February 2020 Devotionals

Feburary 17, 2020


An Odd Conversation on My Closed-Caption Telephone
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford


Since I can't hear well, even with my new hearing aids, the state of South Carolina has loaned me a closed caption 

telephone. It types out what my caller is saying. Occasionally it doesn't hear well either. It often says, "Words garbled." And once in a while it makes a really odd mistake.


The other day I was talking with my sister Joanna. She told me one of her friends had died. My closed-caption phone typed out her words as, "She was such a wonderful criminal."


Criminal? How can a woman be both criminal and wonderful?


Joanna had really said, "She was such a wonderful Christian."


In many places in the world Christians are considered criminals, but not, thank God, in our dear country. Still, sometimes we Christians are misunderstood because we live in an upside-down culture, where evil seems good and good seems bad. Isaiah 5:20 says, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness." Yes, sometimes, even in our culture, wrong is praised as right.


I personally believe (though many good Christians differ with me, and have a right to do so) in the sanctity of a one man/one woman marriage. I am accused of being hateful. (My homosexual friends would tell you how deeply I care about them.)


I believe every human being is valuable to God, so some perceive me as denying a woman the right to make a decision about her own body. (I am deeply moved by the Scriptures that tell us Elizabeth's unborn baby, John the Baptist, leaped in her womb for joy when the mother of the unborn baby Jesus, the Messiah, walked into the room-Luke 1:43,44.)


I grieved at the sensual exploitation of young women in the halftime show of this year's superbowl game. It seemed to me to teach little girls they need to flaunt their bodies in order to secure approval and fame. (But, because of that show, they may grow up only to become part of the #MeToo generation of women who've been abused.) So am I a kill-joy of innocent entertainment?


What can a Christian to do in this upside-down world? Yield to the pressures of the culture? God's Word, in First Peter 2:12,10 has an answer for that.


Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors.
Even if they accuse you of doing wrong,
they will see your honorable behavior, and
they will believe and give honor to God when He comes to visit us. . . .
For God is pleased with you when, for the sake of your conscience,
you patiently endure unfair treatment.


It's a part of the Christian life: doing right, loving others, protesting wrongs, and protecting people who can't protect themselves. We will often be misunderstood even when we are trying our best to live honorably. God willing, someday they will understand. Meanwhile, we have God's sweet assurance that He is pleased with us.


Oh, yes. A note to my dear closed-caption telephone that doesn't always very hear well itself: could you please at least try to distinguish the word Christian from criminal? I was already confused!




February 10, 2020


Sometimes the Load Is Just Too Heavy to Bear
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford


If you met her, you wouldn't sense the burden my friend struggles with day after day. She's in upper management in the company she works for. The welfare of dozens of employees rests on her shoulders alone as she makes vital decisions day by day.


You wouldn't guess that her burdens at home were just as great. In addition to her own family, she has the sole care of her Down-Syndrome adult brother. She tries to give him as much freedom as possible, but he, not surprisingly, has no sense of the consequences of his actions. She is always anxious that he will unknowingly put himself and her family in danger. She fears she cannot keep him safe. Her loving husband earnestly tries his best to share her burdens. Still never a day goes by but what she feels overwhelmed. There seems to be no honorable way she can shrug off any of her responsibilities.


When we talked together the other day, we wept together. I had no glib answers for her. I couldn't say, "It will all work out just fine. Just don't worry." That's like telling a drowning man that if he'll just think positively he'll be fine. Psychotherapy wouldn't diminish her very real burdens. Nor would simply "meditating" of itself change anything.


You may carry the same kinds of heavy burden, for your children, for your spouse, for how to earn a living, things you care passionately about. And you may feel you have no answers.

God has put me in a place recently, as the years have rolled by, so that I am acutely aware that I don't have the strength, the skills, or the wisdom, to do life alone. So I've been learning (again!) to claim His promise to give me His strength, His wisdom, His endurance. Here's the Scripture God has been speaking to my heart: Psalm 55:22 (nlt):


"Give your burdens to the LORD,
and He will take care of you.
He will not permit the righteous to slip and fall."


You can count on God's promise to keep you safe. (Do you fear you don't meet the "righteous" part of that promise? Remember that if you have come to Christ for forgiveness of your sins, God gave it to you, and you are now "righteous" in His sight.)


The New King James translation puts this command more strongly: "‘Cast' your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you." This burden is so very heavy, this Scripture seems to say, you couldn't pick it up to "give it" to the Lord. All you could do is nudge it tiredly over onto Him. This Scripture promises that God "will sustain you." He will carry the load for you. You don't have to carry that terrible burden in your own strength. God has all power; He is able to do it for you. And God loves you so much, He eagerly waits for you to ask for His help. And God is so wise, He knows best how to meet every need.

An affirming Scripture in the New Testament says exactly the same thing.


Casting all your care upon Him,
for He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7


Has your load been too heavy to bear? Do you live with the terrible weight of the welfare of others constantly on your heart? Then relinquish it to Jesus. Tell Him you're yielding it to Him. Let Him do for you what you cannot humanly possibly do yourself. And when you discover that you have taken back the burden you left with Him, as you most surely will, consciously yield it to Him again.
God promised you, "Cast your care on Him, because He cares for you." And God always, always keeps His promises.


February 3, 2020


Why Didn't God Use Good Grammar?

A Confession of Ignorance by Elizabeth Handford


I was five years old when I learned the song, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." I was glad that Jesus loves me, and I was especially glad that God had told me so in the Bible, so I could know it was true.


But when I got to fifth grade, in our family Bible reading one morning, we read Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."


If you'd have been in Miss Rose's fifth-grade class at James Bowie school, you'd have learned, as I did, that the subject and verb of a sentence must agree. So "wages," plural, needs a plural verb, not "is." That really bothered me. How come God didn't know good grammar?


You're laughing at my smart-alecky, childish naiveté. You know the Bible was written in Hebrew, not English, so if there was a mistake, it was the translator's, not God's. There are rules, too, about compound nouns and intransitive verbs, but I didn't know about those, either. In my ignorance I nearly accused my all-wise God of ignorance when I was the ignorant one. It could have soured my trust in the Word of God if Daddy hadn't taught me that I would never be smart enough to understand everything in the Bible. King David came to realize this when he wrote Psalm 131:


Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty.
I don't concern myself with matters too great or awesome for me.
But I have stilled and quieted myself,
just as a small child is quiet with its mother.
Yes, like a small child is my soul within me.


David says, "Sometimes I don't understand God's dealings with me! Sometimes I don't understand something I read in the Bible. But I'm not going to worry about stuff I'm not smart enough to understand."


When I was a junior in a secular high school, I faced a similar crisis of faith. My teachers taught Darwin's theory of evolution as fact. That contradicted the Bible account that God created the world in seven days, and that an animal would produced offspring "according to its kind," (Genesis 1:24,25), rather than evolve as Darwin speculated.


It troubled me so much I checked Darwin's "Origin of the Species" out of the library, and began to read it. I was afraid that Darwin might be right, but I longed for the Bible to be proven true! I came to chapter six, where Darwin discusses "Difficulties with My Theory." Darwin lists dozens of facts that flatly oppose his theory. Those "difficulties" are still unanswered by evolutionists today. Darwin himself was so shaken by them that he wrote, "A crowd of difficulties will have occurred to my readers and some are so serious that to this day I can hardly reflect on them without being in some degree staggered." I put down the book with a deep sigh of relief. I could trust God's Word.


Even now, I tell myself to stop worrying about things I can't understand, things "too hard for me." There are passages of Scripture I may never understand in this life. Things happen I find hard to reconcile with what I know about my loving God. That's when I must trust Him, His love, His grace, His eternal patience, like a baby rests, cradled in his mother's arms.


And that's when I sing "Jesus Loves Me" with the simplicity of a little child's faith,

Yes, Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so!"