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A Good Word

words-of-encouragement-900My beautiful and godly wife, Dale, shared this earlier today with someone who needed a word of encouragement. I needed to hear this today myself – maybe you do as well. (I’ve edited it very slightly.)

You are a new creation and a brand new person in Christ! Old things are passed away when you give yourself totally to Jesus and ask Him to take over and be your friend and Lord! He will transform your life and give you hope for your future and the peace that passes understanding! I pray that God will help you break every chain that is holding you back from living a healthy & abundant life! You are not defined by your past or your circumstances! You are a precious child of God & your identity is in Him and who He says you are!  In Him you can do all things and nothing is impossible with God!  And remember that God will restore and redeem all of your bad choices! He loves you!!!

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Parables, Day Fifty – The Vine and the Branches

Pray – Lord, thank you for preserving your teachings for me today.

Read – John 15:1-6 (link – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+15%3A1-6&version=ESV)

Reflect – The heart of today’s teaching is the command for us to abide in Christ. We can easily understand that a branch separated from its vine cannot survive. Of course it will wither and die, no longer able to produce fruit. The difficulty in applying this to our lives comes in the place where the analogy breaks down – a branch doesn’t have to consciously choose to stay connected to the vine. It’s either connected or it isn’t, because it’s broken off or pruned away.

But for us, our will does come into play. To bear fruit (see Galatians 5:16-26), we must choose to remain attached to Christ and his teachings. We must choose to die to our own ways of thinking, interacting, being, doing, and ask him to live in us and through us. First his word cleanses us. Then it empowers us to be like him, to live like him, to be a part of him. As Paul says by faith, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who 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 for me.

Unless we get this, we are dead branches, bearing no fruit, fit only for the fire. When we get it, the blood of Christ flows through us like the sap of a healthy grapevine. We are fully alive, fruit-bearing, Christ-attached branches.

Apply – Spend some time today meditating on both of these passages (John 15:1-6 and Galatians 5:16-26). Ask the Lord to conform your will to his, helping you die to self and abide in Christ.

Pray – Lord, show me today what it means for me to abide in you, and please help me do it.

Copyright 2015 Frederick Richardson

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Parables, Day Forty-nine – The Watching Servants

Pray – Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.

Read – Luke 12:36-38 (link – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+12%3A36-38&version=ESV)

Reflect – Today’s parable shows the servant heart of Jesus once again. When the master returns and finds his servants awake, prepared for his return, he becomes the servant himself, has them sit at table, and he serves them!

Note again carefully the ambiguity as to when the master will return. It could be at any time, even in the deepest part of night when most are unlikely to be awake and alert. The blessed servants are those who are consistently and constantly vigilant.

Apply – Continue in prayer for the Lord to show you what alertness and vigilance should look like for you in your day-to-day life. As you hear from him, incorporate those things with a daily action plan.

Pray – Lord, help me to be one of your blessed servants, awake, alert, and vigilant for your return.

Copyright 2015 Frederick Richardson

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Parables, Day Forty-eight – The Ten Virgins

Pray – Lord, I commit myself to you and obedience to your Word today.

Read – Matthew 25:1-12 (link – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+25%3A1-12&version=ESV)

Reflect – If you are anything at all like me, in doing these devotionals you have been struck by the number and variety of Jesus’ parables about his second coming. Personally, I knew all of these stories individually. But experiencing them one upon another over these last days has given me a new appreciation for and awareness of them, and a call to diligence based on how very, very important this subject was to Jesus. Consider well how he spent so much of his creative time and energy in presenting these teaching tools to his disciples, and through their preservation and recording in the Gospels for us.

Today’s parable once again relates a common practice in Jewish life. The wise virgins are prepared for the bridegroom’s coming at night, not just with torches doused well with oil, but extra oil to replenish their torches should the bridegroom be delayed, again a common occurrence. The foolish virgins have torches, but are unprepared with extra oil. When the bridegroom doesn’t arrive at the time they anticipated, their oil has run out.

What does the oil represent? Often in Scripture oil is used as a figure for the Holy Spirit. When Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18 to “be filled with the Spirit,” he uses the Greek present imperative tense of the verb “to fill.” This is not a one time filling, like the foolish virgins who show up with lamps lit but no oil to keep them lit. It means be constantly filled, be continuously filled. Some scholars believe that the torches used by Jewish virgin bridesmaids in wedding processions required fresh oil every fifteen minutes to stay lit. A few hours delay, not uncommon, would certainly require extra oil. Let us not only initially show up with lamps lit by the Holy Spirit, but be in constant prayer for a fresh filling at all times.

Apply – Begin to make it a regular prayer practice to ask the Lord for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit, if you don’t already.

Pray – Lord, fill me afresh today with the oil of your Holy Spirit.

Copyright 2015 Frederick Richardson

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Parables, Day Forty-seven – The Two Different Managers

Pray – Lord, help me hear and do your Word today.

Read – Matthew 24:45-51 (link – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+24%3A45-51&version=ESV)

Luke 12:42-48 (link – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+12%3A42-48&version=ESV)

Reflect – Today’s parable continues Jesus’ dealing with what his followers should be doing when he is gone and until his return. He compares two managers – servants who have been left in positions of responsibility to care for the estate and the well-being of the other servants while the master is away. One faithfully carries out his duties and is honored with the reward of even more responsibility on the master’s return. The second takes advantage of the master’s delay in returning and begins to abuse the other servants, using the master’s property for his own self-interest and at the expense of the others.

Naturally, the faithful manager is commended and held up as an example for all to follow. The fate of the unfaithful manager should be sobering to us all, especially to those of us in servant leadership for the body of Christ. Jesus throughout his teaching allows for no nonsensical notions of “all roads lead to heaven.” While I prefer to focus on and offer the honey of God’s blessings available to us for the taking by grace through our faith and obedience, yet Christ does not hide in the cupboard the vinegar of God’s judgment against the unfaithful and disobedient.

Our choices will have consequences. Faithfulness produces favor. Unfaithfulness produces curses. Let us choose wisely.

Apply – Assess how faithfully you are fulfilling your responsibilities in the body of Christ. Ask the Lord to help you increase your faithfulness.

Pray – Lord, please help me to be a faithful manager of everything and everyone you entrust to my care.

Copyright 2015 Frederick Richardson

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Parables, Day Forty-six – The Man on a Journey

Pray – Thank you, Lord, for this day of life and this time with you and your Word.

Read – Mark 13:32-36 (link – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+13%3A32-36&version=ESV)

Reflect – Today we have another parable about being prepared for Christ’s return. This time Jesus tells a tale of a homeowner going on a journey of undetermined length, leaving his servants in charge of the house. Each has his job, but the job of the doorkeeper is the most difficult. He never gets to sleep! He must be ready to open the door twenty-four/seven upon his master’s return.

In the parable, we are all doorkeepers. Jesus tells us our vigilance must be constant. As days turn into weeks, turn into months, turn into years, turn into decades, turn into centuries, it’s human nature to grow slack. To mythologize the master of the house and even the possibility of his “return.”

Let’s stir up one another to stay awake, to anticipate, to desire our Master’s return. Not as an escape from life in the house, not just to relieve us of our duty, but because we love and long for our Master’s physical presence among us.

Apply – Again today, think through and ask the Lord to show you what staying awake and being vigilant as a doorkeeper means for you in your life.

Pray – Lord, thank you for allowing me to be a doorkeeper in your house. Help me to stay awake and vigilant, eagerly awaiting your return.

Copyright 2015 Frederick Richardson

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Parables, Day Forty-five – The Watchful Homeowner

Pray – Lord, as I read your Word may I hear your voice today.

Read – Matthew 24:42-44 (link – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+24%3A42-44&version=ESV)

Luke 12:39-40 (link – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+12%3A39-40&version=ESV)

Reflect – The sophistication and accuracy of meteorological detection devices have greatly improved our ability to prepare as best we can for potentially damaging weather events. Tornadoes, hailstorms, damaging winds, all can be predicted within minutes of their arrival, even down to specific streets. We must simply be aware, have access to the alerts, and take the necessary precautions if we want to prevent or at least limit the damage.

There is no such warning system for thieves in the night, however. There are no “robber alert” radios that will tell us when a thief is about to enter our neighborhood. The alarm system must be on at all times so that it is triggered at the time of the break-in, should there be one.

Jesus tells us in today’s parable that it is the same with our being prepared for his return. He can’t tell us exactly when it will happen. We won’t know the night, or the hour, or even have a few minutes warning. Our “second coming of Christ alarm system” must be armed at all times if we want to be prepared and ready when he comes.

Apply – Just as you make plans with your family for how you will prepare for and respond to any potential weather event, make plans now for how to be ever alert and ready for Christ’s return. Ask him to show you specifics on what he would have you do in preparation for that inevitable event.

Pray – Lord, show me what I can do to be prepared for your return.

Copyright 2015 Frederick Richardson