Galatians 5:7-10 New International Version (NIV)
7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.
Have you ever been having a good day, only to have something or someone happen, and totally change the day? It’s easy to get beat down by life some days. And it’s even easier to point the finger at other people or difficult circumstances when we let the things going on around us effect our relationships negatively. I totally understand that sometimes life is difficult, and sometimes it’s unfair, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about when we’re really finding our stride in our Christian walk, and then we let something knock us off the path. That’s why I love the section of scripture in Galatians 5. It leaves us with no excuses.
This section reminds us that we are responsible for our own faith. It isn’t our pastor’s, our parents’, or our friends’ responsibility. Those can all be great people that God uses to challenge us to grow, but we must be careful to follow God and the teachings of Jesus, not people. Notice too that even a little yeast works its way through the whole batch of dough. Letting just a little thing bother us without dealing with it could have huge implications on our actions. We also see that whoever is throwing us into confusion, has to pay a penalty. We must therefore also pay attention to how we are influencing people. Take a good look into your life and ask yourself, Am I letting someone throw me off my daily walk? Am I throwing someone else off of theirs? If the answer is yes, we have some changes to make.
Some people have virtually the same accent their entire lives, simply based on where they grew up. Others, like me, pick up accents faster than they can say the word “time.”
Right now, I am living in the South with people from Georgia, Indiana, Canada, Michigan, New York, and Ohio – to name a few. Needless to say, my accent gets confused a lot. The moment when I say time, house, and you guys in one sentence and it comes out in a Southern, Canadian, Michigander accent you know that it can be a little much sometimes.
The same goes for us as individuals. Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Like my crazy conglomerate of accents, we all are influenced by the people we spend the most time with.
Have you ever noticed how you start talking like the people around you? How you pick up their behaviors? How you start saying those little phrases? You are imitating the people you spend time with – without even noticing you are doing so! This can be a great thing or a terrible thing.
If you hang out with people who always are making poor decisions, chances are you’ll eventually join in. On the other hand, if you hang out with people who are following God to the best of their abilities, chances are you will start changing as well.
Be purposeful in imitating what is good and in avoiding evil things.
Spend the most time with the people you want to be like, and imitate what is good.
– Madison Cisler
Monday, October 9
40 years of wandering have passed since yesterday’s devotion and the Israelites stand at the doorway to the Promised Land once more. But, this time their leader Moses is dead and Joshua and Caleb – the two who courageously trusted God to lead them into the land of giants – are the only ones of their generation to have survived the wandering. A new generation is at the door – this time with Joshua as their leader. Is there any hope that this new generation, which did not personally see how God provided miracle after miracle in saving His people out of Egypt, will have the courage to do what their fathers did not?
Just before his death, Moses – at 120 years of wisdom – had rallied together the younger generation for some final words. He knew the power of fear and discouragement and he remembered all too well the events of 40 years ago. To the gathered Israelites he said, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Then he called forward Joshua and spoke to him: “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land…The Lord himself goes with you…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).
What more could be done to inspire them to action with a courageous heart and not crumble again in fear? God knew they would need a strong connection to Him, reminders of His faithfulness as well as His requirements. So He directed Moses to write it all down and make sure it was shared with the people – and thus the first five books of the Bible were created – with direction to listen to it, learn it, and teach it to the children – so that they would fear the Lord their God – rather than fearing the circumstances around them. What a gift! What a treasure!
And so, in Joshua 1 God himself speaks to Joshua – giving him his orders and how to lead His people. In one short paragraph (Joshua 1:6-9), God tells Joshua three times, “Be strong and courageous!” This is important!! Fear and discouragement must not be allowed to reign in Joshua’s heart. And what is sandwiched in between that repeated refrain – the answer of HOW to build up Joshua’s courage and give him daily doses of Godly direction. “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (1:8).
There it is: the answer to living a courageous life of action following God’s direction (as well as being successful) — daily – meditating – on – His – Words. Are you ready to exchange fear and discouragement for a good dose of strength and courage? Get in His Word! How many times can you read Joshua chapter 1 today? What new directions, warnings, details will you find each time? God’s Word is loaded with what we need. It is our connection to the God of the Universe. Use it boldly and courageously!
Go With God Today – Marcia Railton
Titus & Philemon
Did you panic a little bit when you found you had to read two entire books of the Bible today? As you have hopefully found now both Titus and Philemon are pretty short books. In fact, Philemon checks in as the third shortest book of the Bible (only 2 John and 3 John are shorter).
First, let’s talk about Titus. If you owned a business and were looking to hire managers to oversee the company what would you require? Would your job posting read that the applicant needed silky hair, mad four-square skills, and a deep love of chicken nuggets? If so your company would probably not be in business for long because there would be no purpose behind the requirements you wanted. Hopefully, your requirements might be along the lines of: must be self-controlled, honest and just. If so you and God have those requirements in common except these are the requirements that God asks of the elders of the church which is a person who “manages God’s household” (Titus 1:7).
He also has requirements for those who aren’t elders. In chapters 2 and 3, Paul outlines what God expects from everyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. It says in chapter 3 verse 1- 2 that we are, “to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign (which means to harm) no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”
Paul carries over the idea of being peaceable and gentle in the book of Philemon. Paul writes to Philemon, who is a brother in Christ, concerning a slave named Onesimus. It seems that Onesimus was full of passion for spreading God’s word so he ran away from his master Philemon to join Paul. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon and requested that Philemon would, “accept him as you would me” (vs.17). Paul treats both parties with grace and love to resolve the issue at hand and so once again practices what he preaches showing that he is a fully committed follower of God just as we are to be.
The same word has beep popping up each day in our last few devotions: devotion. The reason for this is simple. Daniel was a man devoted to God. Each story we’ve read this week has clearly demonstrated this.
In yesterday’s devotion I said that our devotion to God must remain constant despite the ever-changing world in which we live—just as Daniel’s did. Today I want to tell you how Daniel was able to sustain his devotion and how you can, too.
The word pray (and its derivatives) is found twelve times in the first nine chapters of Daniel. He prayed three times everyday. He was arrested and thrown into a lion’s den because he continued praying even though it was declared illegal. One of the most powerful prayers in all of scripture is recorded in Daniel Chapter 9—Daniel is its author. It is obvious that prayer was central in the life of this godly man. This is what enabled him to stay devoted to his God in midst of constant trials and changes. And a prayerful life is the key for us to maintain a devoted life today.
There are several reasons why prayer helps sustain devotion. The first reason is that it keeps us connected to God. The more you talk to someone (especially if you like them), the better the connection. On the other hand, if you don’t communicate, there will be little to no connection. This is case with God as well. Prayer—heartfelt prayer—creates connection, which leads to greater devotion.
A second reason is that prayer helps us understand the will of God. Prayer allows us (as much as possible) to get our minds aligned with God’s. The more we pray, the better we understand what God wants. His will is good, pleasing, and perfect. So when we understand God’s will (in all its goodness) it generates more devotion in us. In other words, we get a greater sense of how great God truly is and He becomes more alluring to us.
The last reason I’ll mention for why prayer helps us stay devoted is that it keeps us focused on what really matters. Our minds are truly amazing things, but they tend to get overcrowded—especially in the Information Age. We all carry smart phones, have personal computers, and own TVs. We are constantly taking in information—sometimes good and sometimes bad. I believe there has never been a harder time for individuals to stay focused than today. It is difficult to remain devoted when there are so many distractions. This is where prayer can help. When we put away our computers and smart phones and take time to talk to God, it clears the fog in our minds that prevents us from focusing on the one to whom we should be devoted.
Being devoted is not an easy thing. That is what makes Daniel so impressive. Only because of his prayer life was he able sustain such devotion to God. If we want to resemble Daniel in his devotion, we must strive to have a life filled with prayer. So go ahead, say a prayer.
– Joel Fletcher
2 Chronicles 17-19
Monday, November 28
You might have noticed in your reading that 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings read like history, while 1 and 2 Chronicles seem written to teach what it means to follow God rather than simply giving the history of the people. As noted in the intro to 1 Chronicles, these books might have been written after Israel returned from exile in Babylon. Since it covers material already recorded in Samuel and Kings, it would seem evident that this author has more in mind than simple history.
Here are two things to notice in today’s readings. First, Jehoshaphat made sure that the people were taught the way of God, first by sending teachers throughout the land (2 Chron. 17:7-10), and then by teaching the people how to live when they went to court to settle disputes (19:8-11). Second is the back story behind the battle alliance between Ahab and Jehoshaphat.
Before they went into battle, Jehoshaphat wanted to inquire of the Lord. All the prophets predicted success, but when he asked for one more, with reluctance Micaiah predicted that Ahab would be killed. He went on to say that God had put a lying spirit in the mouths of the prophets who curried Ahab’s favor. That certainly gives us something to think about, doesn’t it. It seems that if you want to believe the wrong thing, God will let you believe it.
So how can we know what to believe? Jehoshaphat went down the wrong road when he made alliances with a king who did not honor God. If we are trying to keep one foot in the world, we can never trust what we hear. Those who are whole-heartedly dedicated to God will not be misled.
Pastor Greg Demmitt
Friday, August 26
Today’s reading (and perhaps all of Leviticus) are well summed up by the first 5 verses of Chapter 18. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them, “I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.”
Did you notice that in these 5 verses one phrase is repeated three times. In fact, it will be repeated about 22 times in Chapters 18 and 19, and will be scattered throughout the rest of Leviticus. “I am the Lord – your God.” Did God really think the Israelites needed that many reminders about who is God?
Might it be that we today need just as many reminders? Do I get caught up following the practices of others, rather than the laws of God? Too often do I merely go along with what my neighbors, classmates, co-workers, countrymen, social media friends around me are doing, rather than being careful to follow the Lord’s commands? Do I question the Lord’s laws, choices and actions? Do I think I have a better way? Do I forget that it is the Lord who is God? How would you fill in the blank: “You must not do as they do in ________. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees.” God warned the Israelites that they must not do what they did in Egypt (where they had come from) and they must not do what they do in Canaan (where they were going). Rather, they were to be a separate, called-out people devoted to him. Where and when do you need to be extra cautious and aware of the influences around you that are pulling you in directions away from God’s leading?
The lists of laws with “I am the Lord your God” interspersed regularly reminded me of a parent answering a child’s questions about why they need to follow their parent’s rules. “Because I said so, and I am your parent.” So true, so true. God doesn’t even wait for his children to start asking the questions. Right along with the rules comes the explanation, over and over again. We would be wise to remember – “He is the Lord our God.” And he knows best.
Who Will You Follow Today? What will it look like?