Daily Devotional

  • "Little Bird" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, May 31st

    Little Bird

    By Marsha C. Wohlhieter

    There's a little bird that perches
    On my front porch near my door
    He sings to me a sweet song
    Of the days that came before.

    He brings to mind our childhood
    And the games we used to play
    How we thought we'd live forever
    And that things would never change.

    He sings of friends and family
    Of good times and of bad
    He sings of joy and sorrow
    And the triumphs that we've had.

    There's a little bird that perches
    On my front porch near my door
    He sings to me a sad song
    Of the days to be no more

    He sings to me of special times
    When some we will not see.
    And the plans we made together
    That simply said were not to be.

    There's a little bird that perches
    On my front porch near my door.
    He sings to me memories
    Made so recent ...
    And then wait there is more!

    This little bird that perches
    On my front porch near my door
    He sings to me a promise
    of days that are yet to come.

    He sings to me of joy
    And the things I've left undone
    He reminds me I must keep going
    Until my work is done.

    He tells me not to worry
    That I do not walk alone
    To stop and smell the roses
    Each one a scent of it's own.

    He tells me to remember
    The details of each day.
    To share the stories and memories
    As I go along the way.

    For when my time is finished
    These times that we've been through
    Will serve to guide and comfort
    Maybe one or two.

    So little bird that perches
    On my front porch near my door.
    Sing to me your sweet songs
    And stay here evermore.

  • True Doors – Entering into a Life of Edification - Saturday, May 30th

    So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:25-32

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The Devotionals for Thursday, Friday, Saturday will give you specific passages of Scripture for putting into place the "Core" understanding with its three related perspectives from the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Devotionals and for using SPECS. An overview of the "core" understanding, the three perspectives, & SPECS follows.

    "Core" Understanding - A fruitful life comes forth from a close relationship with God

    A significant part of God's revelation to us in Scripture is its teaching concerning our relationship with God and the life that should flow from it. Our passage from John shows us that fruitfulness coming forth from a close relationship with God is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is the "core" understanding that forms the basis for all involvement with Scripture.

    Perspective One - God's Word: Means Not End

    The Scriptures were never intended to be an end in themselves. The Scriptures are the means by which you know and experience God as he unfolds his will in your life. May you always think of Scripture as God's very words to you flowing right from His heart to your heart as you interact with the sacred text of Scripture. God never steps back from His Word. May you never treat His precious Word as if He were not right there in it waiting to meet with you for occasions of sweet communion and spiritual nurture.

    Perspective Two - God's Word: Change Above Content 

    It is vital that you pursue the transformation of your life and not merely the expansion of your mind's understandings. Certainly God's Word enlightens the understanding of our minds, but God's Word is also designed for Him to use in changing the condition of our hearts and the way we live our lives. Be sure to be involved with God's Word in ways that regularly move beyond content to experiencing the change that content invites. Interact with the text of Scripture in such a way that you look for God to speak to you about how He wants to change you.

    Perspective Three - God's Word: Descriptions Not Obligations

    The primary subject of Scripture is Jesus Christ. He is given the central place throughout all of Scripture. While the Bible is a book "about" Jesus Christ, it is also a book "for" Him as well. In other words, the Bible isn't written to "instruct you on how to live your life" but to "describe for you how Jesus Christ will live His life in you and through you." The instructions it gives for your life are not obligations for you to fulfill, but rather they are descriptions of the life Christ will produce in and through you as you yield yourself to Him>

    SPECS 

    The SPECS acronym helps us see the Scriptural applications we are being called to respond to and live out in our daily lives.

    S - Sins to Forsake

     

    P - Promises to Claim

     

    E - Examples to Follow

     

    C - Commands to Obey

     

    S - Stumbling Blocks to Avoid


    Here is today's passage:

    25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil. 28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. 30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:25-32

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    After you interact with the passage in terms of the "core" understanding, the three perspectives, & SPECS, be sure to wrap things up with a prayer response to God.

  • True Doors – Entering into a Life of Justice - Friday, May 29th

    Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct. Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them. Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Galatians 6:2-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The Devotionals for Thursday, Friday, Saturday will give you specific passages of Scripture for putting into place the "Core" understanding with its three related perspectives from the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Devotionals and for using SPECS. An overview of the "core" understanding, the three perspectives, & SPECS follows.

    "Core" Understanding - A fruitful life comes forth from a close relationship with God

    A significant part of God's revelation to us in Scripture is its teaching concerning our relationship with God and the life that should flow from it. Our passage from John shows us that fruitfulness coming forth from a close relationship with God is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is the "core" understanding that forms the basis for all involvement with Scripture.

    Perspective One - God's Word: Means Not End

    The Scriptures were never intended to be an end in themselves. The Scriptures are the means by which you know and experience God as he unfolds his will in your life. May you always think of Scripture as God's very words to you flowing right from His heart to your heart as you interact with the sacred text of Scripture. God never steps back from His Word. May you never treat His precious Word as if He were not right there in it waiting to meet with you for occasions of sweet communion and spiritual nurture.

    Perspective Two - God's Word: Change Above Content 

    It is vital that you pursue the transformation of your life and not merely the expansion of your mind's understandings. Certainly God's Word enlightens the understanding of our minds, but God's Word is also designed for Him to use in changing the condition of our hearts and the way we live our lives. Be sure to be involved with God's Word in ways that regularly move beyond content to experiencing the change that content invites. Interact with the text of Scripture in such a way that you look for God to speak to you about how He wants to change you.

    Perspective Three - God's Word: Descriptions Not Obligations

    The primary subject of Scripture is Jesus Christ. He is given the central place throughout all of Scripture. While the Bible is a book "about" Jesus Christ, it is also a book "for" Him as well. In other words, the Bible isn't written to "instruct you on how to live your life" but to "describe for you how Jesus Christ will live His life in you and through you." The instructions it gives for your life are not obligations for you to fulfill, but rather they are descriptions of the life Christ will produce in and through you as you yield yourself to Him.

    SPECS 

    The SPECS acronym helps us see the Scriptural applications we are being called to respond to and live out in our daily lives.

    S - Sins to Forsake

     

    P - Promises to Claim

     

    E - Examples to Follow

     

    C - Commands to Obey

     

    S - Stumbling Blocks to Avoid

     

    Here is today's passage:

    2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. 4 Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. 5 For we are each responsible for our own conduct. 6 Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them. 7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Galatians 6:2-10

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    After you interact with the passage in terms of the "core" understanding, the three perspectives, & SPECS, be sure to wrap things up with a prayer response to God.

  • True Doors – Entering into a Life of Love - Thursday, May 28th

    Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Romans 12:9-16

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Whenever we interact with Scripture it is important that we don’t miss the applications God is are calling us to respond to and live out in our daily lives. There is a tool called SPECS that can provide us with significant help with seeing the applications God desires us to respond to. SPECS is an anacronym for five kinds of applications to look for when we interact with Scripture. The Devotionals for Thursday, Friday, Saturday will give you specific passages of Scripture for putting into place the "Core" understanding with its three related perspectives from the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Devotionals and for using SPECS. An overview of the "core" understanding, the three perspectives, & SPECS follows.

    "Core" Understanding - A fruitful life comes forth from a close relationship with God

    A significant part of God's revelation to us in Scripture is its teaching concerning our relationship with God and the life that should flow from it. Our passage from John shows us that fruitfulness coming forth from a close relationship with God is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is the "core" understanding that forms the basis for all involvement with Scripture.

    Perspective One - God's Word: Means Not End

    The Scriptures were never intended to be an end in themselves. The Scriptures are the means by which you know and experience God as he unfolds his will in your life. May you always think of Scripture as God's very words to you flowing right from His heart to your heart as you interact with the sacred text of Scripture. God never steps back from His Word. May you never treat His precious Word as if He were not right there in it waiting to meet with you for occasions of sweet communion and spiritual nurture.

    Perspective Two - God's Word: Change Above Content 

    It is vital that you pursue the transformation of your life and not merely the expansion of your mind's understandings. Certainly God's Word enlightens the understanding of our minds, but God's Word is also designed for Him to use in changing the condition of our hearts and the way we live our lives. Be sure to be involved with God's Word in ways that regularly move beyond content to experiencing the change that content invites. Interact with the text of Scripture in such a way that you look for God to speak to you about how He wants to change you.

    Perspective Three - God's Word: Descriptions Not Obligations

    The primary subject of Scripture is Jesus Christ. He is given the central place throughout all of Scripture. While the Bible is a book "about" Jesus Christ, it is also a book "for" Him as well. In other words, the Bible isn't written to "instruct you on how to live your life" but to "describe for you how Jesus Christ will live His life in you and through you." The instructions it gives for your life are not obligations for you to fulfill, but rather they are descriptions of the life Christ will produce in and through you as you yield yourself to Him>

    SPECS 

    The SPECS acronym helps us see the Scriptural applications we are being called to respond to and live out in our daily lives.

    S - Sins to Forsake

     

    P - Promises to Claim

     

    E - Examples to Follow

     

    C - Commands to Obey

     

    S - Stumbling Blocks to Avoid

    Here is today's passage:

    9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Romans 12:9-16

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    After you interact with the passage in terms of the "core" understanding, the three perspectives, & SPECS, be sure to wrap things up with a prayer response to God.

  • True Doors – Exchanging You for the Christ of Scripture - Wednesday, May 27th

    "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." Galatians 2:20

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    "Fruitfulness coming forth from a close relationship with God is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ." This is the "core" understanding that forms the basis for all involvement with Scripture. In addition there are three key perspectives concerning the nature of God's Word that help us to interact with Scripture in such a way that God is able to move in our lives so that fruit comes forth from our relationship with Him. We are considering three questions to help us gain these all important perspectives. Monday we considered the question, "God's Word: Means or End?" to help us gain our first needed perspective. Yesterday, we considered the question, "God's Word: Content or Change?" to help us gain our second needed perspective (It would be helpful to go back and review both of them). Today we consider the question, "God's Word: Obligations or Descriptions?" to help us gain the third needed perspective

    GOD’S WORD: OBLIGATIONS OR DESCRIPTIONS

     The third perspective about God's Word that helps us interact with Scripture in a more complete way, concerns the central place given to Christ in Scripture. He is very much the primary subject of Scripture. However, the Scriptures were written not only about Christ, but for Him. What distinction is being made here? Perhaps the following illustration will show what needs to be seen in this regard.

    You've just boarded a jumbo jet. You find your seat and on it is a manual entitled, "Jumbo Jet Pilots." You sit down and thumb through it. You stop in several places and note many references to the pilot. You say to yourself, "Certainly, a lot of this manual is about the Pilot," but upon completing your look through the manual, you also say to yourself, "It is most certainly a manual for the pilot as well." And then you make sure it finds its way back to him.

    The Bible is not only a book about Jesus Christ, but it is a book for Him as well. In what sense is it a book for Jesus Christ? If someone were to ask you, "Who's in charge of your life?, who's in control?, who's the pilot?, you probably would not say that you are but that Jesus is. If Jesus is the pilot of your life, and the Bible is a book about piloting lives, then in a very real sense the Bible is not written for you, but for the Pilot.

    In other words, it isn't written to instruct you on how to live your life but to describe for you how Jesus Christ will live His life in you and through you. Therefore, when you interact with Scripture, don't look at the instructions it gives for your life as obligations for you to fulfill, but rather as descriptions of the life Christ will produce in and through you as you yield yourself to Him, your pilot.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I know I have a life to live but also know that the life I live must be your doing. Show me more and more what this means and help it to come about more fully and completely than ever before. Rescue me from the trap of seeing Scripture as obligations meant for me and deliver me from the impossible task of trying to fulfill them. Amen!

  • True Doors – Experiencing the Transformation Scripture Invites - Tuesday, May 26th

    "For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe." 1 Thessalonians 2:13

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    "Fruitfulness coming forth from a close relationship with God is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ." This is the "core" understanding that forms the basis for all involvement with Scripture. In addition there are three key perspectives concerning the nature of God's Word that help us to interact with Scripture in such a way that God is able to move in our lives so that fruit comes forth from our relationship with Him. We are considering three questions to help us gain these all important perspectives. Yesterday we considered the question, "God's Word: Means or End?" to help us gain our first needed perspective (It would be helpful to go back and review it). Today we consider the question, "God's Word: Content or Change?" to help us gain our second needed perspective. Tomorrow we will consider the question, "God's Word: Obligations or Descriptions?" to help us gain the third needed perspective.

    GOD'S WORD: CONTENT OR CHANGE

    The second perspective about God's Word that helps us interact with Scripture in a more complete way concerns pursuing the transformation of our lives and not merely expanding the understanding of our minds. While we can understand, accept, and even desire this, it is a very difficult perspective to master. This is because we are content oriented because of our inner nature, past conditioning, and the demands of existing educational structures. We must overcome this orientation if God's Word is going to be to us all it was intended to be. Certainly God's Word enlightens the understanding of our minds, but God's Word is also designed for Him to use in changing the condition of our hearts and the way we live our lives.

    The Word of God always has a work to perform in the lives of those who are believers. This means that God's Word always has an intended response that we are invited to make in regard to our hearts and lives being changed. Therefore, whenever you are in God's Word, seek to interact with the text in such a way that you look for God to speak to you about how He wants to change you. When the pattern of our interaction with God's Word primarily has been one of educating the mind, it is likely to be true that we are bound to this pattern and stand in need of an extra special touch from God for deliverance. The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 1:18, that in praying for the Ephesian believers he asked that the "eyes for their hearts might be enlightened." This is what we need. This is what perspective # 2 is all about. When the Word of God brings change to your heart and life, you are interacting with it in a more complete way.

    "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16

    This is a splendid overall statement about the work God's Word is to perform in us. When we interact with Scripture in this way, we develop a mind that is rightly connected with truth, a heart that is rightly attuned to righteousness, and a life that is rightly prepared for every good work (behavior).

    "Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Colossians 3:16

    You are to let the Word of Christ richly dwell in you. If you consistently seek to interact with God's Word in ways that regularly move beyond content to experiencing the change that content invites, the Word of Christ will richly dwell in you.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I do pray that the eyes of my heart will be enlightened. I am so prone to letting the truth of your word stay in my head and not letting it get down to my heart. I know that overcoming this is the key to my becoming a true "doer" of your word. Lord, change my heart and my life. Amen!

  • True Doors – Beholding the God of Scripture - Monday, May 25th

    But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    This is week number four in our series on "Doors." The image of a door has helped us look at the subject of "God's Will" from a number of standpoints. We are thinking a little more broadly and a little more foundationally this week as we consider the Bible itself as the "door" that connects us with the overall picture of what God has in mind for our lives. There are a lot of ways to involve ourselves with Scripture so that we become ones who gain a thorough understanding of God's intentions for us as his people. However, as our James passage says, it all comes down to being a "doer" of God's Word. God's Word truly becomes a "door" to his will for our lives when our involvements with his Word result in our being ones who live it out consistently and fully on a daily basis.

    In are Devotionals for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we are going to look at a "core" understanding that forms the basis for all involvement with Scripture and three key perspectives about God's Word that go with it. Without this "core" understanding and these three key perspectives in place, we are likely to go about applying Scripture and living it out in ways that are counterproductive to God's will being accomplished fully and completely in our lives. Here we go!

    "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5

    God's Word, the Bible, is the revelation of who He is and His intentions for all of creation. A significant part of this revelation is its teaching concerning our relationship with God and the life that should flow from it. Our passage from John shows us that fruitfulness coming forth from a close relationship with God is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is the "core" understanding that forms the basis for all involvement with Scripture. In addition there are three key perspectives concerning the nature of God's Word that help us to interact with Scripture in such a way that God is able to move in our lives so that fruit comes forth from our relationship with Him. We will be considering the following three questions over the next several days to help us gain these all important perspectives: (1) God's Word: Means or End? (2) God's Word: Content or Change? (3) God's Word: Obligations or Descriptions.?

    GOD’S WORD: MEANS OR END

    There are those who interact with Scripture very little and there are those who do so a great deal. While it is true that ample time must be taken for interacting with God's Word, how much time you spend interacting with it is far less vital than how well you interact with it.

    When seeking to interact with Scripture you must always seek to interact with the One of whom it bears witness and not merely interact with the pages of Scripture and the information it communicates. If you are learning to do this, you are learning to interact well with Scripture. When Jesus was here on earth He often debated with the Pharisees about true spirituality. They believed that their particular religious practices had wonderfully squared them away with God. On many occasions Jesus burst their bubble.

    "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." John 5:39-40

    The Pharisees were very proud of their devotion to Scripture. They spent large quantities of time studying them and acquiring a vast knowledge of their contents. But for all their interaction with Scripture, it was not good interaction because they missed Jesus. And if you miss, Jesus, you are not squared away with God, whether in regard to redemption or fruitfulness.

    These men trusted only in their knowledge of the Word of God and not in the God whose Word it was. In doing so they were never really able to know it truly as the Word of God, let alone God Himself. This is because they were more concerned with mastering it with their minds than having their lives mastered by the God who spoke it in the first place.

    If we allow ourselves to develop a pattern of this kind in our interaction with Scripture, we too will: (1) miss Jesus; (2) not have a full understanding of Scripture; and (3) become unwilling to come to Scripture as the means by which we are confronted with our living Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. The Scriptures were never intended to be an end in themselves and yet how easy it is for us to make them just that and thereby lower them from their place of extreme importance. If we have more of a relationship with Scripture than Jesus Christ of whom they speak, we have truly twisted their purpose. If our relationship with Jesus Christ is greater than our relationship with Scripture, then our relationship with Scripture will be greater than it ever could have been otherwise."

    "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'" Matthew 4:4

    Just as physical living requires physical food, so spiritual life requires spiritual food. We are told in this text that our spiritual food is every word that comes out of the mouth of God. May you always think of Scripture as God's very words to you flowing right from His heart by way of His mouth to your heart as you interact with the sacred text of Scripture. God never steps back from His Word. May you never treat His precious Word as if He were not right there in it waiting to meet with you for occasions of sweet communion and spiritual nurture.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want to be a "doer" of your Word. I know the greatest of all treasures is you and so I ask for your help with the thing I need to "do" more than anything else: to come to your word and seek you with all my heart, soul, and mind. You are the beginning, middle, and end. You are everything I need and long for. Here I am, Lord! I give myself to you in worship, surrender, and devotion. Amen!

  • "When the Wind Blows" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, May 24th

    WHEN THE WIND BLOWS

    Once there lived a farmer who owned a land along the coast of the Atlantic ocean. Even after letting out several advertisements for recruitment to take care of his farm, no one seemed to sign up for it.

    People were reluctant to work along the Atlantic, it had frequent raging storms. These storms were cruel, violent and destroyed every building and crop-field they touched.

    After months of advertising and request refusals, a man approached the farmer for the job to take care of the farm.

    “Do you have any skills or experience to work on a farm like this?” the farmer asked him.

    “Well, I may not have enough experience, but I can sleep when the wind blows”, replied the man.

    Although the farmer wasn’t much convinced by the man’s answer, the farmer was too desperate to have someone to help him on the field that he hired him anyway. The man worked well around the farm. The farmer was pretty satisfied with the man.

    Then one stormy night, the wind howled waking the farmer. The farmer immediately got off his bed, grabbed a lantern, and headed towards the quarter where his helper was sleeping.

    “Wake up” the farmer yelled, throwing the soundly asleep man off the bed- “ A storm is coming. Tie things down before they get blown away”.

    The man sat up and said- “No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows.”

    The farmer turned red with fury after listening to this. He controlled all his will to fire the man because at the moment it was more important to secure his fields and barn that to argue with his helper. The farmer ran out to tie the things up and was surprised by what he saw.

    All of the haystacks were covered with tarpaulins. The chickens were in the coops, the cows were in the barn, the doors were closed and barred, and the shutters were firmly secured. Everything was tied down so that nothing could be blown away.

    The farmer smiled as he comprehended what his employer said. Now, he understood what the man meant by when he said he could sleep when the wind blows. He went off to bed and slept soundly through the storm.

    MORAL: 
    When you’re prepared, physically, mentally, and spiritually, you have nothing to fear. Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life

  • In Between Doors – Encountering the God of Transformation - Saturday, May 23rd

    This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.” “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” Genesis 32:24-28

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The severity and complexity of our circumstances can at times be overwhelming to us. The troubles of our heart can become so enlarged that the presence of God becomes a fleeting reality to us and our sense that he's really at work in our lives can become quite diminished. The reality that God is at work intervening on our behalf can be overshadowed by what we are facing. Sometimes we can become so bottomed out that we become incapable of comprehending how God is at work.

    While Jacob was initially taken back by the circumstance of Esau coming at him in a potentially aggressive way, he turned to the Lord in prayer. Think about those moments in our lives when we've bottomed out, lost sight of God, and didn't turn to the Lord in prayer. How many times might it have been that God was just waiting to intervene but we did not turn to him. So caught up in our troubles and so at the bottom, we were not at all aware that God was waiting to intervene and clear the way to the open door he had in mind for us.

    We saw yesterday that Jacob sought God's presence, spoke authentically to God about how he viewed things, and recounted the faithful promises made to him by God in the past. This approach by Jacob kept him from faltering and allowed him to handle the struggles of the "in between" in a victorious way. But there is more, by taking a spiritual route, Jacob becomes the recipient of a work of God that goes beyond his work of intervening and clearing the way to the open door he had in mind for him.

    After turning to the Lord in prayer, Jacob decides to send wave after wave of gifts to his brother. We are told that the presents passed on before him, and that, essentially, he and his wives and children brought up the rear. During the night Jacob sends his wives and children across the ford of the Jabbok while he stays behind. It is at this point that we see the special work God does for Jacob in the very unusual account of our Scripture above.

    This is a one of the most singular incidents in all of Scripture and likely, this side of eternity, we will not clearly know what took place. But we don't need to understand it all to get from it what we need to get. We can be sure that this was a very spiritual experience for Jacob in that we are told that his encounter was an encounter with God (verses 28 & 30). We know it was a transforming experience for Jacob, too. He became weaker physically due to the infirmity of his hip that resulted. We know that he became stronger spiritually due to the blessing that was bestowed through the changing of his name from Jacob to Israel. Truly Jacob is transformed from the "Supplanter (Jacob)" to "He Will Be Prince With God (Israel)," as one Old Testament scholar suggests.

    What about us? We said before that God is the God of the "in between" just as much as he is the God of "the door of what has been" and "the door of what will be." When we follow Jacob's example and put our focus on God in the "in between" times, we, too, will become the recipient of God's transforming work in our lives as well as his work of intervening and clearing the way to the open door he has in mind for us. God loves to shape the identity of his people in spiritual ways. We must respond well to the "in between" times that come because of closed doors. By putting our focus on the Lord and not on the seeming absence of options, we are given the beautiful option of knowing God's presence and his transforming grace that shapes or identity into the likeness of Christ and paves the way for a godly life and future.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, forgive me for the times I have let my troubles become the Lord of my life instead of you. I realize that the intervention and transformation I need more than anything is in regard to myself and not so much in regard to my troubles. Turn my heart and life toward you more fully and completely than ever before. Help me to believe that you are Lord and Master over everything and that you are Lord over my heart and life. I reaffirm that you are always present and available to me for that which really counts. May your will be done in my life day by day going forward. Amen!

  • In Between Doors – Choosing the Spiritual Route - Friday, May 22nd

    O Lord, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children. But you promised me, "I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore—too many to count.” Genesis 32:11-12

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We saw yesterday that the reality of being in a full blown "in between" place in his life had come upon Jacob. However, his focus has shifted away from "the door of what has been" to the obstacle that is in front of him in regard to "the door of what will be." Jacob has received the report of his messengers, “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!” The passage went on to say, "Jacob was terrified at the news." God had told Jacob to leave Laban and the land that had been his home for twenty years and to return to the homeland of his father (Isaac), grandfather (Abraham), and other relatives. He has made the transition away from "the door of what has been." That is a closed door and a done deal. But now, getting to what he has so far thought of as "the door of what will be," seems impossible for the moment because of his brother.

    Can you relate to this scenario? We may not have been given direction from God in advance like was so clearly given to Jacob. However, we all know what it's like to sense that God is unfolding his will for our lives and is moving us toward a very specific "door." The closer we get to what seems like an open door, the harder it hits us when things happen that make it seem like the door is shutting. This is what is happening to Jacob and yet he wisely moves his focus away from the situation at hand and onto God. Evidently, Jacob remembers that when God instructed him to return to his homeland, he said, "I will be with you.” According to our Scripture above Jacob turns to God in prayer.

    What a great approach Jacob gives to us for handling situations like this that come into our lives. Jacob has been hit hard by the circumstance that confronts him and to his credit he takes the spiritual route. Jacob seeks God's presence, speaks authentically to God about how he view things, and recounts the faithful promises made to him by God in the past. We will see tomorrow that this approach by Jacob keeps him from faltering and allows him to handle the struggles of the "in between" in a victorious way.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, you truly are the God of the "in between." I confess that wanting to be out of the "in between" is a desire that runs deep within me. Please continue to transform me into one in whom the reality of your presence runs deeper. Help me to be one who simply wants to be wherever you want me to be, regardless of the obstacles. Help me to be focused on you so that I am peaceful and contented, not matter what. Lord, I choose to rest securely in your arms of love and grace. Amen!

     

  • In Between Doors – Coming to the End of Ourselves - Thursday, May 21st

    Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you.” Genesis 31:3

    “See this pile of stones,” Laban continued, “and see this monument I have set between us. They stand between us as witnesses of our vows. I will never pass this pile of stones to harm you, and you must never pass these stones or this monument to harm me. Genesis 31:51-52

    After delivering the message, the messengers returned to Jacob and reported, “We met your brother, Esau, and he is already on his way to meet you—with an army of 400 men!” Jacob was terrified at the news. He divided his household, along with the flocks and herds and camels, into two groups. Genesis 32:6-7

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We have competed our look at our three understandings of God's will (prescriptive, sovereign, and intervening) and have found help for handling well the "in between" times that come into our lives when God shuts "the door of what has been" but has not yet opened "the door of what will be." We turn now to the story of Jacob where we will explore select Scriptures for our Devotional considerations over the last three days of our week.

    In Jacob's earlier years he went through doors of his own making to get to where he wanted to go. These dealings resulted in him being in the land of his mother's brother, Laban, because he had fled from his brother, Esau. And yet his being there put him on track for the fulfillment of God's desires for his life (Genesis 28:1-5). After 20 years there, God had blessed him with a large family, much livestock, and many possessions. It is at this point we see from our first Scripture above that God closes the door on this chapter in his life and tells him to return to the land of Canaan.

    Soon after this moment, Jacob leaves for the land of Canaan but it is not until the end of Genesis 35 that Jacob is entirely settled back in the land of his forefathers. There is a lot of "in between that happens in these 5 chapters. The first thing that happens "in between" is that Laban pursues Jacob. After Laban catches up with Jacob, the two of them are able to settle a number of issues. What had been a partnership of sorts, ends in a treaty as we see in the second Scripture above.

    Even though all this happens after Jacob left, it is at this moment that the reality of the closed door is most real to him. As Jacob continues on from here, there really, truly is no turning back. We all can relate to the "what was" side of the "in between" times of our lives. While Jacob hasn't arrived at the "what will be" side of the "in between" yet, he has reason to be unsure about how “open” the door will be for him to return to the land of his forefathers considering the mess he left behind when he left there 20 years earlier. We can all relate to what it's like to deal with the uncertainty of not knowing whether the door we are moving toward will be an open door. As it turns out, his concerns are not unfounded as we see in our third Scripture above that tells us Jacob’s brother, Esau, is headed his way with an army of 400 Men.

    Jacob is experiencing the fullness of what it means to be "in between." Seemly, he can't go back and he can't go forward. We will pick up with what happens next in the story tomorrow. But for now, we need to recognize that being truly "in between" without being able to go back or forward can be a very important place to be. Sometimes we don't come to the end of ourselves until we come to the end of our options. It is in the truly "in between" times of our lives that we are moved to a new depth of awareness of God, surrender to God, and dependence on God.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for giving me a greater appreciation of the "in between." Truly, the journey is just as important as the destination. Help me to value very highly the opportunities for growing in genuine faith that come with the "in between" of closed doors. I am humbled as I realize the depth of your wisdom and extent of how you are at work on my behalf in ways that really count for all eternity. Amen!

  • In Between Doors – Embracing God’s Intervening Presence - Wednesday, May 20th

    Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You .... How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You. Psalm 139:4-12, 17-18

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We continue with our focus on the "in between" times that come into our lives when God shuts "the door of what has been" but has not yet opened "the door of what will be." We have been doing this by taking a close look at three understandings of God's will. On Monday we looked at God's "prescriptive will," yesterday we looked at God's "sovereign will," and today we will look at God's "intervening will." With all three of these understandings of God's will, we are looking to Psalm 139 for insight. It is hoped that these insights will enable us to handle the "in between" times of our lives in the best possible way.

    Here is some of what we said last week about God's intervening will: God is always at work in our world and in our lives. He is always at work as he seeks to draw people toward himself and toward a positive response to what he desires (prescriptive will) for them. Down through the ages, of all those who repent and of all those who do not, there will not be one that God did not seek to draw to himself and the response of believing in him for eternal salvation. This is God's intervening will and it is the kind of thing he is constantly doing as he seeks to help us find him and the open doors he has for us. God is so amazingly interventive in the outworking of his will, that he is able to incorporate every single choice we make into the grand scheme of his sovereign plan. Let's consider now "God's intervening will" as seen in the above verses from Psalm 139.

    The Psalmist speaks to the Lord about what the reality of his presence in his life means to him. After saying, "You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me," the Psalmist says, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it." The Psalmist, when postulating where he might go that God might not be present, says, "You are there .... Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me." The Psalmist then talks about darkness overwhelming him and how the light of God's presence expels the darkness.

    It is like being in the dark when we are in those "in between" times that come into our lives when God shuts "the door of what has been" but has not yet opened "the door of what will be." We need to remember that God is the God of the "in between" just as much as he is "the God of the door of what has been" and "the door of what will be." Because he has shut a door on us and not opened another, we are prone to feel like he is not present with us. Perhaps the difficulty we have in experiencing God's presence in the darkness of the "in between" times of our lives, lies in our wrong expectations.

    We want God's illuminating presence to light up our path and reveal an open door more than we want his illuminating presence to light up our souls and expel the darkness we have allowed in. We have not understood God's intervening will. "God's intervening will" is first and foremost the work he does in our souls through his illuminating presence so that our "in between" time becomes a thing of beauty and joy. This is where we need to put our focus. We need to believe that he is at work on our behalf in regard to putting in place and opening "the door of what will be." When we embrace the "in between" times as precious times for getting to know our intervening God better, we will be able to join the Psalmist more fully and speak our own expressions to the Lord about what the reality of his presence in our lives means to us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I recognize that if you were not at work intervening on my behalf, your will would not come about in my life. I confess that I am prone to want to be out of the "in between" and into what's next more than I want your presence in the middle of my "in between." I embrace your intervening presence in my life today and leave in your very capable hands the intervening work you are doing to secure my future. Lord, I love you and trust you fully. Amen!

  • In Between Doors – Comforted by God’s Sovereignty - Tuesday, May 19th

    For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. Psalm 139:13-16

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    This week we are focusing on the "in between" times that come into our lives when God shuts "the door of what has been" but has not yet opened "the door of what will be." We are doing this in part by taking a closer look at three understandings of God's will that we were introduced to last week. Yesterday we looked at God's "prescriptive will," Today we are looking at God's "sovereign will," and tomorrow we will look at God's "intervening will." With all three of these understandings of God's will, we are looking to Psalm 139 for insight. It is hoped that these insights will enable us to handle the "in between" times of our lives in the best possible way.

    Here is some of what we said last week about God's sovereign will: not all that God desires for us as people actually happens. We know, according to his prescriptive will, that God does not desire for "any" to perish and that he desires "all" to come to repentance. But, in the end there will be those who have repented (God's desire) and those who perish (not God's desire). When we get to the end of time, all that actually happens is God's sovereign will. We will look at "God's sovereign will" today as seen in the above verses from Psalm 139.

    Notice the words, "in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me". God put his sovereign plan in place for your life before the first day of all your days and after the last day of all your days it will be that all that was ordained in his sovereign plan for you will have happened. "God's sovereign will" is a rather complex subject and full treatment of it would go way beyond the scope of our Devotional. But let's try to unravel it a bit.

    Imagine a man who is out of work right now (pretend it is August) and he is considering a job offer. He and his wife have a 2 year old and a 5 year old who will start kindergarten in a few weeks. Their financial resources are running very low, his wife has been ill and the upheaval hasn't helped, and the whole family is becoming quite worn down. The pressure of his circumstances weigh heavily on him and significantly influence his decision making process.

    On and off during this "in between" time, the man has prayed and sought God along with his wife and family. But now the availability of this job and the pressure he feels from his circumstances seem to overshadow the clear leading of God. The job will require a move of about 3 hours away from where they are. If he doesn't take the job, his 5 year old will begin school in one place and then be uprooted when he finds a different job later on, their finances will run out, and the instability of his circumstances will continue to take its toll on him, his wife, and his family.

    The thought here is that "ideally" there should have been a more complete decision making process that (1) wasn't so heavily influenced by circumstances and (2) included a greater depth of seeking God for guidance and following his leading. Here is the point: this man did not miss God's will for his life. While correspondence to the prescriptive will of God may have been lacking, God incorporated what actually took place into his sovereign will for his life. With God's intervening will (which we will look at more closely tomorrow) we see how God is able to incorporate every single choice we make (even those that are lacking in correspondence to his prescriptive will) into the grand scheme of his sovereign plan.

    We said earlier that God put his sovereign plan in place for your life before the first day of all your days and that after the last day of all your days it will be that all that was ordained in his sovereign plan for you will have happened. This is quite a mysterious thing for us as human beings and may seem to be very confining but it isn’t really. Remember, the one right door myth. We don't think about finding God's will in terms of his sovereign plan beforehand. However, when we are in the "in between" times that come into our lives when God shuts "the door of what has been" but has not yet opened "the door of what will be," we can find great comfort, assurance, and security in knowing our God had a sovereign plan for us.

    In addition we know ahead of time that when we finally do go through the door of our choosing (even if there is some faultiness in our decision making process) we will be walking in God's will for our lives and the knowledge (at that later point) that God's sovereign plan has taken place will be very helpful. The perspectives and confidence that come from this kind of understanding in regard to "God's sovereign will" greatly diminish the struggle that comes to us when we are in the "in between" times of our lives. It is truly amazing thing to grasp the extent that God has gone to bring about the absolute best outcomes for our lives.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, you are amazing to me and I have hardly scratched the surface of knowing about you or knowing (experiencing) you. Give me a hunger to know you more fully. Grant that my desire to seek you and know you far surpasses my preoccupation with knowing the "details" of your will for my life. Here I am, Lord! Renew me in my surrender to you and my willingness to live fully for you.

  • In Between Doors – Tuned in to the Present - Monday, May 18th

    O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways .... Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:1-3, 23-24

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Our emphasis this week is on the "in between" times that come into our lives when God shuts "the door of what has been" but has not yet opened "the door of what will be." There is a sense that all of life is "in between" when we think of the past, present, and future aspects of time. The past has already happened and the future isn't here yet. All we really have is the present. Life is what happens "in between" the past and the future. Life truly is what happens in the present and quite often our present includes some aspect of our lives where we are "in between" "the door of what has been" and "the door of what will be."

    We ended our Devotionals last week by looking at three understandings of God's will: his "prescriptive will," his "sovereign will," and his "intervening will." During this week we will use Psalm 139 to help us take a closer look at these three understandings of God's will. It is hoped that these considerations will provide insights for how to live best in the "in between" times of our lives. We will look at God's prescriptive will today as seen in the above verses from Psalm 139.

    Here is some of what we said last week about God's prescriptive will: when a doctor gives you a prescription, he is making medicine available to you, but it is up to you to make use of what he has prescribed for you. Similarly, God prescribes things for us in his Word, the Bible. That which God prescribes for us in Scripture are his desires for us, but it is up to us to respond just like it is up to us to take the medicine the doctor has prescribed.

    The Psalmist's reference to "the everlasting way" is a reference to the prescriptive will of God. It is referring to all the intentions and desires God has for us as people. The Psalmist acknowledges that God knows him, understands him, and is intimately acquainted with all his ways. The Psalmist asks God to search him for hurtful ways. In making this request he is asking God to hold his life up against his prescriptive will (his intentions and desires for mankind - "the everlasting way") and to show him where there is a lack of correspondence.

    This spiritual exercise the Psalmist entered into with God is something we need to emulate at all times, but particularly when we are in those "in between" times that come into our lives when God shuts "the door of what has been" but has not yet opened "the door of what will be." It is so easy for us not to live in the present. In the "in between" times we often remain attached to "the door of what has been" and/or become attached to what we desperately hope is "the door of what will be." When we are more wrapped up in "missing what was" and in "finding what's next," it will be difficult for us to live in the present.

    When we don't live in the present our concerns about the past and the future predominate over our being concerned about how our lives correspond with God's "prescriptive will" in the here and now. "God's prescriptive will" doesn't involve the specifics of the "job that was" or the "job that will be." "God's prescriptive will" deals with the kind of person he wants us to be and the way we should live regardless of the "specific job" or the "specific anything." Until we are more wrapped up in having our lives correspond to "God's prescriptive will" than we are in the "specifics," we will struggle greatly in the "in between" times of our lives.

    Notice two very important words the Psalmist utters to God in regard to "the everlasting way" (God's prescriptive will): "lead me." God’s prescriptive will (one aspect of his leading) must become the "foundation" of our lives so that we are in the best possible spot to be led by God in other ways as we seek his will for our lives.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, help me to focus on you, the present, and the overall desires and intentions you have prescribed in your Word for my life. Forgive me for the ways I have gotten wrapped up in the wrong things in regard to this whole business of knowing your will for my life. Thank you for the amazing extent to which you have gone to bring about the absolute best outcome for my life. Amen!

  • "The King and the Seeds" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, May 17th

    The King and the Seeds

    Once there lived a great king renowned for being wise and intelligent. As the thought of retiring came to the king’s mind, he spread the word across his kingdom that he was soon to appoint a new successor for his throne.

    The news of the search for a new successor caused a great stirring across the land. The king was considered to be the wisest to have come to the power. His clever policies had helped to build a just and content nation over the course of his ruling. Very few were surprised to know that he was to eschew the traditional route of the family for the search of the one worthy of the throne.

    The king called the youth of the nation together and gathered them in the royal hall. The king gave each of them a seed and said “ This is a very special seed. I want all of you to plant it, take care of it and come back after a year with what you have. Based on what you bring back, I will decide the next king of the country.”

    Everyone left the gathering with a seed. They excitedly planted their seed and waited for it to grow. As the months passed by the youth of the country was talking about how their plant has grown tremendously beautiful. Among all the youth, there was a young man whose seed hadn’t even sprouted. Although, he used to water the seed every day and did everything to make it grow, the seed would grow. He could hear people talking about their plants. But still, he has nothing.

    A year had passed from the day the seed was distributed. All the youth was summoned to the palace where they were to display the outcome of their seeds. The young man, whose seed did not grow as other, was very reluctant to even attend the gathering. But, his mother insisted him to go to the palace with what he had because his efforts had been true and that there was no shame in showing that. The young man went to the palace with his pot of soil.

    In the gathering, he was amazed to see the variety of beautiful plants others had grown. The young man put his empty pot on the floor while a number of the others were laughing at him as he did so. The young man was embarrassed to be there.

    When the king arrived in the hall and inspected each and every pot. He slowly examined all of the different foliage and the beaming children that accompanied them. The young man was hiding in the back trying to go unseen, but the king found him, and gave pause when he did. Walking over, he eyed the young man and his plant closely but he said nothing. He ordered his guards to bring the young man to the front of the room.

    The young man was very sad as the king had noticed his utter failure to grow a seed. Arriving at the front, the guards let go of him, leaving him standing alone before all of the others, many of whom were snickering and pointing. The king called the young man closer. He held his hand and raised it and said loudly “Behold, everyone, your new king!”

    The king said “One year ago, I gave everyone a seed. I instructed you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back. What you were unaware of, was that every seed I handed out had been boiled beforehand so that none of them were fit to grow! All of you after a year have brought me trees, plants and flowers, born of your dishonesty. The seeds which grew these plants were not the ones I provided you. Therefore, look upon the only honest one among you, this young man, and know now why he deserves to be your ruler.”

  • Choosing Doors – Intimate Council Experienced - Saturday, May 16th

    I will lift up my soul to you, Lord. I trust in you, my God .... Cause me to understand your ways, Lord; teach me your paths .... All the paths of the Lord lead to gracious love and truth for those who keep his covenant and his decrees .... Who is the one who fears the Lord? God will teach him the path he should choose .... The intimate counsel of the Lord is for those who fear him so they may know his covenant. My eyes look to the Lord continuously. Psalm 25:1-2A, 4, 10, 12, 14-15A (ISV)

    Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Earlier in the week we talked about the importance of guarding ourselves from viewing beforehand the discovering of God's will as finding the one right door. We also put forward the understanding that the door we choose becomes the one right door afterwards. In order to get a better handle on these understandings and the role of God's guidance in decision making, it will be helpful to consider God's will in three different ways. We will consider God's "prescriptive will," his "sovereign will," and his "intervening will." To do this adequately we will need more than just today's Devotional. It looks like these considerations will fit in well with next week's emphasis, so we can look forward to delving into all this more fully throughout the coming week.

    So to wrap up our week we will introduce you to the three forms of God's will we just mentioned and touch on some thoughts from today's Scriptures:

    (1) God's prescriptive will: when a doctor gives you a prescription, he is making medicine available to you, but it is up to you to make use of what he has prescribed for you. Similarly, God prescribes things for us in his Word, the Bible. That which God prescribes for us in Scripture are his desires for us, but it is up to us to respond just like it is up to us to take the medicine the doctor has prescribed. The Bible says that God is not willing (does not desire) for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance (his will or desire).

    (2) God's sovereign will: not all that God desires for us as people actually happens. In the end there will be those who have repented (God's desire) and those who perish (not God's desire). When we get to the end of time, all that actually happens is God's sovereign will. This one is complex and we will try to unravel it a bit next week.

    (3) God's intervening will: God is always at work in our world and in our lives. He is always at work as he seeks to draw people toward himself and toward a positive response to what he desires (prescriptive will) for them. Down through the ages, of all those who repent and of all those who do not, there will not be one that God did not seek to draw to himself and the response of believing in him for eternal salvation. This is God's intervening will and it is the kind of thing he is constantly doing as he seeks to help us find and go through the open doors he has for us. God is so amazingly interventive in the outworking of his will, that he is able to incorporate every single choice we make into the grand scheme of his sovereign plan.

    We can look forward to going further with all this next week. It is truly amazing to begin to grasp the extent that God has gone to bring about the absolute best outcome for our lives. The Psalmist's understandings of experiencing God and the unfolding of his will in one's life are expressed beautifully in today's Psalm: "All the paths of the Lord lead to gracious love and truth for those who keep his covenant and his decrees .... Who is the one who fears the Lord? God will teach him the path he should choose .... The intimate counsel of the Lord is for those who fear him so they may know his covenant."

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I pray the Psalmist's words as a part of my prayer to you today: "I lift up my soul to you, Lord. I trust in you, my God .... Cause me to understand your ways, Lord; teach me your paths .... My eyes look to you continuously." And now I pray these words from the Lord's prayer: "Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth (and in my life), as it is in heaven." Amen!

  • Choosing Doors – Sinful Desires Subdued - Friday, May 15th

    “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. Genesis 4:6-8

    This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

    Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God. Colossians 4:12

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    What a great prayer in our Colossians passage. It means a lot to have people praying for us and it's particularly good if they are "asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God.,” like Epaphras did in his prayer. It is kind of obvious that Cain needed a lot of work toward being made into someone who was strong and perfect and fully confident in following the whole will of God. It seems that Cain was at a crossroads in his life.

    So far in his life he was straddling the fence between living for himself and living for God. Then came the proving ground moment that we saw earlier in our story. Cain missed the mark when it came to worshiping God in a manner that was aligned with God and his ways. We see in our Genesis passage that Cain was angry and dejected because he and his gift were not accepted by God and because Abel and his gift were accepted. God then shows Cain the crossroads he is facing when he says, "You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out!"

    This is a moment that will set the course for Cain's life. God says to Cain, "Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” Cain's act of murdering his brother shows us that sin won the battle not just for that moment but for a life-time. When Cain was at the crossroads of choosing between a life lived for God according to his righteous ways and a life lived for himself according to sinful ways, he chose the latter. In Jude, the next to the last book in the Bible, godless people are described there and it is said of them, "Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain.

    If someone says they are a follower of Christ, and yet they go about living for themselves and pursuing sinful ways, the reality of their practice calls into question the reality of their profession. Our 2 Corinthian passage says, "anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" So, it is essential that we are sure about whether or not we are a true follower of Christ. A true follower of Christ is committed to becoming the new person that goes along with belonging to Christ. The person who belongs to Christ totally wants to cooperate with Him so that truly the old life is left behind and the new life is pursued. In addition, they want to do their part to help others become genuine followers of Christ as well.

    Earlier in speaking of Cain, we talked about him facing a "proving ground moment" and then afterwards facing a "crossroads" that would set his destiny. We face both of these as well but in reverse order. Since the moment Christ secured redemption on the cross, every person must face the crossroads of accepting or rejecting Christ and his gift of redemption. One who accepts Christ has the destiny of becoming a new person with a new life. As Christ followers we are given "proving ground moments" that test how we are doing with being aligned to God and his ways. If we miss the mark at these moments it does not change our destiny. God provides relational forgiveness, restoration, and renewal. Our gracious God has a way of incorporating all of this into the grand plan of our lives as true followers of Christ.

    In other words, your "missing the mark moments" do not derail you from being one who is committed to "following the whole will of God" throughout the course of your life. In addition, God will continue to make you strong and perfect, fully confident in your pursuit of living fully for God and his will for your life. God is truly awesome.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Thank you, Lord, for your commitment to me. Your amazing patience and unfailing love are so obvious and so welcomed in my life. Today, dear Lord, I pray the prayer of Epaphras for myself: Make me strong and perfect, fully confident that I am following the whole will of God. Amen!

  • Choosing Doors – Circumstantial Pressures Resisted - Thursday, May 14th

    When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Genesis 4:3

    There is a wide-opened door for a great work here, although many oppose me. 1 Corinthians 16:9

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    It was pointed out yesterday that we can so strongly desire to go in a certain direction (door) with our lives that we equate the strength of that desire with God's will. Cain wanted what he wanted and the strong desire of his heart moved him beyond God and his ways. Cain's crop gift was not a part of the worship plan that God had put in place for mankind and yet he went with it anyway thinking that what he so strongly wanted would somehow be alright with God .

    Cain went with a crop gift for another reason as well. Other than the fact that it was harvest time, we don't know why the moment was right for Cain and Abel to come before God with their gifts in an act of worship. But, evidently, it was time and it seems that Cain succumbed to the pressure of the moment. His circumstance of needing an immediate gift contributed to Cain's poor choice. His succumbing to the pressure of the moment was very likely due to a lack of preparation. Cain could have raised some sheep on the side or he could have made arrangements with his brother, Abel. Either way he needed to be prepared for this moment and he wasn't. Cain's circumstances contributed to his making the choice of a gift that was unacceptable to God.

    How often the pressure of the moment leads to our choosing the available doors before us in the hope that somehow our choices will be acceptable to God and will work out to be his will for our lives. It is vital that we cultivate a heart and life aligned with God and his ways. This preparation will help us become ones who are able to rise above the pressure of the moment and consistently choose doors that are acceptable to God. More often than not, the doors that are acceptable to God are not acceptable to us because they may lead to rough and tough circumstances. We want to keep our circumstances smooth and easy. This is another way that circumstances influence our choice of doors. Open doors for us are only those that will maintain our smooth and easy circumstances or get us out of ones that are rougher and tougher than we would like.

    In our 1 Corinthians passage we see that the Apostle Paul viewed a door that would lead to rough and tough circumstance as an open door. He was able to do this because his heart and life were aligned with God and his ways. In the words of Proverbs, the Apostle Paul was able to trust in the Lord with all his heart, not depend on his own understanding, seek his will in all he did, and be shown which path to take (over and over again).

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, teach me what it means to be one whose heart and life are aligned with you and your ways. Show me ways that my decision making process is flawed. Help me to trust you with all my heart and truly not depend on my own understanding. I choose to seek your will in all I do and I believe you will show me the paths that are acceptable to you. Amen!

  • Choosing Doors – Transformed Hearts Secured- Wednesday May 13th

    But he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. Genesis 4:5

    Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalms 37:4

    And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Let's create an imaginary version of the "Cain and Abel" story from Genesis that is based on our "rock" analogy from yesterday. As you read it, pretend that you haven't read the "rock" analogy yet. Here goes: "It was time for Cain and Abel to come before the Lord for worship. Cain brought the rock he had selected from the field of rocks as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought the rock he had selected from the field of rocks as a gift to the Lord. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected."

    If we hadn't read the "rock" analogy we would be perplexed about the outcome of Cain and Abel's worship experience. But we have read it, so let's create a little more detail as we use the "rock" analogy with Cain and Abel. Cain went into the field of rocks and walked for hours and hours. He had begun at 8 am and it was already 5 pm. He had found several rocks along the way that would have been great selections, but he just couldn't make a decision. He kept thinking that somewhere in the field was the perfect rock. Cain decided to walk to the very center of the field where he could easily see into all four quadrants. Not far into the top right quadrant Cain saw a beautiful rock. Cain said to himself, "I gotta have that rock." Cain dropped the two rocks he had been carrying and went into the top right quadrant. The rock was even more beautiful than he had thought and he was extremely delighted with it. Cain's rock took two hands to carry back. It was a beautiful blue-green rock and very, very smooth.

    Let's get back to Genesis. The Lord did not accept Cain and his gift because he chose to do things his way and not God's way. There was nothing wrong with Cain being a farmer. There was nothing wrong with his crops. It's just that his crop gift was not a part of the worship plan that God had evidently communicated to both of them previously. Our passage from Psalms helps us understand that our primary focus in life must be God. When we delight in the Lord and his ways, he transforms us so that the desires of his heart become the desires of our heart.

    It would seem that the primary focus in life for Abel was God. He delighted in God and he delighted in his ways. The desires of his heart were all strongly connected into his being one who delighted in God and his ways. Cain, however, was more focused of the desires of his heart than he was in delighting in God and his ways. Like Cain, if our primary focus is not God, we are at risk for having the desires of our heart move beyond God and his ways. Cain delighted more in the fruit of his labors than he did in God and his ways.

    In an ironic twist, Cain comes to worship (an act of devotion and surrender) God in his own way. Cain wants what he wants to be what God wants. So great is Cain's expectation that God will accept him and his gift, that he is blown away with anger and dejection when he and his gift are not accepted. God is not in the business of conforming his will to our will. We can so strongly desire to go in a certain direction (door) with our lives that we equate the strength of that desire with God's will. Like Cain, we want what we want to be what God wants. When we do this, we are deceived and are not being ones who delight in God and his ways. In the words of our Romans passage our greatest need is that of our becoming "a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable."

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, deliver me from worldly thinking and behavior. Transform me into a new person and change the way I think and act. Lord, I give myself to you, a living and holy sacrifice. I know this is your will for my life and that it is good and pleasing and perfect. Amen!

  • Choosing Doors – Clear Understandings Gained - Tuesday, May 12th

    When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. Genesis 4:2B - 5

    Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Ephesians 1:4

    So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. Colossians 1:9-10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The subject of "God's will" is not an easy one to get a handle on. So let's use an analogy to help us explore this very important subject. Imagine that God has placed you at the edge of a field of rocks. The field is about the size of a city block and the rocks vary in size, color, shape, mineral make-up, etc. God says to you, "go and find the rock that is meant for you and bring it back here. Before you go, here is a pamphlet of instructions to help you in your quest."

    So, you decide that siting down and reading the pamphlet is the best way to begin your quest. You learn that the field is divided into 4 quadrants that are clearly marked and then you read these very important words, "from the top right quadrant you may not choose your rock." Of course that "narrows the field" significantly. You finish the pamphlet and come up with 5 important guidelines about choosing an acceptable rock: (1) it must be able to be held in one hand but not so small that you could hold more than one rock in your hand; (2) it can have any combination of red, yellow, black, or white coloring, but it cannot have any blue, green, or purple coloring; (3) it must have a bumpy surface; (4) it must be a rock that you would be pleased to have as your rock; and finally, (5) from the moment you step on the field you may not take any longer than 8 hours to make your selection.

    With this good beginning to your quest, you look out over the field and the challenge you face doesn't loom so large as when you first looked out over the field before you read the pamphlet. But still, you have a lot of ground to cover and only so much time. As you go along in your quest, you soon realize that rocks that meet your criteria are not going to be readily found and you feel the weightiness of your challenge. On the other hand, you are glad for the clearer understanding of what you are looking for, because it means the vast majority of rocks in the field are eliminated from your search.

    After about an hour into your search, you realize with a great deal of excitement that you are holding in your hand a rock that meets all the criteria. So, you travel on holding it in one hand. About two hours later you find another rock that is acceptable. Again, you are excited and then resume your search with a rock in each hand. You have been at it another hour when a realization suddenly strikes you. If a third rock is found you will not be able to carry all three rocks and you will be forced to make a decision to leave one of the three behind.

    You know that you found the two acceptable rocks in the first quadrant and there are still two other available quadrants. You know you only have 4 hours left. You know that if you spent the rest of your time searching you would find other acceptable rocks and a decision would need to be made each time. You know that if you had all the acceptable rocks in front of you, it still would come down to a decision and it would be even harder. You then realize you don't need to use all the available time and you don't need any more acceptable rocks. You simply put one rock on the ground and walk back to where you started. When you get back, God says, "well done, enjoy your rock."

    This analogy will be helpful to us throughout the week as we explore the subject of "God's will" and as we look at "faulty" approaches for determining God's will. Remember, it is an analogy and doesn't touch on everything we need for a full understanding of God's will. We will add additional understandings as we go along. For today take some time and find things in the analogy that correspond to real life and the pursuit of God's will. In particular, in what ways does the analogy help you with the faulty approach of thinking there is only one right rock? Also, look for correspondence between our Genesis passage and the analogy

    There is relief that comes to us when we realize we don't have to find "the one right rock" out of all the possible rocks out in the field. It is important that we guard ourselves from viewing God's will, beforehand, as finding the one right rock, while understanding that the rock we choose becomes the one right rock afterwards. We will look at this more fully as we move through the week and we will explore the role of God's guidance in decision making as well.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, we ask you to give us complete knowledge of your will and to give us spiritual wisdom and understanding. May the way we live always honor and please you, Lord, and may our lives produce every kind of good fruit. Grant that we will keep growing as we learn to know you better and better (from our Colossians passage). Amen!

  • Choosing Doors – Best Pathways Assured - Monday, May 11th

    For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord .... Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:8-10, 15-17 (NIV)

    You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11 (NIV)

    The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you." Psalm 32:8

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    This is our second of week of looking at "Doors." Last week we looked at "Open Doors." As followers of Christ we come to the point in our lives where we choose to live fully for God. In doing so we embrace the open doors God puts before us as opportunities to serve the kingdom of God and bless the lives of others people. Living fully for God is all about having lives that are an expression of God's will and not our own.

    Figuring out which doors are opportunities to align ourselves with God's will and which are not, can be quite a challenge throughout the course of our lives. There are approaches for determining God's will that are flawed that get into the mix and complicate our lives. We will examine these faulty approaches over the course of the week and trust God for help at getting them out of the mix. For today we want to find the encouragement we need from our passages above that will help us to be confident that we can go forward in the life time pursuit of discovering and aligning ourselves with God's will.

    What an encouraging expression from Ephesians: "Now you are light in the Lord." Because this is who we are in Christ we can: "Live as children of light and find out what pleases the Lord." It says that we have been given the ability to: "Not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is." Let's join the Psalmist and say to God in complete assurance: "You make known to me the path of life." May we hear afresh the Lord speaking to us these wonderful words: “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you."

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, "fill me with joy in your presence" today. I know you will help me to be close to you. I am confident that this will keep me from being stressed out about the challenge of knowing your will for my life. I pray that throughout the week I will learn all the things you want to teach me about choosing doors. I look forward to all that you have in store for me. Amen!

  • "Life Is A Journey" - An Inspirational Poem for Sunday, May 10th

    Life Is A Journey

     Birth is a beginning

    and death a destination

    And life is a journey:

    From childhood to maturity

    and youth to age;

    From innocence to awareness

    and ignorance to knowing;

    From foolishness to desecration

    and then perhaps to wisdom.

    From weakness to strength or

    from strength to weakness

    and often back again;

    From health to sickness

    and we pray to health again.

    From offense to forgiveness

    from loneliness to love

    from joy to gratitude

    from pain to compassion

    from grief to understanding

    from fear to faith.

    From defeat to defeat to defeat

    until looking backwards or ahead

    We see that victory lies not

    at some high point along the way

    but in having made the journey

    step by step

    a sacred pilgrimage.

    Birth is a beginning

    and death a destination

    And life is a journey;

    A sacred journey to life everlasting


    © Author Unknown

  • Open Doors – Living Fully for God and Others - Saturday, May 9th

    Finally, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, affectionate, compassionate, and humble. Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless others because you were called to inherit a blessing. For the one who wants to love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from uttering deceit. And he must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer. But the Lord’s face is against those who do evil. 1 Peter 3:8-12 (NET Bible)

    Blessed be the Lord, because He has heard the voice of my supplication. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him. The Lord is their strength, and He is a saving defense to His anointed. Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; be their shepherd also, and carry them forever. Psalm 28:6-9

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Today we conclude the first week of the series on "Doors." Our emphasis this week has been on "Open Doors." We began with the thought that there is an initial open door that leads to all other open doors. We must go through the door of surrender to God for a life time of living fully for him. Our next thought was that we haven't even imagined what wonderful things God has ready for those who love the Lord and go through the door of surrender into a life time of living fully for him.

    For those who have surrendered, life becomes a series of open doors to go through and find wonderful thing after wonderful thing that God has prepared for them. Surrender frees them from being focused on themselves and living how they want to live. They are focused on how God can use them for his glory and not on what God can do for them. The wonderful things they find are blessings from God that enable them to bless others. Gideon was ready to go through the open door God placed before him so that he could be used by God to rescue Israel. God made Gideon into a "mighty hero" he could truly use for his purposes, his glory, and the good of all Israel.

    We need to join Gideon in seeing God's open doors as opportunities for being used of God to bless others. We must guard ourselves from looking at an "open door" and asking "what will it do for me?" Instead we must look at it and ask, "what will it do for others?" Living fully for God is all about going through the open doors he places before us. Going through open doors is all about serving the kingdom of God. And serving the kingdom of God is all about blessing the lives of other people.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    You are encouraged to put together you own prayer response to God today, which we often do with Saturday's Devotional. God Bless, Ken Hart.

  • Open Doors – Going Forward Triumphantly - Friday, May 8th

    Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.” And that is just what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.” So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew. Judges 6:36-40

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We know that God has an open door he wants Gideon to go through. Going through this door will lead to Gideon becoming a "mighty hero" who God uses to deliver Israel from the hands of the Midianites. At the beginning of our story Gideon isn't even on speaking terms with God. We have seen how Gideon is being helped to reconnect with God. Gideon going through the door that reconnects him with God is a prerequisite to him going through the door that allows him to be used by God to deliver Israel. If Gideon had been on speaking terms with God at the beginning of our story, he would have spoken directly to Gideon about his plan to use him to deliver Israel. The angel of the Lord was sent to help Gideon go through the door of reconnecting with God.

    Before today's passages, but after the passages we have already looked at, there is a passage (Judges 6:17-24) that shows us the completion of the work of the angel of the Lord. Gideon spoke to God and said "show me a sign that it is you who speak with me." A lot has happened in this regard for Gideon and this request is all about reassurance for what he already knows to be true. Gideon then brought out an offering in order to worship God. The angel of Lord instructed him in the details of what he should do. Then the angel of the Lord touched his staff to the offering on the rock and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the offering (this is the sign Gideon asked for). At this point the passage says, "Then the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight." We are also told that it is at this point that Gideon saw that he was the angel of the Lord. The angel of the Lord's work of reconnecting Gideon with God is completed. Gideon has gone through door number one and is now ready for door number two.

    For going through the door that reconnected Gideon with God, he asked God for a sign that it was him who was speaking to him. This request was all about reassurance for what Gideon already knew to be true. For going through the door that allows him to be used by God to deliver Israel, Gideon again needs reassurance for what he already knows to be true. And of course, as today's passage tells us, this reassurance comes when God twice gives Gideon the sign he wants by means of the fleece of wool. With this assurance, Gideon’s words change from “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised" to “You are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised." Gideon is ready to go through the open door God has placed before him. He is now a "mighty hero" that God can truly use for his purposes, for his glory, and for the good of all Israel.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I see how important it is for me to be closely connected with you so that you can use me for your purposes, for your glory, and for the good of others. Show me how I can become more fully connected with you than ever before. I pray for your reassuring grace that not only helps me to be confident in my relationship with you, but allows me to go through open doors with the assurance that you will use my life in mighty ways for your kingdom work. Amen!

    Note: This week we have a Saturday Devotional!

  • Open Doors – Becoming Alive to God’s Call - Thursday May 7th

    “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” Judges 6:15-16

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    In yesterday's Devotional we saw that Gideon had hit bottom and that the bottom was all he could see. For Gideon, God is absent, he no longer intervenes, and he is the cause of their calamity. We also saw that the words of the angel of the Lord, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you" bring a change point that allows Gideon to begin his ascent up from the "bottom." Something happens within Gideon when he hears these words and before he responds the way he does in our Judges passage for today.

    We know that it is the angel of Lord who is with Gideon because we are told so. But, Gideon doesn't know this. It's not until verse 22 that we are told that "Gideon saw that he was the angel of the Lord." So, at the point we find ourselves in the story, Gideon is not clear aboutwho stands before him, but he is beginning to see that the words being spoken to him are from God. It is the words, "I am sending you" that help us see that this is what is happening within Gideon. Gideon hears these words as words from God himself and so his ascent from the bottom begins.

    Gideon hearing the words he hears (Judges 6:14) as a blend of the voice of the one who stands before him and the voice of God is hard to grasp and would require a study of its own in order to give an adequate explanation. But there is no doubt the blend is there. There is also a blend involved in Gideon's response. When Gideon responded to the first words (Judges 6:12) the angel of the Lord spoke to him, Gideon responded to him alone. But in our passage for today, Gideon is responding to both the one who stands before him and God himself: “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel?

    Gideon's words are spoken out loud for the one who stands before him to hear but they are directed to God himself. This is so significant. Gideon is speaking to God as if he were present. He has moved beyond speaking about God and voicing his perception that God had abandoned them and handed them over to the Midianites. Gideon has moved to speaking to God who is present. Yes, he takes exception with the plan God has for delivering them from the Midianites, but in connecting with God and interacting with him, he is at least in a spot that will allow God to help him continue his upward ascent.

    Gideon, in essence, is saying to God, "Why me? I am nobody. How can I possibly rescue Israel." God is now going to take Gideon through a process that will help him ascend further and further upward until he becomes the one God does use to rescue Israel. This process of Gideon being helped by God to become this person, begins with words Gideon hears from God himself, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

    What a startling turning of the tables when we consider that Gideon had been at the very "bottom." He is now poised to go through the "open door" God has placed before him and become the "Mighty hero" God will use to rescue Israel from the Midianites. What about a "turning of the tables" for you. Are you still so caught up in your calamity and so at the bottom, that you are not at all aware of God and his "open doors" of intervention and provision? Are you willing to reaffirm that God is always present, always intervening with open doors, and never causes your calamities?

    Perhaps you are on speaking terms with God and are wrestling with an "open door" he has before you because of a strong sense of personal fear and inadequacy. God's promise to Gideon is a promise to you, "I will be with you." Allow God's presence to become more real to you than what you anticipate lies in store for you beyond the open door, and he will take away your sense of personal fear and inadequacy. God is waiting to take you on the journey of upward ascent toward becoming a "Mighty hero" who walks with him in the strength of his mighty presence and is able to go through all the open doors he places before you.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you that you never give up on me. I am grateful that you are always at work even when I am not aware of it. I see that the work you are doing for me right now is a work of helping me ascend upward toward being one who knows your presence, hears your voice, and trusts in you completely with the troubles of my life and for taking me through open doors of intervention and provision. Here I am, Lord. I surrender! Amen!

  • Open Doors – Overcoming the Pitfall of Calamity - Wednesday, May 6th

    Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.” Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!" Judges 6:11-14

    Where are Your former lovingkindnesses, O Lord, which You swore to David in Your faithfulness? Remember, O Lord, the reproach of Your servants; how I bear in my bosom the reproach of all the many peoples, with which Your enemies have reproached, O Lord, with which they have reproached the footsteps of Your anointed. Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen. Psalm 89:49-52 (NASB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The severity and complexity of our circumstances can at times be overwhelming to us. The troubles of our heart can become so enlarged that the presence of God becomes a fleeting reality to us and our sense that he's really at work in our lives diminishes drastically and fades away to almost nothing. We succumb to the pitfall of calamity – hardness of heart. We think we would welcome an intervention of God into our lives like the one Gideon experienced. It is likely that previous to this moment, Gideon would have said that he would welcome an intervention of God. However, it seems that the calamity of Gideon and Israel totally overshadows the reality that God has begun to intervene with the appearing of the angel of the Lord.

    Notice that when the angel of the Lord says to Gideon, "the Lord is with you," Gideon responds, "if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?" Gideon is more focused on his perception that the Lord has been absent than he is on the commencement of his intervening work on behalf of Gideon and Israel. God is going to put an open door before Gideon and Israel but for the moment he is not even ready to hear what the angel of the Lord is going to say about it. Gideon's questioning of the past continues as he asks, "where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about?" We would like to think that if the angel of the Lord appeared to us, we would have kept quiet and listened to everything God wanted to communicate to us through him.

    The word "bottom" in today's passage from Judges depicts literally and figuratively where Gideon is when the angel of the Lord appears to him. While Gideon, as we said earlier, would welcome an intervention of God, he does not believe it will happen. Gideon has hit bottom and that is all he can see. Notice his words that confirm this, "the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites." For Gideon, God is absent, he no longer intervenes, and he caused their calamity. Gideon has so bottomed out, it seems he is incapable of comprehending that God is intervening through the angel of the Lord and that he should shut up, listen, and respond.

    Fortunately, the angel of the Lord speaks again and says, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!" These words break through to Gideon in a startling turning of the tables, so to speak. We will take a closer look at this tomorrow. Let's just say for now, that this is the change point that allows Gideon to begin his ascent up from the "bottom." If you read chapters 6 and 7 of Judges, you will see more fully how God intervenes. Truly, God put an open door before Gideon and Israel and, yes, eventually they go through it and God provides deliverance for them from the Midianites.

    But how about us who say we would have kept quiet and listened? Think about those moments in your life where you have bottomed out and joined Gideon and said, "God is absent, he no longer intervenes, and he has caused my calamity." And now think about this: How many times did God show up and set an open door before you, but you were so caught up in your calamity and so at the bottom, that you were not at all aware of God and his "open doors" of intervention and provision? This is the danger of giving ourselves to the full time occupation of denouncing where we are and voicing our "whys" of objection and frustration. God is always present, he always intervenes with open doors, and he never is the cause of our calamities (Judges 6:1).

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, forgive me for the times I have let my troubles become the Lord of my life instead of you. I realize that the intervention and deliverance I need more than anything is deliverance from myself and not so much from my troubles. Turn my heart and life toward you more fully and completely than ever before. Help me to believe that you are Lord and Master over everything and that you are Lord over my heart and life. I reaffirm that you are always present, you always intervene with open doors, and you are never the cause of my calamities. Amen!

  • Open Doors – Following Christ Closely - Tuesday, May 5th

    The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out .... So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep .... My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. John 10:3B, 7, 27 (NASB)

    The true children of God are those who let God’s Spirit lead them. Romans 8:14 (ICB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Yesterday we saw that going through the door of surrender is the key to reaching the open door that leads to "Living Fully for God" and finding the wonderful things God has ready for those who love him. In our John 10 passage, Jesus speaks of himself as "the door of the sheep." This means that when we go through the door of surrender we are embracing Christ for the life he has for us going forward and that we are renouncing the independent, selfish, and sinful use of our lives that has been true of us in the past.

    Surrender frees us from being focused on ourselves and living how we want to live. Those who want to follow Christ but don't go through the door of surrender, will be focused more on what God can do for them than how God can use them for his glory. Truly, God created us to exist for him and not him for us. Surrender is about bringing all that we are to God for all that he is so that we can become all he desires us to be.

    Jesus says in our John passage that his "sheep hear his voice." When we surrender to Jesus as "the door of the sheep," we will hear his voice calling us by name so he can lead us out to the open door that leads to "Living Fully for God" and finding the wonderful things God has ready for us who love him. Jesus goes on to say of all such people, "I know them, and they follow Me." Life then becomes a series of open doors that we go through and find wonderful thing after wonderful thing that God has prepared for us.

    In this life of going through open doors, our focus is more on Christ than the open doors. Our job is to stay in step with him, hear his voice, and follow him through each open door he brings us to. This is how he fully becomes to us "the door of the sheep." The amazing thing about being an actual "follower" of Christ in this way, is that we don't have to worry about finding doors to go through or worry about what is on the other side. We leave all of this to Christ our Good Shepherd and keep on walking with him by faith and allowing him to use us however he sees fit.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I sense that somehow it all comes down to the issue of control. Change me into a true follower who lets you be in control. Alter my perspectives in every way so that I am able to view everything as a true follower. Help me go forward in the exciting adventure of going through open doors with complete confidence that you, Lord Jesus, are leading me along step by step. Surrendering myself to a life of being a sheep who hears, follows, and trusts in you Jesus, my Good Shepherd, is a beautiful thing. Amen!

  • Open Doors – Surrendering One’s Life to God - Monday, May, 4th

    .... See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut .... Revelation 3:8B (NIV)

    That is what is meant by the Scriptures which say that no mere man has ever seen, heard, or even imagined what wonderful things God has ready for those who love the Lord. But we know about these things because God has sent his Spirit to tell us, and his Spirit searches out and shows us all of God’s deepest secrets (purposes and opportunities KBH). 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (TLB)

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We talk a lot about "Living Fully for God" at Cape Cod Church. God has placed an open door before us for this kind of a life. We haven't even imagined what wonderful things God has ready for those who love the Lord and want to live fully for him. God is waiting to reveal and unfold the "living fully for God" kind of life he has in mind for us. It is not uncommon for those who want to live fully for God and want to enter into the wonderful things God has in store, to feel like the door to that kind of life is not so open to them. Perhaps the problem is that we confuse "living fully" with "living fully for God." We get caught up in merely pursuing "living fully" because we get in the way, but in "living fully for God" we are learning to get out of the way.

    The door to "Living Fully for God" and finding the wonderful things God has ready for those who love him begins with the door of "Surrender." Making a commitment to the lifetime pursuit of surrender to God is the key to everything. When we make this commitment we are saying to God: I want you to be in charge of my life. I want to be a new person with the new life that you have in mind for me. I want your will and not my own. I am willing to be anything you want me to be, go anywhere you want me to go, and do anything you want me to do. I am willing to give up anything you want me to give up and to steer clear of anything that does not fit in with your will for my life. Perhaps the real issue with surrender is whether we believe we can trust God with our lives. If we can trust God, then it would seem that surrendering our lives to him makes all the sense in the world. Perhaps you have never made the commitment to pursue a lifetime of surrender to God or perhaps you find yourself at a spot where the commitment you have made is severely lacking. Either way, now is a great moment to come before the Lord in full commitment to a lifetime of surrendering to him.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, Here I am, take my life and all that I am and make everything new and right. Help me not to be afraid of anything that might happen as a result of surrendering to you. Help me to let go of everything. Help me to take hold of you completely. I release myself into your arms of love. I know you will lead me through the open door to the blessed life of living fully for you. Amen!

  • "Monkeys and the Ladder" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, May 3rd

    MONKEYS AND THE LADDER

    A group of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage. In the middle of the cage, they placed a ladder with bananas on the topmost stair.

    Every time a monkey climbed up the ladder, the scientists poured cold water over the other monkeys. After a while, every time a monkey made an attempt to climb, the others would pull it down and beat it up.

    As a consequence, in disregard of the temptation to do so, no monkey dared to climb the ladder.

    The scientists then replaced one of the monkeys. The first thing this new monkey did was climb the ladder. Immediately, the others pulled him down and beat him up.

    After several beatings, the new monkey learned that he wasn’t supposed to climb the ladder, even though there was no evident rational reason not to do so.

    The second monkey was substituted with another new one and the same result was observed. The first monkey participated in the beating of the second monkey. A third monkey was changed and the same thing repeated. One by one all the monkeys were replaced.

    The cage then had a group of five entirely new monkeys without ever having received a cold shower. The group continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.

    If it was possible to ask the monkeys why they did so, their most likely answer would be “I don’t know. It’s just how things are done around here.”

    Does that statement sound familiar to you?

    Source: This story is a modern day fable and was inspired in part by the experiments in “Cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys“ by G.R. Stephenson and experiments with chimpanzees conducted by Wolfgang Kohler in the 1920s. Over the years, the story was pieced together to form the urban legend as it now stands.

    The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.

    And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

    ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
    But their heart is far away from Me.

    ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
    Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’

    Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” Mark 7:6-8

  • "Monkeys Rescue the Moon" - An Inspirational Story for Saturday, May 2nd

    MONKEYS RESCUE THE MOON

    High in the beautiful mountains, a family of monkeys was playing in the trees. While they were playing, one of them looked down into a well and saw the moon at the bottom of the well.

    He called all his monkey friends to show the moon in the well. Very concerned, all the monkeys investigated the moon in the well. An older monkey ran over, looked into the well and said, “Goodness me! The moon is really in the water. The moon is supposed to be in the sky, not inside a well. The moon must have fallen into the well. We need to get the moon out of the well!” So they found a bucket and formed a long chain holding onto each other’s tails to reach down into the well.

    The oldest monkey hung on the tree upside down, with his feet on the branch and he pulled the next monkey’s feet with his hands. All the other monkeys followed suit and they joined each other one by one down to the moon in the well.

    Just as the last monkey could almost scoop the moon into her bucket, the one at the top felt his grip slipping. Suddenly, all the monkeys tumbled into the well, their bucket flying into the air. As they looked up from the bottom, they saw the moon glistening in the sky. “A job well done,” they congratulated each other. “Now how do we get out of the well?”

    The monkeys had a false perspective that left them trapped in a well. What false perspectives have left us trapped and far from the truth? Jesus said, “If you continue in My Word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

  • The Commission of Christ’s Church – Love, Acceptance, and Redemption - Friday, May 1st

    I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

    Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. Romans 15:7-13

    But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: …. if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved.” Romans 10:1-3, 6A, 9-13

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Truly the story of redemption permeates who we are as a church. In our Sunday gatherings the redeemed rejoice in the gift of their redemption through expressions of worship week after week. People come to our church whose hearts are ready for a “turning to God” experience and they feel the love and acceptance of redemption all around them. Redemptive grace is the heartbeat of those who stand before us and guide our worship. The message of redemption is proclaimed faithfully and graciously. And wonderfully on any given week the story of redemption becomes the story of those who come seeking and find the One who had been waiting for them all along, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    By God’s grace and through the leading of the Holy Spirit, our church embraced an approach to corporate church meetings that takes place in a setting within which the unreached people of the culture feel welcome and comfortable. Over the years the result has been that many, many people who would not venture into most church meetings, have come and enjoyed their experience. Feeling loved and accepted and seeing vibrant worship all around them, they have heard the truth of the Gospel disseminated in a simple, clear and gracious way. In the absence of the many trappings of conventional church meetings and settings that unnecessarily get in the way, those who earnestly seek God with their whole heart embrace the Lord and His people and stay for the long haul. Truly we have a lot to rejoice in as we look back on the wonderful ways we have participated in the commission of Christ’s church and we have a lot to be excited about as we anticipate the amazing ways for participating in the commission of Christ’s church that lie ahead for us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for the gift of redemption and all the love and acceptance that has come to me from you because of it. Thank you for the love and acceptance that has come to me from my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am grateful for all the ways I am learning to extend love and acceptance to those you bring my way. May the heartbeat of love, acceptance, and redemption continue to be our heartbeat as a church. I pray that the commission of Christ’s church would be embraced and fulfilled by your people everywhere. Amen!

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