Delayed Gratification

matthew 7 7

MATTHEW 7

One of the most famous experiments ever done to understand the human psyche is the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.  In this study, a marshmallow and a bell were placed in front of a preschool child. The instructions were as follows: if the child wanted to eat the marshmallow in front of them after the adult left the room, they only need to ring the bell to gain permission; however, if they waited for the adult to return to the room on his/her own, about fifteen minutes later, then they would receive an additional marshmallow for their wait, essentially doubling their pleasure.  A seemingly simple experiment became a tortuous endeavor for these children. Initially, almost all the children tried to wait, but the longer they watched the door and thought about the marshmallow, disbelief and displeasure began to fill their minds. The ones who were ultimately successful looked in a different direction, sang a song, or reframed their desires, all of which helped to ultimately endure to receive their reward in full. Conversely, some were overcome with their desire or doubt; they rang the bell and received a lesser reward.

 

Matthew Chapter 7, our reading for today, contains a handful of verses we will most likely wrestle with at some point in our lives when our metaphorical marshmallow is placed in front of us.  Yesterday’s devotion showed us God’s provision, but there is a distinction here that appears in times where we appeal to God for greater things, beyond bread or fish (Matt 7:9): the search for a spouse, selection of a college or career, the growth of a church or ministry, the health of a loved one, the birth of a child or wisdom in a difficult situation.  All of these have a biblical basis as blessings from God, the giver of “good gifts to those who ask” (Matt 7:11), so we might suspect for these to move up God’s priority list. The only requirements are we ask, seek, and knock (Matt 7:7). Initially, these three actions seems the same, but through my own appeals, I have come to realize these in fact may be steps of a larger process.

ASK

First, you must ask.   While our action and efforts show our faith, if we bring God in, we are no longer in control (or under the illusion that we are in control).  By making our request known to our Heavenly Father, we begin to have peace with the “marshmallow” that passes our comprehension of the situation (Phil 4:6-7).  We are settled knowing that if we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father will not only hear our request, but has already placed our desire within the scope of his will and eternal plan (John 14:12-14). You will receive it.

SEEK

Next, you must seek. We are to search for God’s will in our lives which is much larger than a single request.  It is so easy to be consumed with a single desire and measure your faith and relationship with God by it. He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), so we must look away from the “marshmallow”, and look towards God’s kingdom as the first priority for our lives.  By daily searching for God and His perfect and pleasing will, we will ultimately collide with the desire of our heart at the single most opportune moment which is mutually benefiting God’s kingdom and us. You will find it.

KNOCK

Finally, knock, which is by far the most difficult of the three.  You must patiently wait and trust God. As we wait, the rain will come down, maybe harder than ever, the floods will come up, maybe higher than ever, and the wind beat against the house, maybe stronger than ever, and the foundation of our lives will be exposed (Matt 7:24-29).  These are the moments that make or break a faith. To endure the storm, we must be persistent in our prayer lives, even when we are frustrated. We are to be fervent in our discipleship, even when our will is depleted. We must share our faith, even if we have moments of doubt.  We will not “earn” our reward, but they give us the strength to continue to stand at the door knocking, waiting for God’s perfect timing, the delayed gratification, the moment when faith becomes sight. And soon enough, He will open the door.

 

The children who participated in the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment were later studied as teens and adults.  There were some startling correlations with the group that found their way to endure to the end, delaying their reward until a more pleasing moment.  They were better able to cope with stress, more likely to be fulfilled in the work, less likely to be impulsive or aggressive, and less likely to be addicted or become divorced.  As we wait for our good and perfect gift from above, God may be moving heaven and earth to bless us (2 Kings 20:1-11). The problem is He is on the other side of the door, and all we can see is the marshmallow.  It is so easy to become focused on this one thing and forget about the promise. There is so much blessing waiting in the waiting. Our focus changes, we become disciplined, we find ways to sing while stressed, we become fulfilled in God – blessing or not.  We are focused by and consumed with God, not the marshmallow. Then the door opens and we remember the promise, and we see our reward and how His plan was so good.  God delays our gratification, not to experiment or simply because He can but to show us He truly is the giver of the greatest gifts to those who ask, and he will double or exponentially multiply the reward.  Don’t give in and ring the bell – Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find it. Knock, and the door will be opened.

-Aaron Winner

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Affecting Future Generations

Gen 16 1
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”  “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.  The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.  Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”  The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.  He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”  She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
Genesis 16:1‭-‬13 NIV
In this chapter, we see a choice that Abram and Sarai made, that still impacts the world today.  They were trying to fulfill a promise that God had made, by their design instead of waiting for God.  It’s easy for us to sit back and think, ‘Wow no way would I do that if God promised me something!’ Fact is though, we turn our backs on God’s promises all the time.  We force decisions in our lives based on our wants, instead of truly seeking God’s will first.  But what really gets me is the possible consequences of our decisions.
It isn’t always just us that pays the price, our families and friends can be significantly affected by our decisions.  If you’re a parent you see this all the time.  Might just be little things like choosing to stay late at work instead of going to a game, or it could be big things like how a divorce can change everyone’s life involved.  If you’re a son or daughter, you feel those decisions, but you also know that your choices affect your parents.  Could be something minor like not doing something you said you would, or something major like a DUI.  Point is that all of us have to realize that how we live our lives can affect how others live theirs.  And some of, if not many of,  the decisions we make affect future generations.
This is true for good decisions also, the legacy we leave on life isn’t just about our screw ups, it’s about our accomplishments also, all part of God’s design and his plan of grace.  So if you’ve screwed up, no worries, there’s forgiveness.  But that might mean the consequences are set, and we have to rely on that grace and work hard to make better choices moving forward.  Just remember next time you have a major choice in front of you, am I seeking God’s will or my own?  Does this choice honor the people around me as well as myself? If we take time to evaluate our choices like that, I think we’ll have fewer regrets in them.
Jerry Briggs

What He Wants Me to Do

1 tim 1 5

There have been times when I have wondered what God wants me to do, not in a big way, but smaller, things I can do daily. So when I went through the quiz material from this summer 1 Timothy 1:5 quickly became my favorite verse. “But the goal of our instruction is love, from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a sincere faith.”- 1 Tim. 1:5

Paul wrote this when he was instructing Timothy on how to run the church, and it applies to us. We have a goal, to love, and we can do this everyday. When we are loving to others it shows God’s love through us.

-Blair Simon

Delighting In God!

 

psalm 37 4

I enjoy walking my dog and try to do that several times a week in the morning. It’s a wonderful time to think and talk to God before the busyness of the day takes over. So, I was thinking about what I wanted to write about and Psalm 37: 4 kept coming to mind. When I think of this verse two young ladies come to mind that I will channel this morning. My niece Kaitlyn Walters, used this verse in a devotion umpteen years ago at Southeast Camp and Jennie Montgomery spoke on this subject at Guthrie Grove at the graduation service last year. The brain is a really amazing thing with all the information it keeps stored up for us!

So I will break down the verse, what does it mean to “Delight yourself in the Lord”? Delight means: a high degree of gratification or pleasure: joy. I think when you feel joy and pleasure when in the presence of the Lord, that you will want to spend time with him. You will want to get to know Him better. When we meet people that we enjoy; we talk to them, text them, ask questions to find out their likes, dislikes, their thoughts. We want to get to know them. It is the same way with God, to really know Him and delight ourselves with Him is to want to get to know Him better every day.

“He will give you the desires of your Heart.” When we are delighting in God, we are in tune with Him and His will for our lives. Our desires will parallel His and we will find fulfillment in Him and not in the things that the world would have us desire, like riches, fame, and power. The greatest example of someone who delighted in the Lord, would be Jesus. Jesus loved spending time with His Father. At the age of 12, in Luke 2:49, it says: “And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? ”At that age, he was in the temple, trying to learn about His Father, he was delighting himself in the Lord. He would go and spend hours praying to God.  Before he was led to the cross, he said “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Jesus, did not ask His father for riches or honor. In fact even though he didn’t want to die, he submitted to the Father, because he was willing to let His desires become one with his Father’s will. I pray that we will all delight in the Lord, spend time with Him, and that the desire of all of our hearts will to be to spend eternity with our Father in the Kingdom.

Sherry Alcumbrack

 

God Intended It For Good

 

As I read the Bible, I like to see how we can use the stories in our lives. This is a story of Joseph and his rise to the top. As Jacob deceived his father Isaac, with his mother’s help, he was deceived several times in his life by those who loved him. Laban deceived him and had him marry Leah and then Rachel. His children deceived him when they told him that Joseph had been killed and he lived many years not realizing that his son was alive and sold into slavery. The story of Joseph is fascinating, we can see in the story how one thing leads to another and that God was using him in every situation.  He is sold as a slave and then Potiphar buys him, he is put in control of Potiphar’s household, then wrongfully accused by Potiphar’s wife, because he is a man of honor and will not sleep with her. The prison guard is partial to him and puts him in charge of all the other prisoners. Then he interprets some dreams correctly, later Pharaoh needs someone to interpret his dream and the butler tells him about Joseph. He, through God, correctly interprets the dream and Pharaoh makes him second in command of his kingdom. He then is in the position to not only save millions but also to save his family. I love this verse and think we would all do well to memorize it, Genesis 50:20:

god intended for good

I think sometimes we feel like we are not as important as the people that we read about in the Bible but God uses regular people to make an impact on their family and community. If we allow God to use us, he will take everything in our lives and use it to accomplish His will and it will be used for Good. Another great verse to memorize is Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Everything that we go through in our lives is not good, but everything will be used for good. In the Kingdom all things will once again be very good.

Sherry Alcumbrack

 

 

What Rings Out from You?

1 Thess 1 8

I Thessalonians 1-3

Apprentice: Learning from the Master was the theme for Family Camp 2015.  Our son suggested the theme while coming home from Family Camp the previous year.   And it stuck.  “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” I Corinthians 11:1.  We have a responsibility to be following our Master Jesus (who was following God’s will and direction every step of the way) – not only for our benefit – but to lead and guide and instruct others how to also follow Christ and become more and more like Jesus.

I see Apprentice all over these first three chapters of I Thessalonians.   When Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus he entered training to be an Apprentice of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But he didn’t hide away with his new-found life – taking it out every Sunday to display at church.  It was his life and breath and joy and struggle – to be lived and fought for every day – to take people to Jesus that they might become apprentices as well – learning and teaching the craft of loving, serving, following, obeying Christ and His Father.  Listen again to some of these phrases:
“You became imitators of us and of our Lord: in spite of severe suffering” (1:6)
“And so you became a model to all the believers” (1:7)
“The Lord’s message rang out from you” (1:8)
“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?  Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” (2:19,20)
“For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.” (3:8)

Do you want to be a better Apprentice?

First – check your walk – are you living what you’ve learned from Jesus the Master? Do you do the work that Jesus did?  How can you follow Jesus better?  More consistently?  Does the Lord’s message ring out from you?  Do you imitate the world or do you imitate Christ and Christian role-models?
How can you reach out to others as Jesus did?  And as Paul did?  Who do you pray earnestly for night and day – that their faith will be strong?
Who will be your hope, your joy or your crown in which you will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”  (3:12-13).

Marcia Railton

God’s Will in Just 6 Words

Phil 2 14 15

Have you noticed that there is a book about every subject. There are books on marriage, parenting, preaching, finding God’s will for our lives, etc. I listen to Christian talk radio and it seems like everyone that preaches or speaks has a book to sell or give you for a donation. What about the book that God wrote. Many people buy books on God’s will like: Do Something, God’s Will for your life, and any number of books promising to find that specific thing that is just for you.

Philippians 2 gives us a seemingly simple yet admittedly hard will that God has for all of our lives. In fact, if done, promises that our light for God will shine like the stars in the sky. Philippians 2:14 says to do everything without arguing or complaining. God’s word always seems to get to the point and save you hundreds at Barnes and Nobles. This verse, if followed, promises that we will not have labored in vain on the day of Christ.

Is God’s will for our life really just 6 words? Try it. Today just listen to what is going on around you. There is complaining and arguing on politics, religion, driving skills or lack thereof, and the speed at which we get our fast food and God hates it. In Numbers 14 this issue kept the children of Israel out of the promised land. The place that God had planned for them. What “promised lands” are we missing out on due to our attitude.

Just yesterday as our work crew pulled up to the construction site, one of the workers from the other crew met us and said, “The Christians are here”. He said he was listening to the preaching and music we were listening to and was enjoying it. You can shine in this world if we focus on God and his son. Like the song says, “The things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”

-Joseph Partain