Devotions

One of my favorite movies is THE NEVERENDING STORY.

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In this story, a young boy named Bastian is struggling with coming to terms with his mother’s death, trying to please a perfectionist father, and dealing with school bullies. He finds his escape in an old book store and a friend in the store owner. This store owner suggest, to Bastian, the book- THE NEVERENDING STORY. As Bastian takes the book and hides upstairs in his schoolhouse, what he begins to read is exciting, adventurous, and little scary. Soon these feelings turn to fear and frustration as he realizes the protagonist of the story (Atreyu) is really a reflection of himself. The battles, the fears, the enemies are all really about the choices Bastian must make in real life. As in most fantasies, this story has a happy ending, a victorious ending. In the end, one simple choice seemed to solve all Bastian’s problems. 

However, for us, here in the real world, the ending is not always happy. The choices are many and often complicated. Real life is not a fantasy. Yet, we can find hope in the fact that God did not just create the world, set it into motion, then leave us to fend for ourselves. Our lives, as well as those around us, are affected by our choices. God loved us enough to give us a book of perfect advice to handle any situation that comes our way. The journey will not always be easy or make us happy, but we can find joy and victory. The book of Proverbs, alone, is enough to get us through life. Chapter 1 fervently expresses the imperatives of seeking wisdom from God, making wise choices, and abstaining from foolishness. 

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Proverbs 1:7 pointedly expresses the source of wisdom. It is found in one place and one place alone. The second part of that verse boldly proclaims that foolish people despise instruction. Just like Bastian had a choice to make, a choice he did not, at first, understand; we too, have a choice to make. Our choice involves one word-surrender. We can surrender to God’s will and wisdom, or we can embrace the humanistic lifestyle and mindset. When our lives end up in shambles, we can not claim ignorance because God has simply presented the plan for success. With surrender to God, it is all or nothing. There is no middle ground. What will be your choice?

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Toby Mac performs a song entitled “Speak Life”. The lyrics read:

So speak life, speak life
To the deadest darkest night
Speak life, speak life
When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why
Look into the eyes of the broken hearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope
You speak love, you speak
You speak life, oh oh oh oh oh

 The Bible has much to say about the words we speak. For example, I Thessalonians 5:11 reads, “So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.”

So what about you? Do your words encourage and heal? or Do they criticize and tear down?

At one of our pastorates, I remember the first thing I noticed, after moving there, is how much so many in the community complained. It wasn’t an every-now-and-then vent session. It was continually complaining. The was also, even in the church, constant criticism. Many criticized others like it was their job. If they were not complaining and criticizing, it was because they were not breathing. I hated this environment. It made me sad and sometimes angry. Then I woke up one day and realized, I had begun to engage in the same behavior and adopt the same attitudes. I had to repent.

It is imperative that we avoid, as much as possible, toxic people and environments. It is imperative that we seek God’s wisdom and live in an attitude of prayer. It is imperative that we not engage in reckless conversation, but that we choose our words specifically to spread joy, speak life, sing God’s glory. This does not mean that we can’t express our hurts and disappointments. It does not mean we can not confront sin. It does not mean we are to embrace political correctness. It does mean that in speaking out against sin, injustice, and hurts, that we do so with graciousness, love, dignity, and integrity.

We must purposefully choose words that speak life.

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Santa, snowmen, Christmas trees, nutcracker, Rudolph, presents, and the list goes on when thinking of Christmas symbols. There is nothing wrong with these things; they are fun and uniting. It doesn’t really matter the exact day that Jesus was born. The important thing is that He came. December 25 is the day chosen to celebrate His birth. But most importantly, it is a foreshadowing of his death. The gifts brought by the magi (funeral spices), born in a cave (the burial tomb), born into a world of war and chaos (crucified by hatred and violence); these are the things we need to remind our families. We must always remember “Its about the Cross”.

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Romans 13

focal passage: verses 11-12

11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

Contemporary Christian band, Petra, recorded a song entitled SLEEPING GIANT. The chorus lyrics are

Can you hear the alarm echo down the hall
The sleeping giant gets a wake-up call
Awake from your sleep ’cause it’s time to stand tall
The sleeping giant gets a wake-up call
The sleeping giant gets a wake-up call

This is currently the state of the church in America. Christians have become complacent and fearful. It seems we are losing the fight in the spiritual battles going on. It is not because God has abandoned us, though. Many have abandoned Him. We have manipulated His Word. We have abandoned His principles, yet we demand His blessings. Church, people of God, it is time to wake up and quit being pansy Christians.

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Romans 12

focal passage: verses 1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 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.

Common core, college readiness, ACT/SAT: these are the hot topics currently consuming the areas of education. These are important issues and all parents should take up the fight to preserve our freedoms and insure parental control of our child’s education. I firmly believe, though, that the dangerous conditions we face with our children today are due to Christian parents (on a whole) dropping the ball. We have become complacent and allowed entertainment and activities that are contrary to God’s Word to take root in our homes and our children’s minds. Others have withdrawn from the public arena in order to hide in their own little world and have neglected to be “salt and light”. This has taken place for years and we are reaping the seeds sown.

God tells us, that as Christians, we are not our own. We are little to live as a sacrifice to God. We are to teach our children to do the same. We are not suppose to conform to the world, yet we have. We have done so in our homes, churches, and social circles. The lost see very little Christ in us. We have got to clean house. We need to intently and faithfully study God’s Word with our families. Then and only then will our choices change. They will change as a result of Him renewing our minds.

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Romans 11

focal passages:

 

1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God 

In these days of rampant immorality, uncontrolled violence, and violation of freedoms and rights, it seems that God may have abandoned the faithful few. We often feel as if we are fighting alone. We feel as if we are desperately trying to dig out of quick sand. But God has not abandoned us. Christ makes intercession to the Father on the behalf of those who are faithful to Him. We may not always feel His presence, but we can trust His Word, and is His time, He will allow us to emerge victorious.

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Romans 10

focal passages:

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

If anyone understood misdirected zeal, it was the Apostle Paul. Before his conversion, he zealously persecuted followers of “the way” (Christianity). He had a mindset that lined up with the Jewish leaders, not with Christ. After his conversion, he was redeemed from sin and selfish ambition. His mindset was transformed to the mind of Christ. The same is true of the Hebrews that Paul is speaking of in this passage. They had a zeal for their religious traditions and philosophies, but they were not truly saved. They did not have a zeal for Christ.

It could be said of many, many Christians today: they have a zeal but not a knowledge. Many Christians and local churches measure success by how many names are on the church roles. They measure holiness by how well they keep church traditions alive. They measure their relationship with Christ by how many Christian cliche’s they can quote and post on their social network. Yet, in reality, they are ignorant of God’s righteousness.

Paul admonishes us to forsake our own sense of righteousness. He warns of the dangers of a zeal without a relationship with Christ. The measure of holiness in found in God’s righteousness which is given to us through the redemption Christ provides and the surrender to His Lordship.

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Romans 8

focal passages:

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, these are some of the most comforting words in Scripture. In Christ, we are forgiven, justified, and set free.  We do not have to strive on our own to attain salvation. Because of Christ redemptive work, it is ours. Salvation is ours; freedom is ours. The struggle is over. Not only is our salvation secure, so is our new life. We do not have to let sin rule our hearts and minds and dictate our actions. We can allow the Holy Spirit to do those things. What a comfort and joy to know we are not in this life alone and that we are already victorious in Him.

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Romans 7

focal passage:

19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Why is it so easy for us to live in sin? Why is it so easy for us to avoid the conviction of the Holy Spirit? It is because of our sinful nature. Those who truly get saved want to spend their life serving God in gratitude and expressing their love for Him. Sometimes we get so caught up in our service and so focused on what we are doing right, that our right becomes our standard. We lose sight of God’s standard of holiness and we measure our lives by our standards. We manipulate God’s Word to make our sins ok. We become deluded by our own idea of righteousness. This is why we can post statuses on facebook and twitter about faith and our love for God, while we are living in or condoning immoral behavior. This is why we can stand around in churches and talk about everyone else’s sin, all the while, we have placed education, sports, or vacations above God in our own lives.

God is the only standard. We can delude ourselves, but God’s Word doesn’t change.

Take and moment and pray and ask God to show you any way that you have distorted God’s Word or allowed your sin nature to rule.

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Romans 6

focal passage:

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

“Don’t judge me”, “only God is my judge”, “its just human nature”, “God made me this way”, “God loves me just the way I am”, and “God just wants us all to love each other”; these are the proclamations among mainstream “Christians” today.  Actually, more than proclamations, these are clichés to make one feel ok or feel good about living in sin.

God is our judge and He has already judged us.  We are all judged guilty because of our sin, no matter what that sin may be.  However once we are made new creatures through salvation, we are judged righteous because Christ is righteous.

Yes, we all have sinful, human natures, but as the above Scripture states, we are no longer a slave to that sinful nature. We are now slaves to Christ and His righteousness. For the Christian, holy is the only way to live. The Holy Spirit indwelling us will not allow us to live comfortably in a sinful lifestyle.

God did not make us sinful.  He made us in His image.  We are born into sin because of the Fall, and we choose to sin in our minds, hearts, and actions.  God was to transform us. He wants to conform us to His way of thinking.  The reason this is not accomplished is not on God’s part, but ours. We choose to spend more time on our own agendas and comfort than seeking God.  We choose to allow things in our mind that conforms us to the enemies way of thinking.  God tells us our mind can be transformed by the Word of God.  That has to become our focus and passion.

Yes, God loves us just the we are, but He also loves us too much to allow us to stay that way.  I say often, Jesus did not die on the cross to make us comfortable in our sin but to redeem us from it.

Yes again, God wants us to love everyone.  He also wants us to lift each other out of the mire we live in, not party there.  He doesn’t want us patting each other on the back assuring that because of God’s grace it is ok if we live in sin.  Our sin cost Jesus his life.  Thankfully we serve a Savior who defeated death.  He wants us to die as well, die to our sin.  If His love is the ultimate example of love, then it is with His love we should love one another.  God hates sin.  He desires and commands holiness.  We are to be honest with one another, not using ourselves as the standard for right and wrong but God’s Word.

Is there any sin you are harboring?

Why not, repent?

What is keeping you from seeing things God’s way?

Who or what is your master?

Slave to sin, or slave to Christ? It is an individual choice.

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Read Romans 5

focal passage 21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our world, our country, our communities, and our homes: our lives are in shambles.  It is evidence of the reign of sin.  Death, destruction, illness, pain, chaos, and meaness abound.  Families can’t be trusted, friends are unreliable, our nations leaders are ungodly, and churches are a joke.  It is evident that sin abounds.  Parents would rather make more and more money, they would rather hang out with their friends, or support their selfish desires and addictions than spend quality time with their children. They neglect teaching them about God, they neglect taking part in their education. They spend more time doing grown up activities than devoting their lives to family events.  It is evidence of the reign of sin.  But even in these dark days, there is light. There is hope.  There are answers.  They are all found in God’s grace.  God’s grace reigns stronger even if it seems to be in hiding.  God’s grace will restore.  God’s grace will lead us into righteousness if we allow it.  Embrace the grace of God.

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Romans 4 Focal Passage: verse 16

Romans 4    Focal Passage verse 16

So that’s why faith is the key! God’s promise is given to us as a free gift. And we are certain to receive it, whether or not we follow Jewish customs, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. NLT

I have witnessed to several people in the last few weeks.  More and more, I am hearing from them, an idea of works based salvation.  Like the NT Jewish leaders, church traditions and good works are commonly held concepts on getting to heaven.  According to Romans 4:16 as well as many other passages of Scripture, “faith is the key”. If salvation was earned there would be no need for grace.  If salvation could be attained through following the right customs, there would be no need for a Savior. Without a Savior, there is no need for faith.  The Bible says Abraham’s faith was counted to him for righteousness, not his good works.

Take a moment and answer these questions:

1. When you die, will you go to heaven?

2. When you die, why should Jesus let you into Heaven?

3. Write down the details of your salvation experience. Are they based in works, faith, or your prayer?

4. Is your spiritual life more about religion or a relationship?

If you have any doubts or questions, please call a pastor or saved friend and get them to pray with you and help you understand how to have peace about your salvation.

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Romans 3  Focal Passage: vs 27-28

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

Boasting: This behavior must be abandoned by the Christians.  We can not boast in our salvation or our attempt at righteous living.  These are things that Christ brings about in us as we exercise our faith.  I believe also that we must watch ourselves and caution our kids in boasting in their talents, gifts, and academic abilities.  Once again, it is God’s mercy that allows us success.  When we are obedient to Him, He blesses and empowers.  As parents, the most important lessons we will teach our children is to live in the shadow of the cross and stand firm in our faith.

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Read Romans 2 Without Excuse PowerPoint Sermon Template

Focal Passage 2:29  “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

Have you ever thought that the Body of Christ is the most divisive group of people on the planet?  We certainly behave in that manner.  We are divided by racism, social status, monetary position, and a host of other stupid reasons.  However, the Body of Christ is suppose to be united and function as one body.  So what is the problem with Christians?

Well for one thing, we have a bunch of posers running around.  They claim to be Christians but have never truly experienced God’s redemptive work in their lives.  Another problem is too many Christians refuse to die to self.  We want Jesus to be our ticket to heaven and supply all our needs (and wants), but leave us alone as far as our personal will and desires.  The remedy: quit judging according to man’s standards.  Just as the early church had to quit judging according to Jewish/Gentile standards, we must quit judging on the basis of race, denomination, and societies ideals.  We must judge all areas of all lives (INCLUDING OUR OWN) according to Biblical standards.  To operate as one body, we must answer to one lord, and that Lord must be Jesus.

Read Romans 1

focal passage: Romans 1:16


16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,[a] for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”[b]

Thisis one of those verses that we hear or read so often that it loses meaning for us.  The emphasis of this verse, though, should never be taken lightly.  It is a verse that every parent should live boldly in front of their children and then pass the truth on.  When we take a bold stand for Christ and on the Word of God, we will come up against opposition. We will lose relationships with people we love, but that is identifying with Christ.  I know in my own life, even though there were struggles and pain, when I boldly stood unashamed for Christ, the peace that only He can grant was overwhelming.  We can graduate honor students and the most talented homeschool students in the world, but if we neglect to teach our children to stand bold for Christ and to live in the power of Christ, we have failed.

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I John 4:1 reads, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”

Last night our family watched SEASON OF THE WITCH with Nicholas Cage.  The basic plot of this movie is that Cage and his team (a group consisting of deserting crusaders, a priest, and con man guide) had to take a powerful witch to a group of monks for a trial and the passing of sentence.  This witch was believed to be spreading a plague that was wiping out villages.  As the movie progress, this young girl confuses the transport team as well as the audience.  I will admit at one point, I was confused as to if she was actually an innocent falsley accused or if she was a deceiving witch.  Come to find out, she was neither.  She was actually possessed by a strong demon who was out to destroy the Bible and stop the monks from copying and spreading God’s Word.

This is kind of how satan works.  He deceives and confuses and preoccupies.  Although both a witch and demon are sources of evil, the fact is, not knowing what was going on with this girl confounded the transport team and weakened them.  Satan doesn’t have to necessarily use evil to render us ineffective for Christ.  He just has to get us preoccupied.  Every person that comes into our lives that claims to be of God is not necessarily of God.  Even what seems innocent may be meant to get us sidetracked.  We have got to somehow reach a point that we are are so consumed with Christ that we recognize those false spirits as soon as they enter our lives.

For me, I have chosen to include a request for discernment in my daily prayers.  I know I need the Holy Spirit to control me in my thought processes daily.

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Our Kids Do Not Belong to Ceasar

Matthew 22:21 “Then said he unto them, render unto Ceasar the things which are Ceasar’s and unto God the things which are God’s.”

From the very beginning, God has made it clear that children are given to parents to nurture, guide, and then give back to the Lord.  Children belong to God.  They are His treasure.  God blesses parents with the privilege of rearing these precious little ones.

Yet, we just hand them over to the state to program like they were their own personal computers.  These training stations are known as public schools.  We will throw a fit and protest over giving the government our money in the form of taxes.  We will sign petitions to protest government interference in our freedoms.  We will vote and contact our representatives to stand up against bad legislation.  However, when it comes to our children, we go shopping for clothes and supplies and gift wrap them and drop them off at the school house with a smile.  Our most precious commodity, we hand over to the government and never “bat an eye”.

Our children belong to God, not to Ceasar.  God has commanded us to be good stewards in all areas of our life.  We will “go green” to be good stewards of the environment.  We will start savings accounts, 401 K plans, and get rid of debt to be good stewards of our money.  But as far as good stewards of our children,  well….that is a different story.

So to all you homeschool parents who are tired, stressed, or burnt out, keep pressing on.  The most important job anyone can have is being a parent.  Find ways to make school fun and enjoy every moment that God gives you with your precious children.  Lift them up to God daily and draw your strength and wisdom from Him.

LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE, AND LEARN

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