What Does It Cost?

by Veronne Carter

II Samuel 24:24-25a [NLT] - But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen. David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings.

Some people like to take the easy way out. I can’t say that I typically look for the easy way out, but it’s tempting. There are times when I wish things were easier or that I wouldn’t get convicted so quickly, or that I could just go with the flow. But the Holy Spirit typically corrects me – and I learn in the process.
In 2 Samuel 24 (go on, read it), David’s sin resulted in a plague over Israel, and removing it required him to make a sacrifice to God. He understood that and was willing to do so. That was difficult, but that wasn’t the hard part. David needed a place to make the sacrifice and the animals to sacrifice. He goes to Araunah to purchase the property and the items. Again, not the hardest part. Araunah respects the position of king, and offers David his property to sacrifice in, his wood to use, and his oxen to sacrifice. WHAT A BLESSING, RIGHT?
But that’s where the hard part shows up. What do you do when there is an option to take the easy way out to accomplish something? David realizes that his commitment and obligation to God may hurt, but it was a sacrifice that he owed. So his response: “I will buy it from you for a price. I will (not) offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.”
What is he saying and what does that have to do with us? I mean, when was the last time we were required to slay and sacrifice oxen? Sometimes God requires something from us; sometimes it’s in order to heal a situation, bring about a provision, answer a prayer, restore a relationship, etc. He requires our heart to be right – and many times he requires that we sacrifice something that makes us say “ouch.” A sacrifice usually hurts. We give up something we otherwise want and could have. Maybe time. Maybe food. Maybe something that is precious to us. It can be tempting to take the easy way out (eg, “I will give up vegetables”; “I will sacrifice my dentist appointment”), but when it comes to the big thing (eg, social media, sweets, hang out time) we shy away from it.
Maybe we can learn something from David who essentially said, ‘true sacrifice is going to hurt. I refuse to call something a ‘sacrifice’ if it doesn’t actually cause some discomfort in the process. It’s got to cost me something.’  The result? Verse 25b says after David’s real sacrifice, “The Lord heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel.”
What is God asking of you that doing so will hurt a bit. What have you been waiting for God to do, that seems to be in a holding pattern? Maybe it’s time for you to say and do 2 Sam. 24:24-25 to the Lord, and see what He does.

The Goodness of God

by Pastor David Speas

Psalm 119:68 - Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.

When we hear the word, "good," we usually think, "nice."  But goodness is so much more than being nice.  Being nice is how we act; it can be faked.  Being good is who a person is; it's their character.

When the Bible says that God is good (and it does a lot), it's not saying that He acts "nice" towards us.  No, goodness is a part of who He is.  And since He is good, grace naturally flows from Him.

For a long time, I struggled with this concept.  I knew God acted "nice" towards us.  His death and traumatic incarnation proved that.  But it was hard for me to accept that God loved me because of His goodness.  I felt as though I had to earn His favor.  Really, I was being idolatrous in that I was worshiping my efforts and not the God who made me.

Then one day I discovered that God didn't just act nice, He actually was good.

A. W. Tozer saids in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, "The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men.  He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly.  By His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people."

Let that sink in!  God takes a holy pleasure in you!  Be encouraged this day knowing that you serve a good God who behaves with love and grace towards His people.  It's who He is.

Obey. Today.

by Caroline Speas

  • Hebrews 3:7-8 - So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness,”

  • Hebrews 3:12 - See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

  • Hebrews 3:15 - As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts 
    as you did in the rebellion.”

Rebellion? Hard hearts? Sinful and unbelieving? That all sounds pretty strong, doesn’t it? How could this verse apply to us?

The author of Hebrews wrote this letter to Christian Jews to help them to continue in their faith in Jesus Christ. He warns against turning back to the Jewish religion. Now, maybe you are thinking, ‘But I’m not tempted to turn to another religion, so I’m fine.” I believe, though, that we can learn a lot from this letter to the Hebrews. And we can start with that simple, doable word – today.

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. As he speaks to you, respond in obedience. Each time. Do it today. And then tomorrow will be a new today, but when he speaks to you tomorrow, you will already be caught up, because you obeyed today! Whew!

So why is that word unbelievingin there? The Jews were tempted to leave their relationship with Christ and turn to something that seemed more tangible and familiar – their Jewish beliefs rather than their Christian beliefs. I believe disobedience is directly linked to a lack of trust in God. When the Lord leads us to do something, and we don’t do it, we are essentially saying we trust our own judgment more than we trust the leadership of Jesus Christ. Years before, the Jews had hardened their hearts against God, because they chose not to trust Him. And they missed out on God’s very special promise! The footnotes to verse 15 in the NLT Life Application Bible say, “Lack of trust in God always prevents us from receiving His best.” I certainly don’t want to miss out on God’s best, and I don’t think you do either! 

So be careful. As He speaks to you, listen and obey. And do it today.

Lord, Give Me a Giving Heart

Dr. Marlin Hotle

Dorcas has always been a Bible character of intrigue to me. She was not an apostle. There is no record that she ever preached a sermon. But her worth to the Church at Joppa was so great that the apostle Peter raised her from the dead. Peter was ministering in nearby Lydda when the heartbroken people of Joppa sent an urgent request to him pleading that he come to them because their friend had died.

When he arrived, all the widows came to Peter weeping and showed him the robes and clothing she had made for them. The Greek construct indicates that she must have been a woman of some means and the poor widows were the benefactors of her charitable heart. Whatever the case, Peter was so moved
by the stories that, even as she was being prepared for burial, he restored her life to her again.

I am aware that people will soon forget my sermons, but it is the cups of cold water given in the name of Jesus that will live on in the hearts of others long after we are gone. As I penned this devotional I immediately thought of six or seven people in our church whose acts of compassion make such a difference in the lives of the older and the needy both inside and outside of our church family. It causes me to wonder what difference it would make in the lives of others should my life end tomorrow. One of the things I am praying for during this month is that God will open my eyes and heart so that, like Dorcas, my actions will make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

Acts 9:36-42 -  At Joppa there was a certain disciple named [a]Tabitha, which is translated [b]Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did. 37 But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. 39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room. And all the widows stood by him weeping, showing the tunics and garments which Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord.

How Important is Christ to You?

By Pastor David Speas

When I read this passage of scripture, I'm struck by the lengths to which Paul was prepared to go in order to know Christ.  He was ready to throw away all his righteous past.  He was ready to forsake the things of this world.  He was ready to experience suffering and death.  Nothing could compare with his desire to know Christ more.

If I'm honest, I'm not always there.  Yes, I want to know Christ.  But Paul seems to have gone to a whole 'nother level.  It's almost as if he were longing for suffering...as if death seemed attractive, if that's what it took to know Christ fully.

You can tell how important something is to you by what you're willing to give up for it.

If sports are important to a person, they are willing to brave the elements to see their team play (think Green Bay, Wisconsin).  If vehicles are important to people, they'll pay up to get their dream car.  If family is important, people are willing to give up career opportunities, forgo personal plans, lose sleep...their commitment can be seen in what they are willing to sacrifice.

Paul loved Christ so much, he was prepared to give up everything in order to know Him more.

That's where I want to get to.  I want to be so committed to Christ that nothing else even comes close!  This month, I pray God gives me that same passion for God and His purpose for my life.  That's my prayer for you too!

Leaning on Him

by Caroline Speas

Isaiah 40:29  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

You learn how strong something really is when you have to lean on it. You also become dependent on it when it’s the only thing you have to lean on.

I believe fasting – whether it is fasting food, a habit, a treat, entertainment – helps us depend on Him. When I have something that I am used to doing taken away from me – even for a little bit, I feel I have to fill that gap with something. I become a little weak, so I need to lean on something. There are a lot of options. I could replace that one thing with something else I enjoy, or several things that I enjoy. Or I could do what the purpose of fasting and praying is – lean on Jesus. Sometimes we need to do without to show us the one thing that cannot be replaced in our lives is our relationship with Jesus Christ. When our distractions are stripped away, we lean on Him, we trust Him, we grow closer to Him. And it is such a refreshing time! Challenging? Yes, to our human bodies and minds. But still refreshing.

Maybe you have begun the fast, and you’re wondering how you’re going to make it to the end of January. Lean on Jesus, depend on His strength, and use this time to grow closer to Him.
Maybe you’re reading this, and you’re not participating in the fast but are wondering if you should. It doesn’t have to be all month. It doesn’t have to be fasting every meal of every day. Pray about what God is leading to give up and for how long.

Maybe you’re just not quite ready to participate in a fast. That’s ok. But consider doing it at least one time this year. I don’t think I’ve ever looked back and thought, “Man, I wish I hadn’t given up social media for a whole month to grow closer to God and to pray hard about this specific need. That was a waste.” The more I lean on Him, the stronger I realize He is. (And I haven’t even scratched the surface of His strength, really!)

Imagine how much strength our church could tap into if it were full of people choosing to lean on Jesus!

Persistence in Prayer

By Ryan White

Matthew 7:7-8 NLT “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened."

Many times we find it easy to give up if we don’t see immediate results. This is sadly often true in our prayer life. We like to ask for God’s blessing or His will without spending the necessary time actually “seeking” what God wants. Jesus is making a point here on prayer that if we would ask we would receive, but we need to spend time diligently searching for God’s will. It is not that God’s will is a mystery that we are on a treasure hunt for, but its not something revealed to us in an instant flash either. God wants us to spend time persistently searching for his will. It is in prayer that we not only “talk” to God, but we listen to Him as well. In seeking we are asking God to show us what it is that He wants. What does He want for our lives? What way does He want to bless us? How does He want to use us? We have an idea a lot of times that prayer is a shopping list event where we ask God for all of the things we want or need. “Bless me, bless my family, make us healthy, give us what we want. Amen.” We list all the things we want and never take time to really ask God what He wants.

The kind of prayer Jesus is talking about requires some “stick with it” persistence. We ask “God what is your will?” Then we spend time listening. Just like someone searching for something, we need to look until we find it. If we were knocking on the door, we wouldn’t knock once and then leave. The same with prayer. We ask God for His will. We search for it, listening to Him. We keep on knocking until we know God has opened up what it is that He wants to do in our lives and wants us to do. 

Be encouraged! If you are trying to find God’s will in prayer, don’t give up. Keep on praying until you find it. Be persistent. Don’t give up if you don’t see immediate results. 

God help us to have the patience and the persistence to pray until we find your will. Help us to listen, not just ask for what we want. Thank you for the privilege to pray to you. Amen! 

Going Without

By pastor David Speas

Luke 9:23 And He said to them all, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."

I have a confession to make.  I'm not very good at going without.  When the electricity goes down or the store no longer carries my favorite product or my wife makes something I don't like for supper, I'm usually not a happy camper.  It's not that I can't go without.  It's just that I don't want to go without.

Fasting calls us to do something unnatural -- it calls us to go without.

I've often wondered why God would ask us to fast.  Here are some thoughts...

  1. Takes our focus off of us.  One of the things fasting does is serve as a reminder that life isn't all about our wants and needs.  Sure, having a new car or a nice dinner might be gratifying, but there's something healthy about saying, "No," to our will.  It reminds us that we aren't the center of the world.

  2. Prepares us for God's work.  I recently heard a speaker say that the persecuted church practices fasting for a practical purpose.  Should the day come that they be imprisoned, their captors can't use food against them.  They practice self denial so that they are free to do God's work.  How revolutionary!

  3. Helps us reset priorities.  Fasting gives us a break from things we do every day.  When we indulge in Facebook or food or whatever we fast on a daily basis, we tend to lose perspective.  Fasting helps hit a mental and spiritual reset button.

  4. Honors God.  When we suffer graciously we are telling God that He is more important to us than other things.  Paul said he had learned to be content with much or with little.  Think of how this must've brought pleasure to God.  To know that Paul took more joy in his relationship with Christ than the material things of this world!

  5. Identifies us with Christ.  Paul said he wanted to suffer so that he might know Christ more.  That sound so backwards from how we think today.  But this was the mentality of the early church.  They wanted to suffer for Jesus so that they might better understand the heart of God and have proof of their love for Him.

I'm sure much more could be said, but I hope I've helped you begin to think differently about 'going without.'  No, I still don't like it.  But it's also good for me.  I trust that this month of prayer and fasting helps you grow closer to Christ as it has me.

Ordering Your Day

Written by Caroline Speas

As the New Year was approaching, I began to see SO many different kinds of planners/calendars/agendas advertised on the internet. Who knew there were so many different varieties of planners? There are some with built-in budgets, daily to-do lists (my favorite feature of a planner), even a chart to keep track of how much water you drank that day and what you will eat for each meal (I like that feature too!). I’ll have to admit, I love using planners and writing to-do lists, so I did find myself looking at all these planners thinking, “Oh, THAT would be nice!” “OH! I like that!” And I have recently heard the advice that if you want to make a change for the New Year, you need to have a plan.
Planners definitely help with that. And I find my days go a lot more smoothly if I can have goals and plans for the day.

But I’ll never forget the best advice I’ve ever heard someone say about planning your day. David Duncan was speaking at the ladies’ retreat several years ago, and he said this, “Invite the Lord to order your day.” I really don’t think I had thought of that. Sure, plenty of times I had asked Him to HELP me through my day. To help me accomplish everything I wanted to accomplish. I asked Him for strength. I asked for wisdom. I asked Him to help me please Him and honor Him throughout the day. But I don’t think I had ever asked the Lord to order my day – to tell ME what I needed to do. It sounds simple, but it makes a HUGE difference in your day to have Him put the day in order. I encourage you to begin that this week, and try to continue it throughout the rest of the year. Ask the Lord to order your day, and respond to His
leading with obedience. He really is the best Planner there is.

Psalm 25:9 - He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way.

Psalm 25:4-5 - Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day.