Reflect His Goodness

psalm 107-22

It’s been a week of thankfulness – recognizing God as the Giver of All Good Gifts, getting to know Him more and more through the gift of His Word, gratefully accepting the gift of His Son, Jesus, and being thankful even in the midst of a difficult time.

Now for the great yearly challenge – how do we continue the thankful thinking all year?

Perhaps the following quote from J.F. Kennedy will provide some help.  “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  Show your gratitude, not just by saying, “Thank You” to God and to others, but by living a thankful lifestyle.  If we are deeply thankful for the blessings that have been given we will naturally want to share those blessings with others.  Opening our home to others, tithing to our church, caring for those experiencing difficult trials, and sharing with those who have less material blessings are all ways we can express our gratitude for what has been given.  We can reflect His goodness.  He has given to us.  We will give to others.

And, most importantly, when we are truly grateful for what God has done, for who He is and for His plan of salvation, for the gift of His Son and the forgiveness given, for the Kingdom hope – we will want to share it with others.  Inviting a friend to church, sharing a devotion with the family, praying with someone struggling, telling what God has done for you, giving a Bible, donating to missions (*), posting Scripture on your social media, home, office and locker walls, and the list goes on.

Read over Romans 10.  The world is full of people who do not know the gifts they could be receiving right now – who have not heard the message.  It is our job to, “Sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.” (Psalm 107:22).  What thank offerings will you present?  How will you tell of His works?  We are not responsible for other’s reaction to the saving message.  Just as Moses and Isaiah met up with resistance and obstinate people – so will we when we exercise our beautiful feet (Romans 10:15).

Look over your thankful list (go ahead and write it down if you haven’t already this week).  Prayerfully consider how you can show your appreciation for each gift.  How can you pass along the joy you’ve received?  How will you reflect His goodness?

-Marcia Railton

 

(*) Be watching for the soon-to-be released Lord’s Harvest International Gift Catalog for some great ideas on how to help provide for needs on our missionary fronts (Bibles, church buildings or rent, a pastor’s transportation, an orphan’s or widow’s care, seed & fertilizer, etc….) 

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See Where God is at Work

Romans 1-16

The theme for our devotions this week was the gospel. The Bible is full of accounts and teaching but the most important teaching is the gospel. Self-examine and be honest with yourself, ask ‘Do I know the gospel? Can I show someone in the Bible where it is? Do I understand the gravity and significance of this message?’ Often times many Christians are weak on the gospel. Either they don’t know it or they don’t live by it or they fail to share about it with others. Which leads us to today’s lesson: share the gospel with other people.

If you have ever shared the gospel, you know it is scary. In the two years God has worked with me about sharing the good news to people, and let me tell you whether I’m sharing with an immediate family member or a total stranger, it’s scary every single time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get comfortable with it. Just like with anything, the first time you share is rough and you might stumble over your words or be extremely nervous. But the more times you do it, the better you become at it. When you share the good news with someone, you are speaking the eternal into the temporal. You speak life into death. You shed light into the pitch black void. God is with you and the spirit is at work in you when you share the gospel. I want to share some lessons I’ve learned in my experience with sharing the gospel.

  1. Have spiritual eyes and ears to discern a situation.

Let God direct you with whom to speak the gospel to. Some people are at a place in life where they’re not ready to hear the message. Be sensitive to the spirit and if you feel a prod to talk to someone or steer a conversation to faith, do it – God is with you. You don’t have to share the gospel with every person you come across.

  1. You don’t save anyone, God does.

The greatest miracle is the miracle of conversion. God is the only one able to bring that about. Don’t gauge your success by how many people you get to convert, that’s not what God wants from you. You can’t even save yourself, how can you save someone else? Instead gauge your success by if you’re sharing the gospel or not. If you are faithful and share, then you’re a successful evangelizer. I’ve shared the message with many people and none of them, to my knowledge have converted, still, in God’s eyes I am successful.

  1. It’s not an option, it’s a command.

It may be easier to not evangelize however it directly disobeys Jesus’ command at the end of Matthew 28:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” – Matt. 28.19

It’s easy to go to church, attend Bible studies, listen to Christian music, or post verses on your social media and so on. But the mark of a mature Christian is one who takes the message of salvation they received and shares it with others. Let us have confidence to obey Jesus in this all too important area of life. You can do it. You can do it. You can do it.

Be the one who obeys Jesus and spreads the gospel. Be the spiritual warrior who wages war against the powers of darkness. Be the one who breaks the silence and darkness with the power and glory of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” – Rom. 1.16

“But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.” – Acts 8.12

-Jacob Rohrer-

What Do These Stones Mean?

Joshua 4

Joshua 4-24

Thursday, October 12

As of yesterday’s devotion we left the Israelites consecrating themselves in preparation to see amazing things the Lord would do for them the following day.  And, when the people were prepared – God was certainly ready to do His part.  The last part of chapter 3 reads:

Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge,  the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.  The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.   Joshua 3:15-17

What emoji would you choose if an Israelite just texted you that update on how their day was going?  Surprise!  Shock!  Awe!  It is an incredible account, isn’t it?  When I read it I was sorry to hear that the Israelites crossing didn’t get to gaze upon the water that was “piled up in a heap” as that was about 20 miles upstream (NIV text note on 3:15).  Wouldn’t that have been awe-inspiring!  Why not, I thought.  Perhaps God had planned to share this awesome display with those outside of the Israelite community – “so that all the people of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful.” (Joshua 4:24)

In chapter 4 we also have the rest of the story on the waters of the Jordan that had instantly dried up when the priests’ feet touched the waters’ edge.  Could have been coincidence, someone might try to argue.  Lots of busy beavers just upstream?   But then Joshua 4:18 helps clear up any doubt: “And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD.  No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.”  This wasn’t the work of beavers or tides or circumstance.  At just the precise time needed the flood waters unexplainably stopped – and then re-started, also, at precisely the correct time.  This was the work of the Maker of Heaven and Earth and He was having fun doing amazing things for His consecrated people who had decided to be bold and courageous rather than cowering in fear and discouragement as their parents had.

Joshua followed the LORD’s direction to have each tribe take part in creating a rock tower to commemorate what the LORD did at the Jordan.  This was done to keep the memory alive and spark conversation, down through the generations, of how Almighty God had provided just what they needed at just the right time.  Joshua said their children would ask, “What do these stones mean?” (Joshua 4:6,21).  It would be a great opportunity to tell of God’s power and provision for His people.

In what miraculous ways have you seen God at work?  Perhaps on your own behalf, or someone you know, or even someone you read about – Biblical miracles still count today! What reminders do you have displayed for you and your family?  What opportunities do you have to overflow with stories of God’s power and faithfulness?  We must not forget God’s power.  We must remember – and tell others.   When we fear Him, we can be strong and courageous.

-Be Strong and Courageous – Marcia Railton

 

Wanna Go Fishin’?

Mark 1

Mark 1-17

I used to own a pair of fish that my best friend gave me. I thought I was a decent fish owner. But then I went off to Australia for three weeks and when I returned, I came home to find that the slow-release food supply that I put into the tank, didn’t dissolve. My poor fish starved to death. Oops.

 

So your reservation to take seriously any of my mentioning of fish, fishing, or fishermen would totally be understandable.

 

But I ask that you hear me out, just this once, for this particular topic. Afterall, I did my due diligence and Googled some information.

 

Mark 1:17 says, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

 

Being a fisherman was way back then and continues even today to be a daily job. Likewise, as we follow Jesus daily, our casting of nets should happen every day we are around others. If we are called to be fishers of men, all of our interactions need to be with the purpose of building relationships and showing others, verbally and nonverbally, what life with Jesus as our Lord looks like.

 

Peter and Andrew knew when the best time to go fishing was. According to www.takemefishing.org (I’m totally serious… ) the best time to fish is usually later on in the day. I know that there are probably a gazillion other variables that should be considered, so don’t go dismissing the bigger picture here. Later in the day, the fish are primed for feeding because their metabolism and digestion are roaring. There is a lesson for us here – in order for people to win others to Christ, they need to be primed. In God’s own timing, a person’s heart will be open to receive the Gospel. As fishers of men, we need to be praying for those opportunities to present themselves so we are able to discern what to say and when to say it.

 

We know from verse 16, that Simon (later called Peter) and his brother Andrew used nets for fishing. Not a pole, line and lure, but nets. They caught hundreds of fish at a time. When Jesus says that he will make us fishers of men, I think His intention is that we not just teach a few people about Jesus, but that we influence hundreds of people, over our lifetime, to consider what life as a follower of Jesus would look like.

 

We also know from verse 16, that fishing was not a solo effort. It demanded at least a pair to get the job done. Our faith is meant to be in a community. Yes, Jesus goes off to a solitary place in verse 35 of Chapter 1, but that doesn’t mean we live in a vacuum. Working and serving with other believers is how our faith is supposed to be carried out.

 

I fully admit that sharing the Gospel is not my strength. But as I read this verse, I became convicted that this is something that I need to take more seriously. That’s partly why I chose it to be the verse to memorize for the week. So even though it is a short verse and easy to commit to memory, it’s potential to change my life and the lives of those around me, is significant.

 

Wanna go fishin’?

 

-Bethany Ligon

 

What a Powerful Tongue You Have!

Tuesday

prov 18 21

Today’s reading is Proverbs 18.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21

Have you ever thought about your words bringing life to someone else? Yet, we see this throughout the scriptures. God uses human beings to communicate who He is. God used human beings to speak and record His commandments and instructions. The Jews were entrusted with the very words of God (Romans 3:2).

Sometimes we may not realize how important our words can be. We certainly don’t want our conversations to make us gossips, quarrelsome, and fools (We don’t want our mouths to invite a beating.) But, as the children of God, it goes beyond avoiding bad conversations and sharing God’s message. God has entrusted us with the Gospel Message.  Good News of who He is, Good News of His Son Christ Jesus and Good News of the Coming Kingdom. We are given the opportunity to communicate that message so we can connect others to God through His Son.  God entrusted Jesus with the message that everyone needs to hear.

Christ said to his disciples in John 6:67-68, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

We sometimes forget that our study of the scriptures is important because we are receiving a message from God, a message that we can share with others.  I want to make sure that I get the message straight and the story right because this message “has the power of life”.

By Rebecca Dauksas

(Photo Credit: http://puttingonthenew.com/2013/11/10/proverbs-1821/)

I Once Was Blind, But Now I See

John 8-9

Sunday, May 28

Jesus is an awesome teacher. I have read Dallas Willard’s amazing work, The Divine Conspiracy, where he discusses the Sermon on the Mount. One of the points that Willard makes is that Jesus is not just a smart guy, but the smartest guy. He is not just a wise person, but the wisest person. Jesus confirms this when he says that one “greater than Solomon is here”. (Matt. 12:42, Luke 11:31) So if anyone asks you who the wisest person in the Bible was the answer isn’t Solomon; it’s JESUS!
Jesus shows his masterful hand at teaching here in John. In these first 12 chapters of the Gospel, Jesus is performing miracles, which the author calls signs. We have already read about the sign where Jesus changed water into wine (2:1-12). There have been a couple healings, one of the royal official’s son (4:46-54) and one of a paralytic on the Sabbath (5:1-15). Then he did two where he overcame the normal laws of nature by feeding the five thousand with only a little food (6:1-15) and by walking on water (6:16-21). All these signs are connected in John, because all these signs point to an important truth: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing in him, we can have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
In John 8 and 9, Jesus connects both his teaching and a sign to point to his Messiahship. In chapter 9, Jesus and his disciples see a blind man. Instead of tying the blindness to anyone’s sin, Jesus says that God’s glory, and the glory of the One and Only Son, would be displayed in the man’s life. Jesus taught previously, in chapter 8, that he is the light of the world. He declared that if we follow him we will not live in darkness but walk in the bright light of life. He then makes his point vivid by giving this blind man sight!
The once-blind man is taken in, questioned, harassed and abused by the religious leaders of his community. Instead of listening to this man tell his testimony about the truth of Jesus, they were intent on shutting down Jesus and claiming that he was a fraud. The man’s testimony is only the truth: “I was blind, but now I see.” Jesus comes to the once-blind man and basically tells him, “You can see that I am the Messiah.” Even Jesus loves puns! Jesus teaches that the blind will see and those who think that they can see are truly blind.
This story is a wonderful picture and full of rich imagery on its own. But I also come away with three thoughts for how we live today.
First, the once-blind man was “giving a testimony” about Jesus. He wasn’t even close to a “believer” as we might define it. He trusted enough to go and wash and he came back with sight; nothing more than trust that the washing would work was asked of him. That is pretty amazing. He says nothing of faith before the miracle takes place. And when people ask him about his life, all he does is tell his story. That’s all God and Christ call you to do when they say to share the good news of the gospel. It does not mean you have to have a suave and sophisticated philosophical demonstration of the proofs of God. You simply tell people how Jesus found you, and why you are better now. Were you blind and now you see? Were you addicted to something and no longer? Are you more loving to your family and friends? THAT is your evangelism, that is the good news God calls you to share.
Second, do you feel like the once-blind man? There are times when we experience God doing something in our lives that doesn’t make sense. We CAN’T explain why something is happening. This guy just says “All I know is that I was blind, and now I see!” Sometimes, we feel God moving in ways that may make our families, our churches or ourselves uncomfortable. The people who should have celebrated this man’s miracle the most, his family and his religious leaders, turned their backs on him and cast him out. When God is moving, trust in what He is doing, keep looking for Him, and no matter who let’s go of you, God will find you. 
Third, take care that you are walking in the light of Christ so that you can see and live. Just like the people of Jesus’ day, this sign is pointing us to Jesus so that we can believe and have life in his name. Take care that you don’t lose sight of that purpose. The purpose is not for us to say “I wish I could see a miracle.” The miracle has been done. Will you believe because of it? Will you trust that Jesus is who he claimed to be? Remember, if you don’t want to believe, that is still an option. But there is a cost: rejection leads to a life of darkness, and the ultimate darkness of death. Christ offers us so much more with life in this life that leads to eternal life. He is the light of the world and he offers us himself. Praise be to God through Jesus Christ, the Light of the World!
-Jake Ballard
Jake Ballard is Pastor at Pine Grove Bible Church in Brooklyn Park, MN. He is a husband to Amber, father to Melody Grace, and proud “daddy” to a black kitty named River (for my Dr. Who and Firefly fans). Jake is a graduate student at Bethel Seminary, where he is kept busy. When he does have free time, he likes to read (Tolkien and Riordan at the moment), watch Netflix (Star Wars: Deep Space Nine), and play video and board games. (Always open for suggestions, as I am less busy in the summer). He hopes that his devotions will help you, dear reader, fall in love with the Gospel of John, because if he had to pick a favorite book, it would be this one! God bless! 
(Photo Credit: http://www.boldcupofcoffee.com/blog/i-am-the-light-of-the-world)

Go Plant Some Trees!

Luke 12-13

hands-holding-seedling-posters

Friday, May 19

I like three things more than most anything else, sailboats, stars, and trees. No particular reasons other than I am fascinated by how they work and what they look like. My interest in trees started when I was young when I learned from my Grandpa Ben that trees grew from these tiny little things called acorns. It was and still is amazing to think something so small has such great potential.

Jesus uses this illustration to compare the mustard seed to the kingdom of God. “It is like a mustard seed which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches..” Luke 13:18-19 Something that seems so small now, will eventually grow to be very large and influential in this world. Just like the man in this illustration where he took the seed and planted it in his garden, we too must plant the kingdom in our gardens. In other words, the kingdom lifestyle should be obvious in our lives. Though the kingdom will be fully established when Jesus returns it is our responsibility to live as if it is a reality now, and see to it that it grows.
I think its crazy that Jesus gave us the responsibility to grow the community of Kingdom citizens. With that said, what are you waiting for – go plant some trees!
-Jesse Allen