Friday, April 29, 2011

Hide and Seek

By Bethany Lashbrook

Why is it when I get on the phone, immediately something dramatic happens with my children? It's like they enter a different world and become little people I've never met before. They turn into little rascals who think that since a phone is by my ear that I can neither see nor hear. This week alone I hung up on both my mom and husband while hearing terrifying screams come from my children. I ran to them - arms open - asking what has happened (of course, thinking something serious like broken bones) just to find they have been fighting.

For you that only have boys, let me tell you, girls fights can be brutal. They hit, kick, bite, pinch (with fingernails mind you), pull hair, and yes, spit. Oh, and don't forget the punching.

How often do I act different because I think God is looking a different way? "That earthquake is so large, He must have His eyes on it, so I can [fill in the blank]."

This week, I need to remember that it's not important what I do when people are watching, but what's important is what I do when people AREN'T watching! When no one is watching, and we still act like God-loving, God-fearing, God-made people, we can make Him proud!

Dear Lord, help me to remember to always act in an upright manner. Help me to remember someone always sees me - if no one on earth - then you. Help me to live a life that becomes so natural to be loving and kind towards others that I do it without ceasing. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application: When was the last time you picked up a good book to read? Ask one of your gals what she has been reading and pick it up! A good book can lead us to repentance, acceptance, and a loving attitude towards those that surround us.

Power Verses:
Job 19:25, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end, he will stand on the earth." (NIV)

Romans 12:2, " Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (NIV)

Psalm 127:3, "Children are a gift from the Lord, they are a gift from him. (NLT)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter

By Bethany Lashbrook

Last week on a morning radio show, the two co-hosts were discussing Easter Eggs. Apparently, a school in Portland had a complaint about the usage of the term "Easter eggs" and had suggested the term be completely wiped out from future use. The verdict: spring spheres. Say again?

So, along with replacing Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays, we are now to use the term spring spheres for Easter eggs? I think not! Beyond that, the true meaning of Easter is the cross, not the egg.

Every Christian holiday has been replaced by a secular counterpart (Easter Bunny, Santa). I don't see us replacing the Thanksgiving turkey with the chicken or Independence Day fireworks with the much safer blowing bubbles. What is it that upsets people so much about Jesus?

His message was clearly to love rather than hate (Matthew 22:39). He said to build others up rather than tear down (Ephesians 4:29). He asked us to give to the poor rather than hoard all of our money (Matthew 6:19,20).

This year, let's celebrate Easter - well, the Easter way. Let's smile, laugh, love our family, love our neighbors, help those less fortunate, be less sarcastic, sincere and give thanks to the One who made it all happen - Jesus!

Dear Lord, because of the Cross, we know we are never alone. Thank you for Your story. Help us to share it with others bravely, clearly, and with Jesus-like actions. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application: Enjoy Easter with family and friends. Try to center your weekend around Jesus, and not all the secular counterparts of Easter.

Power Verses:
Mark 15:33-40, "At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there." (NIV)

Mark 16:1-8, "When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."(NIV)

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Beauty of the Seasons

By Bethany Lashbrook

This week’s verse: Galatians 4:10, “You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! (NIV)

I’ve heard that in warm climates, where the seasons change less than in the Midwest, you might often find the people more drained and exhausted. I couldn’t imagine that. Wouldn’t it be great to have warm temperatures all year long? But, the reason why they are found to be exhausted is because with warm weather comes demanding schedules. Instead of getting necessary “down” time during cold winter temperatures, they tend to be on the move all year long. Any time that I am dissatisfied with the cold weather, I try to remember that the Lord has placed the winter season on us for a reason. It is a pause from it all. It is a time to catch up, to accomplish small things, to recuperate.

And then comes Spring. People out. Lawns being mowed. Kids on bicycles. Kites in the air. Soccer being played. Baseball fields packed. Birds chirping. Shorts on. Kids anxious for summer vacation. Gardens being planted. Windows open. Leaves on trees. Easter flowers blooming. Snakes poking their heads out (eek). Women walking for exercise. Bees buzzing. Need I say more? Busy. Busy. Busy.

Although I find the summer months exhilarating and exciting, I often find myself “too busy” for some much needed time with God. I need to remember that the reason I am so lucky to enjoy the summer activities is because the Lord has given me that privilege. I am rich with blessings the Lord has bestowed upon my family, my friends and myself. I am guilty of having such pleasures as freedom to do as I please, amenities that allows me to buy what I need when I need it, and the luxury of enjoying all the above in a free country.

So, this season, although busy running here to there, and there to here, I am going to remember to take time to thank the Lord for the weather. To thank him for the peace I have. To thank him for my children and their sometimes never-ending sports practices. To thank him for my “hectic” lifestyle that I have brought upon myself. To thank him for the country I live in where I am free to roam. To thank him for the winter where I have rested plenty and for the Spring where I can wake up, rejuvenate from the sun and spend many waking hours delighting in His Creation of beauty, expertise, and peace.

Dear Father, thank you for your beauty and the magnificence you have shown in your creation. Please help me to slow down this Spring, to take it all in, to breathe deep, to bask in your creation, to remember to spend time with you, and most of all to appreciate all that you have done for me. Thank you for your Son. Thank you for His willingness to suffer, so that I may live – and live life to its fullest knowing you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: Make a list of things you can do while your kids are at practice. Can you walk and pray at the same time? Can you keep a bible in your car to have on-hand? While walking, can you listen to your favorite preacher’s podcasts? Or catch up on the latest Christian books? Since the kids will be out of school, enhance your and his day by starting out with a child’s daily devotional. And, as always, find quality time to spend with your family - - and enjoy it!

Power Verses:

Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.” (NIV)

Psalm 104:19, “You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set.” (NLT)

Ephesians 1:3, (Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ) “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (NIV)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Encourage, Be Encouraged!

By Charity Pence

This Week’s Verse: 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (NKJV)

Devotion: I have been told I am a good listener. What a compliment! It is nice to know my friends are comfortable enough, and trust me enough, to share their troubles with me. Though sometimes they come to me seeking advice, most of the time they just need me to listen. I believe we are meant to encourage each other, and uplift each other. James 4:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (KJV) I really enjoy being an encourager to my friends. However, I often struggle with being on the other side.

I cannot explain why I hold back when something is troubling me. Lately, I have felt like I am dealing with more than I can handle. And though I put my trust in God and pray, I tend to keep my mouth shut around other people. People ask me how I am and I tell them I am fine. It seems I have been using that word a lot recently. Sometimes when I say it, I want to cringe because it isn’t always true. So why is that my answer? It has always been difficult for me to open up to others. However, God has put some awesome people in my life. The last few years have shown me how great my church family is. I think it is about time I trust in them more often.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for providing for me in all my needs. And thank you, thank you, thank you for the people you have put in my life.

Applications: The next time you feel overwhelmed, do not be afraid to call on a brother or sister in Christ. God puts special people in our lives for a reason. Believe that!

Power Verses:

1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.” (NKJV)

Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” (KNJV)

Proverbs 15:22 “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” (NJKV)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Shock and Awe

By Marsha Loftis

This Week’s Verse:
Hebrews 10:19-25, “So, friends, we can now-- without hesitation--walk right up to God, into the ‘Holy Place.’ Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice…Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” (MSG)

"Shock and Awe"...If you’re like me when you hear those two words together you think of three things. George Bush, Iraq, and The War. The people of Iraq were supposed to be surprised that we were there and in fear and wonder of the power of our troops.

Lately, like after a Wednesday night class on Preparing My Heart for Easter, those words have a different meaning. Now when I think or hear them, I wonder about the ‘Shock and Awe’ that two women experienced over two thousand years ago! When upon arrival at the tomb, where they had buried the Lord, the stone had been rolled away! They were definitely surprised! When Mary saw the angels, I’m sure she knelt in fear and wonder of the things she saw. They knew he was the Messiah. We know he told them he would rise again. We know that Jesus told his followers that “where two or three are gathered together in his name He would be there.” I wonder why, then, were the two Mary’s so surprised when they saw Jesus? They were there for Him, gathered together to finish the burial process. Mary even told “the Gardener” that they had taken “her Master.” They knew He was returning to them…one day, yet they were still surprised when He showed up!

I don't ever want to take my relationship with Jesus for granted, but I certainly don't want to be surprised when I feel His presence. After all, I've asked Him to be with me in all things, all situations. Parenting, finances, social gatherings, work... Feeling God's presence is an awe-inspiring, beautiful thing. Something to forever be grateful and thankful for, but not something to be shocked by.

I was at a friend’s house for lunch the other day, and she said the blessing, in His name. I spoke of the gifts He has given us. We were there in the name of friendship, fellowship, and in His name. I know He was there with us! Blessing the time we spent together and the love shared between two friends in Christ. When we gather to pray for others, we don't have to wonder if He hears us, it's promised! When we gather to worship, He is there!

I don’t want to ever be in shock that Jesus is there with me. I want it to be commonplace, natural, “everydayish”… But I will always be in awe of Him and His goodness and mercy.

Father God, help me to know that You are always there with me and to never be surprised when you show up! I know that, one day, You will return to me just like you did to the two Mary’s. Help me to be ready to be awed by You! May we know the comfort of having You near us at all times. Thank you for sending Your Son so this relationship and fellowship with You becomes a way of life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Talk to God. I know. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But how often do we really do it? Not some scripted, elaborate prayer, just talk to Him. He’s waiting and listening. Ask Him to accompany you everywhere you go. Lord, be with me at church so that I may not only be blessed, but that I may be a blessing to others. Lord, be with me when the kids come home from school so I don’t lose my temper when they have ruined the third pair of shoes this year. Lord, be with me when I go to work so I can be a bright, shining light for You instead of the pinlight I’ve been lately. Lord, be with me when my husband comes in and let me lift Him up and not tear him down so that he may lead our family in Your name. Lord, be with me at the store, so I don’t spend too much money on things I don’t need.

Be aware of His presence in your life and never be shocked when He shows up!

Power Verses:
Matthew 18:20
, “For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.” (NIV)
James 4:8, “Come near to God and He will come near to you…” (NIV)
Hebrews 12:28-29, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” (NIV)
Acts 1:11, “Jesus has been taken into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go.”
Psalm 145:13, “The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving to all he has made.”
Mark 14:62, “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at he right hand of the Mighty one and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (NIV)
**This is a reprint from a previous devotion ran in 2008. Thanks Marsha for sharing!**