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Daily Devotional for January 12, 2017

2 Peter 3:8-9
Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.

Scripture quotations from The Message. © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene Peterson.  Used by permission of NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO.  All rights reserved.

God’s timing is impeccable.  One year ago this morning, the angels came for my mother and ushered her into the arms of Jesus. Her brief - yet anguishing - battle with cancer was finished.  She ran the good race and fought the good fight…and in the end, she was given a new body in Heaven.

I think about the days that we sat with her as she steadily declined…the hours when we wondered, “Is this it?”  I have “sat vigil” with loved ones who were dying more than once. As I watched them struggle with pain – or even to catch a breath – I often whispered, “Why is it taking so long?”  And yet, I knew that God’s timing is impeccable.

I shared these thoughts last week with a childhood friend whose mother is now in her last days of a brief – yet anguishing – battle with cancer.  I told her how in Mother’s final days of consciousness, she had an opportunity to witness to a family member about the incredible, incomparable love of Jesus.  I shared that there were things that needed to be said between a lot of us – and they were.

I noted that God granted us an opportunity for the little ones to visit their Granny in her home setting, where they weren’t frightened by the sterility of a hospital room and happily showed her books and toys – and kissed her cheek. I encouraged my friend to savor these moments – no matter how difficult or unending they may seem.

A year later, I turned to the scripture passage for this day and read that a day is as a thousand years to God – and a thousand years are as a day.  And I know that we have no idea how long it will be until we see my mother and other loved ones who have passed.  I know that some days seem like a thousand years - and others seem like only minutes have passed.  In many ways, this has been a long, long year – and in others, it seems like I just blinked and here we are.

This is not a ploy to gain sympathy or pity. As my friend pointed out, countless other people have survived the heartache of death…and we will, too.  But I want you to remember these four words…God’s timing is impeccable.  I cannot tell you why people die “too young” - or linger for years in the stupor of dementia.  I don’t know why there are natural disasters and physical deformities…why children are abused and neglected, orphaned and hungry…why so many people have to “go through stuff”…or why “bad things happen to good people.”

I don’t know why God doesn’t stop it all, send Jesus for His church, and end the mess that so many have made of His blessings and abundance. I understand the evil influence of the devil, God’s gift of free will, and how trials and tests build our faith muscle.  But that still doesn’t explain to me the timing of it all. Still, the Bible tells us that God knows things that we don’t…that He sees a big picture and has a much greater plan that we could ever envision.  And God’s timing is impeccable.

My mother wanted everyone to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I know that she would tell me today that this is our mission…that we are still here to do the work of sharing Jesus’ Good News with others – and serving as His hands and feet.  I am confident that there is a reason that her discipleship ended just shy of her 77th birthday.  As I have heard from countless people who were influenced by her legacy of Christian faith and service, I’ve come to see that she is still glorifying Jesus – even from Heaven.

This should be OUR goal…to serve Him wherever we are…for as long as He desires and ordains – and in whatever capacity.  I don’t know what you are waiting on today…or what is on your “timeline.”  But I do know that God’s timing is impeccable.  I pray you know this, as well.

©2017 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for January 11, 2017

2 Peter 1:20-21
For no prophecy recorded in Scripture was ever thought up by the prophet himself. It was the Holy Spirit within these godly men who gave them true messages from God.
The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

One morning as the second graders in Timothy’s class lined up for lunch, another student and my nephew had an interesting conversation about the presidential election – and who was “the best.”  They waffled back and forth as they debated all of this…and clearly, both were parroting what they had heard at home - and in the media.  But in their 7-year-old minds, these ideas and opinions were totally “theirs!”

On one level, this was cute.  On another, it was rather disturbing…because these children were forming opinions and spouting “facts” that were based completely on hearsay.  And yet, they claimed these thoughts as their own original ideas. Or…they adamantly stated that someone in authority had told them these things – so they must be true!

Far too many Christians give themselves too much credit. They play “judge and jury” based on their personal interpretation of God’s word.  They try to scare the pants off of others with their predictions that “based on Scripture…this or that is about to happen.”  Do you realize that the imminence of “end times” has been predicted for thousands of years?  Do not misunderstand me…I believe Jesus will return again for His church.  But we truly don’t know when…and living in fear of this is 1) disrespectful to our Christian faith; and 2) a scare tactic to try to manipulate others into giving their hearts to Jesus.  Attempts to interpret scripture to try to predict when the “end of the world” will happen are not our job as Christian disciples.

By the same token, we do not have God’s authority to interpret countless other prophecies and messages in scripture. Yes, God speaks to us through His Holy Word.  And quite frankly, He might use the same verse to guide us in one manner today…and in a totally different way tomorrow. This is God’s prerogative. But it is not our job to judge others and declare certain “truths” based on personal interpretation of scripture.

The bottom line is this…study God’s word and let Him use the scriptures to speak to you and guide you through your day. Share YOUR experiences with others about how God has spoken and directed you.  But do not declare yourself to be an authority…or your “ways” and interpretations to be infallible. Prayerfully petition God to always guide your words and actions…and to enable you to represent Him in the manner that is pleasing to Him and furthers His kingdom. 

In essence, don’t use your Christian discipleship as a “license” to dictate God’s directives to others. God is looking for humble servants and disciples…not know-it-alls and fear mongers.  What does your faith and discipleship demonstrate?

©2017 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for January 10, 2017

2 Corinthians 5:17
Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991,1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

Yesterday would have been my cousin Eddie’s 70th birthday.  I told his daughter, “This means that in a few months, I will be SIXTY!”  She replied, “I think someone has messed that up…there’s no way!”  My sweet cousin always knows how to make my day!  But the truth is that in a few short months, I will indeed have lived six decades.

I have to say, there is no way I would want to start completely over.  Like everyone, there are situations and moments that I wish I could do over.  I would love to have the energy and stamina of my youth…less wrinkles…and a slimmer body.  But overall, I am comfortable with where I am in life.  As a cousin who is a few years older than I noted recently, I have a blessed life.  And as actress Sally Field noted in her role as the matriarch of the television series “Brothers and Sisters,” I’ve earned my wrinkles…they tell the story of my life!

The GOOD NEWS is that my life story is not told by my mistakes and transgressions.  And neither is yours.  If you have given your heart to Jesus, the past truly is forgotten, and everything is new.  Over and again, Jesus stands in the gap for us…because we are not perfect, and we will never be completely free of sin.  But now we can live in the comfort and assurance of knowing that when we make every effort to follow His commands and serve as we are directed, Jesus will indeed continue to wipe the slate clean in our favor.

I don’t know about you, but I cling to this promise that “the past is forgotten, and everything is new.”  Everyone loves a fresh start…from the first day of school, to a new car or house, to even a New Year!  But the best “fresh start” of all is the one we have in Jesus Christ.  This incredible gift is not to be taken lightly…or misused.  We must make every effort to show our extreme gratitude…and to be good stewards of God’s grace through Jesus.  With this in mind, I take on the next few months - and then a new decade - full of joy and anticipation for continued blessings and the assurance of Jesus’ amazing love and care.

My wrinkles and gravity may note my physical age…but on the inside, I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.  What about you?

©2017 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for January 9, 2017

1 Peter 3:13-18
Usually no one will hurt you for wanting to do good. But even if they should, you are to be envied, for God will reward you for it. Quietly trust yourself to Christ your Lord, and if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way.

Do what is right; then if men speak against you, calling you evil names, they will become ashamed of themselves for falsely accusing you when you have only done what is good. Remember, if God wants you to suffer, it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong!

Christ also suffered. He died once for the sins of all us guilty sinners although he himself was innocent of any sin at any time, that he might bring us safely home to God. But though his body died, his spirit lived on...

The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
You’ve heard the joke about “I had a drug problem…I was drug to church.”  That pretty well describes me and my siblings. We didn’t go EVERY time the church doors were open…mainly because I don’t think my parents could manage the logistics of working several jobs and getting us there on Wednesday nights. But if we missed a Sunday morning or evening service, somebody had better be on his/her deathbed! We weren’t the only kids in our church who attended that “faithfully.”  There were a few more in the same boat. And we were often labeled by others as the “goody-two-shoes” - or laughed at because we tried to abide by the lessons (and fear of burning in Hell) that were drilled into us!

There were a few sympathetic adults who tried to commiserate with us when our parents were strict…while defending them for being that way. And more than one mentor told me that someday, I would understand the benefits of my childhood “suffering” for Jesus by doing good. At the time, I thought these folks were nuts…or just feeding me a line.  But over the years, I’ve come to see that doing what is good…and right…is always best.

There have been times when I wanted to lash out…and there have been times when I did just that (and almost always regretted it later, if not immediately). But there have been times when I have managed to hold my tongue and suppress the desire to express my feelings toward someone who was unkind or unfair…and I have always been better for it.  Whether that person recognized his/her mistake or not…I knew that GOD knew.  Whether I ever get an apology or better treatment, I know that God will bless my efforts.

Many years ago, I was in a situation where some pretty unfair things happened in the workplace because of one particular person. One day, a senior supervisor and I were talking, and he noted that these things were happening. And then he said, “I’ve been watching you…and I have never heard you say one unkind thing about this person. I’ve never seen you act inappropriately or voice your disagreement…and I KNOW you had to have been extremely frustrated at times.  But it never showed…and I am truly impressed.”

I had no clue this person had been paying attention. I really thought nobody knew or cared.  To be honest, things didn’t really improve all that much after this conversation…but at least I knew that I had an ally. And I knew that God was blessing my efforts to do the right thing and contain my frustrations.

We will all be faced with opportunities to “be good” – and to yell, kick, scream and show out when others “do us wrong.”  But let’s remember Who we really need to serve – and impress.  Let’s remind ourselves Who truly matters.  More importantly, let us never forget how Jesus suffered and was ridiculed…all because of us. It’s amazing to think about…but Jesus would do all of this again for us in a heartbeat!

Now with this in mind, how can WE behave any differently toward others?  How can we acknowledge and appreciate Jesus’ gift while lashing out at others and doing the wrong things?  Isn’t it time we trust God to handle ALL things…even the words and actions of those who would criticize and mistreat us?  Are you willing to “suffer” for your faith - and demonstrate honor and glory for Jesus’ great gift of suffering for us?  Isn’t it time you were?

©2017 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for January 8, 2017

1 John 4:1
Dearly loved friends, don’t always believe everything you hear just because someone says it is a message from God: test it first to see if it really is. For there are many false teachers around…

The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

A former co-worker of Greg’s was famous for saying, “If you lie, you fry…Hezekiah 3:5.”  For those who might be nodding their heads and saying, “Yep…that’s exactly right!”…there is no such book in the Bible as Hezekiah! The fellow got a kick out of pulling this prank on people and watching them fall for it.
In an online article written by CNN correspondent, John Blake – titled “Actually, that’s not in the Bible”* - Blake cites several verses people often quote with complete confidence they are scripturally accurate…such as “God helps those who help themselves,” and “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” In fact, neither of these oft-quoted “verses” actually exists in scripture.

Blake went on to cite Steve Bouma-Prediger, a religion professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, who noted that even people in his college religion classes were easily fooled.  He would quote 2 Hesitations 4:3…”There are no internal combustion engines in heaven.”  Then he would pause to see if someone would recognize that neither the book of 2 Hesitations – or this verse – were actually part of the Bible.  Bouma-Prediger said only a few got the joke.

Here’s the thing…these are rather humorous examples meant to elicit a chuckle. But far too many people are declaring themselves authorities on God’s word and will…claiming to be prophets who can predict the future…and making every attempt to convince others that they have accurately interpreted scripture – even when what they are claiming causes many to scratch their heads and wonder, “How can this be?”  The television channels are full of “evangelists” who are proponents of this cause or that one. Countless men and women stand at the ready to tell us they are certain that God wants us to do XYZ in this country or support that mission in ABC – or that this action or that one are an abominable sin. And countless people fall into line to follow them – and finance or otherwise endorse their agendas.

I know people who are experiencing tremendous stress because they have been told that God expects them to “step out of their comfort zone” and do more, give more, serve more often and with greater conviction, and focus every single minute on His missions and the work of the church.  I’ve seen families struggle because of the struggle and strain created when there is too much focus on what others perceive as “God’s work” at the expense of family life, work, marriage and relationships, and more.
Yes, Jesus told James and John to drop their fishing nets and follow Him.  Another disciple asked for a couple of days off to tend to his father’s funeral, and Jesus told him to let others bury the dead while he pursued life. But we have to consider these verses in context…and while they have relevance in our lives, I don’t believe Jesus was literally telling us to drop EVERYTHING and EVERYONE to serve him – at least not in this same way.

I will tell you…I don’t have all the answers.  But I am so frustrated sometimes with those who make outlandish claims that are supposed to be “scripturally based.”  They post alarming memes and quotes on social media that don’t do anything but scare the pants off people.  I have to refrain from commenting sometimes and telling them just how much this diminishes their “Christian witness” and calls it into question for those who stop and think for even half a second about what they are promoting!

I pray that you are not one of these people – the “promoters” OR someone who gets caught up in these falsehoods. Stay awake and alert. Read your Bible and spend some quiet time in meditation and communication with God and ASK HIM to show you the truth…then abide in it!  Don’t be that person who blindly nods in agreement when someone quotes Hezekiah 3:5 or 2 Hesitations 4:3.  Know enough about scripture to at least check before acting on certain verses.  Dig out your Bible or do an online search and see if you can find those passages for yourself.

Ask God what He wants you to do…and when and where He wants you to serve…and then don’t do anything else!  Not everything is your mission or ministry!  Learn to tell the difference - and operate only in the things that God has ordained for you. Christian discipleship is a privilege…and a gift.  Make sure you are honoring God’s blessings to the fullest by staying on track…and always operating in His truths.

©2017 Debbie Robus

*“Actually, that’s not in the Bible” ~ http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/19/living/bible-not-jesus/

Daily Devotional for January 7, 2017

1 John 2:28-29
And now, children, stay with Christ. Live deeply in Christ. Then we’ll be ready for him when he appears, ready to receive him with open arms, with no cause for red-faced guilt or lame excuses when he arrives.

Once you’re convinced that he is right and righteous, you’ll recognize that all who practice righteousness are God’s true children.

Scripture quotations from The Message. © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene Peterson.  Used by permission of NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO.  All rights reserved.

Today, our heads are spinning with news of the latest tragic shooting in our country.  You may also be confronted with personal challenges…family members and friends who are ill or have recently passed…money woes…or loss of work because of the latest “snow event.”  You may be stressed from the care and nurture of children and your immediate family…a heavy load at work or school…and so much more.

With everything that we face on a daily basis, it can sometimes be hard to live deeply in Christ…but this is exactly WHY we need to make the effort to do so!  In my daily readings the last few days from
Jesus Calling*, these are some of the charges that have stuck out to me…”There could never be another companion as devoted as I am. Try saying, ‘I trust You, Jesus’ in response to whatever happens to you.  Your continual assertion of trusting Me will strengthen our relationship and keep you close to Me.”

I cannot imagine what the people in Ft. Lauderdale are enduring…the heartache and shock for all involved…the horror and complete terror that must have stricken hundreds of people throughout this event.  But I know that God was right there with them, through it all. I recently visited with a friend whose mother is quite ill.  She and I agreed that as we cry out to God that we are in “deep waters,” we recognize that He has led others through them already.  So why wouldn’t He do this for us, as well?  When we realize that Jesus is our most devoted companion, it becomes imperative that we live deeply in Him…and trust Him in whatever happens to us.

Living deeply in Christ doesn’t happen overnight.  You cannot just snap your fingers and instantly gain this most intimate relationship with Him.  You must cultivate deep and abiding faith over time…through continual communion with Jesus in prayer, Bible study – and quite frankly, going through some stuff!  Each experience strengthens your faith muscle.  Every prayer draws you closer to Jesus and allows Him to show you just how much He cares for every detail of your life.  Each time you read Scripture – or a daily devotional such as this one – you gain insights into how God is working for you every second of the night and day.

You have to start somewhere…and today is as good as any to begin.  Call out to Jesus…tell Him, “I trust You” – and mean it! My prayer is that this would be the day that you make every effort to keep your Dearest Companion close at all times…and start to live deeply in His promises and care.  Jesus is calling…are you ready to welcome Him into your heart forever?

©2017 Debbie Robus

*Jesus Calling ~ www.jesuscalling.com    (quotes from January 3 and January 4 entries)

Daily Devotional for January 6, 2017

1 John 2:26-27    
I’ve written to warn you about those who are trying to deceive you. But they’re no match for what is embedded deeply within you—Christ’s anointing, no less! You don’t need any of their so-called teaching. Christ’s anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught.

Scripture quotations from The Message. © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene Peterson.  Used by permission of NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO.  All rights reserved.

I don’t know how it happened…but what took us nearly 3 days to un-box and arrange to decorate the house for Christmas was all packed away in the course of one very long day.  And I will be the first to tell you that putting away the Christmas decorations is not my favorite chore!  I told Greg…“This is not nearly as fun as getting it all out and decorating!”  And that’s understandable. In late November/early December, we are anticipating the holiday season…looking forward to fun times with family and friends…hoping for lots of joy and “good will toward men!”  In January, the skies are dark and grey, the holidays are over, and saying “Good-bye” to the festive d├ęcor is more than a little bit of a let-down.

This year, I worked with determination to put things away…but there was an extra sadness in my efforts.  And then I realized why I was struggling. Many of our decorations are tied to those who are no longer with us…especially my mother. Initially, I didn’t believe that I attached that much significance to the countless ornaments that Mother has given me over the years. But as I hung them on the tree (and took them off a few weeks later), I thought of her with each one. I set out some of her infamous napkin rings in the shape of Christmas trees… the “Shoji Tabuchi Santa”…holiday books…her big nativity scene that she and my dad purchased in Mexico…and some treasured crystal ornaments. Each one evoked memories of things my mother had said, done – and taught me.

With every cup of “Russian Tea,” I thought of my mother.  With each sugar cookie, I remembered my Mam-ma Polly – and the love and care with which she baked hundreds of batches that she mostly gave to others.  With every gift the children unwrapped – or cute thing that they said during the holidays – I longed to pick up the phone and share these with Mother…to laugh and remark on how they are growing and getting smarter every day!

I did not realize as the holidays progressed how much these items were reminding me of my mother…and causing me to “live deeply in what I have been taught.”  Because for every moment when I felt a bit melancholy, I also heard her saying, “You are doing just fine. You are caring for your family and serving God – and making memories in the process.  You are creating a foundation that will carry the little ones into adulthood. You are reinforcing to all that love matters – that what is said and done is significant. You are sharing the love of Christ - with every decoration, card, cookie and cup of cocoa or hot tea – and letting others know how important they are to Him. You are saying, “Jesus is worth celebrating.”

God used this holiday season to remind me of the valuable lessons that I have been taught…and how to live deeply in them.  He showed me how important it is for me to keep on “keepin’ on”…to instill in children (our own, those at church and school) just how much Jesus loves them and what He did for them.  God reminded me of the importance of gifts – and not just the kind you wrap and place under the tree.  He showed me the importance of such blessings as a smile and kind words for clerks and fellow shoppers in the stores…a phone call or visit to check on a friend...a card or note of encouragement to someone who is in need (especially if that person is not your favorite person!) – and the warmth and comfort of a tasty loaf of banana bread or a tin of ginger snaps.  God reminded me to “live deeply in what I have been taught” about Jesus…and to pass this on to others.

There are plenty of opportunities for us to succumb to the devil…to be swayed by enemies of Jesus, which scripture likens in 1 John 2:18 to “antichrists everywhere you look.” So it is important that we live deeply in what we have been taught…and show others how to do this, too.

With each passing day, God shows up for me in even the most “routine” of events – even Christmas decorations and holiday traditions. I have no doubt that He will do this for you, also – and show YOU how to help others live deeply in His teachings – both directly, and through other people and circumstances.  Are you listening for His voice and looking for His presence?  Isn’t it time you were?

©2017 Debbie Robus