Faith

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“The great art and power of faith consist in seeing that which is not seen and in not seeing that which is nonetheless felt, aye, which oppresses and depresses a person; just as unbelief sees only what it feels and does not at all like to cling to that which it does not feel.

Therefore, God does not confront faith with trivial things but with such things as all the world cannot bear, like death, sin, the world and the devil.  For all the world is not able to stand up against death but flees from it, is frightened by it, and is overpowered by it.  But faith stands fast and battles with death, which devours all the world,  and gains the victory over it and devours the insatiable devourer of human life.”  ~Martin Luther

“This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.”  1 John 5:4

Lord God, to you we look when troubles come our way, not to place blame on you for causing them, but to know that you are with us in the midst of them.  You, who spared not your only Son, but watched as He bled and died on the cross and then raised Him from death to life, be our strength when we are weak and fearful.  Thank you for the gift of faith that sees  mercy in mayhem, peace in paradox, and truth in tragedy.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

 

 

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May 15 Secret Weapon

Photo by Kevin Carden

Photo by Kevin Carden

1 Samuel 17:1-18:4;  John 8:21-30;  Psalm 111:1-10;  Proverbs 15:11

“A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp.  He was over nine feet tall…then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel!  Give me a man and let us fight each other.”  On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all of the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

* * * * *

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.”

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep…Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.

The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.”

* * * * *

Then he took his staff in his hand, choose five smooth stones…

and with his sling in his hands he approached the Philistine.

David said to the Philistine

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty,

the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied…

All those who are gathered here will know that it is NOT by sword or spear that the Lord saves;

for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hands.”

* * * * *

Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead.  The stone sank into the forehead and he fell face down on the ground.”

1 Samuel 17

* * * * *

Relentless, taunting, unnerving

jeers frayed the nerves

of Israel’s armies

pushing them way from

the battle line drawn.

No victory in sight

only defeat.

Hopelessness hobbling

soldiers’ feet

until…

A youngster dwarfed

by the challenge

steps forward with

only a sling

and

the backing of an Almighty King

declares victory

in the name of the Lord.

Faith drives him ahead,

he takes his shot

and leaves the giant

stone dead.

* * * * *

“Great are the works of the Lord;

they are pondered by all who delight in them.

Glorious and majestic are his deeds,

and his righteousness endures forever.”

Psalm 111:2-3

Lord God, Just as young David did the impossible and defeated Israel’s enemy so through your Son, Jesus, were our enemies–sin, death, and Satan–defeated in a single blow on Calvary’s Cross.  Now, the name of Jesus in our hearts and on our lips gives us victory, gives us hope when we are faced with “giants.”  When confronted with the impossible may we call upon your Name, O Lord.  May we trust in your strong name to see us through.  In the powerful name of Jesus, we pray and trust, Amen.

“He sent redemption to his people;

he has commanded his covenant forever.

Holy and awesome is his name.”

Psalm 111:9

March 23 A Cemetery Or Praise?

Photo by Laura Jostes

Photo by Laura Jostes

Devotion taken from Streams In The Desert compiled by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman

“Out of the spoils won in battles did they dedicate to maintain the house of the Lord.”  1 Chronicles 26:27

Physical force is stored in the bowels of the earth, in the coal mines, which came from the fiery heat that burned up great forests in ancient ages; and so spiritual force is stored in the depths of our being, through the very pain which we cannot understand.

Someday we shall find that the spoils we have won from our trials were just preparing us to become “True Hearts” in the Pilgrim’s Progress, and to lead our fellow pilgrims triumphantly through trial to the city of the King.

But let us never forget that the source of our helping other people must be victorious suffering.  The whining, murmuring pang never does anybody any good.

Paul did not carry a cemetery with him, but a chorus of victorious praise;  and the harder the trial, the more he trusted and rejoiced, shouting from the very altar of sacrifice.  He said, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the service and sacrifice of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all.”  Lord, help me this day to draw strength from all that comes to me!  ~Days of Heaven Upon Earth.

He placed me in a little cage,

Away from gardens fair;

But I must sing the sweetest songs

because He place me there.

Not beat my wings against the cage

If it’s my Maker’s will,

But raise my voice to heaven’s gate

and sing the louder still!

* * * *

Lord God,  we can sing because You freed us from all our sin through Christ’s death on Calvary’s Cross.  Through His life in us we can bear up under the trials and pressures we face this day.  May we do so with thanksgiving on our lips and praise in our hearts for all that You have done for us.  That our songs of praise during the hardest of times bear sweet witness to those around us.  For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

April 21 Calvary Love

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Image by Kevin Carden

Joshua 22:21-23:16;  Luke 20:27-47;  Psalm 89;  Proverbs 13:17-19

“I will sing of the Lord’s great love

forever;

with my mouth I will make your faithfulness

known through all generations.

I will declare that your love

stands firm forever,

that you established your faithfulness

in heaven itself.

Righteousness and justice are

the foundation of your throne;

love and faithfulness go before you.

Blessed are those who have learned

to acclaim you,

who walk in the light of your

presence, O Lord.

They rejoice in your name all day long;

they exult in your righteousness.

For you are their glory and strength.

Once you spoke in a vision,

to your faithful people you said:

“I have bestowed strength on

a warrior;

I have exalted a young man from

among the people.

My hand will sustain him,

surely my arm will strengthen him.

He will call out to me, ‘You are

my Father,

my God, the Rock my Savior.’

I will also appoint him my firstborn,

the most exalted of the kings

of the earth.

I will maintain my love to him forever,

and my covenant with him will

never fail.

I will establish his line forever,

his throne as long as the

heavens endure.”

Selected verse from Psalm 89

O Most Holy God, we have celebrated the greatest battle defeat of all time–once and for all Christ took the power away from sin, death and Satan over our lives.  His resurrection from the dead opened Heaven’s door for all who believe on His name.  We rejoice in His victory and give you all glory, thanks and praise!  Thank you for this Calvary Love which sustains us in our weakness and gives us strength to live for you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Easter triumph, Easter joy!

This alone can sin destroy;

From sins’ power, Lord, set us free,

Newborn souls in you to be.

Alleluia!

 

January 8 Good Question

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Photo by Anthony Schaefer

Genesis 18:20-19:38;  Matthew 6:25-7:14;  Psalm 8:1-9; Proverbs 2:6-15

“Is not life more than food,

and the body more than clothing?

Matthew 6:25

Jesus asks a very good question–a good teaching question.

How would you answer him?

I’m sure I would raise my hand quickly and respond, “yes!”

And then Jesus would gently ask me, “do you really believe that?”

Do I really believe that life is more than just day to day existence–feeding and clothing my body, sleeping and exercising, working, relating and then doing it all over again the next day?

Jesus asked a very good question, because many days I give in to worry about “bills”, health, the future and He wants me to know that He has the answer–“trust me”  “don’t worry”  “let tomorrow worry about tomorrow”.

He says–‘I took care of all your tomorrows on the cross–your future is secure with me.’

Lord, help me to live each day one at a time.  Thank you for securing my future–as well as my well-being  today.  Thank you for your Word that proclaims your faithfulness.  When I call to you, you answer.  Lord, may I be found faithful to You this day.  For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

“For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

He holds victory in store for the upright,

he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,

for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.”

Proverbs 2:6-7

 

December 11 Wake Up!

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Photo by Lyle Detwiler

Amos 4:1-6:14;  Revelation 2:18-3:6;  Psalm 130:1-8;  Proverbs 29:21-22

“I know your works.  You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.  Remember then what you received and heard.  Keep it, and repent!  If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”  Revelation 3:1-3

Jesus sees the ember of faith very faintly glowing in the hearts of Sardis’ Christians.  Once brightly burning, but now…

Now…Christ calls them out for their dwindling devotion to him. He calls them to remembrance– Remember the cross!  Remember my victory over sin, death and evil which is NOW your victory by faith.  Remember I am coming again!  Remember how much I love you!  Turn away from your indifference, from going through the motions, from your facade.  Repent!  Wake up!  Be real in me!

Lord Jesus, fan into flame my flickering faith so that my words and actions truly reflect the faith you’ve bestowed upon me through the waters of Baptism.  Feed this fire of faith through your Body and Blood at your Holy Supper.  Thank you for remaining faithful to me–for giving me a much needed wake-up call.  May I heed it-feel my feet touch the floor of service and devotion and –get going!  In your name I pray and praise!  Amen.

“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.  I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”  Revelation 3:5

 

November 14 Course Correction

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Photo by David Wagner

Ezekiel 29:1-30:26;  Hebrews 11:32-12:13;  Psalm 112:1-10;  Proverbs 27:17

“but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:10-11

 

Set for the goal

head held high

eye on the prize

running alone.

 

A fork in the road

sure of herself

turns to the left

and presses on.

 

Runs with purpose

runs with pride

taste of victory

stride after stride.

 

Dark grows the time

finish not in sight

steps begin to falter

no longer light.

 

Pride begins to crumble

defeat meets despair

He comes alone side and says,

“I’ll get you there.”

 

Gently He encourages

as they retrace her steps

fork in the road

lies just ahead.

 

“If you had kept your

eyes on me

you would have seen me

pointing to the right.”

“Let’s take that way now

the race is still on

you can make it yet,

be strong.”

 

She crosses the line

she gets her shirt

she gets much more than what

she started out for.

Lord God, thank you for loving us enough to discipline us when we get out of line.   You come alongside us and reset the course.  Thank you for crossing the finish line for us–for winning the victory over sin and death on the cross.  Help us to keep our eyes on you as we continue to run the race you’ve set before us.  Please grant us a faithful finish, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

 

September 28 Covered

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Photo by Chris Manfre

Isaiah 54:1-57:13;  Ephesians 6:1-24;  Psalm 70:1-5;  Proverbs 24:8

In cover of darkness

he comes

sliding silently

alongside my bed,

disturbing my sleep,

setting my heart to pounding,

my breath to shallowness.

 

No more than a shapeless form

he wields his menacing glower

to poke holes

in my security.

 

Startled from dreams

I gasp

I sit

I speak–

“Get thee hence Satan,

in the name of Jesus

whose blood covers me.”

 

In an instant he’s gone.

Peace envelopes,

sleep returns

and I rest

beneath the shadow of

my Savior’s wings.

 

“Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world  and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.”  Ephesians 6:10-12

Lord God, your Son wrestled with the Evil one on more than one occasion.  And the Word of God on his lips kept Satan at bay.  Likewise, because of Christ’s final triumph over sin, death and the devil on the Cross, we too can fell the enemy with one little word–“Jesus”.  Thank you for winning this victory for us.  Grant that we ever be ready with your Word of truth in our mouths and to stand firm in your strength when the devil comes knocking on our door.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  Ephesians 6:13

 

 

September 9 Topsy Tervy

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Photo by Stewart Dowdall

Isaiah 3:1-5:30;  2 Corinthians 11:1-15;  Psalm 53:1-6;  Proverbs 22:28-29

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,

who put darkness for light

and light for darkness,

who put bitter for sweet

and sweet for bitter!”   Isaiah 5:20

Satan masquerades as an “angel of light” twisting God’s truth–and many fall for his ploys:  just look at our culture’s acceptance of abortion, non-biblical definitions of marriage, the “anything goes” morality, the worship of materialism, lying, cheating. 

Isaiah wrote the above words for the religious, supposed God fearing kingdom of Israel–the people God rescued from slavery, led and preserved through the desert, then gave the fertile, rich land of Caanan as their own.  They had been faithful in the beginning, but sin led them away from God–they became self-justified, self-satisfied, self-indulgent.  They lived a topsy tervy life that displeased God. 

Isaiah was God’s mouthpiece–sent to warn Israel to repent, that disaster awaited them if they continued living as if there was no God.

Are we not so different than them?

Living as if there is no tomorrow–choosing to follow what “feels good” rather than what IS good?

God in His mercy and compassion sent His Son to end the topsy-tervy condition of our sin-filled hearts.  He bore the sins of all on the Cross.  Christ defeated sin, death and Satan.  His victory is now our victory through faith in Him!

Lord God, forgive us when we get turned around and we choose the bad rather than good, when we prefer dark than light, when we tolerate bitter instead of seeking the sweetness found in You.  Thank you for loving us, for coming into our topsy tervy world to save us, for stopping the spin of sin.  Keep us always grounded in your Word and the One true faith of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  In His name we pray, Amen.

“But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:54

July 27 Sing

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2 Chronicles 19:1-20;  Romans 10:14-11:12;  Psalm 21:1-13;  Proverbs 20:4-6

We may not face actual advancing enemy armies, but we still can experience an onslaught of spiritual enemies:  doubt, fear, worry, despair–brought about in a world that could care less for things of a Holy God and those who believe in Him.

Jehoshaphat, a God fearing King of Judah, gathered his people together to encourage them to seek God when faced with a vast army that wanted to destroy them.

They prayed:  “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  2 Chronicles 20:12

God heard their prayer and sent His word through the prophet Jahaziel, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s…Go out to face them tomorrow and the Lord will be with you.”  2 Chronicles 20:15, 17

There was one thing the people  did as they marched to face the enemy–they sang to the Lord–they praised Him for the “splendor of His holiness.”

“Give thanks to the Lord,

for His love endures forever!”

As they sang,  the Lord set up ambushes against the enemy;  He turned them against each other–the enemy annihilated itself!

What does that mean for us?

Praising God in the face of our “enemies” certainly can’t hurt!  Reflecting on the “splendor of his Holiness” keeps our eyes on Him.

God knows what “enemies” we face this day.  He will fight the battle!  Don’t be afraid.Keep your eyes on him– and sing!

Lord God, when facing great difficulties and armies of doubt, depression and fear overwhelm, we come to you admitting that we don’t know what to do.  Help us we pray.  Fight the battle.  Protect us from the evil one.  May we keep our eyes on Jesus and find strength to take the next step–to face the giants–and give you all our thanks and praise.   May we remember that you are always with us–you will never leave nor forsake us.  The victory is won–we can sing the victory song!  Amen!

“Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength;  we will sing and praise your might.”  Psalm 21:13

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