Daily Devotional for October 27, 2016

Matthew 5:38-42    
“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

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.

One day a few months ago, Nathan yelled at me when I told him “No!” and I sent him to “time out.”  He refused to go…I calmly, but firmly insisted!  This four-year-old boy turned and looked at me and said, “You don’t wuv me anymore.  I am not your fwiend ANY MORE!”  He went to sit in the “time out” chair anyway!

On some level, those words hurt.  I realize that he didn’t mean them…but when Nathan is 15 and mad at me over something, they might be offered with more sincerity.  And it will crush my heart to hear someone I love so dearly speak so harshly.  But I hope and pray that I will “turn the other cheek.”  I will probably have plenty of “ammo” that I could lob right back at him by then.  But it would not serve any purpose other than to deepen the divide and possibly damage our relationship forever.  And…it would disobey and disrespect Jesus.

In this season of such discourse, every fiber of our being wants to scream insults and offer retaliations to someone nearly every day.  We are hurt, angry, bewildered, and ready to “make them pay.”  But we must not do this.  We must stand quietly and be still…and trust God.  We must demonstrate that He is in charge…and we will not be dragged into the mud.

Stop and think about it.  You can name plenty of people with short fuses who are quick to get angry and eager to retaliate.  But think about the person you know who remains steadfast and calm…the one who rises above the fray.  In the words of First Lady, Michelle Obama, think of the person who “goes high when the other guy goes low.”  THIS person has heard Jesus’ words – and taken them to heart.  And so must we!

This is the day that the Lord has made.  We must rejoice in it, and live generously.  We must stand up straight and “go high.”  God can – and will – fight our battles. Trust Him to always have our back. Let GOD be in charge of sending others to “time out”…and discover how He blesses your restraint.

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for October 26, 2016

Matthew 5:23-27
“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.

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.

Almost every day, there is a post on Facebook from someone asking others for prayer for this person or that situation. A lot of people comment and say that they are praying – or will pray.  I will tell you, I’m not always one of them…and if/when I do write this, I stop RIGHT THEN and offer a prayer.  These verses from Matthew 5 explains why I do this.

I will be the first to say that there have been plenty of times when I’ve said…”You’re in my thoughts and prayers”…and I got busy and that person or situation totally left my conscious thoughts.  Surely you have noted that you would pray for someone, and days later when they posted on Facebook that… “I’m okay – thanks for your prayers,” you went…“Oh, geez…I never even mentioned them to God!”

I’m just being honest…and noting that Jesus tells us not embellish our talk or make promises we can’t – or won’t – keep…especially when these involve our Christian faith and witness. We should not swear to emphasize our points. We should not “promise on a stack of Bibles” or say, “As God is my witness.”  We should just simply say, “Yes” or “No!”  Our conduct must speak for itself.  People ought to feel confident that when we say we will do something…it will be done.  They should know that our word is our bond…that we are dependable and trustworthy, with no “sworn emphasis” necessary.

And while I’m at it…we need to ditch the phrase “OMG.”  This is also a “swear” of sorts…and it does not become us as Christians – or honor God. This phrase demeans and lessens Him…and in my opinion, it needs to go!  When I was in my teens and twenties, nobody in my circle would have dared to mention God in this context.  Now it is commonplace, and I believe we have reduced God by making him a common “swear word.”

Prayerfully consider cutting this phrase from your vocabulary. The English language is filled with plenty of demonstrative phrases to express your excitement and/or appall over any given situation.  I am praying that we will not degrade our relationship with our Heavenly Father by using His name as a swear word of any kind…even this one!

People are watching – and listening!  They know us - and the “fruit” we bear for Jesus – by how we conduct ourselves and what comes out of our mouth.  Let them see confidence in God’s promises…faith that Jesus changed us into new creatures who rely wholly on Him for everything.  Let your words be good…and good enough – without enhancing them with oaths, swears, and “spiritual promises” you can’t or won’t keep.  It’s time for us to be the “real deal” for Jesus each and every day – in ways great and small.  And now is the time for us to begin.  Are you with me?

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for October 25, 2016

Matthew 5:21-22  
“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

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 voted today. I’ve cast my ballot and done my civic duty.  I am so weary of this campaign season and the horrible things that people on both sides are saying about one another.  I can barely look at my Facebook wall these days, because frankly, I feel like I am not going to have many friends left after November 8th.  People I know and love have said horrible things…called others terrible names…and basically shown me a side that I didn’t realize existed – and don’t care to embrace!  Moreover, I don’t want others to think that I support these comments – or ideologies.

So I am offering Matthew 5:21-22 as “food for thought” today…for all of us. Words kill.  Careless name calling has dire consequences…not only in personal relationships – but in the eyes of God.  If God sees this as “murder,” then we should not want any part of it.  This scripture should make us keenly aware that our thoughts, words, and actions matter greatly to God…and a lot of us should be busily trying to do a major overhaul on how we speak and behave!

I know that things won’t change after the election…that there will still be disgruntled people who want to voice their opinions.  And I am prayerfully considering a major reduction of my “friends” list to remove those who continue to engage in “murderous words and actions.” Jesus did not mince words in this passage…and it’s pretty clear to me how He feels about our engagement in these behaviors – and any association with those who do.

For me, the stakes are high.  I’d rather be Jesus’ obedient disciple and have a handful of faithful friends than to claim dozens of pals and be even remotely thought of as a “murderer” – by Him or anyone else!  What about you?

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for October 24, 2016

Psalm 139:17-18
How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly! I can’t even count how many times a day your thoughts turn toward me. And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!

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

My desktop flip calendar quote for today said, “A little boy ended a lengthy prayer that had included everyone he could think of by saying: ‘And dear God, take care of Yourself.  If anything happens to You, we’re all sunk.’”  While there is humor here…there is also a lot of truth. We need to stop and ponder the God who thinks about us constantly.

Today, I helped the elementary school nurse and her team screen children for hearing and vision deficiencies.  As luck would have it, the “lunch break” paralleled Timmy’s lunch time, so I went with his class to the cafeteria.  On the way back to the classroom, Timmy and another boy were talking about Christmas and how excited they were.  The other little boy said, “My favorite part of Christmas is all of the toys I will get.”  I said my favorite part was celebrating Jesus’ birthday.

Timmy agreed…”Yeah, because if we didn’t have Jesus, we would have all of those frogs and locusts!”  He was recalling our Sunday school lesson about Moses and the plagues that God sent upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians for their disobedience.  Another child chimed in and said, “Without Jesus we would just have God…and if we didn’t have GOD…that would be REALLY bad!” Talk about perfect timing for today’s message!  These second-grade boys – and the little boy offering the “prayer” on my calendar – are exactly right.  Without God, we really would be sunk!

So stop and thank God for loving us so well.  Thank Him for sending Jesus to pour out His blood for our sins, so that we no longer have to make living sacrifices for our sins.  Thank Him for watching over us…for planning our lives before we were even formed…for thinking of us even before we awaken…and turning His thoughts toward each of us countless times throughout the day.  Who else does that?!

No one loves us like God loves us.  How precious it is that He thinks about us constantly…and how truly “sunk” we would be if He didn’t!  Stop and tell God how much you love Him…and get busy demonstrating this in everything you think, say and do!

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for October 23, 2016

Matthew 5:17-19
“Don’t misunderstand why I have come—it isn’t to cancel the laws of Moses and the warnings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them and to make them all come true. With all the earnestness I have I say: Every law in the Book will continue until its purpose is achieved. And so if anyone breaks the least commandment and teaches others to, he shall be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But those who teach God’s laws and obey them shall be great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
My last year in the classroom as a teacher was 1985-1986. I’ve been tutoring elementary students the last few months, and a lot has changed in 30 years!  There are “new” teaching methods…and the expectations for young students have definitely changed!  I taught kindergarten students to memorize their address, tie their shoes and count to twenty. Now they are doing addition and subtraction, reading and writing sentences…and most of the shoes have Velcro fasteners!  Second graders not only write stories…they are learning how to enhance them with details…to have an opening and a conclusion…and how to do a lot of their lessons via a “Chrome book” and a “smart board.”

Does this mean that the “old ways” have no value?  Absolutely not!  Because at the end of the day, I utilize a lot of the “old” methods I learned almost 40 years ago in order to drive home concepts, such as how to listen for the main topic of a paragraph…what prefixes and suffixes do to change “root” words…and more.  One-on-one instruction will never be obsolete!  And the BIG thing that has not changed is the necessity for each child to feel loved and valued.  At the end of the day, a hug and a few words of genuine concern and encouragement have as great an impact as any tangible “reward” or lesson.

So when we talk about how the “old ways” of the Old Testament have been replaced because of Jesus, we don’t mean they are to be totally discarded.  I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty glad I don’t have to slit the throat of a baby lamb or calf and spill its blood in order for God to forgive my sins.  But I still have to obey the commandments that God laid out in scripture before Jesus was born!  I am thankful that many of the punishments that God meted out (like the plagues on Pharaoh’s Egyptians) are a thing of the past.  But when God speaks, I still listen – and do my best to comply quickly and completely!

In Mark 12:29-31, Jesus says… “The Lord our God is the one and only God. And you must love him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.’ The second is: ‘You must love others as much as yourself.”  If you follow these commands, you will encompass all of God’s laws by default.  They are still God’s laws…and we must follow all of them. But God has given us a new “method” by which to accomplish this – Salvation through Jesus Christ.  Jesus is our Savior…our blessing…our teacher and Forever Friend.  But He is also our “hug and encouragement” to keep trying and making every effort to be obedient disciples and servants.

Isn’t it time we stopped making this so complicated? I don’t want to have to be constantly asking myself if I am on track with this command or that one.  So I choose to love God – and love others. Anything that I think, say or do that doesn’t line up with this is outside the realm of God’s commands and should not be happening.  I thank Jesus for making this so simple to understand…and for sacrificing His blood to wash away my sins, once and for all.  What about you?

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for October 22, 2016

Matthew 5:13-16
You are like salt for everyone on earth. But if salt no longer tastes like salt, how can it make food salty? All it is good for is to be thrown out and walked on.

You are like light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden, and no one would light a lamp and put it under a clay pot. A lamp is placed on a lampstand, where it can give light to everyone in the house. Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven.

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

Last Sunday, I read the story of Moses and the plagues God sent to the Egyptians to the students in the 2nd-3rd grade Sunday school class.  I shared this passage from the Contemporary English Version…and it “read” like an action movie!  The children were totally engaged…and eager to hear what came next!  There is nothing wrong with other translations of the Bible…and you may have noticed that I use at least three in writing these daily messages.  But this particular translation gave the Old Testament story “salt and light” - and truly captured the attention of the children who heard it.

Many Sundays, I’ve passed out Bibles in the classroom and shared scripture passages with the children.  These Bibles are NIV (New International Version), which is often difficult for young children to understand…so there has to be a lot of added explanation, which is not a bad thing.  But often, when we have stop and explain what God is saying, we quickly lose the attention of those to whom we are speaking.

Think about this…it is so easy to hand someone a Bible and say, “Read this, and you’ll see what God is all about – and what He has to say to you.”  Now just how effective to you suppose this approach would be?  When we add the “salt and light” – our own personal experiences…an intimate explanation of how the God’s word has affected our own life…people pay closer attention.  God becomes “relatable.”  When we live in a way that demonstrates God’s wisdom, power, love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and blessings in our own life, others take notice.

This is why we must not “hide our light under a barrel.”  We must seek ways to share God’s message with others…utilize understandable Biblical translations, both literal and through our own personal witness...offer demonstrations of the teachings of Jesus in action…and add ”salt” in our daily servings of Christian discipleship!

The challenge for each of us is to maintain exactly the right balance.  Too much salt can be just as bad as none at all.  We don’t want to come on too strongly. Jesus never forces Himself on anyone…and neither should we!  But we must never shy away from a chance to give others a glimpse of Jesus in our own daily living.  

Go…share…love…SHINE for Jesus!  Prayerfully find the balance of “salt and light” that He wants you to embody…and watch how others respond to your witness.

Are you “well-seasoned and illuminated” for Jesus?  Isn’t it time you were?


©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for October 21, 2016

Matthew 5:10-12
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

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.

Almost every day, there are posts and “memes” on social media encouraging us to “share this if you are a Christian.”  If Jesus Christ is your LORD and Savior, you are urged to change your status for an hour/day/week to declare this in some form.  There are bumper stickers to persuade fellow drivers to “Honk if you love Jesus,” and more “causes” that supposedly demonstrate to others just what good Christians we are than we could ever begin to take on.

At the risk of being ridiculed, judged – or even remotely persecuted – I do not share these posts/memes.  My Christian faith is not defined by whether or not I support petitions to “reinstate prayer in public schools,” or display copies of the Ten Commandments in public places.  It doesn’t matter whether I offer a prayer before meals in public (or elsewhere). How much I give to the church (time, talents and money) is no one else’s business.  But an awful lot of “Christians” seem to want to make these things – and our stance on other issues – an important part of their “assessment” of just how faithful and faith-filled many of us are.

We all know that this form of judgment is not true “persecution”…although it can feel pretty miserable at times.  Certainly, there are those who have literally suffered for their faith…who have been beaten, tortured, exiled, ostracized, and excluded.  And maybe on a much smaller scale, such things have happened to you.  Perhaps your faith cost you a friend or two... a job - or even a relationship with a relative.  Maybe your prayerfully considered stance on social issues caused others to label you as sinful – or fully in the devil’s camp.

Let me ask you something…”What does Jesus say?”  Have you checked in with Jesus daily to make sure that what you think, say, and do always lines up with His will over everyone else’s?  Have you boldly stepped out to serve as Christ’s disciple on this earth with faithful obedience…regardless of the potential for criticism, ridicule, and rejection from others?  What do the words, “Take up your cross and follow Me” mean to you?

Years ago, I sat in a room with a group of people attending a Walk to Emmaus and faced a primitive wooden cross.  A precious pastor friend sat beside me and asked some profound questions…”What are you going to do?  Are you going to leave your burdens at the cross and trust Jesus?  Or are you going to pick them up and carry them a while longer?”  To surrender everything to Jesus opens the door for blessings and abundance.  If you choose to do otherwise, you stand to miss out on receiving all that He wants to give you.

Too many of us are stubborn and rebellious at times…and I include myself into this category.  But I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity for a single blessing from Jesus. So I am doing all I can to strengthen my commitment to Him.  I know that when I stay in His will, there might be critics - and those who will try to tear me down.  But I know the power of Jesus Christ working in and through me…and I say, “Bring it on!” What about you?

©2016 Debbie Robus