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February 2012

Expectations

Many of us live in a society where we have expectations, and regardless of whether said expectations are a right or a privilege, we expect for our needs to be met.  I often laugh at just how contradictory we as citizens of the United States can sometimes be.  For example, There are those that constantly complain about "government intrusion," especially when perceived as a challenge to our comfort zones.  But, when something happens that challenges our way of life be it a terrorist attack or a school shooting, how quickly do many not mind governmental intervention.  Let's bring this fact even closer to home.  Many people complain about paying taxes for several reasons, but at the same time, we expect for our communities to remain safe, children to be educated, and trash to be picked up on a regular basis.  We as a nation have unfortunately become more selfish than many generations before us.  We truly live in a, "I've got mine, you get yours mentality." 
 
As people, we would greatly benefit by asking ourselves the following questions, and spiritually seeking healthy God fearing answers:
 
1.  What is God's expectations for His children?  God's desire is for each person "to be holy and blameless" through "adoption as sons."  Please note, that the above listed quotes in no way says that God choose some for salvation and others for hell.  That is so far from the truth! 
 
2.  Does God hold a gun to our heads forcing us to achieve His expectations?  Thank God for the freedom of choice.  Personally, it is liberating to know that God does not force anyone to believe, or not believe.  He knows our choices before we make them, but yet He continues to provide us with the freedom to choice. 
 
How does God's expectations challenge our own degree of selfishness?  Jesus best answered this question when he said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."  Luke 4:18
 
Is there a better way to measure our own lifestyles and patterns of selfishness than with Christ's example?  As we focus and engage upon the day before us, let us do so by challenging ourselves to show compassion for the poor, provide words of encouragement for the brokenhearted, and liberty to the oppressed. 
 
Copyright (c) Elton L. Young, 2002-2012
All Rights Reserved

'Are You Working The Program Or Is The Program Working You'

I have been working in the area of social services since 1993.  As a counselor, I have learned many popular phrases often used in both group and therapy settings.  During my devotion this morning one particular phrase came to heart and mind. That phrase goes like this, "Are You Working The Plan Or Is The Plan Working You?" This is a phrase often used in addiction to challenge, motivate, and or encourage a client that is on the verge of, or has already experienced relapse. 
 
Today, I would like to use this same phrase to challenge, motivate, and or encourage each person that is on the verge of, or has already fallen into an unhealthy lifestyle.  Are you working your salvation, or is sin working you? Without question, all of us are guilty of sin so there is no room for being judgemental. All have shortcomings that we are not proud of, but what exactly are we doing about it.  Are we allowing the shortcomings to work every aspect of our lifestyle, or are we like Paul striving for perfection (maturity)?  Remember, the God given gift of salvation enables us to live godly lives, which means that we must exercise the gift in order to achieve growth/maturity.  I am reminded of lyrics such as, "Please be patient with me, God is not through with me yet."  Well, as we incrrease our commitment to work our salvation let's keep this important fact in mind; "You are young only once, but you can stay immature indefinitely."  Again I ask, are you working the program, or is the program working you?  Are you working your salvation, or is sin working you? 
 
Copyright (c) Elton L. Young, 2002-2012
All Rights Reserved
 
 

'Keep Hope Alive'

Even in the darkest hour hope remains alive.  When I consider the word hope, two (2) questions arise; What is hope?  How does hope maintain life and vitality during the most challenging times?  The answers to both questions are simple, but at the same time profound.  First, hope is defined as confident expectancy about things that are unseen.  Second, the reason hope maintains life and vitality during the most challenging times is because hope is from God.  Hope is not something created by humanity, nor is it something owned by society.  It is a beautiful and unique gift from God that enables us to see light where there is darkness, victory where there is despair, and strength where there is weakness.  As we face challenges ahead, let us do so in a spirit of hope.  Someone once said, "When hope is alive, the night is less dark; the solitude less deep, fear less acute."  Keep Hope Alive!
 
Copyright (c) Elton L. Young, 2002-2012
All Rights Reserved

Heaven Is Your Home - Remembering Whitney Houston

As president of LifeLine Ministries CRS, Inc. and on behalf of our board of directors and ministry family as a whole, I extend words of legacy and comfort to the Houston family on the recent death of their loved one, Whitney Houston. Today's devotional is and will always be in remembrance of the life and legacy of a woman that through her music touched the lives of so many people as she spoke to each heart in so many ways.
 
One of the greatest treasures of life is to leave a legacy that will outlive our human existence. The spirit of Whitney's music will be heard and remembered for generations to come. It has been said, "The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express. Beauty belongs to beauty." Whitney Houston left us with many words of beauty expressed in song. Like so many artists of great talent she too experienced tragedies of life. Thank you Whitney, your life and music will remain true to each heart you've touched in such a passionate way.
 
To the Houston family, friends, and many fans I leave with you the words of Christ, "Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know." Thomas said to Him, "Lord we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." St. John 14:1-7
 
"If you miss me from singing down here and you can't find me no where, come on up to Mount Zion, I'll be singing up there." No more pain and no more suffering. Whitney, heaven is your home.
 
Copyright (c) Elton L. Young, 2002-2012
All Rights Reserved

'Amazing Grace How Sweet The Sound'

Charles Spurgeon said, "The higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem."  What exactly is grace?  Grace is the favor or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it and in spite of what that same person deserves.  In other words, Grace guarantees each Christian favor, which none of us deserve.  During my daily devotions I personally try to always remember to tell the Lord 'Thank You.'  Despite what happens throughout the course of the day, I remain committed to being thankful.  Some days are good while other days are challenging, but regardless of what comes my way, I am still committed to two (2) simple words, 'Thank You.'  The next time you find yourself complaining about all that's wrong with life take a moment and realize that you are favored by God, as evidenced by being giving something you have not earned, cannot purchase, and can not giveaway nor be taken.  You have been blessed with God's amazing grace.  To me, that makes everything right despite life's challenges.  "Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!  I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see.  Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!  Thru many dangers toils and snares I have already come; Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.  When we've been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We've no less days to sing God's praise than when we'd first begun."
 
Copyright (c) Elton L. Young, 2002-2012
All Rights Reserved

'It's Complicated'

Each time I read about the life of Abraham I am continually amazed.  Today's devotional focuses upon Genesis 17:1-8.  Abram is now 99 years old, and his wife Sarai is still without child.  There are several amazing points within the above listed scripture, but due to limitations with time and space, let's just highlight one.  Keep in mind that the name Abram means "father," but yet Abram's wife Sarai still had not given birth to a child.  By this time several years has passed and the man who's name literally means "father," has yet to share the birth of a son with his wife Sarai. 
 
God appears to Abram and complicates his current situation even more by changing his name from Abram to Abraham (father of a multitude).  God's expectation is for Abraham to father not just one nation, but many.  In addition, God establishes a covenant with him, and promises that he (Abraham) will one day be the father of many nations.  Have you ever thought about the measure of faith it took for Abraham to announce his name change?  A name change that was at this particular time a contradiction within itself.  I can just hear people saying among themselves, how can Abraham father many nations when his wife cannot deliver a child.  Well, that's where faith comes in, and that's where belief in the unseen is absolutely necessary.  It has been said that faith in God sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible.  The next time God lays something you may consider wierd upon your heart think about Abraham's situation.  A man at the time with only one child and that child was not birthed by his wife.  A man that received a name change at a time in his life when all evidence was to the contrary.  But, before the story ends, God proves the impossible.  In Sarai's old age and beyond her childbearing years, she gave birth to a son named Isaac (Genesis 21:1-07).  As God promised, Abraham later became the father of a multitude. 
 
What promise has God made you that has yet to be fulfilled?  Like Sarai, do you feel like it's too late?  Have you discontinued your prayer request because it's taking God to long to answer?  Remember, God specializes in the impossible. so hold on to your faith!
 
Copyright (c) Elton L. Young, 2002-2012
All Rights Reserved

Heaven Is Your Home - Remebering Whitney Houston

As president of LifeLine Ministries CRS, Inc. and on behalf of our board of directors and ministry family as a whole, I extend words of legacy and comfort to the Houston family on the recent death of their loved one, Whitney Houston.  Today's devotional is and will always be in remembrance of the life and legacy of a woman that through her music touched the lives of so many people as she spoke to each heart in so many ways. 
 
One of the greatest treasures of life is to leave a legacy that will outlive our human existence.  The spirit of Whitney's music will be heard and remembered for generations to come.  It has been said, "The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express.  Beauty belongs to beauty."  Whitney Houston left us with many words of beauty expressed in song.  Like so many artists of great talent she too experienced tragedies of life.  Thank you Whitney, your life and music will remain true to each heart you've touched in such a passionate way.
 
To the Houston family, friends, and many fans I leave with you the words of Christ, "Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.  And where I go you know, and the way you know." Thomas said to Him, "Lord we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?"  Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.  If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." St. John 14:1-7
 
"If you miss me from singing down here and you can't find me no where, come on up to Mount Zion, I'll be singing up there."  No more pain and no more suffering.  Whitney, heaven is your home. 
 
Rev. Elton L. Young, President
LifeLine Ministries CRS, Inc.

'Doing What Is Morally Right And Meeting God's Expectations'

Matthew 19:16-26 shares the story of a rich young ruler.  Many of us are very familiar with this story because of how it relates to and challenges each person in terms of priority, personal commitment, and true motivation.  This young man's priorities were out of order, his commitment was self-centered, and his motivations were self-serving.  "Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"  So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is God.  But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to Him, "Which ones?"  Jesus said, 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth.  What do I still lack?"  Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me."   But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?"  But Jesus looked at them and said to them. "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 
 
Let's begin by clarifying two points regarding the above scripture.  First, When Jesus asked the young man about being perfect, He was asking him if he wants to be moral in terms of God's expectation of us, completely blameless.  A "perfect gift."  This same question continues to be raised throughout society today.  For example, when we consider the state of our own government (United States) and the policies that place more emphasis upon protecting the financial wellbeing of the rich, and ignoring the needs of the poor and middle class, I hear Jesus asking many of today's representatives the same question, "If you want to be perfect, (morally centered by God's expectations) go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me." Second, When Jesus informs the disciples that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, He is not referring to a sewing needle.  Jesus is referring to narrow passage way travelers used for passage through the side of a mountain.  In other words, difficult, but not impossible.
 
During my days in Seminary I had a college professor (Dr. Dana Stoddard), and my parents on more than one occassion said to me, "Christianity is a Free Gift, but Discipleship Always Cost Something."  When Christians are discipled that means that they are being properly taught about their Christian faith.  When we are taught (discipled) we are also challenged to practice the things we learn, because to much given, much is required.  The rich young ruler clearly demonstrates that he was not as perfect (morally centered) as he though because his priorities were clearly out of order, personal commitment was truly lacking, and he was without motivation when he learned that true discipleship requires the following: 
 
1.  Humility and Sacrifice - The rich young ruler was neither humble or sacrificial.  When he rejected the offer made to him by Jesus Christ, he immediately violated the great commandment of the Law: to love and serve God with his whole heart.  Instead of being humble and ready to make sacrifices, the rich young ruler choose to be self-centered by looking out for his own self-interest.  Doesn't this young man's example remind us of the state of selfishness we face today?  For example, when the subject of the national debt is discussed from a political perspective we so often hear how cutting programs that help or assist the poor will solve our national problem with debt.  However, what we do not hear is the fact that the programs currently established to assist today's poor and working class represents only a small portion of our debt problem.  What we do not hear is how it's going to take sacrifice on the part of every citizen to include the rich, middle class, the poor, seniors, veterans, and the government to truly solve the financial crisis we as a nation currently face. 
 
2.  Motivation and Commitment - The rich young ruler believed that doing good to others was the requirement for receiving eternal life.  Unfortunately, he failed to realize that as Christians, we are required to love because God first loved us.  The love God demonstrated to us through the death of His Son is the type of love we too must demonstrate one to another.  Therefore, we do good because of love, and love in turns motivates us to do good.  It is about loving God and our neighbors. Love motivates us to do good. 
 
As Christians, we must have the right motivation and a real commitment to do what is morally right, and meets God's expectation.  
 
Copyright (c) Elton L. Young, 2002-2012
All Rights Reserved
 
 
 

The Rich or Powerful Are Not To Be Envied

We currently live in a period where the rich often times advance their wealth at the expense of the middle class and the poor.  For example, today's middle class does not compare to the number of middle class families that represented our country several years ago.  In addition, the number of children in poverty increases while employment challenges dating back to the housing market bust nearly caused a second depression.  Regardless of how troubling things have appeared over the past several years, don't be deceived by appearances.  The rich or powerful, are not to be envied.  Instead of living with envy let's choose to live by faith.  Such faith demands that we (Christians) fully commit ourselves to watch and wait until God reveals the answer.  Even as the unjust rich and powerful appear victorious, keep the facts of the matter in heart and mind.  God is judging them!  Their success is only temporary and without satisfaction.  "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1  Faith always demands confidence in the unseen.  Therefore, despite your current circumstances and the challenges you face, it is important to believe that God has already worked it out because real faith produces startling results. 
 
Copyright (c) Elton L. Young, 2002-2012
All Rights Reserved   

You Did Not Give It, You Cannot Take It Away;

There are times when we as Christians tend to forget that we have been blessed with a salvation and calling that cannot be taken away.  Yes, once saved always saved.  If not, then we automatically imply that we serve a God that does not know how to account for, and or keep up with His children.  Isn't it good to know that each of us have gifts (Salvation and Calling) from God that  cannot under any circumstances be taking away.  Humanity cannot burn it, consume it, or demand that our spiritual possessions be returned to the owner (Jesus Christ).  In fact, Paul the Apostle sets the perfect example of one that understood his position in Jesus Christ.  Paul knew who he was, who's he was, and where he stood.  Galatians 1:1-2 reads, "Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me.  To the churches of Galatia:"  The first question we must ask is why did Paul find it so necessary to begin his letter to the Church in Galitia by defending his calling and position in Jesus Christ?  In the vast majority of Paul's letters you will find him beginning with a greeting.  Not here, Paul decides to defend himself before he greets, and for good reason. 
 
There was a religious click in the church known as the Judiazers.  The Judiazers had a different perspective than that of Paul when it came to salvation and requirements.  In your study of this book you will quickly learn that the church was buying into the beliefs of the Judiazers, which was different from what Paul taught the church concerning salvation and calling.  There (Judiazers) efforts to line the congregation up with their position required what we continually see to this very day, character assination.  The Judiazers questioned the character, position, and very salvation of Paul the Apostle to such a degree that a statement defending himself was not only required, but apiritually demanded.  The next time our character, calling, and salvation is attacked we too must following the example of Paul in a loving manner.  As Christians, we must make it clear that we know who we are and where we stand by letting the nay sayers know that they did not call us, nor did they save us, therefore, they will not take what is ours away.  The next time you are judged and attempts are made to label you based upon outdated, and or just down right wrong information, don't hesitate to defend yourself in a Godly way.  Let society know that they did not give you the gift of salvation or your spiritual calling, and they will not under any circumstances take it away.
 
Copyright (c) Elton L. Young, 2002-2012
All Rights Reserved