Tag: Devotionals

The Angels of Woolrich

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Greater love has no one than this, 
that one lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

The last public images of Drummer Lee Rigby alive show him ordering take-out at one of his favorite haunts.

Two days later, he lay in a pool of blood on a London street, butchered by two men with a knife and a meat cleaver. He was wearing the same hoodie he’d worn at the pizza shop, the one that proclaimed “Help for Heroes.”

The 25-year-old from Manchester was part of the 2nd Batallion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and the father of a two-year-old son. He served with distinction in Cyprus, Germany, and Afghanistan before working in the recruiting office in London, England.

As he lay dying, a mother and daughter drove by and saw the gruesome scene. It occurred to Amanda Donnelly that the body in the street could have been her daughter, 20 year-old Gemini Donnelly-Martin. Her heart went out to him. She just had to help the young man.

They stopped their car and approached the attackers, one of whom was still holding a weapon in his bloody hands. They asked to be at Rigby’s side. Surprisingly, the killer consented.

Amanda stood guard as her daughter Gemini knelt at his side. Ignoring his massive wounds, she shielded him and prayed until the police arrived.

Ingrid Loyau-Kennett was also at the scene. A Cub Scout leader and mother of two, she was concerned the men would attack nearby children. She approached one of them and began talking to him in the hopes she could divert his attention until the authorities came. According to the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail report, she decided if anyone else was going to be hurt, it would be better if it was her than a child. The attacker told Loyau-Kennett he wanted to start a war in London. To this she replied, “You’re going to lose.”

In the days since the brutal attack, these three women have been called the “Angels of Woolwich.” All three reject any references to heroism, sure that they were only doing what needed to be done.

Their courage reminds us, on this Memorial weekend, that battle comes in many forms. We are all warriors in one way or another in the fight against evil. Lee Rigby’s murder has drawn world attention to the value of each soldier’s life and to the brutality of war. It has also shown us how important each of us are in this struggle to support and pray for one another, and to confront evil wherever it appears.

Special thanks to our soldiers around the world who must place their lives on the line for us every day. Thanks to those who pray for them, comfort them, and honor their memory.

What a lesson for us who struggle against the forces of evil in heavenly places! What courage it takes to stand against the oppressor, to lay our own lives on the line to care for the wounded! How can we drive by another body in the street without at least a prayer?

No soldier should die alone. No one, ever, should suffer without someone to fight for them. Confront the oppressor. Protect the innocent.

Be an angel to someone today.

This Old House

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The Master spoke, but I scarcely heard
Above the noise and the din
Of hurrying feet and hammer-stroke
I was building a house for Him.
Then He took me aside and He taught me this
While earthly things grew dim
He would rather a place in this heart of mine 
Than the house I was building for Him.
– “The Master Spoke” Author Unknown

My old joints are groaning today. My husband and I have been slowly remodeling our aging log home. The process is slow because time, money, and energy are always just short of what we need. I spent the afternoon yesterday sanding the new doors and sidelights that adorn the little “office” overlooking my beloved Clearwater River.

This morning my body is complaining.

The log cabin we built in the radical seventies is really showing the years. Raising five children has taken its toll on it. Like me, it’s sagging in places and looking a little tired.

But there’s one thing I know. This house may be frayed at the edges, but it’s solid right down to the foundation. I know this because I know who built it. My dear carpenter husband poured the foundation himself, and he builds things to last.

He made the foundation walls especially strong because he knew they would have to bear the weight of the logs. He envisioned the end result and built the house especially to the design specifications.

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 I know another carpenter, too. Really, the best. This builder doesn’t work with wood. He works with flesh, soul, and spirit. He doesn’t build houses; He builds lives.

  Consider Jesus,
 the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;
He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses was also in all His house.
For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, 
by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house.
For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.
Christ was faithful as a Son over His house-whose house we are,
if we hold fast our confidence 
and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
Hebrews 3:1-4, 6

 We are His house! A temple, actually. A place of worship.

The foundation is the Rock set in place by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Upon this foundation we add our lives:

Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
each man’s work will become evident;
the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire,
and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.
1 Corinthians 3:12-13

We are a living temple, our souls the holy altar upon which we offer the sacrifices of a broken heart. Here we give the dreams, hopes, and desires of our lives to Him. From here our prayers rise like sweet incense in the holy place.

Jesus’ sacrifice tore the veil separating God from humanity. Here man walks with God once again. We are as holy to God as the temple that once stood in Jerusalem. We are holy because God has chosen to live in us.

May that knowledge inspire us to set aside the things that weaken and dishonor His house. May He teach us to build with an eye to the future, choosing the precious stones for the work.

May His House be forever holy and beautiful in His sight.

What are you building today? Do you feel like a temple or a shack? How do we decide the proper building materials for our templesWhat things might we have to change to build with an eye toward the future?

Arise

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and last of all, as to one untimely born,
He appeared to me, also.
1 Corinthians 15:8

 My grandma called them “jump-up lilies.” They are bulbs that yield a mass of long, smooth leaves in the spring. The leaves are prolific and green. But for all their promise, they die back in early summer without so much as a single bloom.

What a disappointment. The plant spends the majority of the summer dying slowly and looking unsightly. Finally, I clean all the dead leaves away, leaving bare dirt where they grew.

Done. Finished. No sign of life. Definitely past hope.

But I know better. I’ve had these lilies for years, and I know the best is yet to come.

In late summer, when the rest of the garden is summer-worn, I look out one day and find blooms where there was not even a hint of life. These lilies spring up so quickly, it appears they have leapt out of the ground. They always fill my heart with joy. They don’t seem to care that they are breaking all the rules. They burst out of the ground at the bidding of their Creator the moment the blooms are mature.

 

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The apostle Paul was the one called by God after the Lord had already been crucified, resurrected, and returned to the Father. He compared himself to one “born out of due time” (NKJV). But God’s timing is always flawless. God knew what would best give Paul the humility he needed to become a vessel of honor  and servant of high calling.

Maybe you once grew up green and full of promise. Maybe your faith has been scorched and endured so many dry days, you have died back to the dirt. There is an empty field where you expected a harvest. Disappointment has killed your joy. It appears nothing has come of your struggles to live for Him. More than once, you’ve been tempted to give up.

But deep inside, beneath the apparent barrenness, there is life. God is at work. He has plans to bring you into a place of fruitfulness at the perfect moment.

 Wait for it…wait for it…

It’s coming. Joy is on the way. Hang on with all your strength to every promise in God’s Word. You have not been abandoned or forgotten. On the contrary, you’re growing just as He planned.

You were created for this time. You are God’s workmanship, a thing of beauty, awaiting the moment He commands, “Arise.”

So hang on. Wait in faith. Believe in a faithful Creator to finish the amazing work He is doing in you. It will be worth every tear, each desperate prayer, all your trust. The seasons are changing; the earth is stirring.

Arise.

The Battle for Renewal

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Then He showed a river of the water of life, clear as crystal,
coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street.
On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kind of fruit, yielding its fruit every month;
and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 22:1-2

Winter has never won the battle of the seasons, but this year it seemed to have its cold, gnarly fingers firmly clamped around the ground and my heart. The garden lay in dead disarray. My life followed a similar trend. Heartrending situations with my family and friends gripped us in an icy chill of  relentless drama and tragedy.

Faith ran daily to the window to look for signs of life on my horizon. It was usually met with gray skies and new storms. It seriously looked like spring itself had given up and taken off for a long southern vacation.

Then I began to notice that although the storms still buffeted us, spring seemed to have a change of heart and decided to show up, after all. It was still cold, and uninviting outside my window. I was delighted to discover that the daffodils had gotten the memo, though, along with the hyacinths.

Once it decided to commit to a change of seasons, spring braved the weather and cued the greenery. The cold raised a challenge with a blast of hail. Tender life, having gained new courage, marched forward to undaunted.

Every year, the battle for renewal rages in the earth. Each year, death appears to triumph over the promise of resurrection along with our dreams. We know, however, that life always wins.

Today it is gray and cold again here. But I can look out my window and see that spring is going to conquer. In fact, it already has. My garden is blooming.

There are still parts of my life which haven’t felt the sun’s warm rays. I tell my impatient heart that renewal is on its way. God encourages us to look not to the daily storms, but the inevitable thaw what will arrive.

Winter will end. Spring will come.

Rooted in Reality, Part 3: We are De Branch, Not De Vine

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 Remember He is de vine, and you are de branch. 
-Keith Green

I am the vine, you are the branches; 
he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit,
for apart from Me you can do nothing. 
John 15:5

My husband loves trees. During the thirty-plus years we have lived on our country lane, we have planted well over a hundred shade and fruit trees. Some of the fruit trees in his modest orchard were called “no name” trees, meaning the actual variety of tree was unknown before selling. If a person didn’t mind a surprise or two, the trees didn’t cost as much as labeled trees. We could tell the general type of tree each was, like “apple,” but we didn’t know what variety of apples we had until the trees bore fruit for the first time.

 Some plants are hard to tell apart just from the leaves. But the fruit and flower of a plant always give it away. Jesus told us, as recorded in Matthew 7:16-20, that we can recognize people in the same way – by what shows up at harvest time. In fact, He tells us in this passage that it is impossible for a bad tree to produce good fruit or for a good tree to produce bad fruit.

 Fruit is what we are. We can’t fabricate fruit. Fruit is the natural result at the end of a season of growth. No matter how well a thistle grows or how much it is fertilized, it’s going to produce thistles. This is why we can never reform ourselves. We have to become grafted into the Root of Jesse. We are grafted in when we accept the sacrifice of Jesus for the mess we have made of our own gardens. We are literally cut away from a life of sin and grafted into the life of God.

 And then we “abide.” The Greek word used for “abide” simply means to remain, stay, move in with, or live with. It’s a relational word. Don’t try to change yourself. Move in with Jesus. If I want to exhibit godly character, I have to be planted in God. He doesn’t want a new, improved version of Pam. He wants Pam out of the way completely. He wants me to die to who I am and become a conduit for the life of God, so that in my actions and words others may catch a glimpse of the Divine.

I wanna die, and let You give Your life to me,
so I might live.
-Keith Green

…I die daily.
-the apostle Paul

 How do we abide?

1. By thinking and acting relationally, not religiously. We focus on association with Christ, not mere imitation.

2. By diving into His Word. It’s the living letter from the Father to His children. His Word cleanses, teaches, inspires, and restores. It’s the food for our souls.

3.  By listening to the uncomfortable nudging of the Holy Spirit to keep us pruned back. That way we won’t stray into unhealthy ground. Our conscience really is our best friend. 

4. By cultivating healthy relationships and habits. Abiding doesn’t mean just lying around. There is work involved, too.

God gave His very best in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ to give us all we need to flourish. May we plant ourselves in Him and grow up to be everything He has planned for us.

O taste and see that the LORD is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
Psalm 34:8

Rooted in Reality, Part 2: What Lies Are Sinking You?

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What really matters is what happens in us, not to us.

-James W. Kennedy

Scientists now say that a series of slits, not a giant gash, sank the Titanic. The opulent, 900-foot cruise ship sank in 1912 on its first voyage from England to New York. Fifteen hundred people died in the worst maritime disaster of the time.

The theory most people hold is that the ship hit an iceberg, opening up a huge gash in the side of the ship. But an international team of divers and scientists recently probed through the wreckage, buried in mud two-and-a-half miles deep, with sound waves. They found that the damage was surprisingly small. Instead of one big gash, they found six narrow slits across the six watertight holds.

Like the tragedy that happened to the behemoth liner, it’s those small compromises to our protective armor that threaten to sink us on our journey to find and live in integrity. In fact, it’s their insidious nature that makes them so dangerous. If we had one huge assault on our faith with which to contend, we would be alarmed and rise to the challenge. But the small blows go largely unnoticed, barely blips on our spiritual radar, until they have weakened us and breached our defenses.

This is why it’s so important to be accountable to God and trusted people around us to help us see the danger signs that we’re going down. The still, small voice of the Holy Spirit will be our guide if we’ll just listen to Him. To ignore His voice is like turning off the radio broadcast of icebergs ahead because we don’t want to change course. We can ignore the warnings, but we’ll hit the ice just the same.

A simple acronym can help us stay tuned into the leading of God:

 Listen for the excuses you tell yourself.

What reasons do you make up to give yourself permission to do something you know is wrong?

I  Identify the weak spots in your faith, the ones that make you vulnerable to temptation.

What do you fear? What makes you angry? What causes you to feel out of control?

 Examine your temptations.

Discover why you give in over and over to a particular temptation. Identify ways that have been successful in the past to help you successfully navigate around that danger zone.

S  Seek the truth.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.
Psalm 139:23 NASB

 It’s no good to attempt to navigate in the dark. Light reveals our path. It also reveals the obstacles in our way. But that’s good, because it’s better to deal with changing course than to live in ignorance. Ignorance leads to destruction; truth brings us to safety. God wants us to take an honest look at our lives under the light of His purity. God’s Word is the source of the light for our journey and the best way to open our hearts to the work of the Spirit.

Never underestimate the power of the Scriptures to cleanse, guide, and strengthen. God is the best Captain ever. He’s been this way before, and we can trust Him with our lives.

Your word is lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105

 

Next week:  Rooted in Reality: Building Character – Part 3

Rooted in Reality: Building Character, Part 1

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You will know them by their fruits.  
Matthew 7:16

Several years ago, the Dallas Morning News reported that an elderly North Dallas couple, the Davenports, were sitting at home one quiet evening, enjoying a delicious meal. As they finished up, a burglar broke into their house, pointed a gun at them, and demanded money.

While Mrs. Davenport frantically searched through her purse for some money, the burglar noticed that the television was on, so he asked Mr. Davenport what they were watching. Mr Davenport replied, “The 700 Club.”

“Are y’all Christians?” the burglar asked.

“Yes,” Mr. Davenport replied.

The burglar said in all seriousness, “Me, too.”

It’s easy to be more than a little cynical of this man’s profession of faith, because we know faith is supposed to go hand-in-hand with a lifestyle change. Jesus used the example of plants to help us understand this concept.

Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?
So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
Matthew 7:16-18

The reality is this: It is our character, not our words alone, that reveals who we are to others. Character is who we really are. It’s the essence of our being. It is, as D.L. Moody said, “What you are in the dark.” Without character, we can only fool people for so long. Without character, we can’t fool God at all.

What’s so important about character?

     1. Character sets us apart.

In this day, age, and culture, people constantly strive to set themselves apart from the crowd. Some of us use shocking dress and behavior; some of us climb the rungs of the social ladder; some of us search for money and power. In reality, though, the lower elements of humanity are so prominent today it is the person of integrity and pure character that stands out from the rest. Deep inside, we long for someone to show us something real and solid and clean.

     2. Character creates trust.

Solid relationships have to be founded on trust. Trust is the oil that keeps society moving forward and reduces friction from personalities clashing.

     3. Character promotes excellence.

Excellence in behavior does more than promote the welfare of an individual. It is the glue that cements the higher ideals of families, the workplace, the political sphere, and nations into a cohesive unit.

    4. Character gives us staying power.

It carries us through the tough times, because the same self-discipline we need to cultivate integrity also keeps us going when we are weary and discouraged. Ironically, trials are also the very tools God uses to solidify our character.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, 
knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 
and perseverance, proven character
and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts 
through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 
Romans 5:3-5 

Like a good piece of pottery, we are “hardened” by the fire of trial. Someone has said fire either destroys or hardens that which it touches. When we emerge from the fire of hardship and suffering with our faith intact, our character has been “proven.”

     5. Character extends our influence.

Everyone wants to have an influence on others. But without character, we are simply performing for others and competing to be noticed. If we want to have a lasting impact on others for good, it’s going to be the godly character we exhibit that will shout above the din.

So how do we cultivate godly character? Next week we’ll identify and discover how to implement L.I.E.S. in our search to live in integrity.

Never Underestimate Jesus

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…truly I say to youif you have faith as a mustard seed, 
you shall say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it shall move;
and nothing shall be impossible to you.”
Matthew 17:20

It was an unexpected vacation of sorts, a rare thing for us.  A weekend opened up, and we were relieved of our home and church duties just long enough to squeeze in a three-day trip to the coast.  We jumped at the chance to see the ocean again.

We had to drive four hundred and eighty miles to our destination, and we soon settled in for the long haul.  My husband set the car’s cruise control on the speed limit, and I cozied into my seat with some music and a bag of Fritos.  It had been a decade since we had driven the Columbia Gorge, but it was familiar territory, since we had family living near the coast.  The landscape had not changed much along the way.

 Only two things marred the day:  our sour attitudes starting out and the smoke from area fires that permeated everything.  The pressure of trying to get everything ready on such short notice and without much sleep had left us both cranky.  It didn’t help our moods that the first part of the trip was accompanied by dense smoke from a large wildfire.  The whole world seemed to be on fire somewhere near the Blue Mountains, although we never actually saw flames.  A stranglehold of gloom enveloped us as we drove on in irritable silence.  The air cleared a bit along the Columbia, but a haze began again as we neared Hood River.

We had forgotten about the mountain.  My husband saw it first, of course, because he had his eyes on the road.  Then I saw it, too.  Mount Hood, magnificent as always, rose up out of the haze as if it were too grand to be found wallowing in the lowlands with mortals like us. I had forgotten how impressive it is.

No matter how many times I travel that road, I always forget to look for it.  It surprises me every time.  Each time it emerges out of the valley just when I have traveled so long along the bottom land I forget it’s there.

Each time it reminds me that surprises do still happen; that God doesn’t have a jaded heart like I do; that He can place mountains where they don’t belong and give a thrill to this poor old valley-dweller.

 A few years back, I had another reminder of that.  Someone very important to us invited God into her life; someone who has been on our prayer list for many years.  We had prayed for her so many times it became a familiar road, well-traversed and worn down in places.  The choking smoke of unseen daily fires kept a dreary haze over the area and limited our vision.  Still we continued on, praying routinely, increasingly sporadically, often faithlessly, more often than not with a sour and unbelieving attitude.

 Then one day we turned a corner and came unexpectedly upon the majesty of God.  Out of the haze of our valley we were surprised by the amazing grace of the Savior.  True to His word, He took our tiny mustard seed of faith and moved a mountain for us.  Right in front of our eyes arose a splendid, lovely, breath-taking spire of faith reaching toward heaven out of the heart of a young woman.  The beauty of it caught us unawares and took our breath away.

 How could I have forgotten?  When will I ever learn?  The next time I travel the Gorge, I will be surprised by Mount Hood.  The next time God answers a prayer, I will be as amazed as if I had never seen such a thing before.  Every time I forget the power, the glory, and the faithfulness of our God.  And still for us, because of His great love, He moves the mountain.

Next week:  A very special guest blog by Samantha Thorson.  We are honored to have Samantha join us next week.  If you enjoyed “Never Underestimate Jesus,” stop by and meet the lovely young woman featured in this post.  She is now serving God in ministry and will be sharing with us.  Expect to be blessed and challenged by her devotion to Christ and her thirst for the deep things of God.

A Continual Feast

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A cheerful heart has a continual feast. –Proverbs 15:15

I love Thanksgiving. I love everything about it, the colors, the fragrant chill in the air, the idea of stopping for a moment to give thanks to the Giver of everything else.

It has been a glorious day, especially welcome after a couple of incredibly hard weeks. Today I immersed myself in the heavenly aromas of the season and let my soul take it in like a starving drifter who has been finally invited to the table.

It’s amazing what can heal a person.  After a bruising year in nursing school, I thought I would soon settle back into some semblance of normalcy. Instead, I have been swept into a swirl of heartbreak. A host of hurting family and friends have kept me busy and spent me emotionally these last months.

In the process of fighting for my faith, my friends, and my family, I realized I have been skating near to the edge of the wilderness. Like the children of Israel, I have been doing a lot of grumbling in a dry and thirsty land.

But not today.

Today I remembered my many blessings as I stirred up all our favorite Thanksgiving goodies. Tonight I sat with the people I love and laughed and stuffed myself with the treasure of God’s bounty.

The food was good, too.

It’s amazing how different the world looks through the golden glow of gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I thanks my God every time I remember you!

Spring Always Comes

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Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves
so that we would not trust in ourselves,
but in God who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:9 NASB

At the dawn of Easter morning each year, I love to open the Bible to the Gospels and re-visit the tomb of Jesus. Every year, I find find it still empty, and Christ’s victory over death thrills me anew.

The celebration of the resurrection of Christ always comes with the first stirrings of nature out of the deadness of winter. This time of year, it is easier to believe that God can make the dead come alive, for the good news of the resurrection is preached with every living thing that bursts triumphantly from the dark winter earth.

I’ve never liked winter. Every year, it overtakes us, killing everything in its path and heartlessly freezing the life out of all it touches. In the dead of winter, we are surrounded by death. I walk through my garden in the winter, and it seems as though nothing will ever grow there again.

But I’m not worried, because I know its emptiness is temporary. Spring will come. It always does. We all know that.

It’s harder to have that same trust through the winter seasons of our lives. When we bury a parent, a child, a spouse, or a dream, we only see the finality of it all. As we face our own mortality, death seems like the ultimate reality.

But one moment in history changed all that forever. It all changed with one empty tomb.

Yes, we still live in the winter season of time. Death still reigns over the physical realm of this planet. But its days are now numbered. It’s just a season.

And God is Lord of the seasons. He is Lord of the past, the present, and the future. Because He knows the future, He is not worried. He’s been through this winter. The Master walks through His garden and knows that this is all temporary. He knows that because He’s been there. He entered the grave and came back with the keys to death and life.

He’s the One who emptied the tomb, and He’s the One who commands the spring that always comes. In the darkness of our winter night, we can rejoice in this:

Spring always comes. 

This is our hope. And hope is a powerful thing.

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