Rest For Your Souls

Matthew [11:28]-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Experiences continue to teach me the complexity of life that comes with each new day. Complexity I want to define is to the difficulty and complication which clouds and confuses the mind and heart to the faith walk. I confess to my lack of understanding when I was younger! I had the misconception that life became simpler as we grew older and wiser. Experience and ministry is teaching me that I was extremely deceived as to the process we endure rather than always enjoy.

Some phrases I have been introduced to over the years have been:

I never knew we would come to this place in our life,

It’s not right that Mothers and Fathers have to bury their children,

I know something is going on but what can I do about it!

Yes, these are questions and statements people like you and I have to deal with in our journey—but we never think we will think that way. It reminds me of the story in Matthew 9 when Jesus was confronted with the family with a desperate child. The Father  knew Jesus could meet them and their need, however what he needed immediately was a fresh touch.

In all of my experiences I need to remember to call on Jesus to help my unbelief!

Mark [9:24] And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

Derwin Griffin



James’ Challenge

1My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.   James [1:19]-20

James has always been one of my
favorite books of the bible. Each verse seems to contain some type of practical
advice for living a life more representative of Christ. Maybe it’s just because
I’m a man and I need to be told exactly what to do and how to do it. Although
it is one of my favorites, it’s one of the most challenging as well.

Looking at these verses, James gives some very straightforward advice. It can be broken down into three suggestions:

  1. Be quick to listen.
  2. Be slow to speak.
  3. Be slow to become angry.

 

So simple yet so difficult to master. It seems like we are
taught from a young age that we should strive to be the first to give an answer
in school or the first to give an opinion on something (and you have to have a
strong opinion on everything. But that’s a lesson for another day). In a world
dominated by social media, we crave the instant gratification of one of our
posts getting a lot of likes, shares, and comments from those that agree with
us. None of these are bad things, but James might have recommended a different
approach.

Read more…



Decreasing

John the Baptist is one of the pivotal characters of Scripture. Think of some of the things that we know about his life.

His birth was abnormal by any stretch of the imagination:

His father received a visit from an angel while serving in the sanctuary of the Temple for what was probably his only visit inside the sanctuary of the Temple.

                                Dad had some problems with this visit and couldn’t speak until John was born.

Prior to John’s birth, while she probably in her 6th month of pregnancy, his mother visited her cousin; Mary, Jesus’ mother.

                                John, as a baby in the womb, reacted to this visit!

When John was born Zechariah wrote out John’s name for a group of ladies who had come to visit. Only then was he able to speak.

                                It’s a little odd that possibly he had never told anyone this name before – for 9 months!

John began a ministry in his adult years that attracted a large following – even Jesus came to visit. He had such influence that the king and his family payed attention to what he had to say. These are things that most of us dream to have – and yet this was John’s view of his life.

They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.” John [3:26]-30

As I read this I wonder what influence, desires, and focus that I’m not willing to surrender to God. Friends, family, and followers, can seem like good things, but they can definitely keep us from fully serving as God presents opportunities.



Standing Firm

Matthew [16:13]-18

While flying on a plane to PA, I did what any good young man would do and downloaded some sermons to listen to. As the stewardess came over the intercom to say we could use our electronic devices, Pastor Adrian Rogers was already well into his sermon from Matthew 16. 

About halfway through the message Brother Adrian read verse 18 and I can still hear him saying it to this day. In a powerful booming voice.

“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

This idea of a sure foundation was not a new idea to the disciples. During the closing remarks of His sermon on the mount he taught them about the wise man that built his house on a rock, and how nothing that the world threw at it could cause it to fall. Then He told about the foolish man that built his home on sand, and you could sneeze on it and blow it over. It must have come as a shock to them, because the bible says they were astonished at what He said.

How often in our lives today are we astonished when things that we know (or think we know) fail. At my office I had a coworker that I knew I could depend on to help me with anything. I talked with him quite a bit and thought we were really close friends. One Friday he asked for a meeting with the boss and handed in his resignation and left without saying goodbye or any explanation. That shook me. How could a friend of over 10 years just walk away and not say a word? 

Things of this world are forever shift. Nothing is certain. But the words of an old hymn speak of certainties that we have as Christians. 

“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord

Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word

What more can He say than to you He hath said

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled. 

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose

I will not, I will not desert to its foes

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

God who has called us to be His people will always be here for us. When things of this world seem uncertain, we can look to God’s word (the Bible and hymns) and find certainty and a rock that will not be shaken by the world. In them we can draw comfort from the one that was there at the beginning, and will be with us to the end. 

Riley Lee



Understanding our Gift

The following devotion was originally written in 2015 by JD Bowen. Our church has been greatly blessed by his faithfulness over the years. His is an enduring legacy and the short devotional below is a symbol of how he has ministered to so many.

As a Christian have you ever asked yourself; “What is my gift?”

Perhaps the works of others has made you feel inferior or lacking in capability. Let’s stop and think about this. First, consider what instructions are given by our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus gave us a clue in His sermon on the mount. This is what we know as the Golden Rule.

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew [7:12]

This speaks loudly about our relationship with our fellow man. Think about it – we are to reach out to others with a helping hand rather than wait for them to reach out to us. He is saying take the initiative wherever there is a need including within the church and in the world. Consider this is in Luke [10:29]-37

Jesus defines who our neighbor is by telling the story of a man going from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves. As he lay helpless on the roadside, two religious men, a priest and a Levite, who failed to minister to him, but along came a despised Samartian who ministered to him. Jesus asked “who then is the neighbor?” The answer, of course, is the Samaritan who ministered.

Jesus tells another story that reveals more clearly the spiritual side of ministering through good works. In Matthew [25:31]-46, Jesus describes the separation of the righteous from the unrighteous. The criterion for judgment was their ministry to Him. Those who were on the right had ministered to Him were congratulated and rewarded. Their reward was the kingdom prepared for them. Their response was total surprise. They asked, when did we see you hungry and gave you food, was thirsty and gave you drink. “When did we do all this to you?”

His answer was equally shocking. He said, “I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” What a wonderful surprise. However, let us not think that Jesus is saying that works saves us. We do good works because we are saved. Paul reminded us that we do good works because we are saved. His word to the Ephesian church in his letter is very clear about this.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

As born-again children of God, let us have the attitude Isaiah had after hearing the Lord say, “whom shall we send, and who will go for us?” Then Isaiah said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Are you ministering as you should? There is much work to do through your church and the world about you. What are you waiting for?



Close to Home

Have you ever had one of those weird coincidences that just makes you wonder? Today’s devotion is a result of just such an occurrence – which I just had.

I have been reading the Gospel of John for a few months as part of my personal Bible study. With this on my mind I wrote a devotion that you will have an opportunity to read in a few days. The focus is on John the Baptist and his surrender to serving God.

Knowing that we needed a devotion for today I stopped some of the work that I was doing and grabbed one of my daily devotion books and turned to today’s date. The devotion you will read below is dated for the day in which I am writing; August 6, and I read this following the devotion which I wrote and will be published on August 11.

John the Baptist knew who he was and what he was called to be. “I am not the Mesisah; I am sent before him. It is the groom who has the bride. The groom’s best man waits there listening for him, and is overjoyed to hear his voice. That is my joy, and it is complete. He must increase, while I must decrease.

Who am I? What are my reasons for wanting to go on living? What are my goals, dreams, desires, aspiration? What is stirring, moving, surfacing in my soul? In a broad stroke of the brush, I would say, paraphrasing Thoreau, that as the hour of my particular sunset approaches, I would be appalled to discover that I had died without having lived.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Philippians [1:21]

The above devotion was taken from Reflections for Ragamuffins, by Brennan Manning. If you would like to join a 10 day reading plan for these devotions please visit https://my.bible.com/reading-plans/1015-ragamuffin-reflections-from-brennan-mannin



Making Bricks

Genesis 11:1-9
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

While studying for our Kid’s Church lesson for the following Sunday, I stumbled across this verse. I know I have read it many times, but it hit me like a ton of bricks (Get It!).  Come, let’s make bricks, the Holy Spirit and a resource on the internet, noted that the people making the Tower of Babel were making their own bricks.  What a visual that brings to my mind, people covered in mud and clay with straw being thrown into a pit, while constantly stomping up and down in thickening mire.  The more they stamp and churn the more the more difficult the task becomes.

Have you been there, are you there now? That feeling when you get up to go to church or serve in a position, not for the pure joy of serving your Lord, but churning your bricks in the mud pit of obligation with a pinch of pride thrown in. Those pits are hard to get out of once you have tromped yourself a gigantic rut.

There is hope!

In Genesis [20:25], it says ‘If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it.

The Lord never asks for altars to be built by human hands. He has done all of the work. All He asks from us is to use His created gifts to present His Message. It is His altar, He provides the sacrifice, (Gen.22:9-12) all we must do is receive.  No work of our own hands, just hearts with a heart for Him. When we are directed in the center of God’s Will, there is a freedom and joy that is totally liberating.  Like a deep breath of complete rest.

Let us place our “All On His Altar” today.

Jackie Gillespie



Simplicity

John [3:16]

For God so loved the world, that he
gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish,
but have everlasting life.

Several years ago my husband and I
had the privilege of attending the Billy Graham Crusade when it came to Jacksonville,
Florida. As I sat there, in awe of just even being there, I was anxious to hear
a deep profound message from the great Rev. Graham himself. The evening did not
disappoint. However, I was surprised at how simple the words were. John [3:16]. A
verse I’ve known since…forever. (Hey, I’m a preacher’s kid.) His gift of
salvation is FREE. Why do we try to complicate this? Over the years I’ve often
been reminded that what God desires of us is just that: simple.

    -Give thanks.

    -Do not fear.

    -Love one another. Read more…



A Call To The Church

II Chronicles [7:13]-14  If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

What if we had said 6 months ago that something was going to happen that would shake up the whole world.  That would dramatically slow down the rat race.  We would have said that would be impossible.  And yet it has happened.  

And what has been our response as Christians?  As those who are called by the name of Christ?  We are shouting at people in social media, and hoarding supplies.  Perhaps buying guns.  Some of us are defiantly demanding that things go back to normal.  Demanding that we have our rat race back!

We are given this opportunity to humble ourselves, and seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked ways.  This scripture does not say “Everyone on earth” should do these things.  It says If MY PEOPLE WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME.  We as a church have access to a power that can make a difference and we are so tied up in the world that we are not seeing it. 

God help us to see our current situation through Your eyes and respond according to Your will!

Harriet Bowman



Faith and Obedience: Day by Day

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James [2:26]

A memory I have of doing baptisms in Northern Nigeria is one of doing some of the secret or hidden baptisms which we had to do from time to time to avoid people being attacked during a baptismal service. We would find a secluded stream and then post lookouts on one or two nearby hilltops who could observe the surrounding area while we conducted the baptism. We would climb down through the grasses and bushes into the stream and find a place deep enough to do the baptism. Then after sharing from scripture and having a prayer, the ones to be baptized would enter the water and wade out to me. We would then allow them to publicly profess their faith and baptize them. Usually the witnesses would be only 10 to 15 in number to avoid drawing too much attention. On one occasion a service similar to this was conducted by some of our Nigerian friends in a nearby state and it somehow was found out about. An attack occurred and one of the newly baptized men was killed there by the river in which he had just been baptized.

Baptism doesn’t save us. Scripture is clear on this. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). However, following Jesus’ example of being baptized is very important. If it wasn’t important, He would not have commanded His disciples to baptize new believers (Matthew[28:19]). So why baptize? Why would these Africans risk death to follow through with baptism? It is a public physical statement of the change which a person has gone through as he has died to his old self and is resurrected as a new person in Christ. An outward example of an inward change, as one old pastor used to say. It is also one of our very first acts of obedience to Christ.

Following Christ is all about faith and obedience. We begin with baptism. Then we grow in our faith and we learn to follow Christ’s teachings in all areas of our lives. If we are living in disobedience, yet we claim to be a follower of Christ, where is the truth in that situation? As James said, faith without works (obedience) is dead (James [2:26]).

The point of this little devotion today is this: Are we walking the walk of faith or are we only talking the talk of faith? Let us always strive daily to be sure we are walking the walk of faith and obedience in all areas of our lives for His glory.

Clint Bowman