Author Topic: Crosswalk.com--The Devotional  (Read 50102 times)

Offline Judy Harder

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Re: Crosswalk.com--The Devotional
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2009, 07:47:01 am »
May 25, 2009

The Grunt Padre
by Sarah Jennings, Crosswalk.com Family Editor

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15: 13

Memorial Day has always been a mixed holiday. We cook out, laugh, enjoy life, and thank God for our freedom. Yet overshadowing the lighthearted festivities is the price paid for our freedom: the death of our service men and women. Today, I'd like to remember a particular serviceman, a man whose life exemplified what it means to give oneself fully to both God and country.

Vincent Robert Capodanno was born in Staten Island, NY, in 1929. He accepted Christ as a young man, and spent his young adulthood as a missionary priest in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

But, not one to hold anything back from the Lord, he desired to serve God in even more challenging circumstances than these. Father Capodanno requested an assignment with the Navy during a difficult era in our nation's history: the Vietnam War.

As U.S. Navy Chaplain with the 7th and 5th Marines, Capodanno ministered to Marines of all backgrounds, drawing everyone he encountered into a deeper relationship with Christ. According to the official website dedicated to his canonization (http://www.vincentcapodanno.org/), the chaplain radiated the love of Christ and, "gained a reputation for always being there - -for always taking care of his Marines."

On September 4th, 1967, Fr. Capodanno's reputation proved true to the end. The 1st Battalion, 5th Marines encountered a Vietnamese Unit of 2,500 men near the village of Dong Son. The Marines were greatly outnumbered, and a bitter battle ensued.

After sustaining 26 deaths, Company D requested the assistance of Chaplain Capodanno's company. The chaplain could have stayed behind but insisted on joining his men on the battlefield.

Not long after approaching the village of Chau Lam, Capodanno and his comrades became trapped on a small knoll, engaged in intense, close-range battle. Fr. Capodanno bravely ministered to the wounded and dying in spite of his own painful wounds and the danger of enemy fire only a few feet away.

Marine Ray Harton remembers the battle well. He was hit and thought he was going to die. As recounted in a 2006 interview with the National Catholic Register, Harton shared what he experienced while he faded in and out of consciousness on the battlefield:

"When I looked it was Father Capodanno... He was down on his knees, his left arm behind my head. He said in a real calm voice, 'Stay calm, Marine, someone will be here to help soon. God is with us all here today.'"

The badly wounded chaplain could no longer use his right hand, so he gave Harton a blessing with his left. In that moment, God's peace overwhelmed Harton in a way he'd never experienced before.

Just moments later, Fr. Capodanno was killed as he left Harton's side to reach another dying comrade. News of the beloved Capodanno's death hit his men hard.

Father Vincent Capodanno posthumously received the military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty." While this award is truly special, something tells me that this Marine received an even greater reward in heaven.

Father Vincent Capodanno is just one of the many heroic men and women who forfeited their lives to serve this country -- to preserve, among many things, our freedom of religion. As we celebrate Memorial Day, take a moment to remember those who followed Christ to their own crosses so that you and I might live life more abundantly.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Chaplain Capodanno was a quiet man, but he served the Lord with boldness. In what ways could you serve the Lord more boldly?

Further Reading

Galatians 5: 13
The Grunt Padre by Father Daniel Mode (CMJ Publications, 2000)

Sources:

Pronechen, Joseph. "He Died With His Men." National Catholic Register. 26 May 20006: http://www.catchingthespirit.net/capodanno.htm

Vincent Capodanno Foundation: http://www.vincentcapodanno.org/
 

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 #11 on: May 26, 2009, 07:53:18 am »
May 26, 2009

Immune to Blessing
by Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Senior Editor

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3


Our company has a set of really great tickets to the local Triple-A baseball team, just three rows behind the home dugout. Earlier this season, I got to use them to take my 5-year-old son to his first game. My wife and I took Jordan and his pal Victor, watched them gorge on hot dogs and sno-cones while dancing hilariously to every song blared over the loudspeaker, and had a grand ol' time.

Making the experience even richer was that the boys, who brought their baseball gloves, got not one... not two... but THREE baseballs that night! One was given by an older gentleman who had snagged a foul ball earlier. Another we caught ourselves. The third came when one of the fielders who had caught it as the final out of an inning tossed it into the crowd on his way back to the dugout. Of course, the moment that made me the most proud was when the boys, already with one ball each, decided that it would be nice to give the third one to a kid who hadn't gotten a ball yet. It was hard not to get a little misty watching my son seek out a younger boy of a different race and ask if he'd like to have a ball. I just love baseball.

Then came game two.

The next time we got to use the tickets, we took Jordan and his little sister. Again it was an idyllic evening, but this time... no foul balls. My son was hard to console on the way to the car. The little guy had no framework to understand what I was telling him - that of all the games I have been to in my life, I have never come away with a ball, outside of our last trip to the park. Most fans don't. The reason we bring our gloves just boils down to faith. But he still couldn't get it. How could we have gotten so many balls last time, but none tonight? What did we do wrong?

Game three, just a couple nights ago. It was the sixth inning, and still no balls. Jordan was losing hope, getting a little grumpy. He looked up at me and said, "I've decided that if we don't get a ball I'm not going to be happy. If we do get a ball, I'm going to be happy."

Well... My 'teachable moment' alarm went off, but as usually happens, so did my 'not just for Jordan' alarm. I had a second to carefully consider what to say and use as an example.

I put my hand on his little Red Sox cap and bent down to whisper to him. "That's pretty wise what you said, son, and you might not even realize it. It IS your decision. Since that's true, if you wanted to, you could make a different decision. You might decide to be happy anyway, just because you're here with me, and not in bed yet, and watching a great game on a beautiful night, and hoping like crazy for a shot at a ball. That way, whether we get one or not, we still win, because we're still happy."

He didn't say anything, but somehow, I could tell I'd hit home, probably because his demeanor changed ever so slightly. Then, I spent most of the next inning silently considering the ramifications for myself of what I had just sold my son. Words from my own past and present came to mind. "If I get this job... if I don't hit traffic... if the house isn't a mess... if I get recognized for what I did... if I'm appreciated... if I get a raise... then I'll be happy..."

There's a reason why the Beatitudes intermingle the word "blessed" (meaning happy) with a lot of circumstances that don't sound altogether happy. Meekness, being poor in spirit, and making peace hardly seem like the parts of a happy life or time. But being happy based only on whether things work out how we think is almost as odd to consider as being happy at all because there's so much suffering and hardship around us, whether it's happening directly to us at the time or not.

Joy is consistent, happiness is fleeting, and blessedness is always going on whether we take time to recognize it. But when we do? It's like catching a baseball at every game you attend.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Incidentally, we did end up getting a ball in that third game. A player threw it to me, and a pre-teen snatched it out of my glove. But when he saw who I was catching it for, he handed it to Jordan. I didn't expect that, and neither did my son. That was the blessing that night. On the way out of the park, Jordan walked to the boy's seat to thank him, as did I. He was shy about it, and maybe even regretting giving up his prize. Do you ever regret showing mercy, doing right, or making peace? If life is like a baseball game, what do you think - should we attend expecting or not expecting a foul ball to come our way?

Further Reading

Blessed are the Persecuted
Abundance


 
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 #12 on: May 27, 2009, 08:21:27 am »
May 27, 2009

Trust at High Speeds
Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. -- Psalm 9:10

I had been on a WaveRunner before. No problem, I told to myself as I climbed on behind my husband this weekend. I looked down at the brackish water that was more chilly than refreshing and told myself firmly, remember, you like going on adventures with him. Sure enough, David looked back and grinned at me when we got away from the dock. Then he gunned it.

Jumping on a WaveRunner seems easy when I'm the one driving, because then I get to decide just how sharply I want to make my little WaveRunner bank to catch that big wake. Or I can keep shooting out towards the Chesapeake Bay and avoid the wake altogether if I want. I can slow down if I scare myself, and I only "catch some air" if I'm good and ready -- which, in reality, is almost never. Riding behind someone else, however, even when I trust him more than anyone, demands a leap of faith. The only thing I have to hang onto is his life jacket, and he gets to make the decisions while I peer over his shoulder. It's hard to anticipate or even see what is coming next, and leaning the wrong way when we bank could throw me into the cold water at 50 miles per hour.

The truth is, I'm a chicken when it comes to jetskis. Out on the open water, the wind stinging my eyes and convincing me that I'm about to fly off my seat, I'm pushed out of my comfort zone and into something more exhilarating than I'd wander into by myself. And the whole experience stems from letting someone else in the driver's seat without even a seatbelt for me. David knows I don't want to capsize, and he directs the WaveRunner accordingly. But he doesn't let me get too comfortable, because then we might as well take the paddleboat out and save gas. He makes sure we get the full experience of saltwater, fun, and incredible views.

I know I can trust my husband because he loves me -- that's why I follow him out every time we head for the Bay, and even ask if he'll let me ride with him. If that's the case, how much more should I trust my Heavenly Father, who knows my fears, needs, and weaknesses far better! God desires to take us on an adventure that let us experience Him and His creation more fully and joyfully than we can imagine.

Focusing on our fear of some abstract unknown keeps us from being open to the adventure unfolding before our eyes every day. We tend to forget God's amazing promise, that "the LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deut. 31:8) Fear and worry indicates that we don't really believe that promise, and that we think we'd do a better job steering. Instead, when we make a conscious decision to trust the Lord -- even when life is way too busy and fast for our liking -- we find the peace to take a deep breath, smell the salty air, and enjoy where He is taking us.

Intersecting Faith & Life: If you're comfortable with life now, are you open to changes in God's plan for you? If life is crazy now, do you try too hard to make sure everything is under control, instead of resting in God's promises? Roll down your car window for a minute today and feel the wind rushing by. Remember that the Lord of the universe, the One who controls the wind and the seas, calls us cast all our cares on Him. (I Peter 5:7)

Further Reading:

Proverbs 19:21
Philippians 4:6-7
The War over Worry
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 #13 on: May 28, 2009, 08:24:29 am »
May 28, 2009

Longing for the Last Trumpet
by Mike Pohlman, Editor, Christianity.com

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52

Grandpa Erickson was a Navy man. That's why there was a flag ceremony at his gravesite last Saturday. Having served in the South Pacific during WWII, Grandpa Erickson was appropriately honored with the playing of "Taps" on the trumpet and a "Final Salute" by two representatives from the United States Navy. The presentation of the American flag to his beloved wife Carol left few eyes dry.

I had the privilege of conducting the gravesite service--no little pressure given that we're talking about my mother-in-law's dad. The pressure, however, was welcome as the funeral gave me the opportunity to offer comfort to a grieving family.

I began my brief remarks by recognizing the two distinct emotional currents that undoubtedly flowed through the couple dozen people gathered namely, sorrow and joy.

We experience sorrow at the loss of a loved one because deep down we know death is not the way it's supposed to be. Therefore, we grieve. But as Christians we do not "grieve as others do who have no hope" (1 Thess. 4:13). Death will not have the final word; there is hope beyond the grave for those, like Grandpa Erickson, who die in Christ.

We hear this hope, for example, when Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death" (Jn. 8:51). A staggering promise, indeed.

I concluded my portion of the service by acknowledging the Navy representative that would come forward to play "Taps" on the trumpet. "As beautiful as this will be," I said, "I want to point us to another trumpet--one that will sound grander and more glorious than anything we can imagine."

It's what the Apostle Paul calls the "last trumpet." The thought of it was, in part, the inspiration behind Handel's "Messiah." And yet, as beautiful as Handel's symphony is, I imagine the last trumpet will make Handel's work sound like a garage band in comparison.

For the last trumpet is what announces the second coming of the Lord Jesus. This trumpet will herald the return of the King of kings and Lord of lords--the time when the dead in Christ shall rise to sing, "Death is swallowed up in victory!" What a choir this will be! It's the sound that will usher in the new heavens and the new earth, and that climactic moment when every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This is the trumpet sound I long to hear.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Ask yourself some probing questions today like, "Am I viewing my current circumstances in the light of eternity?" "What things in my life might be hindering me from longing for the last trumpet?" "What am I doing to help others see life in the light of eternity?"

Further Reading

2 Corinthians 4:7 -- 5:10
The Bible and the Future, Anthony Hoekema
Heaven, Randy Alcorn

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 #14 on: May 29, 2009, 07:54:24 am »
May 29, 2009

I Want My Fried Chicken!
by Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com Senior Entertainment Editor

The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.
Lamentations 3:25, NIV

Ugh. Why won't this line go ANY faster?

I remember thinking this many times while standing in line at Highland Park Cafeteria as a child. At that age, it was my favorite restaurant in the entire world. Why? Because I could select whatever I wanted to eat from a long, long line of hot pans that were overseen by friendly people in white shower caps and plastic gloves. 

We only went to this cafeteria for special occasions: out-of-town relatives coming to visit or Thanksgiving (if mom didn't want to cook; and that only happened once that I can remember, so we're talking really special). 

Even though I could select whatever I wanted to eat, I usually picked the very same entree: fried chicken. Everything else at the cafeteria was surely tasty and most likely good, but in my mind the fried chicken was the "holy grail" of food and represented what I really wanted most.

As I would wait in line, I would lean over and crane my neck as far as possible so I could see down to where the fried chicken was. I would closely watch the dark meat count (drumsticks and thighs), as I was fearful that there wouldn't be enough for me by the time I got there. What if they run out and I have to wait? I can't hold up the line, and Dad and Mom will probably make me select something else. No!!!!!! I want my fried chicken!

It's hard to remember if I ever did miss out on fried chicken at the cafeteria; it's been so long ago now. But recently I felt like I was missing out on some "fried chicken" as an adult in the cafeteria line of life.

It was during a week when everyone else seemed like they were getting what they wanted while moving through the line--the "good things" that I wanted in my life, too. And I felt like I was left with only a paper napkin and some packaged saltine crackers, while everyone else was getting the "fried chicken."  Things like weddings, babies, career success, big vacations and yes ... even cute shoes (it's a female thing). When would it be my turn? How long would I have to wait to get something good? 

And then it hit me. Maybe what I think is a good thing is not necessarily what God thinks is a good thing for my life right now. Ohhhh. If I could just rest in this notion (Isaiah 55:8-9) and stop looking around and comparing, it sure would be a lot easier (and less work for my aching, craning neck).

My head knows that if I am truly seeking the Lord and his will for my life, then I will want what he wants for me--including what he thinks is good for my life. My priorities should change and my desires should line up with his. But sometimes it takes my heart a little while to catch up, to surrender my desire for "fried chicken" and to accept what God wants for me.

When I pause to think I about it, I know that I already have good things in my life--and in fact, they are "perfect" for me as defined by Scripture (James 1:17). I just don't always see them as such. 

Father, may you reveal today what we are clinging to that may not be good as you define it. Help us to put our hope in YOU for you alone are good, and you are the source of every good thing in our lives.


Intersecting Faith & Life: What represents "fried chicken" to you in your life's cafeteria line? Are you willing to let it go, to seek what God wants for you and to thank him for what he deems "good" in your life? Today, make it your aim to "taste and see that the LORD is good" (Psalm 34:8). And purpose to take your refuge in him. 


Further Reading

Matthew 7:11
Ephesians 3:16-19

 
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 #15 on: June 01, 2009, 07:30:03 am »
June 1, 2009

Fiery Faith
by Sarah Jennings, Crosswalk.com Family Editor


And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2: 2-4

This weekend we celebrated Pentecost, one of the oldest feast days on the Christian calendar. It traditionally falls on the 50th day of Easter, marking the close of the season - and talk about ending things with a bang.


The spectacular scene described here has understandably captured the fascination of countless artists through the ages. While traveling in Spain, I was blessed to encounter one such painting by El Greco which quickly became a favorite of mine. The vibrant piece, stretching from floor to ceiling, portrays the Apostles and Jesus' mother Mary with rapturous facial expressions illuminated by the brilliant flames of God's Spirit hovering above their heads. The fiery tongues seem to be the only source of light in the room -- anything outside the reach of the Holy Spirit's glow quickly fades from dazzling color into shadowy darkness.

And yet for all the glory of that moment, the moments leading up to the descent of the Holy Spirit were, according to Scripture, filled with fear and uncertainty. Even after all the stunning events they'd witnessed in the days following Jesus' resurrection, the apostles were hunkered down and hiding in the days following Christ's second goodbye, His ascension. But after a pregnant pause, God came through for this fearful bunch, and the Church was officially born.

Pentecost reminds me that even those who witnessed the miracles of Christ firsthand succumbed to uncertainty and fear. Fickleness, fear, and frailty -- they're all part of the human condition, even among the most faithful.

Pentecost also reminds me that while God often works in seemingly ordinary ways, sometimes He bursts through the veil that separates heaven and earth and wows us beyond our wildest hopes and dreams. He doesn't wait for us to be perfect or holy to bless us with His presence, but instead fills our frail selves with His glory and empowers us to do great things.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Do you remember times in your faith when you were truly "on fire" for God? When His presence was tangible and your heart was willing to go wherever He led you? Reflect on those times, and ask God to renew your fire for Him.

Further Reading

1 Corinthians 12: 4-7

John 20: 19-23
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 #16 on: June 02, 2009, 09:14:49 am »
June 2, 2009

Elbows & Ears
by Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Senior Editor

I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.
Exodus 6:6

Be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
Psalm 4:1

Once, when my son was just shy of three years old, he informed his mother he was drawing a picture of God.

"What does God look like?" she asked.

"Well, I put some elbows and some ears," he replied, and he went back to his work.

I was told that story when I came home from work. Cute, I thought. Not exactly as awe-inspiring as Ezekiel's vision, but sounds like a weird picture. I mean...

Where is the face?

The face of the Lord is not one you could look upon (Exodus 33:12-23), came the voice inside my head.

Where are the hands and feet?

That's you.

Oh yeah, that's true...

So elbows and ears, huh?

Well, I guess God does reach us, and move us, and push us, and hold up the light to our paths. As Wayne Watson sang, "No one in this world can slip beyond the reaches of the long arm of the Lord."

And I know he hears us. He created us for fellowship. He desires praise and prayer. He's absolutely listening. He can even hear things we don't even know we're saying. As Steven Curtis Chapman sang, "The cross should have been mine, But his love broke through time, And heard my heart's cry."

So in one statement about one drawing by one child, I had digested a complete meditation on the nature of God, who he is and what he does, even what he leaves for us to do. As Casting Crowns sang, "If we are the body... Why aren't his hands healing... Why aren't his feet going?"

Intersecting Faith & Life: Consider today what part of the body you are playing, and what other parts (eyes, mouth, shoulders, etc.) describe what you know about the character of your God.

Further Reading

Video: "Proof" Most of us have thought how much easier it would be to follow God if we could just see Him once. The truth, though, is that He is all around us...
Matthew 5:8


 
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 #17 on: June 04, 2009, 07:39:43 am »
June 3, 2009

A Reason to Boast
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor

This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 

The “self-help” and “self-improvement” sections of local bookstores are entirely too easy to mock and deprecate. With titles such as “Maybe Life’s Just Not That Into You”, “Excuses Be Gone!”, “The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist” and “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”, America’s self-help culture can’t be denied. If not all-powerful business executives, we at least want to appear sufficiently competent and – well, self-sufficient. These self-help sections just serve to underscore our compulsion to “be all you can be.” Especially if someone else will notice.

Think about the quintessential American dream for a moment – the rising career, the house with a backyard, and 2.3 kids enrolled in ballet and basketball. It’s what we want to report in our Christmas cards to family and friends. It dates back to the old “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality that isn’t all bad. Still, like the self-help shelves, the dream often boils down to a prideful heart.

Contrast this cultural stereotype with Paul’s continued exhortations throughout his letters. We grow accustomed to hearing some of the apostle’s key themes – “dying to self,” “dead in sin,” “servant leadership.” I’m guilty on more than one occasion of mentally putting my Bible on the self-help shelf, looking at it as a manual to better myself. Biblical virtues such as compassion and perseverance, so necessary to the community of faith, can be made one more tool in my “self-made” toolbox. Paul’s theology becomes my means of achieving the “good Christian life.”

How does this happen? I think the answer, at least in my life, is fairly simple. Like those self-help books, like Christmas cards sent out to distant relatives, I begin focusing on the “what” instead of the “who.” The late theologian Carl Henry, after he had already written his great theological works, was once asked the “secret” maintaining humility. He said simply, “How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?” Our lessons in self-confidence can only seem significant when we lose perspective on the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice.

In Jeremiah, the Lord gives only one legitimate example of boasting – and that is centered around his glory. “Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth,” he says. That strips all our self-help lessons of their value. No wisdom, no strength, no anything is worth proclaiming except what finds its root in God’s own character and our relationship with him. And if we boast in that, the emphasis doesn’t rest on our created sufficiency. It points back to the mercy of a God who loves people – even those obsessed with self-help shelves.

The praise song “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” demonstrates this truth in just a couple verses:

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no powers, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection


Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.


Intersecting Faith & Life: Competency can quickly morph into self-sufficiency, followed by pride. Before we know it, we’re “boasting” through our actions and attitudes if not our words. Let’s forget the “what” and get back to the “who.”

Slippery Humility
“Let Him Who Boasts Boast in This”
Galatians 6:14
1 Corinthians 1:28-29

.
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 #18 on: June 04, 2009, 07:52:07 am »
June 4, 2009

That's What Friends are For
by Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com Senior Entertainment Editor

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 17:17, NIV

Remember the '80s ballad, "That's What Friends Are For"? Its chorus wasn't really profound, but more of a feel-good reminder about friendship:

Keep smilin', keep shinin'
Knowin' you can always count on me, for sure
That's what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I'll be on your side forever more
That's what friends are for

It would be nice if all friendships could be as "smilin'" and "shinin'" as the one described in this song. But that's not always the case, such as earlier this spring when one of my friends said to me, "You stink as a friend." 

Nice. Well, in hindsight I believe that the Lord was showing me that I truly was not being a good friend at all. And it took the ending of this friendship to show me where I was lacking in all of my friendships across the board. 

In this particular case, I apologized and tried to reconcile, but the friend wanted nothing more to do with me. So after crying and wiping away my tears, I decided that I would learn from this situation.

My quest took me to the book of Proverbs: a source of wonderful life lessons that are as simple to understand as they are deep in their layers of meaning. Let's take a look and see what it says that true friends are for. ...

Proverbs 16:28 ... "A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends." When friends share their most private thoughts with us, we should file them away for safekeeping. Don't be a source of drama. Instead, protect your friends' personal business and be the tie that binds and builds trust.

Proverbs 17:9 ... "He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." Have you ever "covered" for a friend before? This is one of those acts that really forces us to mature and put on some big boy (or girl) pants in a hurry. Even when you've been hurt, love doesn't broadcast.  It forgives and gets over the wrong.

Proverbs 17:17 ... "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." Whether the sun shines or the skies burst forth in torrential downpours, true friends and relatives stick with you through thick and thin and are not of the fair-weather variety. Are you a faithful friend who purposes to remain?

Proverbs 18:24 ..."A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." True, you have to be a friend to make friends. But are you supposed to be bosom buddies with everyone? You can be friendly to all, but it is better to be selective when determining your closest, most dependable inner circle of friends.   

Proverbs 27:6 ... "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." The bottom line is this: a real friend will tell you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear. Sure, it hurts to hear the truth (even in love!). But afterward, you'll see how much better you feel and realize how much your friend truly cares about you.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Based on the above verses, how are your friendship skills measuring up? Is it time to do a little fine-tuning? Are there some friendships that should be added or subtracted from your life? Take time to assess and thank God for the friends he has placed in your life.

Further Reading

The Making of a Friendship
Do You Yearn for Meaningful Friendships?

 
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 #19 on: June 05, 2009, 07:15:18 am »
 
June 5, 2009

Giving Up the Funk
by Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com Senior Editor

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do ... So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:15, 21-25

I didn't sleep well the night before. So naturally, the next morning I was prepped to be in a funk. And on a Sunday, no less.

The coffee didn't taste as good, and my morning bagel wasn't that satisfying. Even the butter I slathered over and under and inside and around every toasted nook and cranny did nothing to lift my spirits.

No fun e-mails or messages when I got online either. No witty updates. No crazy photos with crazier captions. No entertaining stories posted by any of my friends. Nothing.

I tried flipping around the tube next, but I couldn't find anything of interest or distraction either. Just news. Gloom and doom. Infomercials to infinity. And some "interesting" religious broadcasting.

I had gotten up later than normal, so I knew I wouldn't make it to the first service at church. Actually, I didn't want to go to the second service either. Didn't want to go to church at all. And so it was official: I was in a funk. 

I then decided it was best that I stay home, because I was really tired after all. And how could I possibly drive the considerable distance to church and pay attention throughout a thirty-plus-minute sermon and everything? Especially when powered by such a horrendous night of rest.

As I was creating this rationale in my mind, something told me to call my mom. So I did. I shared my predicament and my stay-at-home plans for the morning. And after I hung up the phone, I thought I would feel better about my decision to skip church and that my explanation to someone else and their agreement would get me off the hook. But somehow, I knew it wasn't right. My cup was empty. Bone dry. And I needed to get it filled. Fast.

So I got it together and made it to the late service, but my funk was still ever present. Everything and anything annoyed me: the fresh 'n' perky greeters at the door, the music man leading the hymns too slowly, the off center tri-fold creases in the bulletin's sermon outline, the special music that wasn't so special, and even the pastor. His message was emotional and caused him to speak slowly and pause often--either for dramatic effect or due to his heart's softness in responding to the important subject matter: God's love and its expression through us (1 John 4:7-21).

Had I been sitting at the end of my row, I would have left. But (providentially, I believe), I was seated in the middle. So there I stayed with my heart of stone. I didn't laugh. I didn't tear up. Everyone else around me did, though. They were open. They were ready to receive what God would say to them that morning about the condition of their hearts. 

As I drove away from church afterward and scowled at the sunny day around me, I asked the Lord to help me give up the funk. I didn't know what had caused it, and I didn't know why my heart didn't want to worship him that day. 

Like Paul contemplated in Romans, I did not understand why I was doing what I did not want to do. In my mind, I wanted to worship that morning. I wanted to receive. I wanted to love. But my sinful nature was battling and blocking; it wanted to control the desire of a child who really wanted to honor her Father. 

Over the next couple of hours, I got to the end of myself. And the stoniness of my heart--the rebellion--began to crumble. I softened. I teared up. "What a wretched woman I am!" I could have shouted, echoing Paul's sentiment. And I know that this transformation--this removal of my funk--was not of my doing. 

Who will rescue me from this body of death? Perhaps you need to ask this same question today.   

Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! That is the answer, my friend. And truly, and ever so gratefully, it's all any of us should say when we understand our condition and when what we hate is what we do.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Are you battling the funk today? Although we still have a flesh nature this side of heaven, we also have Christ in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Don't give up. You can give up the funk. Ask your Heavenly Father to help you overcome, so that he may be glorified in and through you.

Further Reading

Romans 8:12-14

Galatians 5:22-25


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