Day 31: V is for Voice

He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord …” John 1:23

V is for voice. Voice means a sound coming from vocal utterance. Have you ever had such a bad sore throat that you did not want to talk … and wished that you and everyone you know knew sign language? Well, I have. But, what a quiet world it would be if no one could use their voice.

God made our bodies, did He not? God also made us with vocal chords to be able to speak, to sing, and to make sound. So, what would happen, I wonder, if we all decided that we would not use our voice? Yes, God has given it to me … but I just do not feel like using it today, it is too much trouble, or it is my voice and I will use it when and how I want to. Ding, ding! Is your bell ringing?

Do we need a gentle reminder today that our bodies and our voices are not our own? I Corinthians 6:19-20 so clearly assures us of this … “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

At the Christian Writer’s Workshop a couple of weeks ago, Sister De shared with us about “The Power of One Anointed Voice.” She spoke about John the Baptist and the voice that he was as “ONE crying in the wilderness.” What did he cry (proclaim)? To “make straight the way of the Lord!” How many were crying? Only ONE … you and God make a majority!

How refreshing to hear one proclaiming forth Christ instead of self! I get so frustrated and discouraged when I’m on social media and see people post so much about self or share quotes that sound good and make you feel all fuzzy inside, yet are totally misleading and are not even biblical. Be careful, my friend, at what voice you are proclaiming! Make straight the paths of righteousness.

The paths of this life can be so twisted and jumbled without adding more to it to confuse and deceive. The devil does a good enough job of that on his own. Let us not be his puppet or tool. I would love to turn the tables on the devil. Would you? I know that I am not the only one who is proclaiming God’s truth every day on social media, but there should be more of us … in fact, EACH and every one of us has an accountability to God to be a voice for Him!! Whoa! Did I just say that EVERY single one of us needs to be proclaiming every single day? Yes, I did!

Lesson Objective: Think about this … if you are not proclaiming God’s truth on social media (which is very simple to do), who are you proclaiming it to?

I want to encourage and challenge you to post one verse every single day in the month of September on social media. You must type it out or you can use a picture with a verse, but it must NOT be shared from another’s timeline. Then tag me in that post. The world needs to hear our voices … as “one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord …” Will you do this, my friend?

Will you pass or will you fail?

Day 30: S is for Sink

“… And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.” Matthew 14:29-30

S is for sink. To sink means to be submerged (beneath the surface); to fall or drop to a lower place. Life in the shoes of anyone is not easy, but life in the shoes of a Christian is even harder. What is the difference? Well, for starters, the devil already has control of your life as an unsaved person, so he is not worried about you. But, if you are a Christian, be assured that he is going to be in a constant battle with you to try to break your resolve and your faith in God.

When the devil can get you so disturbed, distraught, and discouraged, he knows that your eyes are then on the circumstances around you … and consequently, are no longer on Jesus. When this happens, we begin to sink spiritually. We are weakened. Our faith begins to shake and cracks begin to appear in places that did not have cracks before.

Some days it seems like the devil spends his whole entire day sitting on your shoulder whispering lie after lie into your ear. Right now he is residing in deep south Texas on my shoulder … and is not showing signs of heading north to your shoulder anytime soon. Everyone thinks that the temperatures here are hot outside right now, but they are nothing compared to what is inside!

The devil was even brave enough to go up against Christ in the wilderness (Matthew 4). When he fed Christ lies, what did Christ do in response? He quoted scripture. What do we do when he feeds us lies? We usually gullibly believe them and wallow around in them, do we not? But, what are we to do instead? What example did Christ set for us? We are to quote scripture, right? God’s Word is the truth and we must fight lies with truth!

I recently gifted a good friend of mine with a journal specifically for one purpose. That purpose was to write down a lie of the devil on the top of each page and then to fill that page with scripture (God’s Word aka the Truth). She and I had already been sharing scriptures to refute the lies that the devil had been trying to feed us. But, having it in black and white … on paper … just seems to make it more concrete and more sure, does it not? I encourage you to do the same thing. You do not have to buy a journal. Even a notebook will work.

You may also be interested in devoting one page to “Why sink when you can swim?” verses. What are these? Well, these are your “go-to” verses when you are needing extra reinforcements from scripture to fight the devil. Your page will probably look different than mine, but that is not what is important. What is important is that you write verses there that give YOU strength. If you do not know of any verses, ask God to show you ones and then start digging in His Word.

Lesson Objective: To understand what it means to sink. To use this knowledge to learn how to swim (fight the devil’s lies with God’s Truth). To start your own “Why sink when you can swim?” journal.

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 29: H is for Help

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

H is for help. Help means to give assistance or support to; to benefit a cause; to further an advancement. Pastor has been preaching a LOT of messages these days … like every message! … that has been driven straight to the core of my heart. How has he been lurking around my heart? Umm … I believe that it is called the Holy Spirit! I am so thankful for a pastor who faithfully studies and prays daily for us … and most importantly, preaches what the Holy Spirit lays on his heart! I do not take this for granted.

When we go through deep waters, do we not seek to find someone to connect with? Someone who has been there, done that, and has a t-shirt to prove it?  Well, when my soul is heavy, it is easy to find myself searching the Psalms. David’s human flesh was so apparent and he was always so transparent in his feelings … and very plainly and boldly spoke about them. Hey, I am human and my human flesh can resonate with David’s feelings and bemoanings. Do you find yourself seeking out the Psalms as well?

Psalm 42:5 is the perfect example of this … “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” The words that David speaks are like the same exact words that are coming out of my mouth … or at the least are bouncing around inside of my head. But, interestingly enough, David did not stop there. No. He repeated this again in verse 11 … and then AGAIN in chapter 43 verse 5.

Wow! David must have really been down to repeat himself three times in such a short space of time. But, then I stopped to think about the significance of this. THREE times. Why three? Did you know that the number three in scripture depicts divine wholeness, completeness, and even perfectness? Can you see how God was teaching David an important lesson?

I was not going to type out this entire chapter, but I changed my mind. I know that I need to hear it again … to focus and to meditate on it some more. I trust that you will find time today to let it sink into your spirit as well, my friend.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. Psalm 121

Lesson Objective: To understand what help means and that our help truly comes from God alone.

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 28: W is for Wilderness

They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.” Psalm 107:4-6

W is for wilderness. Wilderness means an area that is virtually uncultivated and uninhabited; an empty or pathless area. When I think of a wilderness, I think of a desert. But, that is not necessarily the case. How do I know? The dictionary, of course! Hehe

So, if a wilderness does not equal (is not synonymous with) a desert, then what is the difference? Yes, a desert can be a virtually uncultivated and uninhabited area … and it can be empty or pathless. But, desert actually means an excessively dry place. It also can be a very desolate (joyless) place.

Are you confused yet? Well, do not be too worried because even my analytical mind is all twisted up! But, for the sake of this devotion, let us picture in our mind a true wilderness … with all of its gigantic pine trees, with its rugged terrain, and with its majestic mountains.

Have you ever watched those “wilderness” survival shows? If you have, have you ever seen them in a desert (dry, barren place)? Nope? I have not either. They have always been in a wilderness-y type place, right? In the middle of a forest far away from habitation. Did you notice that there is always sustenance there … if you look in the right places?

God allows us to go into the wilderness … into the fires so to speak … not to destroy us, but to purify us. Alaska, my home town and home state, is going through a tremendous fire right now. It is seemingly destroying everything in its path for thousands and thousands of acres. When those fires are finally gone, what is left? Black, black, and more black. Am I right? To the human eye, that is what is seen. But, remember that the human eye is finite.

In our spiritual lives, we will also be led into the wilderness and be tempted and tested like never before. The fires will rage hot, hotter, and the hottest that we could ever imagine. When those fires finally pass … and they will pass … black will be left behind. But, do not despair, my friend. God makes beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). God is testing you to see what you are made of. He is purifying your life.

If you keep watching, you will see new life sprout up in the midst of all the charred remains. With that new life comes an even greater beauty … one that could not have transpired without the fires before it.

Even though time spent in the wilderness seems like a solitary time, it is not. God is there with you and it will not last forever. The wilderness is a place to place through … not to set up residence. Say, “Hallelujah!” right there!

Lesson Objective: To understand what wilderness means and the difference between it and the desert. To learn that even though we are greatly tested by fires in the wilderness, God is still there. He will not only get us through, but He will bring forth great beauty! 

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 27: V is for Validate

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” I John 4:1

V is for validate. To validate means to confirm or make legally valid. In our country’s legal system, all evidence must be validated or proven as truth. How much more important for our lives as Christians to be validated … proven as truth.

My mother-in-law enjoys watching game shows on TV … the old game shows. I do not remember what the name of the one show is, but the key phrase/concept is, “Will the real ____ stand up?” Have you ever seen this before, or am I dating myself because I remember this from my younger years? At the beginning of the show, they share a significant event or trade that a person is in. They then show you a panel of three people who pretend to be that one person. They also have a panel of three other people who try to guess which of those three people is the real person that was described. They do this through asking questions and watching mannerisms or tics to see if they can catch one of them in a lie … with something that does not add up … by the way, I have learned that if something does not add that there is a reason that it does not add up. It is interesting to watch. People can be very convincing in their answers and actions … only to be found that they were false.

Do you and I live our lives this way each day? Do we do and say things that will have others around us draw the improper conclusions? Do they see us in the false light or do they see the true … or the “real” … person that we are?

You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
— Abraham Lincoln

No matter how many times or how many people we fooled into thinking that we are someone or something that we are not, guess what? God ALWAYS knows the true (“real”) you! God will never be fooled!

Just as in the court of law, when the truth comes out, there will be consequences to pay. The Bible so clearly tells us in Galatians 6:7-8 to “Be not deceived [do not be fooled]; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

What are our motives or motivation for what we do? To determine this, our spirits must be tried (put to the test) … whether we live after man and the flesh or after God.

Lesson Objective: To understand what validate means. To learn that even though we can seemingly fool … pull the wool over … other’s eyes, God is never fooled. God sees the real you every single time, my friend!

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 26: Z is for Zeal

But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.” Galatians 4:18

Z is for zeal. Zeal means eagerness, ardent or fervent interest or pursuit of something. I like to see zeal as it’s synonym passion, which refers to a deep stirring within.

There is something inside each one of us that produces a zeal or passion to rise up out of our comfy beds every morning. It is a driving force that comes from deep within and pushes us forward into another day. It may be a job, it may be a   person, it may be a hobby, or it may even be the almighty dollar.

I do not know what your zeal or your passion is, but be assured that if I were to follow you around for one day … or maybe even less than a day … I could pretty accurately pinpoint what your passion is. In fact, it may take as little as 15 minutes of scrolling through your social media presence. What do you think? If you are still in doubt, I challenge you to go to your social media accounts and scroll through. What do you think the world and others see there … not what YOU see, but what THEY see?

I have not always been the Christian that I need to be. I am by far not perfect and truly, the more that I study and try to get closer to God, the more unworthy and immature I see myself. The more that I learn from God and His Word, the more that I see that I need to learn. God is giving me a passion for Him and I so desire the same for you, my friend!

I know that Noah doubted God at first, but can you imagine how he felt while he was building the ark? There was just the handful of them, and when he looked around, what did he see? He saw everyone else doing their own thing like it was simply just another ordinary day. Yes, some took note of what was going up, but what did they do? They ridiculed Noah.

My heart is grieved for those who claim to be my brothers and sisters in Christ and yet, they show no signs of zeal or passion or love for our Lord. They put anything and everything in front of God, His Word, His church and His people. They live a life that is completely and totally self-centered and self-motivated. What is wrong with this picture? Yes, there is something wrong here, my friend!

In Galatians 4:9 it says, “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” If you are truly saved, it is a sin to not follow after God. Why would you want to put yourself back in bondage when Christ has so richly and freely given you the liberty to love and to serve Him? Why, my friend? Why?

Lesson Objective: To understand what zeal is. To acknowledge our sin of lack of zeal for God and the things of God. 

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 25: Y is for Yard

Ah LORD God! behold … there is nothing too hard for thee.” Jeremiah 32:17

Y is for yard. A yard is a unit of measure equaling 3 feet. I believe that we all already knew that. Since we know that, then we also should know that an inch is also a unit of measure and that 36 inches equal one yard.

Life is full of hard things, do you agree? Personally, I do not like hard tasks. I would much rather do a whole handful of simple tasks than to do one hard task. Did you know that you can make hard tasks more simple? What?! Yes, you can!

Have you ever found yourself staring a hard task in the face trying to work up enough gumption to tackle it? I have and I am positive that if I would ask for a show of hands, all of you would have at least one hand raised. The most effective way is to go to God with your problem or your task that seems insurmountable. He can do things that we never can!

The past couple of weeks have found a lot of children headed back to school. Many a child has been filled with dread knowing that they will have so many tasks put before them in the coming months and too many will be harder than they will want to tackle. But, thank the Lord for teachers because teachers know their students and they do not put more on them at one time than they can handle. God is our Teacher and He knows how much we can handle as well.

What is our next step in making our hard tasks more simple? By breaking them down into smaller tasks. I love to make lists … especially to-do lists. But, it can be very disheartening to find myself at the end of the day or the end of the week and I have hardly anything crossed off of my list. Ugh! Out of desperation, I have learned the trick of breaking down the big tasks into little tasks and wow, my pen gets to go crazy marking off task after task!

If you were to ask any successful Christian how they achieve so much, I honestly believe, that they would all whole-heartedly agree that it all begins with God and then making small tasks. It does not matter if they are dieting/exercising, or getting out of debt, or learning a new trade, or cleaning house, or learning to love others, or learning to tithe, or drawing closer to God, or forgiving others … “Little by little, inch by inch; by the yard it’s hard, by the inch, what a cinch!”1

There is so much truth in this song written by Ron Hamilton called, “Little by Little.” “V1: When mountains tower rugged and high, rise to the challenge, look to the sky. Trust in the Lord and start out to climb. Reach for the goal one step at a time. Chorus: Little by little, inch by inch; by the yard it’s hard, by the inch, what a cinch; Never stare up the stairs, just step up the steps; Little by little, inch by inch. V2: Growing in Christ takes work ev’ry day, Reading your Bible, learning to pray. Building godly habits, seek help divine. Great things are done one step at a time.”

Lesson Objective: To understand what yard is and how hard it is to tackle large things in our lives. To learn that we can tackle large things when we go to God for help and then break them down into small things.

Did you pass or did you fail?

1Praises III, Majesty Music, p. 90

Day 24: X is for Xenophobe

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2

X is for xenophobe. Okay, before you get too far ahead of me here, yes, this is a word … and it has substantial meaning for us today. 

I was dreading this day because in all honesty, how many “x” words do I know? Hmm … one!? X-ray! All other words that I know with an “x” begin with an “e.” Ugh!

Last week at the Christian Writer’s Workshop, Sister De, the guest speaker, gave me a writer’s treasure … Merriam-Webster’s Everyday Language Reference Set! I am completely in love! It has The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus, and Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder. I have seen the two former ones before but I have never seen the last one. 

What great timing though, because today truly was a day that I needed to expand my vocabulary. My only drawback though was this thought, “If I expand my vocabulary as a writer, how will my readers know all of my new words?” Well, we will learn together! So, here we are … xenophobe.

We all know what phobe means. It is a derivative of phobia meaning fear. So, xenophobe means one who has a fear or hatred for strangers. A stranger is defined as one who is strange (different); a foreigner; one who is in the place of another; one who is unacquainted. Well, that certainly brings us to a very fine point here, does it not? 

Yes, we are that stranger, that different one, that foreigner, that one who is living in another’s place, are we not? I Peter 2:9 tells us that we “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar [different from the normal; distinctive] people …” Why would God want us to be strangers on earth? Why would He not take us home to live with Him once we are saved? Well, I Peter 2:9-10 goes on to answer, “that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God.”

As a stranger, this world is not our permanent home. It is only a temporary residing place. When we travel, I do not take all of my belongings … even though my husband thinks so! Why? Because it would be a lot to carry around, but even more important, I will not be there long. I believe that we, as so-called children of God, have become too rooted in this world. We have forgotten that we are not here permanently. Not only are we not here permanently, but we are here for a      purpose. That sole purpose is to glorify God in our body and in our spirit so that we may reflect His light to a sinful, dying world.

Lesson Objective: To understand what xenophobe is. To learn that as strangers in a foreign land, we are not to dig roots and hide among the world, but we are to be set on a hill to shine forth the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 23: W is for Window

What?  Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” I Corinthians 6:19

W is for window. A window is an opening in the wall of a building which allows light to pass through; a transparent piece of material that also allows one to see inside of a structure.

How many buildings have you seen lately that do not have any windows? There is such a limited quantity that you could most likely count them on one hand, could you not?  Windows not only give a structure character, but they serve multiple purposes as well. I could very well write an additional devotion on just that itself.

A couple of weeks ago our pastor preached on broken windows. He brought out some points that I had never thought about before. When a building has a window broken and it is not fixed, it sends out a message to all those who see it. It is a message of “I do not care.” If someone cared, they would find a way to fix it. If we care enough about the broken windows in our lives, we will find a way to fix them. If we do not already know how, we can seek the help of someone who does. Who better than God?

Something else happens when that window is left in its broken state. More windows are broken. More of the building is vandalized. Where we live, graffiti is a constant battle. If graffiti is not painted over immediately, guess what happens? More gangs come along and add to it. Pretty soon it has gotten completely out of control … and to think that it all started with that first little marking.

After 23 years of traveling in ministry, I can say that we have seen a lot of buildings with broken windows. My mind struggles to comprehend how anyone can just let a building sit abandoned and let it fall in on itself. No matter how many times that I have been frustrated to not be able to conjure up the answer to that, it still always saddens me to know that somewhere along the way someone neglected to fix what was broken.

It all starts with the little things. When we miss one church service, how easy is it to miss another and then another and another? When we do not take time to pray one day, how easy is it to skip another day and then another? When someone does something to annoy us, do we correct our attitude right then or do we leave it there to be added to when it inevitably happens again? When we let pride slip in, it slides in even easier when the door is open even a smidgen.

Our bodies are God’s temples. Let us do our best to keep them cleaned up and in good repair. We definitely do not want to advertise to the enemy that our temple is weak and easily broken into.

Lesson Objective: To understand how important a window is. To learn that it is the little things, left unchecked, that cause the most destruction.

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 22: V is for Vessel

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” II Timothy 2:20-21

V is for vessel. A vessel is a container for holding something; a person into whom a quality has been infused or permeated with (such as grace).

God formed man from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) just as the potter forms the clay. On Day 16, we saw that the potter had three main types of vessels. Do you remember what they were? There was the earthen vessel; one made from the earth. There was stoneware, which was very durable and heavy. Then there was the porcelain vessel; the one with exceptional beauty and costly.

Did you notice something in the last paragraph? Each and every vessel had a purpose! We are simply vessels in the Master Potter’s hands; therefore, we also have a very special purpose. No matter what type of unique vessel we are … for God has made each of us unique in our own way (Psalm 139:14) … we should strive to be a vessel of honour.

In our verses today, we learn that there are vessels that are honourable, and there are vessels that are not honourable. So, how do we know what type of vessel we are? Well, it depends on what is put inside of us. Have we gotten lackadaisical in our daily lives and allowed little impurities to slip into our vessel? Or have we been diligent to study and to learn how to keep our vessels free from sin?

What does an honourable vessel look like? II Timothy 2:21 tells us that it is one that is sanctified. To be sanctified means to be set apart for a sacred purpose; to be free from sin. We all sin. Everyday. We are all made in human flesh; consequently, not one of us is exempt from sinning (Isaiah 64:6).

Because of Christ’s shed blood on the cross, we are no longer bound by those chains of sin. Yes, we can sin. But, often that sin is of choice. Be honest … we choose to sin. God has made a way for us to escape though (I Corinthians 10:13); literally, leaving us with no excuse. Once we have sinned, we must then confess that sin and turn from it so that our vessel may be clean again.

Lesson Objective: To understand what a vessel is. To learn that not all vessels are honourable. To be honourable our vessel must be sanctified; when it is sanctified, then it is usable by our Master.

Did you pass or did you fail?

Over and over, He molds me and makes me, Into His likeness He fashions the clay. A vessel of honor I am today. All because Jesus didn’t throw the clay away. — Terri Gibbs