Rev. Lois Farra Watkins, MDiv | Devotions | Email | Seminar notes | Wesleyan Coaching Network
Lois Watkins, devotional writer
I've written several devotions for Light From the Word. I hope they're encouraging to you.
God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. (Genesis 6:12 NIV).
ROBYN LASHED OUT AT GOD in frustration. "Are you totally blind to what is happening? Or if you do see, are you so uncaring as to do nothing? Or if you do care, are you powerless to stop the madness?" To Robyn those were the only options.
As we look around our world and see it becoming more and more like the days of Noah, we too may feel Robyn's frustration. The degree of immorality and injustice seems to constantly escalate. It gets to the point of "believe it or not."
This verse reminds us that no matter how awful the condition of the world becomes, God does see. The rest of Noah's story reassures us that God does care and has sufficient power to mete out both justice and mercy.
In the in-between time, until God chooses to bring final judgment on the wicked of our day, let us be about our Father's business. Rather than sitting on our hands and bemoaning the condition of the world, we are required by God to "act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with (our) God" (Micah 6:8).
God sees all! Am I seen as part of the problem or part of the solution?
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Esau said to his father, "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father. Then Esau wept aloud. Genesis 27:38 (NIV).
"MOM ALWAYS LIKED YOU BEST" is one of Tommy Smothers trademark sayings. Almost every child has felt at one time or another that a parent liked someone else better. I even know an only child, who was convinced that her mother loved her first grandchild best. Her suspicions were seemed confirmed when her mother died and left the entire inheritance to the first grandchild.
One of the most bitter experiences is to be openly rejected or denied what is rightfully yours. Esau is not the last child to beg "Bless me too". In the book, The Blessing, John Smalley and Gary Trent dramatically reinforce the importance of the ancient ritual of parental blessing. Many adults still seek the "blessing" of one or both parents.
Smalley and Trent suggest that those who could not receive a parental blessing need to look to others who can give them a "surrogate" parental blessing. In addition, we cannot underestimate the power of receiving a blessing of worth from Jesus. Can you picture the incident of Jesus sitting among the children? Place your wounded inner child on the lap of Jesus and allow him to bless you today.
If I have received the wholeness that comes from a parental blessing, am I willing to be a "surrogate" parent to another?
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In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will lead them to your holy dwelling (Exodus 15:13, NIV).
"KEEP MOVING! KEEP MOVING! FASTER!" With Pharaoh's army in pursuit, the children of Israel walked through the middle of the Red Sea. With feet dry as the desert, eyes wide in disbelief and mouths wide open in awe, they were being rescued by the Lord, God Almighty.
Is this the same God we follow today? Missionaries smuggle banned Bibles into countries under the eyes of all-seeing guards. Hungry families open the door to bags of unexpected groceries. Unemployed people marvel as a job is "created" for them out of nowhere. Patients who are sent home to die, miraculously recover as the Great Physician heals them. A chance phone call begins a domino effect of events, which bring closure to an unsolved crime. A hardened, sinful heart melts with the love of the Gospel message.
All these are impossibilities as great at parting the Red Sea! Our God continues to lead and guide those he has redeemed. Perhaps you feel caught between an immovable object and a pursuing enemy. Wouldn't you really rather follow the majestic, awesome, wonder-working God, rather than the earth-bound, fallible, mess-making human reasoning?
Like Moses and Miriam, offer a praise song to celebrate God's love and guidance.
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This (land) became an inheritance for Joseph's descendants. Joshua 24:32 (NIV).
"I'M SPENDING MY CHILDREN'S INHERITANCE," announced the bumper sticker on the motorhome. Funny, but not necessarily true. Most people still work very hard to have some type of an inheritance to leave to the children, church, civic organization, or even pets. The sad reality of an inheritance is that a death has to occur first.
The dreaded words of the doctor began to sink in, "There is nothing more we can do, the cancer is not responding to treatment." We five children decided we wanted to keep Mom home as long as possible with the help of Hospice. One of her comments surprised us. "Oh, good, now I won't have to spend the money I've saved. It can all go to you children."
Mom left us something far more valuable, an eternal inheritance. Not only has she received her own eternal inheritance through faith in Jesus Christ, she has also left five children and several grandchildren who know Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. No amount of money, possessions or real estate can compare to the value of an eternal inheritance.
An earthly inheritance has value only when we die. An eternal inheritance has value now and forever. Which am I accumulating most?
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(God) does great things beyond our understanding. . . . The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power. . . (Job 37:5b and 23a, NIV).
"I AM HAVING A TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, no good, very bad day," as Alexander would say in Judith Voight's book. Ever have one of those? Most people have had at least one day like that. Some have weeks, months or years fitting that description.
Chronic illness, tragic death, natural disasters or blatant injustice naturally leave people searching for answers. For those who trust God, the questions are raised heavenward, "Why me God" or "What have I ever done to deserve this."
In Job's case, he and his three older friends carry on a lengthy debate until they have exhausted their accumulated years of wisdom. After waiting with respect and losing patience with his elders, the youngest friend, Elihu begins to speak, "It is not only the old who are wise."
Elihu focuses on God: God's greatness, God's mercy, God's goodness, God's justice, God's sovereignty, and God's power. Hmmm! Parts sound very similar to God's response to Job. Elihu may not have been 100% accurate, but he was getting the perspective on track.
A terminally ill hospice patient smiles peacefully saying, "I never expected to live this long. God is so good to me!" She has learned to truth of the song, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace."
A "God" perspective may not change my situation, but it will change me.
With my mouth will I make your faithfulness known through all generations (Psalm 89:1b, NIV).
"TELL ME A STORY, MOMMY!" Childhood bedtime at the Watkins' included not only a Bible story, but also telling the story of our day. Often the day's events became the application for the Bible story. Story telling is too important to become a lost art.
In some cultures special occasions are set aside for sharing family stories and traditions. Family reunions, weddings and especially funerals are perfect times to share family heritage. I learned more about my parents early days at their funeral dinner and sorting through their things than I had in my whole life time.
Thankfully, one part of their story I did already know. From a very early age, I knew their faith story. Speaking of God, sharing answers to prayer and discussing the Bible were as natural as talking about the farm crops, how Bessie the cow was feeling or if the weather would co-operate.
That practice has continued in our family, even during the ten years we were laypeople. We are praying for our children's future and potentially their children and children's children. The story of Jesus, the power of God's word and answers to prayer need to be verbally shared with each generation.
"I just live out my faith. More is caught than taught, anyway." That's true! But a good life without a verbal testimony is like watching television with no sound. Both are necessary.
Christianity is only one generation away from extinction.
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Praise the Lord. I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly (Psalm 111:1, NIV).
"I'M JUST ENJOYING THESE TESTIMONIES." The congregation smiles knowingly. This is the standard beginning for Dorothy's testimony. How wonderful it is to be able to enjoy public testimonies! Everyone benefits: God is praised; the testifier is strengthened to share it beyond the church; and the hearer is encouraged to keep believing God.
Admittedly, impromptu testimonies can be risky. You never know what they are going to say. Attention wanders if a person can't be heard (use a cordless microphone) or becomes the Energizer Bunny--keeps going and going and going. We encourage the use the A-B-C's of testimonies: Keep it Audible. Keep it Brief. Keep it Christ-centered.
Awkward testimonies include, "I praise God, for letting me win big at the horse races!" or "I praise God that I feel so good since taking XYZ supplements. See me if your interested!" Just as children can embarrass us in public, inappropriate testimonies can make some uncomfortable moments. But that is part of family life and God is being praised.
Due to the size, Park Avenue Baptist Church has those who wish to testify submit a form indicating the content. People then go to the platform to use the microphone in sharing their testimony. This allows people to plan ahead and think through what they want to share. It also keeps bloopers to a minimum.
God inhabits the praise of his people and dwells deep within.
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Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them" (Ecclesiastes 12:1, NIV).
"CARPE DIEM", LATIN FOR "SEIZE THE DAY", is a challenge to live life to the fullest in the present. "Don't put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today." "Live each day as if it were your last." "Do what you want to when you are young, because when you are old you won't want to." A Speed Bump cartoon by Dave Cover reads: Top ten reasons to procrastinate:
A regretful widow laments, "I worked hard at my job for years dreaming of the day I could enjoy retirement with my husband. Six months after I retired, he died of a heart attack." She continues with a word of wisdom, "Take time to enjoy your family now."
Most every child has been asked, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" Unfortunately, life does not just happen by wanting. It is built day by routine, uneventful day. A course is set by seemingly insignificant decisions, an opportunity seized or lost.
King Solomon realized all this and gave the wise instruction of our verse. In our day trouble seems to come to children and teens much too early. With the growing number teen-age suicides and murders, perhaps our verse should read, "Remember your Creator in the days of your infancy before the days of trouble come."
Ninety percent of those who come to Christ do so before the age of twenty-one!
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Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom (Isaiah 20:28, NIV).
WHAT MAKES A MYSTERY SO APPEALING? Just recently a friend reintroduced me to mystery novels. I hadn't read any since Edgar Allen Poe and Agatha Christy in high school. I had to give them up, when I could no longer walk past our cellar door without my heart pounding. I just knew someone was going to reach out and grab me.
From the days of Perry Mason to Murder She Wrote, the "Who dunnit" shows and books have held audiences spell bound. The most fascinating part is the deductive reasoning that weaves all the loose clues together to reveal the solution.
Webster's dictionary defines deduction as, "The process of reasoning in which a conclusion follows necessarily from the stated premises: inference by reasoning from the general to the specific."
I doubt that Isaiah was schooled in deductive reasoning, but he uses it masterfully in this passage. The children of Israel are complaining "My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God." In fourteen verses Isaiah rehearses for them the power and greatness of God. I can imagine Isaiah saying, "This is the observable evidence, the given, the proven."
"If this is true, then does it not follow that God does not grow weary and his understanding is beyond us? If God can do all this, does it not follow that he can also give strength and power to you."
Take heart! Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
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He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. John 1:8 (NIV).
"TOTO WAS A CURIOUS MONKEY" begins one of my favorite children's stories. Toto finds a mirror and terrorizes the jungle by reflecting the sunlight into the animals' eyes. However, even a monkey of limited intelligence, if he were to think about it long enough, would know that he is not the light. He is merely reflecting it through the mirror.
Human beings, who profess the name of Christ, would be farther ahead if they, too, would realize that they only reflect the True Light of Jesus Christ. Many leaders get into deep trouble when they begin to view themselves as the light, convincing themselves and gullible others that they are the source of light.
John the Baptist gives us an excellent example of one who knew his purpose and relationship to Christ. He was very overt in his pronouncement that he was not the Light. Being a witness to the Light or reflecting the Light to the world was his highest ambition.
When people respond favorably to our witness, let us be careful to point them to the True Light, whose rays we merely reflect.
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. . . his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20).
FOR HOME IMPROVEMENT'S TIM TAYLOR, "More Power! Aaar! Aaar! Aaar!" is the answer to every problem. There is not a stuck thingamajig that won't respond to just a little more power. A few broken items are proof that I have shared that mindset at times. Well, it's not stuck anymore!
Since the first stone tools were made, the goal has been to make more efficient, more powerful tools, then machines, now computers. Aaar! Aaar! Aaar! We have become power addicts; more muscle, more brains, more influence, more money, more technology.
However, all these powers fall miserably short of God's power. Only God's power can create a universe. Only God's power can reveal the unknown secrets of life. Only God's power can transform a sinner into a saint.
Only God's power can raise the dead back to life. As I stood at my father in the casket, I prayed, "God, it would give you so much glory, if you raised Dad back to life. Wow! What an impact on the community. We all could use a miracle about now!" Evidently God had another idea.
I know that Dad is raised to a new life that I cannot begin to comprehend. Just as God raised Jesus from the dead with a power unlike any other, so we too shall be raised to new life. That "incomparably great power" is not only for dying, but also us who believe now.
Want more power? Get connected to the Power Source.
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By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land, but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. Hebrews 11:29(NIV).
"ONE DOOR AND ONLY ONE and yet it's sides are two. I'm on the inside, on which side are you?" This old children song is not very politically correct. The modern version would go something like, "All doors from which to choose; really doesn't matter. You choose the one you want, and I'll choose the latter." So much for a song writing career!
Every day there are more religions springing up. Each one offering another "savior," an alternative route to true spirituality or cosmic consciousness. We are told that any religion is one among many equals. Among this diversity of voices stands Christianity insisting on one true God, one Savior and Lord, one way to eternal life.
Only one way was provided through the Red Sea. One group walked in by faith and found salvation from slavery and death. Another group walked in defiance of God and were drowned. Likewise some approach Jesus Christ in faith and find salvation, others in defiance and find destruction.
Whenever there is a choice, there are two sides. On which side are you?
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I do not have time to tell about . . .who through faith . . . Hebrews 11:32-33 (NIV).
I AM FOREVER DOOMED to the end of the list. When I married, I went from being a "Farra" to being a "Watkins". The greatest drawback was going to the end of alphabet. By the time the roll call gets to the W's everyone, including me, is either asleep or on to something else more important.
If the writer of Hebrews were to do a modern listing, no doubt the W's would be among those in the category "I don't have time to tell about . . ." Perhaps even those at the beginning of the alphabet have been part of a group being thanked that ends "We don't have time to name everyone. You know who you are. Thanks." We don't walk by faith or serve others just to get flowery acknowledgments. Yet, we all like to be recognized.
If it seems you are always at the end of the list in life, remember a couple keys. 1. Being lumped together at the end of the list doesn't make you any less important or necessary. 2. A complete recording is being kept. One day the books will be opened and you will receive your reward.
If we believe "The last will be first and the first will be last", can we truly rejoice when we are last now, knowing that one day we will be first?
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