This is a collection of devotions and thoughts prepared by various members of the family.

How To Get Wisdom

Today is the First of the month, and a great day to read Proverbs Chapter 1. Here are some things that I noticed in reading through Proverbs 1.
The first few verses start out by telling us who is writing, and why:
“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction;…” (Proverbs 1:1-2a)
Verses 8, 10, 15 and others start out with the words, “My son” - so we learn that Solomon is writing to his son. He wants his son to learn wisdom. We get the benefit of learning wisdom right along side this father and son.
Here’s the point: Solomon was the was the wisest man who ever lived according to I Kings 4:31; yet his son did not automatically get wisdom. His son did not get wisdom by osmosis – he had to work for wisdom.
Wisdom is not automatic. Wisdom is found in the person of Jesus Christ. You don’t automatically get to know Christ and His wisdom, just because your dad was wise and had a walk with God. You don’t get it from being in a good church or having a good heritage. It is not automatic.
Verse 7 tells us where wisdom starts: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord – when you fear the Lord, and have a personal walk with Him, He will teach you everything that you need to know. He will give you understanding, and when you put that Godly knowledge and understanding into practice, you will have wisdom. Your daily walk with God will bring wisdom!
Wisdom requires repentance. It requires you to turn from sin to have this walk with God. In verse 10, Solomon tells his son, “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.”
Then in verse 23, Wisdom cries, “Turn you at my reproof.” This turning – repenting from sin and turning to the fear of the Lord – is what will set you on the road to wisdom.
Here in simple terms, Solomon has laid out the reality of life to his son. Turn from sin, choose a walk with God instead, and you will find wisdom and safety, spared from the gnarly consequences of foolishness. Proverbs 1:32, “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. (33) But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.”
How about you? Have you hearkened unto wisdom? Have you turned from your sin to receive Christ as your personal Saviour? He died in your place to take your consequences for your sin, and He was buried. But He did not stay in the grave – He arose the third day and proved victory – victory over sin – your sin and mine. Start on the path of wisdom today by calling on Christ alone for your salvation.
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Needful Rest

Mark 6:30-34, “And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. (31) And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. (32) And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. (33) And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. (34) And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.”
Serving the Lord can be a busy, and sometimes exhausting, proposition. The disciples had been working hard – and there was plenty to do, so much so that they did not have time to stop and eat. What a special thing it is here that the Lord took note of their need to rest, and told them to privately get away to a place of refreshment.
It was not so easy to get away, though – the needy people saw them escaping! Jesus spent the day ministering to the shepherd-less sheep, even though he had planned to spend the time resting with the disciples. It appears that He took this burden on Himself while allowing the Twelve Disciples to rest, because it only speaks of Jesus’ actions until the day was “far spent” and his disciples came to him, and this is consistent with the other accounts of this passage in the other Gospels (Matthew 14, Luke 9, and John 6).
To recap, Jesus had seen the disciples’ need for rest; He planned a short retreat for all of them. When the needs of the ministry pressed down on them, Jesus took care of it while the Twelve rested and waited on Him. I love the wording of the disciples to Jesus in Mark 6:35, where they told Jesus, “…This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed….” It was as if they were saying, ‘Jesus, you told us that we were going to this desert place to rest, but you have spent the whole day working! You need to rest, too!’
Jesus was not done, though; he was about to minister to the Twelve AND the multitudes by miraculously providing food for the five thousand from five loaves and two fishes. What a spectacular thing it must have been for the disciples to see Christ work here! After dinner, Jesus sent the disciples back to the boat, where He would join them soon, after He dispersed the multitudes. He was still looking after the Disciples’ need to rest! It was as if He said to them, “You go rest; I’ll do the dishes.”
What followed, as the Twelve waited on the boat for Jesus, was a spiritually troubling experience (Mark 6:49-50). They saw Jesus walking on the water to them, but in their exhaustion and in the presence of stormy conditions, they became fearful. Instead of recognizing the Lord, they were troubled! Yet, in the midst of their turmoil, Jesus ministered to them again, this time with a private miracle (Peter walking on water), and the reminder, “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.” (Mark 6:50).
Here is the point – sometimes it is hard to rest in the midst of serving the Lord. There are always things that need our attention. There are frightful, spiritually difficult times mixed in with “everything else.” Yet through it all, Christ still cares for us and call for us to rest in Him. He will take care of things for awhile when we need to be in the “desert place” to rest. He will minister to us in the darkness.
Are you resting in and depending upon him, so that you can hear His encouraging words, “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid”?

Who Can You Trust

John 6:64, "But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him."
When a Christian has trust issues that are affecting his or her behavior, it is because his or her trust is misplaced.
Jesus, our Example for how we should live our lives, knew from the beginning who, in our terms 'He could and could not trust;' yet, He served them anyway without reservation. Why? Jesus gives us the answer in John 9:4, where He said, "I must work the works of him that sent me...."
You see, Jesus trusted and obeyed God the Father. We are told in Proverbs 3:5 to "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart;..." Notice that it says "all" thine heart. Just like in the example of Jesus, ALL of our trust and obedience belongs to God - even when that means loving, serving, working alongside, and washing the feet of the untrustworthy Judases in our lives.
When all of our trust belongs to God, He will guide and direct each step of our lives' path for our good and in obedience to His will (Proverbs 3:6-7). The question then is not, "Can I trust my friend / co-worker / child / spouse / etc?", but "How can I trust God and show it by serving others?"

The Solution for Sin

John 8:34-36, "Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you frees, ye hall be free indeed."
Too often we get this thing about sin backwards by saying that we sin because we are in bondage. How often have you heard someone say, "Well, I'm only human" as an excuse for his sin? How about this one: "Well, I was born that way."
It is true that we are born with a sin nature, but when you receive the free gift of salvation through Christ alone, He MAKES you free. Sinning, then, is not a result of addiction, but rather, you are held in addiction as long as you choose to sin.
The solution is very simple for the Christian: yield to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in your life, and don't sin. Galatians 5:16 says, "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."

Are You Looking for Judgment or the Coming of Christ?

Hebrews 9:27-28, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (28) So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
The judgment of God is seen as a negative to the world - uncomfortable, unaccepting, and disapproving. It is true - you will one day die and stand in the judgment of your Creator. However, the Bible doesn't want to keep you in that negative situation; in the very same sentence in which this judgment is listed, the solution is also given. If you receive the Lord and His sacrificial offering in your place, you don't have to negatively look forward to the judgment, but rather to the coming of Christ! What a wonderful promise!

All the Days of... Who?

I love reading the books of Kings and Chronicles in the Old Testament. I like how a decisive summary is almost always given at the beginning of each king's record of whether he served God or did evil. It says something like, "David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD... all the days of his life...."
When it comes to the account of Joash, however, it says this in II Chronicles 24:2, "And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest."
Joash was only seven years old when he became king, and a wonderful priest named Jehoiada came along side him and taught him God's ways. Jehoiada's influence was great on him, and Joash loved him and did what he was supposed to, in order to please Jehoiada.
Eventually, however, Jehoiada died, and the reality of Joash's walk with God (or lack thereof) was revealed. Evil men came in and flattered Joash, and he listened to them. This resulted in idolatry, God's judgment, a conspiracy, and the assassination of Joash. What a terrible ending for a King who seemingly started out so right!
Here's the thing - Joash only served God for Jehoiada's sake. Do you have a PERSONAL walk with God, having PERSONALLY received the Lord as your Saviour? Or are you trying to do good for the sake of your parents, your preacher, tradition, or convenience?
Matthew 7:21-23, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (22) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

Christmas Lightbulbs Belong Together

This time of year, most people are decorating for Christmas. One of my favorite parts of Christmas decorations are the Christmas lights – the beautiful colors working together give a special Christmas glow to the room. However, have you ever gotten a string of lights untangled and plugged in, only to find out that they don’t work, because one bulb is broken or missing?
That is how it often is with the local church – someone who does not understand their responsibility to be a part of the local church is missing, and the church does not function as intended.
First Corinthians 6:19 is one of my favorite Bible verses. It says, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”
This verse is often used to support the wonderful and Biblical teaching of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit on an individual level, but the grammar does not support that. Here’s why: where it says “…know YE not that YOUR BODY is the temple…”, ‘ye’ and ‘your’ are plural, while ‘body’ is singular. It is talking about a single body that the whole group has in common; and that body is not one’s physical body, because then it would have said “your BODIES” (plural).
First Corinthians was written to a church. A few verses before this one in Chapter 6, Verse 15, in talks about each individual’s body belonging to the Lord: “Know ye not that your bodies [plural] are the members [plural] of Christ", but by the time you get to verse 19, it is talking about a different body: the local church. According to Ephesians 1:22-23 and Colossians 1:24, the local church is the body of Christ. It is that body (the church) which fits in the grammar here, and gives us a wonderful understanding of how things are supposed to work.
When a person receives Christ as his personal Saviour, he receives the indwelling presence of Christ. He is supposed to immediately be baptized and join the local church (Acts 2:41, 47) to which he has been fitted by God (Ephesians 4:16). Then, the light of Christ shining through that individual joins to the light of the other believers like a bright string of beautiful Christmas lights, and “A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” The dark areas of our personal lives are edified and perfected and overcome by the other saints in that church, who love each other and work together to reach the world with the Gospel.
How about you? Are you trying to be a self-sufficient Christian, independent of the local church? That’s not God’s plan. Christ died for the church (Acts 20:28), so you should be a part of it so that the light does not go out. “Ye are not your own”.

Courageous Change

2 Chronicles 15:8, "And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD."

Wouldn't it be great if we had a sudden burst of righteous courage - the boldness to what God says is right - in our families, churches, and political leaders?
Asa, unlike his wicked father, "did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God" (II Chronicles 14:2); but he needed the courage to do more. And that courage came when the preacher came with a special message from the Lord.
Courage comes from hearing from God! You cannot expect to boldly do right God's way without the power of God that comes from fellowshipping with Him. When Asa heard from God, "he took courage."
What he had to do was not easy. It created enemies. It even required him to dethrone his grandmother from being queen (15:16) because of her idolatry!
The result of his courage and the actions that followed was all of Judah dedicating themselves with the right heart to seek the Lord, "and he was found of them" (15:15). The cycle of war was broken, and there was peace for many years (15:19), as long as Judah depended upon the Lord.
Need courage? Open God's Word daily, and spend time with the Lord in prayer. Be in your place at church, so that you can hear the preaching. Then you, too, may develop the courage to make radical, Christ-honoring change in the world around you.

Straight Line or Zig Zags

"And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: (18) But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.... (21) And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: (22) He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people." (Exodus 13:17-18, 21-22)
We often complain about the zig-zag path on which life takes us, when we think it would be much simpler to take a short, straight line to our "promised land" goal. If the Israelites had Facebook back then, perhaps they, too, would have made funny memes about how they "just wanted to get to the Promised Land" but God took them in zig-zags all over the place first.
Verse eighteen of this passage tells us why that was - it was for their own good. They were not ready for full-on war with the Philistines, and God had some things to teach them first, mainly dependence upon Him. The short and simple, "straight-line" approach would have destroyed them.
With that zig-zag approach, however, came something wonderful: the abiding leadership of the Lord. Verses 21-22 tell us that "the LORD went before them" in the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, and that "He took not away" this obvious, visible guidance.
How about your walk with the Lord? Are you bitter that things are *not* going as simple as you imagined your walk with God? Are you frustrated that an all-powerful God won't use that power to get things done on *your* timetable? Replace that bitterness with gratefulness for the ever-abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer, and choose instead to trust and follow His leadership, realizing that He knows best!

The False Repentance of Fear

Exodus 9:27-28, "And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. (28) Intreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer."

Exodus 9:34-35, "And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. (35) And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses."

These verses are found after the Lord brought the plague of fire mixed with hail upon Egypt. In the midst of the horror of this plague, it seems that Pharaoh repented - after all, he said all the right words! Outwardly, it sounded great, but when the circumstances changed, so did his so-called repentance.

Sometimes, as believers, we make wrong decisions that require repentance. Is it genuine repentance that returns us to the fellowship with the Lord Who died for us, and to Whom we have committed our lives? Or is circumstantial repentance, decided out of fear, in the midst of the terror of self-brought circumstances? This false, fear-based repentance is simply an attempt to manipulate the Lord.

Sometimes, as believers, I wonder if we use fear as a motivation in soul-winning, and then push a lost sinner into making a wonderful-sounding confession that is void of true repentance. We cannot do the job of the Holy Spirit, and when we try, the result is a generation of false repenters, whose manipulation "by prayer" did not work, and who, like Pharaoh, return to their old ways, unchanged and un-born-again.

2 Corinthians 7:10, "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death."

Why Church?

I want to briefly give you three reasons why I love church. I think that church is one of the most wonderful and encouraging things there is. I love being there and getting involved.

1. I Love Church Because Christ Loves Church.

Ephesians 5:25b says, “…even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”.
I want to have good character. In order to have good character, I must imitate Christ, Who is the source of Character. If I am going to imitate Christ, I must like the things He likes and do the things He does.
Christ loves church. He loves church so much that He died for it. He didn’t just die for us to have a way out of Hell and into Heaven – though that is a wonderful thing; but the verse says he died for *the church*. The church enables us to live and grow in Him and be encouraged and fruitful *until* Heaven.
Jesus started the first church while on Earth, and then instructed that church in how to start other churches, putting all power in heaven and earth behind that endeavor (Matthew 28:18-20). He didn’t just provide for our salvation, and then tell us that ‘sink or swim’ we are on our own until death and Heaven; no, He gave us a wonderful gift called the church to sustain us while still on Earth.

2. I Love Church Because It Is Good for Me.

Second Timothy 4:2-3 presents a choice for me, as Paul is instructing a young preacher about how things are supposed to be in church. The right choice is for me to be in church, around preaching that will “…reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” That means that the preaching part of church will be good for me, even if I don’t like it – it will correct me when I’m wrong; it will encourage me to keep going; it will keep me strong in Bible teachings.
The other option is presented in verse three: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;”. God designed each Christian to be an active part of a specific church that He has “fitly joined” them to, according to Ephesians 4:16. When I am in the church that God has put me, I am in a place to be edified, (or built up) and encouraged by other believers, and I will be hearing the right kind of teaching and preaching that will help me grow. If not, I am in danger of only listening to what I want to hear and what makes me feel good, but is not good *for* me.

3. I Love Church Because It Is Good for Others.

Hebrews Chapter Ten encourages us about the importance of meeting together as a church, and tells us that it is part of faithfulness, and it helps others. Here is what it says in Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (24) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: (25) Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
As a church, we share testimonies and help each other grow and get through tough times. As a church, we sing together and fellowship together. As a church, we encourage each other to do right. As a church, we work together to win others to the Lord in God’s way and pattern. If I am not an active part of church, I miss out in being a help and blessing to others. Ultimately I will grow cold and selfish, because I was not designed to only receive God’s blessings, but also to glorify God by pointing others to Him and help my fellow believers around me. That’s why Hebrews 10 said that meeting together as a church should be more and more of a priority as we near the day that Christ returns – because the work of church is more important than ever.
Do you love church like Christ does? If so, perhaps we could work together in our community to have the testimony that the very first church did, as found in Acts 2:47, “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

The Darkness Before Dawn

It has been said that “it is always darkest just before dawn.” If you get up very early while it still dark, or have had an occasion to stay up all night, perhaps you have experienced this perception. It seems to get exceptionally dark, just before the first signs of dawn.
As I have researched this, I have found that those who measure the light of the sky say that they get the most questions about this phenomenon the two weeks before a new moon. The reason for this is probably that the moon can be seen after sunset, but not before sunrise.
These experts also tell us that there is no difference in the light of the night sky just before dawn – it is NOT really darker just before dawn; it is simply a matter of perception and perspective. The longer we are without light, the more we notice the dark, especially when there is no moon to brighten our night. It seems we subconsciously question whether the sun will ever come up again!
Just before the dawn of the Promised Messiah being born, there were some moments that must have been perceived as dark and scary for Mary and Joseph, yet the dawn was just around the corner! Let’s look at three, and see how the Lord used them for His glory.
First, there was The Darkness of a Government Mandate. Luke 2:1 and 3 says, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (3) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.”
History tells us that Caesar Augustus was a pompous ruler who was full of himself, thinking of himself like a god. He was intent on expanding his position and the Roman Empire and mandated a first-of-its-kind census and tax that facilitated his agenda. His mandate did not care about the inconvenience that it caused world-wide, or about who was hurt in the process.
Here’s the irony of this mandate: while Caesar Augustus was working on expanding his “godhood” status with this mandate, he facilitated the prophesied birthplace of the true Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Years before, Micah 5:2 had specified that Christ would be born in Bethlehem. In the midst of this government overreach, God was being glorified and prophecy was being fulfilled, because this mandate required Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem for Christ’s birth.
That leads us to the Second thing Joseph and Mary faced: The Darkness of a Difficult Trip. In two short verses we read the words about their trip, perhaps without much thought as to its difficulty: Luke 2:4-5, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) (5) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”
Bethlehem is about five miles South of Jerusalem, and about 70 miles directly South of Nazareth. When the Bible says that they went “up from Galilee,” it is because Bethlehem is higher in elevation. It is likely that Joseph and Mary, who was very pregnant, descended from Nazareth’s 1138 feet of elevation, down to the plains and forest along the Jordan River, then climbed back up the mountains surrounding Jerusalem to Bethlehem’s 2543 feet – all without a car. This route was probably more than ninety miles, and took them several days over every different type of terrain – forest, plains, deserts, and mountains.
The Bible says little about Joseph and Mary during this time. We know that Mary had joyfully submitted to serving the Lord in bringing Christ into the World. I know this: a trip like this had to have been tiring and trying to their joy; yet, God was working through this trip to fulfill in detail His prophetic Word!
Finally, there was The Darkness of an Imperfect Birthplace. Luke 2:6-7 tells us, “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. (7) And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Every new mother that I know makes plans for the way that she wants the birth to go – safely, comfortably, and memorably. This Birth had none of those elements, except maybe the memorable part. There simply was no room in the inn, so Jesus was born in perhaps a stable or cave, without the privacy and security that normally accompanies birth. Instead of that specially chosen first outfit, Baby Jesus was simply swaddled in cloths. Instead of that ideal and beautiful bassinet, He took His first naps in an animals’ manger.
But the dawn had come! The Messiah was born! On a countryside nearby, the angel of the Lord was bringing good tidings of great joy for all people: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (12) And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12)
Those moments of perceived darkness for Joseph and Mary were not darkness at all! They were being proclaimed by the angel of God as a sign, pointing the way to the Messiah! The mandate – the trip – the Messiah in a manger – were all wrapped up now into a wonderful, glorious Christmas gift that was pointing the way for the whole world to receive Salvation!
Perhaps you have experienced some dark days, Christian. If you will let Him, God knows how to use those events to turn darkness into His glorious light. Don’t give up the fight – depend upon Him for strength instead. “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:6)