Daily Devotional for Sunday September 2, 2012
(Philippians 2:12, Malachi 3:3, Luke 6:48)
***ASK BILL: Pastor Bill, having pondered man made weddings, where did all this extra paraphernalia come from? The excessive everything, even going into debt, the vows people say which are not in the Word of God, the wedding dresses, the gifts? Understand viewed this is a wonderful God given commitment and beautiful day but having seen so much that is not of him involved in this day I feel God has shown me it is not of him. Can you help me?
ANSWER: Marriage is both a legal and holy union of a man and woman for life. Just like the world has perverted and commercialized Christmas, which is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, so the world has perverted and commercialized this wonderful moment when a man and woman vow before each other, witnesses, and God, their lives to each other. Having officiated dozens of weddings, I use Biblical passages for the vows, and meet with the couple several times prior to the wedding to insure they both fully understand the commitment they are making to each other and God. I also challenge them to stay focused on the spiritual aspects of their day, and not allow themselves to get so caught up in the way the world celebrates weddings.
Making sausage. Years ago when I lived in the great city of Chicago, I used to love to take an afternoon and go to one of the last of the great old ballparks, Wrigley Field, to watch the Cubs play. Whenever I would go to a game, I would always stop by one of the vendors that were lined up outside the stadium and get an Italian Sausage, loaded with green peppers and saut?ed onions on a poppy seed bun with fresh cut fries. For those who live in Chicago or are familiar with the city, you know what I am talking about.
Of course, there is NOTHING like a good Chicago hotdog. A Vienna Brand pure beef hotdog, with mustard, relish, diced onions, fresh tomatoes, a dash of celery salt, hot sport peppers, a slice of Kosher pickle, all piled high on a steamed poppy seed bun with fresh cut fries. I am blessed (or cursed) to actually have a guy 4 blocks from the Liveprayer office who runs a Chicago-style hot dog stand. He imports everything from Chicago and it is like being back in the Windy City!!!
Believe it or not, this is going to be a very spiritual Devotional today so bear with me. I had a good friend when I was living in Chicago who worked in one of the many meat packing plants. He was a sausage maker. One day, he started to tell me exactly how they made sausage and what all of the ingredients were. It was a conversation that I immediately erased from my memory bank, otherwise I doubt I could ever enjoy a sausage sandwich again. But the fact is, all that goes into living our faith in Christ each day can be very much like making sausage.
I received an email the other day from a dear brother in Christ who shared with me that he began getting the Daily Devotional in September of 1999, just a few weeks after we launched Liveprayer. He told me that after nearly 8 years of reading the Daily Devotional, he has grown in his faith and developed a relationship with the Lord like He never dreamed was possible. He shared with me that while the content of the Daily Devotional each day over these years has played a role, the biggest impact on his life has been to watch me as I put my faith in action and lived it day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.
This brother shared that for him, what sets the Liveprayer Daily Devotional apart from any Devotional he has ever read is the ability to interact and the open, honest, and transparent way I share my own life with the reader each day. Whether it is admitting my sins, the struggles I face, the stupid mistakes I make, he told me each day included in the Devotional was also a daily installment of my life like some reality TV program that was not edited in any way. He said as much as anything, watching me live out my faith each day as God has blessed and expanded this ministry over these past 13 years has done as much to help him grow in His faith as anything else.
I had never really thought about it much, but this brother was right. When I began writing the Daily Devotional, I wrote it to challenge and encourage people who were not saved to open their hearts to the Lord's love, and for those who knew the Lord, to become all God has called them to be in their life. I didn't write it from some Ivory Tower, but at eye level where we all live our lives, including me. I am no different or special than anyone who reads the Daily Devotional. I have the same struggles, fight the same temptations, have to work on my walk with the Lord each day just like everyone else does. I've tried to be very candid, open, and honest with my readers each day as I do my best to live my faith in front of over 2 million people worldwide every day.
The reality is, living our faith each day is a bit like making sausage. It is not always pretty. There are things in our life we wish weren't there. However, if we don't give up, work at it each day, do the things we are supposed to do, in the end it works! That is the bottom line. As disgusting as the process of making sausage can be, the fact is when it is finished, cooked on an open grill, it tastes great!!! As difficult and challenging as living our faith is each day, as much as we struggle to follow the Lord and His Word, the fact is at the end of the day we find that peace, the assurance of His love, and realize it really works.
I love you and care about you so much. I want to apologize to anyone who will become weak and cheat on what they are supposed to eat today by indulging in a good Italian or Polish sausage or possibly a hot dog. I know that struggle. I have been very good and disciplined in the number of times each month I visit the Chicago hot dog stand near my office. I know it isn't the best thing in the world to eat, but it is SOOOO good. So I look forward to the few times each month I indulge, and no, all of the toppings don't count as vegetables and make it OK!
Just like making sausage isn't the prettiest site to behold, neither is how we live our faith most of the time. We all struggle, fail, battle, move forward, fall back, realize we need to do more, get weary, get convicted, question God, find a good groove for a while, lose it, wonder what we are supposed to do for the Lord, get to where we need to be, and so on it goes. Sound familiar? This is life my friend as we fight the battle each day with the flesh and the Sprit, as we do our best to "die to self" and live our life for Him.
I will be praying for you today. Praying that you don't ever give up. Each day is a new opportunity to walk with the Lord. If you know Jesus in the pardon of your sins by faith, you will be spending all eternity with Him. Now is a good time to learn how to walk with Him. You do that daily by reading God's Word, praying, and by consciously surrendering your life to Him each day. It is the only relationship you will take from this brief journey through life and enjoy for all eternity. The best part, despite all of the problems, the trials and tribulations of living in our weak flesh and in this fallen world, when we walk with the Lord we come to know God's peace, His joy, and the abundance Jesus promised we would have.
Making sausage in a difficult process, so is living our faith. However, in the end both can turn out wonderful!!!
In His love and service, Your friend and brother in Christ,