Category Archives: Bible Teaching

Stiff Neck

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stiff-neck-womanHave you ever hurt your neck and you aren’t sure how it happened? I experienced that firsthand a couple of weeks ago. I was minding my business, backing out of an ordinary parking space, and a searing pain shot through my neck.  It penetrated deep into the tissue and bone. Immediately, my neck was so stiff, I couldn’t turn to the right or left. As I drove home, I had to reposition my entire body in order to make safe right and left turns. For several days, I could only look straight ahead. Driving, sleeping, and working was difficult. Thank goodness it only lasted a few days.

While my stiff neck was healing, I thought about God’s description of His own people. In Exodus 32, Israel  had sinned big time when they built a golden calf to worship. Their idolatry caused God’s anger to burn against them and He said to Moses, (v. 9) “I have seen this people and behold they are a stiff-necked people.”

God describing His people as stiff-necked was not a compliment.  This word is defined: obstinate, stubborn, willful, rebellious, unruly, and ornery. It means a person has a major attitude problem and an unwillingness to be led. Over and over in scripturestubborn goat God describes His disobedient nation in this unbecoming, uncomplimentary way. In my imagination, I think of a stubborn old goat that refuses his masters leading when I hear this term.

I never want another stiff neck physically but more than that, I don’t want the Lord to describe me in this way. A stiff neck happens when we become hardened to the master’s leading and so certain of self, that we are not easily guided back on the path of spiritual wholeness and wellness.

A spiritual stiff neck is a result of pride.  So what’s the remedy for this? It’s simple,  give your situation over to the Lord. Ask Him to work the kinks out of your life.  It might be painful for a time but, He is a gentle healer.

Do I Look Like Wonder Woman?

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wonder womanA few weeks ago we had a staff retreat. The goal was to do team building exercises and planning for the next year. Since super heroes are popular again, the first ice breaker question was, “If you could have one super hero power what would it be?” I loved everyone’s answers and since I was last in the circle, I had plenty of time to think.

My power didn’t have a specific name but when I said it, everyone knew what I was talking about. I chose Wonder Woman’s ability to let bullets bounce off her metal wrist cuffs. And then I quickly added, “I would also love to have her lasso of truth.”

Someone asked me at lunch why I chose Wonder Woman powers. I openly answered, “Don’t you think itlasso of truth would be great if every time someone aimed something critical or ugly your way, you could simply cross your wrists and let it bounce off you?” As another person in fulltime ministry, my co-worker laughed and heartily agreed. I went on to explain that a lasso of truth would have been great when I was raising teenaged boys. I could wrap it around them and get all the honest details of where they had been and what they had done.

i can do all thingsOf course, each of us wish for this kind of power at some time in our lives. The good news is if we are Christ-followers, we can be Wonder Women because we already have supernatural power in our lives. We have the power and presence of the Holy Spirit of God Himself living inside us. So, when people hurl evil insults our way or when life throws something dangerous at us, we can remember the promises found in scripture. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

How will you use the supernatural power that you have this week? Will you use it to fight a verbal attack or will you use it to find Truth in a new way?

I’ll Take My Coffee With Cream

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coffee barI enjoy a good cup of coffee first thing in the morning.  I like mine with a splash of real half and half. I am definitely not a coffee snob who requires specialty blends, weird milk, or a certain expensive machine to brew it. My sweet husband spoils me by bringing my coffee to me each morning.  He quietly places it on the bedside table. Then he runs, because he knows I am grumpy until I have that first cup!

Occasionally, I meet a friend for coffee at one of the local coffee places in town. Each time I go, I am amazed by all the different orders. There is usually a long line to the counter and I have fun listening as each person orders their own concoction. They step up to the barista and spout their order quickly and with expertise. For example, one might say, “I’ll have a caramel mocha with almond milk and raw sugar, make it a tall.” When they receive their order the customer seems delighted.

 I am amazed at how they know exactly what to order. I am the lady in line who says, “What do you have?” The frustration is evident and the person behind the counter says something impatiently like, “Read the board lady.” I become fearful of making an order mistake so I simply say, “I’ll have a small cup of your regular coffee, please, if it’s not too much trouble.” Then the coffee experts standing nearby are shocked. They suck all the oxygen out the room because of the words I just uttered. I am amazed as they hand me an empty cup as they shoo me away and point out the lonely carafe of house blend in the corner. latte

The last time I left one of these places, I thought to myself. Wow, those people really know how to order their drinks. But later in the day, I thought about it more. Wouldn’t it be great if we knew how to order our lives like we know how to order our coffee? As Christ-followers we never need to fear making a mistake in the way we order our lives. Scripture tells us in Psalm 37:23, “The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord and he delights in his way.” The word “ordered” in this verse is complex but clearly defined in the Hebrew language. It means “established, to be steadfast, firm, to be ready and prepared.” Because the Lord orders our lives, we can be confident that He directs each step we take. Don’t be troubled as you try to order your life. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” 

Young Moms Are Important (Answering the Everyday Question Everyday)

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Many of you who read this blog are young mothers. I thought of you this afternoon and I knew what I wanted to write about this week.

Today I had the privilege of playing with a not quite twenty-two month old little girl and a three-year old little boy. We jabbered kidspeak to each other, played with cars, nibbled on treats, and bounced on an ottoman during a women’s ministry brunch. I love it when the kids get to come to meetings. They bring such joy and teach me so many lessons. Thanks Emma and Luke.

My children are grown and my grandsons are growing up quickly and sometimes, if I am honest, I miss my little ones. Those were the best of days and the most tiring of times.   

I read something this week that I hope you will find encouraging. It will be worth your time to go to this link (below). This is a profound pensee…it also parallels the recent blog post I wrote “Pour Out Your Life.” Enjoy and send me your comments and thoughts as you joyfully pour out your life as a fragrant offering before the Lord for the benefit of your children?

Heavenly Father, Please encourage each young mother today. Give them Your eyes to see the beauty of these simple days. In Jesus Name, Amen

http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=94431c7fc1ffa54485d1c84fe&id=990c0d8c80

Stumbling Over Easter

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My friend Tracy was enticed by a bag of brightly colored Easter candy at the local grocery store.  Little did she know when she took the bag of jelly beans from the shelf, that the bag had a big hole in it. The entire bag of candy scattered all across the floor of the store and down the aisle, creating a huge commotion. Tracy was afraid the jelly beans might cause an elderly person to stumble and fall so she desperately tried to clean up. She told me that’s what she gets for giving into the sweet temptation. The good news is no one tripped and fell in her Easter mess.

My friend’s jelly bean dilemma reminded me of something that has crept into our American culture. When I look around at the various stores and watch the ads on television, Easter is becoming more commercialized each year. Easter break is now called Spring Break. Easter is about bunny rabbits, eggs, flowers, candy, ham dinners, and new clothes. Easter is no longer a Christian holiday and our pagan society entices us away from the true meaning and message. Our worldliness tempts us to forget the centrality of the Cross and makes an Easter mess of the single most important event in history.

Scripture says in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  Most people don’t want to hear the message of the cross anymore. Liberal thinkers stumble over Easter and say the cross represents weakness and a mean-spirited God. They trip over the message of the cross and it is foolishness to them.

But to those of us who know, the cross is the ultimate statement of love, sacrifice, and grace. And what followed the cross, the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  that event is the ultimate statement of power!  

What part of Easter is causing you to stumble? What part will you play in cleaning up this Easter mess?

Heavenly Father,  Remind us daily of the true meaning of Easter. Show us how to clean up this mess so no one else will stumble. In the name of the Resurrected One, Jesus Christ, Amen

Wave the White Flag

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In America, we have numerous rights. We have the Bill of Rights that contain the first ten amendments to the Constitution. These amendments protect the natural rights to property and liberty, and the amendments guarantee numerous personal rights. If you enjoy television dramas,  you know about Miranda Rights, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law…”

But what about Christ-followers, do we have any rights apart from our constitutional rights? While you ponder that a minute, I will answer with an emphatic “No!” Galatians 2:20 says,  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

 If we believe God’s Word, then, why do we, as believers, demand our rights? How many times a day do we forget our  “right”eousness and exercise our “rights” to snap at our husbands, to gossip with our friends, to tell a little white lie, or to back out on our commitments? Since Christ gave Himself up for us, we no longer live but He lives in us. We gave up our rights when we decided to follow Him.

Maybe, it’s time to give up our perceived rights and wave the white flag of surrender.  At Passion 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia, Chris Tomlin sang the song, “White Flag.” To read the words and view the video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G5k7GUTRZ8

What rights have you been demanding in your life? When will you wave the white flag of surrender?

Heavenly Father,  Through your Son, Jesus, we take hold of the righteousness that is ours and we relinquish all rights to self. We wave the white flag of surrender. We choose to align ourselves wholeheartedly to our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Amen

archived devotionals available at circleofsavings.com

 

Get Back in the Game

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My son is a college basketball coach. He’s coached many incredible student athletes while at Oklahoma Wesleyan University okwu.edu.  One outstanding male athlete stands out in my mind; his name is Sadiel Rojas. Sadiel is better known as “Lito” to his friends and fans. He helped lead the team to a national championship three years ago. He is a fast, agile, intuitive, high jumping, offensive/defensive powerhouse who even shoots the three-point shot with accuracy. After  college, he started playing professional ball, working his way up through the leagues with the NBA as his goal. But I received an email this week that said he had been badly injured while playing ball and the email requested prayer. Attached to the prayer request was this link:

http://www.nba.com/dleague/video/2012/02/22/highlightsFWNIWA022112f4v-2011682/index.html

When I watched it, I was shocked to see Lito take a hard fall, landing flat on his back. He was doing well in the game, then he jumped  toward the rim, was knocked off-balance and came down landing directly on his spine . He was diagnosed with three breaks. He should make a full recovery and return to play but it was a shock to see him go down when he was playing so well.  As I watched the video several times it seemed like it was an ordinary fast paced game.  He was into it , the pacing, the running, the rebounding, offense, defense, team work, individual scoring and team camaraderie. But…all it took was one second to change everything for Sadiel and now temporarily he’s out of the game.

That’s a lot like life. We’re playing the game. You know, we are getting up, going to work, daily back and forth. We show up, compete, enjoy the pace, win some, lose some, and if , we are not looking, something knocks our feet out from under us and everything changes.

So how does one recover from these hard falls? What do we do when the game suddenly changes and we find ourselves down and out for a season?

If we look closely at 2 Timothy, this verse gives us a clue.  2 Timothy 2:5 says, “If anyone competes as an athlete he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.”

When we get knocked down for a season, we have to get up and get back on our feet. To win the prize we must compete and in order to compete, WE MUST GET BACK  IN THE GAME! 

What situation has taken you out for a season? What steps will you take to get back on your feet? When will you get back in the game?

Heavenly Father, You are Lord over each detail of our lives. Pick us up from where we have been knocked down and please put us back in the game. For our greatest desire is to win the game for You! In Jesus Name, Amen

Almond Joy and the Joy of my Heart

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When we lived in North Carolina, I met my friend Sandra. Our sons were playmates in preschool and not only did the boys hit it off, Sandra and I did, too. We’ve been friends for over 30 years. Sandra was a great wife to her husband and a wonderful mother to her children. The first time we met, I knew there was something different about her and in time, I found out what made her unique.

One time I was babysitting her children. As she walked out the door, she told me there was a little gift for me in the kitchen. I was so excited. We both lived on tight budgets and we didn’t get too many surprises or treats. I knew that if she bought me anything, it came with great sacrifice on her part.

After she left, I went into the kitchen and found a brown paper bag.  I opened the bag to find an Almond Joy candy bar and a neatly wrapped gift. I carefully opened the package and inside was a beautiful green and gold Living Bible. I was so excited to have the candy bar but I couldn’t wait to check out my new Bible. The only Bible I owned was one from my childhood and the dog had chewed up all  the book of Jonah and most of the book of John.

Sandra didn’t know at the time but her gifts changed my life and my destiny. Several months later while I was reading the Living Bible, I came to know the Lord from the Truth found in the book of Romans.  That Almond Joy candy bar was a sweet treat but pure joy came from the sweet words of God! Psalm 119:111, “I have inherited Your testimonies forever, For they are the joy of my heart.”

Over time, I learned  what made my friend different, it was her relationship with Jesus Christ. She had a countenance of peace, great wisdom, and a heart full of love and joy. She shared with me the greatest gift we can give to another, the sweet life-giving, life-changing Word of God. To this day, God’s Word is my passion! I crave it like a sugar addict craves an Almond Joy!

Who in your life will you influence for Christ?  What eternal opportunities are right under your nose?

Heavenly Father, Thank you for putting people in our lives who make an eternal difference. Open our eyes to new opportunities at home, at school, with our friends, at work and even in our churches. In Jesus Name, Amen

archived devotionals at circleofsavings.com

The Great Escape

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Last summer we were watching our son’s labrador retriever puppy while he and his wife went out-of-town for a couple of days. Sadie was a typical lab puppy. She was a curious, clumsy, chewing ball of fluff . She enjoyed the large fenced yard and being outside with their other two dogs.

Because Sadie was a puppy, we checked on her several times a day to make sure she had plenty to eat and drink. Each time, she was thrilled to see human beings and she craved our hugs, rubs, dog treats, and kind words. But, one time, things weren’t right with her. She didn’t come running to see my husband, Mark. But, he could hear her crying and barking.

When Mark found her, the other two dogs were standing over her and she was on the ground struggling, totally bound by a long  tv cable. In her attempts to pull the cable to chew it, she became so ensnared and entangled  that she was trapped and struggling  to breathe. It took Mark a long time to untangle the cable  and to  free Sadie. When she finally escaped, she ran far away from the danger. Sadie was grateful to Mark. She seems to have great affection for her rescuer and even though Mark won’t admit it, he loves her, too! We still wonder how that little puppy got into such a dangerous trap in such a short amount of time?

As Christ-followers we can get into trouble pretty fast ourselves. We go through life and something distracts and gets our attention. Then we are drawn to the distraction. We move from looking to exploring and if we are not careful, we become trapped in a dangerous situation. We become a tangled mess and we can’t free ourselves. There is no way out and we need a helper.

Scripture tells us we have a way to escape the snares in life. We have a helper to free us from dangerous traps. Psalm 124:7-8, “Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper. The snare is broken and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” Our helper is the Lord. He broke the snare of sin and death and we have escaped the danger of eternal judgment.

In what dangerous situation(s) do you find yourself? To whom will you go for help? How will you thank the Lord for freeing you?

Heavenly Father, You are our Helper, who  is also the Maker of heaven and earth. Thank you for not leaving us in the trap of sin and death.  Teach us through your Word how to live in total freedom and warn us of the dangers of sin. In Your Son Jesus’ Name, Amen

Don’t Hang Up Your Harp

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My pastor, Dr. Rod MacIlvaine has been teaching in the Psalms for the past few weeks. This week he will speak about, Praise- a Powerful but Neglected Discipline. (available online next week at gccbartlesville.org) He explained during this series, that the book of Psalms begins with an invitation to love God and it ends with a command to praise God.

God’s people are known for their praise. In the Old Testament the Israelites sang, danced, played tambourines and harps to worship the Lord. In the New Testament there are numerous examples of praise. But did you know there was a season when the music of God’s people ceased?

Psalm 137 tells us when the Israelites were taken captive by the Babylonians, the people missed Jerusalem so much, they hung their harps in the willow trees and wept. Psalm 137:1-3, “By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. Upon the willows in the midst of it We hung our harps. For there our captors demanded of us songs, and our tormentors mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”  They mourned the loss of their land, their freedom, their old life, and the way things were. Verse 4 says, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”

Look around, do you feel like you live in a foreign land? America has changed a lot in the past few years. Our country is not the nation it used to be. A few short years ago, we were a Christian nation of integrity. The economy was in check and there was prosperity. We were not under the threat of terrorist and there was security. But now, if you look around, it looks like we are living in a foreign land.  

What’s robbing you of your song? Do you ever feel like sitting down and weeping because you miss America? Do feel tormented by others who mock your Lord? Do you feel like hanging up your harp?

Well don’t hang up your harp yet!  We are commanded to praise the Lord. Psalm 150 is a six verse praise of God, “Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse. Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!”

So get your harp out that tree, find your tambourine and cymbals, and  put on your dancing shoes. It is time to praise the Lord!

Heavenly Father, take our eyes off our situation and put them on you. Fill our minds, hearts, and mouths with praise. When we are tempted to be silent, nudge us toward obedience. In Jesus Name, Amen

archived devotionals available also at circleofsavings.com