Clinging to God

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Clinging to God

By Elise Johnson on May 9, 2022

Read: Psalm 63:1-11

For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (vv. 7-8)

It’s no secret that kids can be clingy. We’ve all seen it during Sunday coffee hour or some other social gathering. You walk over to a family to say hello and suddenly the kids are looking at the floor and tugging on their parent’s shirts. The toddlers are wrapping their arms around their parent’s legs. The babies are burying their faces into their parent’s shoulders. Whether they’re shy, scared, tired, or just bored, children instinctively turn to the ones they love and trust for comfort and support.

The psalmist reflects on how we respond to the Lord with this same tender, childlike behavior. As a loving Father, he helps and comforts us. He draws us to himself and protects us, “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings” (Matt. 23:37). Not with our arms but with our very souls, we cling to him, because we know that he is our rock and our refuge.

“Your right hand upholds me,” sings the psalmist (v. 8). I’m reminded of a photo I recently framed for our wall. In it, my husband holds out his hand to support our daughter as she learns to stand and take her first hesitant steps. She’s looking up at him with a wide-eyed smile. The psalmist puts us in my daughter’s place. With a joyful smile, we reach to God’s outstretched hand as we learn to stand and walk with him. —Elise Johnson

As you pray, praise the Lord for his faithful, fatherly love.

Complete Dependance

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Complete Dependance

By Elise Johnson on May 8, 2022

Read: Mark 10:13-16

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. (v. 15)

When my baby sees something she wants that’s out of reach—a rice husk, her bottle, anything shiny—she crawls over, points with both index fingers and begins a refrain of “dah dah dah” until we hand it over (or distract her!). Unable to grab the thing herself, she’s 100 percent dependent on us to offer it. And when we do, her laughter is so precious that we can’t help but laugh along.

Infants help us see what complete dependance looks like. They can’t have whatever they want, whenever they want it, but rely on their parents for everything. It’s no coincidence that they never say “me,” but always say “Mama” or “Dada.”

When Jesus tells us that we must receive the kingdom of God like a child, he isn’t asking us to come crawling and pointing and babbling (at least, not literally). But he is asking us to be dependent on his grace rather than our own efforts.

Entrance to the kingdom is offered to us by Christ. It isn’t something that we can take or make or earn ourselves. No amount of hard work, education, volunteer hours, or acts of Christian service can get us into God’s kingdom. Only by faithfully and humbly following Christ, and calling on him as we once called on our own parents as infants, can we receive this gift. And when he gives it, our joy and laughter is contagious. —Elise Johnson

As you pray, ask for courage to depend on your Father in all things.

Crying Out at Night

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Crying Out at Night

By Elise Johnson on May 7, 2022

Read: Romans 8:12-17

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (v. 15)

It was four o’clock in the morning the first time my daughter said my name. Her first tooth was coming in and she woke suddenly, crying out in pain. I heard one tearful, sustained “Maamaa” coming from down the hall and was by her side in a second. I couldn’t believe how naturally the word came to her when she was in distress. She had never come close to saying Mama during the day!

As children of God, doesn’t it come just as naturally to us when we cry out to him, especially in times of distress? Even if we have never called on him before, or haven’t in a long time, suddenly we find the words in those desperate, painful, or dark moments. We cry, “Abba! Father!” just as Christ did on the cross.

Babies instinctively cry out for their parents, but what instinct urges us to cry out for our heavenly Father? Paul tells us that we have received the Spirit of adoption, and it is by the Spirit’s urging that we call on God. He says that when we cry out for our Father, it is the Spirit himself interceding for us (v. 26).

These are words of hope. When we are in the darkest places, we are not alone. Even if we don’t know the words to pray, the Spirit is there with us, crying out on our behalf. —Elise Johnson

As you pray, know that the Spirit is praying with you.

A Room of Our Own

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

A Room of Our Own

By Elise Johnson on May 6, 2022

Read: John 14:1-7

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (v. 2)

Our new house had more rooms than we needed at first, but shortly after we moved in, I learned that I was pregnant. “The corner one,” I said to my husband when he asked which room would be the baby’s. The next months were spent preparing the nursery. Every piece of furniture, plush toy, and swaddle was lovingly picked just for her. It was a time of great excitement and anticipation. I couldn’t wait for the day when I would finally meet her face-to-face and bring her home from the hospital.

My experience of preparing a room for my daughter points to the Father’s still deeper love for us, his children. He longs for us to be “born again” (John 3:3) and follow Christ, who, as this passage tells us, is our way home. And when we finally arrive, we will find a room of our own, lovingly prepared just for us.

Love for our children is one of the ways that God helps us understand his deep, down-to-the-bones love for us. How often do we say that we would give our lives to save our kids? Our heavenly Father has already done that. Now he waits for us with excitement and anticipation. He looks forward to the day when he can meet us face-to-face and bring us home. —Elise Johnson

As you pray, ask God to help you understand how deeply he loves you.

Known as a Child of God

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Known as a Child of God

By Elise Johnson on May 5, 2022

Read: Psalm 139:1-18

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. (v. 13)

As a new mom, can anyone know my daughter better than me? I’ve seen every tiny change in the colors of her eyes. I’ve heard every coo and cry and can usually guess what they mean. I know what she likes (strawberries) and what she hates (tofu) to eat. I’ve been with her every hour since the day she was born. Still, there is someone who knows her better than I do. And he has been with her even longer than I have.

The psalmist tells us that God saw our “unformed substance” (v. 16) and knitted us together in our mother’s womb—not just our physical self, but our full personhood. Every fiber of our body, every future word from our lips was known by him before we were even born. He doesn’t determine our path, but he knows it. Our eternal God sees the lives of his children all at once. He sees the full life of the oak tree before forming the acorn.

Like the psalmist, maybe you want to run and hide. But of course, it’s no good. God doesn’t just know us; he’s also with us wherever we go. Even in our darkest places, he brings light. And this is the great comfort of being his child. We were preciously formed by him. There’s nothing about us that he doesn’t already know. There’s nowhere we can go to be separated from his abiding love and grace. —Elise Johnson

As you pray, ask God to help you understand how deeply he knows you.

Family Resemblance

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Family Resemblance

By Elise Johnson on May 4, 2022

Read: Genesis 1:20-31

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (v. 27)

“Who do you think she looks like more?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question since my daughter was born. Everyone tries to pinpoint the family resemblance. On the one hand, she looks like both of us, with her father’s curly hair but my eyes and smile. On the other hand, it’s too early to say how she’ll come to resemble us when she’s fully grown. We’re a little bit like that when it comes to bearing the likeness of God.

As we’re adopted into the family of God, we grow and mature into a greater likeness of Christ. A family resemblance emerges like a photo developing in a dark room. As we pattern our lives after his example, by loving God and our neighbors, Christ’s image is revealed in our thoughts, in our emotional lives, and in our actions. By his grace, we come to look more and more like him.

Still, as with my daughter, our fully grown appearance as image bearers of Christ remains a mystery. Paul wrote, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). On this side of eternity, the photo never fully develops. But even if our knowledge of God and self remains dim, we rest in the assurance that the God “who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). —Elise Johnson

As you pray, ask to look more and more like Christ.

Submitting to Weakness

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Submitting to Weakness

By Amy Clemens on May 3, 2022

Read: Luke 1:26-38

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (v. 38)

Mary was already “weak” in the eyes of the world before the angel brought his request from God that she become the mother of God-in-flesh. We often consider her strength and courage without thinking of her weakness. Paul would later say, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world . . . so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

Although the world might have despised Mary’s weaknesses, she didn’t, and willingly added pregnancy outside of marriage to the list of being young and female in a culture that could be cruel to all of the above. When God had a plan that added to her vulnerability, she didn’t run away from it or go on and on about her unsuitability to do the work of the gospel. She trusted. She found consolation and honor in partnering with God in his story. She submitted, says verse 38, to a God she believed was good.

If we, like Mary, trust that God is always good, it’s easier to submit when what God asks of us makes us weaker, allowing his strength to flow through our story to the world. —Amy Clemens

As you pray, ask God for a vision of what he might accomplish through your own submission to his will.

Unhindered

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Unhindered

By Amy Clemens on May 2, 2022

Read: Mark 10:13-16

Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. (v. 14)

The words of Jesus loom large for those who would complicate theology in any way: Don’t hinder those with wide-eyed trust, be they children or adults. Hebrews 11:6 teaches that without faith it’s impossible to please God, because (1) you won’t really live like he exists, and/or (2) even if you believe he exists, you won’t trust he’s good. In short, you must love and trust God to please him.

Children specialize in trust—in fact, you must teach them not to trust, whether by active capital A abuse, like hitting, molesting, or otherwise betraying their trust, or by passive little a abuse, by ignoring their needs, pain, emotional or physical health, or abandoning them.

It’s not complicated to believe like a child—unless you’re an adult who has encountered any of the above (a lot of us). Then you might feel jaded. Insecure. Betrayed. With trust broken, you may find yourself vowing to never rely on anyone again, especially God, whom you think could have saved you from pain if he wanted to. You may love God and yet keep yourself spiritually distanced from him, double-masked up, self-quarantined behind walls of your choosing. If that’s you (as it once was me, a story I share in Walking When You’d Rather Fly), please stop blaming and mistrusting God, and come as the child you once were, unhindered, leaving the shame for the one or ones to whom it belongs. —Amy Clemens

As you pray, ask God for the gift of believing as a child once again.

Accepting versus Boasting

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Accepting versus Boasting

By Amy Clemens on May 1, 2022

Read: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (v. 9)

When I read this passage, I think I might be hearing the Loony Tunes cartoon character Yosemite Sam in my head hollering, “Whaaat in tarnation . . . ?!” So, I can’t just gracefully accept my weakness, now I need to boast about it too?

But such is the example of Paul, who pushed the envelope of faith in every direction. Paul, who prayed for healing from this thing that stabbed him like a pricker under the fingernail. In a way, I want to holler like Yosemite Sam again. Imagine shipwrecked, flogged, imprisoned, insulted, persecuted Paul, praying that a thorn in his flesh be removed. How could he even detect the difference between thorns and all the other painful circumstances in which he found himself?

But somehow he could, and God’s point to Paul (and to us) is that thorns in the flesh are there to remind us that God’s grace is what we’re counting on, and God’s grace comes in the form of power that is made perfect in weakness. Paul chose to boast in every weakness his fragile flesh was vulnerable to—to him, it seemed a small price to pay to have the power of Christ resting on his life. So, be silent, voice of Yosemite Sam, God’s got something to say through my weaknesses, and I’m going to try to boast about it. —Amy Clemens

As you pray, ask God for the joy Paul experienced in boasting about his weaknesses, and may the power of Christ rest on you.

Lost and Found

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Lost and Found

By Amy Clemens on April 30, 2022

Read: Luke 15

We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours . . . was lost and is found. (v. 32 NIV)

There’s nothing like being lost to make you feel vulnerable. Jesus tells three stories back-to-back to help the religious snobs of his day reexamine their contempt for “lostness.” We encounter lost sheep, lost coins, and a lost son, and each story ends with a celebration, which likely deepened the frowns of the frowny-faced elite. “How about some discipline,” they wonder, “for those with a proclivity for wandering off?”

Is it possible we attach unseemly baggage to the word lost? Does it become a label, a category, a judgment? Jesus used it to describe those who have faith but have lost their way. In each story, he ascribed great value to what was lost as evidenced by the great joy that followed rediscovery. In the end, Jesus said the finding was a lot like a joyous resurrection.

I’ve been lost a few times in my life, and I’m grateful there was a Great Shepherd and a few other souls who came looking. Like a sheep, I’ve wandered away from safety; like a coin, been swept under the rug. I’ve even awakened to find myself metaphorically eating what was fit only for pigs. The good news for those of us who get lost is that we have a God who always knows where we are. We are on his radar even if we think we’ve fallen off the grid. —Amy Clemens

As you pray, consider the times you’ve felt lost only to be found again by the Great Shepherd. Celebrate those times.

The Friendly Church