My goal is to write 365 daily devotionals for Scouters and Scouts. While I’m 360 short so far, I’m working on them. If you find any of these useful, please let me know. Comments and feedback are always welcome.
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:14-15 (ESV)
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 (ESV)
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 (ESV)
The other day, I got into an argument on Twitter. I know. Whoever gets into heated discussions on social media? It began rather tamely, but eventually, I got sarcastic and facetious, leaving the other people in the thread certain I was a Class A jerk. The next day, as I sat in the morning church service, I was challenged by God. What kind of witness for Christ had I been the previous day? I’ll tell you if you haven’t already figured it out: not a great one. And I felt terrible. Once I got home, I sent a message apologising for my behaviour. The other party accepted my apology and explained that he, himself, had been having a difficult day. We ended our short conversation on much better terms than 24 hours before. Who knows, maybe we’ll even become great friends.
How many times do we get into arguments, or fights, with people? I’m not even talking about people we don’t know. We fight with family, friends, and fellow Scouts; all people we care about and love. The worse part, is that even when we know we’re wrong, we often won’t apologise. The writer of Hebrews warns us that bitterness can destroy things like friendships and relationships. Bitterness creeping up on us is subtle, secretive, and we often don’t even realise it’s happening until it’s too late. It’s insidious and just what Satan wants. My anger could cause someone to “fail to obtain the grace of God”. Try sleeping with knowledge!
We need to strive for peace with people and rely on the Holy Spirit as we work for the holiness that is the goal of all Christian. Without these, people will not see Jesus in or through us. People will know we are followers of Christ when they see us show love to others (John 13:35).
That Sunday morning in church, I was confronted by this and tried to make it right. I’m not going to lie. It’s hard to not want to get the last word in, to try to win an argument. But in the end, I had to apologise because I was in the wrong. It’s not easy to admit. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that we should be speaking softly. I need to remember that.
Prayer for today:
Lord, I’m sorry for the way I treat others sometimes. Please forgive me for not being the kind of person you would have me be. Help me be loving and kind to others so that they see you through me. Amen.
Scout Tip from Scouter Evelyn Robertson:
Trouble remembering knots? Why not carry a short piece of rope with you and when you have nothing to do, practise. Tie them with your eyes closed. Don’t practise them until you get them right, practise until you can’t get them wrong!
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Phillipians 4:13
I often have students come up to me and tell me they can’t do something. I tell them they’re right. At that moment, I usually get a strange look, because that’s not the response they were looking for. I tell them that whether they say they can or they can’t do something, they’re usually right. I believe that “can’t” is more of an attitude than an ability to do something. If you say that you can’t do something, you’ve already given up inside your head. A better thing to say is, “I need help to do this.” That’s what parents, teachers, Scouters, and friends are there for, to help you succeed.
Can’t is such a negative word that I’ve banned it from my classroom and made the students memorise this poem by Edgar Albert Guest. When they recite it, it’s the only time they are allowed to say the word.
Can’t is the worst word that’s written or spoken;
Doing more harm here than slander and lies;
On it is many a strong spirit broken,
And with it many a good purpose dies.
It springs from the lips of the thoughtless each morning
And robs us of courage we need through the day:
It rings in our ears like a timely-sent warning
And laughs when we falter and fall by the way.
Can’t is the father of feeble endeavor,
The parent of terror and half-hearted work;
It weakens the efforts of artisans clever,
And makes of the toiler an indolent shirk.
It poisons the soul of the man with a vision,
It stifles in infancy many a plan;
It greets honest toiling with open derision
And mocks at the hopes and the dreams of a man.
Can’t is a word none should speak without blushing;
To utter it should be a symbol of shame;
Ambition and courage it daily is crushing;
It blights a man’s purpose and shortens his aim.
Despise it with all of your hatred of error;
Refuse it the lodgment it seeks in your brain;
Arm against it as a creature of terror,
And all that you dream of you some day shall gain.
Can’t is the word that is foe to ambition,
An enemy ambushed to shatter your will;
Its prey is forever the man with a mission
And bows but to courage and patience and skill.
Hate it, with hatred that’s deep and undying,
For once it is welcomed ’twill break any man;
Whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying
And answer this demon by saying: “I can.”
Memorise the whole poem or even just a couple of verses. Saying “I can’t” is so negative that the author wants us to hate it because it will “break any man”. Paul constantly tells us that his strength came from God and that he was able to do all things because of it. Remember that next time you’re tempted to use that word. Ask God to give you strength and perseverance in order to complete the task you’ve been asked to do.
Prayer for today:
Father, things can be difficult at times. Please be with me and strengthen me in everything I do. Give me the courage to face each trial and test with confidence because you are with me. Amen.
Scout Tip: Winter camping can get cold. Even camping in October and November can bring very low nighttime temperatures. One idea that I was taught once was to make a Styrofoam sleeping pad. Get some thick Styrofoam, the kind you side a house with, and cut it into four pieces that are about 16” x 24” each. Using duct tape, tape them together in an accordion pattern. Put your sleeping bag on top of this or use it together with your regular sleeping pad to keep yourself off the floor of your tent. Throw in a hand warmer or two and you’ll have a very comfortable and warm sleep.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1st Corinthians 9:24
Every two years, the world stops what it’s doing and starts watching either the summer or winter Olympics. Once held in ancient Greece, they are now international spectacles involving thousands of athletes, coaches, medical staff, race officials, and countless others. In Paul’s time, the Isthmian games were very popular so he uses the analogy of running a race to inspire the recipients of this letter, the members of the Corinthian Church.
Paul tells us that in the race at the games, only one person wins, even though many aspire to take the prize. In our sports today, we also have many vying for the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup, the World Series, or your Pack’s Pinewood Derby Championship, but in the end, one winner has to be declared. Paul compares the life we live to be like that of the runners. He doesn’t say we have to actually win the race, but that we should live our lives with the kind of dedication that the athletes have. They train; we must train. They sacrifice; we must sacrifice. They demonstrate self-control; we must demonstrate self-control (v25). The winners of the races in Paul’s day, or the victors in last year’s World Series receive a prize that will fade away, forgotten, or even stolen. Names on a trophy will fade away in time. But our race as Christians ends with an eternal prize!
Live each day with a purpose in mind and don’t wander aimlessly. Don’t “shadowbox” as Paul writes. Be dedicated to winning others to Christ through the way you live and carry yourself. Paul states he doesn’t want to be disqualified for the prize of which he preaches, nor should we.
Prayer for today:
Lord Jesus, help me run the race with dedication and perseverance. Give me the strength each day to be worthy of the prize for which you sacrificed yourself on the cross for my sins. Let me live with purpose and help others in this race. Amen.
Scout Tip: When Heading out for the day, weekend, or a longer camp, no matter the season, pack a supply of air-activated hand warmers. Even in the summer, I’ve needed them in my sleeping bag to keep warm after five straight days of rain. a couple at the bottom of my sleeping bag takes the chill off and makes for a more comfortable sleep. And sometimes, in the morning, they’re still warm enough to go inside your gloves!
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1st Timothy 4:12
This Bible verse comes from a letter that the Apostle Paul was writing to his friend, Timothy, who was working in Ephesus at the time. Paul tells Timothy, even though he is younger than other believers, to make sure that he is an example for fellow Christians. Timothy is being challenged by Paul to not act in ways that would cause people to blame his ways on his youth. It might seem like a pretty tough list: speak right, do right, be loving, be faithful, and be pure. Not just to his friends or his fellow church members, but to everyone. This couldn’t have been easy for Timothy, but I’m sure he asked God for strength daily.
In our Scout Promise and Law we pledge to act a certain way. As Scouts, we promise to be different than the way many other people act on a daily basis. We pledge to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. That’s a pretty big list, full of traits that are not what people necessarily expect of young people today. We may not always demonstrate each one as we should, especially when some people or situations cause us difficulty. That’s why we need God’s help. It’s not a sign of weakness to need help; it’s a sign we understand our own failings and the need the God’s strength to get through.
We need to be the examples to our friends, to our younger siblings, to fellow Scouts, and, as Paul says, to those older than us. When we find it hard to be kind or cheerful, or are in a difficult situation that requires strength, remember this verse from 1 Chronicles 16:11: Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually.
Prayer for today:
Heavenly Father, please help me to be an example of your love and kindness in this world. Be with me in every situation. Help me to be the kind of Scout that I’ve promised to be and have people see you in my actions.
Scout Tip: Keep a supply of dryer lint or cotton balls in a Ziplock™ bag in your daypack or survival kit. Coating them in petroleum jelly first is also a good idea as they’ll burn longer. That way, you’ll always have a fire starter handy.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
In life, we get many opportunities for new starts or new beginnings. As students in elementary school, high school, college, or university, each first day of school in September brings new hope and optimism for the year ahead, no matter what the previous year held. If we were disorganised, we plan on keeping our notes in order; if we did poorly on tests, we plan to study more. Each fall we begin a new Scouting year and eagerly anticipate the activities, camps, games, new skills we’ll learn, and the new friends we’ll meet.
January 1, New Year’s Day, presents people with the promise of a new year and a new start. We make resolutions, or set goals to make ourselves better people. We may want to get in better shape physically, we may want to start new hobbies, achieve our Eagle Scout Award or Chief Scout’s Award, or we may even want to stop dangerous habits like smoking. When you read the newspapers or blogs, or listen to the news, too often we hear about how easy it is to give up on those resolutions and are told that most people do end up forgetting about them only a few days or weeks into January.
That kind of negative news shouldn’t stop us from setting goals. A couple of years ago, I made a resolution to write a letter a day. January 1? Check. January 2? Check. Did pretty well until life got busy and I found less and less time to sit down and compose those letters. Was I disappointed in myself? For a short while, yes. Did I get over it? Yep. But that experience hasn’t stopped me from setting new goals for myself on each successive January 1. As Scouts, we continually strive to do our best. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. But we don’t, and shouldn’t, let our failures define us. Failures should make us want to work harder!
As Christians, we often face negative reactions when we fail. People expect us to be perfect, criticize us when we’re not, and may often call us hypocrites. But we aren’t perfect, just forgiven. Jesus died for us for that reason; that we aren’t perfect and we all need forgiveness. Daily. For us, each day is a new start and a new opportunity to show the world God’s love.
This year, as you strive to do your best as a Scout, and more importantly, as a follower of Christ, lean on Him to help you with your struggles.
Prayer for today:
Lord, thank you for this New Year and for new starts in life. Thank you for taking my sins to the cross so that I, and everyone that believes in You, can be forgiven. Help me each day to live the kind of life worthy of being called a Christian. Help me to always do my best in everything I do so that people will see You through me. Amen.
Scout Tip: This year, keep an outdoor journal. Record your hikes, canoe trips, animals seen, places visited, and skills you used or need to learn for the next outing! Use a waterproof notebook, like Rite in the Rain.