Remember the sacrifices

May 31, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living

The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
(John 12:25-26 (NIV))

Think back on the history of this country.

Have we ever had a time when a king or a dictator forced anyone to fight and die?

Have we ever had a time when we turned tail and ran from the responsibilities that we have been given?

We owe our country to our faith in God and to the brave men and women who were willing to sacrifice everything for the principles that our country is founded upon.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
(John 15:13 (NIV))

Think about that verse.

Our nation was founded by people who were seeking something. Some came seeking adventure. Some came seeking opportunity. But, many were seeking freedom to worship God as they saw fit. It was this freedom that became an integral part of our nation’s mindset. We were founded by people who saw something that they didn’t agree with and were willing to do something about it.

Some spoke out about the things that they saw. Others rallied people behind them. Many gave their lives to battle the very things that they saw as oppressive. We have never been a country to shy away from doing what is right. We have been driven by a desire to see God’s love, grace and mercy prevail. It is true that some people may not have known Jesus as their Lord and Savior, yet they had an inner feeling about right and wrong. It was part of our culture and our society. They answered the call many times even before they knew there was a call.

They gave it all. They were willing to lay down their lives so that others could know the freedoms that God had granted us. They followed the example of Jesus when He went to the cross. It was something that would end in their death, yet they faced it with dignity and pride. They did not run from their responsibility.

They faced the enemy with honor. They did not shy away from the task at hand because it would mean their death. They were living out the words of Jesus.

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
(John 14:12 (NIV))

They gave their lives in much the same way that Jesus gave His. They knew that without their sacrifice, countless lives would be lost.

Memorial Day is upon us. It is a day that we are supposed to remember the sacrifices. It is a day to say thank you. It is a day to ask ourselves if we are capable of stepping up and defending what we hold to be true. There may come a day when we will be called upon to proclaim our faith and suffer the consequences. It is my prayer that we may all love God more than we love our own lives.

Honor and praise to God and to those who answer His call.

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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Are you fearless?

May 28, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
(Ephesians 6:19-20 (NIV))

Have there ever been any times in your life of faith that you were afraid to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ?

Perhaps it was at your office, or perhaps it was among old friends. You may have even found yourself in a situation where you were simply walking down a city street and someone approached you for a handout and your reaction was less than Christ like.

Professing the gospel is not always easy, especially when you are in a situation that is uncomfortable or unfamiliar to you. Let’s face it, proclaiming the gospel often puts us outside of our comfort zones.

Did that stop Paul from preaching? Did it stop the disciples from facing untold beatings, mocking and even crucifixions? Did it stop Paul from going to Rome? Did it stop Thomas from going to India?

What if the disciples had the same fear of spreading the gospel that many of us have? Would we even know about Jesus if these men did not step outside of their comfort zones and speak fearlessly? Many of them faced imprisonment and even death for sharing the truth, yet they shared it boldly and with conviction.

Paul saw himself as an ambassador of Christ. He saw his responsibility to speak for God even when he was in chains. It was his prayer that he would be able to declare it fearlessly.

Do you share the gospel? Do you do it fearlessly?

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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Sweet dreams?

May 27, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living

`In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.

Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.

I will show wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.

The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
(Acts 2:17-21 (NIV))

What do you think of when you talk about having a dream? What does a vision hold for you? Do you think of something negative and possibly scary? I honestly don’t think that this is what God is foretelling, for dreams that leave you scared are not really dreams. They are nightmares.

God does not intend to scare His people. He simply wishes to show us what He has planned. To those who love the Lord and claim salvation through the atoning blood of Jesus, God’s plans are not to be feared. It is the enemy’s plans that are to be feared. God gives us hope through the attacks of the enemy. He gives us grace to embrace what He has for us. He gives us visions to prepare us for what will be the return of Jesus.

I want you to stop and think about something.

Have you ever been able to associate the Holy Spirit with fear and terror?

The Holy Spirit was sent as a comforter and a teacher. He was sent to guide us through this world as God would desire for us to live. There is no fear in this guidance. There is only love. That love extends to us through the dreams and visions that God will pour out upon us. Dreams and visions that will guide us in His will during the last days.

I have spoken with some people who do not want to hear from God. They do not want to have any dreams or see any visions. They are afraid of what God will show them. Perhaps they are afraid of what God will call them to do once the dreams have been dreamed. Perhaps they are simply comfortable being in the crowd instead of being the one who proclaims the Word.

When the time that Acts speaks of are upon us, I pray that I may be receptive and open to whatever and however God will use me. I don’t simply want to be in the crowd. It is far too easy to be swayed. It is far too easy to become one of the lukewarm.

So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
(Revelation 3:16 (NIV))

I would rather dream dreams and see visions than to be called lukewarm. I pray that it is the desire of each and everybody who proclaims the name of Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.

Sweet dreams!

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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The head or the heart?

May 26, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living

Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
(2 John 1:9 (NKJV))

How many times have you known someone who claims that they are a Christian, yet their actions do not reflect that claim?

A true faith and belief in Jesus Christ will call a person to stay away from the things of this world that are not of God, for they will listen to the Holy Spirit in all that they do. The Holy Spirit will gently guide and encourage the believer to follow the ways of Jesus and to steer clear of the ways of the world.

It is an all too common belief that someone can accept Jesus, and then do whatever they wish. They think that by proclaiming Jesus as Savior, they have salvation. There is another aspect to Jesus. He must also be Lord of your life in order for salvation to be true.

You must ask Jesus into your heart, not your head. It is one thing to acknowledge that Jesus is the way to salvation. It is still another to accept that personally for yourself.

It has been said that there is head knowledge and that there is heart knowledge. Knowing that Jesus is Savior is head knowledge. Claiming that for yourself is heart knowledge. For many people, the distance from their head to their heart is a great chasm that cannot be crossed due to pride or arrogance.

Where have you acknowledged Jesus Christ?

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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May 25, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living

“When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites–all their sins–and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.
(Leviticus 16:20-22 (NIV))

Have you ever heard of the term “scapegoat?”

The definition that we think of when we hear this word is something or someone that bears the blame for others.

It is interesting that this term has its roots in how God atoned for the sins of the Israelites while they were in the desert. They literally placed hands upon the goat and transferred all of their sins unto it. The goat was then led away into the desert and released. The desert was the place that the sin was to go so that it would be removed from the people.

Take a look at Jesus.

He went into the desert to prepare Himself to take our sins upon Himself.

Hands were laid upon Him and the thorns of our sins were placed upon His head.

He carried our sins to that solitary place called Golgotha.

He bore our sins so that we could be free.

We don’t think of Jesus as a scapegoat. We like to think of Him as the sacrificial Lamb, but He was and is our scapegoat. He bore our sins and carried them far away from us so that we could have salvation.

The next time that you hear the word “scapegoat,” think about what it means and who truly did carry our sins away from us.

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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Are you a joyful giver?

May 24, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living

Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
(Mark 12:13-17 (NIV))

Just what do you classify as belonging to God? Just what is it that you use as the basis for deciding what is Caesar’s and what is God’s?

That is a tough question. It was then, and it still is now.

Jesus attempted to answer this in a way that would be understood. If He were walking amongst us today, perhaps the response would be, “Whose fingerprint is on it? Is it part of man’s creation or is it God’s creation?”

Jesus knew full well that everything is God’s, yet He also knew that God’s creation can be used by man for his own desires. In these verses, we are told that money is to be used for man’s purposes.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.”
(Mark 12:41-33 (NIV))

Jesus also tells us that money is to be used for God’s purposes.

This brings us right back to the question about how do you determine what is Caesar’s and what is God’s. Could it be based on individual priorities? Could it be based on the fact that everything is God’s and we are simply stewards?

God gives us all that we need. Perhaps Jesus was simply telling those who asked this question that it is up to them how they respond. It could be that He was trying to remind them that God does provide all that we need and these types of questions simply show a lack of faith. These type of questions imply that we do not have enough faith to believe that God will provide all that we need even if we have to give to Caesar. Some people use this type of an argument to reason that they do not have enough to give to God.

We are told that the people were amazed with His answer. We do not know how they gave to Caesar and how they gave to God from that point forward, but I would venture to say that they never looked upon either one the same ever again.

Giving is a personal decision.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
(2 Corinthians 9:6-9 (NIV))

Whatever you give to God, do it with joy in your heart. Do not give reluctantly, for a gift given in reluctance is not a true gift. It is actually more like a tax from Caesar. Who do you know that is joyful over paying taxes? Who do you know that is joyful over giving to God?

Do you have joy when you give?

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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Burnt offerings and sacrifices

May 21, 2010

Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living

To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.
(Mark 12:33 (NIV))

Think about that for a moment.

Has it sunk in, yet?

Burnt offerings and sacrifices were what was done in order for man to atone for his sins. They were a way of telling God that we were sorry for our actions. It was our way of saying, “Daddy, please forgive me.”

There is a saying that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. I honestly think that if we love God with all of our heart, then we will know His heart. We will not need to ask permission, for we will know what He desires of us and for us. If we know God’s heart, we will hopefully not need to ask for forgiveness. I know that when we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, we are forgiven. We will not be perfect. We will still sin. We will still have the need to ask for forgiveness. Hopefully, we will know instantly and turn in repentance and ask for God’s grace and mercy. We will not wait until a ritual asks us to go through the motions.

The burnt offerings and sacrifices were a once a year occasion. How sincere do you think you would be if you only asked for forgiveness once a year. Would you remember the sins that you had committed six months ago? Out of sight, out of mind. Burnt offerings and sacrifices became a ritual that held no meaning.

When you honestly love someone, do you ignore the need to ask for forgiveness, or do you ask as soon as you realize the need? How many husbands have hurt their wives and then brought flowers in an effort to make it up to them. This is the same principle as the burnt offerings.

It is better to do what is right in God’s eyes to begin with. We will all falter and still sin. When this happens, it is better to stop, repent and move on. Don’t hold it in and try to make amends with a burnt offering. Ask for God’s grace and mercy each and every day that you are alive.

Do you love or do you offer sacrifices?

Copyright 1998 – 2010 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
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