The Profit of Pain

Read: Psalm 23:5-6

People rarely think of suffering as profitable.  But when facing the difficulty and pain of a valley experience, we mature spiritually.  We make discoveries about ourselves when trials peel away any facade we might typically display and instead expose who we truly are.  As our life is shaken,we learn what forms our faith: the Scriptures or opinion.

Consequently, valley experiences reveal priorities, spiritual crutches, and whether we boast of Christ or
our own strength. God’s purpose is to wrench away everything we depend on until nothing competes with Jesus’ reign.  Crutches and bravado are to be replaced by a real dependence upon God.

Believers are encouraged to recall that He provides for our needs—“prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies”—and heals our wounds—“anoints my head with oil.” (v. 5)  A good shepherd rubbed oil onto the scrapes his sheep received while foraging. In that way, healing began before the animal left the valley floor. As a result of relying on our Shepherd, we experience renewed intimacy and a sense of inner peace that sustains us through the daily challenge and beyond.

Learn:

  1. God’s children can profit from pain only by accepting the Father’s work in the valleys. Fighting or crying for a way out gains us nothing. 
  2. Accepting means asking the Lord two questions:What is Your goal for this time? and How am I to respond?
  3. Whatever the Lord’s response, our next step is submitting ourselves and all we have to Him with the knowledge that our valley is really a gateway to His purpose and our profit.

Today’s Quote:

"There is no limit to the inexhaustible power of God and an ‘atom of faith’ can level a whole range of material mountains."  Howard Carter

Today’s Action:

Compliment someone today.  "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."  Proverbs 25:11

Joshua 3:1-17 Courage Wanted Here

What would you say if God asked you to: lead many others, as Joshua did? Speak His words to prominent leaders, as Daniel did?  Become a traveling missionary like Paul? God wants us to respond with courage when He calls us to tackle something beyond our ability.

Our first step toward bravery is meditation on the Word of God—we are to search for its meaning as if for treasure. With the Spirit’s help, we will understand the Bible and learn how to apply its wisdom to our situation.Next is obedience to the Word. As we contemplate God’s truths, they become imprinted on our
minds and influence our actions. Scripture is meant to shape our thinking and cause us to follow biblical principles. The more we think God’s way, the more we will act like Him.

Trusting in God’s promises is the third action needed for building courage. Joshua moved across the Jordan River towards Jericho because he took God at His word. The fourth step in developing fearlessness is to recall past victories. Young David, the shepherd boy, did this effectively.His remembrance of God’s past protection gave him the courage to fight the Philistine giant, Goliath. (1 Samuel 17)

Practicing these steps will empower us to focus on victory rather than defeat, reject others’ fearfulness, and obey God without alarm over possible consequences.  God is calling you to do something.  Have the courage to follow Him.

We are prisoners of time,
Slaves to circumstance,
And beggars for eternity.
We have so made small our souls
To match our situations,
That in greed for trash,
We have trampled greatness.
And laughing at their prey,
Time tightens the chains
That bind us,
Circumstance cracks the whip
That marks us;
Only eternity grieves
That we are fools.
—Jan. L.King, Sr.

Tonight is Men’s Meeting at Driftwood Christian Church.  We address the second of our restoration principles and then enjoy some pie.  See you there at 7:30 p.m.

The Worst Fear

When I was completing my graduate degrees at Indiana University, a human development course introduced what it considered the most primary fears of a human being.  The fear is to be abandoned by those we love.  More than the physical price of such desertion, the havoc wreaked upon our sense of peace and security is devastating. 

Yet people endure it every day.  From divorce to death, those we love and depend upon may at any moment disappear from our world.  We struggle to understand why anyone would willing desert another person, especially a child. 

But there is a similar question that haunts my imagination.  How can people once they are aware of God even consider abandoning Him?  It is one thing to watch a human relationship disintegrate but how would we desert the only true hope we have in eternity?

There is a verse in the book of 2 Chronicles that describe just such an event.  It concerns a king of Israel named Rehoboam.  What is striking is that everything was going well.  He was at the top of his game and then out of nowhere commits spiritual suicide.

"But when Rehoboam was firmly established and strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel followed him in this sin."  (2 Chronicles 12:1)

At the height of his popularity and power, the king abandoned the Lord. What happened? Often it is more difficult to be a believer in good times than in bad. Tough times push us toward God; but easy times can make us feel self-sufficient and self-satisfied. When everything is going right, guard your faith.

Popularity and power, the two benefits that Rehoboam chose above God, were the first two things he lost when the Egyptians invaded the land. Through Rehoboam we discover the real price to be paid for rejecting God. Even though Rehoboam later confessed his sin, the damage had already been done. He was not destroyed, but much of what was precious to him was lost. 

Take care this week for the temptation of popularity or momentary power.  Perhaps this week you will experience the praise of those around you or be given new authority or responsibilities.  You may even feel that you are firmly established and strong in your life and beyond the reach of trouble.  Trust me.  You aren’t. 

Don’t neglect people for your success.  And don’t abandon the law of the Lord in your life.  Others are watching and some of them will follow your example.   Make certain it’s a good one.

How Rude

I was perusing a editorial by Scott Brown and liked what he had to say.  Thought you would too. 

A recent ABC news ’20/20′ survey suggested that rudeness is on the rise in America.  Have you noticed lately?  It seems that our society has forgotten about basic manners and general acts of kindness.  According to the report, the most cited transgression is annoying and loud cell phone conversations in public places.  Others that ranked high were being disrespectful, profanity, crude language and allowing cell phones and email to interrupt conversations.

It would do us well to remember what the apostle Paul had to say in the ‘Love’ chapter. 

"Love…does not behave rudely."  I Corinthians 13:4-5a

The love addressed here is the ‘agape’ love that is the love we receive from God himself.  Our love is fashioned around how we are treated by one another.  God’s love is more concerned about us than himself.  So it was no surprise that Jesus would ask us to do to others as we would like to have done to ourselves.  When we treat others rudely, we are wounding ourselves.

Mom would always say to ignore rude people because they wouldn’t care about what you had to say.  All you would get is more rudeness.  In fact, she told us as kids to pity them because all they would attract was other people like themselves.

Then I began to wonder.  Am I rude and don’t realize it?  I began with those closest to me and found the answer was ‘yes’.  I don’t always listen to Marcia.  I take it for granted what she will do.  I catch myself telling Megan what she should be doing instead of treating her like an adult.  I told myself it was because I am so busy but that would be an excuse.  I expect them to stop and take the time when I am talking to them.

Rudeness is not controlled by trying to stop it.  Rudeness is addressed by countering it with politeness and courtesy.  In fact, the same strategy works for dealing with people who are rude.  While it may not matter to them that we are kind when they are rude, it affects me and those around me.  People will remember your polite response longer than their crude remark.  There is power in that fact!

So watch for rudeness in yourself and those around you.  Don’t return rudeness for rudeness but reply with love.  Watch the difference it will make.

PS Please hit the alert symbol and you will be reminded automatically when I enter a new devotional or blog.  Also, will you invite one friend to join us on this site.  Even ask someone Sunday if they have checked the devotional lately.  Thanks.

The Least of These

Today I will conduct a funeral service for man who was what Jesus called the least of these.  His mind and body were ravaged by a fever as a child and he never fully recovered.  He had the strength of two men but the mind of a child.  He never had the opportunities granted to you or me.  No chance for marriage or children.  No chance for education or career achievements.  His life was limited to honest work done by the strength of hand and back.  But he did wonderfully.  He never missed a day of work and he never complained.  And he had the broadest smile of any man I ever knew.  Oh, he was dependent upon the goodness of his family and friends but I think that was providential.  He had a way of bringing the best out in you.  He could turn pity into compassion.  He could cast a light upon your own life and soul.

Jesus had a special love for the least of these.  He understood what they bring to our lives.  They cause us to feed them and clothe them and visit them.  They cause of us to love them and find love in return.  No wonder Jesus said what you have done to the least of these, you have done to him. 

We get confused about our purpose in life now and then.  For a while we think it is our career but career change and someday end.  We think it is in education or accomplishment but there is not end to those.  And then we run into those in our lives who cause us to deal with them, the least of these.  Whether they are aged, ill or just unfortunate, we cannot idly pass them by.  They bring the Jesus out of us.  They release his Spirit in us and move us to do acts of compassion and commitment we never knew were there. 

I have come to the point that I believe that the least of these are not accidents or sad misfortunes of life.  They are lights along the path to reveal our soul and show us what is really important.  They are sacred moments where we stop from the pace of this life long enough to see the hand of Jesus and to realize that he is watching.  No, more than that.  That he is living in us and through us. 

So look around you today and see the ‘least of the brothers’.  Look around you and let their light fall upon you.  Look close enough and you will see the very heart of our Savior and discover that it beats within your chest.

Look.

Not Yet

There is a quality of life that we too quickly overlook. In this world of immediate gratification, the concept of ‘hope’ is alien.  Hope speaks of delay.  Hope requires waiting.  Who wants to wait?  Who needs hope?

Ask the cancer patient who is enduring rounds of chemotherapy.  Ask the soldier who stands on the eve of battle.  Ask the parent who waits at night for their child to come home.  We may not want those times we need hope but nothing can replace good hope in those times. 

John Bunyan wrote, "Hope is never ill when faith is well."  Hope is the thermometer of our faith.  It gives us an accurate reading of how much we really trust the Lord to work His will in our lives.  We can hope when we truly believe that God intends the best for us.

"I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11  How fitting that this promise was recorded by the ‘weeping’ prophet.  Jeremiah was the delivery boy of bad news.  He told God’s people that judgment was inescapable and there was nothing they could do about it.  How would you like that job?

But people do it everyday.  Doctors give patients a terminal diagnosis.  Judges put behind bars  the greater portion of one’s life.  Teachers give failing grades and employers tell us our job is gone.  We need hope.  Oh, how we need hope because hope was built for the hard times. 

Hope has amazing powers.  It can literally save us in the worst moments.  "We were saved by this hope but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?" Romans 8:24  Hope does not need the physical.  Hope does not need to be rescued.  Hope does not require the doing of deeds. 

Hope requires only a promise.  As David noted, "Those who fear You will be glad when they see me because I have hoped in your word."  Psalm 119:74  All we need for hope is to believe in the good will of God.  Hope is what happens when we are convinced that God will work all these things out for our good.

So take those moments you cannot do anything about and search the promises of God.  See in His Word if he offers any hope for you.  There are over 600 promises of God for you in the Bible.  Maybe it’s time you start looking for one.

In the Eye of the Beholder

Some have noted that my devotionals are a day late because of the date noted in the devotional.  Actually, I write the devotionals a day ahead but when I post them, the reflect that date and not the day you read them.  So ignore the date and read the newest one or the ones you haven’t read.  You can also check the archives for older mediations.

If you watched the game last night, you have to be moved one way or another.  One of the best Super Bowls ever when it comes to football.  But I realized something while watching it.  It is as much a game about people as the sport.  We cheer for Brady or Manning.  We know the pro bowlers by name.  To be honest, you cannot enjoy any sport that you don’t know the players.

The apostle John understood the fact when it comes to faith.  He wrote: "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."  I John 4:11

He understood that the Christian life boils down to relationships: love for God and love for others.  You could call it a matter of the heart.  The stronger my relationships are, the greater my spiritual life.  Loving God makes me a better husband, father, worker, neighbor and friend.  It’s not rules but relationships that I seek to keep.

How are you at knowing your church family?  Do you keep to your familiar few or dare you reach out and get to know others in the church body?  Let me offer this challenge: Make an effort to befriend another believer with whom you are less familiar and find out if it doesn’t bless your faith.

Don’t forget to share these devotionals with those around you.  Someone outside the church would enjoy knowing this source exists.  Tell them.

P.S.  If you watch movies and want to know for sure what is in them, check our pluggedinonline.com and get the details of every move from Focus on the Family.

Here’s to the Everyday

Here’s to the average day, the humdrum and the usual.  Here’s to another cup of coffee, stopping by the post office and saying your prayers.  Here’s to those things, people and habits that define our regular lives.  Hidden in them is the stuff of miracles.

"It is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian can and should develop his spiritual union with God."  Thomas Merton

It is in God’s wisdom that he should engage us in the things that consume most of our lives.  He is not relegated to worship services or prayer closets.  Those are special times but few in number compared to the daily tasks of life.  Imagine what could happen to your relationship with God if the routine became a partnership with Christ.

Think of those things you do on autopilot.  Washing the dishes.  Taking out the trash.  Paying the bills.  What if you reserved a little personal time with God in the process.  Not a formal prayer but some reflections with him on the spur of the moment like pausing at the trash bin to look up at the sky and marvel.  Or snatching a few moments reading your Bible study while you wait in line at the store. 

Learning to enjoy life in the middle of it is as old as Solomon.  "That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil.  That is the gift of God."  Ecclesiastes. 3:13

"Nothing is too little to be ordered by our Father; nothing to little in which to see His hand; nothing which touches our souls too little to accept from Him; nothing to little to be done for Him."  Ed Pusey

Remember:

1. The more you allow God into your daily affairs, the easier you will find it to make the most of your busy day.

2. Opportunities for developing your relationship with God often lie in those unexpected places.

3. You sometimes hear God more clearly in the quiet and routine work of the day since it’s just you and Him.

The apostles were right.  "In Him we live and move and exist."  Acts 17:28  You can experience serenity in the midst of your busy life by inviting God into the mundane moments of life.

I hope you have a good, normal and boring day. 

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