August 2019 Devotionals

August 26, 2019


Friendship or FaceBook?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford


You may love FaceBook or you may despise it. I find it helpful in keeping track of friends. I learn they went on holiday to Colorado last week, or sent their firstborn off to the Naval Academy, or went to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy, or faced a challenge with a beloved pet. Then, when we're together, we don't have to spend precious minutes catching up on past events. We can spend what time we have together on important, true-friendship stuff.


Sure, I admit it, you can certainly waste time on FaceBook, watching insipid videos or learning irrelevant facts or reading vulgar rants. But I can also waste time watching TV or playing a video game. Any human activity requires self-discipline.


But FaceBook and other social media have their limitations. What I crave in friendship I can't possibly get in an electronic relationship. I need the personal, face-to-face encounter, a warm hug, an answering light in their expression, a sweet body-language message of acceptance, an unbidden misting of tears when we share our hearts. That's something that not even the most carefully-crafted electronic message can convey.

That's the feeling the aged Apostle John expressed when he wrote: "Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full." (1 John 1:12)


I quickly admit that electronic media are far better than no communication at all. Friends of mine have a little daughter who thinks Skype is a wonderful way to communicate. She loved her Mimi, her grandmother. If she hadn't been able to see her Mimi during the week, her parents would let her use Skype to confide her secrets to her grandmother. But Mimi died. How she would miss her! Then the little girl got an idea: "Mother, let's just Skype Mimi in Heaven!"


No, darling child, we can't do that. We'll have to make-do with pictures and letters and memories of Mimi until someday we all meet together at Jesus' throne in Heaven.

But God knows our human need for intimate, unselfconscious relationships. That's why the Scriptures make so much of the eternal God's coming down to earth as a baby:


In the beginning the Word already existed.
He was with God, and He was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
He created everything there is. . . .
So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us.
He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
And we have seen His glory,
the glory of the only Son of the Father.
Gospel of John 1:1-3, 14, nlt


And it is that tangible, touchable Jesus whom we will someday see in Heaven. Not Skype, not text, not phone, not virtual reality, but human touch. Tangible reality. Face to face. Heart to heart. That's the promise of Psalm 17:15:

As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake
for I will see You face to face.
Psalm 17:15 nkjv, nlt


August 19, 2019


Complicated Questions with Simple Answers
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford


You've heard the silly story about the little boy who asked his father, "Daddy, were did I come from?" The father began a stuttered, embarrassed explanation about the birds and the bees, but the impatient child interrupted. "Dad, Charlie says he's from Nashville. Where did I come from?"

Dr. Seuss, the writer that little children love, (and that grown-ups can learn so much from!) said:


Sometimes the questions are complicated,
And the answers are simple.


The father trying to tell his child the facts of life could have saved himself some embarrassment if he'd known this.


A man and wife struggling with conflict in their marriage might find their lives eased if they looked for the truth in honest and simple answers.
An executive, trying to increase sales, might find this advice helpful.


A co-worker, trying to clarify the responsibilities of the job, could simply ask, "What do you expect of me?"


But perhaps the place we could apply this best is in our relationship with God. Once in a while I find myself asking this question (and perhaps you've asked it too):


Complicated question:


"God, could You, a holy God and heart-broken by the bad things that go on in the world, enjoy talking to an ordinary human being like me, ignoring all the failures I've had through life? Do You really show mercy instead of punishing me, just because I asked you for to forgive me for Jesus' sake?"


Simple answer:


You might think that's too simple answer for such a deep theological question. So here's a Scripture that asks that question and really does give a clear and understandable answer:

"Who then will condemn us? Will Christ Jesus?"

No, for He is the one who died for us and was raised to life for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us.


"Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death?"

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours
through Christ, who loved us. . . . .

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love.
Death can't, and life can't.
The angels can't, and the demons can't.
Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow,
And even the powers of hell
can't separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus
Romans 8:35-38 (nlt)


Like Dr. Seuss said, sometimes heart-agonizing, difficult questions have simple and comforting answers!


August 12, 2019


A Hairpin, an Electrical Outlet, and a Four-Year-Old
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford


I was taking care of a little boy while his mother went to a doctor's appointment. My house isn't as child-proof as it was when my seven were small, so I knew I'd have to keep a pretty sharp eye on this kid, bright and winsome as he was.

He found a stray hairpin. He noticed its two little prongs, so he looked around for something to poke them into. Yep, there

 was an electrical outlet, with two little holes just the right size to fit the prongs!


"No, child," I said gaily, thinking I could distract him. "Not that. Why don't you give me the hairpin and we'll go play with the ball?"


His little body stiffened. Finders were keepers, and he'd found the hairpin and the electrical socket, and he didn't relish giving them up. He looked at me, looked at the outlet, and took a tentative step toward it.


"No," I said firmly.


He noticed a socket on the opposite wall. He stood there motionless, hairpin in hand, and seemed to ask, "This one O.K.?" "No," I said again. "Come on, let's go outside."


He went into the dining room, found another outlet. Did she really mean every outlet? "No, son. Not that one, either. It will hurt you."


Once more he found another outlet. Did she mean that one, too?


"Yes, that one, too. " I said firmly. "No hairpin in any outlet anywhere in this house."


I confiscated the hairpin and we went for a nice walk outside.

Why didn't the child want to obey me? He didn't trust me. He thought I didn't want him to have fun. He didn't believe me when I said that sticking the pin in the socket would hurt him.


That's a human-being kind of failing. Moses reminded the Israelites, in Deuteronomy 9:23, "When the LORD said ‘Go up and possess the land I have given you,' you rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and you did not believe Him nor obey His voice."


Psalm 106:24,25 tells us that "The people refused to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn't believe His promise to care for them. Instead, they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey the Lord."


God has given us clear instructions in His Word, things we ought to do because they will help us; things to avoid because they will hurt us. But we humans tend not to trust Him, so we sometimes don't obey Him. We seem to think He decided arbitrarily what was right and wrong just to keep us from having fun!

But if anything in this universe is trustworthy, it certainly our Father/God. He has proved His love and His faithfulness to every human being He ever created. King David wrote,


For the word of the LORD holds true,
and everything He does
is worthy of our trust.
Psalm 33:4 nlt.


If we find ourselves thinking God isn't trustworthy and so resist obeying Him, perhaps it's time to examine our reasoning. Are the rules given only because God doesn't love us? Does He thwart our plans for happiness because He's masochistic? Is it really possible that the God who created us with such love now wants us to be unhappy? Or does He deeply desire our welfare and future joy? Oughtn't I to obey Him gladly and completely, trusting in His love and faithfulness, His goodness and wisdom?

Or shall I keep trying to stick a hairpin into a live electrical outlet?



August 5, 2019


She Didn't Appreciate All He Did for Her
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford


He's a young man, probably in his early thirties. He works steadily at a decent, medium-paying job. His mother is widowed and works at an entry-level job with few benefits. He is concerned for her welfare. He often pays her bills. When her automobile needs repairs, he sees about it. He is trying to give her security by buying her a house, when, and if, he can find one that satisfies her standards.


How does she respond? Always with an objection of some kind. Nothing he does is ever quite good enough. Sure, she's glad he cares about her, but why doesn't he do more? Can't he see she needs something else? Why doesn't he do that, too?

It breaks his heart, because he's doing everything within his power to give her security and make her happy. He asked me what I thought he could do better.

I could tell her that she ought to thank God for the wonderful son He has given her. Not every mother receives that kind of loving concern from a child. I might give her a little lecture - I'm pretty good at lecturing - about being grateful for what God has given her. I could quote First Thessalonians 5:18 to her: "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." But then she hasn't asked for my advice.

So what can I tell him that would ease his load of guilt, feeling that he doesn't do enough? What would comfort him for all the unappreciated sacrifices he has made? A good place to start might be Ephesians 6:6-8 (nlt):


As slaves of Christ,
do the will of God with all your heart.
Work with enthusiasm,
as though you were working for the Lord
rather than for people.
Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us
for the good we do,
Whether we are slaves or free.


I said to him, "Son, whether your mother appreciates it or not, I promise you that the Lord Jesus has seen every kind thing you've done for her. He is pleased with you, even if she isn't. And He is going to reward you for all you've done. So keep doing right because you love the Lord Jesus, and because He loves you."

This Scripture may be what God wants you to hear today, too. You may be working sincerely and at personal cost at something the one you're serving doesn't value. It may be a family member, a neighbor, a friend, someone at church, or perhaps a fellow-worker.


Should you just quit trying? Yes, perhaps, if you are actually hurting them by enabling them to continue in selfish ungratefulness.

Should you just quit trying? No, not if God Himself laid the burden on you. But why not change your focus? As the Scripture above says, "Work as though you were working for the Lord, rather than for people." God sees what you are doing. He knows your heart. He senses your sincere motivation. So do it for Him. I promise you, He will reward your faithfulness. So, yes, keep on doing right, whether it is appreciated or not. Do it for Jesus' sake!