This weekend I will be taking our youth group to participate in this years state competition for Fine Arts. It is one of the moments that as a youth pastor makes me proud. Obviously, I am proud that these young people are using the gifts and talents that God has blessed them with for His glory but more than that, I am proud to see these young people taking a stand instead of trying to fit in.
We live in such a time that youth (and adults) seem to do whatever it takes to “fit in”. From finding the right look, to hanging with the right crowd to keeping up with the “Jones”. But it has been my experience that whenever we try to keep up appearances, we usually trade peace with anxiety, acceptance for disappointment and contentment for worry.
For the Christian youth (and adults), the focus of life should not be on “fitting in” but rather on “standing out”. In order to accomplish that we all need to make a choice…the path that we choose will determine which side of the road we travel.
The best example of those who took the right road to travel were the twelve disciples…they chose to stand out from the rest. Think about these guys; they were just ordinary men, living the norm up until they were asked to follow Jesus. The difference between them and all the others that were just trying to “fit in” came down to their determination to follow Christ. No doubt, this decision did not win them the popular vote but they followed their heart in despite of that.
“The things you have heard from me among many witnesses. Commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
Despite the obstacles, fear and challenges that these men endured, following Christ brought them to a place of peace and hope in which they were able to turn around and teach to others…instead of fitting in, they stood out for Christ.
You might ask, how are these young people “standing out” as they sing or play an instrument at a Fine Arts competition? There are many other things they could be doing on a Friday night – they could be at a party or hanging with the wrong crowd but each of these young Christians made a choice; they chose to not be like the others, instead, to follow Christ.
May the Lord bless you and me as we “stand out” for Him.
Have you ever made a vow to someone? Have you ever not kept your vow?
So many times I think we easily make promises (vows) that we either can't keep or we choose not to keep.
In today's Scripture reading in Numbers, we read that God loves vows...
(Numbers 30:2) "If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth."
There are many examples of people making vows in the Bible, and because of their commitment God honored them. People like Jacob (Genesis 28), Hannah (1 Samuel 1:11) and Solomon (Proverbs 7:14).
There is power in a vow! And if making a vow is serious, then fulfill your part so you can not only keep your word but experience favor with God.
No one likes someone who acts wishy washy, especially God. Make your "Yes" a yes and your "no" a no. If you make a vow, especially to God, do everything you can to honor your word. And watch God honor you.
TODAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Numbers 29:12-30:16, Luke 3, Psalm 60:1-5
Sometimes the very thing that stands in your way and frustrates you to no end could be the very thing that saves you from a disaster happening.
In today's Scripture reading in Numbers, this is the very thing that happened to Balaam.
Balaam was enroute, on his donkey, to do something that was against the will of God. On the way, an angel appeared, blocking the way but Balaam did not see it. But his donkey did.
The donkey refused to go past the angel which caused Balaam to get mad at the donkey. While Balaam chewed the donkey out, the craziest thing happened...God opened the mouth of the donkey and caused the donkey to talk back to Balaam!
Meanwhile, the angel still stood in their path...
(Numbers 22:31) "Then the Lord opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing there."
Balaam fell flat on his face, now he was ready to listen to the Lord. Now he was willing to pay attention to the leading of the Lord.
How many times have roadblocks stood in your way? Perhaps those things that stand in our way are nothing but donkeys in our life, trying to keep us from harm.
Allow God to show you that some detours in your life are for your own good. And if you have a donkey talking back to you, you might stand up and take notice. It might see the angels in front of you that you don't see.
TODAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Numbers 22:21-23:30, Luke 1:26-56, Psalm 57
SATURDAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Numbers 24-25, Luke 1:56-2:20, Psalm 58
SUNDAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Numbers 26:1-27:11, Luke 2:21-28, Psalm 59:1-8
Even in His resurrection, Jesus showed humility and love. We see that in today's Scripture reading in the book of Mark...
(Mark 16:8) "When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons."
Some commentaries say that Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene first to show His attention for the weak. I'm not saying that women are weak, but, in the culture of that particular time, women were not considered to be in a high status.
Mary Magdalene may not have been one to have much prestigious power but she was the one who remained at the tomb. Look at what happened when Mary arrived at the tomb and found it empty...
(Mark 16:10) "She went and told those who had been with Him and who were mourning and weeping."
(Mark 16:11) "When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen Him, they did not believe it."
Jesus appeared to Mary because she was there at the tomb waiting on Him. No one else was. And when the others heard the news of the empty tomb, they were doubtful, perhaps even afraid.
When we wait upon the Lord, there should be no fear or doubt. Even though the disciples were with Jesus all through His days of ministry, they could not wait on Him to show Himself again. So that left Mary.
She waited alone. She sought Him in the dark, in the early dawn, she cried, worshipped and she waited on God.
The question I have to ask today is this: when everyone else turns their back on you, on God - will you remain? Will you wait for God or will you turn in fear and go your own way.
I pray that in your waiting period that God will reveal Himself to you as He did on that Resurrection morning to Mary Magdalene. Waiting time is never wasted time.
TODAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Numbers 19-20, Mark 16, Psalm 16:1-7
Meekness is not weakness. Perhaps we get the two mixed up from time to time. But there is a difference: a weak person can't do anything while a meek (a humble) person can do something but they choose not to.
In today's Scripture reading in the book of Numbers, we read that Moses was the meekest man on earth. At first, I thought, Moses? But then I thought about how he led a multitude of people and how he basically was the go-between between God, the Israelites and king Pharaoh. Surely not a small task to be done.
I know people who obtain alittle fame, some fortune, even a new title and it ALL goes to their head, but not Moses. Rather than making him arrogant and prideful, Moses was humble.
(Numbers 12:3) "Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth."
Throughout the Bible, we see how true encounters with God never puffed people up, rather, it brought them to their knees.
We all have a choice to make: we can face our challenges and approach God with weakness or meekness. Which one will it be?
TODAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Numbers 12-13, Mark 13:9-37, Psalm 51:10-19
SATURDAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Numbers 14, Mark 14:1-31, Psalm 52
SUNDAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Numbers 15, Mark 14:32-72, Psalm 53
(Mark 12:17) "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
It is easy to gripe and complain about paying taxes, but as Christians, we must hear what Jesus is saying.
In today's Scripture reading, Jesus was telling those listening to render to Caesar the things that were Caesars, meaning that the people were to pay taxes to the Roman government, which was the political authority at that time.
If you read the scriptures carefully, you will see that the emphasis is not about Jesus putting His approval on paying taxes, rather, the emphasis is on the coin.
When Jesus took the denarius (the coin), after inspecting it, He said...
"Whose image is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. (Mark 12:15)
Caesar minted coins that had his image stamped on them and expected some of them back. Jesus was simply making a distinction between two kingdoms. Caesar at the time held the power of the kingdom of the world but God held (and still holds) the Kingdom to come.
Christians today are part of both kingdoms (while still on earth). Therefore, if our Government demands money, we must obey. At the same time, whatever God demands, we must also obey.
Give to Caesar (IRS) his part and give God His. Anything less is cheating God because it ALL belongs to Him anyway.
TODAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Numbers 7:48-8:4, Mark 12:1-27, Psalm 50:1-15
Today's scripture reading found in the book of Mark directs our attention to prayer and pride. One doesn't go with the other...
"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." (Mark 11:24-25).
Jesus is speaking to His disciples and telling them that one of the greatest hindrances to their faith in God is pride. Pride will keep unforgiveness in the heart, and unforgiveness will put distance between prayers and God.
At times, we may feel justified when we demand others to forgive us but when it comes to extending the same kind of forgiveness to others, it isn't as easy. Whether we do it subtly or openly, we tend to have a hard time forgiving those who bring offense to us. In fact, sometimes it makes us feel good to keep our enemies at a distance or make them come crawling on their knees for forgiveness.
But Jesus says that that is a great mountain in our life that needs to be removed, it is the very thing that is blocking the flow of God to our faith.
When we stand (or sit or lay prostate) and pray; the unforgiveness that we harbor in our hearts interrupts the flow of our prayers, it stands between us and our faith.
The one thing that will block the move of God towards people, churches and even nations is pride and unforgiveness.
"Lord, help us to be a nation that forgives, help our churches be filled with people who lay down their pride and pray with a forgiving heart."
"Lord, help ME to forgive others as You forgive me so that my faith will be strong in You and all of my prayers will be received with a clean heart." AMEN
Friends, I not only hope that you prayed that prayer with me but I also pray that you not only receive forgiveness today but that you extend it. Forgiveness will change how you pray.
TODAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Numbers 6:22-7:47, Mark 11, Psalm 49:10-20.
In today's scripture reading in the book of Psalms, we come to one of my favorite verses...
(Psalm 46:10) "Be still, and know that I am God".
When I think of being still, I realize that for most of us, it is difficult to do. It goes all the way back to when we were young. I remember not being still and my Mom would tell me that I had "ants in my pants".
The word "still" in this passage has nothing to do with jumping ants, rather, it means to "let go" or "release". If we want to be still before the Lord, we must learn to submit ourselves, willingly to Him.
I find so much comfort in this Psalm, knowing that no matter what comes my way, God is the One thing that stays constant. He never moves. He never changes.
I willingly let go of all those things that are out of my control and release them into the Hands of God. When this happens, I can truly be still (have peace) because God said He would take care of it.
Take a minute to slow down, be still in the middle of your chaos and focus on what this Psalm is offering...
Peace...be still...know that He is God!
TODAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Leviticus 27, Mark 8, Psalm 46.
Today I shared the following devotion over at Www.lacedwithgrace.com:
Many times in my life I have longed for something. When I was a young child, I longed to be 16 years old so I could drive. Once I reached that goal (age), it didn’t seem to satisfy me because it wasn’t too long before I longed to be 18. The point being, that many of us just are not satisfied with where we are at the moment. We all want to be somewhere else, be a different age, look a certain way or maybe even be someone else.
Longing for something means that we are either not satisfied or we are immensely missing something or someone. Have you ever longed to see someone? Perhaps time has passed by and you haven’t seen someone in a long time or a loved one has gone to heaven and you long to see them once again. When my son was in the Air Force and he served for a year overseas, I remember the anticipation that filled my every being while we waited at the airport for him to come walking out of that exit door. I literally stood on my tiptoes, scaling over every head of each person who came walking off of that plane. Looking and looking until I finally saw the top of the head of my beloved son. Such a longing to see him, to hug him and know that he was safe.
The Psalmist exposes his heart with such a longing for the Lord in Psalm 63:1…
“O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for you. my body longs for you…”
Here, the Psalmist does not ask God for anything; he doesn’t ask for better health for himself or his family, he doesn’t ask for a raise at work, or even plead with God for a happier marriage. Instead he focuses on his relationship with God, “earnestly” seeking Him to fill every fiber of his being with the things of the Lord.
This is the kind of longing that I desire. Much like looking for my son in that crowded airport, I want to be always searching for the Lord, with such great anticipation that nothing (and no one else) will matter. Today, I want to ask you as you read this: Do you long for God’s presence as though it were the very thing sustaining you? When is the last time you cried out like the Psalmist for God?
Pray this with me: “Dear Lord, You are my God and I desire to seek You like never before. Give me a thirst that cannot be satisfied, give me a longing to see Your face like never before. When I am dry, fill me up. When I am weak, give me strength. When I am lost, guide my steps. You, My Lord are all I need. I long for You today and all the days to come. AMEN “
Today's scripture reading in the book of Mark reminds me of the old saying that we've heard a million times, "Actions speak louder than words.”
No truer words than this. But when we apply this saying to our walk with God, how do we measure up?
In Mark chapter 7, the Pharisees and the leaders of the law quickly criticized the disciples for not obeying the law by eating with unclean hands. But Jesus pointed out what hypocrites they were; honoring Him with their lips but not from their heart.
(Mark 7:6) He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.'"
It is easy to say that you love someone, but if you had never spent time with them or shown affection to them, it would be difficult for such love to grow. That's why in a romantic relationship it is called courting, it's the stage where you are getting to know one another.
In the same way, it isn't enough to just say that you love God. Many people can memorize His words without ever knowing Him. We must hide His Holy Word in our hearts! This is the place that His Holy Spirit will spill out from.
We need to get to know God, maybe even court Him!
When we give our heart over to God, it is only a matter of time that what is in our heart will spew out of our mouth.
May we live in such a way that God would never say to us, "(insert your name here), honored Me with their lips, but their heart was far from Me."
TODAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Leviticus 26, Mark 7, Psalm 45:13-17
Recently after church service, someone said good bye to me by saying "get some rest". I'm not sure if they told me that because I looked tired or because they knew we had been really busy lately. Either way, rest is good for us.
Rest is more than just taking a Sunday afternoon nap, rest can rejuvenate us in body, mind and spirit and help alleviate burnout. Rest can help us focus or become more re-focused.
Even Jesus recognized that ministry can be draining and that taking a period of rest will cause us to stay more focused on what is important...
(Mark 6:30-32) "The apostles returned to Jesus and told Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves."
Prior to this, we see that Jesus had sent his disciples out to preach, heal and drive demons out. Sounds like a pretty busy schedule!
When they return to Jesus, they are eager to tell Him all about it. No doubt their adrenaline was running high. I'm the same way after I teach a class or speak at a conference; my mind is running a million miles an hour and "rest" is the LAST thing on my mind.
But here we see the disciples shift their focus from being about Jesus to being about what they did and what they said.
Jesus understood that a rest period would help turn their focus of what they did back to why they were doing what they were doing.
Sometimes I think we get so busy in our life (our ministries too) that our focus gets blurry. Along the way we lose sight of why we are doing what we do and instead of having purpose, we just go thru the motions or we simply put on display what "we" accomplished, rather than giving God the honor due Him.
It's in these moments that a long overdue rest may be needed. Keep in mind that rests are not considered finality. The disciples didn't use rest times as quitting times. Just because you are on a rest does not mean God is done with you.
Don't quit! Once you get revived, renewed, recharged - get back in the there and watch how much more strength, energy and focus you will have to accomplish what God needs you to accomplish, making it about Him and not you!
TODAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Leviticus 25, Mark 6:30-56, Psalm 45:6-12
Desperate people do desperate things in desperate times. Today's scripture reading shows us that.
Here, we find a very desperate woman. A woman who traveled a long way because of her faith knew if she could just touch the One Who heals.
I've read in different study Bibles that women who were considered unclean were not allowed to touch anyone. And here is a woman, who because of an unexplained reason has been bleeding for 12 long years and she has a plan to touch THE Son of God!
That's gutsy! But look at her options:
(Mark 5:26) "spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse."
How many people have you known that have been in this exact place, maybe it has been you. Doctor visit after doctor visit, prescriptions one after another but still no answers. No change. No hope.
When I think about this woman, I don't see what others might see. I don't see a woman with an issue of blood, instead I see a woman of great faith!
Despite what she had been told, she believed that she could be healed. She believed it so much that she knew if she could just touch Him, it would happen.
Most of us won't believe something until we "see" it. See it face to face. Here is a woman who doesn't need to see Jesus face to face or meet Him while all the attention is on her; instead she stretches her hand out in the busy crowd and says, "if I could just touch the hem of His robe, I will be healed." (Mark 5:28)
When is the last time you felt desperate; desperate enough to touch Jesus? Sometimes it takes guts but mostly it just takes faith!
BLESSINGS . Laurie
TODAY'S SCRIPTURE READING: Leviticus 29, Mark 5, Psalm 42-43.
Sharing God's love and truth thru devotional writing here and across the web. My heart is to bring hope,love and forgiveness to those that feel broken and lost. I was once broken and lost but I am so glad that God didn't let me stay that way. Come along with me on this adventure of faith and may you also find the hope and love that you are longing for! :)