Devotional

Called to Be Free

Called to Be Free

You, my brothers were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. GALATIANS 5:13 You’re ordering at the drive-thru window when you hear the words, “Would you like to super-size that?” Your old nature screams, “Yes, and hurry!” as your new nature urges you to pretend you didn’t hear and drive through quickly. Every day is a battle. The temptation of the food industry’s lure and the desire to make healthy choices is a constant clash. Most of us have the luxury of well-fed bodies. But our spirits are starving. That unsatisfied feeling in us is the new nature craving to be fed with the Word of God. Think about it. Who loves you more? Who will not lie to you—the billion dollar food industry that deceives us with colorful packaging and the promises of advertising, or

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Spiritually Warm

Spiritually Warm

I was out on my two-mile run on a brisk October morning, dressed in layers and using Dick Eastman’s prayer prompt as I ran. I spend three to four minutes on each of these topics: praise, waiting, confession, Scripture praying, watching, intercession, petition, thanksgiving, singing, meditation, listening, and praise again. As I was on the “watching” portion, I saw a small group of birds flying through our neighborhood. I sensed that I should extend my watching, when off in the distance the small group of birds joined with a larger flock to fly in a migratory pattern. How amazing to see a large group of birds flying as one flock, swooping and swaying together in the quiet of the morning. God reminded me that when we meet in First Place 4 Health groups, we are preparing ourselves to become part of the larger flock. And when we come together in

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Right Living

Right Living

Learn to do right; seek justice, defend the oppressed.  Take up the case of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. ISAIAH 1:17 I was at a friend’s home once whose kitchen stove had a ceramic stovetop. The burner was on, but because it wasn’t red, I touched it to see if it was hot. Was it ever! I spent the next few hours with four of my fingers immersed in ice to alleviate the pain. Most of us learn to do right by many instances of doing wrong. In the early years of my walk with Christ, I learned to do right by running into a brick wall over and over again. When the pain became great enough, I finally thought about what I might be doing wrong. This applied to finances, marriage, raising children and relationships. Doing life wrong is a great teacher if we learn from our mistakes.

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A Higher Love

A Higher Love

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 1 JOHN 3:11  Most Christians, if they have been a believer for any length of time, know that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; and the second is like it—love your neighbor as yourself. However, Jesus says in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Whoa! This loving our neighbor as we love ourselves is hard enough, but Jesus is now saying to not just love like we love, but love like Jesus loves! John, who was in the room when Jesus revealed this new command, emphasizes it again in the verse above. This love is not a brotherly love, but an agapao love—a God-like love. It is a love that

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The New is Here!

The New is Here!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17  Ever since I was a kid, I have loved a blank page and a sharpened pencil. Back then, I drew pictures and practiced my writing skills. Today I feel a wonderful thrill when I start a new journal or notebook. I like it so much that my shelves are full of half-full journals, each one with dozens of empty pages at the end. I simply can’t wait to start over. Imagine the possibilities of a fresh new book with untouched pages waiting for rich, beautiful words. I write new goals, new lists, new thoughts, and notes. I carefully copy meaningful Bible verses and then pencil in quotes that inspire me. It’s such fun to start anew. I feel the same sensation when I open a new First Place

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Prince of Peace

Prince of Peace

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.  Isaiah 9:6  Halloween is barely over when magazines and Pinterest boards fill with ideas for Christmas. Martha Stewart is cooking up a feast that cannot possibly be recreated without a staff of sous chefs. The recipes for cookies and cakes and pastries are endless. In my first years of marriage, I bought Good Housekeeping and tried to replicate their Christmas décor, never realizing the budget for those rooms was more than we made in a year. My scaled-down efforts always ended up deeply disappointing. One year I went all out and made a two-story gingerbread house, complete with sugar-glazed windows and electric lighting. Unfortunately, I was so exhausted when I finished that I could hardly wrap gifts or

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Persistence, Not Perfection

Persistence, Not Perfection

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. HEBREWS 10:24   Years ago, in my first session of First Place 4 Health, my leader, Joy Huber, spoke a word of encouragement to our group that has ministered to me ever since. She told us that our First Place 4 Health journey was about “persistence, not perfection.” She would continue to speak that encouragement over us that entire session. My heart’s desire was to learn everything I could about the program and follow it without fail. But in my struggles along the way, Joy’s encouraging words echoed in my mind—it’s persistence, not perfection. I am so thankful to the Lord for using Joy in such a practical way that continues to minister to me as well as to our First Place 4 Health group. Temptation will rise, faulty thinking can make us feel entrapped,

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Praise Worthy Patience

Praise Worthy Patience

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. PROVERBS 19:11 When I looked at this verse, I could easily understand that a wise person is a patient person. But what does it mean when it says, “It is to his glory to overlook an offense”? One of the dictionaries says that glory is a “highly praiseworthy asset.”  Another said that glory is “great honor and admiration won by doing something important or valuable.” God must think it is a big deal when you and I overlook offenses! How many times are we offended each day? Think about yesterday. Did someone say something rude or hurtful to you? Did someone not do something he or she promised to do? Did a friend fail to include you? Did someone cut you off in traffic? Did someone fail to thank you for a favor? All of

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Sincere Hearts

Sincere Hearts

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. HEBREWS 3:13   One of the aspects I enjoy the most about a First Place 4 Health Wellness Week is being secluded and shielded from the world for seven days. The absence of electronic devices and newspapers, having freedom to enjoy or decline programmed activities, and seeing the openness of attendees and the authenticity of the staff all combine to encourage me with its atmosphere of love and sincere concern. It is in this setting, among like-minded people, that my broken heart (broken over concern for a fractured family relationship) was healed, my spirit refreshed and my mind renewed. When I arrived at Wellness Week, I wasn’t aware of the need buried deep in the crevices of my heart. But words spoken during the outdoor worship service pricked

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Don’t Give In

Don't Give In

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you ago. Joshua 1:9   All of us know what it feels like to be discouraged; it is an experience that needs little explanation.  Life seems to spin out of control, our inner resources are depleted, and we feel like we’re running on empty.  However, what we often fail to realize when the fog rolls in, stripping us of our zest for life, is that discouragement signals the need for immediate action—for discouragement is always a call to run swiftly to the Word of God.  As much as we may want to give into feelings of defeat during times of discouragement, we must instead muster our courage and take decisive action.  It is essential that we take steps to defuse our discouragement before it turns into depression and

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