March 4 – Reputation

Matthew 10:1-25; Leviticus 7-8; Proverbs 22

“Nobody likes you, sir.” I hear that from my students quite often. My response is, perhaps, stereotypical for teachers: “Doesn’t bother me. I’m not here to be liked. I’m here to teach you.” Oh, sure, I could get a lot of students to “like” me. I could forget trying to teach and let them play games on the computer all class period. That would make me “cool” in their eyes – but it would ruin my reputation. Kids would see me not as a teacher, but as an easy mark to avoid having to learn. “A good reputation is better than much wealth; high esteem is better than silver and gold.” (Proverbs 22:1) My father was a real estate agent. He was honest and ethical. We weren’t poor, but he explained to me many times as I was growing up how he could have made more money if he were just a little bit unethical. He reminded me again and again of the truth of this Proverb. When I ask the question “What is your reputation?” it’s asking more than “Do people like you?” The question about our reputation gets to the core of our being. Are you known for making money any way possible, or getting people to like you by cutting corners or are you known for doing the right thing because it is the right thing? We should be known as the kind of person who always do that which is right and show God’s mercy and grace while doing it.

Lord God, as I face decisions in the days ahead, help me to do that which is right in Your eyes. Let me do the right thing and show mercy and grace to others at the same time.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

March 3 – The Power of Touch

Matthew 9:18-38; Leviticus 5-6; Proverbs 21

There is something about the power of touch that is amazing. As I walked into church the other day, I thought people might think it was “cute” to see us still holding hands. Two other couples, married longer than us were walking in and they were still holding hands as well. There is something about the simple power of touch that brings joy to life. Jesus showed the healing power of touch. “While Jesus was speaking to them, a ruler came and knelt in front of him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died. But come and place your hand on her, and she’ll live.’ So Jesus and his disciples got up and went with him. Then a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years came up behind Jesus and touched the hem of his clothes. She thought, If I only touch his robe I’ll be healed.” (Matthew 9:18-21) Two outcasts of society: a woman and a child needed the touch of Jesus. We know how the stories ended up. The woman was healed because of her faith. The young girl was brought back to life. Jesus touched these two outcasts of society and brought physical and spiritual healing. We still need to touch people with the love of Jesus today. Sometimes it will be a physical touch: a pat on the shoulder, a handshake, a hand up. At other times we’ll need to touch them by showing them the love of Jesus in different ways. The touch of Jesus still works wonders in a world that has become enclosed in our technological boundaries.

 

Lord, let me touch people with Your love today. Let the power of Your healing love flow through me and use me to bring healing to people’s bodies, spirits and emotions.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

March 2 – Just As I Am

Matthew 9:1-17; Leviticus 3-4; Proverbs 20

Perhaps one of the greatest revelations I’ve ever had about my faith is that Christianity is not for “good” people. In the days of Jesus, the Pharisees were the “good” people. They were religious, they were political and social leaders, and they were looked up to and admired. They did the right things and they had the right friends. They were the people who criticized Jesus the most and in turn, received His sharpest rebukes. Jesus hung around with the “other” people. He called a tax collector to follow Him and then they had a party. The tax collector invited his friends: other tax collectors. “But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’  When Jesus heard it, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do.’” (Matthew 9:11-12) In this amazing statement, Jesus never said that the Pharisees didn’t need Him. He was pointing out the fact that they thought they were healthy and didn’t need any help. A lot of Christians get to that point and I daresay that I’ve projected that attitude at times. In truth, we come to God not in our own strength, but in our weakness and we lay it before Him. We come with our sins, recognizing that we need God’s healing power. God will always accept a penitent sinner. He tends to rebuke the proud sinner who doesn’t recognize their own sin. Today, enter into God’s presence and offer Him your weakness and your sin recognizing His life changing power.

Oh Lord, I come to You today broken and asking to be mended; wounded seeking to be healed. I confess that I have tried to seek You on my terms in my own strength. Remind me that You love me just as I am and bring forgiveness and then healing for my sin. Keep me in fellowship with You.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

March 1 – Plans

Matthew 8:14-34; Leviticus 1-2; Proverbs 19

I don’t think I’m the only one who concocts grand schemes that end up with me gaining riches or glory or fame. I have a great imagination. Of course, very few of those schemes ever make it beyond the dreaming stage. When I begin planning those that almost seem realistic, I often wonder what I was thinking. “Many plans are in a person’s mind, but the LORD’s purpose will succeed.” (Proverbs 19:21) The plans that I develop rarely work out unless I make sure I consider God’s purpose. When I begin my planning, I should ask, “What does God want?” Maybe that’s why all those schemes that end up with me becoming fabulously wealthy or immensely powerful never come to fruition. Ultimately, God’s plan and purpose will prevail and I will be a part of fulfilling it if I keep focused on Him. True joy in life comes from understanding God’s will and taking part in it. If you really want success in life, find out what God is doing and join Him.

Lord, remind me to seek You each day. Let me know Your will and Your purpose. Help me to follow You in all that I do.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

February 28 – Marriage

Matthew 8:1-13; Exodus 39:1-40:38; Proverbs 18

Marriage is under attack in today’s society. Some would live together without the commitment of marriage. Some have a weak commitment to their marriage that will last only as long as the feelings. Others, while claiming to be committed to their marriage have, for lack of a better term, a wandering eye. Nevertheless, God still protects and blesses marriages. “He who finds a wife finds what is good, gaining favor from the LORD.” (Proverbs 18:22) I can say that this verse is definitely true. I have gained great favor from God in my marriage. Has it been easy? No, of course not. We have had rough spots and difficulties. We have had medical and financial situations that have strained the relationship, or could have. What kept us together was our commitment to God first, and then to each other. Ours could never be a perfect marriage because my wife has an imperfect husband. But in the midst of any difficulties we both remember that the vows we took over 35 years ago included first of all a commitment to God and second of all a commitment to each other. Marriage is a God-ordained commitment that brings blessings to the husband and the wife when they are both committed to God first. Today I can celebrate my marriage not because it’s my anniversary, it isn’t, but because God’s word reminds me of how much favor I have received from Him. I pray the blessings of a God-ordained marriage for all my friends.

Lord God, You have prescribed that a man and a woman should join together in marriage. I am so grateful for Your plan. Give me the grace to be the husband I need to be. I pray for all my friends who are married that You would guide and direct them. I pray for my single friends that they would find satisfaction in their relationship with You and, if You so lead them, the right mate so that they might experience this joy of relationship that You have ordained.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

February 27 – Showing Joy

Matthew 7; Exodus 37:1-38:31; Proverbs 17

Attitude is everything. Well, almost everything. I know people who go through difficult times that would destroy most people with a smile. They survive. Other people face a small bump in their road and soon things fall to pieces. It’s all because of attitude. “A joyful heart helps healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22) One of my favorite people in the world cleans up outside a fast food restaurant early in the morning to supplement his retirement income. No matter what the weather is like, no matter what the situation may be, every day is “the best day of my life.” He always has a smile and every time I see him, he gives me joy that helps me get through the day. I wish I were like that. I tend to let circumstances bother me. I get moody and upset. Life gets sour. When I laugh at my problems, which are minor when I really think about it, I have a better day. When I gripe about the other drivers on the road – things go bad that day. When I start praying for those crazy drivers and thank God for the good ones – the day goes well. My problem, my goal actually, is to get back to the time when I had a joyful heart all the time. To make every day the best day of my life. Problems come to the joyful and the broken just the same. Our attitudes make all the difference.

Lord, forgive me for my bitterness and grouchiness. Remind me to go through life with joy – the joy that comes from You. Let my life reflect the joy You give as I deal with the issues I face. Let me show Your grace and strength in the midst of the problems that come.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

February 26 – STOP! It’s Too Much!

Matthew 6:19-34; Exodus 35:1-36:38; Proverbs 16

The Israelites who fled from Egypt had a lot of problems. Their willingness to give for a greater purpose was not one of them. Sometimes it got them in trouble, as in the day of the golden calf. When it came to building the Tabernacle, though, their willingness was amazing. “Finally, all the skilled workers building the sanctuary left their work that they were doing one by one to come and say to Moses, ‘The people are contributing way too much material for doing the work that the LORD has commanded us to do.’” (Exodus 36:4-5) They were wandering around in the desert wit no chance to accumulate anything, or so it would appear. The call went out to bring materials for the Tabernacle and the workmen were overwhelmed. They finally had to ask people to stop giving. It’s hard to imagine that scenario today. We live in a world of need and so any church that was receiving too much money would probably find a way to do more ministry. As individuals, though, how do we give? Jesus reminded that our heart would follow our treasure. If we are intent on accumulating stuff, what does that say about the location of our heart. As followers of Christ, we need to find ways to support our church, to support people in need and spread the gospel to a world that needs the love and forgiveness of Jesus. The old cliché is that you can tell where a person’s heart is by looking at their checkbook and their appointment calendar. Is your heart in your stuff or is your heart focused on the work of God?

Lord God, how easy it is to let stuff override our better nature. We want it bigger and better. We can’t wait for the new and improved version to come out. Forgive me when those desires outweigh my desire to see Your work done. Grant me the grace to keep You first in all things.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

February 25 – Meeting Needs

Matthew 6:1-18; Exodus 33:1-34:35; Proverbs 15

There are a lot of things that Christians do to help people who are poor that go unnoticed. Denominations, churches, and individuals work to alleviate poverty and help people pull themselves out of poverty. We don’t get headlines for this work and that’s not only ok, that’s the way it should be. “But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4) At the same time we are working to help others, we are often criticized by the non-Christian public about our lack of service. That’s ok too. Our goal is not to win the PR battle. Our goal is to be faithful to God. We aren’t rewarded in our service by headlines from the press; our reward includes seeing the changed lives of people we have helped. We help people in need because it’s the right thing to do – not because we want the attention of the world. There is no greater reward that we could get than these words from Jesus: “Well done, faithful servant.”

Lord God, there are people in need that I see every day. Help me to be sensitive to Your leadership and help them meet their needs and get out of that place of dependency on others.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

February 24 – Love Your Enemy

Matthew 5:21-48; Exodus 30-32; Proverbs 14

As I read the news and see what’s going on in the world, one of the stories that sends me into a rage is that which is happening in the Middle East right now. We have a murderous group killing my brothers and sisters in Christ as well as innocent people of other faiths. It is safe to say that people like this are enemies of the cross as well as my personal enemies. And so, these words were hard to read this morning. “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you” (Matthew 5:43-44) How am I, personally, to react to these murderous scum? I am called to pray for them. I am called to love them. It makes me wonder about Jesus, to be honest. He couldn’t have known what people would be like. But He would go to the cross in a few short years. He would endure the agony of their rejection and then an execution so cruel that it was forbidden for Roman citizens. They were beheaded instead of facing the cross. He would cry out from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And as I think of those words, I am humbled and called to repent. Were Jesus to look at ISIS today, or whoever will be doing this in the future, I can only believe He would say the same thing. And so I am reminded again that I am called to love my enemies, and pray for them. And I am reminded of President Lincoln who spoke of his enemies: “If we make them our friends, haven’t we destroyed them as enemies.”

Dear Lord, the idea of those murdering Your people becoming friends is so outrageous, I can’t even imagine it. Yet I follow the writings of one such man, Paul, as though they were Your words. I confess my sin that my prayer is reluctant, but I call on You now and ask You to show Your love and grace to those who are in ISIS. Reveal Your forgiveness in Christ and call them to repent of their sin and embrace You. Lord God, all peace in this world depends on a harmonious relationship with You. I pray that You would work to bring that peace especially to the Middle East.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

February 23 – Friends

Matthew 5:1-20; Exodus 28:1-29:46; Proverbs 13

One of the difficulties parents of middle school children face is that their children try out new things and stretch the boundaries. They have more freedom as they change classes. There are new people as the leave the environment of their neighborhood school. Sometimes the kids make bad choices of friends and their actions show it. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard parents say something like, “My kid would never do that!” Who they choose for friends becomes life changing for some. “Walk with wise people and become wise; befriend fools and get in trouble.” (Proverbs 13:20) The same holds true for all of us. Choosing the right friends make a difference, as does choosing the wrong friends. If your friends are the kind of people who always say things like, “Hey! Y’all watch this!” you may be headed for trouble. The guidance from Proverbs is really simple: choose your friends wisely because you will become like them. Sayings about the friends you choose and how they affect you abound in almost every culture. We are to be salt and light to our world (Matthew 5:13-16) but we will lose our saltiness if our witness is tainted by hanging around with fools. Kids do need to choose their friends wisely, but they learn how to choose their friends by watching us.

Lord, remind me that I need friends who are people that love You. That will give me the inner strength to be salt and light when I am around people who need to learn to love You.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment