Sunday, March 31, 2013

do you love me? part II

Read I Peter 5 and John 21

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” I Peter 5:10 & 11

Poor, poor Peter. He denied his Lord. Was it three times, four times, six times that he denied even knowing Him? The Lord had told him he would deny Him three times before the next rooster crowed. Peter was deeply hurt, very insulted. But the Lord was gracious. He didn’t say how easily Peter would deny him—to every servant girl, to every passerby. Poor, poor Peter.

And then he saw his Lord crucified in such an awful way. From a distance he heard the taunting.  And he felt the thump as the cross with his Lord nailed to it dropped into the hole dug for it. He saw that hideous sight as He was lifted up, naked, for every passerby to hide their faces from. He saw two other pathetic men on crosses on either side of the Lord Jesus.  Then came the three hours of darkness, followed by a loud clear triumphant voice, “It is finished!” That cry. What a wonderful cry. It tore away all the confusion and fog of Peter’s emotions and cacophony of thoughts, for it was the cry of His Lord. His Lord! So different than himself. So strong, powerful to the very end.

Then he and John had run to the tomb. He saw the grave clothes and the folded face cloth, but the body of his Lord was gone.  Then twice, with the other disciples, he saw his resurrected Lord in the upper room with the other disciples. He was so grateful, so overjoyed. But still. It was still there. He had denied and denied his Lord, the beautiful, the perfect Lord Jesus.

“I’m going fishing,” he said to the other disciples. He knew his place. It was out on that lake. Every night. Pulling in fish.  Just making a living.

“Do you love me?” said Jesus when Peter went up to meet him on the shore. That he did. He loved his Lord.  He might be an absolutely worthless son of Belial, but he did love the Lord.

“Feed my lambs,” said Jesus.

Maybe not. Maybe he’d best stick to trying to feed himself.

“Do you love me?” the Lord asked again.

“You know I love you,” answered Peter.

“Tend my sheep,” said the Lord.

“Do you love me?” asked the Lord.

What is this? “I do love him,” thought Peter. “Lord you know all things, you know I love you.”

“Feed my sheep,” said the Lord Jesus. “Truly, truly I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” John 21

Peter was old now. He had aged quickly. He was now so old he had lost all his will. What did he want now? Where did he want to go? He didn’t know. But he did know that what he wanted didn’t matter much now.  When he had wanted, he had wanted to save his own neck. That’s why he had been so scared. That’s why he had denied his Lord, his Savior.

To encourage others, he wrote a few years later, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” I Peter 5:10 & 11

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Read John 18 and I Samuel 19

Now the servants and the officers had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. John 18:18

Matt wrote in yesterday’s devotional about the friendship of two men who were very different from each other: King Darius, and Daniel, his foreign born slave. By nature, we prefer to be with those who are similar to us. Romance web sites like e-harmony are successful because they pair people by their similarities. The rich are paired with the rich. The beautiful are paired with the beautiful. 

But most of us have discovered that our best relationships are often with those who are so very different from us. To be always with our peers makes us dry, tedious people.

Perhaps it is like all small town communities, but where I live, on the Minnesota Iron Range, there is a hyper clannishness. From earliest childhood to the nursing home, the same group of guys are always together. They go to every sports event together; they snowmobile together; they go to the bar together. If one goes to Las Vegas, they all go to Las Vegas. When they get married, their wives either become part of their clan (though they hang out with the other wives) or they will need to figure out how to live independently of their husbands.  Like the mentally ill, those within this group cannot feel sympathy nor can they be sympathetic. Their only method of communication is the crude and simple jest.

One would think that diversity would cause division and separation. But it is often God’s way that our differences attract, like the magnet—only the positive can join with the negative.

The more fully alive a person is, the more unique he becomes. The nicest compliment I’ve  received about my children is that they are so different from each other. And we still have friends who shake their heads when they think about my wife and myself. “How can two such different people get along so well?” they ask.

Peter denied his Lord because he was fearful of being identified as one so different from those who stood by the fire. But his denial of who he was did not gain him entrance into their fellowship. For what brought them together was their anticipation of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. Peter came to his senses when he heard the rooster crow. He then left their unwelcoming fellowship and went out and wept bitterly.

I very much appreciate the church of which I am a part. Though it is a small group, we have people from every demographic. We have the very old and the very young; those who have been part of our type of church fellowship for six generations, and those who are totally unaware of our church traditions; those who are highly intellectual, and those who are disdainful of the academic; those who are needy, and those who are well off. Most who are politically conservative, but one person is a known liberal. Our diversity makes us a particularly loving fellowship. 

But just like Daniel and Darius, different as we may be, we do have a commonality that brings us together, our belief in a Faithful God who is willing and able to save. 

Friday, March 29, 2013


Written by Matt Lange

Read Daniel 6 and John 20

"So the king gave the order and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, "May the God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!" Daniel 6:16

This is one of my favorite bible stories. As this friendship between two men unfold, we realize they are from such different backgrounds. One was the king whom everybody served, and the other was a slave, stolen from his home while he was a kid. Daniel was then trained for the king’s service.

As their story unfolds, we come to the place where Daniel is told to worship something he knows is not right. He makes a stand against the king’s law and chooses instead to worship God alone. Knowing the consequence of breaking the law, he still chose to worship God alone. Darius (the king) gets word by the backstabbers of that day that his precious Daniel defies the law. These "backstabbers" didn't like Daniel. They viewed him as the goody-two-shoes.

Darius had tried to figure out a way around punishing Daniel but finally had to uphold the law. And the punishment was given... a night with the lions. The lions were pretty hungry (obviously not from Detroit) and Darius feared for Daniel’s life. So Daniel is thrown to the lions and Darius calls out to him "May the God whom you serve continually, rescue you!"

What an impact Daniel’s life had on this king. He stood for what he believed in. He believed in a living God and he let nothing come between himself and his God. He took ownership in that relationship. Even though he had people on his tail trying to trap him at any given moment, he stood firm ... and saw the salvation of the Lord.

Anyway Darius goes home to a sleepless night. In the morning, first light, Darius rushes to see what happened to Daniel. Let’s think about this for a moment... hungry lions, man of flesh, together all night. Why would Darius hurry to see what had happened? Did he enjoy a bloody scene?

Daniel 6:20 tells us that the king called to Daniel as he got close to the den. "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually been able to rescue you from the lions?"

I don’t know about you but I am not in the habit of rushing to see if someone is dead, and then calling out to them and expecting them talk to me! But Darius knew that Daniel served a God unlike any other. Even though Darius had a sleepless night, he had confidence that God would deliver Daniel. Otherwise why would he have rushed to him, and risked looking like a fool? I think  Darius had to know.

What a testimony Daniel had with Darius. It makes me think of all the times God rescued me from myself when I needed Him the most. Have I been a faithful servant? Have I stood up for what I believe in? Do I live a life of integrity? Do others KNOW I serve a Living God?

I like to think so.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

servant dignity

Read Philippians 2 and Isaiah 53

Will anyone of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come back from the field, “Come at once and recline at the table?” Will he not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink?” Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, “We are unworthy servants, we have only done what is our duty.” Luke 17:7-10

The worst thing about being a servant is that there is no dignity to it. It’s like you are a piece of property merely to be used and then disregarded. If for any reason, the master is not pleased with your service, he can put you through any amount of emotional and/or physical pain. According to Old Testament law, a master is not suppose to kill his servant.  But, “if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.” Exodus 21:21

Roxanne wrote in her devotional yesterday of the endless hours of a servant. She also wrote that a servant doesn’t get a choice of duties. Regardless of the servant’s gift and abilities, a servant is obligated to do the job that is set before him. 

That’s bad enough. But to have one’s humanity stripped away—I would say it’s unbearable, except for the fact that so much of humanity has born it.

It is not unusual for me to be deep in conversation with somebody in the chapel or the dining hall of the camp where we live, and then to have someone break in as if they hadn’t noticed I was there. A particularly young man did this to me last summer and I decided to ask him, “Didn’t you notice that I was talking to this person?” He looked at me with puzzlement. “Aren’t you part of the camp staff?”   As he understood it, he was at camp to be ministered to and I was merely one of the ministers (in the servant sense of the word).
My wife is a servant par excellent. As her husband, I travel in her wake. That means regardless of place, we are the ones who get all the left-over jobs. So we do a whole lot of cleaning and fixing and consoling. I tend to get possessive of whatever I might be doing.  But if someone else wants to do my job, I bite my tongue and let them take over.

So often, as a married couple enters old age, one spouse cares for the other. This caregiver role is a 24/7 and may involve unpleasant tasks. But what makes it especially tough is when the one being cared for is confused, and lashes out at the caregiver.

One of our favorite preachers said, “You know you’re a servant, when people start treating you like one.”  I hope you admire these senior caregivers as much as I do.

The Lord Jesus is such a good master. He said to His disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.” That’s the type of servant hood  I can find bearable. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Written by Roxanne Rodgers

Read Mark 10 and I Peter 4

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve. Mark 10:44
If anyone serves he should do it with the strength God gives so that in all things God may be praised. 1 Pet. 4:11

We often hear the phrases, “24/7.”  When I hear it used, it is typically an exaggeration of the amount of time people say they put into an important job.  But when I think of serving, there are people who come to mind that the phrase “24/7” is no exaggeration.  My mother cared for my father for 8 years after a stroke had left him a semi invalid and unable to speak.  She faithfully cared for all his needs and it was a seven day a week duty that required her to get up several times a night.  My Father- in- law is caring for my mother- in- law the same way, around the clock.  We have several friends who are caregivers to their aged parents. It truly is 24/7 care.

Together my parents had a very active ministry in their local church.  After dad’s stroke, that changed abruptly.  My mom was very involved in leading bible studies and one-on one discipleship.  It was very difficult to have these ministries replaced by behind the scene serving, though she did it faithfully.  I recall her telling me one day that she struggled with the feeling that the Lord had put her on the “shelf.”  For my dad, It had to be a huge struggle not only to be “put on the shelf” but to being reduced to complete dependence on others for almost all of his needs, and unable to speak a word!  I will never forget my mom telling me years into her role as his caregiver, “I have come to realize this whole thing is about me, It is not about your dad’s stroke. It is about the Lord still teaching me to serve Him in the way He deems best to make me more like Himself.”

I think almost daily of a friend who with her husband had been traveling the country through a speaking ministry.  She is one of the most gifted women I know. She has faithfully used her gift in teaching and encouraging women and children. For the past several years she has chosen her God given ministry to now be the care of her aged mother.  I have not talked to her about it, but I am willing to guess she has struggled at times with being “put on the shelf.”

Serving others is not a glamorous job to have.  It may not always involve being a caregiver in the medical sense, but isn’t serving always caring for others?  Service may mean bringing a meal, cleaning toilets or visiting a shut in.  If we are willing, the Lord will show us how He wants us to serve others.  This is a ministry which often goes unnoticed.  Or does it?  Who are we serving and what is our motive?  If we are trying to serve in our own strength, we soon lose our joy and desire to do it.  But as Peter admonishes us, “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God gives so that in all things God may be praised.” We ought daily to pray, “Lord give me the grace, or ease the burden. He is faithful to do one or the other.

My dad has been with the Lord for four years now.  I find it so encouraging when I talk to my mom on the phone.  Even though she is 83, she is not sitting back waiting to be served.  Quite to the contrary: she is back to discipling someone in her home; preparing a meal for a house full of company, or writing a letter of encouragement to a young gal in jail.

Whatever spiritual gift we have been given, let us all be like the Son of Man who “did not come to be served but to serve.”  Mark 10:44

“But by love, let us serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

taking instruction

Written by Bruce Haley

Read Daniel 9 and II Timothy 3

In the first year of Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the
Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; in the first
year of his reign.  I Daniel, understood by the books the number of the
years, concerning which the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, the
prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of
Jerusalem. Daniel 9:1-2
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness. II Timothy 3:16

The books (scrolls) were Jeremiah’s writings. This is what God
intended for Daniel and other men to share for the common good of
others. We are all men serving the same master. When the opportunity
appears and we use it for many, we have fulfilled God’s desire.
Jeremiah made it clear when he said, “and this whole land shall be a
desolation, and an horror; and these nations shall serve the King of
Babylon seventy years.” 

God says what He means and He means what He
says. We have a loving Father, and we must learn to take His
instructions seriously.

Monday, March 25, 2013

do you love me? part I

Read John 21 and Genesis 44

He said to him a third time, “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”  Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” John 21:17
“Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my Lord, and let the lad go with his brothers. For how shall I go back to my father if the lad is not with me.  I fear to see the evil that would find my father.” Genesis 44:33 & 34

Matt Lange wrote in yesterday’s devotional about how we are not bound by our past bad behavior. Peter is a beautiful example of this. Much to Peter’s surprise (and to his despair) when he had a chance to make good on his claim, (“Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.”) he utterly failed again and again and again.

Peter picked himself up by his bootstraps (or sandle straps) and got on with his life. “I’m going fishing,” he told the other disciples.

Then all night long he and his buddies fished. And pulled in nothing. “Should I have expected otherwise?” Peter may have thought to himself.

But Jesus thought otherwise. He met Peter on the shore and asked Peter something that He knew the answer to: “Do you love me?” Peter did love Him. That was what counted. Had Peter been a blowhard? Obviously. Had he been a coward? Clearly. Did he fall way below his own expectations? To say the least. But did he love his Lord and Savior? “Lord,” said Peter. “You know all things. You know that I love you.”

That one great quality of Peter’s trumped all his failures. Since Peter loved the Lord, the Lord would use him in a mighty way to lead and feed that brand new flock of His, the Church.

I’ve listened to many conversations at work of women talking about their husbands or their live-in boyfriends. Invariably, at one time or other, these men have betrayed them. Generally these women have stuck with their men, but with the understanding that they have disqualified themselves for any responsibility, and the woman is now in charge of everything, except the remote on the TV.

Way back in Genesis we read of Judah, a son of Jacob, who was a law unto himself. He had pulled away from the family estate and lived a careless and thoughtless life among the Canaanites. Later we read how Judah took responsibility for the family during their time of great duress. Jacob put his trust in Judah, and his trust was well founded. Of all the twelve sons of Jacob, Judah received his greatest blessing. What was it that made the great change in Judah? At some point in his life he returned to his father, for he came to have great compassion and love for his father. Genesis 44: 33 & 34

Twice in the Epistles we read, “Love covers a multitude of sins.”  Once in James 5:20 and once in I Peter 4:8. The love of the Lord Jesus has covered all of my sins. So instead of being defeated, I am encouraged, and I press on in the work that the Lord has set before me.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

stuck in the past?

Written by Matt Lange

Read I Timothy  1, Psalm 51

"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man....." 1Timothy 1:12 – 13

Paul talks about his past but he is not stuck in it. He doesn't stay where he came from or remain what he was like. As a matter of fact he found purpose in his past. Purpose in how he grew up, where he came from. He recognized that he was now "crucified with Christ..." Galatians 2:20. "Yet nevertheless I live..."

What does it mean to live in Christ? I have a past that is not glamorous or worthy of the freedom given to us as Believers. Yet I am free to walk around and be a part of this daily life as we know it. What if I chose to be stuck on or in my past? Would I to remain defeated, where would I be today?

"Not I but Christ lives in me..." When we realize we have a spirit within that is given by the Lord Jesus we can live in the power of a risen Lord. To be used in service for a calling worthy of the gospel. To remain defeated by sin as a child of God, we give Satan the glory for which he is always striving.

We are soon approaching the celebration of a risen Lord Jesus. He took death as a payment for our sins, willingly put to death on our behalf. Did the grave defeat Him? Did He say this is too hard? He didn't whine about the circumstances he was in and He did not fear what the future held for Him. So the question for us is are we living a defeated Christian life or do we claim our salvation and live a life worthy of the calling of Christ?

We all have good days and bad days. We all encounter things that are hard. Our struggles are very personal and will control us if we let them. No one is immune to this. However claiming the power of the cross will make our day, struggle, even our attitude better. Are we willing to put to death our own self and let the resurrection of Christ rule our hearts?

Have an enjoyable Easter remembering the Lord Jesus!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

right hand

Written by Harold Mally

Read Acts 2 and Psalm 16

For David speaketh concerning Him, I foresaw the LORD always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved ( or shaken):”  - Acts 2:25

Peter, in his first sermon, was quoting Psalm 16:8 as referring to Christ -  “I have set the LORD always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” 

The LORD was the source of David’s strength, stability and security.  It is not just that David knew the LORD or considered the LORD important but rather he set the LORD at his right hand.  This must be true for the Christian also.  What does it mean for Christ to be at our right hand? 

The right hand is the one we do everything with.  We work best with our right hand and we rely on it.  We do nothing without our right hand unless the job takes two hands.  Therefore the concept of the right hand holds special significance.  Sometimes we refer to our best helper as our “right hand man”.  And we see this concept in Scripture in multiple places.   The first use of it is in Genesis 48 where Jacob in blessing Joseph’s sons puts his right hand on the head of Ephraim instead of Manasseh even though Ephraim was the younger thereby giving to Ephraim a special privileged place and blessing.   In the New Testament we read that Jesus is at the right hand of God, a place of highest status and authority.  It is good to ask ourselves if we give the same status and authority to Christ in our lives, not just in words or internal commitment but in every day practice.     

When Christ is always in focus, our constant companion and best friend;  When we do everything together in the sense that there is nothing I do that is not ultimately for His interests and purpose;  When I speak with Him continually about all the circumstances, obstacles, needs and decisions of the day;  When I speak about Him continually at every opportunity to make Him known;  When I constantly consult His Word, keeping it ever before me and delighting in It daily;  This is at least a brief way to describe the right hand.  When I, like David, consciously set Him as my main interest and purpose always, He keeps me firm, unmoved, steadfast and unshakable.