Warning: Lethal Wound

Psalm 38

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I am afraid we have an ugly topic to talk about today.  It’s no fun, but it has to be done.  It is more fun to talk about sunshine, knitting and fruit salad (see the last two days’ posts).  But when we don’t talk about this topic and acknowledge it and be on the defensive against it, it has a way of festering, oozing out of control and taking over by force – consuming ourself and others in its path of destruction.

I am talking about sin.  One verse toward the end of yesterday’s psalm about trials points to the seriousness of sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18) .  Ouch.  The All-Powerful God who loves and cares for me will not hear my prayers, my petitions, or even my praise if my sin is creating a sound-proof barrier between me and Him.  His holiness will not allow it.  Sin is serious and must be dealt with in order for me to be heard by God.

King David was a man who knew a thing or two about the devastating effects of sin.  In Psalm 38 he describes many consequences of sin: God’s anger and discipline, ill health, overwhelming guilt, searing pain, severe depression, social isolation, increased enemies, and confusion.  What other consequences can you find in this psalm?  He states, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” (Psalm 38:5).

The thing is…”sinful folly” sounds just a wee bit fun, doesn’t it??  Maybe it’s a glance at pornography, experimenting with friends doing drugs or alcohol, speeding recklessly down the interstate with some great tunes cranking out, making out with your significant other, or getting a good laugh out of the lunch crew when you share a great put-down.  It’s a little exhilarating – for a time.  And that’s the trouble with sin.  It can start by seeming like no big deal.  I highly doubt that King David woke up one morning and said, “This is the day.  I am going to go watch a woman bathe, and then commit adultery and that will lead to deception, murder, the death of my child, a plaque of violence on my family, and ….   No one plans to be sucked into a downward spiral of sin, deceit and pain.  Rather, it begins with small acts of selfishness – thinking of my own pleasure over and above what is right, pleasing to God and helpful to others.  And then the demon of pride enters and says we can handle this burning coal and we won’t get burned.  So, we say yes to that little urge of ‘sinful folly’.

Before we know it, we are facing festering wounds and a forest fire.  And the good-feeling exhilaration is long gone.  In it’s place is only pain, isolation, depression, guilt and confusion.

Sadly, this is not true for only adulterous murderers.  It is the same for me.  It is the same for you.  It is the same for the most saintly person you know.  In the New Testament James gives the same warning David does: “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15).  Sin is a big deal, and not just for the sinner, but for so many others who will be affected.

I was looking for a great picture of gangrene to open this devotion.  They were much worse than I had anticipated (as is the case with sin) so I will not include an actual visual.  But, imagine, blackened decaying flesh surrounded by raw, oozing, pain.  Death has set in – even while the rest of the body lives.  Sin, left unchecked and allowed to grow, is like this extreme infection.  It leads to death most certainly – if not treated.  Sin, too, must be treated, and the earlier the better.  Psalm 38:18 shares the first important step to restoration: “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”  Tear down the sound-proof barrier your sins have built up between you and God.  Cry out to him in confession.  Thank God for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ who died so we might be forgiven when we come to the Father with a repentant heart, ready to be obedient in turning from our sins and seeking to live a holy life.

Even gangrene can be healed.  It requires hard dirty work (sometimes even using amputation or maggots) – a process of cutting out and destroying the old which causes death.  Maybe a friend who is a bad influence needs to be cut out, or maybe it’s a TV channel or social media.  And, then a lot of antibiotics and sometimes lifestyle changes are needed to return to health. God’s Word, prayer, a church body and healthy habits are great antibiotics for a repentant sinner.

Remember our memory verse for this week from Psalm 139:24 – “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Sin is serious – even when it starts small.  Don’t let sins fester.  Pray for conviction where conviction is due, and healing and restoration where that is needed.  And seek out the everlasting way.

-Marcia Railton

 

 

 

 

 

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Step Back and Praise Him

Psalm 66

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I think the hardest part about writing this week will be picking which Psalm to write about each day.  There are just so many great ones!  After looking at lots of options I went back to my first choice for day 2 –  Psalm 66.  It begins like so many of the other psalms – with praise.  “Shout with joy to God, all the earth!…Make his praise glorious!  Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds’ ”  (Psalm 66:1,3a)  You can read or listen to the rest of this great Psalm here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2066.

Our God is a great God and so worthy of our praise.  All the time.  As the verse says – and the psalmist repeats later – His deeds are awesome!  May I repeat that?  HIS DEEDS ARE AWESOME!!  But, have you ever been in a place where that was difficult to see?  If you haven’t yet, you might find yourself there later.  It is like looking at a picture of a beautiful sunrise on a gorgeous beach – with a 3-D microscope.  There may be times when all that is in focus is a giant wave coming crashing down on top of you, or the tentacles of a poisonous jellyfish reaching toward you.  Life can be scary!  Life can be stressful!  Life can be sorrowful!  Life can be unfair!  Especially when you are looking up-close at one moment, one day, one season in time.

I am sure the Israelites felt a lot of fear, stress and uncertainty as they were hemmed in with the Red Sea in front of them and the advancing army of Pharaoh closing the distance behind them.  Praises probably weren’t the first to pop to mind.  When Joseph was sentenced to prison for a crime he didn’t commit after being sold as a slave by his brothers he may have been seeing up close some very tough, unfair circumstances.

I love how this psalm says over and over again to praise God, and not because life is always easy and he pampers and shelters his children.  No, this psalm includes several rough instances where God’s children were in tough spots – at the water’s edge, in prison, through fire and water, subjected to enemies.  And, not only were they in the midst of these trials that God certainly allowed, but sometimes He even brought these trials upon His children – testing us, refining us.

But – the trial is NOT the big picture – but just one snapshot in time, one zoomed in macro image of the great big beautiful scene God is creating in our lives when we seek to follow Him.  It’s like looking at this one somewhat gross looking image

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instead of seeing the delicious fruit salad this strawberry can become.

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Sometimes we need to take a step back and readjust our focus.   Thank God for what He is doing in our lives, even through the painful trials.  As the psalmist says after listing several suffering situations, “But you brought us to a place of abundance.” (Psalm 66:12).

Thank you, God, for your presence through the storms and for using them to better our lives.  Better, not bitter.  “How awesome are your deeds.” (Psalm 66:3a)

-God Bless – Marcia Railton

 

 

Knit Together

Psalm 139

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Welcome to a new week!  A new week of LIFE!  How exciting!  Sure beats a new week of Death, doesn’t it!  This week you will be hearing from me as well as some of my family members and every day we will be writing about a different psalm.  Today – I am starting with a most beautiful Psalm – 139.  It has so many great verses I won’t have time to touch on.  You really must read it all for yourself – maybe even a couple times today – and at BibleGateway.com you can have it read to you, too.  (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+139&version=NIV)

As a crafter I love to create!  I love selecting materials and colors and textures that I want to work with.  I love planning and then watching my project grow and grow and grow until it becomes what I had once just envisioned in my head (or at least something close to what I had dreamed up).  My grandma taught me how to knit when I was in high school and I am so thankful for the hours I have relaxed while clinking the needles together to make something useful and (sometimes even) beautiful.  And so I love the imagery of Psalm 139:13 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

As a creator there is nothing like that feeling you get while gazing upon a completed work.  Remembering when it was nothing.  Remembering the process and time it took to create it to be just so.  And then, being able to share it – use it – give it away – enjoy it.  Makes me want to drop my computer and run to my knitting needles!  So too, I believe God gets great pleasure out of creating – knitting new life and continuing to mold and shape it into what He wants it to be.

Unfortunately, there are also so many things that mess with those beautiful creations.  Just like a pair of scissors will quickly destroy the hours of work to create a beautiful sweater, so too, sin wreaks havoc on the beauty of life.  An unkind word, a superior attitude is like a slash with a permanent marker against a beautiful piece of art.  When we view each person as a work of art created by God, we have a greater responsibility for not letting our own (or society’s) sins stain and destroy that creation.

I recently read about one pastor who said he hated Sanctity of Life Sunday.  (https://www.russellmoore.com/2009/01/18/why-i-hate-sanctity-of-human-life-sunday/) . He went on to explain that it wasn’t because he didn’t think it was Biblical, or because he didn’t agree with it – but because we live in a world where it is needed.  He said, “I hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I’m reminded that we have to say things to one another that human beings shouldn’t have to say. Mothers shouldn’t kill their children. Fathers shouldn’t abandon their babies. No human life is worthless, regardless of skin color, age, disability, economic status. The very fact that these things must be proclaimed is a reminder of the horrors of this present darkness.” (Russell Moore).

So true.  So true.

Each day – may we strive to remember the Creator who gives life and work to honor His creations.  May we see each and every person – all races, all ages, all colors, all abilities, with a home, without a home, born, unborn as the special creation of God they are – lovingly knit together with a purpose.  May we put away the scissors and sin that cut down life and leave gaping holes – and even death.  May we find the words and attitudes and actions to value life – not just our own – but others too.

I encourage you to work on memorizing the last verse of Psalm 139 this week.  “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Make it your prayer this week and beyond.

Looking forward to our week together,

Marcia Railton

 

 

Jesus is Coming! Jesus is Coming!

Luke 19

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Jesus is Coming!  What preparations do we need to make before Jesus comes?  Climb a tree to get a good vantage point?  Put his money to work?  Spread your cloak on the road?  These were all mentioned in Luke 19 as ways people prepared for Jesus’ coming.

The wealthy, though short, tax collector Zacchaeus was curious about this Jesus who was coming into town.  Not wanting to miss out he climbed a tree to make sure he could see Jesus.

In the Parable of the Ten Minas, during the master’s absence most of the servants took what had been entrusted to them (a mina – about three months wages) and put it to work to earn more – and were rewarded for their work.

When the crowd heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem they gathered to pay him honor as they spread their cloaks in the road in front of the colt carrying Jesus.  And with loud voices they joyfully praised God for the miracles they had witnessed Jesus perform: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest”. (Luke 19:38)

This greeting reminds me of the words spoken by the great company of the heavenly host about 33 years earlier when the angels were telling the shepherds of the birth of Christ.  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14).

No doubt, today, Christmas Eve, many many preparations will be made – supposedly in preparation to celebrate the birth of a King.  In the midst of our busyness how will we actually prepare for Jesus?   What will we do and say and give and pray TODAY to celebrate his FIRST Coming in a way that will honor him?  Perhaps there will be some things that we decide we will NOT do, in order to better celebrate Jesus’ coming.

And, EVERY day – how will we prepare for his SECOND coming?

Will we take the time and effort to seek out Jesus as Zacchaeus did?  Will we joyfully accept his invitation to meet together and then find ourselves changed – repentant and obedient – because of the time we spend in his presence?

Will we take the talents, time, possessions and minas/money  we have been given and diligently be trustworthy in using them to prepare for the coming return of our Savior – spreading the word, growing the church, and caring for the lost?  Or will we be like the scared servant who just hid away the treasure that he was responsible for – and even what he had was taken from him?

Will we work at honoring Jesus, the Son of God who is indeed coming to be crowned king in a kingdom like no other.   Will we give of ourselves, not afraid to get our clothes a little dirty, not ashamed to speak boldly, not persuaded to keep quiet by the Pharisees in our midst?  For if we don’t speak – even the stones will tell of his greatness (Luke 19:40).

I pray we celebrate his first coming well while we wisely and diligently prepare for his even greater second coming!

Jesus is Coming!

Marcia Railton

 

 

Courageously, Humbly Compliant

Joshua 5

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Friday, October 13

There are a lot of great tidbits in today’s reading of Joshua 5.  Go ahead and read it and see what you find.

I love the part about the foreign kings’ hearts melting as they lost courage to fight against the Israelites and their powerful God.   (vs 1).

I love the part about the men following through to show they were committed to a new start in following God with their whole mind, body and strength – being set apart as God’s unique and chosen people (vs 2-9).

I love the part about the Israelites eating food grown in Canaan for the first time – and the manna from the sky – which God had provided for 40 years – stopping on the very next day  (vs 10-12).

But my favorite part is when Joshua is approaching Jericho and meets an armed man – but he can’t tell if he is friend or foe.  So he courageously approaches him and asks.  The man, with drawn sword replies, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” (vs 14).   I am impressed with Joshua – not only brave and courageous, but humble as well.  Joshua, and all of the Israelites likely, considered Joshua to be the commander of the army of the Lord – until meeting this man/being with drawn sword.  But rather than arrogantly questioning this – he falls at his feet and instead asks what message the Lord has for Joshua.  I pray that I would be as courageous as Joshua – along with as humbly compliant.  Not standing up to God, or his commander, not proudly speaking of my battle plan or claiming titles – but at his feet – asking for directions – and then courageously stepping out to do them.

-Marcia Railton

What Do These Stones Mean?

Joshua 4

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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

 

Do You Know a Rahab?

Joshua 2

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Tuesday, October 10

There aren’t a lot of Bible stories which showcase a prostitute as the heroine.  But, here, in Joshua 2, we are introduced to Rahab.  She  is a prostitute in Jericho – one of the fortified cities just inside the Promised Land.  Most likely this was one of the fortified cities that the Israelite spies had seen 40 years ago when their fear and small view of God kept them from entering the Promised Land under God’s watchful eye.

So, now, Rahab is visited by spies from the Israelite camp.  It is very interesting to see who is afraid now.  Rahab tells the spies that she KNOWS that her native land will be given to God’s People – the Israelites.  They have heard many stories of the amazing power and might of the Israelite God – stories that the Israelites themselves would have done well to remember 40 years ago!  And now the Jericho natives are shaking in their boots because they realize that they are not protected by a living and active and all-powerful God.

Rahab is thankful for this opportunity to meet with spies who have connections with this all-powerful God of heaven and earth.  She courageously hides them from her king and helps them escape – with the understanding that when they come back to conquer her city they will return the favor by saving her and her family.

Do you know a Rahab?  Maybe someone who has heard about God but hasn’t had or taken the opportunity to become a follower, yet.  How can you help show her/him the way?   Their world will be conquered – don’t let them be left behind.  Don’t take for granted the God of Heaven and Earth that you know – and others NEED to know.  He is an amazing God.

-Marcia Railton