Mark 7:24-30
Then he left Galilee and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon, and tried to keep it a secret that he was there, but couldn’t. For as usual the news of his arrival spread fast.

Right away a woman came to him whose little girl was possessed by a demon. She had heard about Jesus and now she came and fell at his feet, and pled with him to release her child from the demon’s control. (But she was Syrophoenician—a “despised Gentile”!)

Jesus told her, “First I should help my own family—the Jews. It isn’t right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “That’s true, sir, but even the puppies under the table are given some scraps from the children’s plates.”

“Good!” he said. “You have answered well—so well that I have healed your little girl. Go on home, for the demon has left her!”

And when she arrived home, her little girl was lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone.

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

At the end of a reality TV program I watch called “Project Runway,” the host says, “One day you’re in – the next day you’re out.”  Let’s be honest…this is probably how we sometimes feel about ourselves…and/or how we treat others – and neither is acceptable.

Jesus demonstrated that there is no need to apologize for who we are if we genuinely trust that He is our LORD and Savior. There is no reason to assume that we have to wait in line behind those who are “more” in some manner to receive OUR salvation – or God’s blessings. Jesus also tells us not to treat others in this manner.  We are in no way more important than another person – no matter who he/she is - or what he/she may have done.  ALL who believe and demonstrate faith in Jesus – and surrender to Him – are welcome, and qualify for Salvation.  ANYONE who believes in Jesus can be saved…and blessed.

I cannot emphasize enough how critical it is that we recognize not only our value in Jesus’ eyes…and but the fact that none of us is better than another to Him.  “Country Club Christianity” runs somewhat rampant these days… and it needs to come to a screeching halt.  The concept of “us vs. them” must disappear from our vocabulary – and our thought process.  We need to look at every person we meet as a potential child of God - not a dog underneath the table waiting for scraps – even when they act like that’s where they belong.

Aren’t you tired of “Christians” judging others?  I know I am!  If you have ever for one minute felt like you were an “outsider” – for ANY reason, you know how horrible it feels.  I am so grateful that Jesus does not recognize us in this way…that in His arms, we are ALL are welcome. Jesus is simply waiting for us to show Him that we accept His offer to sit at the table rather than glean scraps from the floor.  Jesus is waiting for us to demonstrate to others that they are loved and accepted…that we know that He wants to share His table with them, as well…and so do we.

In the world of a reality TV fashion design contest, you may be in one day and out the next.  But this is not the case with Jesus.  The question you must settle is where your level of faith and Christian discipleship has positioned you – seated at the table, or on the floor underneath it waiting for scraps.  Make this the day that you hear Jesus say, “Sit with me, and fill your plate.”  And make sure that those you encounter know that they are welcome to join you.

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for September 30, 2016

Mark 7:14-23
Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. Your souls aren’t harmed by what you eat, but by what you think and say!”

Then he went into a house to get away from the crowds, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the statement he had just made.

“Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that what you eat won’t harm your soul? For food doesn’t come in contact with your heart, but only passes through the digestive system.” (By saying this he showed that every kind of food is kosher.)

And then he added, “It is the thought-life that pollutes. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts of lust, theft, murder, adultery, wanting what belongs to others, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, pride, and all other folly. All these vile things come from within; they are what pollute you and make you unfit for 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.
There has been lots of talk lately in the news about the “5-second rule.”  Apparently, new studies have been done (who pays for these things?!) to determine whether food that is dropped on the floor is safe to eat, if picked up within a certain amount of time - like five seconds. It turns out that there are extenuating circumstances…particularly what type of floor surface was involved and the specific food item in question.

The bottom line is that it probably is NOT a good idea to eat food that has fallen on the floor.  However, we’ve all seen our kids do it before we could get to them to stop this – and the children are still here!  I’ve been volunteering at the elementary school in Timothy and Zola’s classrooms, and I have had to remind myself that children are resilient…and they must have stomachs of iron! As they take turns drinking from the water fountain…eating all sorts of things without using hand sanitizer or washing their hands…and so much more, I try not to think about what they are ingesting!

In a way, you could maintain that we should be more worried about the knowledge and wisdom our children internalize than the potential for a few germs to enter their bodies as they eat their snacks and lunch – or quench their thirst.  And this is essentially the message that Jesus is giving to us about our own daily living.

Too often, we are overly concerned with the wrong things.  We worry about what this one or that one is thinking - or how he/she is living - but we don’t pay a bit of attention to what is in the person’s heart. We condemn all sorts of behaviors from others while demonstrating plenty of sins and “errors” of our own. In The Message, verse 16 says, “It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life; it’s what you vomit—that’s the real pollution.”

So let’s stop worrying so much about “appearances.”  Let’s quit judging others based on surface observations and things that really don’t matter that much…ditch the name calling and overt criticisms…and stop acting like we are better than the other guy because we call ourselves Christians. Let’s take a long hard look at what is in our heart…and what we present to others.

Are our words and actions polluted with sin? Do we have our priorities in line with those of Jesus?  Are we focused on keeping the main thing the main thing? Are we more concerned with keeping up appearances and feeding the body…or feeding the heart and soul?

Jesus is very clear that what we think and say – and how we treat others – matters. Our thoughts, words and actions have lasting consequences.  Are you more worried about the Spiritual “5-second rule”…or spending Eternity in His presence?

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for September 29, 2016

Mark 3:5-8
Jesus was angry as he looked around at the people. Yet he felt sorry for them because they were so stubborn. Then he told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did, and his bad hand was healed.

The Pharisees left. And right away they started making plans with Herod’s followers to kill Jesus.

Jesus led his disciples down to the shore of the lake. Large crowds followed him from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. People came from Idumea, as well as other places east of the Jordan River. They also came from the region around the cities of Tyre and Sidon. All of these crowds came because they had heard what Jesus was doing.

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

When I was growing up, my daddy and my Mam-ma Polly had a saying, “Tend to your own rat killin’!”  What they meant was, “Mind your own business, do what you know is right, and don’t worry about what the other guy thinks.”  My mother also had a favorite saying in her last years…”You can’t fix stupid.”  I know these may not be the nicest things to say…but at face value, they do hold a lot of truth.

I could not help but think of both of these phrases as I read today’s scripture passage.  On the one hand, Jesus had demonstrated His power in both word and deed…and there were still some who simply refused to believe Him. The Book of Mark tells us that this angered Jesus…but it also saddened Him. On the other hand, people were rumbling and grumbling about Jesus’ miracles…doubting His authenticity - and even making plans to kill Him.  And Jesus just “went on with His rat killin’!”  He continued to minister to those who came to Him…to heal those who trusted and believed in His power and sovereignty.

What does this mean for you and me?  Every day, we encounter people who, at best, do not agree with us on some level…and some who do not believe in Jesus or the faith in Him that we demonstrate. We are questioned, doubted, challenged…and sometimes mocked or ridiculed.  We can get angry…and even stoop to the level of those who would argue with us.  Or we can rely on God’s strength, stay in communication with the Holy Spirit…and “tend to our rat killin’!”  We can go about our day doing what God has told us to do…sharing the love, grace power and mercy of Jesus Christ with others…and let God handle the rest.

Thankfully, the chances that you or I might be killed for our faith are slim to none.  But there may be some lonely, hurtful, frustrating days/weeks/months/years.  Do not be discouraged.  Remember this passage from Mark 3.  Take heart that you can’t fix everyone – and you’re not supposed to.  You are simply to tend to the business and ministries of Jesus – and give Him room to do the heavy lifting.  Are you with me?

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for September 28, 2016

Mark 13:7-8    
Jesus began, “Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities claiming, ‘I’m the One.’ They will deceive a lot of people. When you hear of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history, and no sign of the end. Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Earthquakes will occur in various places. There will be famines. But these things are nothing compared to what’s coming."

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.

My mother used to say that the wars, crimes and atrocities we face today are nothing new. And indeed, if you read the Old Testament, you can learn about everything from the bloodiest, most heinous battle tactics to racism, sexism, and discrimination of every sort.  Babies were killed to prove a point.  There was torture and rape…and entire villages and tribes were decimated.  Centuries ago, “prophets” told of the end of the world as if it was imminent…and we’re still here.

Today, we are barraged with lies and/or grossly exaggerated claims at every turn.  For some reason, many people seem to delight in scaring the stuffing out of others with doomsday reports, while others have such inflated egos that they cannot seem to help but declare themselves the ultimate savior of all things that are wrong in the world.

So what are we to do?  Who do we trust?  How do we sift through all of the chatter and determine the truth?  We start with prayer…and a long, deep breath.  We “let go and let God”…and give Him our burdens and fears. We delve into the scriptures and let God’s word soak into our soul.  The truth is there, along with answers to virtually all of the questions we have - if we will only calm down and pay attention.

We also have to exercise our God-given common sense. We have to ask ourselves…”What is this person really saying…and what does GOD say about the same issues?”  If you will continue reading Mark 13 through at least verse 13, you will see that Jesus assures that the Holy Spirit will always be with us…and that those who persevere in their faith will be saved in the end.

Our Timothy has asked me several times lately, “Why are you and Uncle Greg always so happy?”  It appears that on some level, we are filling our little ones with a “gloom and doom” impression of the world.  Even they don’t understand how anyone could experience genuine and sustaining joy in light of all that is happening in the world.  My answer to the question of why I am always happy has become, “Because God blesses us and takes care of us.”

Yes, bad things happen. Yes…I sometimes have sadness and heartaches, just like everyone else – even Jesus.  But God is still with me…and He always will be.  No matter what, I will be saved in the end…and I choose to focus on this rather than the darkness and despair that so many are propagating.

Who do YOU trust?  More importantly, who do others believe you trust?  People are watching…are you showing them genuine faith in Jesus?  Don’t you think you should be?

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for September 27, 2016

Luke 6:30-35    
Give to everyone who asks and don’t ask people to return what they have taken from you. Treat others just as you want to be treated.

If you love only someone who loves you, will God praise you for that? Even sinners love people who love them. If you are kind only to someone who is kind to you, will God be pleased with you for that? Even sinners are kind to people who are kind to them. If you lend money only to someone you think will pay you back, will God be pleased with you for that? Even sinners lend to sinners because they think they will get it all back.

But love your enemies and be good to them. Lend without expecting to be paid back. Then you will get a great reward, and you will be the true children of God in heaven. He is good even to people who are unthankful and cruel.

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

It’s happened more than once.  A person I thought was a friend did something hurtful toward me – or toward another friend or loved one.  And then this person acted as if nothing had happened. There are also a few people who never respond to my kindnesses…who never say “Thank You” when I wish them well or do something nice for them. And I continue to do it anyway. Why? Because decades ago, someone gave me some excellent (and scriptural) advice when another person had treated me poorly…”Kill ‘em with kindness.”

Here’s the thing…think of all that you have done that broke Jesus’ heart.  Did He turn His back on you? Did Jesus say, “You mistreated Me, so I am not doing another thing for you!”…or “You are dead to Me!” No, Jesus continues to love us and bless us even as we disappoint Him on a daily basis.  We are offered unmerited favor, also known as GRACE – God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  And we are called to extend this same gift to others.

At every turn, we must ask ourselves, “How do we wish to be treated?”  We must consider how Jesus treats us – even when we falter…how He reacts when we “borrow” and don’t repay…how He loves us even when we break His heart.  We have to ask ourselves whether we think we are better than Jesus…or whether we should be implementing His model of compassion, grace, mercy and forgiveness in our daily interaction with others.

The answer is clear to me.  I won’t say that I don’t have to sometimes grit my teeth and bite my tongue while I smile and say or do nice things for someone else.  But because of God’s grace, I try to treat others as I wish to be treated…whether they reciprocate or not. At some point, your efforts may be noticed. The “borrower” or “offender” may acknowledge that you treated him/her better than he/she deserved.  But either way, you will be able to say to yourself – and most importantly, to Jesus – “I did my best to honor what You commanded. I treated others as YOU treat me…and as I wish to be treated.”

There are people who will hurt us...people who will borrow and never repay…people who will disappoint us – or even break our hearts – and then act as if nothing ever happened.  Bad things will happen to “good” people…at the hands of other people we thought were inherently “good.” How we react and respond speaks volumes about where we are as a Christian disciple.  What  - and WHO - are you showing to others these days?

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for September 26, 2016

Luke 3:12-14
When tax collectors came to be baptized, they asked John, “Teacher, what should we do?”

John told them, “Don’t make people pay more than they owe.”

Some soldiers asked him, “And what about us? What do we have to do?”

John told them, “Don’t force people to pay money to make you leave them alone. Be satisfied with your pay.”

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991,1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.
The children in Timothy’s Sunday school class have been studying the book of James this month – in particular, James 1:22…”But be doers of the word, and not hearers only…”  We have talked each Sunday about how important it is to learn what God wants for us…and to put it into action.

So as we look at these verses from James 1 and Luke 3 - and think about our own lives - we may sometimes wonder, “How will we convince people that we have really changed?  What about the person who knew us ‘back in the day’…how will he/she ever believe that we are a new creature in Christ?  How can we be sure that others see Jesus in our everyday living?”

The answer lies in John’s response to the tax collectors and soldiers…demonstrate the love and teachings of Jesus in how you live – and how you treat others.  Be doers of the Word.  You have to go the extra mile, do the right thing, and conduct yourself in a manner that honors Jesus in all things.

Too many “Christians” accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation…then went right back to their old habits. They still gossip, discriminate, call people names, take bribes and overcharge. They gripe and complain about everything from their job to the weather.  Their circle of friends and the influences in their lives have not changed - and neither have their attitudes.  Most observers would be hard-pressed to say that any transformation has occurred in these people…that Jesus has really made any difference in their lives.

It is one thing to say, “I’ve given my heart to Jesus…but it is totally another to demonstrate this in our daily living.”  The tiniest details are what will make a real difference for God’s Kingdom. We can attend worship services on Sundays and participate in weekly Bible study groups…carry our Bibles…quote scripture…do “mission work” and listen to “Christian” music.

We can wear our crosses and drive cars with bumper stickers that say, “Honk if you love Jesus.” We can post those memes on social media about loving Jesus and believing in God. But none of this makes us a true Christian disciple.  If our attitude and even SOME of our actions do not line up with God’s word and will - and the teachings of Jesus – our “witness” is contaminated.

Examine your daily living – every thought, word and action.  See if what you are demonstrating represents true Christian discipleship – and glorifies Jesus. Make His teachings on attitudes and actions your daily habits. If second and third graders can learn to be “doers of the Word,” surely we adults can do the same. Are you with me?

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for September 25, 2016

Luke 23:34-35    
Jesus said, “Father, forgive these people!  They don’t know what they’re doing.”

While the crowd stood there watching Jesus, the soldiers gambled for his clothes.  The leaders insulted him by saying, “He saved others.  Now he should save himself, if he really is God’s chosen Messiah.”

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

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to take dance lessons like my classmates.  My mother said we could not afford them. I will admit…I resented that.  As a child, I failed to recognize that she and my dad were already scrimping and scraping to pay for piano lessons, braces for our teeth, and much more – times three! I distinctly remember my mother saying that if she didn’t make braces happen to alleviate the huge gap between my front teeth and give me a nice smile, she would regret it the rest of her life.

My mother was like many parents – she wanted to afford me every opportunity for a lifetime of success. Even thought she taught piano lessons, when my siblings and I were in junior high, Mother paid for us to study under another teacher with “conservatory-level” experience.  For a girl growing up in our little community, piano lessons were sure to carry one further in life than learning to do a little tap and ballet.  And Mother was right. Still, I did not understand…and I am sure that I didn’t appreciate many of my parents’ sacrifices - or why they made the decisions on my behalf that they did.

I’ll be honest…there are many instances where I don’t understand what Jesus does…even today.  Why did He allow three elementary school children to lose their dad to cancer?  Why does He allow the existence of orphans and foster children?  Why are there terrorists and murderers…child molesters and people who abuse animals?  Why doesn’t Jesus “come down from the cross” and fix all of this?

The answer that I keep getting is…”You wouldn’t really need Me if I fixed everything.”  I also hear Jesus saying, “You don’t know what you are asking…and I forgive you for it.”  In terms of how I relate this to my everyday living, I offer this…there are things that have happened to me in my lifetime that I do not understand.  Not only have life-changing events occurred…accidents, illnesses, personal losses and disappointments…but I have also made some mistakes along the way.  And each time, God has used these to teach me not only how much I need Him…but also great lessons in humility, compassion, grace and mercy.

I feel like I am more understanding about those around me because of the forgiveness I have been granted.  I know that Jesus stayed on the cross for me – and for you.  I know that because of His sacrifice, I am able to look at others with His heart and the desire that they come to know Him as I the Savior who makes all things possible.

I seriously doubt that I would still be tap dancing or performing ballet at almost 60, but I still play the piano every week! And while I still question events and circumstances from time to time, I learn to trust Jesus more every day.  What He allows can be used for His glory – and make us better disciples, if we will only pay attention and trust Him to know best.  How well are you doing these days?

©2016 Debbie Robus