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  #761  
Old 09-17-2010, 10:03 PM
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Default Sep. 18

Roughing The Pastor

September 18, 2010

Read: 1 Timothy 5:17-25

Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the Word and doctrine. —1 Timothy 5:17

I was at my grandson’s eighth-grade football game when the referee indicated there was a penalty and stopped play. Apparently, after the ball was thrown, the boy who passed it was tackled, prompting a penalty flag. The announcer from the press box said: “There is a flag on the field. The penalty is roughing the pastor . . . I mean, roughing the passer.” As soon as he said it, I thought to myself, God could give that penalty to some churches today!

It’s not that pastors are perfect. If that is what we are looking for, then pastorless churches would be the norm. It’s that God calls on us to honor those who lead us spiritually, particularly “those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17 ESV). In my opinion, pastoring is one of the hardest occupations on the planet. We live in a sophisticated, fast-paced, and complex world, and our expectations for “high-performance” pastors often set the bar at unattainable heights.

So, let’s switch the focus and become high-performance church members who honor our pastors with words of encouragement and prayer. A supportive note or a “thank you” in the foyer will go a long way to stimulate pastors to serve with joy and efficiency.



Lord, help us to appreciate
The work that others do,
The service given from their hearts,
Their sacrifice for You. —Sper

Don’t be rough on your pastor—
pass along some encouragement today.
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  #762  
Old 09-19-2010, 02:42 AM
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Default Sep. 19

By God’s Help

September 19, 2010

Read: 1 Samuel 7:2-12

Thus far the Lord has helped us. —1 Samuel 7:12

The word Ebenezer in the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” refers to a time when the people of Israel were trying to regain the close relationship they once had with God. Their spiritual leader, Samuel, told them that if they would abandon their foreign gods and return to the Lord wholeheartedly, He would deliver them from being oppressed by their enemy, the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:2-3).

When the people turned from their sin, God gave them victory. In response, “Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’ ” (v.12).

When we sing, “Here I raise my Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I’ve come; and I hope, by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home,” we are reminded that in our times of need we can always turn to God to find forgiveness and help. Whatever we have done, wherever we have wandered, He will receive and restore us by His grace.

A small stone on a desk or shelf can be our own Ebenezer—a powerful, visible reminder that by God’s help we have come this far in life, and He will see us through to the end.



Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise. —Robinson

Because God is with us, we need not fear what is ahead of us.
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  #763  
Old 09-20-2010, 12:19 AM
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Default Sep. 20

Dogged Devotion

September 20, 2010

Read: John 15:9-17

In Your presence is fullness of joy. —Psalm 16:11

Maggie doesn’t care much for television. She would rather look out a window than stare at a small screen. Reading doesn’t thrill her either. She has been known to “chew” on books, but only in the strictly literal sense. Nevertheless, when Jay and I read or watch TV, Maggie participates. Even though she doesn’t enjoy what we’re doing, she enjoys being with us. Maggie is our very devoted dog. More than anything (well, just about anything) Maggie wants to be with us.

The word dogged means “determined and persistent.” These words describe Maggie. They should also describe us. When we are devoted to God, we want to be with Him even when He’s doing something that makes no sense to us. We may ask, “Why, Lord?” when He seems angry (Ps. 88:14) or when He seems to be napping (44:23), or when the wicked prosper (Jer. 12:1). But when we remain devoted to God despite our questions, we find fullness of joy in His presence (Ps. 16:11).

Jesus knew that we would have questions. To prepare us for them, He urged us to abide in His love (John 15:9-10). Even when God’s ways are inexplicable, His love is reliable. So we remain doggedly devoted to Him.



Never should our love be just a word,
A passing phase, a brief emotion;
But love that honors Christ our
Lord Responds to Him with deep devotion. —Hess

We find joy when we learn to abide in Jesus’ love.
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  #764  
Old 09-20-2010, 10:18 PM
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Default Sep. 21

Navigational System

September 21, 2010

Read: Isaiah 30:15-22

When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth. —John 16:13

Have you ever wondered how an airplane pilot knows how to get from point A to point B? Most likely, he uses VOR, short for VHF Omni-directional Radio Range, a navigational system invented in the early 1950s. It still guides many aircraft to their destination today. The pilot sets the course of the aircraft on his dial. If the aircraft drifts from that set course, the instrument shows the pilot that the plane is deviating so he can correct it to align the aircraft to the set course again.

The nation of Israel in Isaiah’s day badly needed a reliable VOR system. And God wanted to be that for them. But despite God’s warning, they decided to align with Egypt (Isa. 30:1-2). God graciously promised that one day, however, He would be their navigator: “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (v.21).

Today, Christians have an internal navigational system. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, who lives in us to “guide [us] into all truth” (John 16:13). If you need direction as to where to set the course of your life, don’t rely on your own way. Use God’s VOR system. He will surely lead you in the right direction.



The Spirit gives us power to live
A life that’s pleasing to the Lord;
He also guides us and provides
Direction in God’s holy Word. —Sper

The Spirit is our navigational system.
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  #765  
Old 09-21-2010, 10:11 PM
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Default Sep. 22

Is It True?

September 22, 2010

Read: Galatians 1:1-9

They received the Word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. —Acts 17:11

Trust, but verify.” My husband loves that quote from Ronald Reagan. During his time in office, the former US President wanted to believe everything he was told in his political dealings with others. But since the security of his country depended on the truth being told—he strived to verify everything.

Acts 17:11 tells us that the Bereans had a similar attitude about knowing the truth. “They received the Word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” In other words, the Bereans didn’t simply believe what someone else was telling them. They also verified it on their own—on a daily basis.

That’s important for us to consider as well. Whether we receive our Bible teaching through church, Sunday school, radio, or TV—we need to test what we hear against God’s inspired Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We are to “be diligent to present [ourselves] approved to God, . . . rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2:15). If we do this, we won’t become prey to those who teach “a different gospel,” and those who “want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7)—false teachers who come as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15).

Remember, trust—but verify!



Protection from false teaching comes
The more we read God’s Word;
For once we know the Scripture’s truth,
What’s false will sound absurd. —Sper

Knowing what’s true is the first step in knowing what’s false.
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  #766  
Old 09-22-2010, 10:14 PM
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Default Sep. 23

Cutting Remarks

September 23, 2010

Read: Proverbs 12:17-22

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. —Proverbs 12:18

The writer of Proverbs describes an unwise person as “one who speaks like the piercings of a sword” (12:18). Our tongues can be like a multi-bladed Swiss Army knife when it comes to the variety of ways that we cut and destroy each other.

Unhealthy attitudes of anger, irritation, frustration, and impatience—even disappointment, stress, guilt, and insecurity—all contribute to our damaging speech. And as we cut with our words, we wound and divide friendships and relationships. It’s no wonder that the infamous list of seven things that are an abomination to the Lord includes anyone who “sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-19).

How do we stay off that list? For starters, we need to watch what we say. Gossip and slander are out, and words that hurt instead of heal are not welcome. Boasting, lying, and all the rest of the ways we use words to hurt and divide need to be gone as well. In their place, words that extend love and the healing power of forgiveness, mercy, and truth should rule our words and relationships. After all, where would we be if Jesus hadn’t spoken words of forgiving love and grace to us?

So, put the “knife” away and use your words to help and heal.



Lord, put a seal upon my lips,
Help me to guard with care
The things I say and swift repeat;
O tongue of mine, beware! —Bosch

Our words have the power to build up or tear down.
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  #767  
Old 09-23-2010, 10:07 PM
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Default Sep. 24

Obey The Call

September 24, 2010

Read: Mark 1:16-20

They immediately left their nets and followed Him. —Mark 1:18

I read about Captain Ray Baker who flew for the Strategic Air Command during the Vietnam War. The Air Force trained him, along with the other pilots, to run out of their barracks to their planes at the sound of a buzzer. Many times during dinner he had to drop his utensils and bolt to his bomber. He had been trained to respond to the call with immediate obedience. He was so well-trained that one day while on furlough, he ran out of a restaurant when he heard a buzzer.

When Jesus called His first followers, they had an immediacy in their response to His call. The call of these fishermen was abrupt. Yet “they immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Mark 1:18). The author of this account, Mark, may have wanted to impress upon his readers the authority of Jesus. When He extended the call, these men jumped to obey because helping people enter the kingdom of God was a more compelling adventure and a grander vision than catching fish.

When Jesus issues a call to follow Him, He doesn’t want us to delay. He expects immediate obedience when it comes to telling others the good news. Bring someone the story of salvation today!



Go to the lost, in the home, in the mart,
Delay no longer, today make a start;
Tell them of Jesus who bled for their sin—
From byways of darkness bring others to Him. —Houghton

Wanted: Messengers to deliver the good news.
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  #768  
Old 09-24-2010, 10:04 PM
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Default Sep. 25

Seeing Backward

September 25, 2010

Read: Heb. 11:13-16,23-27

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off. —Hebrews 11:13

My husband and I rode the train backward from Grand Rapids to Chicago last summer. Sitting in seats that faced the rear of the train, all we could see was where we had been, not where we were going. Buildings, lakes, and trees flew by the window after we had passed them. I didn’t like it. I’d rather see where I’m going.

Sometimes we may feel that way about life too—wishing we could see ahead. We’d like to know how certain situations are going to turn out, how God is going to answer our prayers. But all we can know is where we’ve been. That is, if it were not for faith.

The “faith chapter” of the Bible, Hebrews 11, tells us about two realities that some people in Old Testament times could see by faith. It speaks of Noah, Abraham, and Sarah, who all died in faith, “having seen [the promises] afar off.” They “embraced them” and looked forward to “a better . . . heavenly country” (vv.13,16). Besides the promise of heaven, verse 27 tells us that by faith Moses could also see “Him who is invisible,” meaning Christ.

While we don’t know the outcome of today’s struggles, believers in Jesus can by faith see forward to where we’re going: We will have a heavenly home where we will live with Jesus forever.



The future is seen in the Bible— This knowledge with us God has shared; By faith we can see the invisible, The glory that He has prepared. —Hess

The promise of heaven is our eternal hope.
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  #769  
Old 09-26-2010, 01:26 AM
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Default Sep. 26

The Forgotten Worker

September 26, 2010

Read: Hebrews 6:9-20

God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love . . . in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. —Hebrews 6:10

People around the world are familiar with Mount Rushmore, the South Dakota site where the heads of former American presidents are carved in gigantic scale on a cliff wall. Yet, while millions know of Mount Rushmore, relatively few know the name Doane Robinson—the South Dakota state historian who conceived the idea of the magnificent sculpture and managed the project. The monument is admired and appreciated, but he is the forgotten man behind the masterpiece. His name is largely unrecognized or was never even known by some.

Sometimes, in the service of the Master, we may feel that we have been forgotten or are behind the scenes and not recognized. Ministry can be a life of effort that often goes unappreciated by the very people we are seeking to serve in Jesus’ name. The good news, however, is that, while people may not know, God does. Hebrews 6:10 says, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”

What a promise! Our heavenly Father will never forget our service to Him. That is infinitely more important than being applauded by the crowds.



Does the place you’re called to labor
Seem so small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He’ll not forget His own. —Suffield

Serving to please Christ is a greater reward than public acclaim.
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  #770  
Old 09-27-2010, 12:33 AM
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Default Sep. 27

Pursuing Hospitality

September 27, 2010

Read: Romans 12:3-13Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. —1 Peter 4:9

In the New Testament, hospitality is a hallmark of Christian living. It is listed as a characteristic of church leaders (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8) and is commanded for every follower of Jesus as an expression of love (Rom. 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9). But its meaning goes deeper than being a gracious host or opening our homes to guests.
The Greek word translated “hospitality” means “love of strangers.” When Paul speaks of being “given to hospitality” (Rom. 12:13), he is calling us to pursue relationships with people who are in need. It is not an easy task.
Writer Henri Nouwen likens it to reaching out to those we meet on our way through life—people who may be estranged from their culture, country, friends, family, or even from God. Nouwen writes: “Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.”
Whether we inhabit a home, a college dorm, a prison cell, or a military barracks, we can welcome others as a way of showing our love for them and for Christ. Hospitality is making room for people in need.

Reaching out to needy people,
Showing them our love and care,
Is one way that God can use us
To bring hope to their despair. —Sper

Hospitality can fill the emptiness of a lonely heart.
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