Weekly Devotional – April 25th, 2016

A White Bread Faith
By Ryan Duncan, Croswalk.com Entertainment Editor

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.- 1 John 3:10 

When I was still in high school my mother became a vegetarian. Now, I have nothing but respect for vegetarians, but as a guy who likes his steaks extra-rare, this created a few problems in our household. Suddenly our family was exploring what people called “organic” dishes. Tofu, quiche, we dined on whole-grain pastas sprinkled with nuts, strange cheeses, and enough broccoli to kill an entire fourth grade class. It wasn’t all that bad actually; my mother was very gracious and still cooked meat for the carnivores in the house, but I suspect a soy based meat substitute found its way into our meals on more than one occasion.

The worst part though, was the bread. My family went from using your typical sleeve of wheat bread to buying those thick, iron cast loaves so brown they were almost black. I can remember sitting in the cafeteria during lunch, watching my classmates as they flagrantly devoured their delicious, white-bread PB&J’s, while I chewed the same bite of sandwich over and over for almost an hour because chunks of grain were still floating around in it. Back then, I would have given anything for a sandwich made from white, Wonder Bread.

The thing is though, ask any nutritionist and they’ll tell you white bread barely counts as grain at all. It tastes good, but that’s because it’s been almost entirely drained of nutrients. All the beneficial vitamins and minerals have been lost, and in the end we are left with a food that really isn’t as healthy as we’d like to think it is.

How many of us Christians are looking for a “White Bread” relationship with God? We show up at Church on Sunday and pray before each meal, then tell ourselves that should be enough to help us grow in our faith. It’s a sweet deal with all of the benefits and none of the drawbacks. Don’t fool yourself; God wants to be so much more in our lives than our Sunday morning service. He is looking to make us lights of the world, to bring peace where there is strife, hope where there is despair, and grace where there is hate. You won’t be very prepared for that if you just stick to the Sunday Sermons. Don’t deny yourself a good, healthy, relationship with God. Read the Bible, get involved, and above all, be sure to make him a part of your daily life.

Intersecting Faith and Life: 

Find ways to get involved with you home church. Volunteer for events, or try mentoring some of the younger students. Parents, are your children involved in a youth group? Encourage them to give it a try.

Further Reading

Revelation 3:15-17


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Weekly Devotional – April 18th, 2016

Altar-Call Christians?

by Debbie Holloway, Crosswalk.com Contributor

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching” (John 14:23-24).

I’ve watched a lot of altar-calls in my day. The church in which I grew up routinely had altar-calls at the end of Sunday morning services. “If you’ve never asked Jesus into your heart, and you want to now, raise your hand. Come to the front. Pray this prayer…” Granted, not every church and every denomination does the whole altar-call thing. But it’s a pretty recognizable event in the land of “Christianese.”

And it’s not baseless. After all, Paul wrote to the Romans:

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”(Romans 10:9).

And,

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.  As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame’” (Romans 10-11).

But I wonder sometimes if we grasp those verses a little too tightly, and forget about the kind of life that Jesus was calling us to live. Are we living like Christians– like those “belonging to Christ” or “members of Christ’s household” – or are we simply living like people who prayed the Sinner’s Prayer that one time?

Take a look at a few of these verses:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person” (Matthew 5:38-39).

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on” (Matthew 6:25).

“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God”(John 3:20-21).

Jesus said those things. Jesus said to follow him. To give, make peace, feed the poor, and endlessly love.

Intersecting Faith and Life: 

Ask yourself… Are you walking in the footsteps of Jesus? Are you walking in the light? Or are you just someone who said the Sinner’s Prayer one time, long ago?

Further Reading

John 14


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Weekly Devotional – April 12th, 2016

I Don’t Know the Future, but I Know Who Holds It – Encouragement for Today

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions.’” Exodus 16:4(NLT)

I had barely slept as the worries in my heart grew bigger and bigger in the darkness. When the sunshine finally peeked through my window, I immediately began to pray. I poured out my heart to God and dumped all of my concerns at His feet.

But as I continued praying, I began to notice a pattern. No matter what circumstance or concern I shared with God, they all seemed to share one underlying theme — the fear of lack of provision.

You see my personal circumstances had changed, and suddenly my future was not as secure as it once seemed. I felt God convicting my heart with the need to

stop fearing the unknown and start trusting, Him with the unknown. Then I heard a gentle whisper in my spirit saying, “I alone am your Provider.”

With eyes closed and tears threatening to emerge, I nodded my head,

“Yes, Lord. You are. Forgive me for doubting Your provision. I seek Your peace and ask You to take away the fears gripping my heart. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know You hold my future. Amen.”

I opened my eyes and felt Jesus nudging me to have some time alone in His Word, so I picked up my phone and clicked on the app where I read one of my daily devotions. Immediately, hot tears pushed through my eyes as I realized the devotion was echoing the prayer I had just prayed minutes earlier. It specifically addressed the fears for provision I had just shared with God. In fact, it was nearly word for word. God had heard the cries of my heart, and He wasted no time reassuring me He was listening.

The devotion was based on today’s key verse in Exodus where God provided for His people in a miraculous way. It was designed to bring them closer to Him, as they were forced to trust Him for their provision on a daily basis.

I read about how the people of Israel had looked everywhere but “up” for their needs to be met. They’d been slaves to the Egyptians, and after God set them free, they had to fully trust Him for all of their needs. The slaves were physically free but still mentally enslaved to their habit of looking for provision from people and things.

I thought about where I usually looked for provision, and none of them were “up.” I looked to my job. I looked to my husband. I looked to my checkbook or my savings account. I looked to my goals and dreams. I looked to my relationships. But now life was changing, and God was calling me to look to Him.

Then I read further in the passage to Exodus 16:8 which says,
“Then Moses added, ‘The LORD will give you meat to eat in the evening and bread to satisfy you in the morning, for he has heard all your complaints against him. What have we done? Yes, your complaints are against the LORD, not against us” (NLT).
Ouch. I had been doing a lot of complaining and sharing my concerns. I realized my complaints were not only to my Provider, but against my Provider. The One who had always provided for me in the past, and He would continue to do so in the future, even if I didn’t know exactly how.

After reading the devotion and thanking God for reminding me He was my Provider, I felt a wave of peace. Admitting my need for God and trusting Him as my Jehovah-Jireh, lightened my heart and changed my perspective from that day forward.

I still may not know what the future holds, but I know Who holds my future. And He has your future in His hands, too.

Lord, I have been feeling enslaved to my thoughts of worry and doubt and I seek Your forgiveness. Help me remember You alone are the One who will provide for all of my needs — physical, spiritual and emotional. Help me recognize the sweet ways You are raining down manna each day and to trust You alone with the future. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:

Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

RELATED RESOURCES:
The devotion that Tracie Miles read when she encountered God’s voice was from the free Proverbs 31 Ministries First 5 devotional app. It will transform your time with God as you give Him the first 5 minutes of every day. Join us for the study of Acts on the First 5 app, beginning April 25! Get the Acts Experience Guide

 here.
If you want to grow closer to God and trust Him with your past and your future, you’ll be inspired by Tracie’s book,

Your Life Still Counts: How God Uses Your Past To Create A Beautiful Future.


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Weekly Devotional – April 4th, 2016

These Are the Fruit of the Spirit… Oh, Wait! I’m Missing One!
by Carrie Dedrick, Editor, Crosswalk.com
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23a
Patience is a virtue.
Unfortunately, I don’t have it.
I try to be patient, I really do. But I am about as high-strung, Type-A as they come and planning comes about as naturally to me as jam-packing my days with work, chores, and fun.
I was recently in a time of waiting when I was unemployed and searching for the right position for me. For nearly six months, I looked for work in a variety of industries, stretching way outside my comfort zone of writing and journalism.
But you know what happened?
I didn’t find a position on my time. I was on the Lord’s time, and it wasn’t until I stopped making this job search so much about me that the perfect job came to me.
In hindsight, I realize that Jeremiah 29:11 should have been my mantra during this time.
“For I know the plans I have you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 
My husband and I are moving out of our apartment in two short months and we are faced with a decision: Do we move into another apartment? Do we rent a house? Do we buy a house? Can we even afford to do that? I suppose that is really several decisions.
I’m in a period of waiting again as we look into our options and determine what is best for us. But this time I’m going to do it right. My husband will face our decisions in prayer.
What I learned last time is that it’s not all about me. I trust that God has a perfect plan for me; he already knows where I’m going to live.
It’s not easy for an obsessive planner like me to let go and prayerfully urge God to take control of my situation. And yet, I believe that God has my best interests at heart. After all, I am God’s child, and he is cares deeply about me. My Father will take care of my situation in his time because I have humbly presented him with my plight.
Tomorrow my husband and I will go look at a house a third of a mile from our church. The house is a foreclosure and just went on the market. To us, it seems felicitous.
Ordinarily, I would go into freak-out mode and obsess to the point of not sleeping. A house would be the largest purchase of my life and there is so much to consider.
However, I am completely calm today, though it goes against my typical personality. It puts me at peace to give my worries to God; I don’t know why I didn’t do it before.
This house may be the one, but if it isn’t, that’s still okay. It won’t be the end of the world. Maybe there is another house for us that hasn’t even been put up for sale yet. Maybe there is a perfect house for us to rent or perhaps we will move into another apartment.
No matter what the future holds, God is in control of the situation. Our Lord is always with us; we are not going to slip his mind.
Major or trivial, cast your burdens upon the Lord. Then be patient. Things have a way of working out, if not they way or the in the time frame we thought they would.
Intersecting Faith and Life:
 Look within and consider which fruit of the spirit you struggle with. Is it patience like me? Perhaps it is faith or self-control. Whichever fruit you are “missing,” pray for the Lord’s help as you work to strengthen it.
Further Reading:

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Weekly Devotional – March 28th, 2016

Resurrected
by Sarah Phillips, Crosswalk.com Contributor

I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalms 118: 17, 22-23

Most of you celebrated the Lord’s resurrection yesterday. For many, it was a glorious day of rejoicing in the miraculous. It was a day where you reflected not only on the event 2,000 years ago, but on the resurrections in your own life. The day you accepted Christ. The day a long-awaited prayer was answered. The day sickness was healed or sorrow wiped away.

For others, this day only served as a reminder of your cross. You felt like you got left at Good Friday, weeping, while the rest of the world moved on to Easter Sunday. You wish you could celebrate, but you don’t know how. You may have even apologized to God for your somberness. You’re not alone, I assure you.

In the past few months I’ve watched several Good Friday’s and Easters play out in the lives of those around me. Engagements and babies ushered in cries of rejoicing and praises to God. Yet, cancer, infidelity, and financial hardship occurred uncomfortably close to these joyful events.

Most of life is like this. Happiness, unmixed, is not easy to come by.

So how do we deal with this reality? How do we deal with Good Friday and Easter coexisting?

I think we start with recognizing that the first Easter, the real Easter, was not just one event in time that occurred long ago. Christ’s resurrection spanned the ages and has eternal consequences. It applies to you and me today just as much as it did to Christ’s followers on Easter morning. It also applies to the future. Our hope, no matter where we may be today, is in the transforming truth of Easter.

Secondly, I think we need to remember that true faith in God does not rely on our emotions. If you cried on Easter morning because life has been wearing you down, God still accepts you. In fact, he died and rose for you so that he could more closely walk with you through these hard times. He knows, more than anyone, the heaviness of the cross.

Third, I think we need to remember that as awe-struck as Christ’s first followers felt after his resurrection, they still didn’t know what it fully meant… for humanity or for their personal lives. While the resurrection brought their beloved Rabbi back to them, he was different now. The resurrection simultaneously healed some wounds while opening a new can of questions, insecurities, fears, and even pain – at least temporarily.

Ultimately, all Good Friday’s will lead to joyful Easter mornings if we cling to Christ. Whether you are in a season of hardship, rejoicing, or a mix of both, the key is to keep walking in faith one step at a time. Only the risen Christ can guide us through the foggy path of life. And when our final Easter morning arrives, we’ll finally see with clarity that the journey was worth it.

Intersecting Faith & Life:

Reflect on the “little resurrections” in your life – the times God answered a prayer in a very tangible way, the blessings in your life, and the miracles you’ve witnessed. All these serve as reminders of the great work God will continue to do in your life.

Further Reading

Acts 2:14, 22-33
Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11
Matthew 28:8-15


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