Daily Devotional

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

sbaker : July 29, 2015 4:00 am

Seeking

Sara Thompson

“’You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord…” Jeremiah 29:13-14

Several years ago I watched a documentary called The Privileged Planet which went into great scientific detail about how unique our planet is, especially as it relates to our position in the universe. One of the discoveries that these scientists made that I found the most fascinating is that our planet is placed in the universe, Milky Way, and solar system in the exact place that is best to view and discover things about our universe. If the earth were placed in other places in the Milky Way, we wouldn’t be able to see or discover the universe the way that we can here (let alone have a survivable habitat). This makes me think about how God wants to be discovered. He wants to be found.

This isn’t to say that we should all get out telescopes in order to find God (although creation certainly does show evidence of his creativity and majesty). God wants us to know Him – personally and intimately. Our hearts get involved in knowing him. We seek him with a desire to simply know HIM. What a great promise to us that he will be found. Our seeking will not be in vain.

Do you ever just enjoy being with God? Reflect today on times that you have sought him and found him. What are the things that distract you from seeking?

Father, thank you for your availability to us. Help us to have hearts that seek you. Amen.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

sbaker : July 28, 2015 4:00 am

Matthew 5:21-26

Anger

Jason Sniff

Anger is interesting, and by itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, when used correctly, anger is an important human emotion. It just depends upon how we use it. Anger pushes us to act when something “isn’t right.” Anger can be righteous – think of Jesus in the temple courts, or the pursuit to end sex trafficking. Some would say this is a “loving anger.”

Anger can also be unrighteous. Think of all the times you’ve lost your temper, patience, said something biting, purposefully acted against someone else, etc., etc. Anger always pushes us to action. When used appropriately, it is helpful. When used inappropriately, it is hurtful. “Responding to” anger verses “reacting in” anger makes all the difference.

There’s no way around this, we are all guilty of reacting in anger. Which means we all have hurt people around us. Johns Stott says, “If murder is a horrible crime, malicious anger and insult are horrible too.” So, when we are hurtful, what needs to be done about it? Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 5:24.

“Leave” – Immediately stop whatever you are doing, even if you are worshipping in church.

“Be reconciled” – change the mind (as in yours), apologize, make amends, ask for forgiveness, transform and renew the relationship.

“Come and present” – return to bearing patiently with one another.

How we respond to anger makes all the difference. Spend some time with the Lord asking him to reveal any anger in your heart. Ask him to give you the courage to make amends with those around you, then go and do it.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

sbaker : July 27, 2015 4:00 am

Selective Hearing

Nicki Green

“I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Psalm 116:1, 2 NLT

Traditionally, this Psalm was sung before the Jewish Passover in the Old Testament. This Psalm was a song of worship, remembering the rescue that God had done. The writer describes a near death experience and breaks forth in proclaiming his love for God because of hearing and answering his cries for rescue.

We have a selective hearing condition in our society. Maybe you understand what I’m describing. The speaker speaks and the listener is NOT listening! Texting and social media have taken the place of face to face interaction. A catalog of emoji’s are used to illustrate feelings rather than verbally communicated. You can choose who or what you “follow.” We live in a world of digital shortcuts and quick soundbites.

The ironic thing is with all the various methods of communication, more and more people feel unheard. There have become so many forms of speaking that the hearing gets lost. Because our email, text, and social media walks around with us, if we don’t have an immediate response, we become frustrated or feel ignored.

The good news is that God hears. God responds. If you’re feeling discouraged and not heard, remember that God is near and He’s bending down listening carefully to every prayer you pray. Worship and thank the Lord for hearing your voice.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

sbaker : July 25, 2015 4:00 am

John 04:01-26

Caleb Baker

Read through this story. I know you’ve read it before (100 times); but read through it with fresh eyes today.

I love this story for so many reasons; Jesus didn’t fall into the “norms” of the culture that he was living in. Just like in America in 2015, there was a “way to do things” back in Jesus’ day in the area that he was living in. There were people that you talked to and people that you didn’t talk to. There were things that weren’t to be talked about, just like we have nowadays.

The woman in this story knows these same norms and expectations; “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” She’s as blown away by Jesus as we should be; she learned that day that Jesus doesn’t count anyone out because of who they are. There isn’t a people group or gender or skin color that counts you out. Jesus goes to the “enemy,” the Samaritans, and engages them. He talks to them, treats them with dignity.

The story goes on and we find out that she’s had several different husbands and she’s currently with a man that isn’t her husband. She’s got some baggage, she hurts, she has parts of her story that she’s not proud of. Jesus knows this about her and he shares that the good news and love of God the Father is open to all types of people from all types of backgrounds. She learns that Jesus doesn’t count anyone out because of what they’ve done. She wasn’t perfect; she had very big mistakes. But Jesus still invited her into this news. Let this encourage you today; but also remember this is how Jesus is when you’re interacting with people that don’t look like you and people that have some serious baggage.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

sbaker : July 24, 2015 4:00 am

Eternal Focus

Karen Norris

As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:18 ESV

We have, well actually had, a Bradford pear tree in our front yard that we planted when we moved in 13 years ago, and it was just getting to the point where it provided decent shade. The tree looked great in April, but by May we noticed the leaves had turned brown and large branches on the tree were void of life. Our tree continued to decline and we were bummed when we found out we needed to have it cut down. Even trees have life spans.

There are very few things that can be counted on to last forever. Our souls are eternal and they will remain even when our earthly bodies decay. That’s why it’s so important for us to look beyond the physical and focus on the spiritual. There is life beyond what we are experiencing at this moment.

So often I start my day with an eternal perspective, but in no time I have my head buried in transient tasks and my perspective is shot. For me, keeping an eternal focus has to be intentional. How about you? What do you plan on spending your energy and resources on today? Will you take some time to focus on things that will last or will your time be absorbed by the immediate emergencies? Just like my pear tree, our time on earth will end, but our relationship with our heavenly Father and how we share His love with others will last into eternity. Pray today that you keep focused on the things that are unseen and last!

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

sbaker : July 23, 2015 4:00 am

“Silent Praise”

Charlie Welke

But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.  Habakkuk 2.20

I am a person well-rehearsed in praise – my problem is in the object, not the ability. Whenever we ascribe glory, worth, or weight to something manmade, we place ourselves in the pathway of harm. In the Old Testament, this practice was called idolatry.

Unfortunately, I am still an idol worshiper.

I praise Lebron, I praise Apple, I praise artists like T. Swift and Jay-Z (apparently when your name can be reduced to a letter it is inherently understood that you are worthy of praise). I praise my friends, I praise my siblings, and on my more Christian days, I even praise those who are more wealthy, healthy and handsome than me.

Psalm 115 reminded me of the futility of idols. Habakkuk goes on a similar rant against idolatry (the five “woes” of Habakkuk 2). But Habakkuk 2 comes to a conclusion that has helped me to redirect my praise this week.

Is it possible that silence can be praise?

Much of my praise verbage is just that – verbal. I think about singing, speaking, and sharing all the great things that God has done, is doing, and promises to do. I’ve always assumed that praise required sound, but I’m beginning to rethink that.

In Habakkuk’s prophecy, I see a powerful defense against my idolatry. Silence of the soul reorients the tongue. Apparently, in the presence of God (“his holy temple”) there is reason for “all the earth” to “keep silence before him.”

I’ve been in places that are eerily silent – like a gravesite after the final prayers have been prayed. I’ve also been in places that are joyfully silent – like the first few moments that parents spend gazing at a newborn child.

Somehow, today, I’m finding my soul’s praise reoriented in silence. Try making some time today or this weekend for silence. See if God’s presence manifests more clearly when your mouth is closed.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

sbaker : July 22, 2015 4:00 am

Praise and Peace

Sara Thompson

“Always be joyful in the Lord. I will say it again – rejoice!…Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:4,6-7 (NLT)

These have been some of my favorite verses over the course of my life. In my younger years I liked the promise of peace that exceeds understanding – unfathomable peace for a time when peace doesn’t make sense. I’ve always been drawn to stories of heroes of the faith that were joyful in times of sorrow, trouble, or persecution. I knew prayer had something to do with it, after all, it says, “pray about everything,” but I missed the connection between praise and peace.

Praise helps us stand back from our troubles and remember who God IS. The main reason that we are joyful in the Lord as believers is because of our salvation and his grace that covers our sins. But our joy grows as we know him and his character. He is good, wise, loving, honorable, pure, lovely, kind, powerful, all-knowing, just, merciful, and excellent in all he does: he gives us life, purpose, worth, identity, and a family (with him). And there is so much more that can be said about him! As we dwell on all of these things (vs 8-9), all of my very real needs seem, somehow, already taken care of. Approaching God with praise actually gives me a sense of peace about asking for the things I need.

Take time to dwell on our praiseworthy God today and see if you experience his peace.

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