"He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, he disarmed[a] the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross." - Colossians 2:14-15 NLT
One night a clergyman was walking to church when a thief pulled a gun on him and demanded his money or his life. When he reached in his pocket to hand over his wallet, the robber saw his clerical collar and said: “I see you are a priest. Never mind, you can go.” The clergyman, surprised by the robber’s unexpected act of piety, offered him a candy bar. The robber said, “No thank you. I don’t eat candy during Lent.” The man had given up candy as a supposed sacrifice for Lent, but his lifestyle of stealing showed his real character! According to the writer of Proverbs, conduct is the best indicator of character. If someone says he is a godly person, his words can only be proven by consistent actions (20:11). This was true of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day as well. He condemned the Pharisees and exposed their sham for professing godliness but denying that profession with sin in their lives (Matt. 23:13-36). Appearances and words are deceiving; behavior is the best judge of character. This applies to all of us. As followers of Jesus, we demonstrate our love for Him by what we do, not just by what we say. May our devotion to God, because of His love for us, be revealed in our actions today.
Spiritual words are mere distractions
If not backed up by our godly actions,
And all our good and beautiful creeds
Are nothing without God-honoring deeds. —Williams
Traveling by bus from Memphis, Tennessee, to St. Louis, Missouri, typically takes about 6 hours—unless the bus driver leaves you stranded at a gas station. This happened to 45 passengers aboard a bus who waited 8 hours overnight for a replacement driver after the original driver abandoned them. They must have felt frustrated by the delay, anxious about the outcome, and impatient for rescue. Joseph probably shared those feelings when he landed in prison for a crime he didn’t commit (Gen. 39). Abandoned and forgotten by any human who might help him, he was stranded. Still, “the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor” (v.21). Eventually, the prison warden promoted Joseph to oversee fellow inmates, and whatever Joseph did, “the Lord made it prosper” (v.23). But despite God’s presence and blessing, Joseph remained incarcerated for years. You may be stranded in a hospital room, a jail cell, a country far from home, or your own inner prison. No matter where you are, or how long you’ve been there, God’s mercy and kindness can reach you. Because He is God Almighty (Ex. 6:3) and present everywhere (Jer. 23:23-24), He can protect, promote, and provide for you when it seems no one else can help.
Dear God, help us to remember
Your presence and power even when
we are not where we want to be in life. Remind us
to reach for You when no one else can reach us.
Greek fire was a chemical solution that was used in ancient warfare by the Byzantine Empire against its enemies. According to one online source, it was developed around ad 672 and was used with devastating effect, especially in sea warfare because it could burn on water. What was Greek fire? Its actual chemical composition remains a mystery. It was such a valuable military weapon that the formula was kept an absolute secret—and was lost to the ravages of history. Today, researchers continue to try to replicate that ancient formula, but without success.
One source of catastrophic destruction among believers in Christ, however, is not a mystery. James tells us that the source of ruin in our relationships is often a very different kind of fire. He wrote, “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body” (James 3:6). Those strong words remind us how damaging unguarded words can be to those around us.
Instead of creating the kind of verbal “Greek fire” that can destroy relationships, families, and churches, let’s yield our tongue to the Holy Spirit’s control and allow our words to glorify the Lord.
It seems, Father, that sometimes we are our own
worst enemies. Forgive us for speaking destructively
to fellow Christians, and teach us to use wise words
that can encourage and build their walk with You.
To bridle your tongue, give God the reins of your heart.
As we anticipate the coming celebration of Easter, I begin thinking about the sacrifice Jesus made so that I could be reconciled to God. To help me focus on all that He gave up for me, I make a small sacrifice of my own. When I fast from something I normally enjoy, every craving for that food or drink or pastime reminds me of how much more Jesus gave up for me. Because I want to be successful, I tend to give up something that isn’t a big temptation for me. Yet even then I fail. My inability to be perfect in such a small thing reminds me of why Easter is so important. If we could be perfect, Jesus would not have had to die. The rich young man whom Jesus encountered along a Judean road was trying to earn eternal life by being good. But Jesus, knowing the man could never be good enough, said, “With men [salvation] is impossible, but not with God” (Mark 10:27). Although giving up something does not make anyone good, it does remind us that no one is good except God (v.18). And that’s important to remember, for it is the sacrifice of a good and perfect God that makes our salvation possible.
I gave My life for thee;
My precious blood I shed,
That thou might ransomed be
And quickened from the dead. —Havergal
God's Box of Chocolates--A Valentine's Day Devotional by LauraLee Shaw
Everywhere I look near Valentine's Day, there's chocolate: boxes of chocolate in all the stores, chocolate on tv promising to be the only love you need, chocolate girl scout cookies--CHOCOLATE! I even saw chocolate Altoid breath mints in the grocery checkout aisle the other day! I think that's what led me to remember the famous quote from Forrest Gump: "Life is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're gonna get." (I even remembered it with his accent.)
In reality, that phrase can be true in many ways. We wake up every morning completely unsure of what the day may hold for us. We've made our plans. Sometimes they even happen the way we make them. But we never know for sure, do we?
The days that come with caramel in the middle are my favorite. The ones with the strawberry goo are just so so--but the ones with coconut--YUCK! I'd rather go back to bed. Then there's the days where tragedy or difficult times come out of nowhere, and the chocolate sits in the pantry untouched...there's no sweetness to be had in those moments, it seems.
God knows that life as it pertains to circumstances is uncertain for us. That's why He comforts us and reminds us so many times that He is our constant companion, our steadfast friend, our consistently loving God and Savior. He doesn't keep promises the way we do:
"When people make promises, they guarantee them by appeal to some authority above them so that if there is any question that they'll make good on the promise, the authority will back them up. When God wanted to guarantee His promises, He gave His word, a rock-solid guarantee--God can't break His word. And because His word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable." (Heb. 6:16-18, the Message)
You see, no matter what chocolate we are "in the middle of" right now, He is there--with the certainty of His promise today as well as His hope of heaven in the future. Listen to how the verse above continues to encourage us: (vs.19-20)
"We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It's an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up His permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek."
I love the visual picture of grabbing on to Him with both hands as He runs ahead of me to the Father. That makes me able to get up today and praise Him for whatever comes my way. This faith, this confidence, this hope is our unbreakable spiritual lifeline--HIS love for us no matter what, when, how or why. Let's binge on His priceless box of chocolates today...the sweetest and most satisfying of them all.
"Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him." Psalm 34:8