A 365 Day Devotional Journal
Scripture: Matthew 5, 1 Corinthians 15:33-34; Romans 6:11-13; 13:12-14; 1 Corinthians 10:5-7; Ephesians 2:1-4; 4:20-24; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6; 1 Timothy 6:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:20-22; Titus 2:11-14; 3:3-7; 1Peter 1:13-16; 2:11; 4:1-4; 2 Peter 1:1-9; 2:1-19; 1 John 2:15-17.
Something strange is going on, I thought as I awoke to the sound of hailstones hitting our roof at 6:20 this morning. My next thought was to pray and ask God to protect our house and yard from the storm.
I hopped out of bed and rushed into the living room. My husband stood in front of the bank of shuttered windows which line the south side of our home. He had opened the blinds to one of them and was staring out at the storm. “I’m praying they don’t get any bigger,” he said, nodding at the marbles pinging off the windows.
“Maybe you should stay here and wait it out,” I offered, hoping he would not get caught in a worsening storm.
“Nah, I’ll be okay. I need to go,” he said then kissed me goodbye and left for work.
Welcome to Hailstone Alley, I thought, ruing the recently learned label for where we had been living the past five years.
Three hailstorms visited our city last year, each equally brutal. The northern half of the city was by far hit the worst. Along with thousands of other families, we had to replace our roof. The first storm blew in over the Fourth of July, followed the next day by an equally hellacious dump and a third one several weeks later. Some of the stones approached golf ball size, stripped our then loaded fruit trees, beat up the stucco exterior of the house, and pummeled the roof to bits.
We fared better than many in our neighborhood. Some also replaced screens and trim, repairing wood railings, replacing missing trim battered off by the ice, and a sundry of other exterior repairs from downspouts to chimney flues. The hailstones pocked our daughter’s car, crumbling the window rubber stripping off of one side. The vehicle now looks like it suffers from a case of bad acne. Damage figures later revealed cost estimates in excess of 1.6 billion dollars as a result of the three storms.1 As bad as they were, they don’t hold a candle compared to the devastation striking other parts of the nation in recent years, such as in Joplin, Missouri, where yesterday an EF5 class tornado plowed through the town, killing 122 and injuring more than 750. “It was the single deadliest tornado since the National Weather Service began keeping records in 1950.”2
Something strange is going on, but the unusual weather seen across the globe is only part of the story. A spiritual storm is gathering, too.
We hear troubling reports almost daily now, but the first I recall hearing of things that were just plain off was back in the 1970’s. That was more due to the fact that I was at last old enough to detect them than anything else. I realized then that all was not well in my mainstream Lutheran Church when, at a multi-state gathering of high school students in California, church leaders got up before the thousands of us teens from the western United States and announced that it was acceptable (before God) to do certain things with your body in the privacy of your home. (You know whereof I speak.) God created us to be sexual beings, they said. It was therefore perfectly natural to behave in this manner. I was mortified. Why were they teaching such things from the platform of a church gathering, instead of the Word of God?
Even back in the late 1970’s, before the LCA and ALC synods combined to form the ELCA, the largest and most ethnically diverse Lutheran synod, liberal factions within the LCA who favored permitting homosexuals in the pulpit were warring with Biblically conservative factions. Last year, my parents broke financial ties with the ELCA synod for passage of a ruling permitting practicing homosexuals to become ministers within the ELCA. The Presbyterian denomination followed suit earlier this year.
Non-denominational churches are not immune to watering down the Word like this. I recently heard that some in local church leadership informed their volunteer staff there were certain things a Christian should not be doing in front of non-Christians, lest they “misunderstand.” One of the things mentioned was clubbing.
Let me see if I get this straight. Clubbing, which refers to frequenting nightclubs for the purpose of drinking and dancing, is alright, just so long as non-Christians don’t see me?
Um, what is wrong with this picture?
What sort of double standard are we living that we feel morally free to pass such examples on to the next generation? In the first place, everyone knows what hanging out in nightclubs leads to – lust, excess alcohol, illicit drugs, and sex outside of marriage, date rape, and violence. It doesn’t take much thought at all to know that if you sow a bunch of young men and women with raging hormones into a place like this, you will reap an abundant crop of lust.
Jesus said “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.3
In the second place, why would a professing Christian want to spend time where things of the flesh are exalted, rather than Jesus? Hear my heart in this – this is a huge red flag. Practicing the Word of God not only is practical, however, but it leads to life.
Avoiding temptation is the most practical lifestyle habit we will ever acquire. This is the same mistake Ted Haggard made – he did not avoid places of temptation.
The Word is explicit. We always sink to the lowest common denominator in a group:
Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.” Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all.4
Clubbing isn’t cool, but seeing God is.
Jesus said “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”5
“Pure” here is καθαρός, katharos, in the Greek [Strong’s G2513] and means “pure physically, like a vine cleansed by pruning and so fitted to bear fruit; clean in a levitical sense, the use of which is not forbidden, imparts no uncleanness; ethically free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt, free from every admixture of what is false, blameless, innocent, unstained with the guilt of anything.”6
“Heart” is καρδία, kardia, [Strong’s G2588] from which we derive cardiac, pertaining to the heart muscle, but it also “denotes the center of all physical and spiritual life; the center and seat of spiritual life, the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors, of the understanding, the faculty and seat of the intelligence, of the will and character, of the soul so far as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions.”7
“See” is ὁράω, horaō [Strong’s G3708] and means “to see with the eyes, to see with the mind, to perceive, know, to become acquainted with by experience, to look to, take heed, beware, to care for, pay heed to.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says that to see in this sense refers to four kinds of seeing: bodily vision, mental perception, taking heed, and of experiencing.”8
So if I take these definitions and apply them to the words of Jesus, it would read something like this:
Blessed with the highest possible good are the unstained, ethically free from corrupt desire or sin, fitted to bear fruit which imparts no uncleanness from the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors, of the understanding, the faculty and seat of the intelligence, of the will and character of the soul, for they shall see with the eyes, see with the mind, taking heed and experiencing the Three-in-One (Triune) God.
Now that is cool.
Read: Matthew 5, 1 Corinthians 15:33-34; Romans 6:11-13; 13:12-14; 1 Corinthians 10:5-7; Ephesians 2:1-4; 4:20-24; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6; 1 Timothy 6:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:20-22; Titus 2:11-14; 3:3-7; 1Peter 1:13-16; 2:11; 4:1-4; 2 Peter 1:1-9; 2:1-19; 1 John 2:15-17. Journal your private thoughts.
Father God, thank You for Your mercies. They are new every morning. Thank You for setting me free, but more than anything, thank You for making Yourself known to me and drawing me to You, filling me with Your Spirit, and teaching me how to walk in holiness. For Jesus’ sake, that His sacrifice not be in vain, amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”9
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.10
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.11
Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.12
1“Weather Extremes.” Weather Historian. April 30, 2011. Weather Underground. http://www.wunderground.com/blog/weatherhistorian/comment.html?entrynum=24 (accessed May 24, 2011.)
2“As Joplin, Mo., Death Toll Rises to 122, More Tornados Confirmed.” Heather Hollingsworth, AP. Detroit Free Press. http://www.freep.com/article/20110524/NEWS07/110524062/As-Joplin-Mo-death-toll-rises-122-more-tornadoes-confirmed (accessed May 24, 2011.)
3Matthew 5:27-28. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
41 Corinthians 15:33. Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. www.tyndale.com
5Matthew 5:8. Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org.
6Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for katharos (Strong’s 2513)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 24 May 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
7Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for kardia (Strong’s 2588)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 24 May 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
8Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for horaō (Strong’s 3708)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 24 May 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
91 Peter 1:13-16. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
101 Peter 2:11. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
11Peter 4:1-4. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
122 Peter 2:1-9. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise