Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Accountability

May 22, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 17:8-14 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Robert Ferguson):

After the Lord, I am first accountable to my mother. I always know I can depend on her to tell me like it is, even if I don’t particularly feel like hearing it. I honestly feel that God uses my mom to affirm or negate whatever may surface in my life. Spiritually, I am also accountable to some Christian friends who give me sound spiritual guidance.

Any one of them can talk to me for just a few minutes and discern whether I’m walking close to the Lord or if I might just need a spiritual kick in the pants. I can really count on them to tell me when I am straying off the path, whether I ask them to do so or not.

Who holds you accountable? You need someone to whom you can pour out your deepest thoughts and heartaches. We all have blind spots, areas in our lives that hinder our spiritual growth, that we cannot see. For example, we may express anger towards others to such an extent that it borders on verbal abuse. Perhaps we feel justified in our correction of them, but another believer may help us to see that our words should be the kind to inspire and uplift. In other words, there is always a better way to handle a potentially tense situation. A third uninvolved confidante may help us to discover that way.

If we are not accountable to someone else we may never understand why people reject our advice. We must learn to accept constructive criticism ourselves. We set ourselves up for the problems in our lives that way. We have to understand the truth of the proverb: Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

I have found myself in more than one situation where I felt angry, hurt, or disappointed. My first call is always to my great friend at church. She knows me well and is quick to tell me when I have let my ego fire up my emotions. Sometimes I am ashamed and sometimes I just have a better understanding.

Thought for the day: Who do I have I can be vulnerable in front of, so that they can hold me accountable?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

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Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

I Am Resolved

May 21st, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 17:1-7 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Steve Adams):

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that right choices bring benefits and wrong choices bring on consequences. In fact, sometimes we can almost get to the point where we forget there’s a right and wrong way. Maybe it just sounds too rigid and fundamentalist to use those words. Yes, life is nuanced and there are degrees of right and wrong, but if we ever think we’re too spiritually advanced to assess a situation by using ethics as one of our main benchmarks, then we’ve lost something precious.

Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.

This reminds me of the simplicity movement. You know — streamline and de-clutter your life and you’ll be a lot happier. It resonates with me. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is my favorite secular holiday song. Whenever Christmas gift-giving deadlines start crowding out my relationship with God, I ask myself, “What’s wrong with giving them a New Year’s gift — or, if I don’t make that, then, what’s the next holiday?” And New Years Eve? I think I’ll write a new song called Have Yourself a Simple Little New Years! Seriously, though, Jesus is peaceful (John 14:27); I’m a follower of Jesus; so I’m not going to sacrifice his peace for some fancy, strife-riddled good time! No, I’m not saying fancy and expensive are always bad, but I do believe those simple summer days on my grandparent’s farm in Illinois when I was growing up were some of the best, because we had love, we did the best we could, and we enjoyed life. What more could you want?

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.

I used to think of the heart as intentions and motives, and I still do, except I see another equally important component, and that’s resolve. How determined am I to do the right thing? If I’m committed to a budget, do I change my mind and buy that luxury I want? If I’m committed to a diet, do I eat what’s on the forbidden list? If I’m committed to sexual fidelity, do I give in when someone pursues me with (what seems like) “heavenly” pleasure? Whether I do or not depends on my will, my resolve. Psalm 51 says, “sustain in me a willing spirit.” King David experienced first-hand how the will can dissolve and crumble when he saw Bathsheba bathing in the sunlight, and then came up with the crazy plan to have Uriah killed in battle. It seems to me that good intentions are precious in God’s sight, but until we complement them with resolve, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

So, God tests our hearts in order for us to be adequately prepared for the inevitable time when an evil spiritual force will challenge us (Ephesians 6:12). Often it isn’t a feel-good moment when we choose the right thing, because we’re often emerging out of the stress of temptation, but it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness! The encouraging part of all of this is, we can strengthen our hearts by feeding them with godly values and ethics. If we faithfully and consistently train our minds with God’s values and ethics, they will respond with resolve to adhere to the values Christ has placed in our hearts.

Thought for the day: I think of the Book of Proverbs kind of like Judge Judy. You know exactly where they stand! (Except perhaps when cultural differences obscure the meaning.) And they’re usually right on! They say something like, “Steve — you choose the good way, and God can pour the benefits on you. But don’t be stupid! If you choose the bad, then you’re gonna get consequences — and miss out on so much of the good God wants to give you! Which one do you really want? Which one are you going to set your heart on?”

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Garbage In, Garbage Out

May 18, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 16:25-33 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Robin Herman):

It is so easy to get caught up in the little piece of life that surrounds us. When I get upset, it’s usually over the small circle of circumstances that I find myself in. When I stop and spread my horizon a bit, things seem to fall into place. This snippet of the Bible seems to be saying to me that negative actions create negative results and even negative thinking can be detrimental.

I sure get that. Every day I wade though piles of emails about dogs that have been dumped at the pound. Dogs that have been injured, dogs that are pregnant, litters of puppies, but the ones that kill me the most are the old dogs.

Someone has had a dog for the dog’s whole life, and now that they’re old, they’re just too much trouble. These dogs are the most difficult to save, too. Usually they haven’t been given very good care. They’re matted and dirty, their teeth need work and they’re not very happy to be “saved.” They can’t figure out what’s going on and don’t appreciate the painful rehabilitation of baths and detangling.

People aren’t often willing to adopt an older dog. And that makes sense to me — who wants to fall in love with a dog, just to lose it in a couple years?

We took in a dog a couple weeks ago and named her Pandora. She was this little black dog just a few years old. Her hair was dirty and matted and she just kind of moped around. Some people were going to drop by to see of our adoptable dogs and I wanted Pandora to look her best. Her mats were bad enough that I thought she needed some real grooming work. I posted for advise on Facebook and lo and behold, one of my clients called her mobile groomer and begged her to come over and give little Pandora a makeover.

We told the groomer to do whatever she wanted. About an hour later, here comes little Pandora out of the van, her head held high and she looked so pretty.

She was a whole new dog!

She didn’t get adopted that day. But the next day, a wonderful family with two dads and a precious little girl adopted Pandora. That little girl was so proud of her new dog, just prancing up and down the hallway.

I find myself sitting in front of my computer some days just seething, getting so angry and frustrated. There is a never ending supply of homeless dogs, and apparently a never ending supply of people who are willing to just throw them away. I also know that too many of these dogs — the ones I can’t take — never make it out alive. I feel guilty and sad. Guilty because I can’t save them, and sad not only for the dog, but for the soulless bastard who threw them away. Sad also because I’m embarrassed to be “one of them” — a human.

This is when my faith is tested the most. At these times I have to look at a broader horizon and remember that God’s in charge and has a plan. And like so many other horrible things, I don’t get to know why it’s this way.

But for now, I’ll think about Pandora and her terrific new family.

Thought for the day: What negative thinking am I stuck in today? How can I expand my horizon to get some perspective?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Order My Steps

May 16, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 16:9-16 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Vivian Wyatt):

The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.

As I thought about this proverb, several instances popped into my mind of people who made plans, but the Lord directed their steps.

The first to come to mind is Abraham and Isaac. Abraham thought he understood what God asked of him, and went to the mountaintop to sacrifice his son Isaac. But just as Abraham drew back his hand to take Isaac’s life, an angel spoke to him and showed him another way — a ram that was caught in the bush. Instead of leaving the mountain miserable because he had sacrificed his son, Abraham left the mountain praising God and giving God the name Jehovah Jireh — the God who provides

If you prefer the New or Second Testament, Saul had a plan to slaughter (or at least arrest) all the believers who were walking in the Way. On the road to Damascus, he was struck down and heard a voice asking “Why are you persecuting me?” He lost his sight and was taken blind to a believer’s house in Damascus, where he received his sight and converted to the Way — to being a follower of Jesus. His name was changed to Paul and he became just as vigorous in his service to Jesus as he had been when he was following his own plan.

Even I had a plan; my plan was to be a chaplain. I enrolled in seminary with the express purpose of being a chaplain. I worked through a summer unit of CPE (clinical pastoral education) and a year’s chaplain residency. However, I participated in a “clearness committee” that pointed me toward parish ministry. Reluctantly I agreed to follow their recommendation and found that Iloved working with a congregation. I would have been doing a good work as a chaplain, but perhaps not a God work.

Were we wrong to make plans? No, an earlier verse in Proverbs 16 states: Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. Abraham’s plan was to sacrifice on the mountaintop; which he did, but he sacrificed a ram instead of Isaac. Saul had a plan to go to Damascus and do what he felt God wanted; which he did, but he ended up proclaiming Jesus. My plan was to walk beside people who were in hospice and needed comforting. I do that, and more besides. All of our plans were established, but in ways different than we imagined, with God directing our steps.

Thought for today: Do you have a plan? Is it a good plan? Do you think it’s exactly what God wants you to do, and yet instead of going straight you find yourself veering ever so slightly? Not because you wanted to, but because circumstances dictated that you should. Don’t rant and rave or feel miserable that your plan isn’t coming to fruition. In fact, your plan may just be beginning to be established.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Fortune Cookies circa 900 B.C.

May 14th, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 14:1-9 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Julie “Ant” Walsh):

Did you know that those fortune cookies you receive at the end of a Chinese meal did not originate in China? That’s right. Stories vary, but there seems to be a general consensus that they became popular in California, then spread their way throughout the U.S. and on into Britain, Mexico, Italy, and France.

To me, the scripture passages found in the book of Proverbs are a lot like fortune cookies, each imparting some little nugget of wisdom. Sometimes we feel amazed that this “magic cookie” seems to read right on cue. Other times we scratch our heads wondering how it could possibly apply to our lives.

In this set of proverbs, a lot of comparisons are made between the wise and the foolish. The wise are portrayed as upright, strong, thoughtful, knowledgeable, fruitful, protected, and maintain respect or “fear” of the Lord. On the other hand, the foolish are destructive, prideful, deceptive, disregard counsel, lack insight, and deny God.

While it may be helpful to carefully scrutinize this list, I doubt any of us would proclaim to be foolish. We want to be regarded as wise. As followers of Christ, we can acknowledge that we are imperfect people covered by grace; however, as we aspire to become more Christ-like, we can determine which traits of the wise we may not consistently demonstrate.

Today, I invite you to crack one of these fortune cookies open by selecting one of the nine verses that most resonates with you or convicts your spirit. Write it down and tape it to your computer screen, your cell phone case, or your bathroom mirror. Contemplate on these words daily over the next week and ask yourself these questions:

  • In what specific ways have I been the fool?
  • What will it take to forgive myself of these missteps?
  • How would it look to live as a wise person in this particular area?
  • What changes will I make today to practice wisdom?

Prayer for the day: God, I want to make wise decisions and live in a consistent Christ-like manner. Help me to reflect on this scripture daily so that I may internalize the lessons and use it as a model practice for living.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

What are you lookin’ at?

May 3rd, 2012 • Category: Book of Daniel

Today’s scripture: Daniel 4:30-37 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJVWhat might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (David Squire):

I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me.

Ever been in a place where life was going crazy?

I can think of two specific times when it seemed like the world was spinning completely out of control — almost like I was losing my mind.

The first was just after high school, when I was struck with a serious illness. (I’ve written about that before on Be Still.) This wasn’t anything I’d brought on myself, like Nebuchadnezzar did, but I surely lost my focus for a time. Rather than looking up, I was looking down, at myself — “Why, oh why, did this happen to me? Poor meeeee…..” Ever been there?

The second time was, in a way, my own doing. When I came out to my parents, it really felt like I had detonated a grenade — like the world was blowing up and all I could do was try to duck the shrapnel. This time, rather than looking up or down, my focus was sideways, on my family —“Why are you acting this way?”

It’s certainly normal, when life throws us a curve we weren’t expecting, to need some time to adjust. It’s been studied and documented — there are natural stages of grief that we all move through. PFLAG has even documented the typical stages of parental adjustment when a child comes out. I think all of these normal progressions are a matter of regaining our focus. It’s easy to let current circumstances overwhelm me, and make me lose sight of what my life is really all about.

That’s what the King did. He had been so full of himself, drunk on his own power and glory, that he lost sight of the Source of it all. But when he was able to “lift [his] eyes to heaven,” he got his mind back.

So when I’m stuck in the crap of life — whether it’s something I’ve brought on myself, or it’s way beyond my control — I try to remind myself that this isn’t what my life is about. It’s a distraction, and I’m probably looking in the wrong direction.

Thought for the day: What is distracting me today? What is keeping me from looking up?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Road-Worthy

May 11, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 16:1-8 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (John Seksay):

Have you ever met a person who wanted to get things wrong? I haven’t. Even when I’ve seen or known people who have done things wrong (myself included), they were moved by a strong sense that what they were doing was right for them at the moment. Even when I hit my thumb with the hammer, I sincerely believed that I was going to drive the nail to its proper place!

So, how do things go so wrong? Today’s passage seems to be wrestling with this topic. I put two translations of each verse together to help me have a wider sense of what the words were trying to say.

NRSV: “The plans of the mind belong to mortals, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All one’s ways may be pure in one’s own eyes, buy the Lord weighs the spirit.”

MESSAGE: “Mortals make elaborate plans, but God has the last word. Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; God probes for what is good.”

How focused are we on how we make our decisions? What influence is in the driver’s seat for our actions? The word “motive” has the same linguistic root as “motor.” It is the propelling force driving the action. Every impelling idea is a fairly unique mix of reason and emotion, and not every mix is something you want in your motor! For me, I need to know the rational and emotional power sources I am unleashing before I put myself in gear, so to speak. When I get the right focus, I tend to filter out most of the impulses that would happily launch me over the nearest cliff. When I don’t, I can just about guarantee that my social driving insurance (trustworthiness, credibility, happiness, self-worth) will take a hit and I won’t be the only one injured.

I have also never met a person who had no regrets about some decision or action that they made in the past (count me in again!) The phrase “Nobody’s perfect” often sums up our attitude to our penchant for foolish mistakes. But if we are absolving ourselves from responsibility to learn from the mistake, then we are setting ourselves up to repeat the error. Unless we apply the brakes, we’ll be back up a similar tree! The hammer doesn’t care how many times my thumb gets smashed, but my thumb sure does!

Sometimes it’s just as important to know when to stop as when to start. That is why I find Be Still and Know so essential. It does me worlds of good to get outside my own head and encounter two important things: God’s Word and other points of view. These are some of the finest brake pads and brake shoes in the universe!

I’m much less likely to crash and burn if I use them to control my speed so I hold to the right road.

NRSV: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

MESSAGE: “Put God in charge of your work, then what you’ve planned will take place.”

So now I know whose hands should be on the wheel! God will help keep me on the road of mySoul Care Plan!

Thought for the day: Who’s in the driver’s seat today? Is your soul ready for the road, or do you need to get some extra maintenance done?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.