The Exception

Ephesians 2_8_9_The Exception

In Surrender to Love, David Brenner writes, “Everything within us tells us that the universe must be organized according to a principal wherein we get what we deserve.”  And for the most part – it does. 

Early on we learn that if we obey authorities, good things happen.  If we study hard, we’ll get better grades.  If we work hard, we’ll earn our paycheck – and perhaps a raise or promotion.  On the flip side of those coins, if we fail to obey authority we’ll get in trouble.  If we don’t study, we’ll get bad grades, and if we don’t work hard, we may get fired.  We get what we deserve – it’s just how the world works…

Sadly, many people are unable to set that universal principle aside when it comes to the most important thing in life – eternity.  Because THIS world works one way, it’s difficult for many to believe the NEXT world works so much differently.  That’s why most religions are based upon man’s works to be made right with God.  Shoot, even some Christian faiths add required observations and regulations to the mix – as if Christ’s death on the cross wasn’t sufficient.

To accept that our salvation is NOT based on our goodness, but on God’s grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, is to surrender to the reality that God really does love us THAT much!  That’s why it’s called good news! 

Friends, if salvation were based on good works, how would we know when we’ve completed enough of them?  How would we know we’ve completed the right ones?  Do we “lose credit” when we do the wrong thing(s)?  What’s the required “minimum score” for getting in?

Long ago, God gave His people 10 simple rules to follow.  Guess what?  They couldn’t do it.  That’s why Jesus went to the cross.  Remember, if man could do it himself, Christ died for nothing. –Dave

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  https://theteachableheart.com/classrooms-%26-devotions.  You may listen to The Teachable Heart Podcast at:  https://open.spotify.com/show/6VDGH5PPpjAmMgqA1VeQLQ.  For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit: https://theteachableheart.com/books.)

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Wise & Listening

Proverbs 25_12_Wise and Listening

One of my favorite Proverbs is the one about skillfully spoken words being like apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11).  But not until recently did I pay attention to the verse that follows it.

Verse 12 describes what’s needed for those skillfully spoken words to become precious jewels.  Specifically, we’re told this:

       Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.

As the verse states, for words to be truly valuable, two things are needed – a wise speaker, and a willing listener.  Remove either and all attempts at meaningful speech are just hot air.  So let’s take a quick look at each.

First let’s establish what a “reprover” does?  The original language describes a person who adjudicates – they can analyze a situation and determine what is right and wrong within it.  As a result, they can offer instruction or correction when necessary.  But the ability to size-up situations correctly is only part of the equation. For that correction to be heeded, the message must be delivered wisely – meaning the reprover chooses his wording, and his timing, well.  He knows what to say and how to say it.  Equally important, he knows what NOT to say, and when NOT to say it. 

Lastly, even if the speaker does his part perfectly, his words may still have no effect  if the receiver is not open to hearing.  The person with a “listening ear” is one willing (and even eager) to receive input and correction from those who come to them with the right message delivered with the right motive.  A listening ear sets aside distractions and defensiveness in order to hear what is being said – even filtering through poor wording when necessary.

If both sides do their part well, Solomon says the result will be golden.  And the last I checked, gold was worth about $1800/ounce – it’s priceless!  So let me ask – are you a wise reprover?  Do you have a listening ear? –Dave   

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  https://theteachableheart.com/classrooms-%26-devotions.  You may listen to The Teachable Heart Podcast at:  https://open.spotify.com/show/6VDGH5PPpjAmMgqA1VeQLQ.  For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit: https://theteachableheart.com/books.)

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All Things?

Philippians 4_11_13_All Things

I can do all things through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

It’s one of the most frequently misquoted verses, but not because people get the wording wrong – it’s pretty easy to memorize.  No, it’s misquoted because it’s generally plucked from its context.  Without context, the verse would mean that every Christian miraculously becomes able to do anything they want in Christ’s strength.

It doesn’t take long to demonstrate that such is not the case.  For example, in Jr. High, I wanted nothing more than to play professional basketball.  Here was my ultra-impressive resume.  I stood 5’9”, couldn’t jump, couldn’t defend, could barely dribble with both hands, was 2nd string on my high school’s team, etc. 

Fast-forward to age 23 when I gave my life to Christ.  Guess what?  I was still 5’9”.  I was still slow, and tragedy of all tragedies, I still couldn’t dunk a basketball!  Likewise, a taxi driver can’t perform brain surgery, and a housewife can’t fly a commercial airliner.

So if Paul didn’t mean Christians receive amazing abilities because of their relationship with Jesus, what did he mean?  Well, the context dealt with personal contentment.  Immediately before the words above, Paul stated this:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… (vv. 11-12)

In fact, the NIV rightly says in v. 13, “I can do THIS through Christ…”  Thousands of people can dunk a basketball; all it takes is some height and jumping ability.  But how many can claim they’ve learned genuine contentment in all circumstances?  It’s far more difficult because it requires a lot of faith – faith that God knows what He’s doing now.  Faith to let go of our dreams from the past.  Faith that God will come through in the future.  And into THAT picture Paul said, “Through the strength of Christ, we can trust God and be content!”

At the end of the day, isn’t being able to fully trust God more important than being able to dunk a ball? –Dave

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  https://theteachableheart.com/classrooms-%26-devotions.  You may listen to The Teachable Heart Podcast at:  https://open.spotify.com/show/6VDGH5PPpjAmMgqA1VeQLQ.  For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit: https://theteachableheart.com/books.)

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Right on Time

Philippians 4_6_7_Prayer Anxiety

Occasionally, we just need to give a shout-out to God.  Not only is He worthy, doing so also reminds others of His faithfulness.

On the morning of the event, I was asked to participate in the inauguration of a University’s new President.  My part was small in the overall scheme of things – incredibly small.  I was to pray for success in one specific area of the new leader’s tenure.  Believe it or not, I don’t enjoy being in the spotlight. I occasionally find myself there, but I’m much more comfortable in the crowd.  And praying in public has always induced a great deal of anxiety in me – it probably stems from having nuns grade my ability to recite them correctly!   To add insult to injury, someone let me know the event was to be live-streamed around the world!  Swell.

While I wish I could say I didn’t give my assignment another thought the rest of the day, that would be a total lie.  Instead, I did the “godly thing” and filled the ensuing hours with dread!  I was so anxious I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest.  I tried to put together some coherent thoughts related to what I wanted to pray, but I couldn’t do it.  I tried to cast all my anxiety on the Lord as Peter tells us, but they seemed to bounce right back!

Fast-forward to the inauguration.  My hands were sweaty, my heart pounded, and my legs were dancing all over the place.  As I climbed the steps to the platform, I feared my legs would give way.  As a few others prayed before me, I continued to sweat and tremble.  Then the mic was handed to me…

And friends, with God as my witness, a sense of peace flooded over me in that instant.  The trembling stopped, the nerves disappeared, and words just flowed from my heart.  When I sat down I knew I had just experienced the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.  I wish it had come earlier, but it did come – just at the perfect time. 

Our God is rarely early, but He’s also never late. How have you  seen Him come through for you?  –Dave

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  https://theteachableheart.com/classrooms-%26-devotions.  You may listen to The Teachable Heart Podcast at:  https://open.spotify.com/show/6VDGH5PPpjAmMgqA1VeQLQ.  For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit: https://theteachableheart.com/books.)

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Joyful, Thankful, Endurance

Colossians 1_11_12_Joyful Endurance

Sanc·ti·fi·ca·tion (saNG(k)təfəˈkāSH(ə)n).  It’s a long, hard word.  It’s an even longer and harder process!  The Oxford dictionary defines it as, “the action of making or declaring something holy.”  As I said, it’s a long, hard process.

I was recently reminded of how far I have yet to go when I read this:

…being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father… (Colossians 1:11-12, ESV)

This passage includes part of Paul’s prayer for the church he founded in Colossae.  He wanted these new followers of Christ to be strengthened with God’s power.  Specifically, he wanted them to be strong enough to endure whatever hardships life may bring, and whatever challenges to their new faith critics may throw at them.  He wanted them to remain steadfast no matter what came their way.

If we’re honest, enduring our hardships and surviving the challenges to our faith seem like monumental wins.  But Paul wanted more for the Colossians, and Christ wants more for us.  For it’s not enough to simply stand our ground while grinning and bearing it.  While enduring is better than giving way, enduring with patience, joy, and thankfulness is the goal.  But man is that HARD!  Hence, the reason for mentioning sanctification at the beginning! 

Staying put when much of the world would run away is a good testimony.  But staying put patiently, and with sincere joy (regardless of the circumstances) is an even BETTER testimony.  But patiently, joyously, and thankfully holding our ground is the BEST way to reveal to a hurting world that our faith is real, and Christ is the answer to all their questions too! 

So how’s the patient, thankful, and joyous enduring going?  Remember, we don’t need to pull it off in our own strength – God did the saving, He will also do the sanctifying as we cooperate with Him!  –Dave

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  https://theteachableheart.com/classrooms-%26-devotions.  You may listen to The Teachable Heart Podcast at:  https://open.spotify.com/show/6VDGH5PPpjAmMgqA1VeQLQ.  For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit: https://theteachableheart.com/books.)

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The Heart Revealed

Romans 9_2_4_The Heart Revealed

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race,the people of Israel. (Romans 9:2-4)

At first glance, the passage seems to only express the heart of Paul.  As a fellow Jew, Paul experienced incredible sorrow and heart-felt anguish for his countrymen.  Why?  Because they had rejected Christ as their Savior, and as a result, they were under God’s curse. 

Paul’s love and concern for his fellow Israelites was so deep, he was willing to trade places with them (although he knew it wasn’t possible).  He was willing to be the one to die if it meant countless Jews might place their faith in Christ and live! 

I said in the beginning that the passage does more than demonstrate Paul’s heart for his people.  It also shows us God’s heart for those outside the faith.  If Paul experienced sorrow and anguish over lost humanity, how much more so does God?  If Paul was willing to lay down his life for the lost, how much more so was God?  In fact, what Paul could not do, Christ could – and did! 

For those reading who may have yet to surrender their life to Christ, that’s how much God loves you – and He will continue to experience sorrow until you are fully His.  For those of you who are already followers of Christ, may I gently ask what level of concern you have for those outside the faith?  When you think about the spiritually dying, do you feel great sorrow and anguish over them?  Or do you feel mostly anger?  Worse yet, do you feel absolutely nothing because of apathy?

Paul was willing to die for them.  Christ was willing to die for them.  Are we willing to cross the street for them?  With whom can you share the gospel this week?  –Dave  

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  https://theteachableheart.com/classrooms-%26-devotions.  You may listen to The Teachable Heart Podcast at:  https://open.spotify.com/show/6VDGH5PPpjAmMgqA1VeQLQ.  For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit: https://theteachableheart.com/books.)

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Generation to Generation

Sunday_Psalm 73_19_Generation to Generation

Through all generations, God is worthy to be praised!


(To receive free daily devotions via email, subscribe at: https://theteachableheart.com/classrooms-%26-devotions. You may listen to The Teachable Heart Podcast at: https://open.spotify.com/show/6VDGH5PPpjAmMgqA1VeQLQ. For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit: https://theteachableheart.com/books.)

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With Integrity and Skill

Psalm 78_72_Heart and Hands

Psalm 78:72 – it grabs my attention every time.  But for many of us, it’s easy to skip over it because it seems to simply tell us what David did so long ago.  Yet because God used David so mightily, we’d do well to take another look.

The verse reads:  “David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.”

The tasks God had given to King David were to shepherd His people, and to lead them.  Those were his tasks.  As much as the “what’s” of David’s life are interesting, it is the “how’s” which can be applied to our personal lives.  So let’s take a look at those…

First, David shepherded God’s people with integrity of heart.  Integrity describes a person who is the same through and through; one who is blameless and upright.  Their motives are pure and focused on the benefit of others, and not on selfish gain.  Next, David led with skillful hands.  Skillful indicates an ability gained by discernment and understanding.  David was good at leading others because he took the time to understand what was needed.

So let’s apply these characteristics by inserting our names and roles into the verse:

“Your name _(role you play)_ with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he/she _(another role you hold)_.” 

Perhaps your name is Stacy, and you’re a stay-at-home mom with a couple of young children.  For you, the sentence could read, “Stacy cares for her children with integrity of heart; with skillful hands she runs her household.”  If you’re name is Jeff and you’re an over-the-road trucker, yours might read, “Jeff completes his invoices with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he carefully navigates every mile.”  You get the idea.

As it’s been said, anything worth doing is worth doing well.  What has God given you to do during this season of life?  Are you doing it with integrity and with ever-increasing skill? –Dave

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  https://theteachableheart.com/classrooms-%26-devotions.  You may listen to The Teachable Heart Podcast at:  https://open.spotify.com/show/6VDGH5PPpjAmMgqA1VeQLQ.  For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit: https://theteachableheart.com/books.)

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Bags and Trophies

Philippians 3_13_14_Baggage and Trophies

Back in the days when my knees actually contained cartilage, I did a LOT of running.  I ran on relay teams, I ran sprints, I even ran cross country.  During those years, I picked up some hardware for my efforts.  At one time, I had a box full of trophies, ribbons, and medals. 

All these years later, I have no idea what became of them – I’m sure they went to the dump somewhere along the line.  But they came to mind recently as I read this:

One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Life is hard enough the way it is – can I get an Amen?  It’s all the harder when we try to run our race carrying extra weight from the past.  Typically when we hear the passage above discussed, what we’re encouraged to leave behind is all the baggage we picked up over the years.  Baggage caused by the faults of others; baggage caused by our own mistakes.  Certainly such baggage can weigh us down and we must stop carrying it any longer.  If necessary, we should get some professional help if we’ve tried without success.  Remember, it is wise to seek counsel (Proverbs 15:22).

Again, those are the weights we are generally encouraged to lay down and forget.  But the trophies we’ve collected in life can also weigh us down if we continue to carry them.  Never did Usain Bolt run one race while wearing his gold medals from previous races.  Why?  Because the weight would slow him down.  It would impede his ability to run the race currently before him well. 

Celebrate the victories.  Enjoy the moment.  But then set the trophies aside and focus on the race which remains before you. –Dave

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  https://theteachableheart.com/classrooms-%26-devotions.  You may listen to The Teachable Heart Podcast at:  https://open.spotify.com/show/6VDGH5PPpjAmMgqA1VeQLQ.  For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit: https://theteachableheart.com/books.)

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Looked on with Favor

Isaiah 66_2_Looked on With Favor

Is there anyone among us who doesn’t long for the favor of God?  As followers of Christ, we constantly live in His love, and we always have His forgiveness.  But as any honest parent will tell you, there are times when our children aren’t necessarily in our favor.

So what brings the favor of God?  Today, we’ll look at three things found in Isaiah 66:2.

“These are the ones I look on with favor:  those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”

The first two are pretty straightforward.  God expects His kids to be humble – not thinking too highly of themselves, but willing to be counted among the lowly.  He also likes to see sincere contrition when we’ve been wrong. Our sorrow should be genuine and lead to cessation of the sin involved.   

It’s the third attribute which requires a little explanation.  What is meant by trembling at God’s Word?  While the Hebrew word can mean just that – to tremble with fear – Isaiah probably had something else in mind.  The same word can also mean to be “anxiously careful.”   The children of God tremble at His Word when they exercise great care with Scripture.  Not necessarily in fearing its threats, but showing a holy reverence for it, receiving it not as the word of man, but as the word of God.  Trembling at His Word also means to carefully follow it closely.

But do you know where the trembling must begin?  With reading it.  Far too many of God’s children aren’t trembling at His Word because they’re not reading it.  As a result, they’re missing out on some of God’s favor. 

We all want to bask in the warmth of our Heavenly Father’s favor.  Remember, what He looks for is humility, a contrite heart, and a willingness to carefully read and follow His Word.  –Dave

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, subscribe at:  https://theteachableheart.com/classrooms-%26-devotions.  You may listen to The Teachable Heart Podcast at:  https://open.spotify.com/show/6VDGH5PPpjAmMgqA1VeQLQ.  For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit: https://theteachableheart.com/books.)

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