Strength For The Journey

Are You Happy?

The following devotional was taken from "Strength for the Journey" and written by David Deffenbaugh.

StrengthforJourneyreview
January 5
Daily Bible Reading: Genesis 10-11; Matthew 5:1-16

Are You Happy?
Devotional Text: Matthew 5:3-12

What makes you happy? For most folks it has something to do with circumstances; doing the things I enjoy, being treated well by the important people in my life (spouse, friends, co-workers, boss, etc.), success by my favorite sports team, etc. Sometimes the beginning of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, commonly known as the “Beatitudes,” is reduced to a formula for happiness. Some translations even use the word “happy” instead of “blessed.” It seems as though people would have to radically alter their concept of happiness for that to be a very good expression of what Jesus is getting at.

There is a great difference between being happy (as typically understood) and being blessed by God. For one thing, we are going to have to recognize the greater value of being blessed than being happy. That certainly is not to say there is no happiness in following Jesus. But to be sure, being blessed is not the shallow, finicky happiness that serves as the typical object of people’s pursuits. The “joy of the Lord” (Nehemiah 8:10) remains even in the presence of unpleasant circumstances (note the conditions described in Hebrews 11:32-38).

Blessedness can be found where happiness may not. For instance, God’s blessing is found in poverty of spirit, mourning, and persecution for righteousness’ sake. Also, there may be no “blessedness” where happiness is sought (i.e., pleasure of sin, self-indulgence, works of the flesh, etc.).

Jesus proclaimed the approach of His kingdom (Matthew 4:17). His famous sermon was about life in that kingdom. When He returns one day, He’s going to gather those who are in that kingdom to deliver them over to God (1 Corinthians 15:24). Those people will be identified not as ones who found happiness, but those “blessed of my Father” (Matthew 25:34).
|

Sometimes It's Hard

The following devotional was taken from "Strength for the Journey" and written by David Deffenbaugh.

StrengthforJourneyreview
January 2
Daily Bible Reading: Genesis 3-4; Matthew 2

Sometimes It’s Hard
Devotional Text: Matthew 2:16-18


A recent survey conducted by a major news magazine has found that 79% of Americans believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. Sure, it would be nice if that number were higher, but it is rather astounding considering the consistent bashing the Bible and Christianity have taken in the mainstream public for many years. Though many aspects of Jesus’ life and teaching have not attained such a high level of acceptance, the accounts of His birth are widely acknowledged (witness the Christmas celebrations each December).

The arrival of Jesus on earth is a story that continues to thrill the human heart. But let’s not be too taken by all of this. Not everyone is excited to hear about Jesus’ arrival. What was good news to the magi (wise men) was troubling news to Herod and turned into very sad news in Bethlehem. The excitement of the birth of the king of the Jews was soon drowned in the tears of “weeping and great mourning.”

Not everyone is glad to hear that Jesus has come. To those who love the darkness rather than the light, to those who would love their lives rather than loose them, to those whose treasures are on earth rather than heaven, news of Jesus arrival is not well received.

Blessedness, joy, and peace are all part of the Christian experience, but there is a hard side as well. Jesus talked about his followers being hated, insulted, ostracized and persecuted (Matthew 10:22; Luke 6:22; Matthew 5:10-11). We should not pursue the former and be surprised when we find the latter as well. If all we want from our faith is pleasantness and tranquility, following Jesus will be a bitter disappointment. It is not this life, but the next, that promises “joy inexpressible” and “an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (1 Peter 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:18).
|

A Need to Escape

The following devotional was taken from "Strength for the Journey" and written by David Deffenbaugh.

StrengthforJourneyreview
December 1
Bible Reading Schedule: Ezekiel 46-48; 2 Peter 1

A Need to Escape
Devotional Text: 2 Peter 1:4


How likely is it that a person will escape danger if they are unaware the danger exists? Pretty slight, huh? And what if that person actually views as good that which is in reality a danger? This is precisely the scenario regarding man’s spiritual condition living in this world. Peter says that corruption is in this world and that it must be escaped. Wouldn’t corruption be obvious to all and easily avoided? The problem is that this corruption is “by lust.” That is, by our fleshly desire. The fundamental struggle of human existence is between the flesh and the spirit. They are “in opposition to one another” (Gal. 5:17). Fleshly lusts “wage war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11).

The world preaches indulgence. God teaches self-control. When we embrace the corruption that is in the world by lust we have befriended the world and thus become God’s enemy (James 4:4). When we embrace the world, we love it and therefore are without God’s love (1 John 2:15).

So, in order to escape, we’ve got to be “partakers of the divine nature.” That sounds like an awfully tall order. But the fact is Peter explains how this happens: when we are diligent to supply moral excellence to our faith, and to that, knowledge, and to that, self-control, and so on (2 Pet. 1:5-7). In that way, we are able to make sure we are both fruitful and useful (v. 8).

Ironic isn’t it? People embracing what needs to be escaped and people loving what makes them God’s enemy?
|

A Word from the Lord

The following devotional was taken from "Strength for the Journey" and written by David Deffenbaugh.

StrengthforJourneyreview
November 1
Bible Reading Schedule: Jeremiah 37-38; John 13:18-38

A Word From the Lord
Devotional Text: Jeremiah 37:17


It was troubling times for God’s people. Their beloved Jerusalem had been under attack from the Babylonians. A brief reprieve followed when the Egyptians diverted the attention of the attacking army. Jeremiah took the opportunity to leave the city to tend to some business. He didn’t make it far. He was arrested as he left Jerusalem, accused of treason, beaten, and thrown in a dungeon.

Surprisingly, the king intervened. Zedekiah removed Jeremiah from his bondage and brought him to the palace. There, in a secret meeting, the king asked the man of God, “Is there a word from the Lord?”

The king knew these were desperate times. He knew Babylon’s attention would soon fully return to Jerusalem. He knew they were in trouble. And now he wanted to know what the Lord had to say. The problem was that God had had something to say for a long time. There seemed to be little interest in hearing what that was until it was too late. When God speaks and we consistently refuse to listen, the time will come when we will speak to Him, and He will not listen to us (Zech. 7:13).

“Why doesn’t God say something?” “Why doesn’t God do something?” These are not unusual reactions to the mess that is our world today. The fact is, God has said something and He has done something. If we’re asking today, “Is there a word from the Lord?” the answer is the same that Jeremiah gave to Zedekiah: “There is!” Only, we may not like that word any more than the king then did. God has spoken (Heb. 1:1-2).
|

“Having Loved This Present World”

The following devotional was taken from "Strength for the Journey" and written by Bill McFarland.

StrengthforJourneyreview
October 1
Daily Bible Reading: Isaiah 33-35; Philemon

“Having Loved This Present World”
Devotional Text: Philemon 20-24


One of the tragic characters of the New Testament is Demas. There are three references to him in Paul’s letters, but those three statements have a story to tell. In the first instance Paul included Demas in a list which he called “my fellow workers” (Philemon 24). In the next reference he was simply “Demas” (Col. 4:14). On the third mention the imprisoned Apostle said, “Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me” (2 Tim. 4:10).

The story of Demas is the sad history of a worker for the Lord who was led astray by his love for this material world. Every servant of the Lord should learn some lasting lessons from him.

Love for the world will cause one to forsake the Lord. By “the world” we do not mean mankind nor God’s creation, but the way of life which leaves God out. John defined all that is in the world as “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (I Jn. 2:16). No wonder the apostle wrote, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I Jn. 2:15).

The love of the world captures people gradually. Demas had evidently not caved in to materialism all of a sudden. Paul’s statements paint the picture of one who drifted away step by step. He was first Demas the fellow worker, then Demas, then Demas who loved the world. Worldliness has a way of creeping up on us.

The danger is real, no matter how diligent one has been. The tug of the world is so powerful that it captured Demas even though he had been a fellow worker with Apostle Paul.

The love of the present world will disappoint. There is something better to love. Let us set our affections on things above.
|

The School of Wisdom

The following devotional was taken from "Strength for the Journey" and written by Bill McFarland.

StrengthforJourneyreview
September 1
Daily Bible Reading: Job 25-28; 2 Corinthians 12:11-13:14

The School of Wisdom
Devotional Text: Job 28:12-28


“But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding” (Job 28:12)?

Wisdom is the ability to discern between good and evil. It is the kind of understanding which can apply knowledge to the situations of life and make right choices. It is therefore the principal requirement for successful living. Wisdom should be first on our “get” list.

The fear of the Lord is reverence for God as the controlling motive in life. It is deep, humble gratitude for the mercy of God. It is awe at His perfect holiness and almighty power. It is respect for His infinite presence and knowledge. It is a wholesome dread of displeasing Him. Godly fear has been described as “love upon its knees.” Such a disposition is a summary of the whole duty of man. It’s what life is all about.

No wonder the scriptures so often remind us that godly fear is the beginning of wisdom. Right choices in life are made from an overriding desire to honor God, not merely from education. As Job concluded, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is undersanding” (Job 28:28).

The school of wisdom is one from which we never graduate. The basic course is reverence. The lessons are the knowledge of God, the humbling of self, accepting instruction, and turning away from evil. And the highest honor is staying in school.

“Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
|

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

First of all, let us start by saying thanks. Your support and kind words has given us tremendous encouragement over the past year. We want to continue this year to provide the Lord's Church and His families useful material in raising Godly children. Our resolve at Little Acorn is more clear than ever - To strengthen the Lord's Church by strengthening the family. May God bless your efforts to grow tall oaks for Him!

Daily Devotional Books:
The special pricing for churches made available through the end of December are no longer being advertised. However, we will honor those discounts for any church still working on an order. Please mention the December rates when ordering.

New discounted pricing is now available on an ongoing basis. Click here for details.

Vacation Bible School:
Our new Vacation Bible School theme for 2008 is "Righteous Roundup." Team up with “Danny Doo-Right” this summer to learn about being righteous. Your children will hear lessons on...
Day one: “Obedience: Story of Abraham”
Day two: “Fruitfulness: Story of Dorcas”
Day three: “Prayer: Daniel in the Lion’s Den”
Day four: “Compassion: Story of the Good Samaritan”
Take advantage the great material you have come to expect through our VBS material - great Biblical lessons, puppet shows, crafts, games, skits, clip art, promotional material, decoration ideas, and templates.
Packaged together on one CD-ROM for only $99.

NOTE: Our page highlighting
Righteous Roundup is still under construction. Please be patient with us, we are working to have full details about this material up in two to three weeks.

Check out our other great VBS themes!
|

God and Pain

The following devotional was taken from "Strength for the Journey" and written by Bill McFarland.

StrengthforJourneyreview
August 1
Daily Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 27-29; Mark 15:1-41

God and Pain
Devotional Text: Mark 15:22-24, 33-34


In his book The Cross of Christ, John Stott wrote, “I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross …. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who is immune to it? … He laid aside His immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of His.” (p. 335, 336)

The problem of pain is, and always has been, a severe challenge to faith. God does not offer a detailed defense of Himself nor an explanation of His rule over a world where suffering exists. He does offer his Son to redeem us from it.

We wish pain were gone. Some day it will be. In the meantime, we are strengthened by remembering what was accomplished when Christ suffered for sins. A writer unknown to me imagined God’s response to man’s cry for pain to be taken away:


Then answered the Lord to the cry of the world,
“Shall I take away pain,
And with it the power of the soul to endure,
Made strong by the strain?
Shall I take away pity that knits heart to heart,
And sacrifice high?
Will you lose all your heroes that lift from the fire
White brows to the sky?
Shall I take away love that redeems with a price,
And smiles with your loss?
Can you spare from your life that would cling unto mine
The Christ on His Cross?”

No, we can’t. He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, and chastised for our peace. With His stripes we are healed. Some things are accomplished through suffering that can’t be done any other way.

|

Whom Have I In Heaven?

The following devotional was taken from "Strength for the Journey" and written by Bill McFarland.

StrengthforJourneyreview
July 1
Daily Bible Reading: Psalms 73-74; Proverbs 15:19-16:4

Whom Have I In Heaven?
Devotional Text: Psalm 73:25


Loneliness and doubt seem to run together. Elijah, weary and afraid, came to the cave at Horeb thinking his zeal for the Lord had not made much difference. He felt that he was all alone (I Kings 19:9, 10).

John the Baptist found himself in danger and alone in Herod’s prison – not exactly the reward for courageous service which might have been expected. He wondered, “Is Jesus the one, or should I be looking for someone else?” (Matt. 14:3, 4; 11:3).

And, the singer of our Psalm looked around at how well the wicked seemed to be doing, comparing their ease with his own struggles. He began to doubt whether his efforts to keep a pure heart and clean hands were worth it (v. 13, 14). A sense of extreme loneliness must have begun to settle over him.

But there has always been an answer to this slippery slope of doubt. It is realizing that someone is for you, working with you. God gave Elijah a coworker to go with him. Jesus sent John the reassurance that he was at work. And the issue was resolved for our singer when he thought, “Whom have I in heaven but You?” His doubt was overcome by a deepened conviction that nothing on earth compares with having the God of heaven as one’s strength and portion (v. 26). His loneliness was relieved by the nearness of God (v. 28).

We also have someone in heaven. He appears before the face of God for us (Heb. 9:24). He is our Advocate with the Father (I Jn. 2:1). He intercedes for us at the right hand of God (Rom. 8:34). Today, whatever our circumstances, let us say with the singer:

“Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel you will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:23, 24).
|

The Measure of Life

The following devotional was taken from "Strength for the Journey" and written by David Deffenbaugh.

StrengthforJourneyreview
May 1
Daily Bible Reading: Judges 8-9; Luke 12:13-34

The Measure of Life
Devotional Text: Luke 12:15


The radio commercial asked, “What is half of Tuesday morning?” and “If a dog traveled into the future and bit his own tail, when would he feel pain?”. The answers were as nonsensical as the questions themselves (“Sunday afternoon” and “yesterday” ). We might feel the same way when we talk about how life is measured. It’s not with a tape measure or with a measuring cup or on a scale. Although, Mary Poppins did have that tape to see how the Banks children (and herself) “measured up.”

The truth is we do measure our lives all the time. Here is how. When is it that we feel good about ourselves and about our lives? When do we feel poorly about the same? It may be when we achieved a success or maybe when we have failed at something. How often, though, is it when get something: a new car, house, computer, set of clubs, dress, etc.? How often do we feel envious (even a little bit) when we see someone with something we wish we had? We think about how happy they must be and how much they have it “together.”

Jesus says, “Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own” (New Living Translation). Jesus went on to tell the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21). The point being that we will all reach a time when we will be separated from our possessions. Jesus asked, “Now who will own what you have prepared?” At that point, if our life has been devoted to obtaining possessions, we will have nothing. Our life will be nothing. Instead, Jesus says we should be “rich toward God.” When we reach that time when we no longer have our possessions, we will have something and our life will have worth. That is how life is measured.
|

Daily Devotional Book Samples

Greetings!

We are happy to announce that both In Our Father's Hands and Strength for the Journey will be ready to ship December 8. If you have pre-ordered books, we appreciate your support and want you to know that you are our top priority and your books will be shipped to you at the earliest date possible. We have been pressing our printing press for an early completion date, so as to get them to all of you who are eager to review and make a decision regarding the promotion of these books within your home congregations.

Regarding the many inquiries to see samples of the layout regarding these books, we now have two 14 page samples of each book available on our Downloads page. To read these files will require Adobe Acrobat (This is a free program). We pray that these samples will help in your decision.

The family as God designed is our number one priority at Little Acorn. May you be blessed you as you continue to Grow Tall Oaks for God! Thank you for your continued support.

|

The Wrong Way to a Lofty Goal

The following devotional was taken from "Strength for the Journey" and written by David Deffenbaugh.

StrengthforJourneyreview
April 1
Daily Bible Reading: Psalms 38-39; Proverbs 8:12-21

The Wrong Way to a Lofty Goal
Devotional Text: Psalm 39:1-2


“Shoot for the moon…’cause even if you miss you’ll end up in the stars” (Les Brown). In other words, set your sights high, because even if you don’t quite achieve it, you will have accomplished more than you otherwise could have. If we only do that which we already know we can successfully achieve, we’ll never grow beyond where we are right now. As Christians, our sights are to be set on “the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). That’s mighty high; but anything less is too low.

So this Psalm begins with a stated goal of not sinning with one’s tongue. That is a noble and appropriate goal and as challenging a one as a person can have. The tongue is a “restless evil and full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Great challenge notwithstanding, any less of a goal is too little.

The Psalm, though, talks about the wrong way to pursue that goal; that was to say nothing. In the presence of wicked, nothing was said. True, that prevented sin from being committed by saying something wrong, but it also prevented good from being done too. God’s intent is that we control our tongues. We do that by refraining from saying the wrong things, but not by refraining from saying anything.

The very next Psalm says, “I will not restrain my lips” (40:9). But what if with those lips one falters and sins? That’s possible; but this time they are not restrained so that God is praised. “I have not hidden Your righteousness…I have spoken of your faithfulness…I have not concealed Your lovingkindness” (40:10).

You cannot reach a goal by doing nothing. A ship is safe while it’s in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are made for. We won’t say the wrong thing if we say nothing, but that’s not what our tongues were made for. Striving to not sin with your tongue and failing to praise God in the process, is not moving positively toward the goal.
|

A Excellent Question

The following devotional was taken from "Strength for the Journey" and written by David Deffenbaugh.

StrengthforJourneyreview
March 1
Daily Bible Reading Schedule: Leviticus 20-21; Galatians 4:21-5:12

An Excellent Question
Devotional Text: Galatians 4:30


Where should one go for advice, direction, and instruction? Finding someone who knows what they are talking about is a good objective. When traveling in a strange town and needing directions to a local site, pulling into a convenience store to ask a clerk may be sufficient to get good information. But that would not be an advisable source for financial or medical advice. Where one goes to get advice very much depends on the nature of the advice needed.

What about things spiritual? What about religion? What about faith in God and Jesus Christ? Believe it or not, there are a number of potential sources for advice: family, friends, tradition, clergy, theologians. Some of these are very willing but maybe not the most reliable sources. The question posed by Paul is excellent advice itself, “But what do the Scriptures say?” The Bible is a reliable guide. Its guidance and instruction is from God. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psa. 119:105).

The thing about advice and directions is that they are only as good as far as we are willing to follow them. The directions given by the convenience store clerk may be 100% right, but if I fail to follow them, I will not find my destination. So, part of this issue is whether or not we actually want to accomplish, achieve, or obtain what God has in mind. That’s what His word is all about. Or, are we more interested in pleasing our family and peers? Fitting in with others? Feeling good about ourself? There’s nothing inherently wrong with those things, but they’re not always consistent with God’s will either.

So, the bottom line here, then, is if one isn’t interested most in God’s will, it really doesn’t matter what the Scriptures say.
|

Daily Devotionals

The following devotionals were taken from "Strength for the Journey" & "In Our Father's Hands." Check back each week to read a new devotional. Book(s) can be pre-ordered at Little Acorn's online store.

The following devotional was taken from "Strength for the Journey" and written by David Deffenbaugh.

StrengthforJourneyreview
January 1
Daily Bible Reading: Genesis 1-2; Matthew 1

Beginning to the End
Devotional Text: Genesis 1:1


Today marks many beginnings; this is the beginning of a book, it’s the beginning of a new year, the beginning of a new resolution (to read God’s word every day), and reading the beginning of the Bible. That is a lot of beginnings.

We know from experience that a beginning, no matter how good or well intentioned, does not guarantee a successful end. It is also true that no successful end can be reached without a beginning. A well-known proverb suggests that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The question is: What is that journey? What is the destination toward which the beginning step is being taken today? Is it a journey to achieve an objective, to read through the Bible in a year? Is it a journey to alleviate the guilt of not reading the Bible like you should? Is it a journey to gain someone’s approval (spouse, parent, peer)?

This journey should be to come nearer to the heart of God. Other motivations may have led to the first step on this journey, but will they also lead to the second, third, fiftieth, and 365th steps? Even if one were to read and meditate on God’s word every day of this year, the journey would have only begun. It’s not measured by a calendar, but by a life. Only a destination so grand, so magnificent, so lofty as the heart of God will move us to such heights; every day, a little closer; every day, a little nearer; every day as we meet God in His word.

“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

The following devotional was taken from "In Our Father's Hands" and written by Tyrel Hatfield.

Fathershandsreview
January 1
Daily Bible Reading: Genesis 1-2; Matthew 1

Humble beginnings
Devotional Text: Matthew 1:18-25


Close your eyes, and imagine you are living over 2,000 years ago. Your clothes are different, your shoes are different, and you have a donkey in the stable out back. You are the owner and keeper of an inn located in a little town called Bethlehem.

One dark, windy night, a young couple knocks on your door and asks you for a room. “I have no rooms available,” you tell them. Then you notice the young woman is pregnant. You feel sorry for the couple, and you offer to let them stay in your stable. Later you learn the young woman had her baby, not just any baby: the child was Christ the Savior, God’s Son. “Oh, no,” you say. “Had I only known, I would have given you my room. I would have thrown a party in your honor!”

When you start to seek praise and honor for your accomplishments, or believe you haven’t received the recognition you deserve, just remember this: Jesus, who is God’s Son, our Lord of Lords, our mighty King, ruler of everything, and was with God from the beginning (John 1:1-4), didn’t come to this earth for praise and glory. He didn’t come with trumpets sounding. The red carpet was not rolled out. He came quietly and humbly, placed in a manger, fleeing from danger – not to receive recognition, but to die on a cross for our sins.

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
|