July 2024 Devotional: Hospitality

By Major Tina Bottjen
Mat-Su Valley, AK Corps – Alaska Division

Growing up, I had always viewed hospitality as throwing elegant parties with the best foods that took all day to prepare. Hospitality, in my understanding, took valuable time, money, and effort. It was a gift for those that were extroverts that had lots of time and money on their hands. However, in the summer of 2005, my understanding of hospitality would be forever changed in a wonderful and powerful way.

Any officer in The Salvation Army can tell you, we move…. sometimes a lot, and almost always in the summer. In our officership here in the USA Western Territory, many of our moves have always happened around my youngest daughter’s birthday (Mid July). The timing of these moves often made it, so her birthdays were often a “family only” affair with no friends or even children her age there to celebrate with her.

We had just experienced such a move, one that took us from New Mexico to Alaska (thousands of miles away). Soon after moving, I was working alongside a volunteer, sorting items for the little thrift store attached to the back of the corps building. I shared how bad I felt for my daughter that so often her birthday was a small, family only event. She promptly told me, “Get me some invitations, I’ll give them out to some of the families I know with children her age. I can’t promise that anyone will show up, but I can promise to give out the invitations.” I went home and put the invitations together and gave them to her. I honestly didn’t expect anything to come from it though, who would want to come to a birthday party for someone they didn’t even know?

The day of my daughter’s birthday arrived, and we told her it was going to be a family birthday party (again, not much hope that anyone would show up.) We decorated for her party, as we always did. Just in case people did show up, I had hidden games, prizes, and goodie bags in my room. We took it slow that morning, wasting time with poor excuses for delaying the opening of gifts and eating goodies until the time I had put on the invitations arrived. It would be an understatement to say she was a little frustrated thinking we were just being ornery by making her wait.

As the time drew near, a car pulled up our driveway and out jumped a couple of girls her age, then another car pulled up, more kids, and then another! That day, 12 young girls came to celebrate the birthday of a young girl they had never met. As I took out the hidden games (including a piñata!), gift bags, and prizes, there were happy tears, laughter, and joy. They played games, ate too much food, and they gave her birthday gifts! We met several parents that day, people we would soon call friends. This gift of hospitality was so amazing, and soon we would call this place our hometown.

Scripture makes it very clear that hospitality is not only a gift and an expectation, but it is a requirement for believers. Romans 12:10-13 (NIV) tells us, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines hospitality as, “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests or hospitable treatment.” Hospitality is a way of living, a way of interacting with and sharing our life and time with those around us, all the time. Hospitality is letting people know they belong, not only in our homes, but also in our lives, and our community.

That day, my whole family felt welcomed and included in a community that we all still call home. Our lives were changed, because one woman shared her gift of hospitality by passing out birthday invitations, bringing twelve young girls and their families into our lives to celebrate our child and to welcome a new family to town.

June 2024 Devotional: Forgiveness

By Major Gaylene Yardley
Divisional Women’s Ministries SecretarySouthwest Division

Note: This devotional coordinates with this month’s craft, Soap Carving, and this month’s Bible Study.

Can you say that you have not sinned today? Listen to this prayer.

Dear Lord,
So far I’ve done all right.
I haven’t gossiped,
haven’t lost my temper,
haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent.
I’m really glad about that.

But in a few minutes, God,
I’m going to get out of bed.
And from then on,
I’m going to need a lot more help.

I feel this way many times. I’m doing great God and then…My dinner burns, I drop the milk on the floor, someone almost hit me at the left turn, my boss told me I am getting extra work for my plate, my kids played hide and seek in the clean laundry, and on and on.

When things like this happen, I get mad, I say things in my head that I can’t say out loud, I resent people for their actions that I have no power over. Life happens and we must realize that we do sin daily in our actions or in our thoughts.

1 John 1:8 tells us, “If we say we have not sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The passage goes on to say (v. 9), “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The soap we will use in our craft is a great reminder of this verse. We can be cleansed from our sins only through Jesus Christ, but we have to confess those sins to Him. Sometimes it is hard to admit our wrongs, our mistakes, our actions that we have done. I don’t like to admit when I am wrong. I want it just to all go away, but it doesn’t until I confess it to the Lord. Then it is all gone. What a great promise to us that he is faithful in forgiveness. I pray that you are grateful that Jesus loves you enough to wash your sins away and to do it anytime and anyplace you come to Him with your sins. It can be while you are working, vacuuming, eating dinner, going to bed, Jesus meets you where you are.

Maybe someone has been unkind to you. Maybe you have been hurt by someone close to you. Maybe you feel you can’t forgive them. C. S. Lewis said this, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” It’s a great concept until it’s you who must forgive someone you do not feel deserves it. In Matthew 18:21 and 22 we read some very difficult information. “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times”? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” NIV

So, do you deserve forgiveness? Perhaps you might think a bit differently after reading this verse. None of us deserve the forgiveness we have in Christ Jesus, but it is a gift from Him for the sins of the world that He took upon Himself. Jesus extended this forgiveness to you, so why don’t you extend it to another person who has wronged you? Remember Ephesians 4:32 NLT says, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God through Christ Jesus has forgiven you. “

The plan for our lives as followers of Jesus is to ask for forgiveness and to extend that to others as well.

May our prayer be:

Thank you Lord for helping me through the day and forgiving me for my sins and for helping me to forgive those who wronged or hurt me today. I am glad to receive your forgiveness and to extend it to others. Amen

April 2024 Devotional: Sinful

By Major Beth Desplancke

Recently, while stopped at a stoplight I noticed the vehicle’s license plate in front of me. It was a personalized one – people pay extra to have a personalized plate that says something about them. Well, this one was kind of shocking. The license read: SNFUL (sinful).

Why would someone pay for that? And then to add to the sinful state of the person in the vehicle ahead of me, the tabs expired 2 1/2 years ago!

I chewed on the message of the license plate all the way to work that morning. I guess it is good that the person who owned that vehicle acknowledges the fact that he or she is sinful. But how many of us like to acknowledge the fact we sin. It isn’t a label we like to claim.

If we have received Christ as our Savior, we are saved from our sins. We love to wear the label that we have been saved by His grace, and we are. But we need to remember that we are still sinners, we are still sinful. The Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst” (1Timothy 1:15).

The Apostle Paul had an amazing encounter with Jesus on his way to Damascus (Acts 9), and he was forever changed. He knew that God’s grace saved him from the sin he committed (before his conversion with Christ he was helping to round up followers of Jesus and take them to prison).

Yes, Jesus does save us from our sins. We have gone from being dead to alive and become new creations in Him (see Ephesians 2:1-5, 2 Corinthians 5:17), but we are still sinners. We are still capable of and will continue to struggle with sin this side of heaven. We must never think that we are beyond the lure and grasp of sin. Yes, I am a sinner saved by grace – Hallelujah! Yes, I have been freed from the power of sin, but the struggle with sin is still there. I can never take for granted that I am still sinful. As I have grown in my walk with Jesus (for the past 46 years – yes, I am old), my desire to sin lessens. Those sinful things that I thought were fun when I was younger, no longer have an appeal or pull to me. I am not sinless, but I desire to sin less.

Seeing the license plate and the word “SINFUL” emblazed in front of me that morning was a great reminder to check myself and examine my own heart for where sin is present in my life. In her book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun writes this about the discipline of confession and self-examination, “Self-examination is a process whereby the Holy Spirit opens my heart to what is true about me. This is not the same thing as a neurotic shame-inducing inventory. Instead it is a way of opening myself to God within the safety of divine love so I can authentically seek transformation. Confession embraces Christ’s gift of forgiveness and restoration while setting us on the path to renewal and change (p. 101).”

I need to not run away from that label. I am a sinner and I sin. 1 John 1:8 states, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. I need to acknowledge that I sin. I need to admit my sin to God. Admission is not all that I must do. I need to then confess my sin to Him. In 1 John 1:9 we read of this beautiful promise that comes with our confessing our sins to the Lord: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. The confession isn’t just admitting the sin. True confession includes a sorrowfulness for sin, and a desire to not do it again.

I don’t know why a person chose that license plate, but it was a great reminder for me.

March 2024 Devotional: Christ Truly Understands Our Suffering

By Major Harryette Raihl
Divisional Women’s Ministries Secretary
Southern California Division

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Isaiah 53:3

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Philippians 3:10

Christ offers us comfort because He truly understands suffering. We can find support from friends, loved ones and others but only the Lord can truly comfort each one of us as someone who completely understands all of our suffering. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus came to strengthen and support us in our hour of need. One way to look at this is to realize that Chris, by His suffering on the cross, restored our relationship with our Creator.

All throughout the Bible we read how He understands that we are a people who often feel hurt, bruised, or broken. Jesus alone can bring the healing that we need…because Jesus understands our personal pain. We are completely known! What a Blessing!

Christ realizes that you will suffer—sometimes because we live on a broken planet filled with broken people, sometimes as a result of our own poor choices, and still other times simply because we are a follower of Christ. But amidst all of this we can hold onto some simple truths or promises:

  1. Jesus understands pain.
  2. Jesus won’t crush you in times of brokenness.
  3. Jesus came to bring you freedom through His suffering.

We all can trust in God’s comfort because He sent Jesus on our behalf. Our suffering doesn’t mean the Lord doesn’t Love us. Instead of us trying to avoid suffering, we can look towards Jesus and then realize…He can use the good and the bad in our lives to draw us nearer to Him each and every day. Oh, what love He has for us!

The Lord told the people in Isaiah’s time that he would send someone (a Servant) to save them. We know that His name is Jesus and we can benefit from knowing that this Jesus understands what we are and will be going through. Jesus himself suffered more than we could ever imagine in our human minds and in this suffering we have such a good example. Christ never turned his back on God nor cursed the Lord for all of the things that he knew he would suffer at the hands of the people who condemned him and hung him on the cross. Christ simply trusted in His Father.

And so we now can worship the Holy One in EVERY season. WE can sing even on dark days because Jesus is the Servant of the Lord who will not crush us but He will free us. We can be comforted because we have such a tender and loving Christ. He is our hope when life is dark and difficult and our companion when things are going more smoothly.

We simply need to pray and ask Jesus to help us to have a biblical view of suffering so that we can understand when we feel broken, on the verge of burn-out, alone, discouraged, or hopeless, that our Lord Jesus Christ truly understands all of these feelings and can comfort us no matter what we are facing.

Charles Spurgeon (Known as the Prince of Preachers) explained it as this: “Jesus was a man not of sorrow only, but of sorrows. All the sufferings of the body and of the soul were know to him; the sorrows of the man who actively struggles to obey; the sorrows of the man who sits still, and passively endures. Affliction made Jesus heart the target for all conceivable woes.

Sometimes we think that we have it so very bad, don’t we. We think that our struggles and problems…or sufferings….are unlike anything or what anybody else has ever been through. I think in our mind we know that this is simply not true, but at that point we are hurting so badly that our thoughts tend to think along that line.

Aren’t you so very grateful that Jesus understands and knows us through and through. We do not even need words. And the most important thing to remember is that…..because of this understanding—Christ Comforts us!

I am sure that we cannot fully understand all of the suffering of Christ that he had to endure here on earth, but it can ease our minds to know that Christ understands true suffering and thus is so compassionate with all of us who call upon His name.

Download a printable version of this devotion:

February 2024 Devotional: Let’s Unplug

By Captain Amelia Mott
Olympia, WA Corps
Northwest Division

“If my phone dies, I die.”

“I was lost this week without my phone, I am not sure how I survived.”

“I bet my phone has exploded with all the texts I missed while away at camp.”

“I wonder if my phone missed me?”

“The first thing I am going to do when I get home is turn on my phone and see what I missed.”

All of those quotes are from campers heading to and from camp this past year, as campers are not allowed to bring their phones to summer camp. The goal is to allow them to spend time with each other, in nature and have fun, and not be glued to their phones, texting, scrolling and watching videos 24/7. As we read those quotes, it might at first glance seem like these campers are being very dramatic and we might brush it off, as kids being kids. But if we paused to reflect, could we as women, as adults be away from our phones for a week? A day? An hour? Would we be able to unplug? Would we be able to relax our minds and enjoy a week without cell service or Wi-Fi? And the answer to this for many of us, that it might be difficult to truly unplug.

John Mark Comer, in his book the Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, states, “the average iPhone user touches his or her phone 2,617 times a day.” And from the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun reminds us that we live “in a world where people use the Internet an average of thirty hours a week and keep the TV or radio on 7.9 hours a day, we need to get unplugged from virtual reality and address our addiction to technology and the toxins it brings into our lives.” And all these distractions can keep us from carving out time to spend with God, in quiet and in solitude with no distractions around us.

Again, in the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook helps us remember that “unplugging recognizes that personal beings are created for personal interaction by a personal God. We need to be touched. We need non verbal signals. We need uninterrupted spaces in our lives for the presence of God and the presence of others.” So where do we go from here? Well, we go back to the basics, as Psalm 46: 10a: “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

First, we are made to spend time with God, and when we are still he provides peace, comfort, love, wisdom and support. He supplies everything we could ever need. Technology can make us feel isolated at times, but we have access to God 24/7 and He will always be there for us.

And even Jesus, went away and spent time with God when he was here on earth to be refreshed and renewed. Jesus knew that time with the Father is priceless, and nothing can take its place. Sometimes we can be tricked into thinking a form of technology can provide that for us, but only God can.

This coming week, the challenge is to carve out more time with God and less time on our phones, tablets etc. Guaranteed, you will notice the difference.

Second, take time to spend time in fellowship with others. The Passion translation of Proverbs 27:9 states, “Sweet friendships refresh the soul and awaken our hearts with joy, for good friends are like anointing oil, that yields the fragrant incense of God’s presence.” We were built to be in community and friendship with others and when we do that our souls are refreshed and renewed. A hug from a friend can make a big difference. There is nothing like the sound of laughter filling a room that can turn our day around. And technology can’t replace that.

The second challenge for this week is to spend time in friendship and community with others, filling living rooms and coffee shops with joy and laughter. Spend time listening and praying with one another and leaning on each other for support.

Let’s carve out time carving out time for God and others, forgetting about our phones and tablets and be refreshed and renewed. Let’s unplug!

January 2024 Devotional: What’s All This About Journaling

By Major Millie Bearchell, Retired

Growing up in a rather large family, 7 kids and two parents, we lived a life that was by today’s standards, “lower middle class.” We didn’t have a lot of material items, my 3 sisters and I shared one bedroom, and we had just one station wagon to get us places. I look back and the memories I have are good ones. We may not have had many worldly possessions, but what we had was enough.

When my parents were promoted to glory and it was time to clean out their small apartment, one of the items I desired the most was one or two of my mother’s journals. I enjoy from time to time, randomly picking up one of her journals and reading what she wrote on a specific day. Even to this day, my eyes tear up when I see her beautiful handwriting, making my heart ache for her. I love to read what she had to share, a special scripture on her heart, a hymn she was thinking about, commenting on one of her children or grandchildren. There was nothing philosophical or deep theological thoughts, just sweet musings of her blessed life and her gratitude for all she had.

I believe I have inherited her love of journaling. I journal almost every day and much of my journaling takes place in the early morning, with my cup of coffee, my favorite pen, my current journal, and my Bible. So much of what I journal has to do with Scripture verses that have spoken to me, what God is doing in my life, and just random thoughts. My journal is also where I keep my prayer lists. I love to put names, situations, that have been given to me to pray for, but also those things that come to mind. I love to refer to past prayer lists and see how God has been so faithful in his answering those requests according to His will and time.

Last year as Brian and I were planning for retirement, I was grieving over losing “my” flock. One morning in prayer and journaling, I asked God where my new flock in retirement would be? The answer I received so clearly was, “your grandchildren.” I have 7 amazing grandchildren ranging from 16 years to 3 months, and each one of them precious to me. God told me to get them their own journal and to begin journaling to them in their book. January 2022, I began to write in 6 of those journals, adding the newest one in February of this year. I do not write every day, but I do write in their journal on their birthday, when they have done well in school, or excelled on their sport team. I always write that I pray for them constantly, that I’m proud of them, and that I love them.

The legacy that was left to me by my mother has been the impetus behind this new endeavor for my new flock. My desire is that when my grandchildren read their personal journal, see my handwriting, they will treasure the words and sentiments I have given to them. I have not decided when or what age I will give it to them, or if it will go to them upon my promotion to glory. But for now, I will write to each of my flock, making sure they know how special they are to me and more importantly how special they are to Jesus.
Spiritual writer Henri Nouwen said, “writing can untangle thoughts, express our emotions, and give artistic expression to life.” Writing is a spiritual habit: Writing can be a true spiritual discipline.

“Writing can untangle thoughts, express our emotions, and give artistic expression to life.”

Henri Nouwen

Journaling helps you declutter your mind, which leads to better thinking. Writing in a journal also sharpens your memory and improves your learning capability. There’s a reason why when you take the time to pen your thoughts, plans, and experiences, you remember them better, while also feeling more focused.

I love what Psalm 5:1-3 states, “Give ear to my words, O Lord, Consider my meditation. Give heed to the voice of my cry, My king and my God, for to you I pray. My voice You shall her in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.”

Journaling is a way of slowing life down for even a few moments. Covered in prayer, and saturated with God’s Word, journaling can be a powerful way of hearing God’s voice in the Scriptures and making known to Him our requests.

I came across this anonymous quote which adds value to the idea of journaling. “One of the more effective acts of self-care is also, happily, one of the cheapest.”

Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”

Download a printable version of this devotional

December 2023 Devotional: Celebration of God’s Promises

By Captain Felicia LeMar
Hilo Temple, HI
Hawaiian & Pacific Islands Division

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

In the book of Zephaniah, we find beautiful promises that are worth celebrating who we are in Christ. These beautiful promises are so needed for us today, especially in the world we live in. With the demands of our daily lives, we can become easily overwhelmed. We find ourselves juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, which leads us to find validation and love from the world around us. This leads us down a path filled with insecurities and hurt. But in Zephaniah 3:17, we can celebrate the promise of knowing God is with us, He takes delight in us, He no longer rebukes us, and He rejoices over us with singing.

The Lord God is With You

As we celebrate the birth of our loving Savior, we can be assured that God is with us every day of our lives. Matthew 1:23 says, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). God’s presence is always with us and is a reminder of His love for us through the birth of His Son Jesus Christ. This means no matter where we go, God’s presence is with us always. In fact, God is already there and waiting for us! We learn this through Psalm 139:7-10.

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

Knowing God is always present, provides us with comfort through our joys and sorrows. Through these times, He is celebrating us in our joys and comforting us in our sorrows. As Christians, we can be confident in knowing we are always in the presence of God.

God Delights in You

The Creator of the Universe takes delight in us. What an amazing thought! Our Heavenly Father sees us as His beloved daughters and takes delight in us. We are all unique in our own ways. No one in the whole entire world is exactly alike! Psalm 139:14 says, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Sisters in Christ, when we are feeling unworthy, celebrate the promise of how God takes delight in each of us individually!

He Will No Longer Rebuke You

Our God is a gracious, loving Father. We see this through the birth and death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was born to redeem us from the sin and brokenness in this world. Isaiah 9:6 says, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We no longer live in the darkness of our past mistakes, failures, and sins. These no longer define us, and we can celebrate the freedom we have in Christ. We are daughters of God who are forgiven, redeemed, and made new.

Rejoice Over You with Singing
Our God rejoices over us with singing! The meaning of the phrase “rejoice over you” literally means “dance, skip, leap and spin around in joy.” He loves us so much, that it brings Him all the joy that we are His daughters. I imagine God rejoicing over us, just as the angels rejoiced over the birth of Jesus in the book of Luke. The angels sang praises to God, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14) Today, let’s celebrate God’s rejoicing over us as His beloved daughters.

Dear sisters in Christ, let this verse be celebrated and remain forever in our hearts as a beautiful reminder of God’s promises!

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Dear gracious heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word. We are so humbled by your love for us and how you take delight in us. We praise you for how amazing your love for us is, that you will no longer look at our past mistakes and failures, instead you rejoice over us with singing! Lord, we ask in our times of doubts, feelings of unworthiness, and uncertainties that we continue to praise you as our Mighty Warrior who comes to save us! We love you! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

October 2023 Devotional: Take a Sabbath Rest

By Captain Ryan Boyd
Denver Red Shield Corps, CO – Intermountain Division

I once had a friend who asked me what I did on my day off. When I started listing the unending responsibilities I had at home, she cut me off and said it didn’t sound much like a day off to her. “Well, if I don’t get them done on that day, when will it get done?” was my exasperated reply.

Busyness is often worn as a badge of honor in our society. We book back to back meetings and activities and wonder why we are always exhausted. We were not made to go all day every day. Like our electronics, we need a time to recharge our batteries.

Exodus 20:8-11 says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

It seems to me that we have taken the ten commandments and made them nine commandments and a suggestion. We treat this instruction from God as an optional activity instead of the mandate it is. As the Israelites are heading to the Promise Land, God gives Moses instructions for them so that they will live in a way that pleases God. We know that the first four relate to our relationship with God and the last six relate to our relationships with others.

God knew it was important for us to rest. Not sleep in, not have a lazy Saturday, but to rest. To trust in Him to provide for our needs. Now, most of my Sabbaths involve sleeping in because that is what my body needs to refresh. Even if it is just thirty extra minutes, I feel it when I wake up. But Sabbath rest goes much deeper. It is resting from my work knowing that I am not the one who makes the world go around – God is. I am not the one in control – God is. And when I spend my time dwelling in that knowledge, I can enter the rest that God provides.

But Sabbath rest goes much deeper. It is resting from my working knowing that I am not the one who makes the world go around – God is. I am not the one in control – God is.

Captain Ryan Boyd

In Mark 2:27-28, Jesus tells the Pharisees that man was not made for the Sabbath, rather the Sabbath was made for man. Taking a Sabbath is not something we do because we want to check off something from our “Good Christian” to-do list. It is not meant to be a burden at all. Instead, it was made for us to refresh and delight in what the Lord has provided for us. We are supposed to be joyful during our Sabbath. Originally, it was intended to give reprieve to the Israelites who had the mindset of an enslaved person – their brains told them they needed to work all day every day. God said no – my plan for you is better. Enter into the rest I provide.

The Pharisees morphed the Sabbath into something it was not intended to be – rigid rule following. They burdened the Israelites with their preferences instead of sticking to God’s intentions. And the people suffered for it by missing out on the freedoms that Sabbath provides. Ray Stedman wrote, “So there are two aspects of the Sabbath—creation and redemption. There is a rest of cessation; a ceasing from our own works. But then there is the rest of rejoicing in the mighty delivering power of God.”

So there are two aspects of the Sabbath – creation and redemption. There is a rest of cessation; a ceasing from our own works. But then there is the rest of rejoicing in the mighty delivering power of God.

Ray Stedman

If you are anything like me, rest feels weird. I always feel as if there is something I am supposed to be doing. Only in recent years have I been able to start fully resting on a Sabbath day. I would love to have the same day every week, but scheduling makes that impossible. So I take it where I can. I take Fridays off so that I can get all my errands and schoolwork done so that Saturdays are clear for rest and delighting in the blessings God has given me. If I can’t make Saturday work, I find a different day.

We prioritize what is important to us. Making adjustments to create space for Sabbath is hard, but so worth it. Resting in the knowledge that God is in control brings a peace that cannot be described.

Take a Sabbath. Rest. Obviously it is important for us to do, because God made it a commandment.

September 2023 Devotional: Putting on the Belt of Truth

By Major Beth Desplancke

I am a Wonder Woman fan and have been since I was a little girl. And although I am thrilled that Wonder Woman has finally been brought to the big screen, portrayed beautifully by Gal Gadot, I am partial to the TV show that aired in the late 70’s and early 80’s (when reruns were a thing) with Lynda Carter portraying her.

In the pilot episode of the TV show, we are introduced to who will become Wonder Woman. It is during WWII and the Nazi regime is set on conquering the world. An American solider, Steve Trevor, lands on Paradise Island, an island of only amazon women. These Amazons learn of the evil that is destabilizing the outside world. The queen realizes that the Americans need their help, so a contest is held to see which woman will go back to America. Princess Diana disguises herself to compete in the competition and wins.
The Queen gives Diana a golden belt and tells her, “As long as you wear it, you will maintain your cunning and strength from Paradise Island.” Diana is also given a golden lasso, “which will compel people to tell the truth.” Throughout the TV show, we see Wonder Woman using the lasso on the bad guys, forcing them to tell the truth.

I thought it was interesting that the creator of Wonder Woman, was William Moulton Marston, who was a lawyer, a psychologist, and the inventor of an early version of the lie detector machine. Perhaps that is where his idea for the lasso of truth stemmed from.

As believers, we are in a spiritual battle. We have an enemy of our souls, the devil, who is cunning and deceptive. He tells lies; in fact, his native language is lies (John 8:44). Our world is full of lies, and the lie the enemy has been using since the beginning is that truth is relative; we can make our own truth. Gustave Flaubert, a French writer in the 1800s wrote, “There is no truth. There is only perception.”

When there is no basis for truth, there is no basis for moral right and wrong. That’s why our society is saying we can define our own truth – because then there is no right, no wrong, and no consequences. But sadly, denying the truth doesn’t remove the consequences. Truth is still truth, even if no one believes it.
How do we combat lies? With the truth. In Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul writes about a spiritual armor that God provides for us believers so we can stand strong in face of the enemy. Verses 13 and 14 say, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist with the breastplate of righteousness in place. We don’t have a lasso of truth like Wonder Woman, but we have something even better; we have the belt of truth!

How do we put on this belt of truth to combat the lies of the enemies? First, we need to know who the truth is. Jesus said in John 14:6a, “I am the way, and the truth and the life…” Jesus is the Truth. God’s Word is truth. In John 17:17 Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” The only truth is found in Jesus and His Word.

Second, we need to be in the truth of His Word. The more we know God’s Word, the better we can stand up against the lies the devil spews. We need to read and study the Word. We need to memorize His Word, and allow it to fill our minds. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:11). When the enemy comes at us with his lies, we need to know the truth of God’s Word so we can speak the truth to the devil.

Finally, we need to not just know the Word, but we need to obey and live the Word. Just having head knowledge and being able to quote verses is not enough. We need to live the Truth, and not compromise the Truth. James 1:22 says, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

The only way to recognize a lie is to know the truth. Evangelist D.L. Moody once said, “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.” God’s Word is our straight stick, the Truth, to combat all the lies of this world.

In closing, pray this prayer, speaking the truth of God’s Word (all verses are taken from Psalm 119 NIV). As you pray these words, visualize His TRUTH encircling you.

Trustworthy and true is Your Word, O Lord.
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal (160). The statutes that you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy (138). Never take your word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws (43).

Righteous, O Lord you are, and Your words are right.
You are righteous Lord, and your laws are right (137). Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true (142). Your statutes are always righteous; give me understanding that I may live (144). I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws (106). And because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path (128).

Understanding is what I need.
Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds (27). Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart (34). I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes (125). May my cry come before you, Lord; give me understanding according to your word (169).

Teach me Your truth.
You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees (68). Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me and teach me your law (29). Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end (33). Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands (66). Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws (108).

Help me to live and obey Your truth.
I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word (101). I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me (102). My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end (112). Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me (133). May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts (173). Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees (v. 5). I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands (10).

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August 2023 Devotional: Flourishing in the Dry Season

By Major Noelle Nelson
Divisional Women’s Ministries Secretary – Golden State Division

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

It is wonderful to be in a season of life when things are blooming, happening, and coming to fruition. God’s miracles seem to be popping up everywhere and there is little that can drag your spirit down. You hardly have to try as you feel yourself…well, flourishing! We’ve all been there, enjoying moments of peace and joy and confirmation that we are on the path God has laid out for us.

This is not where we are setting down our feet this time. Think of a dry, arid desert. Nothing for miles and miles except endless stretches of sand and heat waves visible to the naked eye. Eyes aching from the harsh sun, skin blistering past the point of sunburn, heat radiating up through the soles of your shoes, throat parched and sandpaper-rough. What would you do for a single sip of water? How far would you crawl to reach a small patch of shade? You would cry but for the fact that you don’t have enough spare moisture left in your body to produce a single tear. Have you ever been in a place like this? Perhaps not literally or physically. But what about spiritually? I have. It’s a ‘yes’ to both.

I went to high school in Santa Cruz, California, close enough to the ocean that my surfer classmates would run onto campus just as the bell rang, shoes forgotten in the car and still towel-drying their ocean-soaked hair. If they remembered, they would do the courtesy of dusting the sand off their feet and legs before rushing into class. Admittedly, it was a pretty fantastic place to be a teenager. The summer before my senior year, my Officer parents were appointed to Mesa, Arizona. Mesa means, “An isolated flat-topped hill with steep sides, as found in arid and semi-arid areas of the U.S.” We were headed away from the cool water of the Pacific, toward vast expanses of sand, cacti, lizards, and broiling HEAT. I did not take well to all the jokes meant to cheer me. “Hey! You’re moving to the biggest beach in the world!” “You’ll be able to get a tan year-round!” (I am Danish and English. The ability to tan is not even in my DNA). I found myself, for the first time ever, dreading a move.

There are times in life when we can feel the desert coming; a palpable transitioning from a time of abundance and moisture, into the scorching heat of a spiritual desert. We may fight it, try to delay it, but it still comes. What brings it on? What specific purpose could it possibly have? Even if we could pinpoint the what and the why, how LONG will we be in this dry, hot, lonely, near-uninhabitable atmosphere? It’s an unanswerable question. We do know this: It is hard to flourish in the dry season.

I found myself in a dry season that stretched a span of nearly 16 years as one after another, my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th children were diagnosed with autism. There wasn’t nearly the amount of awareness, information, and treatments back in the day, as there are now. I wanted to praise God for the lives of my 4 children. I wanted to delight in their presence, savor their giggles, and hold silly conversations that only toddlers can provide. I wanted to see them thrive and flourish. That was not God’s path for them or, ultimately, for me. Oh, how I longed to talk with Jesus in the night hours, pouring out my sorrows to Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals. But by day’s end I had nothing left. Watching my children struggle to learn, communicate, and use the most basic of fine-motor skills was emotionally exhausting. On the outskirts, our oldest was feeling sorely neglected. My husband was as hands-on as he could be after a long day at the office. My spirit became a dry husk, on the brink of shriveling completely and blowing away in the hot desert wind.

Years before, in training school, I claimed Isaiah 58:11 as ‘my’ verse.

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

During this long, dry season God would continually bring this verse to mind. So many times I shoved the verse away as if it were not a promised cup of cool water, but merely a mirage meant to torment me. I knew it was not meant to taunt me, but rather to remind me He had made a promise, and I should focus on that. But it was oh, so difficult.

It was while visiting my parents in Mesa, Arizona (yes, they retired there!) that my dad showed me the most recent collection of his photographs: desert cacti in full bloom. As we chatted, he shared how amazing it is that these cacti could flourish and bloom in the heat of the dry desert. A cactus is incredibly heavy because it is 90% water, having constantly gathered moisture from the environment, storing it up for the dry season.

Then it hit me, full-on. Be a cactus! If I so immerse myself daily in God’s Word and His presence in each season, I will have ‘hydration’ stored up to keep me alive during the dry season. I would still need to allow God to rehydrate and soften my crackling-dry spirit, but in His loving care I WOULD make it through this desert. He would cause me to thrive once again. I WOULD FLOURISH!

And that is exactly what happened. Years earlier as a teen, I could not escape the physical desert of my new Arizona home. But God was faithful and brought me the gift of my now husband of 32 years. Years later, I could not hide from the spiritual and physical exhaustion that parenting brought me, but God was faithful, and continues to be faithful as I watch my 4 boys grow into fine men who love the Lord, each to the best of their abilities.

When the dry season comes, and we know it will, fall back on God’s promise. He will guide you always. He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and he will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. In the meantime, if you are flourishing in a season of abundance take advantage of those showers of blessing. Soak up the living water into the very core of your being. And when the dry season comes it will be stored up and ready to sustain your soul. You will FLOURISH, like a beautiful desert cacti in full bloom.

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