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But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

-1 Samuel 16:7

When my husband and I were considering retirement locations, I immediately ruled out Florida because I never wanted to have to deal with a hurricane threat.

Three weeks ago, we had to deal with a hurricane threat when Hurricane Harvey charged into the Texas coastline. Thankfully, by the time Harvey made it to the Hill Country, it was a tropical storm that dropped a mere 6” on us over three days. But the experience of watching a hurricane approach, not knowing where it would leave a trail of destruction, will be one I don’t soon forget.

Everyone in the path of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma won’t forget it, either. My heart (and many donations for relief) go out to all those who are suffering the aftereffects of losing homes and normalcy, and I’m grateful I’m not in that situation. The possibility of losing so much in the blink of a hurricane’s eye, however, does make me consider what I treasure most in life, and it’s not my cellphone or even my family photos. The material stuff is window dressing, and while I would miss my favorite kitchen knife and cutting board or the bowl my daughter made for me in her high school ceramics class, and it would be awful to have to replace a car and a home, it’s all transitory. People themselves, and my relationships with them, are what matter most to me, and as long as they survive, I’m okay.

I don’t know if anyone says it better than Jesus did as quoted in both Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34 – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” May we all recognize the true treasures in our lives and thank God for them!

Jan Dunlap is the author of the new suspense novel Heaven’s Gate: Archangels Book I, the bestselling memoir Saved by Gracie: How a Rough-and-tumble Rescue Dog Dragged Me Back to Health, Happiness and God (Authentic Publishing) and the acclaimed Birder Murder Mystery series (North Star Press, Inc.). She holds MA degrees in Theology and English Studies and lives in the Hill Country of Texas where she spends every clear night marveling at the stars and the brilliance of God’s creation. She is a frequent contributor to FaithHappenings.com and welcomes visitors at www.jandunlap.com and on Facebook at her two author pages BirderMurderMama and Archangels.

More of Jan Dunlap: http://www.jandunlap.com/

And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?

Faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour transforms us from a shallow meaningless person into one filled with the Spirit of God. If we are born again and the Spirit resides within us, our religion ought to be as full of meaning as our lives are full of the Spirit. How terrible to see many religions in which there is absolute meaninglessness because of spiritual ritualism. Jesus encountered this very same thing in His day as well.

The Pharisees were always guilty of practicing an empty religion. This is why John the Baptist called them a "generation of vipers" (Matthew 3:7). The Pharisees were constantly interested in keeping the ceremonial law, but they had the wrong heart attitude toward God. When Jesus called Matthew to discipleship, the Pharisees were right there to question the Lord's disciples, "Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?" (Matthew 9:11). When He cast a demon out of a man who was dumb, the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out devils through the power of the prince of the devils (Matthew 9:34).

Always the Pharisees were seeking a sign from Jesus that He was the Messiah. Time and again He refused to give them such a sign saying that the sign of Jonah was all they would need. His resurrection after a death of three days would be the great sign to them that He was indeed the Messiah. If they would not believe that sign, neither would they believe any other.

At Magdala Jesus again encountered the Pharisees, this time in league with the Sadducees and Herodians, who again asked Him for a sign. As before, Jesus refused to give them such a sign but at the same time He taught them something about the emptiness and blindness of their spiritual ritualism. Jesus noted that the Pharisees and Sadducees could read the weather signs in the heavens. He said, "When it is evening you say, it will be fair weather for the sky is red." This is comparable to our axiom, "Red sky at night, sailor's delight." But Jesus continued, "And in the morning it will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring" (Matthew 16:3). Or, as we would say, "Red sky in morning, sailors take warning."

Jesus then concluded with the assessment, "O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" These religious leaders could read the skies with the best astronomers and mariners, but could not recognize that Jesus was the Messiah. This was where their expertise should have been, but because they had been involved so long with empty formalism instead of meaningful activity in carrying God's love to the world, they did not have the eyes of faith with which to see Jesus as their Saviour.

An item from a church bulletin clearly points out the inconsistency of pious religion which does not follow through in meeting the needs of people. It is a satirical rephrasing of Matthew 25: "I was famished and you formed a humanitarian club to discuss my hunger...I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your church to pray for my release. I was naked and you debated the morality of my unseemly appearance. I was sick and you knew it, yet did nothing but thank God for your own health. I was homeless and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God. I was lonely and you left me by myself while you went and prayed for me. You seemed so holy, so close to God; but I am still very hungry, desolate, and cold!"

While the Pharisees had all the trappings of religion, all the robes, all the religious paraphernalia, they had none of the heart, none of what true religion is all about. Yet today as well there are many churches and denominations that have all the trap-pings of religion but none of the heart of the Lord Jesus. It is up to each of us to make sure that we attend faithfully those churches which show the heart of the Lord Jesus and not the heart of the Pharisee. Is your church following Jesus or following the Pharisees? Is your religion practical? Make it a point to pray for your church today.

MORNING HYMN 
All Thy works with joy surround Thee, 
Earth and Heav'n reflect Thy rays, 
Stars and angels sing around Thee, 
Center of unbroken praise.

By Woodrow Kroll. Devotional is used with permission from the author. It may be used solely for personal, noncommercial, and informational purposes. Republication or redistribution of this devotional is prohibited.

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

On the Verge of Collapse -   

This devotional was written by Jim Liebelt

 

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ. —Galatians 6:2

On August 1, 2007, a typical afternoon commute across the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, turned tragic when suddenly and without warning, the bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River below. 13 people died and 145 were injured. Frankly, it was amazing so many people whose vehicles plunged into the river survived.

When we think about bridges, the vast majority of us never give a moment’s thought to whether or not they are structurally sound. We simply drive across them. It’s such a matter of trust for us that we don’t even consider the possibility that they might not be safe.

Think of the many people around you everyday, including the people who make up your world of relationships. Some bear the physical scars of life and some don’t. Most of us don’t give a moment’s thought to what is going on in the lives of those around us. Yet, many people bear tremendous emotional and spiritual damage – interior damage that few, if any of us, see. Like an unsound bridge that looks normal, but is critically damaged in places unseen, most appear as though all is well in their lives. Yet, some teeter at the brink of collapse from the wounds that have weakened them.

In the Minneapolis bridge collapse, heroes emerged: People caught on the collapsed bridge and rescue workers who quickly arrived at the scene. These were people who courageously put their own lives at risk to help those caught up in the tragedy. What a great reminder that we, as Christ-followers, are called to be spiritual and emotional rescue workers in the lives of those around us.

In the New Testament book of Jude, we read, “Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy…” (Jude 22-23, NLT)

Today, decide to look below the surface of the lives of people in your world. Chances are, there is someone you know who needs your support. Through your love and care, you can help to prevent someone from suffering collapse.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. Who, in your world of relationships, can benefit from your support and care?

2. Specifically, identify a way that you can help carry someone else’s burden today.

 

FURTHER READING:

Hebrews 3:13; 10:25; 12:14-15; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:8

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

Opening Your Eyes -  

This devotional was written by Kelly McFadden

 

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. —Psalm 82:3

 

Driving through Lagos, Nigeria—one of the largest cities in the world—was quite an adventure. Driving through the traffic of the busy roads was like walking through a swap meet. Hundreds of people stationed themselves on these busy city streets doing their best to offer their goods to travelers passing by in order to make their livings. The longer we rode in the car, the less I looked out my window, keeping my eyes looking forward.

 

On one particularly slow traffic day (it took an hour to drive two miles), the amount of people that came by our car was uncountable. It is easy to say “no” again and again for goods you don’t want or need, but it is much harder to say “no” to the small child who knocks on your window asking for money for food, to the crippled man on a skateboard rolling between cars hoping someone will give him some money, or the young girl who walked a blind gentleman past the car and asked if we could spare some change. Stories like these are commonplace in Lagos and all over the world. It got so bad that, at one point, I simply closed my eyes because I couldn’t look anymore.

 

It is easy to feel helpless to the woes of the world. There are so many needy people all around us. But, the answer is not to live a life doing what I did in the car that day. We should not shut our eyes to the sorrows and the needs of those who are oppressed and in need. As Christians, we are called to reach out to those who have nothing and to serve others without expectation of repayment. The Bible tells us to defend the weak and maintain the rights of the poor.

 

Although it is not realistic for people to hand money to each person they pass, there are things we can do. First, open your eyes. Be ready when the Lord provides an opportunity to help someone. Second, do your part. Alone, none of us will solve the world’s poverty. But together, each of us doing our part through volunteering or giving, we can help make a difference in the lives of those we come in contact with. Don’t shut your eyes, as I did in Lagos, because it feels overwhelming. Rather, open them to see that the Lord gave each of us the power to give back, no matter our circumstances.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. What are you doing to help the poor in your community?

 

2. How can you make sure you keep your eyes open to the work the Lord has for you to do with His people?

 

FURTHER READING:

1 Samuel 2:8; Proverbs 19:17; Luke 14:7-14

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

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