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ezekielHow strong and courageous will you be in my day of reckoning? I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I said. Ezekiel 22:14

As a parent I’m even more impressed with my parents than I was growing up. Okay, I wasn’t that impressed with my parents growing up. They were strict, conservative and did mean and evil things like make us go to church (Dad was a pastor), taught us to be respectful, encouraged us to do well at school, and sacrificed financially to help each of us through school.

Looking back though, I’m tremendously thankful for all my parents taught us boys.  I can’t imagine the stress us five boys gave to them as we were growing up. I know now that both parents worked outside the home, and my father was a pastor, just in order to put food on our table and give us the best lives they possibly could.

One night, dad was at a counseling meeting and mom was at work. We had a babysitter who really had no control over us (to our shame, not hers). We boys were having a blast just being boys until the phone rang. My oldest brother was called to the phone. His face grew white. He softly said, ‘Yes dad.’ And hung up. The rest of the evening was incredibly quiet and we were five the best behaved boys you could hope for.

The reason for our abrupt behavior shift? A neighbor had observed one of us crawling out the bathroom window just in front of a bucket full of water (we were having a ‘small’ water fight much to the frustration of a young woman who had lost all control). The neighbor called my dad’s office and told him what was going on. Dad interrupted his session to give my brother a call. I never learned what he said to my brother that day, but my brother suddenly became a saint and purveyor of mature leadership in bringing us younger ones under the control and direction of our relieved babysitter. In a sense, my dad told us in no uncertain terms that we would be dealt with according to our works when we got home. It was time to clean up our act!

The Prophet Ezekiel writes to an out of control, rebellious Jerusalem. His words, from a 21st century perspective were something like this. “You think you’re so smart? Do you think you are above the law I set before you? You know you know better. Let’s see how brave and strong you are when I come home!”

These words from the prophet challenge me in two ways.

First of all, as I look at the smugness and open rebellion of people in our society, I am angered but also humbled by the arrogance mankind has in trying to legislate morality according to our own deceitful human hearts. We are a people who act as my brothers and I, as ones who have nothing to worry about because since we can’t see God, we assume he can’t see us, or doesn’t exist. Woe on us when his judgment comes.

The second challenge is personal. Are my daily actions and thoughts in tune with what God wants from me? Do I live daily with a full realization that God is looking upon me and scrutinizing my thoughts, words and deeds? Am I living with power and grace in leading others to Christ in the same way Jesus did, through merciful acceptance without compromising his position as Messiah?

May each of us be overwhelmed by the power and holiness of God. May we live in the grace and mercy of his love while at the same time working towards being a sanctified people, a holy people in his sight.

PRAYER: Father God, I confess to you that I often act in ways that would imply you aren’t watching. I measure my holiness according to those around me rather than to your plumb line of holiness. Forgive me for my arrogance. Help me to reach out to those who need to know you. In Jesus name, Amen.


THE RIVER WALK

comeback

“But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32 NLT)

Read:Judges 2:10-23, Judges 3, Luke 22:14-34, Psalms 92, Psalms 93:1-5, Proverbs 14:1-2

Relate:  When we make big mistakes, there is a small voice in the back of our heads telling us, “you can’t comeback from this one.” I wonder if this thought crossed Peter’s mind when he heard the rooster crow. He had been so certain that he would do anything for Christ, even go to prison or face death, yet he failed to admit to even knowing Jesus that same night. This is why he wept bitterly as he realized his failure. He had truly believed in his own strength to stand up for his beliefs, and he had failed.

Peter was not left in his failure. In…

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Seeking God's face together

Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

Therefore, brothers and sisters, […] let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings (Hebrews 10:19-22; NIV).


Father,
Thank you
For this new day.

Thank you for loving me,
Understanding me,
And forgiving my sins.

Thank you for supporting me,
Strengthening me,
And guiding me.

Thank you tor teaching me,
Helping me to grow,
And allowing me to draw near you.

Lord,
Please help me to love,
Worship,
And serve you today,
As you deserve.

In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

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We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. Romans 5:3

walk“The first 25 feet are the hardest part of a walk.”

These words came from a friend of mine who had recently reached a milestone he was very proud of. Six months earlier he’d suffered a heart attack that nearly took his life. His doctor told him in no uncertain terms that unless he changed his lifestyle he would have another heart attack and that heart attack would most likely kill him.

The main ingredient in the lifestyle change, according to that doctor, was exercise. He told my friend that he should walk at minimum of 30 minutes a day four to six days a week. A sixty minute walk daily would be best.

My friend’s milestone? In the past six months he’d lost 40 pounds and his last health check-up revealed his blood pressure and other vitals were better than he’d had in years. The key was consistent exercise and discipline.

It wasn’t easy. As his statement reveals. There were many days he didn’t want to walk. There were days he was too tired, the weather wasn’t pleasant or he didn’t have time to walk. But he forced himself to walk because he realized his life literally depended on it. “The first 25 feet were the hardest” because that’s how far it was from his easy chair to the door!

Exercise in the physical sense isn’t pleasant for most of us. Some of us have way too many things going on to ‘waste time on that particular activity.’ However, when we realize its importance and we see our lives as depending on it, it makes it easier to make the first 25 feet.

What’s true in the physical realm is also true in the spiritual realm. There are times in our lives when reading God’s word or joining with God’s people in corporate worship simply seems like too much work or a waste of valuable time.

My friend’s heart sent him a message in a very real and blatant way: Change your ways if you want to be healthy. In the same way, God sometimes allows problems into our lives in order to bring us to a point where we turn our focus towards our spiritual health with him.

Life will deal us cruel blows. There will be problems. The Bible talks repeatedly about the fact that we will encounter ‘trials and tribulation’ in life. Those struggles aren’t as important as how we react to them. We have a choice when problems come into our lives. We can either use those struggles to reject God (and thus live in frustration, guilt and anger) or we can use those struggles to learn to lean more completely on God’s power through faith in Christ and the empowerment of his Holy Spirit.

As one write said, character is formed by the following equation: Trials + Endurance = Character. Trials, in a sense are God’s part. Endurance talks of our response to the trials. Character is built when we learn to lean more fully on God as a result of the trials we encounter.

Begin your path to spiritual health by taking those first 25 feet. Get an easy translation of the Bible and begin to read it. Seek out a house of worship where the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ is preached. Don’t take your spiritual health for granted. It takes work that will pay off eternally!

PRAYER: Father God, I thank you for the grace I’ve received through your son. I confess that too often I don’t take my walk with you seriously. Help me to take the struggles the come my way as opportunities to draw more fully on your power. In Jesus name, Amen.


Smile, God Loves You!

Open BibleIt’s amazing how much we learn when we study the Bible and how some of the messages jump right out at us when we read with a hungry heart. The scriptures are God’s own inspired words that He’s given to us so we can learn about Him and become better disciples. As we study, our faith grows and we feel confident that God loves us and will help us through anything. Yet—it’s not until we attempt to put our faith to work that we really know how much of what we have read is in us. It’s not until trials hit that we often discover who we really are.

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