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“The Story” @ Eaton Green Estates…

So what did Jesus Christ actually say about life, love and how to live one’s day-to-day?

We look to explore those questions and hopefully dig for the answers in “The Story”, a selection of Bible narratives from the New International Version (NIV).  Here’s a brief explanation from the publisher about The Story: “The Story is an abridged, chronological Bible that reads like a novel. There are no verse references, and Scripture segments are seamlessly woven together with transition text into a single grand narrative. For those intimidated or overwhelmed by the unabridged Bible, The Story helps people understand God’s Word more fully and engage with it more easily.”

Interested?  What’s the commitment?  Who’s it for?  Where to begin?

Interested?:  If you are even remotely curious or have thought to yourself, “I should see if this will help answer some of my questions” then this is the place for you.

What’s the commitment?:  You can come to just one or all of the meetings.  The intention is to be neighbors who discover that we have a lot in common and we thought this would be a great way to do just that.

Who is it for?:  Anyone interested in getting out of their house and desiring to meet the people down the street.  That means you.

Where to begin:  The first meeting night will be held at 1052 Eaton Green (the Longdens’ residence).  Here is a calendar of meeting dates and times along with the weekly studies and their readings.

Please consider what Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”  We are taking Jesus’ Words seriously on this!

FLOW – Part 1 – Exile

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I’ve come across a new study on the Gospel and I’ve been quite compelled to share it with you.  But before I dig into Episode 1, I’d like to share the video trailer to this simple, yet deeply thought provoking artistic approach to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So without further or do…

Episode 1 – Exile

In this episode, Evan Koons (the main character in this series) begins by asking the question, “What is salvation for?”  This first episode revisits something so foundational to our Christian walk that it’s easy to overlook and misunderstand.  God tells us we are exiles, strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  Our calling is to a “better country,” an eternal dwelling.  And yet—and here’s where it gets tricky—our calling is also FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD.

That means God isn’t calling us to a bunker mentality (Fortification). He also isn’t calling us to dominate the culture around us (Domination) or to simply blend in to get along (Accommodation).  So how exactly are we supposed to engage the world?

Without sharing every little detail of this episode, I would like to highlight one HUGE epiphany that I came across – “All is gift.”  God gave everything to Adam (and Eve) as a gift of His love toward them…except the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  That was not given to them, but rather excluded from the “All is gift” life.  So if we are the offspring of Adam and Eve, and “All is gift” to them, then “all” should be “gift” to us as well.  The bigger question now is, “How does the idea that “All is gift,” change the way you approach your daily work and interactions with others? Is your work a heaven-ward offering? What are the ways you might carry out the calling to be a royal priesthood, to bless others with the gifts God has blessed you?

If you’d like to check this out in greater detail…which I highly recommend, feel free to click over here (studyspace.org is free to sign-up for) to purchase all 7 Episodes ($10), with questions, commentary and Scripture to guide this journey of discovery in Christ.  Stay tuned for the next episode (Economy of Love).

PRAYER JOURNAL:

1. Jesus gave his life for us, restoring our communion with God and renewing our calling as gift givers. Through his sacrifice we have the power to love with his love and bless others with the gifts he bestows. My heart rejoices over this reality.

2. I need wisdom to know how to use the gifts God has given me “for the life of the world.” God promises to give wisdom to all who ask. Knowing his ultimate purpose is restoration fills me with hope and expectation.

Stadiums, Malls, and Me – OH MY!

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Qatar, 2022.  If you’ve never heard of the State of Qatar, you will in the near future.  Now I don’t want to spend too much time focusing on their “greatness”, but before I move on, I would like to mention a wiki-quote about this powerful monarchy.  “Qatar has the world’s third largest natural gas reserves and oil reserves in excess of 25 billion barrels, which have fueled Qatar to become the world’s richest country per capita and achieve the highest human development in the Arab World and 36th highest globally; furthermore, it is recognized as a high income economy by the World Bank and also the 19th most peaceful country in the world.”  Not a bad resume if you ask me.  2022 in Qatar is significant because they will be hosting the FIFA 2022 World Cup Soccer Tournament.  The above picture is the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, which may be chosen to host the 2022 WCST.  This is a gorgeous building with the latest in high-end technology.  Gazing on the picture above gives you just a glimpse of how mesmerizing this facility can be.  

Now we can imagine many other football, baseball and basketball stadiums around the world and in our backyard (The Big House – Michigan Stadium).  How many billions of dollars are spent on housing recreation?  Now if you’re not into sports that much, let me take a poke at something else.  Malls.  Have you heard of the Mall of America?  Did you know it employs close to 12,000 people?  Did you know this facility has a floor area of 2,500,000 sq ft?  To give perspective, you could put close to 93 First Lutheran Churches and Preschool Daycares inside the Mall of America!

Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21 ESV)  How much money do we spend on tickets for sporting events (including our own children’s school sports events), for music concerts, for opportunities to see someone “famous”?  Likewise, how much do we spend to go to church?  Do we purchase a ticket on StubHub to take Holy Communion or to receive forgiveness from the Pastor?  Is there a cover charge to get in the door of the church?

There is a systemic problem that I see in the people of God.  What is it?  I believe it is as simple as idolatry. “[LAW]You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, [GOSPEL] but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:3-6)  Jealousy is a part of the vocabulary of love.  The “jealousy” of God demands exclusive devotion to Himself (Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 32:16, 21; Joshua 24:19; Psalm 78:58; 1 Corinthians 10:22; James 4:5) and delivers judgment to all who oppose Him (Deuteronomy 29:20; 1 Kings 14:22; Psalm 79:5; Isaiah 42:13; 59:17; Ezekiel 5:13; 16:38; 23:25; 36:5-6; Nahum 1:2; Zephaniah 1:18; 3:8).  Don’t just take my word for it, read these Scripture texts to see how God really feels about our love or hate to Him.  Heavy stuff to all of us who are not God (that makes ALL OF US).

So where do we go from here?  What can we do?  What needs to change in my life?  I love my kids, so how can I support them in their extra-curricular activities without excess?  How can I shop at stores without going overboard?  How can I stay off the slippery slope of myself?  Jesus sums it up for us.  He says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)  Let’s go back to the above questions.  “How can I support [my kids] in their extra-curricular activities without excess?”  You can show them the altar of God is more important than the altar of the baseball mound.  You can live by example of worshipping the God of the universe with your heart, soul and mind.  You can teach the character of integrity to your children by being honest in all of your dealings, especially when you will lose something of value.  “How can I shop at stores without going overboard?”  Maybe this wouldn’t be an issue if our going “overboard” is for someone other than ourselves.  Maybe we could love our neighbor by giving them our best things.  Maybe we could be Jesus to “the least of these” by stepping out of our comfortable lives and entering into uncharted territory.  Perhaps our idolatry isn’t so complex.  Maybe there’s One who knows what we’re up against?

Take a look at your life, the life you are sharing with others and determine for yourself, based on the standard of Scripture, am I worshiping something or someone other than God?  How much time do I devote to eternal matters?  How much money do I spend on things that moths eat and rust destroys?  How many clothes do I have in my drawers, closets or storage that I will never wear?  How does my 401K portfolio look?  Is God calling me to take a withdrawal to invest in something that won’t give a financial return, but make an eternal investment in someone’s salvation?  Where is your T(t)reasure?  Where is your L(l)ove?

Lenten Devotion 04.07.2014

April 7 – Monday
Fasting Item(s): Computer (except for school) & Video Games.
Today’s Scripture: Isaiah 40:26 “Look up into the heavens.  Who created all the stars?  He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name.  Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.” NLT
Question: Have you ever been captivated by something so beautiful that you couldn’t take your eyes off it?
Devotion: I’m kind of an “artsy” guy who likes to create things as well as enjoy the works of other people.  I believe it’s a gift that God has given me to be a co-creator with Him, as it relates to bringing people to the True Creator, Jesus Christ.  This Isaiah passage really shares a deep and profound message that gives the reader a glimpse into the creative mind of God, in addition to His unlimited capacity to make intricately detailed objects with just a word from His mouth.  Let me give you an example of something that I’m sure will blow many people’s minds as soon as they see it.  “It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord.  He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple.  Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings.  With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.  There were calling out to each other, ‘ Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies!  The whole earth is filled with his glory!’  Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.”  (Isaiah 6:1-4 NLT)  WHAT?!!!  WHY?!!!  HOW?!!!  Where does God come up with these things?  I can’t fathom what’s in store for all the believers who enter into God’s Holy place.  Some people would try to explain these creatures away as some sort of mythical being.  I’ve even heard educated Christians say that this mention of the seraphim is more of a poetic language giving the reader something that’s unknown to get their attention.  I call shenanigans!!!  Job tried his hand at explaining things to God and if you read the same book I read, it didn’t go well for our friend Job.  The stars in the sky declare the glory of God as do the seraphim around the throne of God, as do those saints who’ve gone to be with Jesus, as do those who still exist here on earth.  I want to share a beautiful song with you that constantly brings a sense of awe when it comes to God’s tangibles and intangibles throughout creation.  “I had a dream I was alone, a vast expanse of complete unknown.  Sea of glass so clear it shown, like gold.  Then a voice like thunder clapped, as a dead man I collapsed.  I am the first, I am the last, now rise my son.  Then behold ten thousand kings, and every creature worshipping.  Every eye was on one thing, One man.  He’s like a lion like a lamb, as though slain he hold the plan, to make war and peace with man, and reign on earth.  Holy, Holy, is the One, who was and is and is to come.  In a robe as red as blood, He comes forth.  Ride like lightning in the sky, on the war horse he draws nigh, the same one we crucified, will return again.”  (Revelator by Josh Garrels)  The song continues, but you get a glimpse into God’s creative power in the lives of the people He created.  It’s all about Jesus.  What’s the Old Testament about?  It’s all about Jesus.  What’s the New Testament about?  It’s all about Jesus.  Why are their galaxies outside of our solar system that we may never see?  It’s all about Jesus.  Why do we go to church, sing songs, read Scripture, confess our sins, take Communion, get baptized, fellowship, study?  It’s all about Jesus.  At no point in creation is there anything that exists that doesn’t speak about Jesus Christ.  Read all of Isaiah 6 now from the standpoint of it all being about Jesus and see if there’s anything you may have missed from the first time reading it.  Ask for God’s continued revelation of Himself into your life and I pray that we constantly stay in awe of His powerful majesty.  And may we know that He is fully and completely for us, because it’s all about Jesus anyway.
Prayer focus: Kids and Parents pray for your friends and children in other countries who may not know Jesus.

Here’s the free Lent Calendar to follow along the path God is calling us to. Take others on the journey with you, but not in a “look at us” sort of way. This is a humble journey to be endured with the help of God.

Lenten Devotion 04.04.2014

April 4 – Friday
Fasting Item(s): TV, Movies, DVD’s & Videos.
Today’s Scripture: Luke 12:15 “Then he said, ‘Beware!  Guard against every kind of greed.  Life is not measured by how much you own.’” NLT
Question: Can I borrow some money?
Devotion: Do you remember when you were in school and there always seemed to be people asking to borrow some money?  Maybe you were the one lending or maybe you were the borrower, either way, you can recall this familiar series of conversations.  After a day or more had passed, do you recall the person asking for the money back, knowing that you didn’t have it or that the money you did have was already spoken for?  A pretty stressful situation to say the least.  You’ve heard of Loan Sharks – I’m sure they aren’t really interested in Luke 12:15.  You’ve heard of hoarders – I’m sure they aren’t really interested in Luke 12:15.  You’ve heard of Imelda Marcos – I’m sure she isn’t interested in Luke 12:15 either.  Bottom line, greed does not take kindly to the Word of God.  What can we learn from greed or more specifically, the love of created things?  We can learn that we need to be on guard against showing any created object (or person) too much interest.  “They stirred up His jealousy by worshipping foreign gods; they provoked His fury by detestable deeds.” (Deuteronomy 32:16 NLT)  God is not amused by our covetous and greedy longing for more stuff.  I can only imagine how He feels when we take the very things He blesses us with and flaunt it in front of those who have less.  I can only imagine the source of His anger towards sin and our willingness to wallow in lawlessness.  May God relent against our indifferences to His loving kindness.  May God hear the prayers of the few who actually pray for someone other than themselves.  And may God, today, slow the abundance flow of those who use those resources for selfish reasons.  May we turn our eyes to the Maker of heaven and earth and may our greed be measured by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in us to other people, for His glory and the hallowing of His name.  He is able, if you are willing.  “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”  (Philippians 1:6 NLT)
Prayer focus: Kids and Parents pray for your school leaders, church leaders and co-workers.

Here’s the free Lent Calendar to follow along the path God is calling us to. Take others on the journey with you, but not in a “look at us” sort of way. This is a humble journey to be endured with the help of God.

Lenten Devotion 04.03.2014

April 3 – Thursday
Fasting Item(s): Sugars, Desserts, & Candy.
Today’s Scripture: Job 31:24 “Have I put my trust in money or felt secure because of my gold?” NLT
Question: Where does your trust lie?
Devotion: This is a good one!!!  Oh, where to begin?  I guess the best place to start is with myself.  If you notice today’s item(s) to fast from, you will see that it is a common enemy to my diabetic friends as well as to those trying to maintain healthy eating habits.  As I sit in my chair, I think to myself, “I gotta lose some weight!” “If only I would listen to good counsel about eating sweets sparingly.”  [insert confession] Just today, I’ve eaten Cinnamon Twists from Taco Bell, that topped off with a 30 ounce Mountain Dew, and just finished a Cherry Tootsie Pop.  Now that I’ve realized my error in my lack of intentionality of the Fasting Calendar, I’m ashamed to sit here and write this to others as an encouragement.  I think to myself, “Can my failures be uplifting to others?”  Apart from the reconciliation that only the Holy Spirit can bring, the answer is a flat out “NO!”  So back to the initial question, “Where does your trust lie?”  In the main part of my day today, I’d say it was in my gut.  So now I have a choice, do I sit and wallow in the pity of my errors and let that dictate the remainder of my day and evening or do I “own it” and ask God for His forgiveness for breaking my promise to Him?  I will gladly share with you that I chose the latter.  His Word to me, “Does no one condemn you?”  I said, “No one, Master.”  His response, “Neither do I, go on your way.  From now on, don’t sin.”  (John 8:10-11 MSG)  Wait a second!!!  Isn’t that the Scripture when Jesus is talking to the adulterous woman whose about to be stoned by the Pharisees?  How can I parallel the two?!!!  “Thou shalt not eat sweets” isn’t one of the Ten Commandments, but the adultery one is in there.  Did I really break a Commandment?  I’d have to honestly say to myself and God, “Yes…”  You might think that this is a stretch, but what about my breaking a promise isn’t idolatry as well as a form of covetous greed?  Did I look to God first this morning to determine the beginning steps of my day?  Shamefully, no.  Did I consider my promise with God prior to eating that Tootsie Pop?  Shamefully, no.  One is idolatry, the other is coveting the things of this world – things that I don’t need.  We like to pick on money and gold, because most of us think that we don’t have much of either, but we are rich in relation to the other countries across the globe.  In fact, the United States nominal GDP is one quarter (25%) the global GDP.  Less than 15% of the U.S. population is considered below the poverty line.  That means that 85% of Americans have enough money to provide for their needs without Government help.  We’re rich in the eyes to roughly 7 billion people in the world.  So I will ask it again, “Where does our trust lie?”  Is it in the stuff and security that we have?  Is it in our 401K’s success in the Market?  OR…is our trust in the fact that God repeatedly says that He will provide for our daily needs?  The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years (Joshua 5:6, the fault of their guts too), but their God (OUR GOD) provided for their daily needs…for 14,600 days!!!  Now that’s a lot of manna and quail!!!  May we realize that we have an abundance, not just for our own good, but for the good of the strangers in our lives.  May we be an “open handed” people (Acts 2) who are not greedy or stingy with the blessings of God and may we hear the King of all kings say to us, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:40 NLT)
Prayer focus: Kids and Parents pray for your school leaders, church leaders and co-workers.

Here’s the free Lent Calendar to follow along the path God is calling us to. Take others on the journey with you, but not in a “look at us” sort of way. This is a humble journey to be endured with the help of God.

Lenten Devotion 04.01.2014

April 1 – Tuesday
Fasting Item(s): Computer (except for school) & Video Games.
Today’s Scripture: Acts 17:28 “For in Him we live and move and exist.  As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’” NLT
Question: Is it obvious to unbelievers, that you are the offspring of God?
Devotion: You’ve heard the saying (idiom), “He’s a chip off the old block.”  Likewise, you’ve heard the saying that, “He’s got a chip on his shoulder.”  Now I know the ladies reading this have assigned in their minds, the male figurehead to which these idioms exist.  For the male readers, the female counterpart could be, “The chickens have come home to roost” or “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”  There are hundreds of these sayings for both sexes, but I want us to think more of what we hear people saying about us and if that’s different than what we’d like to be known for.  To give a proper context of where to begin, I’d like to share Romans 4:13-15.  The text says, “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.  For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath.  And where there is no law there is no transgression.” (NIV)  In the Genesis account, Abraham is promised by God that all the peoples on the earth would be blessed through him and that they would inherit the land God would give them.  Now I would dare take an estimated guess that the readers of today’s devotion are not of Jewish descent and therefore I could rationalize that this promise wasn’t (biologically) for you.  But that’s NOT what God intended the covenant between Him and Abraham would be.  It would rather carry a much deeper meaning of God’s full and gracious love for ALL people, Jews and Gentiles (everyone who is not a Jew) and that through faith in the Messiah (whom Abraham believed), ALL believers would be Abraham’s (spiritual, not exclusively biological [look at how Esau responded to God as well as the Edomite people]) offspring.  The Israelites talk highly of Abraham and Moses because they were heroes of the Jewish culture, but it was God who made them heroes of faith and obedience.  They are also highly esteemed among the Gentiles, those brought into the original covenant between God and Abraham, not because they kept the Law perfectly or with less error, but that they believed in the One who can and did keep God’s standard of perfection perfectly.  Each hero in Scripture was known for their faith in God, in the midst of adversity.  Are you known in those terms or are you known by your “good deeds”?  Would people say that you are godly because you keep a moral law or would they say that you are godly because you believe in Jesus’ keeping of the biblical laws?  May we be the offspring of God and not compromise the understanding of Romans 8:1-8.  “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.  The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” (NIV)   And may we be a “chip of the Eternal Block”, also known as Christ Jesus.
Prayer focus: Kids and Parents pray for your school leaders, church leaders and co-workers.

Here’s the free Lent Calendar to follow along the path God is calling us to. Take others on the journey with you, but not in a “look at us” sort of way. This is a humble journey to be endured with the help of God.

Lenten Devotion 03.30.2014

March 30 – Monday
Fasting Item(s): Computer (except for school) & Video Games.
Today’s Scripture: Matthew 9:13 “Then He added, ‘Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture:’ “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.”  ‘For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.’” NLT
Question: When was the last time you really showed mercy to someone?
Devotion: Are the lives we live, self-righteous?  When was the last time you really showed mercy to someone?  These opening questions can be quite sharp and perhaps, accusatory.  I’ll let the Holy Spirit deal with what’s on your heart, while sharing what’s He’s showing me that’s on my heart.  Just last Friday I had an event that had roughly 40 teenagers.  The event was a planned event called, Midnight Madness.  This has been a staple ministry to our youth and their friends for years now.  In fact, it was in place before I started serving at First Lutheran over three years ago now.  Typically I have this number of teenagers and anyone who knows the nature of youth related events, you know that adult supervision is needed.  Here’s where my “sacrifice” came in to play.  I started to put on my own pity party because I was going to be the only adult at this event and eventually go down the road, just like Elijah did (1 Kings 19:10) of self-rightesouness.  I began to conjecture about the “what ifs” of being the only adult present.  Then God spoke to my heart and said something profound, “The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.  The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (Psalm 121:7-8 NLT)  It wasn’t until multiple days later (yesterday) that I came across today’s devotion Scripture that speaks boldly into my NOT showing “mercy”, but rather expecting others to “sacrifice” as a means of their loyalty to God and His people.  I’m being very transparent right now to show you how easy it is to go from being a servant of God to being the judge and jury.  I have since repented and asked God to show me more of the darkness that dwells within my being and to give Him permission to purge this out of me.  I do this best by sharing it with others that I trust, you the reader are on this list.  I also have thanked Christ for creating in me a clean heart…and renewing a loyal spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)  Because of what Christ has done and what I’ve allowed Him to accomplish within me, it is then that He gets glory for making me more like Him.  If we can be this transparent with fellow sinners, it will help us and prepare us to be more transparent with a merciful Judge who is also the Jury of our peers.  He made the sacrificial offering on our behalf, so that affords us the ability to show “mercy to everyone”.  “In fact, we expected to die, But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.  And He did rescue us from mortal danger, and He will rescue us again.  We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us.  And you are helping us by praying for us.  Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.” (2 Corinthians 1:9-11 NLT)  Praise be to God that I am a little less “self-righteous” today than I was yesterday and I look forward to more of God’s daily pruning in my heart, the things that He didn’t put there.  God indeed is gracious!
Prayer focus: Kids and Parents pray for your school leaders, church leaders and co-workers.

Here’s the free Lent Calendar to follow along the path God is calling us to. Take others on the journey with you, but not in a “look at us” sort of way. This is a humble journey to be endured with the help of God.

Lenten Devotion 03.28.2014

March 28 – Friday
Fasting Item(s): TV, Movies, DVD’s & Videos.
Today’s Scripture: 2 Kings 6:16 “’Don’t be afraid!’  Elisha told him.  ‘For there are more on our side than on theirs!‘” NLT
Question: Have you ever been in a fight?
Devotion: I can recall from my childhood and early adulthood where I was in a few fights.  The play-by-play details are still there…perhaps altered a bit to place myself in a better light as to how things actually turned out.  If you’re like me, you don’t like conflict – even just a few disagreements here and there can grate on someone’s nerves.  So back to our focal point, fighting.  I’ve typically been in individual fights where I had to defend myself from a potential offender to my face.  Now there is a raw determination of a fight, do I run or do I stand my ground and fight back?  This is called “Fight or Flight”.  In my later teens, I was working with my peers on how to prepare for the worst in terms of self-defense.  We called this, “sparring”.  We would take turns attacking each other as well as defending ourselves.  Only a few black eyes and one broken nose is all it took to realize that I am not meant for this sort of thing.  So on the day when I got into a real fight, I was faced with the option to run or stand up for myself and I chose the latter.  Now my fighting wasn’t for noble reasons, so I shouldn’t carry on further with the details.  My thought in sharing the fight scenarios is because I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there at some level.  That isn’t implying that you’ve had a bloody or broken nose, but that there has been intense conflict and you had a moment in time where you had to decide if you’re going to fight or run.  If you decide to run, what was your reasoning to flee and likewise, if you decide to fight, what would you hope to gain from standing your ground?  I’ve learned quite a bit about value in the last 10 years of my life.  I have begun to place much more value on relationships than stuff.  Reading this 2 Kings passage shows me that there are times when I’m called to fight for others, those individuals who aren’t able to fight for themselves.  This can be a daunting task, especially when it isn’t for yourself.  The devil operates out of fear, so it isn’t any surprise that he attacks through our senses.  In this today’s Scripture, the Israelites are at war with the Arameans and they are out manned and powered.  Their visual sense of being outnumbered is overwhelming them to the point where they are about to flee.  Elisha sees something different though.  Early one morning, Elisha’s house was surrounded by an army sent by the king of Aram.  The king knew that Elisha was behind all his foiled attempts at destroying the Israelites and he was going to put an end to it, once and for all.  Elisha’s servant noticed that there was no where to flee, so he said to Elisha, “Oh no, my lord!  What shall we do?” (NIV)  The prophet of God answered, “Don’t be afraid.  Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (NIV)  Elisha then prayed, “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.”  (NIV)  His servant then saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around the Arameans’ Army.  Elisha showed these men mercy by asking God to simply blind them, then leading them to the king of Israel to show them kindness by giving them a feast.  After supper, the men from Aram went home and stopped raiding the Israelite’s territory.  So what can we learn from this Scripture?  What if we ask God to blind someone and He doesn’t, then what?  What if we run and not look back?  There are a lot of scenarios that could play out in a variety of ways, but there should always be One constant – is it us deciding or is it God deciding?  We need to see with spiritual eyes what the Lord is calling us to do and to not fear the outcome.  Always remember, “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)
Prayer focus: Kids and Parents pray for your friends and children in other countries who may not know Jesus.

Here’s the free Lent Calendar to follow along the path God is calling us to. Take others on the journey with you, but not in a “look at us” sort of way. This is a humble journey to be endured with the help of God.

Lenten Devotion 03.26.2014

March 26 – Wednesday
Fasting Item(s): Sugars, Desserts, & Candy.
Today’s Scripture: Psalm 45:4-7 “In your majesty, ride out to victory, defending truth, humility, and justice.  Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds!  Your arrows are sharp, piercing your enemies’ hearts.  The nations fall beneath your feet.  Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.  You rule with a scepter of justice.  You love justice and hate evil.  Therefore God, your God, has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.” NLT
Question: Have you ever done something so evil, that you didn’t know you were capable of doing?
Devotion: The local and national news are both good at showing us the evil in the world and we are all about shaking our fist at that evil, but we aren’t so good at seeing the evil in our own lives.  And even if we recognize the evil in our lives, we aren’t willing to display it in an unfavorable light – we aren’t willing to let others in on our little secret.  I just recently ignored an obvious call on my heart to help a man in need.  This man was walking alongside the road (M-50), near where I live, with a gas can in his hand.  To add another level of understanding in that call on my heart, this person was nearly 300 pounds and had a limp, probably identifying that his knees were under some severe pain.  As I came closer to this man, all of these details were clear to me and the opportunity for me to help was present.  So what did I do?  I thought to myself that someone would stop by and give him a ride, so I kept on driving.  I looked in my rearview mirror thinking that this person’s ride would appear any minute now and then I would feel better about myself.  I drove another quarter mile down the road, still able to see him walking, but with no ride.  I proceeded to justify in my mind and with God that it couldn’t be me that would give him a ride.  I turned down Eaton Green, taking one last glance at someone with an obvious need.  As I drove down to my final destination, my decision to NOT do the right thing began to haunt me.  I saw an evil side to myself that I had never seen before.  I’ve driven past many a gas less people, without even a hint of remorse, but this time was different.  This time it made a lasting impression.  I repented to God and to the others I have placed my accountability to and shared my sin with them.  I woke the next morning after the incident and was still feeling the guilt of inaction.  I again asked for the complete and perfect forgiveness that can only come from Jesus and have now an understanding and peace in that forgiveness.  However, I am reminded of the evil that lurks inside my heart and my willingness to give into it.  Have you ever been convicted of the evil in your heart?  Some have had to go to prison before they are convicted and change, while others are mindful of their depravity.  Each day is an opportunity to reconcile God’s creation back to Him and I encourage all His children to look for ways in which we can make things better.  It could be as simple as giving someone a ride to the gas station or pulling them out of the ditch or praying for them in their time of need.  I want to leave this thought with a deep and encouraging Word from God.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:43-48 NLT  The standard has been set for us and praise be to God that He sent Jesus to save us from our imperfect display of His love.  May you be reminded of the evil in your heart, call it out and act in accordance with God’s will in your daily life.  May our eyes be opened to the many opportunities that God places right before us and may our excuses to not serve His people lessen and lessen.  
Prayer focus: Kids and Parents pray for your friends and children in other countries who may not know Jesus.

Here’s the free Lent Calendar to follow along the path God is calling us to. Take others on the journey with you, but not in a “look at us” sort of way. This is a humble journey to be endured with the help of God.