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).
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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).
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Building Character

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

Fathershandsreview
March 9
Daily Bible Reading: Numbers 5 – 6; Romans 5

Building character
Devotional Text: Romans 5:3,4


I’ve learned many lessons in my short time on earth. I’ve learned that stove tops will burn you when turned on, I’ve learned that trash does not take itself out, and I’ve learned that “cuttin’ wood” builds character. “Building my character” seemed to be my dad’s favorite pastime. He would wait and take his vacation time when my brothers and I were out of school on fall break so we could all go “cut wood.” Our father was a sick man with a sick sense of humor. “Why do we have to cut wood?” we would bellyache. “Because it builds character!” was always his response. Builds character? How was “cuttin’ wood” going to build character?! But never-the-less, “cuttin’ wood” was much better that a “whippin’ and cuttin’ wood”, so I always made the right decision.

As much as it kills me to admit it, dad was right. Those miserable fall breaks spent “cuttin’ wood” did build character. They assisted in shaping the person I am today. When we are placed in situations like this we can learn many things from it. I learned the value of hard work, endurance, and submission to my father’s will. I even learned how to handle an axe. In view of the discipline and submission I learned from my father, how much more should I submit to my Heavenly Father? Listen to Hebrews 12:9, “Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?” Our earthly parents are parents of our bodies, but God is the author of our spiritual life. Through events and trials in our lives, he molds and makes us. And how we respond to these events reveals our character. When faced with events in my life that don’t fit my agenda, I need to remind myself who’s in charge. (Read devotional text) So next time your parents give you a job you’re not happy with, just be happy and think, “I’m building character!”
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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?
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The rooster will not crow

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

Fathershandsreview
November 1
Daily Bible Reading: Jeremiah 37-38; John 13:18-38

The rooster will not crow
Devotional Text: John 13:36-38


In the old mystery spy movies, the characters were always saying cryptic things like, “The sun eats the stinky cheese.” Or you might hear a mysterious man in the shadows say, “If you’re looking for Sam, you’ll have to watch for the white canary to carry the lizard over the pepperoni gate.” None of what they said ever made any sense. You were always trying to figure out what was going on. Jesus, at times, said some things that were just as puzzling.

On one particular occasion Jesus said something to Peter that not only puzzled him, but probably hurt him a little as well. Jesus had said, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later” (John 13:36). Peter, not understanding what Jesus meant replied, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37).

Jesus’ reply was very confusing. “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times” (John 13:38). What did that mean? You can imagine that Peter was hurt and confused by Jesus predicting Peter’s denial. Why did Jesus think Peter would deny him? Had Peter ever done anything to suggest he was not loyal to Christ? We all make mistakes. Jesus knew that Peter in a moment of weakness would deny Him. It could be that Jesus told Peter what would happen so that when it did Peter would realize his mistake and learn from it.


Discussion for the family:
How can we learn from our mistakes?
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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).
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Charge it

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

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

Charge it
Devotional Text: Philemon 1:17-18


I was walking behind my parents. Dad was off to the side checking out the sales on the two liters of soda, while Mom was up ahead with the cart busily selecting items from the shelves and checking them off her list. Having been excluded from this absurd ritual known as “Grocery Shopping,” I was completely bored. To amuse myself I began poking holes in packages of hamburger meat in the display case. (To this day I don’t exactly know WHY I thought this would be a good idea.) Mom, wondering what I was doing, turned around and my hamburger package destroying days came to a screeching halt. Too late, the damage had been done. Ten packs of thoroughly poked hamburger meat lay before me.

I couldn’t afford to pay for all of that meat, so my parents paid it for me. My wrong was charged to my parents. In Paul’s letter to Philemon he writes about Onesimus, “if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account” (Philemon 1:18). Amazingly, Paul says he wants to be charged for wrong things that Onesimus has done. Like my parents, Paul is willing to pay the price for something he didn’t do. Does this attitude remind you of anyone? Exactly! Christ has done the same thing for us!

Christ has taken the blame for us. We’ve messed up and poked holes in the hamburger of life, but Christ is the one who is paying for it and He has done so willingly. Why do you think my parents paid for all of that hamburger meat for me? Why do you think Paul was willing to take responsibility for Onesimus’ wrongs? Why did Christ pay the ultimate price for so many people? The answer is the same, because of love. Love is the reason that Christ has looked at our sins, yours and mine, and said “Charge it, to MY account.”
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“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.
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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).
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Do you pass the TEST?

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

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

Do you pass the TEST?
Devotional Text: 2 Corinthians 13:5-7


Imagine that you are sitting at your desk in a classroom at school. All around you fellow students are getting their notebooks out and putting away their book bags. The class clown is busily making walrus noises while sticking two pencils under his upper lip for tusks. All in all, you figure it’s business as usual for your class. Things are shaping up to be rather normal, but you suddenly notice what none of the other students have seen so far. Your teacher, at her desk, is quietly pulling out stacks of white paper stapled together. Your breath catches in your chest, surely it can’t be! You would have remembered! Before you can pull your notes out for a last look, your teacher announces, “Alright class! Put away your notes and books, it’s time for…a TEST!”

We all hate tests, they’re no fun whatsoever, but they serve a purpose. We take tests to tell us whether or not we’ve learned something. In school they test our knowledge, but in the Bible we find a different sort of test. The Apostle Paul says that there is a test each of us should take on a regular basis - is Jesus Christ in us?

(Read devotional text) Paul encourages us to examine ourselves to see whether or not we are doing the right thing. When we stop and look at our lives and how we are living we should be able to see whether or not we are letting Christ lead us along. How often you take this test is up to you. However, the more we test ourselves, the better Christians we will be. Take a moment and think about the decisions you’ve made lately. Is it clear that Christ is in you? Do you pass the test?
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