Sunday, May 20, 2018

First Fruit Saints

FIRST FRUIT SAINTS  
Kingdom Kids devotions authorize Jesus’ LORDship over our lives.

James 1:18:  “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a firstfruits of all He created.” 

            “I just KNOW that we’re going to grow up and be star players in either the NFL (National Football League) or NBA (National Basketball Association)!” Jeremy proclaimed on a bright sunny spring day. 

            Jeremy’s classmate, twelve-year-old Brad, snickered.  “Yeah, Jerm!  I could be Marcus Morris on the Boston Celtics, and you could be his twin brother Markieff on the Washington Wizards!” 

            These twins are stars in the NBA.

            You may chuckle at these young guys’ optimism.  Both professions draft young talent with big dreams like theirs every year.  Jeremy and Brad are bright and shiny Christians that God plucked away from the world for His purpose at their baptism. 
  
            God ONLY accepts “first fruits”.  He never plucks leftovers, for His purpose is supreme.  Like our tithe, first fruits are freely given to God BEFORE our income is spent on other things—like food and housing. 

            So, it’s a very big deal that Believers-in-Christ are weeded out from all others in the world and understand that we’re firstfruit saints.  Nothing is more important to God than firstfruit saints.  Jeremy and Brad know how special they are and live expecting wonderful things to happen. 
  
            Our Father has special plans for each of us.  First fruit saints can believe mighty God’s opinion of how precious we are to Him.  He planted unique ([u-NEEK] means one-of-a-kind) gifts and talents inside us.  May we never live beneath what God has planned for us!  May we never “settle” for ordinary but continue striving for extraordinary.  “Nothing is too hard for God!”  An angel proclaimed this to Sarah in Genesis 18:14 after she chuckled about giving birth.  

Extraordinary is giving birth to a son when a woman is too old.

            Check the lesson linked below to see how God chose you and His plans for transforming you into the likeness of His perfect Son Jesus.

            When we discover our talent or purpose, life sharpens from a blur to clear vision.  Edges become distinct.  Decisions are simple.  We make better choices.  We live on purpose knowing where we’re headed.  Our lives are effective.  We waste no time pursuing what is meaningless. 

            We shine like stars with purpose.  

Take Home Nugget

            Sunday, May 20th, 2018, is Pentecost.

            Let’s celebrate each day empowered by God’s indwelling Spirit to shine like stars as first fruit saints!

Holy Father, You desire me to shine like a star every day as Your first fruit saint.  Empower me by Your indwelling Spirit to think, talk and act to fulfill Your will, in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Adapted from “Focus on God’s Plan” by Dr. Tony Evans.  April 27, 2018.   See “Alternative” at www.LightSource.com
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 This eBook shows Mary’s adventure traveling to Bethlehem right before Jesus’ birth.   This Biblical fantasy weaves supernatural delight into facts surrounding His birth. 

Here’s another eBook by J.D. Griffith:  

Twelve-year-old Jeremy befriends “Aunt” Rita when lured up her front steps after football practice one fall day.  Her piano music isn’t the only thing that makes Rita especially different.  She is intrigued by Jeremy.  God uses Aunt Rita to transform Jeremy into a true follower of Christ. 
     


Friday, May 18, 2018

Developing Trust

DEVELOPING TRUST 

Kingdom Kids devotions authorize Jesus’ LORDship over our lives.

Psalms 50:15:  “and call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me.” 

            “Obey what I command you today.  I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.”  The Father clearly had the Israelites’ back!   God still promises feats like this—found in Exodus 34:11—with us today.

            The Father ordered spies to enter the land and report back to gain His people’s trust.  The spies reported that Canaan was indeed a land flowing with milk and honey. … Numbers 13:33 adds, “We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak came the Nephilim).  We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

            Yikes! 

            The Father prevented the Israelites from entering their Promised Land of Canaan because He wanted to teach trust in Him.  So instead of claiming the land that He swore to give to—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the Israelites didn’t trust Him.  So He led them in circles forty years.  (Numbers 14:20-35).  That generation died wandering in the desert.  

            Did the people even recognize the obstacles God put in their way to gain their trust?

            Finding water in a desert? 

            Even Moses got impatient leading these obnoxious people and disobeyed God. 

            God told Moses in Numbers 20:8a, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together.  Speak to the rock before their eyes and it will pour out the water.”  (Emphasis mine).

            Numbers 20:10b-11 says what Moses did, “Moses said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ 

            “Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff.  Water gushed out and the community and their livestock drank.”  (Emphasis mine).

            Our heavenly Father is way higher and way more superior to our earthly dads.  Often, they share similar demands on their kids.  Obedience.  Honesty.  Trust.  Our earthly dads and our heavenly Papa both discipline their kids.

            Numbers 20:12 tells how God disciplined Moses, “Because you did not trust Me enough to honor Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

Take Home Nugget

            So, while God forbade Moses to enter the land, He did allow Him a peek of it in Deuteronomy 34:4, which is found in the lesson linked below.

            God had a handle on the scary things that freaked out the Israelites.  He was prepared to show them His awesome hand, yet the people did not trust Him!

            Can you trust Papa so He can show you His mighty hand?

Holy Father, Enable me to trust You with all my heart.  Amen.

Adapted from “God’s Faithfulness” by Dr. Tony Evans.  April 25, 2018.  See “Alternative” at www.LightSource.com
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Latest Christmas eBook by J.D. Griffith:  
  This eBook shows Mary’s adventure traveling to Bethlehem right before Jesus’ birth.   This Biblical fantasy weaves supernatural delight into facts surrounding His birth. 

Here’s another eBook by J.D. Griffith:   

Twelve-year-old Jeremy befriends “Aunt” Rita when lured up her front steps after football practice one fall day.  Her piano music isn’t the only thing that makes Rita especially different.  She is intrigued by Jeremy.  God uses Aunt Rita to transform Jeremy into a true follower of Christ. 
     


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Egos Like Jesus

EGOS LIKE JESUS

Kingdom Kids devotions authorize Jesus’ LORDship over our lives.

Philippians 2:3-4:  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourselves. 
“Each of you should look out not only for your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

            Twelve-year-old Jeremy bounced the basketball.  Once.  Twice.  On the third bounce, his classmate Brad swiped away the basketball.  “Hey!  That’s my ball!” Jeremy insisted.

            Brad laughed out loud defending himself, “You’re so slow, Jerm!   Basketball is a FAST game.   I’m not even a point guard, and I can steal your candy!”  Then, Brad took off.

            Jeremy chased Brad dribbling the basketball to the hoop on the other end.  They chuckled while wrestling each other for possession of the basketball.  Finally, Brad ripped it loose and shot a lay-up.

            “Two points!”  A smiling Jeremy cheered Brad’s score.

            These best friends played on the neighborhood playground.  Neither truly cared who won the game because each of them wants the other to be the best.

            Wouldn’t life be so fun if all of us felt this way?  Instead of flaunting our own athletic prowess, intelligence, or beauty, we’d all cheer for other’s victories. 

            That picture looks like people with egos like Jesus.

            Ego [E-go] is one’s self-image.  Who we think of ourselves is wrapped up in our individual personality and character.  The opening Scripture snaps what the world would look like if no one fed their individual egos with sky-high self-worth.  No one is “all that!”  No one is the center of the universe.   

            Except… 
            Philippians 2:6-8 shows Jesus’ ego:  “Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, “REALLY?”

            “but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  “No Way!”

            “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”  
                                     
Take Home Nugget

            “Ugh!  I don’t want to be that!” you exclaim.

            Philippians 2:9-11 shows the Father’s pride in His Son, who truly IS “all that”.  Jesus is truly in the center of the universe:  “Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name,

            “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
            “and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

            If anyone can taunt others and flaunt himself, it must be no other than Jesus!  Check the lesson linked below to see where Jesus went.

Holy Father, Forgive my feeding my own ego with self-praise.  Empower me to be humble, with an ego like Your Son, Jesus.  Amen.

Adapted from “If Egos Went Missing” by Jason Nelson.  April 18, 2018.   www.TimeOfGrace.org.  Your Daily Grace Moment
And
“Jesus Reigns” by Mrs. Anne Gonzalez.  May10, 2018.  Portals of Prayer devotional magazine.  Missouri. 
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Latest Christmas eBook by J.D. Griffith:  



This eBook shows Mary’s adventure traveling to Bethlehem right before Jesus’ birth.   This Biblical fantasy weaves supernatural delight into facts surrounding His birth. 

Here’s another eBook by J.D. Griffith:   

Twelve-year-old Jeremy befriends “Aunt” Rita when lured up her front steps after football practice one fall day.  Her piano music isn’t the only thing that makes Rita especially different.  She is intrigued by Jeremy.  God uses Aunt Rita to transform Jeremy into a true follower of Christ. 

     


Friday, May 11, 2018

Your Rod and Staff

YOUR ROD AND STAFF  
Kingdom Kids devotions authorize Jesus’ LORDship over our lives.

Psalm 23:4:  “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”



            A shepherd’s rod is a weapon.  This rod can be swung or thrown, whacking disruptive sheep or threaten wild animals.

            Besides the opening passage from Psalm 23, King David also wrote Psalms acknowledging his sin, repenting, and expecting discipline.  See the lesson linked below for rod and staff discipline and care.

            For those who never fetched a hairbrush or picked willow branches to use as a spanking or whipping tool, discipline doesn’t sound painful.  But as the pain recedes—the kid whimpers a private pity party—remembering what bought such anger.  Maybe that should never be repeated in the future?

            Hebrews chapter 12 explains discipline’s value.  Verses 5-6 says, “And you have forgotten the word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and punishes everyone He accepts as sons.’”

            Verses 7a-8 says, “Endure hardship [trials] as discipline; God is treating you as sons. …  If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate ([ill-le-JIT-a-mat] means unlawful), children and not true sons.” 

            Verses 10-11 show God’s reason for discipline, “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; But God disciplines us for our own good that we might share in His holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by."

            Even Jesus says in Revelation 3:19, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.”

            If the rod stands for discipline, then the staff must stand for care. 

Take Home Nugget

            A shepherd’s staff looks like a walking stick ending in a weird U-shaped crook.  A lamb freed by the crook lacks human scent so its ewe (mom) won’t reject her lamb.  The long staff gets sheep’s attention from a distance.  It can nudge, gently steering sheep toward safety.  The crook can free sheep’s wool from entangling brambles and thistles.  

            “Oxymoron” labels what seems impossible.  Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide.  Whether as a liquid like water, or a solid like white nuggets, dry ice freezes whatever it touches.  At room temperature, ice evaporates to invisible CO2 gas.

            A shepherd’s rod and staff are an oxymoron.  One tool is both a weapon and also what renders care.  Dry ice freezes, then the evidence disappears.  Ignorant sheep are steered safely out of danger. 

Holy Father, thank You for moms.  What comfort knowing that You steer us back to safety.  Mothers love us the same way!  Amen.

Adopted from “He Corrects Me” by Pastor Mark Jeske.  April 23, 2018.  www.timeOfGrace.org.   Your Daily Grace Moment.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
J.D. Griffith


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Latest Christmas eBook by J.D. Griffith:  
To purchase "Star Watchers" for only $0.99 USD, click here   This eBook shows Mary’s adventure traveling to Bethlehem right before Jesus’ birth.   This Biblical fantasy weaves supernatural delight into facts surrounding His birth. 

Here’s another eBook by J.D. Griffith:  
Twelve-year-old Jeremy befriends “Aunt” Rita when lured up her front steps after football practice one fall day.  Her piano music isn’t the only thing that makes Rita especially different.  She is intrigued by Jeremy.  God uses Aunt Rita to transform Jeremy into a true follower of Christ. 

     


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Not Lacking Anything

NOT LACKING ANYTHING  
Kingdom Kids devotions authorize Jesus’ LORDship over our lives.

James 1:9-12

James 1:12:  “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has withstood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” 

            Our Father knows us better than we know ourselves.  For those He foreknew, He also called (Romans 8:30, Ephesians 4:1).  Everyone who is reading this devotion belongs in His family.  He determined that we will withstand every earthly trial.  We’re also going to eventually graduate.  Instead of receiving a diploma, we’ll receive the crown of life! 

            But, oh the trials!

            When life glides smoothly along, we tend to enjoy living.  That’s what Papa wants for us, too.  But He loves us too much to let us continue gliding smoothly along.  It doesn’t take long to develop bad habits and become proud.  Victory often lulls into a false sense of well-being that claims ownership of how we arrived. 

            But it was NEVER we who landed us into a comfort zone.

            Our creator is supreme over all people and things.  He’s in charge of the entire universe.  And—whether we like it or not—He’s steering our lives.
 
            May we remember that whenever life is gliding smoothly along, it’s like a rest before the next trial.  Music is written with rests.  Have you noticed that crescendos [kre-SHEN-does], or growing louder, and decrescendos [DAY-kre-shen-does], or quieting down, are set off by rests? 

            After we emerge victorious after one trial that Jesus walked us through, He doesn’t go on vacation.  Neither can you.  Be advised to enjoy your rest.  Jesus is near, ready to walk you through the next trial.   We don’t get to call what comes next or when.   The only thing people can count on being true is that there will always be a next trial to overcome.

Take Home Nugget

            Pastor James, (see Half-Brothers of Fame devotion), teaches in James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  Emphasis mine.  (See more of James’ teaching in the lesson linked below).

            The only reason that Papa tests us by trials is to mature us into a closer likeness of His perfect Son, Jesus.   Jesus’ perfection (righteousness, peace, and joy) is the very definition of the kingdom of God! (Romans 14:17).  That’s why God never allows us rest in our comfort zone for long. 

            God always moves forward; He wants us to move forward with Him to achieve His purpose. 

Heavenly Father, Lead us through every trial to Victory, in Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Adapted from “Praise God during Trials” by Dr. Tony Evans.  April 18, 2018.  See “Alternative” at www.LightSource.com
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Latest Christmas eBook by J.D. Griffith:  

To purchase "Star Watchers" for only $0.99 USD, click here   This eBook shows Mary’s adventure traveling to Bethlehem right before Jesus’ birth.   This Biblical fantasy weaves supernatural delight into facts surrounding His birth. 

Here’s another eBook by J.D. Griffith:  
Twelve-year-old Jeremy befriends “Aunt” Rita when lured up her front steps after football practice one fall day.  Her piano music isn’t the only thing that makes Rita especially different.  She is intrigued by Jeremy.  God uses Aunt Rita to transform Jeremy into a true follower of Christ. 
     


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Half-Brothers of Fame

HALF-BROTHERS OF FAME

Galatians 1:19-20:  “I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.  I assure you before God that what I’m writing you is no lie.”  Written by Apostle Paul to his new church founded in Galatia.
           
            “Who does He think He is?” James wondered aloud to his little brother, Jude. 

            For those who’re raised by God-fearing parents, God is worshipped and obeyed.  It’s odd to these kids that the world sees things differently.  While youngsters thrive on learning both good and evil, they’re not mature enough to choose correctly.  Having fun is the top priority and rebelling against parent’s authority seems cool. 
    
            That was true for Jesus’ half-brothers.  Being raised solidly Jewish, they grew up following God’s Law and obeying Holy Days’ worship in Jerusalem.  Jesus made little sense to them.  How confusing that their brother was God’s Son … when Joseph was their dad!  

            Jesus never thought or acted like a regular kid (Ephesians 2:3).

            John 7:5 records, “For even His own brothers did not believe in Him.”  

            James and Jude rebelled against what they figured was impossible to believe.  Their radical realization, Jesus truly is God’s Son! only came after Jesus’ resurrection.  1 Corinthians 15:7 says Jesus showed Himself alive: “Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” Paul wrote to another newly-founded church in Corinth.
 
            That they saw Jesus alive with their own eyes changed everything for James and Jude.  Imagine the scene when they confided this truth to their brothers!   They joined other Believing out-liers, convinced that Jesus IS the promised Messiah AND Son of God (Acts 1:14).

            When the Feast of Tabernacles came, Jesus (half-) brothers challenged Him: “Hey, you ought to go to Judea!  Your disciples need to witness the miracles You do!  Why be a hero in secret?  Show Yourself!” (Paraphrased from John 7:2-4). 

            Jesus’ heart may have melted at recognizing that His brothers finally believed in Him!  He replied what was probably rolling around in His mind for a while, “The right time for Me has not yet come; for you any time is right.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify that what it does is evil.  You go to the Feast.  I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for Me the right time has not yet come.  Having said this, He stayed in Galilee.” (John 7:5-9).

            If you think that home life wasn’t easy for Jesus’ four half-brothers, you’d be correct.  His family constantly “looked out” for Jesus’ welfare.  One time, Jesus worked all day without eating.  “When the family heard about this, they went up to take charge of Him, for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.’” (Mark 3:21).

            Mark 3:31-35 says, “Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived.  Standing outside, they sent someone in to call Him.  A crowd was sitting around Him, and they told Him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for You.”

            “Who are My mother and brothers?” He asked.  Then He looked around at the circle around Him and said, “Here are My mother and brothers!  Whoever does God’s will is My brother and sister and mother.”

            “Where did this man get these things?” the congregation asked after hearing Jesus teach in the Synagogue.  They were amazed.  “What’s this wisdom that has been given Him that He even does miracles!  Isn’t this the carpenter?  Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas [who later wrote the epistle Jude], and Simon?  Aren’t His sisters with us?” the crowd wondered out loud in Mark 6:2-3.  
  
            “‘Only in His hometown among His own relatives and in His own house is a prophet without honor.’  He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them.  And He was amazed at their lack of faith.”  (Mark 6:4-6).

            Growing up around Jesus was hard for everyone!  Jesus held back doing what He longed to do around people who did not believe who He is.  Nazareth is a small town where everyone knows everyone.  Jesus’ family were forever apologizing for His strange words and behavior to ones who didn’t understand His way.  
                        
            Who do you sympathize with more, Jesus or His family?

            James prayed with his mom, apostles, and other believers in the now famous upper room awaiting the Holy Spirit to arrive—what Jesus promised before ascending to heaven. (Acts 1:14).   

            Suddenly, a roar from heaven whisked inside the house.  Astounded, James looked around to see tongues of fire resting on each of them.  When they determined that each spoke in different languages, they went outside.  Jews from every nation heard someone speak in whatever language was each’s native tongue (Acts 2:8). 

Take Home Nugget

            James earned the nickname “Camel Knees” from Hegesippus who commented that James spent so much time praying that his knees became calloused.  Years later, writing his epistle—[e-PISS-l] means letter—James never claimed to be Jesus’ half-brother.  Rather, he identified himself as a servant of God and Jesus.  In like manner, Jude simply identifies himself as a brother of James in his epistle published in the Bible.

            James devoted the rest of his life entirely to God.  He quickly became a pillar of the early Church.  Acts 15:13-21 shows that James had apparently become the pastor who oversaw the Jerusalem church.  Check out the lesson linked below for passages from James and Jude, who share a concern that Christian faith remains pure.

            These two brothers might have remained anonymous ([a-NON-e-mus] means unrecognized by others), until God’s Spirit provided events to record in His Word.  Today, both James and Jude are half-brothers of fame to Jesus.

            James felt privileged to be martyred for his faith.  Being stoned to death instead of turning away from believing in Christ, James quoted his big brother, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). 
            
Thank You, Abba, for revealing more about Jesus’ life and family to us today!  Amen. 

English name    Jewish name     Scriptural reference / Other Name                         
Jesus                  Yeshua                Matthew 1:21 “God is salvation”/ Joshua
Mary                    Miriam                  Numbers 26:59 sister of Moses and Aaron
Joseph               Yosef                    One of 12 sons of Jacob, Mary’s husband
                                                           Matthew 1:16, 19-25, / Joses
James               Ya’akov                Son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham/ Jacob
Jude                  Yehudah             Name of another of Abraham’s sons /Judah, Judas


Research of James and Jude as half-brothers of Jesus on the Internet on May 1, 2018.

Jerold Aust served in ministry as a senior writer at United Church of God and public speaker for 54 years.  He interviews and is editor for Beyond Today Magazine,   employed by UCG’s Media and Communications Services.  He teaches speech Communication for UCG’s ministerial online program and the Book of Revelation for ABC. 
J.D. Griffith



 For a personal, private lesson experience with our staff
  


Latest Christmas eBook by J.D. Griffith:  

  This eBook shows Mary’s adventure traveling to Bethlehem right before Jesus’ birth.   This Biblical fantasy weaves supernatural delight into facts surrounding His birth. 

Here’s another eBook by J.D. Griffith:
Twelve-year-old Jeremy befriends “Aunt” Rita when lured up her front steps after football practice one fall day.  Her piano music isn’t the only thing that makes Rita especially different.  She is intrigued by Jeremy.  God uses Aunt Rita to transform Jeremy into a true follower of Christ.