Can the Entitlement – Serve Some Mercy Instead

Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:7

Matt 5 7 nasb

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and got to spend time with family and friends. I know in larger families it can be a real battle for food! I hope everyone got plenty turkey and their favorite side dish.

Yesterday we all celebrated what we were thankful for and it is super appropriate for today’s beatitude that we have this thankfulness in mind. It is amazing how easy it is for me to forget how good God has been to me. One day, like yesterday. I can dwell on God’s sacrifice of his son for all my sins and how he suffered through all my rebellion. He can get over all the times that I have hurt him via my sin in our relationship. He steadily pursues us and extends us grace for actions that no human being would ever forgive. He has ALWAYS taken me back when I came back from being a prodigal. He has never given up on me despite my poor character and my inabilities. He continually sees a value in me that I don’t see in myself. He has given me family, friends and relationships that I completely do not deserve. The older I get the more I see how messed up I really am just as a human being and God’s mercy behind it. The amazing thing is he still sees value in me and adopts me as his child. He still extends mercy and grace to me in spite of it all.

Sometimes I think that just saying “God is good” or worse yet using the cliché “God is good, All the time” doesn’t do any justice or come anywhere near to expressing exactly how good God is. It feels like all words and vocabulary fail to fully express all God has done. Maybe that is why all we‘re left with is “God is good”.

The crazy thing is that his mercies really are new every morning (Lamentations 3.22-23). Everyday I wake up and breathe; God supplies the air (Isaiah 42.5). He supplies us everything that we have. Our jobs, houses, cars, cell phone, internet, toys, entertainment, the plants, the trees, the turkey – it all belongs to him. He made it, he created it, therefore it is all his. We often forget that we are in somebody else’s house and nothing here actually belongs to us. It’s frankly embarrassing the entitlement and lack of gratefulness that I allow in my life. If there was a way to keep all this in our brains 24/7 we would be the happiest people alive. We should be the happiest people alive.

Our beatitude for today is Matthew 5.7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

I already feel like I have received the mercy that is promised here. Sometimes I am amazed at how good we have it in this life. Still I let my gratefulness get drowned out by a sense of entitlement towards God. When in reality he owes me absolutely nothing and everything that he has already given me is far more than I can repay.

Given all that I just talked about and how merciful God has been to us, I think we should extend that to others. If we live with this knowledge imprinted on our hearts it should actually be easy. There really is a redemptive quality to God’s love that allows us to forgive others. To show them grace when they absolutely don’t deserve it. We don’t have to be concerned about righteousness when we show mercy to those around us because we know that God has forgiven us for far more than anything a person could have done to us.

It’s this principle that I believe is our light to the world. We show mercy to those who don’t deserve mercy and love those who don’t love us because there is one who loves us far more. So, let’s have this attitude of gratefulness and let it overflow from our hearts to those around us. Forgiving and loving others the way that God has for us.

Daniel Wall

Power. Love. Self-Discipline.

2 Timothy 1

2 timothy 1 7

 

Here we are – seven days away from the start of FUEL, the week-long youth event where this daily devotions blog began 3 years ago when the week’s theme was GROW.  On their website, Turning Point Youth Ministries says of FUEL, “We make every effort to create an environment that challenges, encourages and equips students to pursue intimacy with God, connect with others, and ask hard spiritual questions.  We have a lot of fun and work hard to help students see what loving God and others is all about.”

 

I think Paul had a similar mission as he was writing this letter (which would become 2 Timothy) to his dear friend and son in Christ.  Paul was now in prison (not just house arrest) for preaching the name of Jesus.  Emperor Nero was persecuting Christians and it was a very difficult time to be a Christian.  Consequently, some were falling away from the faith, some were fleeing persecution and many were deserting Paul (1:15).  From his prison cell he was writing to challenge, encourage and equip his younger spiritual son in the faith who would be carrying on the work.

 

Paul could be bitter or scared or quietly submissive – but instead we see thankfulness and prayers night and day for Timothy (1:3).  We hear him urge Timothy to keep testifying about Jesus and keep telling Paul’s story without being ashamed of the gospel or the chains (1:8, 16).  The prisoner appeals to Timothy to “join with me in suffering for the gospel” – not necessarily as a prisoner – but as one who makes daily sacrifices for spreading the word of life – even when it involves suffering (1:8).  The teacher instructs the student to keep teaching what is right and true (1:13).

 

This chapter is beautifully summed up in the words of verse 7 – “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”   It is a great reminder whether we are preparing to serve – or be served – at FUEL.  It is a great reminder whether we will be praying at home – night and day.  It is a great reminder for God’s people.

Love.  Power.  Self-Discipline.  From God – to You.  How will you use them today?

Marcia Railton

Begging for Help

Acts 3 1,2

Happy late Thanksgiving everyone! #thankgivingisthebestholiday Although the day of turkey has passed I hope we can all be thankful for what we have considering many do not have anything at all. Recently in Saint Louis, I encountered a man named Ron who was homeless and had nothing to his name except his torn up bag and the clothes on his back. Ron, like many you may encounter in your lives, asked me for money. There are at least two easy ways to handle this situation. First, we could give them the money they were asking us about. Or second, we lie and walk away feeling like we did that person well by not giving them money that could possibly enable their bad habits.

I would say Peter and John have a more effective way of serving these people. In Acts 3:1-10 Peter and John encounter a man who can’t walk and is begging for money in front of the temple gates (a common practice in that day, which could be compared to those at the stoplights we see). Instead of giving him money, they give him prayer and healing. Something we all can afford and is always at the ready. Next time you encounter someone like this it might be appropriate to pray with them about their situation and see if something big happens.

-Jesse Allen

Thankfulness and Greater Blessing

Ruth 2 13

Ruth 2:13-23

Ruth exemplified a beautiful thankful heart in the beginning of this passage. She recognizes that she is being blessed by the customs of a culture where she really has no right to reap (pun intended) the benefits. Ruth thanks Boaz for treating her with such kindness, tells him that he has put her heart at ease and hopes that she will continue to find favor in his eyes. He immediately responds to her humble heart with greater blessings that are above and beyond the custom. He invites her to eat with him — a prominent and wealthy man — as well as indicating to his servants in verse 15, As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up and don’t rebuke her.”
When Ruth returns to Naomi with the fruit of her labor, Naomi can tell that she had been truly blessed in her work and that someone had shown her great kindness. Here we see that Boaz is actually a close relative and Naomi and she determines that he is being kind and gracious due to the familial ties.  Naomi blesses Boaz for taking notice of Ruth and encourages her to stay with Boaz’ female servants as she knows no harm will come to her while she works in his fields. I believe the most important aspect of this passage that we can take away is thankfulness and humility.  Ruth is a hard worker who also shows great thankfulness in how she speaks to Boaz.  Not in every situation are we returned greater blessing when we have a thankful heart but we are called to be thankful to God. Ruth is really living out her faith by being grateful. Take a moment to search verses in the Bible on thankfulness. The Psalms especially are riddled with praising God and being thankful to him! One way to love God more deeply is cultivating this spirit of thankfulness and gratitude. In prayer today really thank God for who HE is and what HE has done — especially through Jesus to provide a way for salvation and our hope in the coming Kingdom of God.
Praise the Lord, all nations!

    Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord! (117:1-2)

-Shelby Upton

How to Have Peace Instead of Anxiety

phil 4 6 (1)

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

My grandma Kenney was widowed in 1946, with 11 children. This was before welfare or food stamps. She had to find a way to support herself and the children. Being a devout Catholic, Theresa found work at the church across the street. Her job was to do the laundry: the church housed 8-10 priests and had daily mass, she was responsible for their laundry and the alter linens. While to some this wasn’t important work she took it very seriously. The same pride she took in starching the alter linens, went into the priest’s boxer shorts!

I knew my grandmother when she was retired, yet she still attended mass as often as she could. Life had been hard, yet she trusted God and his word. She kept her iron and ironing board next to her chair. And on the ironing board was her Bible, and as she talked with visitors, her hand was always on the Bible. To the very end, she brought her needs to God and trusted He would always be there for her.

Take some time to reflect on a person of faith who you admire. Thank God for the example they have provided for you.

-Susan Johnson

The Power of Persistence

ask devo

Persistence is like the spraying surf or the whistling wind; it erodes away even the most hardened rock over time.  Battle-hardened generals, the most well-meaning of parents, the most demanding of bosses all will give into persistence.  Why?  Like the irritating gnat buzzing around our head, like an adjacent whistling hearing aid, like the canker sore lingering in our gums, we just want to settle the annoyance so our attention is no longer divided.

Luke 18 begins with Jesus telling a parable about a widow who most desperately was seeking justice, so she would seek out the king of her and tell of her request.  The king wasn’t a God-fearing man, or a man-fearing man for that matter, but he eventually gives into the never-ending nagging just to make it stop.  His exasperation becomes her blessing.  He did not even care about the woman, yet he fulfills her incessant request.  Jesus compares this to the matters of our own heart, and how we might constantly convey needs to our Father in prayer.  Jesus states, “Will he delay long over (our requests)? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily” because he is a loving Father, who is loftier than any king, but is most desperately desires a relationship with the lowliest of men.

Nearing the end of the chapter, Jesus models his Father’s care for the determined.  A blind beggar recognizes the “King of Kings” is passing by, and recognizes his opportunity to be healed.  He is unrelenting in his pursuit.   He cries out “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me!”  The crowd tells him to shut up – a nuisance such as this is not worth the time of Jesus.  Instead, the man cries louder, longer, and harder, emphatically declaring the Lord to have mercy on him.  Finally, he has the attention of Jesus, and he declares the desire of his heart: sight.  This time it is not an unkind king who yields to petition, but a truly benevolent one, acting on behalf of the Father, because this blind beggar has believed.

We serve a Father who does not hide in shifting shadows from petitioners, but makes it clear that He is ready, willing, and able to meet our every need if we would so choose to let him.  Not only this, he will also give us the desires of heart if we are attuned to His will and purpose; however, we fail to recognize that we must be faithful and persistent in our request. Now, I don’t think we can annoy God into submission, but there are more than a few faithful followers in the Bible who petition the Lord Almighty, and there is a change of course.  James Chapter 1, which I highly recommend you read alongside your assigned daily devotional, speaks of the great rewards awaiting those who do not surrender in their pursuit.

God is most certainly in control.  He is also a gracious and loving heavenly Father.   He is awaiting your appeal and ready to meet the desires of your heart – yes, even those, that are locked away, wrapped in doubt, and shouted down. Unashamedly shout them and ask in the name of the King, Jesus Christ, and He will hear your cry.

~Aaron Winner

One Thank You

Luke 17

Luke 17 17 edit

A simple, but important rule in my sixth-grade classroom is students must say “thank you” anytime they receive something from me.  It doesn’t matter if that something is homework, a reward, a present, or even a consequence, the expectation is always that I am thanked.  Why?  There are a few reasons.  First, when you thank someone you acknowledge you are receiving something.  Second, when you thank someone you acknowledge they are the giver of that something.  Finally, when you thank someone you are showing that you have considered and accepted that something.  Conversely, if I am not thanked, I must assume my students do not value the item, the giver, or its intention.  Now, I am not naive enough to believe every eleven-year-old that says “thank you” has gone through this thought process.  They may simply be well-mannered (or well-rehearsed).  Maybe they know it is a rule and do it to avoid a negative consequence (which they would have to say “thank you” for anyways).  They simply may do it because everyone else is doing it.

It can be hard to tell the authenticity of a thank you, but one pattern I have noticed is when someone is truly thankful, they will seek you out to tell you.  Such was the case of a student of mine who delivered a letter to me on Teacher Appreciation Week last year.  While the standard fare is a box of chocolates, a coffee mug, or a cleverly-punned present, she crafted an honest-to-goodness thank you card.  There were no generic references to how awesome I was, how my class was the best, or how funny I am (which all are true), but she acknowledged specific words I had written in her yearbook at the close of the prior school year. She stated those simple words had changed her attitude, and she wanted to let me know that she greatly appreciated the time I took to consider them, write them, and live them.  Favorite “appreciation” received to date.

In today’s reading, Luke 17, Jesus amid traveling from Galilee to Samaria is met by a lot of lepers.  They each want the same thing: to be healed.  Jesus obliges, and without much reference to how he did it, he simply states in verse 14, “Go and show yourself to the priest,” meaning they would now be known as the men who formerly had leprosy.  They were cleansed, restored, no more peril or pain. They could now enter the city gate, walk the street, and be with all those they had left behind.  In their excitement, nine men rush to show everyone how they had been healed.  A single soul stops; he turns to praise God and give thanks to Jesus for this wonderful blessing beyond measure.  Jesus is curious about the other nine, but tells the lone returner he was “healed because of his faith.”

So many times I have read this story and am left wondering, “Why did Jesus say this man was healed ‘because of his faith’? Were they not all healed?” The more I read over this passage, place it preceding Jesus’ next topic, the Kingdom of God, it begins to resonate what Jesus may be alluding to.  While this thankful leper was cured in the very same way as the other nine, he alone received the lasting healing and life that comes through the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ.  This thankful man’s healing was not physical transformation but an allegoric alignment of his spiritual salvation.

So where does this leave us?  Often, we are the nine.  We joyously jog back to the place we came – complacency or repetitive sin — because we know we are restored, we can enter the city gate, we can walk the streets, and we can be with those we have loved because Jesus has already paid the price for us to do so.  We may thank him because we are well-rehearsed to do so in prayer.  We may thank him because we fear what might happen if we don’t.  We may thank him because that is what everyone else is doing; however, the minute everyone else turns and runs, we are there following them instead of running to our Lord and Savior.  Take a moment to stop. STOP!  Turn around.  Run to Jesus (repent).  Praise God (for your blessing)!  Tell him what he has given to you, what He means to you, and how that is changing your life, not because that is something you do, but because that is something YOU do!  When we offer thanks to him in this way, we will know the eternal healing that comes through a thankful faith.

-Aaron Winner

Reflect His Goodness

psalm 107-22

It’s been a week of thankfulness – recognizing God as the Giver of All Good Gifts, getting to know Him more and more through the gift of His Word, gratefully accepting the gift of His Son, Jesus, and being thankful even in the midst of a difficult time.

Now for the great yearly challenge – how do we continue the thankful thinking all year?

Perhaps the following quote from J.F. Kennedy will provide some help.  “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  Show your gratitude, not just by saying, “Thank You” to God and to others, but by living a thankful lifestyle.  If we are deeply thankful for the blessings that have been given we will naturally want to share those blessings with others.  Opening our home to others, tithing to our church, caring for those experiencing difficult trials, and sharing with those who have less material blessings are all ways we can express our gratitude for what has been given.  We can reflect His goodness.  He has given to us.  We will give to others.

And, most importantly, when we are truly grateful for what God has done, for who He is and for His plan of salvation, for the gift of His Son and the forgiveness given, for the Kingdom hope – we will want to share it with others.  Inviting a friend to church, sharing a devotion with the family, praying with someone struggling, telling what God has done for you, giving a Bible, donating to missions (*), posting Scripture on your social media, home, office and locker walls, and the list goes on.

Read over Romans 10.  The world is full of people who do not know the gifts they could be receiving right now – who have not heard the message.  It is our job to, “Sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.” (Psalm 107:22).  What thank offerings will you present?  How will you tell of His works?  We are not responsible for other’s reaction to the saving message.  Just as Moses and Isaiah met up with resistance and obstinate people – so will we when we exercise our beautiful feet (Romans 10:15).

Look over your thankful list (go ahead and write it down if you haven’t already this week).  Prayerfully consider how you can show your appreciation for each gift.  How can you pass along the joy you’ve received?  How will you reflect His goodness?

-Marcia Railton

 

(*) Be watching for the soon-to-be released Lord’s Harvest International Gift Catalog for some great ideas on how to help provide for needs on our missionary fronts (Bibles, church buildings or rent, a pastor’s transportation, an orphan’s or widow’s care, seed & fertilizer, etc….) 

Life Can Be Hard

Psalm 107

I Thessalonians 5-18

There are some things that show up on lots of thankful lists: sunshine, rainbows, favorite foods, fun with family, and puppy dogs.  There is undoubtably a LOT of good, beautiful, enjoyable and delicious things in life to give thanks for!  Thank you, God!

But, what do we do with the darker side of life: the illness, the unpleasant, the hospital visits, the trials, the storms, the hurting, the loneliness.  What about those times when it can be hard to see clearly – like when the windshield is covered with giant raindrops -and it is more difficult to make out God’s goodness.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18).  Notice the verse doesn’t say we must give thanks FOR the illness or storm or difficulty.  But, IN that situation – in EVERY situation – God’s will is that we give thanks.

Yesterday we read Psalm 105 and were reminded of Joseph’s trials (sold into slavery by his brothers, and then thrown into prison for years for a crime he didn’t commit).  Perfect conditions for becoming a hardened, cynical, ungrateful man.  Instead, we see Joseph emerging as a wise, forgiving ruler.  The difficult times helped to strengthen him and mold him into the man who would do what God had prepared for him.

English poet, Felicia Hemans, wrote, “Strength is born in the deep silence of long-suffering hearts; not amid joy.”  And, James put it this way, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).  When we look at our tough seasons as periods of growth and times of training for trusting in Him, we have yet another thing to add to our thankful list.

As you read Psalm 107 look for the trials and difficulties (some self-made – as is the case today – and some the product of “circumstance”) as well as what was learned through them.  And, count how many times you read the refrain, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.”

Life can be hard.  Thankfully, God is with us there.

-Marcia Railton

365 Days to Give Thanks

Psalm 105

psalm 105-1

Perhaps you have a busy day ahead.  But not too busy for the Giver of All Good Gifts.

Perhaps you are feeling lonely today.  But not so lonely with the Giver of All Good Gifts.

Whatever your day holds – whatever your heart holds – take the time to seek Him and thank Him.

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.  Remember the wonders he has done.” (Psalm 105:4-5).

Read the rest of Psalm 105 as you look to the Lord, seeking his face.  This Psalm – as well as Psalm 106 & 107 and several others – is a great thankful list of how God has worked through the history and family line of this Israelite author.

Today would be a great day to start your own thankful list of how God has worked through your own history and family line.

And then, as it says in verse 1 – “Make known among the nations what he has done.”  Start by sharing with those around your table, with your contact list, even on your social media and blog and beyond.  Give thanks to Him – and make it known.

Remember the Giver of all Good Gifts (at the tippy top of your thankful list) as you celebrate, remember and give thanks today – and everyday.

-Marcia Railton

 

 

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