The Good Part--It's a Choice

I'm in the midst of leading a group of ladies through my ABC devotional in which every letter of the alphabet has a Biblical phrase to live by ( Today we came to the Letter "L" and I thought I would share it with all of you. It's a familiar story, but as we enter a New Year, let's hear it again for the purpose of choosing "the good part" from the "get go"...

Loving Lord of my Life? Synopsis of Luke 10:38-42.

In the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, Jesus was speaking to a room full of people who were hungry to hear truth. His words were full of life and peace, so the crowd sat a His feet, feasting on every word. Meanwhile, Martha was scurrying back and forth in the kitchen preparing food for the people. When she looked up and saw Mary sitting at Jesus' feet, she became indignant. She asked Jesus, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." Jesus, who loved Martha dearly, said in response, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered by so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one…". At this particular time, Martha was allowing the distractions of the world to keep Jesus from being the Lord of her life.

Loving Lord of my Life! Synopsis of Luke 10:38-42 (same passage).

Jesus continued His conversation with Martha and pointed to her sister saying, "For Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Mary often sat at the feet of Jesus in order to hear His soothing words; they had become life and peace to her soul. She intentionally chose to make room in her life to be still before Him so she could receive His words of grace and guidance; for Jesus, friend of sinners, had become the Lord of her life.

In comparing these two sisters, both friends of Jesus, here are a few questions:

Who do I most resemble, Martha or Mary?

What are my main distractions in my life today?

Do I want to sit still with the Lord Jesus, with His living word?

Ugh, the Martha/Mary story. Oh so convicting at times! Interestingly, my post writing was delayed because I have been scurrying back and forth a lot lately. Whew, I'm tired. Then I hear the words, "(Chris, Chris) you are worried and bothered by so many things…". How quickly I can get off track.Thankfully, Jesus waits for me to be still, both body and soul. I must remember that my morning quiet time with Him is the most productive thing I do all day. There, I make Him the Lord of my life all over again-- listening to His words of healing and hope, obeying Him when He tells me to pick things up or put things down, trusting Him with my Edited agenda. When I am filled up in this way, my heart and mind are different; the scurrying and worrying are changed to peace and prayer, and the things I do become an act of worship rather than a list of frustrations. The day, all day, belongs to my Lord.

Make a intentional decision to be still; choose the one necessary thing…the good part…it will not be taken away from you. Slow down to a complete stop, then really listen at Jesus' feet, so you can be refreshed in truth and rerouted in love. He is waiting especially for you.

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Saturday, January 14, 2023
By Chris Baxter

ABC: Ask and Accept

Several years ago, I wrote a devotional entitled Awesome Biblical Concepts, a Devotional for Every Family. This devotional offers a challenging phrase using alliteration, and then expounds on it by looking at two different Bible stories, each one teaching us how to, or how not to live. I hope you will be encouraged by God’s Word along with these alphabetical phrases.

So, let us begin with A: Ask and Accept.

Ask and Accept?
A synopsis of Mark 10:17-22.

There once was a rich young ruler who approached Jesus asking, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus, knowing the pride in this man’s heart, and the dependence he had on himself in following rules and gaining wealth, said to him, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” At this, the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. This rich young ruler asked, but did not accept Jesus’ offer of true and abundant life. He was too full already.

Ask and Accept! A synopsis of John 4:1-42.

However, there once was a Samaritan woman who went to a well to draw water. There, she met Jesus who was waiting to meet with her. Jesus, because He was God in the flesh, could see into her heart; He knew she was a lost and lonely woman. While at the well, He looked her in the eyes and gently told her that He cared. He offered her His living water, telling her that if she drank of it, she would never thirst again. With eagerness she asked for this water; and with joy she accepted Jesus as the Messiah. As a result, she ran to tell the whole city about Him, causing many others to believe.

When looking at these two contrasting stories, the challenging questions to us today are:

Will I ask and accept? I must realize that when I ask for His way, I must deny my own.

Do I believe His path is better, more rich and full than what I can accumulate by myself?

Will I lay down my selfish ambitions and my ruling addictions, and hold out my empty hands and my humbled heart for Him to fill in His time and in His way?

Take note of the rich young ruler; he walked away with his pockets full, yet downcast, while the Samaritan woman, left her water pot behind and ran to the city with her heart overflowing with joy.

Ask and Accept, my friend.

Receive His gifts of love, joy, and peace.

Embrace his forgiveness, redemption, and power,

His beauty, guidance, and grace.

Fill your vessel with all of who He is; resist the fleeting things of this world.

Hear Him say to you personally, “Whoever drinks of the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

Ask and accept, drink and be filled, savor and be satisfied.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016
By Chris Baxter

ABC: Believe and Be Bold

In keeping with our ABC phrases, A is "Ask and Accept", and now B is "Believe and Be Bold."

Believe and Be Bold? A synopsis of Jonah 1:1-17.

The Lord said to Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah rose up… found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. And the Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up… At Jonah’s command, the reluctant sailors hurled Jonah into to the sea and it became calm. And then mercifully, the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah. Jonah believed in God, but chose not to be bold in his faith. He actually ran in the opposite direction.

Believe and Be Bold! A synopsis of 1 Samuel 17.

However, there once was a young shepherd boy named David. His father ordered him to take food to his brothers who were soldiers in the Israelite army. David went to the Valley of Elah, only to find the Israelites full of fear and dismay concerning the Philistines. Their champion-giant Goliath had been jeering them, morning and evening for forty days. Young David, uninhibited by the giant, said, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” Because David believed in his God and was bold in his faith, he picked up his sling and five stones and ran quickly toward the battle line. There in the Elah Valley, Goliath fell on his face to the ground, struck by a single stone that sank into his forehead.

When contrasting these two stories, the questions are:

When I hear uncomfortable or “impossible” instructions from the Lord, will I believe and be bold?

Will I run away from Him like Jonah, or will I run toward the battle line like David? Jonah tried to flee the presence of the Lord, which of course is impossible; David, however, was fully assured that his God was not only with him, but also that His power was going to do the impossible through him.

I encourage you to know your God and wholeheartedly believe in all of who he is; and then, move steadily forward in boldness, knowing that he will be both present and active in all that he has asked you to do. If you choose this route, both you and all those around you will be blessed.

So decide today to run to your battle line, because faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. (I Thessalonians 5:24)

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016
By Chris Baxter

ABC: Call on Christ

My last two posts were entitled:
Ask and Accept
Believe and Be Bold
Today it’s, Call on Christ.

Call on Christ? Synopsis of Mark 10:32-45.

Jesus was once walking towards Jerusalem with two of His disciples, James and John. After Jesus finished explaining very clearly to them that He would soon be condemned to death, they quickly changed the subject, disregarding Jesus’ important words about His future. Instead, these two brothers were focused on themselves, and from this self-centered mindset, they said, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And Jesus said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” James and John asked to sit on either side of His throne when He came to power. They called on Christ to do something for their own glory, not God’s glory; therefore, Jesus could not give them what they wanted.

Call on Christ! Synopsis of Mark 10:46-52

However, there once was a blind man named Bartimaeus. As Jesus was heading to Jerusalem with his disciples, they could hear Bartimaeus crying out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many were sternly insisting that he stop his cries, but he persisted in calling on Christ, whom he believed to be the Messiah (this is why he called Jesus the “Son of David”). Jesus heard Bartimaeus and answered him by saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man quickly responded, “Rabboni (meaning ‘my Master’), I want to regain my sight.” Jesus chose to heal Bartimaeus’ blind eyes because of his faith-filled heart. Once he regained his sight, Bartimaeus began to follow Jesus on the road, bringing glory to his Healer, instead of glory to himself.

When looking at these two contrasting stories, here are some questions:

Am I seeking God?

Am I asking God for something solely for my selfish ambition or fleshly pleasure?

What is the motive behind my request?

I'm convicted. Often, I catch myself asking the Lord for things that are centered around me: my comfortable lifestyle, my trial-free plans, my definition of success, my timing for my kid's future, on and on. Much like the disciples in the above story, I have an agenda and I want God to fill it, sooner than later. And if God says “no”, I’m confused and hurt.

But then, the Lord speaks, calling me to remember who he is, and reminding me that he indeed wants to bless me in his own purposeful way. Like Bartimeaus, He wants to open my eyes to his grace and to his glory which is far better than any self-driven achievement or sole-human pleasure that I could hope for. Bartimeus' physical healing was pointing us to his wide-eyed faith in his Savior.

Call on Christ! Fully trust him to do beautiful things in your life, things that will both benefit your character as well as bless those around you. He cannot answer our selfish prayers because he loves us too much. He wants to give you and me much more than we can ever imagine as we seek him with a whole heart.

He wants to give us ...his way, his truth, and his life. You and I are meant to be filled with his glory.

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations. Ephesians 3:20-21

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016
By Chris Baxter

ABC: Delightfully Do

My three previous posts are:
Ask and Accept
Believe and Be Bold
Call on Christ.
Today, it’s Delightfully Do.

Delightfully Do?
Synopsis of Genesis 2:16-17 and Genesis 3

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). He also created Adam and Eve and had a sweet personal relationship with them in the perfect garden called Eden. He had made them in His image, and told them to enjoy and cultivate the garden. He also told them they could eat from any of the trees except for one. His reason for this boundary was because he loved them: “You shall not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or you will surely die.” Sadly, instead of delightfully doing what God decreed, both Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord. Having been tricked by the serpent, they doubted God's word and ate from the tree. As a result, both sin and death entered the world. They were forced to leave the garden, yet not without the promise of a future Redeemer.  

Delightfully Do! Synopsis of Genesis 6:5-22; 7:15-17

However, there once was a man named Noah. He loved God, and obeyed Him. Noah was living in a time when the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence… every intent of the thoughts of (mankind’s) heart was only evil continually…And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart…But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. God told Noah to build an arc for himself and his family because He was going to send a great flood to blot out the violence of mankind. Noah, who was human and most likely experienced days of doubt, chose to push that feeling aside and instead do what God asked of him. I wonder, did he "whistle while he worked" to help ignore the mocking around him? Not a bad idea! We do know this: as a result of his active obedience, the arc was built, he and his family entered in, and they and the selected living creatures were safe from the great flood that covered the earth. (*Good news, Noah's arc points to the Jesus' cross. Just as the arc saved them physically, so does our faith in Christ spiritually. Let's enter in!)

When looking at these two contrasting stories from Scripture, here are some questions:

Do I "delightfully do" what God says in His word?

Can I simply trust Him when His commands seem questionable?

What is one thing I can do today, choosing an attitude of "delight" rather than "doubt"?

God said to Adam, “Don’t eat”, because He knew it would bring death. And He said to Noah, “Build a boat”, because He knew it would save his life. God’s words to us are written with the same intent. He loves us and knows what is best for us. He has given us His living word for our protection not our punishment. His ordained boundaries are full of eventual blessings.

Choose to delightfully do even when it’s hard, or I should say, especially when it’s hard. Remember, He has the best in mind for you. Through the power of His abiding Spirit, choose to trust and obey.

I will run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart. Psalm 119:32

Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors. Psalm 119:24

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Monday, December 12, 2016
By Chris Baxter

ABC: Eagerly Exclaim

The ABC posts continue. To review: Ask and Accept, Believe and Be Bold, Call on Christ, Delightfully Do. Today, it’s Eagerly Exclaim!

Eagerly Exclaim? Synopsis of 1 Samuel 2:12-16, 27-35.

There once was a priest named Eli who served in the temple of the Lord. God had chosen him and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, to carry out the duties of the sacrificial offerings of the Israelite people. This priestly role was a high honor and privilege; yet, Eli and his sons disrespected the ordained position. Instead of offering a burnt sacrifice of meat to the Lord for the people, Hophni and Phinehas would cook and eat the best part of the offering themselves. They were not eagerly exclaiming the name of the Lord to the people of Isreal. In fact, Eli was allowing his sons to do just the opposite; their actions were defaming Him. The Lord asked Eli, “Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?” Because of these misdeeds, unfortunate consequences played out with Eli and his household.

Eagerly Exclaim! Synopsis of 1 Samuel 3.

However, there once was a young boy named Samuel who grew up in the temple of the Lord in the midst of Hophni, Phinehas, and Eli. One night the Lord spoke to Samuel as he was lying down beside the ark of God which was in the temple. Samuel mistook God’s voice for Eli’s voice three different times in the night. When he finally realized it was the Lord, he said,“Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening.” And from that point forward, Samuel became a spokesperson for the Lord and he eagerly exclaimed His name. Thus Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. God blessed Samuel for his listening ears and obedient heart.

When comparing these two passages, here are a couple of questions:

Am I like Samuel, speaking words of truth and serving the people around me?

Or am I more like Eli’s sons, misusing the gifts God has generously placed before me, all for my own benefit?

What practical thing can I do today to be more like Samuel?

Sometimes I confuse the main point of life: God is at the center, not me. And God is a good, good God! He is for me! I am here for the purpose of eagerly exclaiming His good news, His love, His forgiveness, His compassion, His grace…all of which are found in Christ. When I do proclaim His name to others, in bold words or with loving actions, I am living for a purpose bigger than myself.

Eagerly exclaim His love and his truth towards a neighbor, family member, or even a stranger today. See how this act of obedience will not only bless the recipient’s heart, but experience how it will increase your faith-walk as well.

Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone works wonders. And blessed be His glorious name forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen. Psalm 72:18

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Sunday, December 11, 2016
By Chris Baxter

Daily Prayer

Sent out

While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.  Acts 13:2-3

Dear Lord,

You have an appointed task for each one of us. Help us to encourage one another and pray for each other as we individually answer your call. Send us where you want us and be glorified as we use our unique gifts. Invade us with your Spirit and involve us with your ways. Amen.