Devotional: Advancing God’s Kingdom

I am shocked. But why should I be? I am naïve. But why should I be surprised?

On February 7, 2017, an alumna and supporter of CSI schools was confirmed as the US Secretary of Education. Betsy DeVos is the first graduate of my alma mater, Calvin College, to hold a position in the cabinet of the president of the United States. Continue reading

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Devotional: Two Kinds of Water

“My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2: 13).

Life is a desert journey. God called Israel to be his chosen people. Through his covenant with Abraham, God promised his children a land. He said it would be a land that flows with milk and honey. The Promised Land is 70 percent desert. Continue reading

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Devotional: Two Stones

“He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (Psalm 78: 70-72).

“Today the Lord will hand you over to me. The whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. And all those who are gathered will know that our Lord saves” (1 Samuel 17: 46-47).

God allowed several kings to lead his chosen people Israel. At the same time, when the people pleaded with Samuel to ask God to allow them to have a king like their pagan neighbors, God gave them a warning. Be careful what you ask for. Do not put your confidence in humans. Power corrupts. Continue reading

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Devotional: Two Trees

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives” (Jeremiah 17:5-6).

The first time I saw the fruit of the arara tree it looked scrumptious. It was morning. The cool of the desert night along the Dead Sea was quickly being replaced with the heat of the rising summer sun. It was only 7 a.m. We knew it would be another very hot day.

araraWe walked a short distance and there was the beautiful green arara tree. Who knew that something so green could grow in such an inhospitable place? The fruit of the arara is similar in shape to a lemon. Its size is comparable to a large orange or a small grapefruit. The green fruit fits in an adult’s hand like a softball.

Our teacher picked a fruit and cut it for us with a pocket knife. As the knife pierced the peeling, a puff of dust appeared from the fruit. As the fruit was sliced completely open, we were surprised to see that it was hollow. The arara was nothing more than an attractive, but empty, shell.

Clustered in the middle of the fruit was a small clump of black seeds. We were told that they are poisonous.

Jeremiah says that the man who relies only on himself, the woman who trusts only in herself, and every person who turns from God is like the arara bush. The person, like the bush and its fruit, looks great on the outside. A weary, famished desert traveler would certainly find it appealing from a distance. The fruit draws the hungry and entices the thirsty. But the arara is a fake. It looks good on the outside, but it is hollow and poison on the inside.

So it is with everyone who does not trust in God. He or she may look pretty good, but cut through the superficial exterior, and there is nothing.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17: 7-8).

Jeremiah contrasts the arara bush to the tree planted by streams of water. The psalmist teaches us about this tree in Psalm 1. It is the acacia tree.

Acacia trees grow along dry river beds called wadis. Wadis are not good locations for most trees. When wadi floods come, most trees are not able to withstand the rushing water and are quickly swept away. The acacia is created for the wadi.

The uniqueness of the acacia is its tap root. Those who know tell us that the tap root of the tree grows as deep as 100 feet into the ground. The root enables the tree to withstand wadi floods. The root also enables the tree to drink from underground water that humans in the desert could never see or reach.

Jeremiah and the psalmist compare humans who trust in God to the acacia. Like the acacia, they are rooted. The tap root of those who trust in God goes down to the bedrock. The bedrock is God and his holy Word. It is the rock-solid anchor for the believer. When the wadi floods of life’s desert journey hit the believer, the believer is shaken but not uprooted, because he or she is anchored to the rock.

The leaves of the acacia are always green, because the deep roots are able to reach underground water far below the surface. The acacia is also adaptable. It can lie dormant for ten years, be refreshed, and still bear fruit. It is always attached to its anchor. It will always bear fruit.

Leaders are like either arara bushes or acacia trees. Some are beautiful on the outside and hollow on the inside. Some are well-anchored, faithful, and always bearing fruit.

You are called to lead in various ways in God’s kingdom. Always remember that our outward appearance is meaningless to God. It is what is in our hearts that counts. If our hearts are hollow, then we are poison to the work that we are called to do. Trust in God with all your heart. Rely on him and not on yourself. Keep your eyes on Jesus and never turn away.

If you are more like an arara, it is time for a transformation. We are called to be like an acacia. Be true to the rock that anchors you. Become an acacia for God!

Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services

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Devotional: Hypocrites

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full….And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others” (Matthew 6: 2, 5).

Hypocrites. I am one. You are one. We all are. As sinners, we are all guilty of the warning that Jesus gave in the next chapter of Matthew: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

We tend to see the misdeeds of others without acknowledging our own. We tend to rank sins, forgetting that we are all sinners and fall short.

It is interesting that Jesus points to a specific group of people as the metaphor to teach us. Hypocrites in his day could be found near the theatres. Everyone knew who he meant. They were the actors and actresses. Continue reading

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MLK Day

Martin Luther King Jr. was an African-American leader who exemplified a passion for civil rights. He was committed to non-violence and was a living example of putting our Christian faith into action on behalf of the oppressed. He left an enduring legacy.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Leadership Thought

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” Max Dupree

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Devotional: Detour Ahead

“’I know the plans I have for you,’ announces the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Detour ahead.

The words really annoy me. I tend to be a very driven traveler (pun intended). My wife will tell you, with rolled eyes, about my obsession with family road trips. For several years, we traveled from Michigan to Gulf Shores, Alabama for spring break. I had the trip calculated, literally. From our driveway to our destination was very close to 1,000 miles. If we could average 63 mph, we would complete the trip in 16 hours! That was more than a goal. It was my obsession. Continue reading

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Devotional: When Hanukkah and Christmas Collide

It almost never happens.

Menorah Replica Google Images

Menorah Replica Google Images

But in 2016 the Jewish feast of Hanukkah began on Christmas Eve. This doesn’t happen every year. The Jewish religious calendar was and is a lunar calendar. That is why Passover and Easter are sometimes in March and sometimes in April. Hanukkah, however, is always in December. In 2015 it began on December 6, in December 2017 it will begin on December 12, and in December 2018 it will begin on December 22. It is confusing to us Julian (solar) calendar folks.

This year, Hanukkah and Christmas met. Perhaps you noticed. But if you did, I suspect that the meeting had little significance and wasn’t much more than a passing thought. Continue reading

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Christmas Joy

nativityMay each of you experience the joy of the Savior’s birth, the peace of God’s promise, and hope in a new year ahead.

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