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TRUTH

Scripture Reading: John 8:31- 41
 
My family was involved in a head-on collision in November 2015. Our vehicle was totaled, and we spent some time in the hospital. Since then, we have been working with the other driver’s insurance company to pay bills related to the accident.
 
This week, we spent a considerable amount of time at our lawyer’s office, giving a deposition to the insurance company’s lawyer about what actually happened that night. Before the deposition began, we had to swear to tell the truth. In the UK, we would have sworn to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” I thought of that statement as I sat waiting for my turn. I asked myself, “Is there something different between the truth and the whole truth?” Surely truth is truth. Truth is the opposite of a lie, so why swear to tell the whole truth?
 
What is truth? In the case of our accident, it would be the honest and accurate telling of what happened that night. Jesus says, in John 8, that the truth sets you free (verse 32), and that within itself is true. There is something freeing about acknowledging what is true, trustworthy, and fact. Later on in John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life… .” He is truth. Is that what He meant when he said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”? Certainly there is freedom in knowing Him. When we have a relationship with Him, the truth that He brings into our lives frees us to be the people He has called us to be.
 
The devil is a liar (John 8:44). Jesus is Truth (John 8:32). I know who I would rather serve. I would rather live a life of truth than a life of deception. To know Jesus is to know the truth, and His truth frees you to be the person He desires you to be.


PRUNING

Scripture Reading: John 15:1-8
 
Just hours before His crucifixion, Jesus and His disciples met in the Upper Room to share the Passover meal. Jesus took the bread, representing His body, and the cup, representing His blood, and established an act of remembrance known as the Lord’s Supper. He told the disciples some dynamic things that would prepare them for the future. He spoke of His going away, and gave them a glimpse into heaven. He spoke of the Holy Spirit and His coming. He also prayed for them. Jesus’s words have come to be known as The Upper Room Discourse.
 
Part of what He said, at that time, was in the form of a parable — the Vine and the Branches. He spoke of the pruning that the disciples were going to experience. Pruning was so important if they were to be everything He desired them to be. Pruning is painful but necessary. It cuts away dead or stunted growth so that good branches have room to grow and flourish. Pruning takes away everything that hinders growth. It is one of the most productive experiences,  yet we shy away from it.
 
In the same parable, Jesus talked about the importance of abiding or remaining in Him. Growth can only happen in Him. There is no growth outside a close relationship with Jesus, so the pruning experience encourages us to stay in that relationship. Anything in our lives that hinders that relationship needs to be taken away.
 
I have often said that no experience in life is wasted. If you are going through a difficult or painful time, consider it a pruning experience. God is doing something in you so that He can do something through you. The pruning you are experiencing, whether personally or in your church, is to encourage growth. Remember, God knows what He is doing. His purpose is greater than you can see in the present. In due time, however, you will experience the growth that comes from such experiences. 
 
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit …” (verse 8).


TRUE TO HIS WORD

Scripture Reading: Genesis 8:20-23
 
What an unusual winter this was!  We were on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. Generally, it was quite mild, with very little snow. Then there were sudden times of bitter cold. But here is the good news: spring is here! I know it does not look or feel like it at the moment, but we should prepare for warmer weather. I think we are all ready. Be patient; it is coming. How do I know that? Well, because God has promised it.
 
Here in Genesis 8, we read of God’s ancient promise to Noah after the flood. After Noah, his family, and the animals were saved, and finally stepped out onto dry ground, Noah built an altar to God as an act of thankfulness. Then God gave them a promise: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” God promised it, and we can believe it because every promise of His is true and will come to pass.
 
Has God made a promise to you that you are waiting to be fulfilled? Maybe your child’s salvation, the healing of a friend, or provision for a financial need? Because fulfillment is delayed does not mean it is not going to happen. What it does mean, however, is that it is not the right time. God has a perfect plan for you, but that plan also has perfect timing. If what He has said to you has not yet come to pass, hold on. You can be sure that God will keep His word and fulfill His promise. So be patient and wait for it, for it will surely come to pass.


SURRENDERED

Scripture Reading: John 6:5-15
 
The miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is well known. It is such an important miracle — the only one recorded by all four gospel writers.
 
The hungry crowd was described as 5,000 men, so there probably were a lot more counting women and children. Jesus had been speaking to the crowd when he realized they were hungry. They were in the middle of nowhere, so they could not buy anything. It appears the only person who had something to eat was a little boy. His simple lunch included bread and fish — hardly enough to satisfy his hunger let alone that of the crowd. Jesus asked the lad to hand over his lunch. Jesus blessed, broke the bread, and shared the loaves and fish with the crowd. It satisfied all who were hungry with 12 baskets of scraps left over.
 
The boy was willing to surrender his all to Jesus, and when he did, a miracle happened. What God can do with a surrendered life is remarkable. When you and I hand over our lives to Him, the potential for a miracle exists. We may feel, like this lad, that what we have is limited, that our gifts are few, that our messed up lives are useless. God, however, still asks us to give our all to Him. He is the one who takes our limitations and uses them to bless others.
 
Romans 12:1-2 calls us to surrender: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.” When we do that, we stand on the verge of a miracle. “…then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
 
Will you surrender everything to God?


EVANGELIST TO IRELAND

Scripture Reading: Acts 1-11
 
St. Patrick’s Day is a day for the Irish across the world to celebrate.
 
St. Patrick is, of course, the patron saint of Ireland, but I wonder how many of us know the story of this great man. He was actually born in a city in Northern England. When he was 16, he was captured and taken to Ireland. He worked for 6 years as a herdsman until he escaped back to England. He later became a deacon and then a bishop. Throughout those years, he yearned to return to Ireland to evangelize the needy country. He finally did, and God used him to bring the message of the gospel to that part of the world.
 
There are many traditions concerning St. Patrick. Some say he drove the snakes out of Ireland, even though snakes had never lived in the country. Others say he used the shamrock to describe the Trinity. Whether that is true or not, we do not know. What we do know is that God used him to bring the hope of the gospel to this beautiful part of the world.

Our call is the same as St. Patrick’s — to take the gospel to the world. In Acts 1, we have the commission of Jesus to those early follows to reach the world with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. The world was their mission field, but they had to start in Jerusalem. Today, the mantle of that call has fallen on us. Where we are is a mission field. Every day we interact with someone who needs to hear of God’s love, whether it be a family member, a colleague, a friend, or someone we meet. Pray today that God will give you the opportunity to be a “St. Patrick” where you are, and that, through your courage and counsel, someone will come to know Jesus as their personal Savior.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!



A HEDGE OF PROTECTION

Scripture Reading: Psalm 91
 
“Have you not put a hedge around him and everything he has?” (Job 1:10)
 
Yesterday’s devotional was about tearing down walls that restrict our freedom in Christ. Those walls can fall! However, other walls that surround our lives can be like a hedge of protection for us.
 
Before moving to the United States, I lived in Northern Ireland. From the windows of my home, I could look out over the green hills of County Londonderry and see hills dotted with sheep. I would often see a shepherd leading the sheep from one pasture to another. Most of the time, however, sheep stayed put, on their own, in the field where they had been left. You see, each piece of pasture was surrounded by a brick wall. The patchwork of walls over the fields protected the animals. The walls are just stacked stones — no mortar or cement. Although nothing holds them together, they are solid and serve as a hedge of protection.
 
When Satan asked God for permission to attack Job and his faith, he asked a very important question: “Have you not put a hedge around him?” Satan knew that, as long as God was protecting Job, he could not touch him. The same thing can happen to us. We have an active enemy who is out to destroy us, but we have a God who places a hedge of protection around us to protect us from the onslaughts of our enemy. That is why Psalm 91 is so important. The Psalmist does not use the illustration of a hedge as a sign of God’s protection, rather he speaks of a hen and her chicks hiding under their mother’s wings. As long as they are there, they are protected.
 
As long as you are hiding under His wings, surrounded by the hedge of His protection, you are safe. Pray today for the hedge of protection to surround you.


BREAKING DOWN THE WALL

 

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:11-18
 
Driving into the office this morning, to get ready for our prayer time at six o’clock, I was listening to the news on the radio. There was a lot of discussion about the building of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. I was listening to both sides of the argument, and as I began to think and pray, I reminded myself that God doesn’t erect walls — He breaks them down.
 
It is possible that you are living with walls in your life today — walls that you have erected by the choices you have made.  Those walls are very restrictive; they confine you and hold you in to a certain pattern of life, and you are frustrated by those walls, but you do not know how to break free. God breaks down walls and sets men free.
 
Here in Ephesians 2, Paul reminds us that Jesus, through His death, broke down the wall that separated men from God, and made it possible for us to have a relationship with God. Verse 14 tells us, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… .”  
 
The same God who, through His Son, removed that barrier is the same God who can remove the walls in your life. It might be a wall of sin, a wall of addiction, a wall of pride, a wall of bitterness, or a wall of resentment. There are so many different walls we allow in our lives, but not one of them is impossible for God to deal with. So it is time for the wall to come down.
 
I remember when the wall that separated East and West Germany came down and celebrations went on for days. Today, your walls can fall, and you can be free to celebrate what God continues to do in your life. So I tell you one more time: It is time for the wall to come down.


WHAT TO DO WITH WORRY

Scripture Reading: Psalm 37:1-7
 
Do you ever worry? I guess that is rather a stupid question because all of us, at some time or other, worry. Many of our worries and concerns are legitimate. Some, of course, can be exaggerated, but most are real. But should we worry as Christians? That’s a tough question to answer, especially in light of the advice of Scripture. Jesus and Paul tell us not to worry. However, whether we should or should not worry, we do. 
 
What I have discovered is that it is not so much worrying that is wrong, but rather what we do with our worries. If we continue with them, they grow out of proportion and take over our lives. If, instead, we take them to the Lord in prayer, hand them over to Him, and allow Him to handle them, then we have done the best thing with our worries and concerns.
 
Psalm 37 gives us a divine prescription for worry, and shares four things we can do when worry comes and tries to take over our thoughts and, eventually, our lives. The first is trust: “Trust in the Lord” (verse 3). The second is delight: “Delight yourself in the Lord” (verse 4). The third is commit: “Commit your way to the Lord” (verse 5). The fourth is wait: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (verse 7).   
 
Notice that, with every instruction, there is a promise. If you trust, you will “enjoy safe pasture.” If you delight, “He will give you your heart’s desires.” If you commit, “He will do this.” And if you wait, “evil men will not prosper.”
 
Today, if you are anxious about something, begin to practice these instructions, and I promise your worries will lessen. As you trust in the Lord, He will give you His peace and answers for the things that concern you. Jesus said, “Therefore, do not worry … about your life… about clothes … about tomorrow … your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Matthew 6).
 
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).  


WHITE AS SNOW

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 1:18-20
 
As I sit and write this devotional, I am pondering the weather forecast. Here in Kokomo, a snow storm is predicted. Although we are not going to get large amounts of snow, the most we have had all winter is forecast for this area. But it is the Northeast that I am especially thinking about. Two to three feet are expected, with blizzard-like conditions. It is March, not January! I am ready for spring, not winter to unleash its fury, but I guess we have no control over the weather.
 
The one thing I do like about snow, however, is the way it seems to make everything look so clean. As it falls, it makes everything white and pure. It covers up all that is dirty and unclean, and everything looks so fresh and, as I said, pure. Is it any wonder then that Isaiah, in his prophecy, talks about the heart washed as white as snow? “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).
 
The Book of Isaiah is full of amazing promises. He begins by reminding God’s people that, although they may have turned away from God, He is waiting to cleanse and purify their lives. Sins stains; it is messy; it soils and mars our lives. But through the grace of God, and by the cleansing blood of Jesus shed for us on the cross, our lives can be made clean. As the old song tells us, “What can wash away my stain? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
 
So today, if you are wrestling with sin in your life — if by some decision in the past your life has been stained and soiled by that sin — because Jesus died for you and shed His blood for you, you can be made clean again. “… the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).


MY LIFE IS IN HIS HANDS

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 10:23-25
 
During this period of Lent, I have been focusing on personal reflection, and it is being so good for my soul. It is helping me understand some things I have been struggling with. I am discovering anew that, when you spend unhurried time in the Lord’s presence, He will reveal Himself to you in amazing ways.
 
Reflection — why is it so good? First of all, it takes you back, and helps you understand where you have come from and how good God has been. He has certainly been good to me, but unfortunately, in the present crisis of life, I forget the goodness of God in the past. I need to be reminded often of His faithfulness, and He has been doing that. 
 
Reflection is good also because it helps me understand all that is happening in the present. Sometimes things don’t turn out as we have planned, but I am reminded of the importance of these words in Jeremiah 10:23, “… I know that a man’s life is not his own.” To know that my life is in His hands is very encouraging, as I reflect on my present journey. He knows all there is to know about the present, and He is in control. If I was in control, things would look differently. But knowing that my life is in His hands means that where I am in the present is where I need to be. 
 
Then, I am reflecting on the future — the most uncertain part of the journey, for none of us knows what tomorrow holds. There have been times when I wished He would give me a glimpse, but I realize it is a good thing that He keeps the future hidden from me. It means I have to trust Him for tomorrow. I do find encouragement, however, in the continuing words of verse 23, “… it is not for man to direct his steps … .”  These words help me understand that, when my plans do not succeed, or when the future begins to look different than I planned, He is directing my steps.
 
This period of reflection is helping me understand that God knows where I am, and He is in control of my past, present and future. One thing I know is that where I am is where I am meant to be at this moment. The rest? I am content that the rest is in His hands.