Devotionals

Human greatness vs. Heavenly greatness

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Matthew 20

24 And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Ambition is a human thing. From the day I started my first job I wanted to do well and I wanted the boss to like my work.  When I presented a proposal to a Christian printing company and they accepted it without reservation, it felt good.  As humans, we like being recognized for our work.  So when the ten disciples heard that the mother of James and John asked for her sons to sit on the right and the left of Jesus in the new kingdom, they were put out, “greatly displeased.”

This was the time for Jesus to give a lesson on true greatness.  Jesus often spoke in contrasts and here He does not disappoint.  Imagine hearing this for the first time.  Let me break it down in very simple terms: greatness comes from servant-hood – slavery; first in line comes from being last in line; greatness comes from serving and giving your life away.  If you had never heard this before and your mother just asked for your greatness, what might you feel?

People have not changed; we still want recognition, position, better than average placement, and so on.  Jesus gave the opposite instruction telling people of all time that true greatness, for He was truly great, comes from being the slave of others all the way to the death, if necessary.  Who can you serve today? Who can you go out of the way to treat with undeserved kindness and honor?  If you even give a cup of cold water in the Lord’s name, there is reward for you are serving the one you are giving the water to. Do you want to transform you home, your work environment, or your dorm room?  You will transform your surroundings when you treat others better than yourself serving them for Christ’s sake because He so fully served you.

 

I am looking forward to Sunday as I will be back at Grace for Life bringing the morning message.  The text will be from 1 John 5:11-21 if you would like to read ahead.  This will be my last message before I leave on November 30th

Elianna continues to improve.  Her body is very weakened from six days of not moving and only getting nutrition through the I.V.  She is talking now and was glad to see her siblings yesterday.  They did determine that she has an allergy toward cat dander.  A few months ago Hadessah got a cat but Shadow is an outdoor only cat, nonetheless, it seems Elianna reacted to that toxin.  Keep praying with us for God’s to give strength to our little girl.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Our sick Elianna

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So many of you have been praying for Steven and Rachel’s daughter, Elianna.  Last Thursday night her lungs reacted to some airborne toxin which caused the lungs to swell.  The swelling was such that Elianna could not breathe.  There were a few moments during the next four hours that we did not know if she was going to live.  Thanks to a doctor at Rush Copely who demanded she be stabilized with a breathing tube and a respirator before she was transported to Rush Medical Center in Chicago.  Thanks to a doctor at Rush who took over Elianna’s case before she got there and acted quickly and decisively when she arrived there.  Most of all, thanks to God who gave wisdom and guidance to all who cared for her that dark night.  God has shown Himself loving and kind to our family and to Elianna.  We are thankful to God for His grace to us as He saved us from greater trials.  God Himself has been our Good Shepherd caring for the older and the younger sheep.

As of tonight, Elianna is still intubated but they have taken her off of the paralytic making sure she can breathe on her own.  Yesterday noon they turned off the respirator and she has been breathing on her own since.  Today they took a lung test and cleaned the lungs preparing to remove the tubes tomorrow.  The Lord, our good Shepherd, has carried his sheep through a dark time and we are now seeing the light of his healing and care.  Thanks to all who have uplifted our dear Elianna in your prayers.  We know our Lord has heard all of your prayers and continues to do so.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Jesus teaches on Creation and Marriage

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Matthew 19
4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
In this teaching of Jesus, we have two distinct subjects of doctrine confirmed. First off, Jesus mentions that the God of heaven created men and women male and female. In this statement Jesus confirms the creation by God. Though He does not spell out the six days of creation, Jesus makes it very clear that He agrees with the OT Scriptures that teach about creation. Those who dismiss creation must dismiss that Jesus agreed with the Scriptures that God created human life.
There are those who agree that Jesus is a prophet. If we can agree that Jesus was a prophet (at the very least) then we must agree that what He taught was the Word of God. So, if a prophet of God taught that God created the earth and the life on the earth then we must agree that God created life, it did not evolve over time and chance but indeed was created by God, as Jesus taught.
The second doctrine taught here is that God instituted marriage, God united the first human couple, and that which God puts together men and women are not to separate. While there are teachings on divorce, Jesus’ point here is that God’s design was the best plan. Marriage is the unique design of God whereby two, a biological man and a biological woman, become one flesh. The one flesh relationship is a combination of sexual union, emotional union, and spiritual union. In God-designed marriage there is a fulfillment that is the result of God’s design.
God’s word is just that, it is God’s word. When God teaches us what He intended through His creation and His completion of that creation, we work best and are most fulfilled when we live life in God’s design. This teaching does not ignore the problems of sin; it does show us what God in His wisdom wanted for His creation.
As Bible-believers, there are teaching in the Bible that we follow because the Bible makes them clear. We follow those teachings by faith in the God who gave us the teachings. Regardless of what culture allows or encourages we come back to the Word of God and seek clarity from our Creator.

We got back Monday night and yesterday was a blur. It is good to be back and there is much to do this month. If you have any time and would like to help with projects, call us and let us know when you can help.
We spent time yesterday with Barb, Tony, and Joey. Do keep them and Violet in your prayers. The loss of Steven was a great loss and will be felt for a long time.
Here are some pictures of our trip. It was a great time together with wonderful family.
Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

 

A Psalm of God’s Heart for the Nations

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 Psalm 96:1-13 (ESV)

Worship in the Splendor of Holiness

96 Oh sing to the Lord a new song;

sing to the Lord, all the earth!

2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name;

tell of his salvation from day to day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations,

his marvelous works among all the peoples!

4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;

he is to be feared above all gods.

5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,

but the Lord made the heavens.

6 Splendor and majesty are before him;

strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,

ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!

8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;

bring an offering, and come into his courts!

9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;

tremble before him, all the earth!

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!

Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;

let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

12 let the field exult, and everything in it!

Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy

13 before the Lord, for he comes,

for he comes to judge the earth.

He will judge the world in righteousness,

and the peoples in his faithfulness.

 Look back over this Psalm and identify the heart of God for nations and peoples.  As I read this Psalm I was even more drawn to our new ministry time in Indonesia.  God wants His message of His salvation to go to all people.  When we give God’s message to the nations and peoples of the world we are giving glory to Him.  

 Remember to pray for the nations of the world and the people in those nations to hear the glorious gospel of God’s grace and His offer of life through His Son. 

 A note of clarification, Steven Kirk’s funeral service is at 1:00.  After the funeral lunch is being served and all are welcome to stay with the family until 4:00 or whenever.  

Have a great day in the Lord, 

PS

 

A Fearful Result and A Warning to Us All

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Matthew 18
31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

In this conclusion to Jesus’ parable of the two debtors there is a fearful result and a warning. Often in the Scriptures we focus on passages to encourage us in difficult times, to give us strength in weak times, to help us overcome our enemies and to find comfort when troubled. So, when we come to a passage like this we tend to gloss over it quickly while we give it a quick shudder. Today we need to stop and pay a little attention to a great and fearful warning.

The first debtor who had been forgiven of an immense debt, (perhaps one days work times a hundred times ten thousand) went and shook a fellow slave for a debt equaling about 100 days wages (a sizeable yet payable debt.) When the master found out about this incredible lack of compassion he called the first slave in and asked him if had been forgiven 10,000 talents of debt and then asked why he would not forgive his fellow slave of a 100-talent debt. Unable to answer, the unforgiving slave heard the master restore the 10,000-talent debt to him and remand him to the torturers until the entire debt was literally worked and beaten out of him. Thankfully this is a parable that did not really happen but was told to make a point. Jesus continues then to the point of His story.
In verse 35 Jesus makes this fearful point: “So My Heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” There are different ideas as to what Jesus meant by this; I think Jesus simply meant this: “You don’t want to find out what My Heavenly Father will do if you live an unforgiving life.”

How can we live a forgiving life? According to this parable, we live a forgiving life when we realize that we live as forgiven people. We who were lost are now found. We who were blind can now see. We who were dead are now alive. We who were orphaned are now in a family. Christ’s death on the cross eternally removed our sins from before the Father. Nothing we have done or will do can undo what the forgiveness of Christ has done. Who then can we hold anything against? But furthermore, knowing the judgement of God on those who don’t forgive, we should never want to face God as one who refused to forgive. “Let not the sun go down on your anger…” “As you stand praying, forgive…”

Some of you are waiting for the time of the funeral service for Steven Kirk. I got it yesterday and wanted to pass it on to you. It is Saturday, October 27th from 1:00-4:00 at Grace for Life Bible Church in Naperville. Violet has posted this on her Facebook page too. Remember to continue in prayer for this hurting family as they try to wrap their minds, hearts, and lives around so great of a loss.

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Steve, Owen, Carson 1

God-Like Forgiveness

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Matthew 18

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Following this passage is the parable of the two debtors which Jesus used to explain this teaching.

Forgiveness is probably the greatest human act that we can bestow upon each other.  Nothing is more freeing than forgiveness and nothing is more binding and enslaving than a lack of forgiveness.

Peter was being magnanimous to offer forgiveness to someone seven times.  After all, seven was the number of perfection so to forgive someone seven times was quite a feat.  But Jesus upped the ante by multiplying Peter’s magnanimous number times 70!  To say that Peter would have been flabbergasted is an understatement. “Who can possibly forgive 490 times?”  Jesus’ teaching on this was way over the top, in fact, it was so hard to grasp that Jesus told one of the most referenced parables of His teaching.

Imagine being a first-time listener as Jesus told this parable of a man who owed his master ten thousand talents. (For reference sake, a talent was approximately equivalent to 100 days wages.  10,000 talents then was beyond repayment.)  So, when the debtor was required to pay and promised to pay it back, anyone listening would have shaken their heads knowing that repayment by a slave was impossible.  The forgiveness of a debt of this magnitude would have shown both the immense wealth of the master and the amazing heart of forgiveness that he possessed.

Then the slave who was forgiven and should have then spent the rest of his life treating people better, went to a fellow slave demanding the repayment of one talent, 100 days of wages.  The fellow slave asked for mercy promising to pay him back, which, in time, he could have done.  The forgiven slave’s reaction of demanding payment, putting the fellow slave in the poorhouse with his family until all was paid, would have upset the first listeners.  Justice was not served; mercy was not returned.  The man who was forgiven was not an ounce changed by the love of the master.

What do you feel when a fellow Christian withholds forgiveness from you?  I have had men and women professing Christ who withheld forgiveness and restoration from me.  It was painful each time.  As they went their way refusing reconciliation, I wondered if they had been forgiven by God.  In the parable, the unforgiving slave was both rebuked by the master and then severely punished for his lack of compassion.

My friends, when we have been forgiven of every sin of our lives by the Master who alone is able to forgive us, how can we hold anything against any other human being?  What sin against me comes close to the entire mountain of sins of my life?  What can possibly be done to me that comes close to what I have done to God?  Since God has fully and mercifully forgiven me of every debt of every sin, what can I possibly hold against anyone?

As the freed slave had the opportunity to live in freedom and mercy, so do we.  Living in the freedom of forgiveness is the greatest way in this life to live.  Let us join all the men and women of all the ages who having been forgiven by God live in the joy of forgiveness rejoicing in our forgiven state and always forgiving all who act against us.

 Today I am watching Owen and Carson and Jared.  We are having a good time with puzzles, legos, toys, learning to share, be nice to each other, and more.  How much fun can a Papa have in a day?  Later I will take the two older boys, Joel and Hudson, to a lake in their community and try our hand at fishing. 

 We are still praying for the Kirk family as they deal with the loss of Steven.  The pain is often unbearable. When I know the details of a service I will let you know. 

 Have a great day in the Lord,

 PS

Compassion that acts like Jesus

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Galatians 6:2

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 12:15–16

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

My dear friends, while here in California I have been finishing an online course and have been consumed with papers, reading, tests and responses.  The course is now finished, and I will be back to writing to you in these devotional pages.

I have chosen these passages this morning because of a need in our church.  Burden bearing, as we read, fulfills the law of Christ.  Christ came to show compassion and the very core of who He was showed forth compassion.  Everywhere Jesus went people had needs and no one was ever outside of the realm of Jesus’ care. When we bear the burdens of others we are acting like Jesus.

While it is easy to rejoice with those who have things to rejoice over, the birth of a child, a new job, a clean bill of health, and so on, it can be difficult to know how to weep with those who are weeping.  There are weeping people all around us who just want to know that we care enough to step out of our own world step into theirs and just cry together.

Last night, between 11:00 and 12:00, Steven, the grandson of Barb, died of an overdose.  Many of us have cared for Steven over the years and his death is a great loss to us all.  Barb, Violet, Joey, Bobby, Tony, and Stacey are all grieving deeply.  Tom was at the hospital with them throughout the evening and took Barb home.  This is our opportunity to act like a loving family should act, to bear this burden with this family, to grieve with them over this painful, painful loss.

I heard this morning that they are looking to a Friday funeral.  We, the Grace for Life family, are the family that needs to step up to help prepare with flowers, food, some music, and love beyond love.

It is very strange not being at home. It is a great joy to be with our sons and their families.  Ben’s ordination was true highlight of life.  Bobbi posted some pictures on her Facebook page if you are interested. Having Steven, Justin, and Ben all together for a short time was true joy of life. 

Caleb and Lindsey finally got their Visas to go to China and plan to leave the country November 29th.  The university they have contracted with is looking forward to their arrival.  Do keep Caleb and Lindsey in your prayers for while this is a goal achieved for them it comes with a bitter/sweet element of leaving their families for a year. 

Thank you for your love and prayers for us; you are often in ours.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS