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Posts Tagged ‘devotion’

GBA

It’s okay to say, “God bless America.” In Jeremiah 29:5-7 we find some interesting concepts.  God says to build houses and settle down. God also says to seek peace and prosperity of the city. In the last verse, we are told, “pray to the Lord, for if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Here, we are encouraged to pray for the city. The governmental institution that controls and runs much of daily life. Even more interesting is the place of this suggestion, because the people were in captivity, i.e. Babylon. If Israel needed to pray for the cities, towns, and government while they were in bondage, perhaps we should pray for our nation in both good times and bad.

Nations need healing, just like people. Nations can offer forgiveness to both enemies and friends. Nations can receive our gratitude and thanks.

When we say, “God bless America” it is a prayer, not a boast.  May we continue to celebrate what is right with our Republic and pray for God’s power to make it even better.

God bless America!

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Memorial Day 2017

arlington

While many consider this weekend to be the official start of summer, it has a very different purpose. Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who died in service to our nation.

An estimated 7,000 American service members have died in combat since 2001. That huge number represents the greatest sacrifice that one can make. They counted others greater than themselves. They stood up to fight for a cause. They died so that someone else could live.

In John 15, Jesus teaches his disciples to, “love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Selfless service and sacrifice are not words to idly throw around. They demonstrate the love of Christ, the one who was crucified for the entire world. His example shows the tremendous love of heaven. His example shows how much he values us. His example shows how deeply he cares for you and me.

When someone dies in our place, as a substitute, we should take note. It is humbling. It is loving. It is the ultimate sacrifice that one can offer.

As conflicts continue across the globe, let us remember those who have died so that we may live. Take time to remember those who protect our freedoms. Remember to pray for our service members, their families, and our nation.

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fig tree

Things aren’t always as they seem. How long was the Hundred Years’ War? It lasted 116 years. When do Russians celebrate the October Revolution? They celebrate it in November. What country sells the most Panama hats? Ecuador is known for the famous straw hat.

In Mark 11, Jesus makes a similar observation. Jesus is walking from Bethany to Jerusalem.  From a distance, He sees a beautiful green fig tree. It looks wonderful. It is full of leaves and seems to be a bastion of good health. When Jesus arrives at the tree, hoping to eat a hand full of young fig buds, there is nothing. The tree is barren. It has no fruit. It produces nothing.

Typically, fig trees make buds each March and they eventually turn into delicious figs. The buds are green like the leaves of the tree, so you need to carefully inspect the tree. When Jesus looks it over, there is nothing to find. The tree gives shade but no nourishment. It gives comfort with no provision. Help but no hope. The green, leafy, tree unfortunately produces nothing.

Jesus curses the tree for that very reason. It yields nothing. Despite all of the right signs and appearances, the tree is not what it seems to be. Jesus doesn’t condemn leaves, they are necessary for trees to live and grow. But we cannot be content with leaves alone.

Things aren’t always as they seem. A church might appear to be “healthy” when you look at it from a distance, only to be disappointed on closer inspection. The fruit it bears will tell the story. Individuals are the same way. A person may show all the right signs of “health” like a leafy fig tree, but bear no spiritual fruit.

The lesson of the fig tree is that we should bear spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). If we only appear to bear fruit, then we have missed the point and purpose of what God desires. God judges fruitlessness, and expects that those who have a relationship with Him will “bear much fruit” (John 15:5-8).

May our lives yield a bumper crop of spiritual fruit that benefits mankind and pleases the Lord.

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closet

I had the privilege of officiating a wedding on Saturday. Everyone dresses up for a wedding. The bride and groom look sharp. The wedding party put on fancy outfits and fix up their hair. Even guests get into the act. They dress up, no matter how hot the weather may be. People always want to look their best for a wedding. We clothe ourselves differently from day to day attire, because a wedding is a special occasion.

Paul writes in Colossians 3:12-14, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

As Christians, we should clothe ourselves in love each day. We should “look sharp” all the time, no matter the event or the location. Love is not a unique garment that should be worn on special occasions, but an item to wear every single day.

Before you put on your socks or lace up your shoes, remember that there is one more item to wear before you head out the door. Clothe yourself in love.

 

 

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difficulty1

It may seem like a paradox, but difficult times strengthen our faith and nourish relationships. Talking with my grandparents and their friends, I could detect a trend that seemed almost universal.  They would reminiscence and share stories on truly tumultuous times.  They would talk about WWII, the Great Depression, dust storms, blizzards, or the loss of crops and livestock.

We are no different. Ask any strong, stable family where they got such strength, and you will likely hear a story of crisis.  Times of hardship allow us to see where our faith and confidence is placed.  Biblical characters like Job and Abraham survived excruciating trials of faith.  Ultimately, the purest faith emerges from these difficult circumstances.

1 Peter 5:10 shares, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

May God strengthen us for today and the days ahead.

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memorial_day

For many, this weekend marks the beginning of summer.  It will entail a trip to the lake, a national park, or just staying home to grill some brats. Others will attend patriotic parades, decorate grave sites, fly the American flag, or participate in a Memorial Day event.    

It is a weekend when we remember those who have died defending our nation, our freedom, and our principles.  It is estimated that nearly 1.3 million service members have died and an additional 1.5 million service members were wounded fighting for our country.  Speakers and politicians will highlight stories of sacrifice, selfless service, and love as essential values that create military heroes.  While people will point to battlefields, war zones, and far off foreign campaigns as the epitome of valor, these values have a greater beginning.

We understand sacrifice, selfless service, and love because of God.

John 3:16 shares, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  God gave His Son as a sacrifice for the sins and wrongs of humanity.  This sacrificial gift shows the value and love that God has for us, His children.  Jesus Christ demonstrates this perfect and holy love by freely laying down His life for us.  He acts as a substitute, bleeds and dies on our behalf, so that we can benefit in life with the Lord.

It is a familiar story that we will hear about heroic Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines.  It is the same reason that we hand out medals for bravery and valor.  But do not forget the one who died for you.  Many died for our freedom, but one died for our salvation.

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Today Marines celebrate 237 years of faithful duty, service, and sacrifice to our nation.  Know that your efforts are appreciated throughout America.

Nehemiah 4:14 is a great passage that highlights people who are willing to stand up and do what is right.  The verse reminds us to ” . . . Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome,and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”

Our first charge is the remember the Lord.  There is no escaping our Creator.  Scripture constantly reminds us to remember the love that God has for us.  The second charge challenges us to fight for our brothers.  Some may call that a mixed message, but it was a message that people needed to hear in the time of Nehemiah.  I believe that it is also relevant in our day and age.  Service takes different shapes and forms.

When injustices arise, there is a need for the farmer to leave his plow and defend what is right and true.  When disasters strike, leaders must come forward to help those in distress.  Faithful servants must be ready to right wrongs, help widows and orphans in need, and yes, at times take up arms to fight for our families.

Thank you for being there to fight for us.  May God continue to bless you and keep you!

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