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Author Topic: Crosswalk.com--The Devotional  (Read 49424 times)

Offline Judy Harder

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Crosswalk.com--The Devotional
« on: May 11, 2009, 08:06:00 am »
This was first in the Inspirational slot.......I chose to put it here. Be Blessed!

May 11, 2009

Editor's Note: This week, our editors will each be offering their unique reflections on the same verse - Proverbs 3:5-6. So much can be packed into just a few lines of the Bible, and God often speaks differently through His Word to different believers. We hope you walk away with a new appreciation for this beloved piece of scripture.

I Just Don't Understand...
by Sarah Jennings, Crosswalk.com Family Editor

  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.
Proverbs 3: 5 - 7

Proverbs 3: 5- 7 are often the first words that rise out of my memory bank in dark moments. The reason this scripture resonates so much with me has to do with these six words: lean not on your own understanding.

At Salem Web Network, managers give new employees a book called Strength Finder 2.0. The book is designed to help you identify and maximize your top 5 strengths in the workplace. I scored highest in something called "Intellection." A person who scores highly in this category loves to think -- so much that he or she finds reasons to think just for the joy thinking.

I chuckled at these results. Friends and family have described me as "cerebral" on more than one occasion. Thanks to this strength, I'm really good at thinking through complex issues. I get energy from analyzing many aspects of life. Others come to me when they want a thorough, thoughtful perspective.

Why am I so drawn to thinking? Ultimately, it's because I want to understand. I am like an adult version of my four-year-old nephew, always asking "why?" and "how?" -- especially on matters I feel have eternal significance.

Unfortunately, this drive to understand can easily morph from my greatest strength into my Achilles' heel. Why? Because there are some things in life that even the greatest minds cannot understand.

I was on a forum recently where, in response to recent headlines, someone asked, "How can a man kill his wife, kids, and then commit suicide?" People debated back and forth. But no answer seemed to satisfy.

I had a friend call me recently, devastated over his girlfriend's unexpected decision to break up with him. He wanted to know why. She never gave him an answer. And I couldn't either.

On some level, we all want to understand, don't we? Daily, I receive emails from hurting readers that go like this:

"I am so unhappy with my spouse. Help me understand her!"

"I don't understand why my child does these things. What have I done wrong?"

"I can't seem to get a job. I just don't understand God's will for my life."

When I encounter things that are really difficult to understand, my first instinct is to rev up my God-given gift for thinking to try to figure it out. This is when things start to go bad. I think if I can understand it, I will be okay. I ruminate on the issue, mentally chewing on it over and over again, losing sleep in an attempt to find peace through understanding.

But when the mental gymnastics don't produce results, my irrational emotions kick in. I melt into a puddle of tears (flowing from eyes with dark circles thanks to too many sleepless nights). It's a lovely sight, and one that may be familiar to you.

That's usually about the time my brain is empty enough to hear a still, small voice whisper:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

You see, contrary to popular belief, our peace doesn't really flow from our understanding, and in fact, God never promises we will always understand. Instead, our peace flows from a God whose thoughts are not our thoughts and whose ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55: 8).

Accepting that we won't always understand may feel frustrating at first, but ultimately, it's offers you and me relief. We may not understand, but God does, and He will not abandon us. Look at the promise that accompanies this verse, should we surrender our lives fully to Him: and he will make your paths straight.

What a blessing. I don't have to have it all figured out. I don't have to obtain all the answers. I don't have to lie awake sorting out every last detail. I can trust God, my Heavenly Father, to take care of the stuff that doesn't make any sense to me.

This is the beauty of being Christian. We aren't the biggest, most intelligent beings out there. God, the original Genius, is.

At the end of time, we will understand -- clearly -- because God will show us. And there will, no doubt, be some surprises. Until that time, we have a God smart enough to handle the most confounding problem, loving enough to earn our heartfelt devotion, and trustworthy enough to offer us genuine hope for our futures.

So if there's something about your life right now that you just don't understand, that's causing you pain and fueling your fears, meditate on Proverbs 3: 5- 7. Turn it around in your mind. Memorize it. And sleep well, tonight.

Further Reading:

Job 11: 7 - 9
Finding Financial Peace in Times of Uncertainty
Guiding the Family in Times of Uncertainty
Today, I want to make a difference.
Here I am Lord, use me!

Offline Judy Harder

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Re: Crosswalk.com--The Devotional
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2009, 07:58:44 am »
May 12, 2009

Editor's Note: This week, our editors will each be offering their unique reflections on the same verse - Proverbs 3:5-6. So much can be packed into just a few lines of the Bible, and God often speaks differently through His Word to different believers. We hope you walk away with a new appreciation for this beloved piece of scripture. You can view Monday's offering here.

The Bow & The Arrow
by Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Senior Editor

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6


Wisdom, suggests the book of Proverbs, is prized above all things. And wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. Therefore, the wisest thing one can do is to trust and honor God.

And trusting and honoring God, according to Proverbs 3, "not only delivers one from evil, but promises certain rewards" (Ryrie Study notes). Among them:

Longevity and peace (vv. 1-2)
Favor with God and man (vv. 3-4)
Health (vv. 7-8)
Prosperity (vv. 9-10)
Pretty good stuff. Stuff we all like, and seek hard after. Barns filled with plenty, length of days, refreshment to your bones. And yet...

The section of Proverbs 3 that we know, love, cherish, cling to, and quote most often is the part that promises not peace, not health, not abundance. It is the part that promises... guidance. "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths."

Let's not miss that. In this promise-rich poriton of scripture, the part we people cite more often than the others is the part about trusting God more than ourselves so that in our "ways" and "paths," we will know which way to go. We will know what to do. We will get there directly. We will be able to read the signposts planted by the Almighty. The child of God longs for and receives many gifts when he or she receives wisdom. Is it possible that the most highly prized among them is a highly-tuned sense of spiritual direction?

If you've ever listened to peers ponder or authors write about the subject of seeking / finding / learning / doing "God's will," then I think you might agree that the answer could just be yes. We long to serve, to offer ourselves worshipfully. To walk so closely with God that "in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Symbolically, what might this sense of direction, guidance, straight paths, and complete trust look like?

Perhaps... an arrow? Consider:

Arrows point the way to other destinations
Arrows indicate which way it is okay to turn
Arrows are straight and narrow
Arrows are colorful, sleek and efficient
Arrows attempt to hit the target, but sometimes "miss the mark"
Arrows can not be projected forward well by anything but the bow, they were made to fit into it ("Trust in the Lord with all your heart")
Arrows are completely dependant upon the bow, and they were made to go out from it ("do not lean on your own understanding")
Arrows discussing how they got somewhere without crediting the bow would sound ridiculous ("In all your ways acknowledge him")
Arrows, if properly knocked, fly true ("he will make your paths straight")
Today's verse appeared on the program for our wedding, because it has always been one of my wife's life verses. It is even more meaningful to me as I re-study it today because of something else I had written for Valerie long before she became my wife. I wrote the following thoughts about arrows for her after we had been dating for two months, just before she moved several states away from me:

I used to teach archery at camp in Texas. It's the kind of sport where it's not hard to find a few life metaphors -- hitting the target, nailing the bull's-eye, missing the mark... But in the arrow itself, I found a wealth of lessons. It's such a simple, effective, and elegant weapon, with its sleek shaft and colorful feathers, but it can't function without help. It needs the bow in order to reach its potential, to drive it forward, or it is worthless.

The arrow also has been prevalent in my doodles for as long as I can remember, probably due to its symbolic significance in direction and guidance. But take another look at the feathers -- do you notice how one, the one facing outward, is a different color? That's called the cock feather. It's unique in that it must face away from the bow, or outward, in order to fly straight when shot. As Christians, too often we cover up what's different about ourselves, and we wind up missing the mark, or sinning. But when our unique side faces outward for the world to see, we fly straight and true, exploding towards the target in a glorious burst of color.

What is unique and different about you? Your faith, poise, depth, and grace, to name a few. Keep those true colors facing boldly outward; trust the Lord's aim as He pulls back the string; fly straight. Let Him choose the targets, and you can't miss.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Wisdom is often called the greatest gift, and no wonder, because it brings with it so many other gifts, not least among them the sense of guidance and direction that flying forth from God's Great Bow brings. What gift of wisdom do you prize above others? Remember the example of the arrow when you wonder what it looks like to trust in the Lord with all your heart, and to acknowledge him in all your ways. A true straight arrow can do no other! It is nothing but ineffective flash apart from the bow!

Further Reading

Proverbs 1:7
Acts 17:28
Seven Lessons from Summer Camp
Today, I want to make a difference.
Here I am Lord, use me!

Offline Judy Harder

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Re: Crosswalk.com--The Devotional
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2009, 07:33:27 am »
May 13, 2009

On the Lack of Lightning Bolts
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

I memorized these verses years and years ago, along with John 3:16 and other verses that good little children in Sunday School learn. In my five-year-old mind, I associated the proverb with a mental picture of a road stretching out for miles until it merged with the horizon. That was the "straight road" that I could so easily understand -- clearly marked, unswerving, and, most importantly, unchanging. All I had to do was trust God and keep following that path. Little did I know, right?

At times the journey has felt more like an anecdote that Abraham Lincoln told of a man traveling through a thunderstorm. Through the mud and the sheets of rain, the poor traveler felt that he would lose his way entirely. The thunderclaps seemed right overhead, jolting his senses every few moments. Only the flashes of lightning helped him keep to the road. Finally, after a particularly loud crash, the man fell to his knees and cried, "O, Lord God, if it's all the same to you, I would like a little more light and little less noise!"

The major and minor uncertainties I've encountered -- and will encounter in the future -- often leave me with that sentiment. I think back to the promise of paths made straight and grumble that the signposts would be a lot easier to follow if they were in neon. We all ask, is this the career path you want me to take, God? Is this the man you want me to marry? Should I buy this house? Are we supposed to settle at this church? In what kind of school should we enroll the kids? God, I could really use a lightning bolt to clarify things!

It's easy to forget that the proverb reserves the promise until the last quarter of the verse, not the first. Review the wording of verse 6 with me. "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

I memorized this verse years ago, but I'm still learning it by heart. Task-oriented person that I am, it's easier to visualize myself making "progress" towards a goal than it is to stop and refocus on inner attitudes. It doesn't occur to me that part the plan is simply standing still, waiting, and listening. I demand lightning bolts to see God's working rather than taking responsibility for the part assigned to me. My part lies in the trusting, the repudiating of self, and a settled confidence that he will work all things for his purpose. Then.. the path is straightened. We may not even realize it this side of heaven, but the promise is that he guides our feet when our eyes are on him.

I fully believe that the Lord guides us in specific ways -- through the Word, through the counsel of godly mentors, through nudges of the Holy Spirit -- and yet we get caught up in the road metaphor a little too much. We're so distracted looking for the path that we forget a lifestyle of worship. To an extent, it matters less what we're doing than how we're doing it. As Paul wrote, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)

The wonder of God's plan for us lies in this -- in taking our eyes off the road at our feet and looking to him, God finds our way for us.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Step one: trust in the Lord with all your heart. Step tw do not lean on your own understanding. Step three: in all your ways acknowledge him. Result: whatever your path, he will direct your steps and make your path straight.

Further Reading:
Psalms 37:34
Philippians 1:4-6
Waiting on the Promises of God
Today, I want to make a difference.
Here I am Lord, use me!

Offline Judy Harder

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Re: Crosswalk.com--The Devotional
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2009, 08:12:21 am »
May 14, 2009

But I Know That's Where I Parked!
by Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com Senior Entertainment Editor

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV


Sometimes our own understanding can get a little distorted. Or just be flat-out wrong.

That's what happened to me last week. Like the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and his friends get lost in the parking garage of a mall, so was it for me.

It was a quick trip to return an item of clothing that I had bought online. I'll just stop in and return. No fuss no muss. Or so I thought. As I pulled into the parking garage, I made a note to self that I had parked on Level 2 in the Blue Garage. Perfect! The store is only one floor up on Level 3. I got in and out of the mall fairly quickly. I thought I was retracing my steps and the path I took to get there, and soon found myself back in the Blue Garage. But the only problem was, I had forgotten that I was still on Level 3.

I walked directly toward where I thought I had parked. Okay, there's that white expensive car. And mine should be just a couple of spaces over from it ... right over ... hey, where's my car? Panic set in. My heart began to race. Who would have taken my car? It's six years old. A sport wagon. Not that exciting.

I then decided to walk up a level. Perhaps I had the wrong level in mind. I'll check Level 4. Round the winding ramp I went. No car in sight. Even more desperate now, I quickly walked back down to Level 3. But I know that's where I parked! I can't believe this is happening to me! Why would someone want to steal my car?

I knew I'd have to find the mall security office in order to report my stolen vehicle and then figure out how to get back home. Suddenly (and providentially, no doubt), a mall security car came down the ramp toward me. I waved my hand to flag it down. The guard rolled down the window. Hellooo, Antonio Banderas!< I kid you not. He looked exactly like the actor. Slicked back hair and everything. Cool! He's working mall security incognito now. Probably research for his next film role.

I proceeded to share my predicament, and the guard offered to help me find my vehicle. "Hop in. We'll drive around and see if we can find your car." Then, "Antonio" suggested we go down a level, when we couldn't find my car on either Level 3 or Level 4. Naturally, as soon as we rounded the corner to Level 2, I immediately saw my vehicle. "There it is! Oh, thank you, Lord!" I exclaimed.

It's funny now, but my parking garage saga is a perfect illustration of what happens when we rely on our own understanding. We can't trust ourselves. Our minds will shape our memories or judgments into what we want them to be. And we can easily make our own truth. You may think you're doing the right thing by spending time looking for direction and answers in your life on Level 3, when all along God is trying to lead you back to Level 2.

In times like these, we are not acknowledging the Lord. His understanding is a whole lot different than our own. He knows what is best for us. And he can see what we cannot.

Before heading out on today's path, may I encourage you to write God's Word on your heart? Make mental notes to yourself of Truth and his promises to you. It is the only way--and how we are commanded--to get accurate direction for our lives.


Intersecting Faith & Life: Have you walked some crooked paths in your lifetime? Spend some time reflecting on a particular incident where you relied on your own understanding. Write down the results. Did you eventually submit and acknowledge God's authority to direct your ways? What were the results? We are the ones who cause our paths to become crooked, and he is the one who patiently--and lovingly--makes them straight.


Further Reading

Psalm 4:5
Isaiah 40:3
Today, I want to make a difference.
Here I am Lord, use me!

Offline Judy Harder

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Re: Crosswalk.com--The Devotional
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2009, 08:32:10 am »
Editor's Note: This week, our editors have offered their unique reflections on the same verse - Proverbs 3:5-6. So much can be packed into just a few lines of the Bible, and God often speaks differently through His Word to different believers. We hope you walked away with a new appreciation for this beloved piece of scripture.

May 15, 2009

Trust His Heart
by Meghan Kleppinger

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 3:5-6, NAS

Whether it be financial, relational, spiritual, or physical troubles (and don't they all seem to come at the same time?), it's easy to find ourselves questioning God and His plan for our lives.

Christian singer Babbie Mason's song, Trust His Heart, addresses these times of hardship. I heard this song for the first time when I was a preteen, and its moving lyrics continue to encourage me now in my adult years. I sing the chorus whenever I'm going through one of life's rough patches.

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart

These aren't just lyrics of a song, they're descriptions of God's character and reminders of His promises as told through scripture.

1. God is too wise to be mistaken
"To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his." (Job 12:13) (NIV)

"But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. (Jeremiah 10:12) (NIV)

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" (Romans 11:33) (NIV)

2. God is too good to be unkind
"O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" (Psalms 34:8) (NAS)

"Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me." (Psalm 69:16) (NIV)

"Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." (1 Peter 2, 3) (NAS)

3. So when you don't understand, When you don't see His plan, When you can't trace His hand, Trust His heart

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.'" (Psalm 31:14)

"For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11) (NAS)

Isn't good to know that we when we are afraid or in the middle of circumstance we don't understand, that we can trust the ways of our wise and wonderful God!

Intersecting Faith & Life: Commit scriptures to memory that remind you of God's character and share the confidence you have in Him.

Further Reading

Use Means But Don't Trust in Means, Trust in God, by John Piper


 
Today, I want to make a difference.
Here I am Lord, use me!

Offline Judy Harder

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Re: Crosswalk.com--The Devotional
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2009, 08:46:05 am »
May 18, 2009

Bearing With One Another
by Sarah Jennings, Crosswalk.com Family Editor


Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3: 13-14

Sometimes I think the biggest stumbling block to living the Christian life exists in our interactions with other Christians. Those who profess faith in Christ are very capable of hurting each other -- perhaps even unusually "gifted" at it.

Yes, fellowship within the Church can be wonderfully fulfilling, offering true glimpses of the unity we will experience in heaven. But (as life frequently reminds us) we're not in heaven yet, so our relationships with one another often fall short of the "Beatific Vision."

So what do we do when we're faced with failure in our relationships, especially when our fellow Christians fail to meet our expectations? Much has been said about the necessity of forgiving trespassers. Scripture makes it clear we are to imitate Christ and show mercy to those who have wronged us, and counselors have written extensively on the personal freedom one finds in forgiving even the most terrible sins. But I think sometimes it's not the huge transgressions that challenge us most. Sometimes it's the smaller infractions that wear on our souls.

Perhaps you've observed imperfections in another that open personal wounds, rub you the wrong way or just plain annoy you. Perhaps there is someone in your life that consistently brings out your ugly side or whose presence simply symbolizes something you desire but have not achieved. This kind of pain is often absorbed interiorly. There's no public stand to take, no 12-step program designed to walk you through. Over time, we may find that we begin to keep count of this person's failings. We may catch ourselves gossiping about them or avoiding them in our daily lives. Each infraction is like a small stone that eventually builds a wall around the heart, a wall that stands not only between you and that person but also between you and Christ.

One of my favorite Christian heroes, St. Therese of Lisieux, faced such a situation in her community of cloistered Carmelite nuns. Behind the walls of her tranquil convent, relational strife simmered. Some nuns had maddeningly annoying habits that interfered with prayerful contemplation whereas others displayed a variety of mundane vices like laziness or sloppiness. St. Therese had a personal dislike for a particular nun who often acted unhappy and critical. She sought ways to avoid this person in her daily tasks -- until she realized she was failing to love one of God's children. Therese had personally experienced Christ's love, with full knowledge of her invisible imperfections, so how could she justify failing to love this nun just because her faults were visible?

As her heart changed, so did her actions. Therese chose to smile at this young woman every time she passed her. She displayed unusual grace in their interactions, always ready to help with a task or share a kind word.

The change in Therese's demeanor did not go unnoticed. This nun made note to others that it seemed Therese had an unusual affection for her, and she began to return Therese's smiles.

I realize I would do well to imitate Therese more often. I struggle with the small acts of charity, the little things that only God notices. Yet, the decision to love in even the most seemingly insignificant ways transforms hearts. And while Therese's actions may not have brought on world peace, they brought Christ's peace to her world.

Intersecting Faith & Life: While it's good to speak out against wrong, some situations call for a silent gesture of love and grace. This week, perform a small act of kindness towards a person you find challenging to love. Remember that Christ knows all of our faults, yet His love never wavers.

Further Reading

Matthew 18: 15
The Command to Forgive

 
Today, I want to make a difference.
Here I am Lord, use me!

Offline Judy Harder

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Re: Crosswalk.com--The Devotional
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2009, 08:08:06 am »
May 19, 2009

Anything and Everything
by Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Senior Editor

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Romans 8:32


My children, aged almost-six and almost-four, know my weakness.

They know it's not ice cream, baseball, or their mom's chili... or even a hug or puppy-dog eyes from them.

See, none of the above make me cry (although the chili almost did once). Yes, my children have seen their father cry. It's not something I wanted, or intended. I'm a man, after all. I go to work, show my strength. I coach, help, show, point, and guide. I communicate, discipline, and lead. I pray. I do not cry.

...Except when I read Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, that is.

And like I said, my children know this. And oh, do they twist that knife, the little devils. We must own a couple hundred children's books, but if it's a night where Daddy is doing the bedtime reading rather than Mommy, what do they invariangly pick (while smirking)? Of course! The Giving Tree!

I've been reading this book, first published in 1964, since I myself was a child, and no matter how many times I do, I am unable to de-sensitize. I mean, when I watch the movie Field of Dreams and Ray has a catch with his ghost-dad, that gets me. But if I see the scene over and over within a certain time frame? Nah. No sweat, no tears. But this blasted children's book... well... what's going on here?

First of all, you're probably wondering that very thing if you aren't familiar with the story. A tree and a boy are the best of friends during an idyllic childhood for the young man where he eats apples from the tree, climbs her trunk, swings from her branches, and rests in her shade. Then things change, as things do, and we see the boy approach the tree at all the various stages of his life, caught up - understandably, even - more in wanting and needing than in just being. Every time he has a "need," the tree obliges... and is happy for having done so. She doesn't have much, but gives all she has until eventually, she is nothing but a stump. At the end of all things, however, it turns out a stump is just what the old man needs - a quiet place to sit down and rest and reflect. "And the tree was happy. The end."

And I am undone... again.

Is it because I am reading the story to my children, and I know our stories will be very much like that of the tree and the boy, where they are my delight but eventually I must simply become provider as they go out into the world? Yes and no.

Is it because our family copy of the book - the one I read to the kids - carries an inscription from my wife on our first Christmas as husband and wife that says, "With God's help, may I love you like this"? Yes and no.

Is it because I once read the book aloud at at emotional family Thanksgiving, illustrating how we too infrequently practice the "giving" half of the word? Yes and no.

Is it because as my father lay dying seven years ago that I told him of the story (he wasn't familiar with it), and how he had been that tree for me? That's definitely part of it. My mother, I remember, commented that she didn't recall it being a "Christian" book. I didn't really have an answer to that, only to what I saw in it. Which is...

Complete love to the point of emptying. Unquestioning sacrifice, even for someone who isn't appreciating or understanding what they've been given. A desire only to have communion. An entering into final rest. In other words, a perfect example of the immensity of what Jesus did for me, desired from me, provides for me, and will carry me to.

That is why I always cry.

So every time I finish the story, eyes full of tears, my kids look at me as if to say, "Are you okay?" My little one asks, "Why you cry, Dad?" And every time I explain, I think she understands just the tiniest bit more. These are tears of being overwhelmed by the enormity of the giver and the gift. I only pray these children will open their hearts and receive it, and that they won't miss the other lesson: all our Giver really wants in return is our time, for us to come to Him as we did as children.

Intersecting Faith & Life: But can any of us actually hope to become more like the tree in the story? Parents know what it means to give every last ounce of everything they are to the betterment of their children. We have reason for doing so. Do you know anyone who empties themselves this way for those they don't have a familial reason to love? What steps can you take to emulate their Christ-like, unconditional love?

Further Reading

Giving is What Living is All About
2 Corinthians 8:3-12
Today, I want to make a difference.
Here I am Lord, use me!

Offline Judy Harder

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Re: Crosswalk.com--The Devotional
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2009, 07:35:49 am »
May 20, 2009

The Forgotten Vital Organ
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor


“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” – Proverbs 18:21

I have decided that many, many medical textbooks are wrong. Each and every one of them has actually left out a vital organ. Yes, they’ve remembered the heart and the brain and even that strange thing called a pancreas (I know it’s important, I just forget why sometimes). But look through the books all you want, and you’ll find not one mention of the most obvious vital organ of all: the tongue.

Then again, I myself often choose to ignore the importance of the tongue. I’d rather not believe it has “the power of life and death.” I’d like to pretend my tongue is more like an appendix or a gall bladder – easy to forget about because it’s not that important – but that’s just not the case. Snapping at my family when I’m tired, nagging, and complaining all release a poison from my tongue that works its way through my whole being (James 3:6). Not only that, I infect others with my attitudes and motivations. I begin to spread a disease.

Contrast that with the “words of the wise,” as Proverbs calls it many times. Their words heal and strengthen as they spread encouragement, wisdom, peace, and the Gospel message. Oh, and – get this – they actually use their tongues less than other people. The more powerful the tongue, the less it needs to be used. It’s like the heart of a well-trained athlete – when someone is really in shape, the beats per minute actually decrease as the heart becomes more and more efficient. In the same way, why don’t I condition my tongue to speak fewer words with more meaning?

In Genesis 1, God spoke into the darkness, and there was light. Those “mere words” created something from nothing, showing the power of speaking out. My pastor in college told us that this verse had meaning for us, too, since we are created in God’s image. We are meant to speak out and bring light from the darkness as He did. That’s the power of the tongue in a crazy world. The question is whether we choose to speak light or just add to the darkness.

That little muscle called the tongue holds the power of life and death. That’s no small matter. So let’s be careful how we exercise it.

Intersection of Faith & Life: Grab a concordance and look up the words “mouth” and “tongue.” The reference lists are extensive. It gets even bigger if you include the words “speak” and “words.” Then, take a seven day challenge to “tame the tongue” in just one way. Try encouraging instead of complaining. Even taming just that one area is like trying to control a wildfire (James 3:5). Don’t get discouraged, but take each opportunity to thank God for the “new song” that He has given you to sing (Psalm 40:3).

Further Reading:

Christians and Cussin’
Prayer or Gossip?
The Tongue: Life or Death in Our Marriage?
Today, I want to make a difference.
Here I am Lord, use me!

Offline Judy Harder

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Re: Crosswalk.com--The Devotional
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2009, 07:47:22 am »
May 21, 2009

The Race of Faith and the Scenery of God's Grace
by Mike Pohlman, Editor, Christianity.com

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
1 Corinthians 9:24

The only thing keeping my feet moving was the scenery. As I ran through my new city of Richmond, Virginia what I lacked in energy I made up for in curiosity. What scenic treasures awaited me along my route?

I stumbled upon the historic "Canal Walk"--a partial restoration of Richmond's historic canal system begun in 1785 and completed in 1840. Various monuments along the way tell the story. It is billed as "George Washington's vision come to life." Before the railroad made the canals basically obsolete in the 1880s (at which time they stretched 197 miles as far as Lynchburg), the waterways teemed with hundreds of boats carrying various goods such as tobacco and wheat along with many passengers. 

Once there I remembered a gentleman talking about Belle Island and a 1.5 mile trail that loops through the 54 acre park that once housed a Civil War prison camp for Union soldiers. My pace picked up as I became excited about the destination. Along the nearly two mile journey I was pleasantly distracted by The American Civil War Center, the James River with its roaring rapids and the massive Robert E. Lee Bridge straddling the shores.   

I was reminded anew how much easier runs are when you're excited about the scenery. The legs don't hurt as much, breathing isn't as difficult and the pace actually quickens. More than just "getting the miles in," you feel exhilaration in the exercise.

As I exited the pedestrian bridge onto Belle Island my thoughts moved to how the Christian life is like a run. It requires endurance, perseverance, diligent effort. And just as the scenery on a run helps one endure, the "scenery" of God's grace helps weary saints persevere in their faith.

Do I see it? Is it new everyday? Does it excite me? Move me? Leave me in awe?

I was challenged to behold the beauty of Jesus' blood shed for me; the awesome power of His resurrection that conquered death; His unwavering advocacy on my behalf before the Father; the treasure of His perfect righteousness imputed to me. In a word, the cross and all it accomplished and represents for those who trust in Him. This, at least in part, is the glorious "scenery" of God's grace that helps fuel our run of faith.

Intersecting Faith & Life: I want to run in such a way as to win the prize--to hear my Lord say, "Well done good and faithful servant ... Enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:23). To get to that finish line, I pray that God grants me eyes to see the wonders of His grace in Christ Jesus--scenery worthy of our eternal gaze.
Today, I want to make a difference.
Here I am Lord, use me!

Offline Judy Harder

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Re: Crosswalk.com--The Devotional
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2009, 07:41:38 am »
May 22, 2009

How's Your Heart?
 by Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com Senior Entertainment Editor

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24, NIV

It's easy to be fooled into thinking that your heart is in pretty good condition. And so perhaps you've had thoughts like this:

I'm a good person.

I attend church twice a week.

I go to a weekly Bible study.

I keep up with my daily devotionals.

I volunteer in my community.

I tithe to my church.

I'm kind to my family.

I pray for my friends.

Sound familiar? We can focus on the peripheral so much so that we forget to dig a little deeper and see what's really going on inside our hearts. 

Well, I've discovered a sure-fire method that will quickly expose the condition of the heart. That's right. Here it is: it's driving. Yes. D-R-I-V-I- N-G. 

When you're driving, its seems like the real you comes out to play. I know that I would never want someone to record the thoughts that go through my mind or the words that exit my mouth when I'm driving. They're not R-rated, but I sure wouldn't want them inscribed on my tombstone. 

These thoughts happen fairly regularly. Like recently, as I made my way through a sketchy part of the city. I encountered folks driving way below the speed limit. Other folks cut me off while trying to get in front of other slow drivers in other lanes. And another driver took up two lanes while trying to make a left-hand turn (!!!).

In these incidents, what I thought really shocked me. Afterward, I immediately wondered, Did I really think that? My heart is so ugly. Oh dear God. Please help me!

I'm not telling you what I was thinking, because I am ashamed. But I will tell you this: it enlightened me. My thoughts shone a light in the dark corners of my heart. I saw how horribly corroded and nasty it was-like what you experience when you pull up the stopper from your kitchen garbage disposal. Foul!

I saw the judgment. I saw the pride. I saw the lack of love and forgiveness. It's gunk that needs to be cleaned out-really bleached out-on a consistent basis. But bleach smells, it's strong and it stings. Who wants to willingly submit to that? It's hard to do, but it's absolutely essential if we are to stay spiritually healthy and heart smart.

While I'm disappointed in my condition, I'm thankful that driving is doing such a good job of testing me and exposing what's in my heart. And until I'm old and decrepit and can't maneuver a moving vehicle anymore, I know that my next heart check is just one keyed ignition, one gear change and one gas pedal away.

Intersecting Faith & Life: If not driving, are there other situations or activities in your life that "put the squeeze" on you and really show what's going on in your heart? Maybe it's an individual who just knows how to push your buttons. Or perhaps the ugliness comes out when you're dealing with customer service personnel. Whatever it is that exposes the ugliness, ask the Lord to examine what is there and to change you from the inside out.

Further Reading

Jesus Christ:  Heart Radiologist in Residence
Motives Matter in the Workplace
Today, I want to make a difference.
Here I am Lord, use me!

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