Of More Noble Character

Acts 17 29

Acts 17

I want to be of more noble character.  I want my family to be of more noble character.  I want my church to be of more noble character.  We read in Acts how to do it.  Paul called the Bereans of more noble character because they, “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).  Getting excited about God’s Word – opening it daily to find the truth for yourself – that’s what I want for myself, for my family and for my church.  What about you?  If you too want to be of more noble character –  keep digging into God’s Word!

 

What makes your blood start to boil a bit?  What causes you to feel distressed or grieved?  What do you find really provokes your spirit?  For Paul this happened when he saw the city of Athens full of idols (17:16).  Too often today I fear we have become desensitized to the city of idols and immorality we live in.  We’ve become so used to hearing and seeing and running into idols and evil that it doesn’t faze us anymore.  Do we really see and understand the lost state of the world around us?  Do we see danger for what it is?  And, are there any areas where we have allowed it to seep into our own lives as well?   When we don’t see it for what it is, it becomes impossible to guard against it.  Pray for God to help you see clearly the world around you.  Pray that you would be grieved by what grieves God and see danger for what it is.

 

In a world that is so full of idols, people are creating ‘gods’ out of anything and everything: sports, entertainment, high scores on …(fill in the blank), social media, A’s, fitness, selfishness, and the list goes on!   They think “God” can be whoever and whatever they want God to be.  If they want a teddy bear god (soft and comfy and great for giving hugs) – he is theirs.  If they want a god in nature (but never in church) – he is theirs.  If they want a three-headed god with purple polka-dots – he is theirs.  But gods that we fashion with our own human minds and desires are NOT gods – they are idols.  There is ONE true God and He cannot be, “formed by the art and thought of man.”  (Acts 17:29).  He is a jealous God and demands that we worship Him and Him only – and rightly so.  Creating your own “Build-a-‘god’” won’t cut it when your salvation and eternal life is on the line.

 

Thankfully, in a world of imitation gods – there is a way to find the REAL TRUE GOD!  He reveals himself when we dig into His Word – that’s why He wrote it for us.  Open God’s Word – get excited about it – and find the ONE TRUE GOD!   And while you seek Him in His Word, don’t be surprised to find yourself becoming of more noble character, too!

 

-Marcia Railton

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One Mind

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Acts 15  –  Conflict is Inevitable

Life would be SO much easier (for me) if everyone always agreed with me.

BUT – I am not always right.

AND – conflict is inevitable.

 

Acts 15 is about a whole lot of conflict.

First, the Jewish Christians thought the new Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians needed to follow the whole law of Moses – and prove it with circumcision. However, the Gentile Christians felt their faith in Christ – proven by baptism, not circumcision – provided salvation rather than the old law.  And, the church in Antioch where Paul and Barnabas were teaching and preaching was being torn apart by the division.  Sometimes conflict does that.

 

But, here we get to see some great steps for conflict resolution.

 

  • Go to find wise counsel. Look for spiritually mature and trustworthy individuals.  In this case Paul and Barnabas were sent with a delegation to the Jerusalem church elders 300 miles away (a trip that may have taken them approximately 15 days if they were able to cover 20 miles per day – sometimes conflict resolution takes some time – but it is worth it).
  • Everybody gets to share their side of the argument. And even through “much debate” (vs. 7), we see order and respect – standing to speak and not speaking out of turn.   And, during the debate – lots of listening (rather than merely preparing your rebuttal).
  • After everyone has had their say – listen to the leadership (in this case, James the brother of Jesus – vs 13) and be prepared to peacefully abide by their decisions.
  • And don’t forget to go to God’s Word! James shares words of the Prophet which clearly say that it is God’s desire that all mankind will seek Him and that there will be Gentiles called by His name.  Using this and the evidence that had been shared of how God had been working amongst the uncircumcised but believing Gentiles, James gives his judgment – no circumcision is needed, but Gentiles must follow some basic rules to be set apart to God and holy.
  • Share the findings with those impacted by the decision – aiming for peacefully being of one mind. A letter is written and members of the Jewish church are sent back with the Antioch delegation to share the letter with the body of believers caught in this conflict.

 

The Antioch church received the letter and delegation and “rejoiced” and were “strengthened” and were at peace.  Conflict resolution at its best!  Unfortunately, we know this issue will come up again throughout the New Testament as other churches grapple with the change.  Old traditions die hard for the Jewish believers.  So too, we must be careful to be tuned into God’s will rather than traditions or merely what “I want” or “I think” or has always been done this way.  Search out what God thinks on the subject.  Aim for becoming of one mind – centered on God’s mind – not yours.

 

Just as peace is reigning once again in Antioch, a new conflict transpires!  But, this time it’s a very personal one – and between our two heroes – Paul and Barnabas!  Even great heroes of the faith don’t always see eye to eye.  Barnabas – always the encourager – wants to take Mark on the next missionary journey.  Paul – perhaps more “task oriented” – remembers that Mark left them in the middle of the last journey and doesn’t want to give him a second chance.  “And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another” (Acts 15:39).  It could have easily become an opportunity to grow sour and bitter toward one another, or even God’s work – allowing bad feelings to fester.  However, sometimes a decision to peacefully disagree and get on with God’s work – even if it results in parting ways at least temporarily – can actually deepen relationships and be a useful thing.  In this case, the missionary efforts were doubled since Barnabas went in one direction with Mark to teach and preach and Paul chose Silas and went in another direction to preach and teach.  Differences remained – but both were still actively spreading God’s Word.  And, what fun to later read (Colossians 4:10) that Paul would find Mark to also be very useful in ministry.

 

Life would be so much easier (for me) if everyone always agreed with me.

BUT – I am not always right,

AND – easy isn’t always better.

When we use Biblical models and Godly wisdom to face the conflict, we can grow through the conflict and come out stronger, wiser, and more in line with what God has designed us to be – either as a church, a marriage, a friendship or an individual.  Face your conflict – with much prayer, Bible searching and wisdom and Godly counsel.

 

-Marcia Railton

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

fruit salad

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