Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Daniel 1: 3-4, 17, 19

Daniel 1: 3-4, 17, 19
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility - young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.

To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service.

Most High King of Heaven,
I praise You for choosing and adopting me into Your royal family. Because You've made me righteous, I have no defects. All of my deformities were concealed at the foot of the cross where You turned my brokenness into beauty. You lavished me with wisdom and understanding to know the mysteries of Your good, pleasing and perfect will. Now, I'm qualified to serve You, my high and heavenly King.

This world is not my home. My home is in heaven. Like Daniel, I am a foreigner in a strange place. The wholesome language I speak is uncommon here. The Christian literature I'm familiar with is abnormal. It's imperative that I adapt to the way of life in the community where I live, work and play.

You've put me here to spread the Good News that Your kingdom is available to everyone who believes. I can only do that by earning the trust and respect of those around me. Please give me the desire to be like Daniel. I need to go beyond the pleasant walls and protection of my church and immerse myself in a corrupted culture. Clinging to my faith and trusting in Your power, I'll infiltrate people with the truth about You in words they'll understand. By developing meaningful relationships and clear communication, I'll build bridges for them to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Please dear Lord, give me a courageous heart and determined mind to follow You beyond my perceived limits. Give me extraordinary wisdom and knowledge to fluently speak to those who differ from me. Use me to connect my community to Your glorious kingdom for the praise of Your name. Amen.

You don't have to go to another land to learn a new language. Study the current culture in your community. You'll probably discover that they don't speak or act like you. In order to serve them for God, you need to know their values and traditions.

Resolve to build bridges with non-believers by asking God to give you the wisdom, knowledge and courage of Daniel to boldly live out your life in your neighborhood. Find a non-church related group and begin interacting with them.

I regularly attend Toastmasters, a non-faith based organization that helps people develop communication and leadership skills. Local clubs are full of diverse people. Christians and atheists. Democrats and Republicans. Old and young people of all races and nationalities. Many members think and act differently than me. But, Toastmasters is where I go to practice many of the stories and principles I teach to Christian women. There I boldly live out my faith by proclaiming biblical principles every time I open my mouth to speak. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Philippians 3:17

Philippians 3:17
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

Jesus, You are the Perfect Pattern for godly living. I long to model my life after Yours.

Help me to understand and obey the rules of Your magnificent kingdom. Do not let me wander away from them. I want to reflect Your beauty in everything I say and do. In the laboratory of love, show me any aspect or activity in my life that will tarnish 
Your image. Concentrating on You, I'll accept Your gentle instruction, allowing You to polish me.

With Your Words in all their richness alive in me, I'll accurately represent the kingdom of heaven on earth. Love and patience will show my strong faith. Peace will reign in my heart. Praise and thanksgiving will always be on my lips. My kindness and humility will give others an honest impression of You.

Please send godly people into my life so that I can see Your principles in practice and apply them to my own life. Seeing others imitating You will help me to grow in Your likeness. Hearing them tell about Your work in their lives will inspire me to persevere. As I study Your Word and watch others, I'll become a living Bible, persuading and motivating others to bring glory, honor and fame to You. Amen.

What impression do people have of Christ when they see or talk with you? What changes do you need to make in your life to honor Him?

As Christians, we are to represent Christ. When those around us say, "I didn't know you were a Christian," we have failed to represent him as we should. We are not merely Christ followers; we are his representatives to others.

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Luke 10:30-37

Luke 10:30-37
Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." 

Jesus, You are the Perfect Teacher!
Thank you for teaching me who my neighbors are! They are the people around me who have been stripped of their dignity. Kicked by random acts of cruelty, punched by persistent problems, and knocked unconscious by bullies, their spirits have been left to disgracefully die.

Forgive me for all the times I've:
  • Hurt someone and walked away like the robber
  • Unkindly passed by someone suffering because of my arrogance like the religious leaders
  • Reasoned my lack of love by standing around and talking about it like the experts in the law
  • Tried to capitalize on a bad situation like the innkeeper
Teach me to be merciful like the Samaritan who was the smallest among all of these men, yet had the biggest heart. Please remove the scales from my eyes and show me an injured soul today - someone who is different from me in race, creed, or social background. I will stop and nurse their wounds no matter the cost.  With corrected vision, I will see interruptions as divine opportunities to show Your love to people in distress. May mercy flow like a river through me because of Your amazing love. Amen.

Open your eyes and look for someone to share the love of Christ with in a practical way today whether it's convenient or not.

Amanda was stripped of her dignity. Her domineering father kicked her around as a kid. Her mother was a social butterfly flitting from friend to friend leaving Amanda and her sister at home to do the laundry, cooking and cleaning. While she worked tirelessly to please her meticulous mother, she dreamed of marrying a pastor and becoming a missionary in a distant land.

At the age of 23 her dream came true when she married Mike, a pastor who was preparing to be a missionary in Zambia. But, before they embarked on their mission, he denounced his faith and abandoned her and their child for another woman. Single and penniless, she was punched by persistent problems as she raised their child alone. 

Eventually, her only child grew up as children do, and deserted her mother for all the pleasures of this world - men, money, and materialism - putting a knife in her mother's heart that cut to the core. Left alone, Amanda was bloodied and beaten by life, unattractive and unpleasant to be around. 

Her heart may have been hardened by life, but my heart was harder. Instead of stopping to help her, I heaped more hurt on her by walking away like the robber. Smug with my good life, I arrogantly passed her by like the Pharisees. Reasoning my lack of love, I talked to my pastor about her. He looked at me and with tear glazed eyes said, "Beth, she just needs someone to listen."  

What I heard with my heart was, "She just needs Jesus." That's when I stopped, turned around, and brought her into my home. There over a cup of hot chocolate, I heard her story, nursed her wounds, and let mercy flow like a river. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

John 13: 4-5, 14-15

John 13: 4-5, 14-15
He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus said to them, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."  

Jesus, My Lord and Teacher,
You reign in power with full authority over heaven and earth. Yet You left Your heavenly kingdom and became fully human to teach me Your ways. Out of deep devotion to Your Father, You voluntarily laid aside Your own rights and privileges to model the attitude of a servant.

Thank You for stooping down to wash filthy feet in order to teach me how to humbly serve You and others. If You, the Prince of Heaven, can take on the unappealing task of washing muddy feet then who am I to stand around, watching, and waiting for someone else to do the dirty work?

Humble my heart today. Fill me with a willing spirit and power to get up and go do whatever needs done for Your glory. Full of Your power, I will ...

Shamelessly stoop down to do unpleasant tasks
Eagerly serve others even when it's untimely
Risk my reputation to reach out and touch the unattractive
Value the dignity of human life more than my power or position
Express the full extent of Your love, even to the unappreciative

Father, with all my heart I want to be more like Jesus. Open my eyes to see who I can serve today. Out of love and respect, I will do whatever You ask, anticipating the rich reward You will give me because of Jesus. Amen

Are you willing to follow Christ's example? Whom can you serve today?

Nobody likes a know it all!
Chloe is brilliant. She knows a lot, especially about the Bible, and she isn't afraid to use it to teach, correct or rebuke people. The problem is its constant in-your-face correction. Because it's not gentle or loving, it comes across as arrogant, self-righteousness and pushes people, including me, away.

On a recent Sunday I invited her to join me for lunch after church. Over tossed salad and iced tea, I listened to her spew vengeance.  I thought, "From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. This woman is really bitter." She just needs someone to listen and love her. But, how do you love a porcupine?

Empathizing with her, I later felt prompted by God to invite her to my home for coffee. She readily accepted my offer. For two hours we sat at my dining room table. She talked. I listened. I could see the pain in her eyes, and hear the hurt in her heart. Life had dealt her some really hard knocks that hardened her heart. Behind the constant hardcore need to correct others is an insecure woman who just needs Jesus.

Valuing the dignity of her life, I stooped down and served her for Him. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Romans 2:1

Romans 2:1 
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 

Holy & Righteous Judge,
Forgive me for donning the robe, stepping behind the desk, and pounding down the gavel to announce the "guilty" verdict. I am just as bad! I have no excuse! It's easier to look straight ahead at someone else, than it is to look down at myself. If I point a finger at others, four fingers are pointing back at me.

When I put on Your holy robe and thump Your sacred gavel, playing judge, I'm setting myself up for discipline. You do not like when I step behind Your divine desk because I'm unworthy and unqualified to be there. Forgive me for filtering Your grace through my opinion, and watering down Your mercy with my own narrow-mindedness. I can't understand Your holy standard, let alone reach it!

I don't know the whole story. How can I judge a book when the chapters aren't all written? Only You know the whole truth. You are the Amazing Author of every story and uniquely write each ending. If You began a good story about someone, You will finish it with a perfect ending. I believe You.

I think of the thief dying on the cross next to You. In the last paragraph of his life story, he acknowledged You and asked You to remember him.  In the end, You pounded the gavel and proclaimed him "not guilty", assuring him a place in Paradise. While the watching world convicted him, You patiently pardoned him. You are so kind and merciful. Teach me, Your Honor, to be non-judgmental for Your name sake. Amen.

God is a Father of many chances. He holds back His judgment on us, allowing us time to change our mind. He expects us to do the same to others. Talk to God about who you need to show mercy today. Then, step aside, remove the robe, put down the gavel and let Him announce the verdict. He alone is worthy.

When trouble strikes, a question I hear commonly asked in Christian circles is, "Is he/she saved?" I used to be quick to answer. However, as I've studied God's Word, and grown to be more like Jesus, I've learned that I cannot answer that question. It's a matter of the heart. I can judge what I see, and I can't see the heart. Only God can.

My 79 year old neighbor lady lived promiscuously and partied hard most of her life. Now she is dying of cancer. My two little dogs and I visit her every day. While she feeds my dogs treats, we've talked about the gospel and eternal destiny. She knows the gospel, but I'm not sure she knows Jesus. Nothing I observe in her life would indicate that she does. However, I can't see her heart; only God can. One day we will both stand before Him. On that day He alone will judge our hearts. In the meantime, I can honor Him by freely lavishing her with the same love and grace He's lavished on me. 

With all my heart, I think we will be very surprised on Judgment Day by who is in heaven and who is not. I believe many Bible-thumping, church-going, do-good people could be left out, while promiscuous party girls go in. It's not a matter of knowledge, routines, or works. It's a matter of relationship. Do you know Jesus?  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Matthew 9:10-13

Matthew 9:10-13
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"

On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." 

Merciful Father-
I continuously marvel at the fact that You love, chose, and adopted me despite my indecent life, impure motives, and improper attitudes. Mercifully accepting my broken life, You took me into Your heavenly workshop and turned me into a sacred masterpiece fit for a King. My beautiful new eyes will easily recognize lost and lonely souls. With a divine perspective, I'll be able to see beyond their faults to their possibilities.

Unnoticed, unhealthy people all around me are dying for the gift of friendship. Like Matthew, I'll find common ground with them. Risking my reputation, I'll spend time mixing and mingling with them, showing them Your tender mercies. Exposed to You they may be radically changed into valuable works of art for Your purpose and pleasure.
Father, forgive me for making this life a popularity contest. Often I'm more concerned about my rituals, routines, and reputation than I am about restoring relationships. It's not about ME. It's all about YOU. Please enlarge my heart and fill it with more of Your merciful love. Open my eyes to see who needs a touch of Your greatness today and I'll obediently reach out to them in the spirit of friendship because of Jesus. Amen.

Invite a lost and lonely soul into the core of your life today. Be courteous and authentic to them. Spend frequent time with them. Allow the Master to touch them through you.

God says, three times in his Word, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Matthew 9:13, 12:7 and Hosea 6:6. He doesn't want our rituals and routines! He wants our relationship! And, when our hearts are enlarged and full of Him, we'll have a spirit of forgiveness and restoration.

A few years ago I was compelled to reach out to a young man serving a life sentence in a state prison. I wasn't something I was seeking to do, even wanting to do. I read his story in the local paper and prayed, "Dear God, but for your grace this could be my son." Yes, what he did was vile, but God gave me eyes to see that even the vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus His pardon receives. This young man was a sinner like me. 

In obedience to this prompting on my heart, I started mailing him Prayer Pal. Soon we were corresponding via letter. Eventually, God opened the door for me to visit him. Beyond the double fence topped with concertina wire, through the heavy locked doors, in the cold, dark, sterile visit room of the state penitentiary where guards menacingly glare at you, I break bread with this young man and show him Christ's mercy. The blessing I receive by mixing and mingling with this young man is inexplicable and incomprehensible. I go to bless, and leave blessed. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Luke 12: 22-23

Luke 12: 22-23
Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes."

You are such a tender loving Teacher. This is a hard lesson for me to learn. Please stick with me until I figure it out! Every day I worry about:

Life - What if this or that happens?

Food - What should I put in my stomach today? Low fat or low carbs? How many calories and how much fiber does it contain?

Body - Am I too short, too tall, too fat, or too skinny? What will people think of me?

Clothing - What should I wear today? Black, brown, blue, white, purple, green, red, yellow? Do I look good?

Forgive me for wasting my time worrying about insignificant things. I should be more concerned with where I'll spend eternity, what I'll feed my mind, and the condition of my heart. Instead of looking at fads and fashions, I should thoughtfully walk through a field of wildflowers, gazing with wonder on their fabulous form. They never spend one minute primping or shopping; yet, they look dazzling.

Lord, I desperately need more faith to believe that I'm more valuable than flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow. Rather than worrying about my life, I resolve to trust You more this year. Living in Your presence, I'll realize the magnitude of Your love and follow Your perfect plan, trusting You to take care of all my needs day by day.

Giving my entire attention to what You're doing at the moment, I won't get worked up about the future. When tough times come, I'll trust You to sustain me for the glory and honor of Your life-giving name. Amen.

What temporal things are you worried about? What do you gain from worrying about these things? Resolve to trust God more this year by looking at life from an eternal perspective.

You can exercise rigorously, eat right, put on a pretty face and dress in the latest fashions, but it's all meaningless if you don't have a pure heart. When you appear before God's throne, He's not going to look at your fine physique, pretty face and fashionable wardrobe. He's going to examine your heart. Work out with Him by reading your Bible and doing what He says. Feed on His power packed promises. Clothe yourself in righteousness, humility and love from the armoire of God. Then, you'll have nothing to worry about because you'll look and feel splendid.