today… “Fred, can I get an advance so I can get some groceries?” She asked her manager.
“The last time I gave you an advance, you blew it and not on food. This time, you get about $25 worth of groceries and I’ll take it off your paycheck.” The man’s kind face looked worried. He suspected that Gloria was doing drugs and prayed for her every day.
Gloria was given a second chance that day. She discovered that when you hold hands with heaven, miracles happen. She never wanted to do drugs again and her appetite for good food was just the beginning of what God would do for her. She joined a local church, at the recommendation of her boss, and later began to take some college courses to improve her work situation. Gloria was a walking miracle that inspired everyone in her neighborhood.
When we agree with God about the things that He has placed on our heart to do, we walk as if we’re in touch with heaven and others notice that about us. The small boy in the verses above did what God wanted Him to do and was able to experience the evidence of touching heaven. You too can touch heaven every day if you’ll just trust God with your possessions and walk where he walks.
Father, thank you for reaching down from heaven and touching my life, Help me reach back, seek your will, and walk where you want me to walk. AMEN..
Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints. Philemon 1
Dali put the finishing touches on her dinner table. “Digger, can you fill this water pitcher with ice, put some ice in these glasses, and then refill this other pitcher with ice and water, pleeeeese?” She looked at her husband with that ‘you’re the only person in the world who can do this for me’ look.
Digger laughed. He knew his wife and knew that everything had to be just so for this dinner party. “Why do you fuss so?” he asked but he already knew the answer. Their friends loved to come to her dinners and she knew that having things just right was part of the attraction. But the other part was the fun she created. No two dinner parties were alike.
“You know why. Besides, I have put a lot of trouble into this meal and I want the presentation to be as appealing as the taste of the food. These are our friends and I want them to feel as if I find them important enough for me to care about the details.” Dali continued to straighten this and that before beginning the finishing touches to the food. “Would you light all those candles? Everything is ready and they’ll be here any minute.”
Dali went in search of the game ‘Catch Phrase’. They hadn’t played this game with these particular friends and she wanted something fun for them to do after dinner. That’s what this evening was all about…fun.
Dali and Digger had a great time when they invited friends over. Some of their meals had a theme, some were eaten just with their hands and some were elegant and formal. They laughed, kidded one another, but before the evening was over, they prayed for each other
Dali and Digger took the words in Philemon seriously. They had fun and they refreshed each other before calling it a night. Their home was one of laughter most of the time and they wanted to share some of those good memories with friends in order to make them feel special and loved.
When was the last time you invited someone over for some stimulating conversation? Do you know how to have a good time with some good clean fun? You may not have sparkling crystal to grace your table but do your friends feel welcome when they sit down and do you do the best you can to refresh them when they visit?
Father, help me refresh the people in my life when we are together. Help me find interesting ways to share Your love with them, to help them enjoy simple pleasures. AMEN.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph. 4:32
Betsy choked back the cruel remark just in time. She almost felt the color green wash over her as she listened to Ann describe another Christmas gift she’d received just that morning. Betsy knew Ann wasn’t bragging, just marveling at the kindness of the people in her life.
Ann was a widow, living alone in a small two bedroom home. Her health was not so great. In fact some days, she could hardly walk. But nevertheless, whenever someone needed her to decorate a table for them, cook a meal, or supply them with cookies, Ann would do so. When her hands were hurting so bad that she thought she’d scream, she still put a casserole together to welcome a new neighbor, or a new baby into the church family. Ann knew how to be kind. She also knew how to graciously receive kindness too.
Betsy wanted to shout, “I don’t want to hear about how people give you so many gifts,” but she didn’t. She wanted to tell Ann not to phone her anymore but she didn’t do that either. Ann was the only one who phoned her on a regular basis. Ann was her friend and Betsy could not afford to lose the only friend she had.
Two lives lived in complete contrast; one woman, kind and compassionate while the other a loner, looking after her own needs and wants with never a thought for anyone else. The Bible tells us to be kind to one another, reflecting Christ to the people God brings into our lives. For Ann this was as natural as breathing. Betsy, on the other hand, hardly ever thought about what she could do for someone else.
Is there someone in your neighborhood who could use a visit? Do you know of a person who’s not well and could use a card or a phone call? There are many ways we can show kindness or receive kindness. Either way, the person on the giving or the receiving end will be blessed.
Father God, please take away my selfish attitude. Make acts of kindness, random, and as easy as breathing. Give me Your Spirit of kindness as I step out for the first time to do something for someone else. Give me a new habit, Lord. AMEN.
He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God and not trouble? In all this Job did not sin in what he said. Job 2:10
Jeri mechanically filled the dishwasher and turned it on. She moved toward the laundry room on wooden legs and placed another load in the dryer. The foundation of her world had cracked wide open leaving a gaping wound that she was sure would never heal. It was as if an earthquake had shattered everything she held dear.
She sat on the sofa and sobbed great tears of sorrow at the loss of innocence and the feeling of betrayal by the very God she’d chosen to follow. He was supposed to protect her family from just such a tragedy. She wanted to hide, find a mountaintop away from prying eyes, and never again talk to anyone.
Jeri was traumatized as are many people, day in and day out, who live in this fallen world. We never know when someone or something is going to shake us out of our comfortable existence, take us for a ride down the slide of sorrow and shame. We can do all we can to prevent a child from making wrong choices but in the end it’s up to them. We can seek all the medical advice available and still a husband keels over with a massive coronary.
God’s enemy, the one who would infuse himself on the throne of heaven, is also our enemy. By hurting us, his hope is to hurt the God we love. During times of trials and hurt, God is sometimes the only source of comfort. As long as we keep our eyes on Him, whatever we are going through will be bearable. It’s when we focus on ourselves and how bad we feel that the problem looms large and the solution unattainable.
Job knew this. He knew that God never promised us a rose garden. In fact, His Word tells us that living as a Christian in this world is hard. He also said He’d walk with us through any trial as He did for Daniel in the fiery furnace and in the Lion’s den.
Do you have a fiery furnace to walk through? Are the lions nipping at your heels about to devour you? Turn your face toward heaven, as Job did, and watch how God will take this situation and teach you, refine you, and mold you to more clearly reflect Christ to your world than ever before.
Father, I love You. Save me from the fiery furnace but Lord, if that’s not your plan, then walk through the furnace with me. Help me become more sanctified, more Christ-like through this situation. AMEN.