April 2017 Devotional

April 24, 2017


The Sign Keeps Asking Me, "Are You Audit Ready?"
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


Forms 1040 for income taxes were due last week. I dutifully filled out all the information my software program asked for, and I checked and rechecked my figures. I read the warning that when I clicked on the icon to send, my file would be irretrievable so did I need to check it again? I resolutely clicked on the icon to send, and my taxes were done for the year.


Or were they?


There's a sign in front of a business on Pelham Road that has asked me, for months, every single time I pass it, "Are you audit ready?"
I ignored the sign in July. I smiled at it in September. I frowned at it in March. But this April it startled me. I asked myself, seriously, "Am I audit ready?"


I filed a 1040 form with my husband every year for 67 years. We were audited twice, two years in a row. It was a scary thing, but it turned out everything was in good order. Since I could be one of the random audits the IRS makes this year, I have keep every receipt, every bank record, every bit of information they might ask me for. IRS audits are plain nerve-wracking.


But that sign on Pelham Road keeps asking me, "Are You Audit Ready?" It reminds me that there is another audit I need to be prepared for. I need to be sure that there's no outstanding balance I still owe, no warrant out for my arrest. It's a question that troubles every one of us human beings, no matter how old we are or what accounting system we use. We must answer to God for our moral decisions.


One day, the Bible says, there will be an audit. I'll stand before God, and He'll have His account book open. He'll look to see if I have an unpaid balance, something kind of failure I've been charged with.


What will He find on that judgment day?


Nothing! Not a blot, not an accusation, not a charge, thank God!

Why? Not because I've done everything right. If you knew me, you'd know better than that. And God certainly knows how often I fail.
But because the Lord Jesus took my penalty for me, because He paid the price for my sin by His death on the cross, I don't have to fear God's audit. My account is clear. My penalty has been paid. I am right with God because Jesus took my sin away and gave me His righteousness. I'm audit ready.


You can be audit ready, too. Here's the Scripture that explains it:


Now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you
through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death.
The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature.
But God put into effect a different plan to save us.
He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful.
God destroyed sin's control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.
He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us.

Romans 8:1-4


Audit ready? Not just this tax season, but the audit of eternity? You can be. How? By taking God's gift of forgiveness through Jesus. All we have to do is give Him all our IOU's for our sin, and accept the gift of His righteousness. Now that's a wonderful audit guarantee!


April 16, 2017

The Wonderful Reality of the Easter Story
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


The azaleas burst with color, and dogwood trees were exuberant with blossoms, as they celebrated this Easter weekend. Little girls wore pretty little frilly dresses, and little boys sported a blazer just like Daddy's. Perhaps you've already hidden the candy Easter eggs again lest the children be tempted eat too many of them. You gathered, perhaps, with your family to eat a traditional ham and sweet potato dinner, and complained because the food was so good you ate too much. And perhaps you attended Easter services with the whole family, and got to show off the new grand-baby.


It may be, for some reason, that you did not get to do any of these things to celebrate this Easter, and the holiday may have been rather sad for you instead of happy.


But, thank God, what you did yesterday to celebrate Easter is not nearly as important as how you celebrate Easter today, and tomorrow, and next week, and next year.

For the heart of Easter is the incredible truth that we were lost, ruined, cut off from God, and paralyzed by our sin. Easter is the way God's love found to bring us to Him. God the Father and God the Son covenanted together that Jesus would pay for our sin by His death on the cross. Through His death, which paid for our sins, we can be made friends with God.


For God made Christ,
Who knew no sin,
To be made sin for us,
So that we might be made
The righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21


That's the first half of the Easter story, and the last half is even better! The Scriptures tell us that Jesus raised Himself from the dead, and that He lives forever. Because Jesus lives, God promises us, we too will live. That's why the Easter season is so joyful, so hopeful. It puts all our griefs and disappointments back in perspective. Why wouldn't we rejoice? Jesus has made a way for us to have peace with God, and to enjoy Him forever! That's worth celebrating!


P. S. If you have doubts about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, why not check out Lee Strobel's The Case for Easter: A Journalist Investigates the Evidence for the Resurrection? He began his investigation as a skeptic, but found he couldn't argue with the irrefutable evidence. Easy to read, but profound in its conclusions.

April 10, 2017


Was It Just an Accident or Did God Let It Happen?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


I was sprawled on the floor, glasses knocked awry, hip hurting, knees smarting, head throbbing with pain. I had tripped in my own home on a step I take dozens of times a day from the utility room to the kitchen. Lying there, taking inventory bone by bone and deciding nothing was permanently damaged, I learned something that had troubled me for several weeks.


A few weeks before, one of our pastors preached on the trials and temptations of life.


He referred us to James 1:12: "Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." That seems to say God lets us go through trials to help us grow spiritually.


But the very next verses say, "Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed."
The pastor explained that the word tempted is the same Greek word in both passages.


So for several weeks I've been asking myself this question:


How will I know if this trouble I am going through is from God?


Or am I going through this trouble because I'm tempted to do wrong, coveting the wrong things?


Was this just an accident or did God let it happen?


Huddled there on the floor, with my head aching and the dog licking my face, I caught a glimpse of the truth.


I will face trouble. That's a fact of life. "Man is born for trouble, as the sparks fly upward," said poor, haunted Job (Job 7:5).
My response to the difficult things I go through will determine whether they will become a blessing to me, an encouragement to endure, or a temptation to sin.


My first response that day was, "God, how could You do this to me?"


But that was a terrible accusation!- to accuse the loving God who has watched over me day after day, year after year, who has protected me from harm, who has supplied not just my needs, but my deepest desires, who has showered me with a million blessings, not a one of which I deserve!
Honesty compelled me to say, "Thank you, God, for protecting this impulsive and clumsy klutz."


So the answer to my question about temptation? I am the one who decides how I will handle trouble. I can let it draw me closer to the Friend who gave His life to redeem me. Or I can let it drive a wedge of bitterness between us, and so rob me of the joy His love offers me.


James 1:12 says, "Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life." James 1:14 says, "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires."

So how should I react when something really bad happens to me, as it certainly will? First Thessalonians 5:18 says,


In everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus for you.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, can touch me except through the loving wisdom and will of God. Sprawled on the floor and hurting, I can thank Him for His care and protection. This is His will for me. I can say, "Thank you, Jesus, even for this."