Daily Devotional ~ Telling Your Story ~ Week 3

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Day 1              Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve   Joshua 24: 14-15       by Sarah Dorrance

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord, But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” NIV

Joshua had just led the Israelites into the Promised Land. The baton of leadership had been handed from Moses to Joshua. The Israelites arrived in the land of milk and honey. Joshua was reminding them, once again, of God’s covenant. He said they had to choose whom they were going to serve, for there were many distractions in the Promised Land.

It is no different for us. There are many distractions in our world as well. There are many things that try to draw us away from the living God; there are many things that try to pull us away from our creator, redeemer, and sustainer of life. Every day, we too, must choose whom we will serve.

When we do not stay focused on whom we are serving, we miss opportunities. Sometimes we not only miss opportunities, but we also do our own form of rebellion against God. Our rebellion can be a huge deterrent when we are trying to reflect God to the neighborhood and the nations.

So, whom do you choose to serve? How will you live out that service on a daily basis? Is serving the LORD reflected in your daily speech and actions? Are you a child of the covenantal promise?

Reflection: In looking back at the past week, did you reflect God in your actions and words?

Prayer: God, we want to be children of the covenant, we want to be serving you and telling your stories. Too often we are distracted by the world around us that attempts to draw us away from you. By the power of your Holy Spirit, keep us steadfastly in relationship with you. Amen.

Day 2                                      God Heals Faithlessness                  Jeremiah 3:22            by Andy Cimbala

“Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness.” ESV

Have you ever realized you’ve been unfaithful to God? Maybe it’s a missed Gospel opportunity. Maybe you spoke harsh words to your family. Maybe you skipped your Bible reading to work on your hobby. The harder we examine our hearts, the more we realize that we just do not have what it takes. We are a bad friend to God. We commit to things then back out. We say we will attend to something then we do not show. We claim we will change, then we jump right back into our old habits.

God knows that we are faithless, we are not fooling God. But this is where God shines. God calls us to return to God’s self, but not for discipline! This is not for a tongue lashing. No, our God beckons to us to return so that God can heal our faithlessness. God is the source of the healing that we desperately need. Earlier, in Jeremiah 3:12, God says, “Return, faithless Israel, I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious, I will not be angry forever.” God calls us to repentance, but God does so through God’s marvelous grace.

Reflection: How have you been unfaithful to God this week? Confess that to God now. What is God’s attitude towards you when you are unfaithful? Answer: gracious. Take a few minutes to thank God for God’s mercy and faithfulness to you.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for responding to my rebellion with grace. Thank you for offering me healing. I need it. Please heal my faithlessness, and “bind my wandering heart to Thee.”[1] Amen.

Day 3                                      Return to the LORD             Hosea 3:1-5                by Andy Cimbala

And the Lord said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.’ So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, ‘You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.’ For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.” ESV

The story of Hosea is a strange romantic comedy. In chapter 1 God calls Hosea the prophet to marry a prostitute named Gomer, to symbolize the faithfulness of God as the husband to Israel, his unfaithful wife. A few verses later Gomer is already cheating on Hosea, and his heart is broken. By chapter 3, she is being sold into slavery by her adulterous lovers, and God calls Hosea to do something radical: go buy back your wife.

This is a living parable of God’s pursuing mercy and faithfulness to God’s people! Even though we continually stray from God and disobey God’s commandments, and run after idols, God still pursues us in God’s faithful love. God promises in Hosea 2:14, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness, and speak kindly to her.” We see this again in 2:20, “And I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord.” Our rebellion and adultery do not stop God’s love. God stays true to us, even ransoming God’s own life in order to buy us back out of our slavery to sin and death. We see this fulfilled in Christ, who paid the penalty we deserved on the cross, to rescue us as his bride.

Reflection: How have you betrayed the covenant with God? Of what idolatries are you guilty? God does not reject you, rather God is still pursuing you. Press on to know the Lord, and trust that our God is like a forgiving spouse who longs to have you back. God still loves you!

Prayer: God, thank you for your faithful love. Thank you for pursuing me and winning me back. Help me to see your grace and kindness, and respond by returning to you. Amen.

Day 4                                                  Restoration                            Joel 2:25                     by Andy Cimbala

“Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten…” ESV

During the time of Joel the prophet, God’s people had turned away from God. God tried several ways to get the attention of the people, even turning up the heat to the point of sending locusts that ate the crops, reminiscent of the plagues against Egypt during the Exodus. Still God’s people would not repent and return to God!

Joel steps onto the stage and speaks with God’s authority, “Yet even now, return to me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; rend your heart and not your garments.”[2] If they will return to God and repent, then God will pour out blessing! Not only will God stop the discipline and start the blessing, but God will make up to them all the difficulty that the discipline had brought. What a gracious God we have! God makes this crazy claim: even though it is our sin that has caused the locust plague, God will restore the years the locusts have eaten.

We do not serve a vindictive God, who delights in seeing us suffer. We serve a loving, kind, patient creator who knows what is best for us. When we return to God, God goes above and beyond in restoring us in a powerful way, even restoring to us the very things that God had taken away in God’s discipline. God does this out of unconditional love for us, the very ones whom God created.

Reflection: Have you seen the consequences of your sin? Perhaps in broken relationships, or enslaving habits, or an embittered heart? Return to the Lord! Not only will God forgive you of your sins, but God even has the power to restore you.

Prayer: Merciful Lord, please forgive me for my many sins against you. I have such deaf ears. Thank you for calling me to return to you and being willing to restore me to a right relationship with you. Allow my heart to stir with joy and gratitude toward your mercy and grace. Amen.

Day 5     Seek the Lord Your God with All Your Heart   Deuteronomy 4:29-31 by Sarah Dorrance

But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.” NIV

Do we seek the LORD with all of our hearts? The time when I was farthest away from God was in my college days. Some of these occasions were when I was less than nice and other times when I was just not being faithful to God.

In particular, for me, it was my foul mouth. For a short period of time, mine was a sailor’s mouth. One day I overheard another person speaking as I had for a few months. Suddenly, I realized that this one thing, even though seemingly so small, was not a reflection of the God who created me and not a reflection of who I wanted to be.

Sometimes we fail to pay attention to the small things that might lead us to stray from God, like the words that were coming out of my mouth which did not honor anyone, let alone the God of all creation. We look at the big things and we might think that we are in a good place, but God wants all of us. God wants us to turn our lives completely over to God. Little things whittle at our belief system, so much so that we can begin the erroneous thought of, “Well, that one little time will not matter.” Maybe we begin to say, “This one little area of my life will be ok, even if it is not really what God wants.”

The prophets are here to warn us of this false thinking. We are reminded by God to seek the Lord with all our heart and soul. God sent prophets to call the people and us back to a faithful God. In reality, we all need calling back to God. Belonging to God is a choice we make every day.

In sharing our God stories it is important that we also share that we do not have this following God thing down perfectly, but we are trying every day to follow God in a more authentic way.

Reflection: What small part of my life have I been trying to “keep from God?” Am I ready to turn it over and seek God with all my heart and soul in order to be a better reflection of my Lord and savior?

Prayer: God, you know I cannot do this on my own. Empower me by your Holy Spirit to turn every aspect of my life over to you, and to seek you with all of my heart and soul. Amen.

Day 6                          Asking God to Speak                        Jeremiah 43:1-4        by Melissa Cimbala

“When Jeremiah finished speaking to all the people all these words of the Lord their God, with which the Lord their God had sent him to them, Azariah the son of Hoshaiah and Johanan the son of Kareah and all the insolent men said to Jeremiah, ‘You are telling a lie. The Lord our God did not send you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to live there,’ but Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may kill us or take us into exile in Babylon.’” ESV

Have you ever thought that life would be easier if God just told you what you should do next? Have you ever wanted God to directly speak into your situation and inform you which path to take? In the book of Jeremiah, chapters 42-43, God’s people think the same thing. After the Babylonian army conquered Jerusalem, the remnant of survivors went to the prophet Jeremiah, whom they had ignored up until this point, and promised that if God told them what to do, they would obey this time. But do they follow through with their promise? After the LORD tells them distinctly to stay in the land and not to hide in Egypt, the people directly disobey. Even though God directly tells them all the blessing that God will pour upon them if they stay, they refuse. God’s plan for their lives seems too scary, too hard, and too unclear.

While we may not have a modern day prophet like Jeremiah to tell us where God is directing us, we do have something better! We have the entire Old and New Testaments of the Bible and the recorded life and teaching of our savior Jesus Christ. God may not tell us exactly where we should go live or work as God did in Jeremiah 42-43, but God does tell us what we should be doing and the people with whom we should be engaging. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus tells us to, “Go and make disciples…”  That may seem scary, hard, or unclear, but God promises blessing and success if we obey! God has directly told us what to do next. Will you choose to obey?

Reflection: Have you asked God to speak into your life?  Is it possible that Scripture may already contain the answers that you are seeking? Do you, (like me,) “ask” God for direction when you already know what the answer should be? Are you following the command that God has spoken to you to make disciples? How can you make disciples in the places God has called you to be?

Prayer: God of wisdom and grace, so often we ask for you to speak, but in our fears and discomfort we forget that you have already spoken to us through your Word. Empower us to put our trust in you and to remember that you are with us forever, “until the end of the ages.”[3] Amen.

Day 7                          Standing at the Crossroads             Jeremiah 6:16           by Sarah Dorrance

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” NIV

 

Have you ever been on a path that had lost its directional sign and you had to determine the direction in which the route was headed? I like to hike. There have been multiple times, while out hiking in the mountains, that the path was not well marked or the sign had been broken. I was literally standing at a crossroads not certain which path was going to take me home and which path would take me deeper into the rough, wooded area of the mountain.

Sometimes we speak of a crossroad in life. This is a time when we have two very different paths that lead in opposite directions, and we have to determine which path to use. We often see those crossroads at intersections of life when we have major decisions to make. Which person should I marry? What should I do after high school? Should I quit this job and begin a different one that might be less lucrative, but would make me more content? There are so many questions and so many choices!

Sometimes, however, we stand at a crossroads and we do not recognize that it is a crossroad. Sometimes we are so busy doing the same old thing that we fail to acknowledge that if something does not change, the result from doing “the same old thing” is going to be disastrous.

This is where we are in many main-line denominations in America today. Christians are standing at a crossroads, and often we do not even recognize this as a crossroad. Sometimes we think, “If people would straighten up and be like us, this would be easy.”

The reality is that we are standing at a crossroads of culture. Christians are the aliens. We are the folks who do not belong to this culture. How are we going to reach the nations for God if we cannot meet the culture where it is? What should we do differently? How will we reach through to our neighbors who have never heard the Gospel message? What is the prophet calling us to do in our day and time?

One thing we can do at that crossroads is learn to tell our God stories. Another thing we can do is build relationships with those who are not inclined to attend a church where they can hear the Gospel message. One thing we can do is learn to bless our neighbors. These are things we can do differently that will bring about change for good. We stand at a crossroads—pray to the LORD for direction and guidance.

Reflection: Do you feel like you are at a crossroads? In which direction do you intend to travel?

Prayer: God, empower me through your Holy Spirt to be able to reach across the divide of culture in order to be a part of your new creation on earth. Amen.

[1] Quote from the hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.

[2] Joel 2:12-13, ESV.

[3] Matthew 28:21, ESV.

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