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Daily devotional thoughts to bolster your faith.

Christmas 2017: Week Two: Girl Interrupted

Joe Bertone


Luke 1:26-33: "In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Learning to ski is an exhausting task. Beginners fall endlessly, and after just a few hours of trying to stay upright, they find themselves beyond tired. 

Beginners are often told to use a tow rope to get up the bunny hill. The tow rope is a cruel joke. It’s meant to pull beginners up the hill with ease, to help them avoid getting on and off the chair lift (another daunting task). But instead, the tow rope can be a source of even greater exhaustion and embarrassment. As you grab onto the rope, all you need to do is face forward and let the rope pull you up the hill. Seems like a fine idea—until you hit a bump or a groove and lose your balance. 

Skiers on the tow rope bobble and waver; they try desperately to stay upright and then, eventually, they fall. Determined, they often refuse to let go. Arms outstretched, skis dragging behind, they hang on. Their gloves might rip, their skis might pop off. Onlookers often holler, “Just let go! Just let go!” With great fear in their eyes, they look over at the line of people watching them and they just hang on. Their faces collecting snow like a plow, they keep at it. It’s rare to see the tenacity and commitment to a cause that you see on a beginner slope on a ski hill. 

This is what’s it’s like with Mary. She’s a girl interrupted. God steps into her story and transforms what would have been an ordinary life with the extraordinary. This can be true for us. God steps into our lives from time to time with a divine interruption. That is because God has a purpose for our lives that rarely matches our own. When God interrupts us, when we find the purpose we have been called to chase after, we hang on like a beginner skier being towed up the bunny hill. We face the fear, the culture, the onlookers, the naysayers, and we hang tight. Annie Dillard once wrote, “I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.” 

This is what it means to let God interrupt our lives. Like Mary’s story, it means we will have to commit to the cause, to hang onto the rope of faith regardless of how it pulls and drags us. God asks us to grasp his true purpose for us and hold tight. “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love” (1 Cor. 16:13-14).

Prayer: Father we thank You that You have a plan for our lives beyond the norm. That you interrupt our lives with Your purpose and plans. Help us to hold on. Help us to never let go. In Jesus name, amen.

Christmas 2017: Week One: Christmas Compassion

Joe Bertone


Matthew 1:18-19: "This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”

Here's Joseph's dilemma: he comes from a culture of arranged marriages. When the parents negotiated the marriage it was a contract between families that was binding and not easily dissolved. To be engaged was a kind of marriage that required a certificate of divorce.

Joseph was engaged to Mary. One day Joseph's fiancé, Mary, comes to him. I'm not sure how that conversation went. How does she explain what has happened to her—the angel, the prophesy, the baby? No matter how she explained it the fact of the story is hard to sugar coat. She's pregnant and Joseph's not the father. How do you break that news?

However it happened it put Joseph in a dilemma. Because of God's law, to which Joseph was faithful, he could not marry her. It would have made him an adulterer. So, he saw only two options. Option one, the option that was obviously best for Joseph's reputation, demanded that Joseph give Mary a public certificate of divorce. But by saving his own reputation Mary would be destroyed. To divorce her publicly would be to subject her to public ridicule. Her future marriage prospects would be gone. She would probably be ostracized by her parents and be alone trying to raise this child on her own. That wasn't the worst though. The worst was that the law punished adultery by stoning, by death. A public divorce for Mary could very well be a death sentence.

When you look at how people respond when cheated on you get one constant theme. Their first and strongest desire is to 'out' the cheater. They rent billboards and put the cheaters face and info on them for all to see. They make posts on Facebook with all their evidence. The first thing they want is others to know. In this way we can uncover a deeper truth about Joseph. Joseph's heart belonged to God. I know this because Joseph did not do what many people would do. Our fleshly first reaction would be revenge, to show the other as a cheater to the world. But Joseph doesn't do that.

Instead he chooses option two. That is to divorce Mary quietly. Instead of revenge Joseph shows compassion. He didn't get that compassion from the law. Laws don't have compassion. He could have only been able to give that response if his heart belonged to God.

A heart that belongs to God finds compassion when revenge is easiest. The New Testament is full of this idea that when our heart belongs to God then we deal with those who hurt us, betray us, or persecute us with love instead of hate, with compassion instead of revenge, with blessing instead of curses.

The reality is that loving others has much to do with loving God and loving God is best shown when we show compassion to those who hurt us. Someone once said, "We are most like beasts when we kill. We are most like men when we judge. We are most like God when we forgive."

Showing compassion to Mary shows Joseph's heart belongs to God. When our hearts belong to God others will know by the compassion we show.

Prayer: Father we thank you for the incredible compassion You have shown us through Jesus Christ. We seek to be people of compassion like Joseph. Help increase our faith so we may be people whose hearts belong to You. In Jesus name, amen.

BELIEVE: week thirty: Humility

Joe Bertone


“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (Philippians 4:5)

We all know that the person who has a strong self-esteem and feeds their ego through self-promotion, often at the expense of others, is not the poster child for biblical humility. However, biblical humility also isn’t demonstrated through the person who has a low self-esteem, acts humble and shy, and lacks confidence, allowing people to walk all over them. That’s humiliation.

Truly humble people have a strong self-esteem stemming from knowing who they are in Christ. A firm grasp of your eternal position as a child of God gives you confidence that you have nothing to lose. Knowing that your position is not up for grabs affords you the opportunity to put the needs of others above your own.

In Philippians 2:8 Paul cites Jesus as the poster child for humility: “being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death.” Jesus, with a strong sense of who he was, put your needs above his own and suffered so that you could gain a relationship with God. If you want to be like Jesus, take on his brand of humility.

“I choose to esteem others above myself.”

[Excerpt from Believe: 31-Day Devotional by Randy & Roxanne Frazee, pgs. 63-64.]

BELIEVE: week twenty-nine: Gentleness

Joe Bertone


“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5)

When you study the virtue of gentleness throughout the Bible, it carries three practical ideas:

  • Thoughtfulness—Think before you speak.
  • Consideration—Put yourself in other people’s shoes, and give them room to make mistakes.
  • Calmness—Don’t raise your voice or tense up your facial muscles.

Because we belong to Christ, these qualities should be evident to everyone who comes in contact with us. But why does Paul throw in the next sentence? “The Lord is near.”

This can mean one of two things. One, the Lord’s return to earth is near. When Christ returns we don’t want to be found as harsh, arrogant, uptight, and loud. Two, it could simply mean that the Lord’s presence is near us right now. He is watching everything we are doing all the time.

Bottom line, in all of your encounters with people, imagine Jesus in the room with you, because he is in you, and he might actually show up face-to-face in front of you today. Act accordingly.

“I am thoughtful, considerate, and calm in my dealings with others.”

[Excerpt from Believe: 31-Day Devotional by Randy & Roxanne Frazee, pgs. 61-62.]


Joe Bertone


Ephesians 5:19-20: “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Tom Schmidt visited a nursing home once or twice a week. Not a task most of us would like to do. Schmidt related that one day he went down a hallway he normally did not go down. He said that sometimes the worst cases are those who sit in wheelchairs out in the hall. Many are not able to function. He was giving people flowers who were able to hold them. He noticed one woman who looked the worst of all. He could tell by her blank stare that she was blind. She had a thick hearing aid on so he knew she could barely hear. Worst of all cancer had eaten away a good portion of her face deforming her appearance so that she looked repulsive. Constant drooling from her drooping mouth strung and dripped down her face onto her chest. He said that he bent down and put a flower in her hand and said, “Happy Mother’s Day.” Her response, though garbled, revealed a very keen mind. She said, “Thank you very much. It’s lovely. But do you mind if I give it to someone else because I’m blind and I can’t see it?” Schmidt said that he wheeled her down the hallway to a section where the people were more alert. As she stretched the flower out for someone to take she said, “This is from Jesus.” 

He said, “I knew right then that this was no ordinary human being. So, every time I came back, sometimes once or twice a week, I would visit with her. I learned that her name was Mabel. She grew up and remained single living with her mother on a farm. Her mother died. Then she became blind and she had to be put in a home where cancer threatened her life. She lived with a roommate that was a human vegetable. Her existence was horrible. But I also learned that she really knew the Lord. I’d try and read scripture and she would go on and quote the rest of the verse. Or sometimes she would sing hymns. She had been there for twenty-five years. She was eighty-nine years old. I asked her one day, “Mabel, what do you think about all day long?” She said, “Well, I just think about my Jesus.” Schmidt said, “I would have a hard time thinking about Jesus five minutes in a row and she thinks about him all day long.” He then asked, “What do you think about him?” She said, “Well, I just think about how good he has been to me. He’s been awful good to me, you know. Jesus, in fact, is all the world to me.” Then she began to sing, “My life, my joy, my all. He is my strength from day to day. Without Him I would fall. When I am sad, to Him I go. No other one can cheer me so. When I am sad, He makes me glad. He’s my friend.” 

Schmidt said, “This lady was not denying reality. Her personality, once you got beyond the physical, was so attractive because she lived the life of gratitude.” (Adapted from The Life You Always Wanted by John Ortburg)

Gratitude can transform you. Gratitude is not a feeling but a choice. It is the lens through which we see our world. Look through the lens of gratitude this Thanksgiving and see how an attitude of gratitude can change you.