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Friday, September 22, 2017

Conquered: Listen: Prayers and Poetry



                       Conquered

                       
                        Flesh withers

                        through time

                        famine and disease.


                        Tangible decay

                        common ground

                        of all humanity.


                        Often do not

                        recognize internal sin

                        oppression of soul.


                        Conquered by Savior

                        waged battle for all generations


                        forgiveness bought.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Reflection: Done: Listen: Prayers and Poetry


Reflection Questions



1.     How clearly do we understand that God has condemned and conquered sin?

2.     Do we accept it daily in our personal lives? Why or why not?

3.     What can acceptance look like in practical action?

4.     Are we willing to let go of our own methods and trust His?



Share: How has His gift given you the ability to stand firm in battle this week?


Monday, September 18, 2017

Done: Listen: Prayers and Poetry

Reading: Romans 8:3

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”

How many times have we become discouraged over our attitudes and actions, towards ourselves and others knowing they are not acceptable or kind or caring? Plus these daily struggles may not even come close to acknowledging the even deeper sins we keep buried from our own sight.

Even when we honestly take on the battles we recognize Psalm 127:1 reminds us that, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

Yet how often do we trudge along on our own solutions expecting ongoing success? We may well win long and often and yet, since we cannot eradicate them, our sins continue to hibernate and wait for the opportunity to strike again.

And those are the ones we admit and recognize. How deep do our secret ones go—especially the ones we have never encountered.

No matter how many rules and intentions we set for ourselves they are useless apart from His condemnation of sin. We will still be in a battle but now we know there is true victory and relief in sight. Even if we experience external loss as a result, our hearts and souls belong to Christ. He enables us to stand firm.

All our brokenness can be brought into healing light. We are no longer left helpless. He lifts us up out of sin’s grasp into new life.

Lord, by Your power, please enable us to stand firm in Your truth and face our sin with boldness, especially in our weaknesses.


Psalm of Worship: Proverbs 8:2

“On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand;”



Friday, September 15, 2017

Desperate: Listen: Prayers and Poetry


                       Desperate


                        Cry for freedom
                        comes from deep within

                        our hearts straining against
                        oppressive fears

                        desperate for release of
                        despair and loss

                        not recognizing battle
                        needs not external

                        instead our souls crave
                        internal restoration

                        true law under love
                        truth spoken in Spirit

                        who never abandons
                        walks steadfastly

                        bringing true freedom
                        bought at a cross.
           
                       


            

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Reflection: Free: Listen: Prayers and Poetry



Reflection Questions


1.     What kind of freedom do you dream of?

2.     How would you spend it if possible?

3.     When have you experienced heart freedom while in an external prison situation?

4.     When has your heart been imprisoned while in an external freedom?


Share: What made the difference in each situation?


Monday, September 11, 2017

Free: Listen: Prayers and Poetry

Reading: Romans 8:2

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”


We each have our particular definitions of what freedom is. Whether in regard to personal limitations of health, finance, relationships, or outreach in society, government, and legal justice.

Whatever is our foundation reason, the lure to be fully free—to be released from any boundaries—to resist limitations is common ground almost daily. Our hearts can rage from petty discomforts to staggering atrocities.

Yet no boundaries of any kind can also bring chaos and destruction. Our world’s history offers countless examples of sinful devastation when individuals and countries refuse any accountability.

Or, in reverse, establish such legalistic boundaries that deny human compassion or value for lives.

Once again Jesus upends our perspective. Law is internal—not external. Law is freedom within boundaries. Law is life giving—not death. His law gives us the soul freedom to live fully open, fully honest, and fully valued. Spirit led.

Freedom from the power of sin and death is astonishing!

It changes everything—everyone—every time. It redefines boundaries and opportunities and possibilities from despair and death to hope and life. Regardless of whether we are imprisoned in chains or flying unencumbered in the wind, He gifts us with His law.

Lord, show us how to accept with thanksgiving and joy Your daily gift of life in all circumstances. To walk with you from the inside out by Your Spirit’s words. Bring Your light into our desperate cries.


Psalm of Worship: Proverbs 8:1

“Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?”



Friday, September 8, 2017

Redeems: Listen: Prayers and Poetry


                       Redeems


                        No condemnation.


                        Not a concept we often comprehend

                        as wounds sear our own hearts

                        as well as ours towards others

                        cheat, liar, ingrate

                        carnal, loser, imbecile

                        we toss out labels spoken or not

                        words true or not

                        to ease our own discomfort

                        to ignore our own limitations

                        by conceit and false control

                        bury our sins.


                        Yet He sees our stain

                        yearns to set us free.


                        In Him grace,

                        In Him forgiveness.

                       
                        He paid our debt,

                        He redeems our lives.


                        No condemnation.


                       

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Reflection: Condemnation: Listen: Prayers and Poetry


Reflection Questions


1. How do you discern between condemnation and accountability?

2. What condemning words seared your heart as a child?

3. What condemning words do you still use against yourself?

4. Toward others?


Share: What word of grace has the Lord given you to remove your condemnation?


Monday, September 4, 2017

Condemnation: Listen: Prayers and Poetry

Reading: Romans 8:1

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

No Condemnation!

How is that possible? Every day we mess up somewhere. Even if others don’t see our failures we do. And depending on the chastising voices we carry around within us, or repeatedly hear from others around us, we know when we falter.

Factual—measurable—life consequences.

When Job’s life dissolved around him, his friends tried to help him discover the sins that had caused such disaster. Someone had to be at fault they immediately assumed. Our instinctive response is to punish. God chooses to offer each of us redemption.

It’s a difficult concept for our hearts and minds to adjust to and accept as a reality because we each know the reprimand we personally deserve on so many levels.

Yet, God says He does not condemn. When we listen to His words and His voice we hear forgiveness and mercy undergirding the accountability we still need to acknowledge. His love and grace restore us from a life lived within the sins.

So why can we not stop condemning ourselves, and others, with the same words of grace and understanding too? Instead, we often allow the accountability to become ongoing judgment that grows distrust and fear and suspicion and often hatred. We only recognize the outward stain of sin and, from our viewpoint. We see hearts as stained forever expanding the brokenness.

God’s words. His love. His river of grace sweeps all our prejudices of blame away like shattered glass. Instead we see through His eyes and the mirror reflects back hope. New life. New beginnings. We can take baby steps of comprehension of outstanding compassion.

Because of Jesus’ life sacrifice. He paid our debts. He opens a bold path to a new understanding. To now be able to truly listen to His words and hear their possibilities.

Lives that listen to an everlasting truth.

In Faith’s Check Book, author Charles Spurgeon says, “He who has purified us with the blood of Jesus will so cleanse us by the water of the Holy Spirit. … Cleansing is a covenant blessing and the covenant is ordered in all things and sure.”

To be cleansed, led, and refined by the Spirit’s discerning grace requires a whole new perspective from our human interpretations. It’s an inside-out comprehension that can often enable us to make bold steps of faith and insight. Towards lives that encourage us to walk with listening hearts.

Lord, today, whenever a word of condemnation forms against myself or another please remind me to change it to a word of prayer by Your grace.


Psalm of Worship: Isaiah 55:8

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord.”


Through this study Listen, of Romans chapter eight, we will pause to hear the Spirit’s discerning words. Powerful words that too often get buried under daily stress. Do we trust in the Lord? Are we willing to be challenged and changed? Even in seasons of silence? Job never did receive answers. When he met with God all his questions dissolved. Being with Him alone gave Job a new foundation.

Mondays we will reflect on a Scripture passage. Wednesdays consider meditative questions. Fridays respond with poetry.

Thank you for sharing in our journey. Please share as you discover your own questions and insights, prose and prayers.



Friday, September 1, 2017

Bird Struck! Albatross


Family Devotional

Day Thirty-Two

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” John 16:12

Albatrosses have a wingspan of up to twelve feet and rarely flap their wings. Instead they gracefully fly the ocean wind currents soaring up and down indefinitely. When there is no wind, they cannot fly.

Sailors were in awe of them. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is a tale of the bad consequences when a seaman shot one. Often it is regarded as a symbol of sin and retribution.

Jesus wanted His disciples to know about the Holy Spirit so that they would always choose to do the right thing.

Often we know what we should do, but we choose not to, and then we have consequences we don’t like. For example, if we don’t study for a test and then we get a bad grade, it’s not someone else’s fault.

The Spirit helps us to choose to act wisely. He is often also described as coming like the wind.

Just like the sailors didn’t understand how the albatross could ride the wind currents, we don’t always understand how the Spirit speaks to us. However, we know he is good because Jesus sent him to us, and we need to remember to respect him.

Action
1. Write down some questions you have about how to know what things are true and what is not.

2. Ask an adult to show you how to find out the answers.

3. Think of a way you can explain what truth is to someone who asks you.

Read More
John 16:5-15
1 Thessalonians 5:19


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bird Struck! Whippoorwill

Family Devotional

Day Thirty-One

“I took my troubles to the Lord; I cried out to him, and he answered me.” Psalm 120:1

The elusive whippoorwill is named for its call. It is frequently heard at dawn and at dusk when it feeds, but is almost never seen. Its characteristics and habits are mostly known from anecdotes told to ornithologists.

In general only trained and observant bird listeners can tell the differences in many bird notes. However anyone who hears a whip—poor—will can identify it immediately. It’s fun to repeat its call too.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

Sometimes our own thoughts and the opinions of others jumble up in our mind and they become just a bunch of noise to us.

Just as Jesus said that the world would know His voice, He also promised to give us insight and guidance when we need it.

Sometimes our answers come from reading, or a surprising idea jumps out clearly, or we remember some encouragement from a conversation. But we know it is clear and sharp and we immediately recognize its “call.” There are many ways that Jesus helps us to know what to do when we are confused. When He gives guidance, we can recognize His voice even though we can’t see Him.


Action
1. Every day this week when you need guidance, pause for a few moments and ask God to give you guidance.

2. Spend one hour listening to voices around you. How can you tell what their attitude is based on the sound of their voice?


Read More
Psalm 86:5-7
Psalm 116:1-2
Jeremiah 33:3


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bird Struck! Masked Booby


Family Devotional

Day Thirty

“Instead, be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

These dazzling birds live and breed in tropical climates. Except for breeding time they spend all their time at sea. To feed they make high-velocity dives from as high as 100 feet.

Sailors gave these birds their insulting name because they considered the birds to be stupid due to their lack of fear around humans.

But these birds had no reason to experience fear from humans until they met the sailors.

When the early church began their witness of love and caring to each other and to their community, many onlookers spoke of them with derogatory names. Some thought of them as harmless fools, and some thought of them as radicals that required imprisonment or death.

Even in our world today, many people still view acts of kindness and compassion with distrust. And although it is necessary to use common sense when encountering strangers, it doesn’t mean people cannot trust others, especially if they meet in safe environments.

It really wasn’t the masked booby that had the problem to trust, but the sailors who allowed their own fears to mistrust innocence.

When we follow Jesus’ ways, often others don’t understand and they say bad things or call out embarrassing names.


Action
1. Say something kind to as many people as you can today. Was it hard to do? Why?

2. Do one act of kindness for one person every day this week.


Read More
Matthew 25:40
Galatians 6:10
Philippians 2:3-5

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Bird Struck! California Condor


Family Devotional

Day Twenty-Nine

“For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:5

The California Condor is the largest soaring bird in North America. Despite their size, these giant birds fly in a steady pattern of flight unlike other vultures that tend to appear wobbly.

Their steadiness extends to their habits as well. They are monogamous and stay with their mates for life. It takes sixty days for an egg to incubate and up to a year before a young condor can survive on its own. Both parents remain faithful in the process.

In the 1800s this species existed all throughout the West as far north as Alberta, Canada, and as far south as Baja, Mexico. But like many other species that were once abundant, they were reduced almost to extinction.

In Jesus’ time there were certain occupations that were also considered “unclean” and their workers had to live apart from the community. A tanner fell into this category. Peter himself stayed as a guest in a tanner’s home showing that these people were just as acceptable to God as anyone else.

It was there that Peter had a vision that helped him realize that God also loved the Gentiles too, even though they were considered “unclean” like the tanners.           

Action
1. Some jobs are hard to do because they feel disgusting. What chores do you think are the hardest to do? Offer to help someone in your family do them so you can both finish faster.

2. Be extra nice to people at your school or in your neighborhood who are willing to do the yucky jobs. Say thank you.

Read More
Matthew 7:12
Matthew 15:10-11
1 Corinthians 12:12-26





Monday, August 28, 2017

Bird Struck! Skimmer

Family Devotional

Day Twenty-Eight

“He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:3 (NAS)

A skimmer catches its food through its unique bill which cuts into the water with its lower bill, catches its prey, then the upper bill snaps shut. It is so precise that as they skim over the water their bodies rarely get wet. However, their most interesting characteristic is that their lower bills grow twice as fast as the upper bill. They have a built-in replacement warranty on the friction of wear and tear.

Peter protested at first when Jesus knelt to wash his feet. Then he immediately asked for more when Jesus told him, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” But Jesus also explained, “One who has bathed does not need to wash except for the feet, but is entirely clean.”

Just like our feet get dusty when we go barefoot in the summer, so can we get discouraged when we see bad things happening in the world. Yet Jesus restores us every day when we stay close to Him. When parts of our hearts get rubbed with dirt because of friction with people and hard circumstances, the psalmist promises, “He restores my soul.”

Some days we face difficult choices and tough obstacles, but they all can be only outside struggles that don’t harm our hearts when we trust Jesus to take care of us.


Action
1. Sometimes we need to “wash” away bad attitudes towards others. Watch what words you think for a few days this week that would be mean or hurt someone if you said them out loud.

2. Think of ways you can change your attitude without agreeing with ideas that are wrong.


Read More
Psalm 23
Matthew 11:28-30

John 13:5-11
 
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