Friday, May 30, 2008

The Renewed Season

by Stephanie Neibarger

This Week’s Verse: John 15:1-5, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."

I don’t know if I’m just becoming a nature freak or if this is just one tool that God is using to teach me things. Last year I noticed a rose bush that had a bunch of dead branches on it. I trimmed off all the dead branches leaving a skeleton of a bush.

This year, I noticed that same bush and it was big and beautiful with tons of rose pedals. I thought, hmm, there must be a devotion in there somewhere! I thought how God will sometimes cut or prune things out of our life. Initially things seem bad, but later we realize He did this to cause us to prosper.

His Word even states in John 15:1-2, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” Notice that it says even branches that do bear fruit are pruned so they can produce even more. So when things in your life are going great and God decides to prune you, know that He is doing so in order for you to produce more fruit.

Isaiah 55 teaches us that His ways are not our ways, His ways are higher than our ways. God also promises us in Jeremiah 29 that His plans for us will cause us to prosper, not harm us. So even when we deal with disappointments and things just aren’t going our way, we don’t have to get discouraged because we know that God has a better plan for us.

Father, thank you for always causing us to prosper. Thank for working for good in our lives. Help us to draw closer to You so we may know Your will and follow Your direction for our lives. In Jesus name, Amen.

Has there been anything that He has cut out of your life that you just don’t understand? Rest assured that He is only doing it to cause you to increase in your life. Stay positive and God will bring things around for you.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 55:8-9, "My thoughts are completely different from yours,' says the Lord. 'And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.'" (NLT)
Philip. 1:6, "And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again." (NLT)
Hebrews 10:36, "You must be willing to wait without giving up. After you have done what God wants you to do, God will give you what He promised you." (NLB)
Romans 8:28, "And we know all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into His plans." (LB)
Joshua 1:9, "I command you—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (NLT)
Jeremiah 29:11, "I will bless you with a future filled with hope – a future of success, not suffering." (CEV)

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Private World of Cell Phones

by Missy Milbourn

This Week's Verse: John 17:15, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.” (NIV)

I wanted to take him out of the world. Not kill him, but home school him. That’s how I felt when I awoke in the middle of the night to my son’s cell phone buzzing, only to open it and find an extremely vulgar text message from one of his buddies.

I was immediately angry. Not at him, and not at his friend, but at the evil one. This Mother’s heart sank, and was ridden with anguish as I prayed to our Heavenly Father, first thanking Him that He had alerted me to the situation, and then conversing with Jesus about what had just transpired.

“Dear Jesus”, I said, “is this what you felt when you prayed, ‘my prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one?’ How do I do that Jesus? How do I turn him loose into the messiness of the world, and yet teach him not to dwell in, or involve himself in the messiness/sinfulness?”

In that quiet time, the Lord impressed upon me, once again, that we have a responsibility, as parents, to do our best to teach our children about God. About God’s love, about God’s truth, about God’s way to approach life. But the sweetest thing that God did for me during that quiet time was He reminded me that though I have a serious responsibility, I don’t have to carry the weight of it all, for He’s there too. And that by His grace, He will teach my son, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:12,13)

So, how do I respond? I accept my responsibility to teach God’s Word to my children, and I claim the above truth (Titus 2:12,13) and pray it over the lives of my children.

Oh yeah, and we now have random checks of his text messages. He knows that he is being held accountable for the text messages that he sends and receives.

Father, our prayer is not that you take our children out of this world, but that you protect them from the evil one. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Does your child have a cell phone? Do you know who they’re calling and who’s calling them? Do you do random checks? Maybe it’s time to enter this part of your child’s life.

Power Verses:
1 John 5:5, “and who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” (NLT)
1 John 5:18, “we know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. (NLT)
Titus 2:12-13, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." (NIV)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Count To Nine...

By Marsha Loftis

This Week’s Verse: Galatians 5:22, “But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with it’s passions and desires. Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit.” (NIV)

There have been times in my life where I have had people tell me that whenever I get upset or angry or impatient that I should just take a minute and “count to ten”. This advice has served me well in the past. Like when I am getting ready to discipline my daughter. I’m not supposed to do that when I’m angry because I will scare her instead of teach her. I want her respect, not fear. So, I will stop and count to ten. This action has saved her butt many times!

I also have times when I count to nine… There are nine Fruits of the Spirit. These are things that God has blessed us with when we gave our lives over to Jesus. If we have Jesus in our hearts, then we have the fruits of the spirit in us. Those times when I get impatient, mouthy, uncaring, or just plain rude I am reminded that I don’t need to “go there”—that nasty place that some people choose to live in. I might visit, but I don’t have to stay there because I have something in me that keeps bringing me back.

I have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They’re there! I know this because God says so. I might have trouble with one or all of them from time to time, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they are in me.

God gave me the spirit of Love so that I may love others as He loves me, ALL OTHERS. Not just the lovable ones, the unlovable ones too!

He gave me the spirit of Joy so that when others see me enjoying the blessings of God they will wonder, ‘What’s she so happy about?’ And this is the open door to tell that “lovable” character all about Jesus!

He has given me the spirit of Peace so that we may live in the world and be not of the world in its un-peaceful ways. So that we may carry the peace of Christ in our hearts everywhere we go.

He gave me Patience because He knew my daughter before I did! We also need peace so we don’t give up so easily on those around us who are in need of Jesus and just won’t admit it. It would be so easy to just say, ‘This person frustrates me because I have the answer they are searching for they just won’t listen. It’s not worth it.’ God says they are. And we need to hang in there for their sake.

Kindness—this is one we need so we will actually keep people around long enough to listen to us! No one is going to be in your company if you treat them poorly; then who will you have to witness to?

We have the spirit of Goodness in order that we may always have a choice to do the right thing. Use that goodness that Jesus placed in our hearts to watch out and care for the people in our lives. To simply say, ‘Please and thank you,’ 'God bless you,’ and ‘Excuse me’. Little things make a big difference in showing your character to the people you are around every day.

Faithfulness. I think this was given to us so we may not be tempted to try it another way. When we give our lives to Jesus, it’s not just once. It’s like an addict chooses to stay sober every day. We have a choice to make every day. Do we choose to give our lives to Jesus today, tomorrow, and every day there after? Faithfulness will keep us coming back to the One who has given so sacrificially of His love and strength so that we may have the opportunity to spend our eternity with Him.

Gentleness. We HAVE to have a gentleness of spirit to embrace hurting people without judging them. When we ask, ‘How are you?’ Do we wait for an answer? When someone actually says, ‘Wow. Thanks for asking. I’ve had a really bad time lately. I kinda need someone to talk to.’ We have to be able to listen gently, without judgment in order for them to see God through us. If God’s people are harsh and unforgiving, then what kind of God are we representing to the ones who need Him more than anything?

I feel like Self-control is more for our inward needs than our outward reaches. We have to maintain some form of self-control to live a life worth witnessing about. Plus, if we don’t, how’s anyone going to tell us apart from those living for this world? Self-control is also a gift to be used when we mess up. When someone says, ‘I heard you cuss under your breath’ or ‘I saw you lose your temper the other day’. That spirit is there to keep us from saying, “Yeah, well, you’re not perfect either, y’know?!” That spirit is there so that we may keep our composure and say instead, “Yeah. I know. I’m sorry you had to hear that. I’m not perfect but I serve someone who is. And in His perfect love, I’ve already asked for his forgiveness and He has forgiven.”

Father God, help me to always remember that your spirit is forever with me. Remind me daily that you have given these gifts to me so I may show others the true character of your son. So that I may live a life that's pleasing to you. Give me your strength to call upon you in all things so that your Name will be glorified in all I do. Thank you for these and all the other gifts in my life. Amen.

The next time you need to count to ten, try counting to Nine instead. Memorize the Fruits of the Spirit and call them out in your mind. By the time you get through all nine, you will probably forget whatever made you want to start counting in the first place. And if not, you will at least be reminded that all these things are in you because of who loves you and it will be harder for you to go to your ‘Nasty Place’ after all! Say them with me now:
Love, Joy, Peace
Patience, Kindness, Goodness
Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control

Power Verses:
Ezekiel 36:26-28
, "I'll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I'll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that's God-willed, not self-willed. I'll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and to live by my commands." (MSG)
Ephesians 5:8-10, "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord." (NIV)
1 John 4:13-16, "He's given us life from his life, from his very own spirit. Also, we've seen for ourselves and continue to state openly that the Father sent his Son as Savior of the world. Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God's son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we've embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God." (MSG)

Friday, May 9, 2008

A New Season

by Stephanie Neibarger

This Week's Verse: Isaiah 43:19, "For I am about to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home. I will create rivers for them in the desert!" (NLT)

Once again, Joel is my inspiration for this devotion. Today I was watching his program on TV and he was talking about what has been on my mind the past few days. He was talking about staying positive during some of the tough times in our life. Let me explain:

Each morning I walk my dogs and lately I’ve been noticing the changing of the trees, flowers and other things coming to life. I thought How beautiful, God! I love the spring season because of all the beauty it provides. I love the smell of the honeysuckle and lilac. The beautiful dogwood trees are blooming. And then I thought, Gee, these are the same trees that were here in the winter, only I didn’t find them as beautiful because I couldn’t see it.

I thought how much that was like on our own lives. Sometimes in our life we go through seasons. We have our winter and our spring seasons. Maybe you are going through a winter season. Maybe you are not seeing anything changing. Just like the trees, the beauty is there, but God is waiting for the perfect time for you to ‘bloom.’ Don’t give up. At the right time, God will cause things to turn around in your life. Your spring season is just around the corner.

Father, we know that you are in complete control over our lives. Thank you for being there during each of the seasons in our lives, even though we may not always see or feel you. Help us to see Your beauty in each day. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

If you are having a trouble seeing God working in your life, go out and admire all the beauty He has for you in the trees, the flowers and the birds. The same beauty He brings about in nature He will do for you as well.

Power Verses:
Eccles. 3:1
, “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.” (NJKV)
Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (NKJV)
Romans 8:28, “We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are chosen to be a part of His plan.” (NLV)
Psalm 54:7a, “You have rescued me from all of my troubles.” (CEV)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Chicks Dig Scars

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: 1 Peter 2:24, “He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” (NLT)

According to my six-year-old son, “Chicks dig scars.” Someone told him that when he had surgery on his feet and now any time the topic of scarring comes up, he’s quick to dispense this wisdom. Even though it cracks me up, I’m not sure I fully agree. I’m a chick, and I don’t dig some scars…

When I was two years old I was playing outside at my grandma’s house with her dog, Blackie. This dog was big and I wasn’t, so when he brushed by me in play he knocked me onto the ground where my forehead connected with a sharp rock. I don’t remember anything after that except for a vague recollection of being strapped down in the emergency room.

The result of that accident is a one-inch vertical scar between my eyebrows. As I age, I’ve noticed it looks more and more like a deep wrinkle that has been etched by a stern expression. In fact, a former colleague over at ISU who has an almost identical mark (and his IS the result of a stern expression) commented one time how lucky we are to have our “brow frown line” so that students get the impression that we’re tough and we mean business!

What a misinterpretation! But I thought it was very interesting that, according to him at least, my scar made me look tougher, even grumpier, than I really am (most of the time). I’d never considered that before! Looking a little bit mean or tough can be a handy thing for someone as thin-skinned as me (no pun intended), especially with people who think I’m a push-over and might take advantage. Maybe my scar rendered a protective quality beyond what it was biologically intended to do. (God throws in those little extra perks all the time, doesn’t he?) defines “scar” as follows: “–noun 1. a mark left by a healed wound, sore, or burn. 2. a lasting after-effect of trouble, esp. a lasting psychological injury resulting from suffering or trauma...”

So then, though we may not be particularly fond of the appearance of scars, they signify that healing has taken place and that most definitely is something to dig—scars are the tangible result of healing.

Isn’t that also true about the scars that Jesus bears on our behalf? But what’s remarkably different is that HIS scars signify OUR healing. He took the wounds but we're healed by them! Amazing.

What scars do you bear? Unless you led a very sheltered childhood, I’m sure you have some physical scars that you can point to and share a story about. But beyond those, do you bear scars from past “suffering or trauma” as puts it? A hurtful childhood? An unfulfilling marriage? Loss? Are there scars from trying to claw and pry yourself away from the grip that an addiction has on you?

In Galatians 6:17 Paul says, “From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.” (NLT) Healing has already been made available for you too. Claim it through Jesus’ blood and know that the marks you bear reflect that you belong to a healing Savior.

Ya know? I think I DO dig scars!

Father, how we thank You for willingly healing us by Your wounds. Thank You for scars, which bear the mark of healing. Help us to accept that gracious gift, Lord, so that like Paul, we show we belong to You. In Jesus’ Name.

Consider all of your physical and psychological/emotional scars. How has God provided His healing for them? Are there some, like my forehead scar, that may have served a purpose you were unaware of? Are some wounds still in the process of scarring over? Thank God for His supernatural healing.

Power Verses:
James 5:13
Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you've sinned, you'll be forgiven—healed inside and out.”(MSG)
Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (NIV)