Devo: Will You Choose to Sink or Swim in Trusting God?

My husband and son frolicking in a pool.

My husband and son frolicking in a pool.

A devotional thought for summer.
‘And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.’ Philippians 2:8 New American Standard Bible

When my kids were small, I took them to swim lessons. Trained instructors demonstrated how to perform each stroke. But there was something my kids didn’t know about their instructors. They were also certified life guards. Before my kids got in the water, their instructors were prepared to save them from drowning, if needed. A simple demonstration of how to swim wouldn’t be much help to someone who was drowning.

We’re all swimmers in the Sea of Life. In the beginning we dip our toes in the water. Then we get braver and venture out further. We may even try to swim to the other side of the pool.

Suddenly we reach the middle and feel scared. Temptation, worry, and doubt drag us down. We yell for help.

Jesus, our Lifeguard, quickly swims to our side. He secures us next to his body and delivers us safely to the edge of the pool.

It wasn’t enough that Jesus gave us an example of how to live. He became our Savior by dying on the cross. He showed us that we could trust Him with our lives.

God, thank you for allowing your Son to die on the cross so that we might have life. His obedience and love for us are overwhelming. Help us to be worthy of His love. Amen.

Does God Listen to Poor Kids?

Tulips can remind us of God's promise of renewed lives.

Tulips can remind us of God’s promise of renewed lives.

If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

As a 10-year-old child, Joe thought life was one long struggle.

For five years his parents had moved their 14 children throughout the United States picking fruits and vegetables. One-room cabins with no heat or indoor plumbing, located in camps on the wrong side of town, offered shelter, but no safety or comfort. In these camps Joe saw violence and corruption. He asked God for a safer place to live, but nothing changed. Joe learned to trust no one.

Then a friend invited Joe to attend an evangelistic crusade at the high school football field. Joe didn’t want to go, but he gave in. There he heard the preacher say that Christ could make a difference in a person’s life if he surrendered his will to God.

Tough Joe made my way down to the front and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. He had arrived at the meeting with hate and anger, but left with peace. God had changed his life.

Today, Joe tells people that God can use them if they will surrender their will to His. That is a big statement, coming from someone who used to think God didn’t listen to poor kids.

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God, help me to remember there are lost souls who just need to hear the Word of God spoken to them once for them to turn to You. Help me to show people what You can do for them if they will surrender their lives to You.

Cradle of Grace

The son of God was laid in a manger, a place where animals fed.

The son of God was laid in a manger, a place where animals fed.

“…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger.” Luke 2:7.

Many people today display a Nativity scene during the Christmas season. The tiny figures of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, and a sheep or two surround Baby Jesus, asleep in a manger. The scene looks calm and idyllic.
Unfortunately, our twentieth century minds have created a scene quite unlike what it was like when Jesus was born, especially concerning the manger. We see it as a sort of glorified first-century bassinet, comfortable, clean, and safe for a newborn baby.
In reality the manger of Jesus’ time was not like that at all. It may not have been wooden. Some Bible scholars believe Mary and Joseph sought refuge in one of the caves surrounding Bethlehem. Situated not far from Bethlehem’s lush grasslands, these caves were excellent shelters for livestock. Most of the caves were formed by erosion of the area’s soft limestone and herdsmen often carved out niches in the cave wall for feeding troughs. This primitive area was possibly where Mary placed Baby Jesus.

Jesus' manger may have been made of wood or carved into a cave wall.

Jesus’ manger may have been made of wood or carved into a cave wall.

It is strange the Bible even mentions a manger. Such an obscure object would not have been thought of with respect in those days. The manger would have been nothing but a filthy feeder. Today it would be as if Jesus were born and then placed in a trash can. The thought makes us shudder.
But Joseph, a man who loved God and his family, would have cleaned the manger as well as he could, filling it with any available new straw so it could serve as a soft, dry cradle for the child. This makeshift spot was the first place the Savior of the world, the Son of God, laid his precious head.
We might wonder why God would allow his newborn Son to be placed in such a despicable place. We can only surmise about God’s plans, but maybe there was a reason. Maybe God wanted us to know He specializes in taking the ordinary, dirty and forgotten and making it extraordinary.

Only God could transform a manger into an object of love, security, peace, and hope.
He is willing to do the same with our lives. When we place our dirty mangers into His hands – ugly things like anger, gossipy spirit, envious desires — He transforms them by the Holy Spirit into something holy and pleasing to God.
If you have a dirty manger in your life, this Christmas season ask God to transform it into something beautiful and worthy of respect and dignity for His glory. That is the best present you could ever give Him.

What type of ‘manger’ will you offer Jesus this year?

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Pie Crust Promises

For His lovingkindness is great toward us, And the truth of the LORD is everlasting. Praise]the LORD!
Psalm 117: 2
Many of us will eat pie for Thanksgiving this year. This devo features not just the pie but pie crust. Please remember to thank God for everything in your life, even the difficult parts. I’m working on these areas of thankfulness and it’s a challenge but worth it. Happy Thanksgiving!

Pie crust breaks easily; not so God's promises.

Pie crust breaks easily; not so God’s promises.

In the movie “Mary Poppins” two lonely children become enthralled with their new nursemaid. One night after a particularly exciting day they implore her, “Promise you’ll never leave us!”

For all of her zany actions Mary Poppins replies wisely, “That’s a pie crust promise –-easily made, easily broken.”

People crave stability. Unfortunately most of us have had to deal with vows that crumbled: a business partner absconds with company funds; a spouse decides he/she is happier living with someone else. Even the government seems to renege on its laws.

Christians can rest assured that God’s promises won’t ‘fall apart’. He will never desert us (Hebrews 13:5). His lovingkindness is everlasting (Psalm 107:1).

Memorize Psalm 117. Then, when you’re given a ‘pie crust promise’, you can say with the psalmist: “Praise the Lord, all nations: Laud Him, all peoples! For his lovingkindness is great toward us. And the truth of the Lord is everlasting. Praise the Lord!”

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

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Children Experience Worship at Bethel Church

Ron Garner and his family pastor at Bethel Church.

Ron Garner and his family pastor at Bethel Church.

“Everything we do at this church is based on the word of God,” said Ron Garner, pastor of Bethel Church in Bluffton, Indiana. He replaces Pat Harris who pastored at the church for 26 years before retiring to the South.

Garner is a native of North Carolina, but graduated from Bluffton High School in 1994 after moving here with his family when he was in the fifth grade.

After high school, Ron attended Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne but dropped out of college to work for an automotive company.

He met his wife Tonya at Bluffton High School. She attended Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne for nursing and later worked at Parkview Hospital.

After they married, Tonya and Ron attended Hope Missionary Church. Talking with Pastor Matt Hartzell about his spiritual life convinced Ron to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. “God had brought me to the point where I finally wanted to surrender my life to serving Him,” he said.

Feeling called to pastoral ministry, Ron Garner enrolled at Taylor University-Ft Wayne where he earned a degree in Bible theology in 2004. The Garners pastored at churches in Ohio and Ron worked three years in a factory before accepting a call to minister at Bethel Church, a non-denominational congregation, in December 2012.

Sunday School classes for all ages at Bethel Church begin at 9:00 a.m. Worship services with nursery and preschool assistance begins at 10:00 a.m.

Children are an intentional part of the worship experience at Bethel. “We want kids to learn how to worship with their parents and view their parents as primary spiritual instructors,” said Garner. “For that purpose I always try to engage kids during the services.”

A Bible Study for adults, youth meetings and children services occur on Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. The Garners, who have four school-age children, plan to move to Bluffton when their home in Ohio is sold.

Garner’s goal in preaching to the 70-member congregation at Bethel is to help them reach the place where they understand God is in control. “I’ve learned that He can use things for his glory and equip us how to live faithfully,” he said. “We must not run away from challenges to our faith but engage scripture and always stand firm with an answer for what we believe in.”

During his seven months at Bethel, Garner has become excited by the congregation’s friendliness. “There is a great sense of family here and people who love Christ and are committed to the authority of the Bible,” he said. “We invite people to visit us who seek a place with a family atmosphere and who want to hear what God has to say.”

Bethel Church
4500 E 300 South

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This article appeared in the Bluffton News-Banner.

Forgiveness Is Possible



Photo by Dave Reusser

Photo by Dave Reusser

I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness. Zechariah 8:8

When Peggy’s missionary husband was killed by a Philippine jeepney, she grieved. In the Philippines the person who causes a death is imprisoned until the matter is resolved. Peggy knew the driver’s family would go hungry without his income. Despite her pain, she asked a church member to go to the police station to have the jeepney driver released.


The next night during her husband’s viewing the jeepney driver arrived to thank Peggy for her thoughtfulness. She told him she did not blame him for her husband’s death and that she hoped he would come to know Jesus Christ as His Savior.


The next Sunday the man arrived at church with his family. His wife and mother sobbed their gratitude to Peggy. Each Sunday following the jeepney driver brought his family and friends to church in the same vehicle that had killed Peggy’s husband. A few weeks later, they all accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.


Despite intense sorrow, Peggy forgave the driver who had caused her husband’s death. This, in turn, enabled him to understand the love of Jesus.


When God forgave the people of Jerusalem, they turned from sin and idolatry to live in peace and honesty. God gave us the supreme example of forgiveness when He allowed Jesus Christ to die for our sins.


Forgiveness gives people a second chance in life. Is there someone to whom you need to give a second chance?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, the need to forgive is not a natural instinct. Thank you for providing examples for us to follow to accomplish Your will. Thank you for forgiving us daily. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


God’s Law of Attraction Fulfills Its Promises

God's promises never fail.

God’s promises never fail.

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3

A few years ago, I read a book that purported to explain how successful people attained wealth, health, and happiness. The book said the Law of Attraction had enabled people for centuries to secure the way of life most deemed preferable – living well with a healthy body and many assets. But the book’s premise was a challenge. Just by thinking of having good health I could cast off my back problems and headaches? Just by acting confident I could write a best-seller?
For a short while I believed this concept—then gave it up. Nothing had changed in my life. Worse, I felt foolish for thinking a simple book could do what God had already shown me over the course of my life – He would care for my daily needs and forgive me for my sins.
This passage reminds us each day to talk to God about our needs, then wait confidently for Him to act. That is the Law of Attraction for every believer.
Prayer: God, forgive us for looking to others for help and comfort for our troubles. We know You are the ultimate caregiver.
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