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Devotions for your Meeting or Small Group
Devotion Ideas for your meeting or group.
John Quincy Adams said, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." If those actions inspire others to grow in Christ more, you are a Christian leader. I believe that in order to be effective Christian leaders, we must continually read and reflect on the word of God, and one excellent way to do that is to use a devotional, scripture based reading that causes us to consider God's word and what it means to us personally.
Each time I read scripture I am challenged to a new and deeper level in my walk with Christ. And often I'm inspired to share my revelations. The result of this inspiration is what you'll find below, for you see, I delight in finding, and helping others find, what I call "aha" moments in my walk with Christ.
In addition to the devotions I've archived here (and on a dozen more pages that you'll find linked below), I send out new devotional moments about twice a month. Sign up to get them below.
Devotions You'll Find on This Page
The Power of Our Words
Today's Vocabulary Lesson
You're Either Growing, Or You're Dying
Or Maybe, It's Growing LIke a Weed
The Wall of My Faith
The Power of our Words
Do they Hurt or Heal,
Build or Destroy
2 Kings 2:23-25
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!"  He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.  And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.
This is a really hard piece of scripture. It reminds me of Numbers 16:28-35 and the family of Korah, who got swallowed up because they rebelled against the leadership of Moses, and Acts 5:1-11, when Ananias and Sapphira lied to Peter and the Holy Spirit about gifts they gave to God. For a time as I read this story of Elisha, I prayed, "why?" In fact, because this happened so soon after Elisha took over Elijah's ministry, my first thought was, "He really thinks a lot of himself." Some kids call him a name, so he calls down curses from God. I wasn't too impressed by the fact God actually answered his prayer.
But the more I thought about it, the more I considered perhaps God is trying to show us the seriousness of our words. Our Father often used extremes to give us a glimpse of how he feels about certain situations. Korah, for example, helped us see that it's unacceptable to rebel against God's chosen leader. Ananias and Sapphira set the stage for the rest of Christianity so we would understand that God didn't want our gifts if they were given to make us look good or contributed as a lie.
In his work, "Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl," N.D. Wilson talks a lot about the power of the spoken word. After all, everything we can see and touch was brought into being by the mere mention of it by our Creator. Likewise, our words hold power . . . more power than we can imagine. The things we say have the power to build up and tear down. They can create or destroy. What if God allowed these young men to die so that we might truly understand the power of our words?
I think God wants Christians to have fun. There's nothing worse than a boring gospel or dry, pious Christians. However, it's often easy to allow our "fun" to turn into bullying. Even Christians enjoy a bit of teasing and sarcasm, and often it's harmless, but unfortunately, more often, our words hurt and tear down. Sometimes we mean well. We're just having a good time. We think that the person we're teasing understands we love them and don't want to hurt them. They laugh, too! Other times, our teasing is really sarcasm. We mean what we say. The tone we use sounds like teasing, and we laugh after we say it. The one who is the focus of our "joke" laughs, too. So, it must be OK. But in these times, we are more like the young men calling out "baldhead" than the image of the living Christ.
Joking can alleviate tension and help get conversation started. Levity can be healthy for relationships. Laughing is good for our health. But does all of our laughing, joking and levity bring glory to God? Could any of our powerful words be construed as "bullying," even if the subject of our jokes laughs too? As Christians it's important that even our light-hearted speech is holy.
Ephesians 4:29 says: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
This week consider every word that comes out of your mouth. Evaluate them according to the power they have and their potential to "build others up." After all, you don't want to be mauled by a bear!
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Lynne Preaches from Time to Time
Today's Vocabulary Lesson
Words in the Christian Language
English teachers all over America cringe at the words "ain't" or "gonna." Dialects that include "d'jeet jet"* and "whichadija"** are just a couple of examples of ways we create vocabulary. Plus there's an entire chapter of words that many people find offensive, none of which we'll mention for obvious reasons, words that most Christians try to eliminate from their vocabulary in order to honor Paul's admonition in Ephesians 4:29 to "not let any unwholesome talk" come out of our mouths.
Despite our attempts to clean up our mouths and create a vocabulary that honors our Savior, there is still one word Christians use every day that is completely unChristlike and unscriptural. It's a simple word, a tiny contraction, a word we hear and speak frequently, most often incorrectly. The word . . . CAN'T. We don't even find a definition for it in the dictionary. We have to look up "can," which means "have the ability to." So, can not means to NOT have the ability to . . . or impossible. The New International Version of the Bible only uses the word 14 times, and even well versed theologians must have a problem understanding the usage of the word because of those 14, the translators have only used it correctly twice.
Most often when we use the word "can't," what we really mean is "don't have permission." It's not that we aren't able. Our correct response would be "may not." On other occasions when "can't" is used, the word we should use is "won't." We often willfully choose not to do one thing or another, and instead of honestly expressing our willfulness, we say, "I can't."
By now you're thinking about all the times you use the word "can't." I can't, you can't, we can't . . . Take a moment to consider those times when someone asks you to dinner but you "can't." Think about it. It's not that you don't have the ability to eat dinner with the person. The truth is we should probably say, "I'm sorry, I have a prior commitment" or "I prefer not to."
- I will not.
- I do not choose to.
- My schedule doesn't permit.
- I don't have permission.
- I may not.
It's quite easy for us to mistakenly rephrase any of those sentences to include the word, "can't." As you read earlier, there are two places in scripture where one of those statements just won't work as a substitute for the word "can't". Both are found in the dialogue of the chief priests and teachers of the law when Christ was on the cross. These learned Jews said, "He can't save himself." They were obviously wrong! However, they really believed that it was impossible for Christ to save Himself even though He saved others.
Although we truly can't save ourselves, and we generally can't do anything about a terminal illness not brought on by some unholy lifestyle, for the most part when Christians say, "I can't" we throw out at least two verses of scripture. In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says that just a bit of faith gives us the ability to do ANYTHING . . . Nothing will be impossible for you. And Luke 1:37 gives us Gabriel's message to Mary, "Nothing is impossible with God." If we truly believe these two verses, it becomes necessary for us to throw the word "can't" out of our vocabulary.
Although we use the word "can't" arbitrarily; sadly, we often believe it. It's not necessarily using the word that's terrible, but it's the confidence we place in it. For instance, I often say, "I can't cook," and at first glance, most would say it's true. But the more appropriate description would be, "I don't LIKE to cook. I'm not good at it, and I've never chosen to devote the time it takes to learn to do it well."
Although that seems pretty harmless, there is a more destructive use of the word "can't." This comes when we feel a call from God. It's then that we hear logical, but false, reasoning. For instance . . .
- I can't go to Africa because . . .
- I can't teach a Sunday School class . . .
- I can't host a small group.
- I can't read scripture every day.
- I can't pray in front of people.
- I can't give my testimony.
Why can't we? Because we don't believe scripture, and we don't trust God to keep His promises. We don't really believe that "nothing is impossible with God." We believe the lie of "can't," and sometimes we perpetuate the lie by passing along the sentiment to others around us, including our children. In America our conversation is generally more casual, we almost never articulate our thoughts in full. We use the easiest verbiage possible. So there will be many times we get lazy. Not a big deal. But it's important we are aware of the words we are using. As Christians we have the power to defeat the "can't" attitude. By our encouragement, our prayers and our faith we can strengthen the body of Christ and rid the family of the word "can't"
(*)Pittsburgh's version of "did you eat yet?"
(**)Foxworthy's redneck dictionary says you would use it in a sentence like this, "You didn't bring it 'with you, did you'?"
Also available on Amazon or at the Link below
- Quiet Times With Jesus
45 devotional readings for your personal quiet time with Jesus or your church meeting. Available in Print, as a PDF download and for your Kindle and Nook.
Available in a Book or for Your Kindle
The first 40 devotions that were added to these archives are available in this 128 page book. In Kindle and Paperback at Amazon, you can also get an e-book if you visit my store or e-mail me for more info!
If You're Not Growing, You're Dying
Today I heard someone speak about their surprise about planning for growth in ministry. They were shocked that we would think ahead and prepare for a time when we outgrow our present facility. My response was that no one ever birthed a baby without hoping and preparing that the child would one day turn 18 and be on his own. Have you ever heard of anyone watch their daughter graduate without praying that she would continue to learn and develop into a mature responsible adult. Every ministry must prepare, plan and grow or it might as well prepare and plan to die.
Likewise, every mind must continually be growing. I so enjoy watching my grandson learn new things everyday. He's growing so fast. Not just in height and weight, but in his mind. He learns new words constantly and the world is an exciting place for him. Even a dandelion blowing in the wind will bring a "WOW!"
However, I enjoy talking with older saints who are still growing just as much as I enjoy my grandson. Oh, their body may have shut down years before, but they never stop asking questions, reading scripture and studying. There are some 70 year olds who are beginning to learn the computer or have begun to read things that they've never taken time to study before. Their minds are sharp because they are still growing. On the other hand, some who are the same age don't want to even attempt anything new. They have a difficult time grasping new concepts (and I don't mean Altzhymer patients). After I talk to them for just a short while the truth always comes out, "I just don't need to learn any of that new stuff."
This principle not only applies to our physical bodies, it also applies to our spiritual life. Just as you feed and nurture a baby, so you must constantly feed and nurture your spirit. Jesus didn't call God's Word, "The Bread of Life" and "Spring of Living Water" for nothing. The scripture contains delicious morsels that are essential for sustaining real life.
As I sadly consider some elder church folk I've met, I wonder when they stopped growing. Just like those who "don't need to learn the new stuff," these people believe they've already heard every sermon and read every word of the Bible at some time or another, so they quit. They completely stop the growth process. And as any farmer will tell you, when the seed ceases to grow, it begins to die.
We each have a choice to make. We can choose to grow until we pass from earth into heaven or we can choose to begin to die until our heart ceases to beat. I'm not sure why anyone would choose the latter, but day after day I meet people who've chosen to begin to die. Not physically, but spiritually.
I can give you examples of those who've chosen to die, but I believe it would be better to give you examples of some who've chosen growth over death.
Let me tell you about my Aunt Ethel. She passed away in 2007, but more than 10 years before that the doctors gave her six months to live. Many would have had her go to bed and preserve the weak heart they were sure would give out at any moment. Instead, she continued her daily routine as much as her heart would allow. Yes, she slowed her pace some and even grew weaker and thinner; however, during this time (and in her 70's) she learned how to use e-mail and still had stimulating conversation with anyone who would visit. At one of my last visits with her, she was gravely concerned with her sister's temporary ill health and talked as if her own malady were just a cut or scrape in comparison. Right up until the day she died, she was still growing. The time finally arrived when her body gave out; however, her mind and spirit had spent her final days living life by choosing to grow.
I hope if you've ever driven through Southeastern Ohio, you may have had an opportunity to meet Helen. I believe she's gone now; but at age 94, she was still managing the general store that her father had started in the late 1800's. She sat in the front row of the church so she could hear the pastor because "hearing aids were for old folks." Yes, she'd probably get one when she got "old." Some may have thought her stubborn for not wearing a hearing aid; but she believed it was a sign of not growing. I don't know how many quilts she made each year, but I'm assuming there was one in the frame on the day that her body quit working the way her mind told it to. Although her body showed her advancing years, her mind never stopped working, turning and growing.
Finally, let me tell you about Betty. Somehow, I think everyone thought Betty would never die. Perhaps it was because she never quit asking questions, questioning the answers and growing in her spirit. At age 70 she probably brought more questions to the Bible Study discussion table than anyone in the room. She contemplated every answer and held it up against scripture. When they called to tell me Betty had gone to be with Jesus, I was speechless. It had never really occurred to me that Betty could possibly die. Even with white hair and a frail body, she never seemed old enough to die. Her joking was full of love, her fun was youthful and her passion for life and learning were childlike.
So, now, today, I want to ask you, are you growing or are you dying? Yes, those are your only two options. Consider this carefully, it might be the most important question you'll answer this week. I'm assuming since you're reading something other than the daily paper, you're choosing to grow.
Collossians chapter one says this:
10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (NIV)
Never stop "Growing in the knowledge of God," for everything that is growing bears fruit, and everything that is not growing is dying.
Or Maybe It's Growing Like a Bad Weed
2 Thessalonians 1:3
We've been gone for a week. The bad news is no rain fell the entire time we were gone. Everything is so dry, the grass is starting to turn brown. The good news is no rain fell the entire time we were gone, the grass shouldn't need mowed.
And as we pull into the drive we realize we were correct, the grass does not need cut; however, the weeds are more than a foot high. I'm not sure how this phenomenon actually materializes. How can it be that the grass does not grow at all, but the weeds look awful? I suppose if we'd spent more money on better grass seed, the lawn wouldn't look so bad. As it is we (OK, my husband) must spend all afternoon cutting grass that doesn't really need cut in order to cut down the weeds so the yard will look decent.
It caused me to consider the old saying "You're growing like a bad weed." I understand where it came from now, but I also realize I'll never use that phrase to describe anyone I care for. You see I decided that bad weeds grow in spite of having any nurturing or feeding. They grow without water and without care. They grow fast and furious. And unfortunately, they grow wild and ugly.
How easy this is to compare to children. Children who are nurtured and cared for are often more naÃ¯ve and innocent. They will generally be younger looking and kinder to others. However, children left to themselves, made to survive alone in this world, tend to grow up quickly. They become street smart and world wise. They tend to look older than their years and generally develop bad habits quite young. Just like good grass and domesticated animals, children need years of tender loving care. They need to be well nourished physically, mentally and spiritually. Just like grass in the middle of summer, a child who isn't well cared for and fed will either wither and die or become a weed.
A similar phenomenon is true of our spiritual lives. Without regular prayer, study and devotion our spirits will either wither and die or turn into a weed. As a weed, we might grow, but we'll grow fast and furious. As the Bible says, we'll become puffed up with our knowledge (or lack of it) and be obnoxious Christians. Just like those weeds in our yard that are much bigger and tougher than the grass, we'll think we're better than our well fed friends (especially when they're going through a dry spell). Unfortunately, the Bible says if we allow ourselves to be weeds, we'll only be good for stubble for the fire.
It's imperative that we grow, but it's even more important that we grow properly. If you aren't growing, you're probably dying. Unless you're growing like a bad weed!
The Wall of My Faith
. . . a flimsy wall is built, and they cover it with whitewash.
Tell those who cover it with whitewash it is going to fall.
If a carpenter built a flimsy wall and painted it up to look pretty, his reputation would be shot in no time. The first time a heavy wind came through or someone leaned a bit on that wall, it would be gone and so would the carpenter’s career. A few years ago, my husband and I passed an ongoing construction project daily for weeks. They cleared the land for the home and then began laying the block. They laid the first course and then the second. Slowly but steadily, row by row those block began to grow. However, it was while the first row was being laid that my husband said, “That wall will never stand.” You see they put that first course of block right on the ground. There was no foundation. So when the rain came the first time (after the freestanding basement had all 10 courses complete), the entire structure fell. To the untrained eye, the wall looked fine, but to those who knew about construction, it was flimsy.
The real tragedy is that all across America, and perhaps throughout the entire world, flimsy walls are being built every week. Yes, some are structural and lead to the collapse of construction projects and careers. But many are spiritual. These spiritually flimsy walls collapse under the strain of life. Some begin the rebuilding process immediately, while others flounder for years before they find someone who can help them put the blocks back together. For a few, they’ll give up on the process all together and never reach their full potential in life.
You see every day there are spiritual walls being built with weak foundations. These are the walls built on the foundation of good works, rules and rituals. They are being constructed with self-help books, motivational speeches and world values. They look beautiful, like the whitewashed walls of Ezekiel’s time, but the first strong storm that comes, the wall begins to crumble. Some may even withstand the first few torrents, but eventually, without the foundational bedrock of salvation in Jesus Christ, those spiritual walls will cave in, and many will never be able to rebuild.
It’s not just an Old Testament concept, in 1 Corinthians 3, Paul dealt with the matter, too. He said that some Christian leaders were building with sticks and straw, materials that would burn when they went through the fire of life.
So my question for you today is this, “How is your wall?” Do you have a strong foundation? Is your faith built on the foundational love and knowledge of Jesus Christ or have you been trying to be “good enough?” Are you putting things that will last on that foundation? You can choose building tools like God’s Word, Bible Study, Christian Fellowship and the like. Or you can use books other than the Bible, ignoring God’s commands and trusting in your own goodness to build your wall.
In Ezekiel’s day the prophets and leaders were building flimsy walls of faith. During the time of Paul, in the early days of Christianity, it was still a problem. Today is no different. I pray that each of us will look at our lives daily. I hope we’ll look at our foundation to be sure we are building on nothing other than the truth of Jesus Christ. And once that foundation is solidly laid, may we only build using gold, silver and costly stones, not material possessions of the world, but precious nuggets of truth from God’s Word. So when those storms come that Jesus predicted in Matthew 7, our house will stand strong and firm on the Rock of our foundation, Jesus Christ.
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© 2009 Lynne Modranski