To God Be The Glory

by Jess Slenker
 

This has been a tough year of separation and new normals and unexpected events. We can choose to look at all we lost, how things have changed, and how much we wish things would go back to the way they were. I find that thinking that way only brings about more heartache and stress. We can find good in the bad and bring glory to God through it all. That is our purpose in life after all.

Jesus came to live as a man to show us how to live a life for God, how to love, how to turn from evil, and how to forgive. He came to save us from our sins and from an eternity without God. He came to bridge the relationship that was lost with our Heavenly Father and to be what God sees when He looks at us instead of the ugly sin that is in our lives. But He came most importantly to bring God glory!

All would have been in vain if the glory was not given to God! In all we do in this life, be it raising children, cleaning the house, working at our jobs, or just going through the day to day, it should all be for God’s Glory.

I remember overhearing my girls when they were little telling someone that “Mommy loves to clean!” To be completely honest, I love how it feels and looks when things are clean, but I can’t say that I totally enjoy the process. However, a long time ago, I decided that I was going to do my best to do all things for the glory of God. It made everything more
enjoyable, so I guess it showed even in housework! Do I get it right 100% of the time? Absolutely not! I must ask for
forgiveness and adjust my attitude just like every other human being on this planet but I am reminded of the promise I made to give Him the glory in everything. After all, He is the reason that I live and breathe, love, and have all I have in my life, the good and the bad!

God is so deserving of glory! It was not meant for us but all for Him! Let us all do everything, big and small, for His glory and follow the example of Jesus!

“Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:20)


Read more...

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-
seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It
always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

(1 Corinthians 13)


Read more...

The Illusion of Freedom

by Michael Freedom
 

When we left for Spring break, everything was as it should be. My books for classes were piled on the table in my office, ready to be quickly grabbed as I would dart back to the classroom in in a week. A stack of papers, ready for grading, was piled on the corner of my desk. There would be plenty of time to take care of that when we returned. It had been a long semester already and I was looking forward to a little break. My students were certainly ready for one. A number of them had even used one of their unexcused absences to head home a day early to get a jumpstart on some much-needed rest and relaxation. Their rooms were left much like my office, their books piled in a corner, their clothes in the closet, their laptops on their desks.

After teaching for over two decades, this was a familiar pattern. One that marked that the ending of another school year was fast approaching. One more opportunity for students and faculty alike to catch their breath before the onslaught of final papers, final projects, and final exams would consume our time and our attention. We would blink and it would be Easter and blink again and I would be donning graduation robes to mark another successful completion of the school year. The Spring semester goes by in a flash!

We had no way of knowing that this spring break ritual would not look like previous years. There was just no warning. At least not one we had paid attention to inside our protective bubble of campus life. Little did we know that those offices and dorm rooms would stand, like time capsules, for months before anyone would reenter them. Little did we know that for some of us, the hasty “goodbye” and “see you after break” would be the last time we would be in a class together. Little did we know that everything was about to change… forever.

It was shortly after we got home that the news reports started. COVID-19? What was that? Somewhere, halfway around the world, a maelstrom was forming.

That sounds awful. Thank goodness we are safe here. Truth be told, I still couldn’t point out Wuhan, China on a map if my life depended on it. The news seemed to be too awful and too far removed all at the same time.

“What do you mean they quarantined an entire city? They shut the whole thing down?”

“Thank goodness we live in America; nothing like that would ever happen here.” “We have the best hospitals and medical centers in the world!”

“The American people would never stand for it.”

An email came that week from the Provost’s office. Our week of Spring break would be extended into two as we monitored the situation as the Governor worked with the CDC to determine the best ways to keep everyone safe. Students and faculty were to refrain from returning to campus. The college was effectively closed.

An extra week of spring break? We rarely even got snow days. This was going to be awesome! The amount of work I could catch up on… I mean, the amount of Netflix I could catch up on!

Governor’s orders. Shelter at home order in place. Restaurants closed. Movie theatres closed. Businesses closed. Schools closed. Churches… closed. Come on… it’s Easter!

50 percent capacity. 20 percent capacity. 10 percent capacity. Everyone wear masks. Stay at least six feet apart. Don’t visit with friends… extended family… your parents. Close the nursing homes. No visitors in hospitals. What do you mean we are running out of ventilators… masks… hand sanitizer… antibacterial soap… Lysol wipes… toilet paper?!?!? This can’t happen here! Can it?

Somewhere those papers still sat, ungraded. The books were still piled in eager anticipation of being snatched up again. Empty chairs waited at empty desks. Empty classrooms sat in silence. The gaze of students was replaced by flickering screens… laptops for those that had brought them home…smartphones for others. No textbooks… they were still locked in dorm rooms. No library books for compiling research; they were locked in a shuttered library. No graduation ceremony. No robes. This will certainly be over by the Fall. Right? God, you’ve got this… right???

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

When things are going well or at least when they are predictable, it is easy to believe the lie that we are in control. It’s easy to live our lives without much thought towards God. We make our plans, we set our paths, and we assume that we have control over small to monumental decisions in our lives. We’ve got this! We have this all under control.

However, this control is an illusion. It can be disrupted in a moment…even by a microscopic virus. Then, all of the power of all of the governments of the world falter and our weakness and inadequacy is revealed.

As James so adeptly points out, living our lives without recognizing God’s lordship or His will is sinful living. In a country where rugged individualism is coupled with a “pull myself up by my own bootstraps” mentality, it is easy to fall comfortably into this lie. I wish that it didn’t take a global pandemic to remind me that He is in control. He alone has the power over my life and over His creation. My sense of control is only an illusion and my belief in that illusion is fostered by my pride, my arrogance, and own sinful sense of self-importance. My strength lies not in my wrestling for control but in my releasing that control to the only One that has the power and authority to wield it. Indeed, this is what the Bible teaches us, that our freedom is found in submitting to the authority of God, to His purposes, and His will.

The things of this world that shock us are no surprise to our God. The powers that bring us to our knees are no match for our God. The evil that deceives us flees before our God. The fears that hold us captive shatter before our God. And the peace that eludes us is ever-present with our God.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)


Read more...

Working Together

by Laura Courtney
 

So if you’ve read my prior devotional, you will recall my rough description of all the components that need to come
together to make our now-regularly scheduled Sunday morning livestream. When all the technical parts are set up
correctly and working together, you see and hear God’s Word coming through. But if there is a misconnection of
equipment or two tech pieces aren’t communicating properly, well, the end result is not as good.

Perhaps you’ve seen the end result when all the parts don’t work together. It’s a video with no sound, sound but no video, or just a big blank screen. It’s VERY obvious when something isn’t working.

2020 was a year that tried to divide, separate, and destroy the Body of Christ. Racial tensions, political tensions, Covid
tensions, and divisiveness all around. But as Christians and true followers of Christ, we cannot give into this pressure to divide and hurt one another. That’s not what Christ did when he walked this earth. And that is not Him at work now. We need to be perfectly aware that what divides us and seeks to tear us apart is not the work of Christ, it is the work of the Devil. And Satan has had some pretty easy work pitting us against each other this past year.

Instead, we need to unite first as believers, if we want to bring peace and the rest of the world to Christ. Regardless of our opinions, affiliations and just straight up differences, we are all equal in Christ. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. And if we truly want to show Christ and His love to the rest of this world, it starts right here with us and how we interact with those around us. Because when we are connected and work together, God’s message is broadcast clearly and streamed to all those around us. When we don’t, it is very obvious that something isn’t working.

I’d like to say that I was not one of those adding to the divisiveness of 2020. But I don’t think that is true. I can say that God has been working on me in this area and I hope to be a better example of His love and grace in 2021. Ephesians 4 has crossed my path a few times in the last couple months and I can’t help but think how true those words are for us (me
included) today. I’d invite you to read through it as well and pray for God to grant you patience, grace, and His calming spirit to guide you through the rest of this year.

“So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
(Ephesians 4:14-16)


Read more...

What Was That Conversation About?

by Herman Crawford
 

I have been reading Francis Schaffer’s book True Spirituality (copyright 1971). I think this is about my third time reading this particular book. That is unusual for me. Normally when I read a book for study purposes, I take notes and then use the notes for future reference rather than read the book again. But True Spirituality seems to be a little different for me. Some might say that the book is deep, has a lot of substance, etc. That is probably a very good description because each time I read this book, I find something which I feel is key but had missed during the previous reads.

What has caught my attention in the reading thus far are a couple of things that have to do with the death of Christ. Schaffer asks the question: “How central was Christ’s death for our redemption?” In the book of Luke, the event of Jesus up on the Mount of Transfiguration meeting with Moses and Elijah is recorded. Now I know that I have read this before but it is one of those passages which I read, but didn’t really READ. In Chapter 9:30-31, Luke writes, “And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”

Scripture does not tell us how long Jesus and His disciples were on the mountain but it must have been for some period of time. The disciples, as the disciples did in the Garden when Jesus was arrested, became tired and were overcome with sleep. Schaffer’s question is being answered while they slept. Jesus, Moses and Elijah were discussing “His departure.” This was not about leaving the Mount, it was not about leaving Jerusalem or Galilee or any other Israeli town or city. It was about leaving this earth for His place at the right hand of God the Father. But I think it was even more than that. I think maybe it was about how the departure process would happen. The arrest, the trial, the carrying of the Cross, the crucifixion, what took place during the time of His death, the burial and finally the resurrection. Essentially, the Easter story, but in the kind of detail that I cannot not even imagine. How important His departure must have been to spend time in this kind of detailed conversation about it – and probably a good deal of time if the disciples slept through it. Francis Schaffer points out that the death of Christ was central to the work of Christ. The prophets spoke of it in the Old Testament and here we have Jesus, Moses and Elijah talking about it in the New Testament.

So then, perhaps each of you should read the story of the transfiguration. Answer the question for yourselves. What would your/our redemption have looked like without the “departure” of Christ? What do you think Jesus, Moses and Elijah might have been discussing in their conversation?

Father God, thank you for loving us. Thank you for giving what you loved most, your Son Jesus, for us. We thank you for the power of the resurrection, which now enables us to join you, both now and in eternity. Amen.


Read more...

He Is Faithful

by Christina Hice
 

I have struggled with writing this Lenten Devotional. I mean, REALLY struggled. I think I started and stopped at least seven times, woke up in the middle of the night multiple times, and jotted down side-bar notes while supposedly taking notes at a staff meeting (sorry—not sorry) when an idea was triggered. It seems like I just can’t land on a topic, theme, or point that I want to make, or, more rightly, that I perceive God is wanting me to make. Nothing seemed to fit.

It occurs to me that life, and perhaps more so the last year, has been a lot like this. Starts and stops, interruptions, detours, derailments. Times of trying to listen but just not hearing. Things not fitting properly.

And yet…

And yet, if nothing else, with all that happened in 2020 and all that is to come in 2021 and future years, at the very bottom of it all, God is faithful. He has been faithful, He is faithful, He will be faithful. In all things, in all circumstances, in all situations, He is faithful.

One more time: He. Is. Faithful.

No matter the storms, no matter the changes, no matter the sorrow, no matter the joys, no matter the quiet…God is
faithful.

Nothing added, nothing extra, nothing else but, in the fullness of the promise of His Own Word, God Is Faithful.

Lord, in the midst of life, help us to deeply, without question or reservation, know Your faithfulness to Your people. May we move in confidence, serving You as we step forward in faith. Amen.

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness, great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.”
“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”, Thomas Obadiah Chisholm


Read more...