Devotionals
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June 7, 2017, 5:00 AM

Time is precious and remember, you only get one dash.


Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:13-17

 

Today I am going to ask you to something a little strange.  Before we dig into this passage, I want you to get out a piece of paper. Write on the year you were born, then put a dash and finally write 20_ _.  Obviously, you can’t fill in the blanks, but we’ll get to that in a moment.  Now, stop and look at the sheet in front of you. Life is all about the dash, this little mark is what is put on our tombstone between the date of our birth and the date of our death.  For some, the time between is longer than others. But, regardless we all have a dash.

 

We love to celebrate the day on the left. As parents, we feel the pressure to go overboard with our children’s birthday parties. People go all out to honor that moment a loved one came into the world. When that day rolls around every year, we eat cake, blow out candles and receive gifts. For as much fanfare is given to that day of one’s life, many of us hate and avoid giving any thought to the date on the right. We might not know when, but the other side of the dash is coming one day too. Yet, people go about their daily business as if they are going to live forever.

 

Eventually, numbers will take up the space where the blanks reside for the right hand date. We don’t like to hear or think about it, but those numbers are inevitable. This shouldn’t come as any surprise to us.  Once again, look at that sheet of paper. Is there anything you can control on the left hand corner? NO. Now, what about the right hand side, do you have any control over that? NO. But, there is one thing that is written down that you can control. It’s the dash. It’s right now. It’s the years between when you graced this world and when you depart.

 

The dash represents your life and the time you’ve been given by God to make an impact. It’s the moments you’ve been given to encourage others, make an impact, leave your mark and build a legacy that will last after you are gone. It’s all about the dash. What are you going to do with your dash? What will you do with the time you’ve been given? If, up to this point, you’ve been making much of your own story, don’t worry. There is still time to rewrite your story as long as you drop your pen and allow God to be the author of the tale He is telling. Don’t wait.

 

Time is precious and remember, you only get one dash. This truth is echoed in today’s passage in James where the author describes the brevity of life.  Coming to grips with the brevity of life should cause two different reactions to erupt within us: reflection and action. How are you going to seize the day that you’ve been given today? How can you encourage someone today? What conversations have you been putting off that need to take place? How will you reflect the love of Christ to others today?

 

It is important that we steward our dash well. How? By making every day count, cherishing every moment and leveraging the time we’ve been given. But, let’s take it a step further. What will your friends and family say about you at your funeral? What will they say about what was important to you? What do you want your legacy to be? But, keep going with this thought process, to the most important question. What will Jesus say to you about how you invested your short dash for the sake of making His name known? So, I’ll ask you one more time: what are you doing with your dash?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, open the eyes of my heart and help me to number this day and to make it count. Lord help to be reminded of the dash and realize that You are asking me to do something with the days I’ve been given. I want my dash to be meaningful.  Jesus I want my dash to make an impact, but not for my glory. Instead I want my dash to reflect the greatness of who You are.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




June 6, 2017, 5:00 AM

A legacy mindset should be a defining marker of our churches.


Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 1 Timothy 1:18-19

 

There is a very personal element to one’s walk with God. This can’t be denied. The creator of the universe is crafting each of our stories. He wants to transform our heart and character to reflect His own. God desires for us to trust Him in every aspect of our life.  Yet, we miss the mark if we foolishly believe our faith is all about us: our needs, our comfort, and our sufficiency. The call of Christ is for each one of us to serve, give back, and invest in others. The blessings of God we’ve experienced weren’t meant to be held on to tightly, but rather to be shared and given away.

 

Deep down inside, each one of us wants to give our lives to something bigger than ourselves. This desire can be met by looking backwards. As a church who reflects the love of Christ, we must possess a relentless commitment to the generations that come after us. The next generation matters to God so they must matter to us.  A legacy mindset should be a defining marker of our churches. The culture we need to be nurturing is one where a body of believers rallies around and encourages the family. The family matters, it was established so that our children’s children will know God as God.  But, families can’t do it on their own.

 

Raising, supporting and encouraging the next generation was never intended to be a solo mission placed on the parent’s shoulders. Every parent needs someone saying the same things they are saying to their children.  Imagine if every toddler, child, tween, adolescent, or college student that encountered your church heard a chorus of people telling them of the potential they struggle to see in themselves. The message of them being valued in God’s eyes would ring out and maybe alter the course of not just one child’s life, but an entire generation’s. Instead of being bombarded by a culture that feeds them lie after lie, these young people would encounter a different way to fullness and peace.

 

In this day and age, young people find themselves in a battle over their heart and mind. As they try and figure out who they are and what they believe, they will wrestle, struggle, fail and doubt. The pressure to conform is greater than it has ever been. It takes a great deal of courage for a young person to stand out and be different while standing firm in their faith.  In the midst of their faith journey, they are hoping others will come alongside them and point them in the right direction. To put it simply, every child needs someone to fight for them and with them. Leadership, the ability to influence, is a profoundly human gift that is inside each one of us. The choice to lead and to impact is up to us.

 

There are opportunities out there for us as a church to impact the next generation. We’ve just got to go out there and seize them. However, it will be impossible to be the most influential voice in the lives of young people unless we all are engaged and willing to invest. Someone else needs to hear from you.

 

This is my Prayer:  Father God, I desire to leave a legacy. I want my days to matter. Lord help me to fight for the next generation. Give me the heart to care for those who come after me. Jesus teach me to point them towards Your amazing love. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




June 5, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where are you allowing status quo, convenience and your feelings to guide your connections with others?


Often the difficulty we have with Scripture is not due to a lack of comprehension but rather unwillingness on our part to put those truths into practice, especially when it comes to dealing with difficult people. For instance, take these passages found in Romans.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”  Romans 12:9-13

 

They are straightforward and easy to understand. Yet, for all of their simplicity, we struggle to act upon what we know.  What makes applying these commands appear so daunting? Why are we met with such resistance? Quite simply, these actions of love, humility, generosity, and joy run counterculture to our human flesh. When someone pushes our buttons, all we want to do is push right back. And, if we don’t react we tend to avoid so we don’t have to deal with that individual. Relying on our own strength to accomplish loving that difficult person would be pure foolishness. True obedience is only possible when we rely on Christ’s heart to be reflected in us and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us.

 

We are confronted with this reality in verse 9 when the author reminds us that love must be sincere. There’s no such thing as “I can love him, but I don’t have to like him.” We must stop giving simple lip service to love. How can one say they believe in a loving God, but fail to show love to those around them? What message would we be sending to a lost world if we spoke of Christ’s love yet did not exhibit the one quality the defines our faith?  Love requires action.  The verses continues, “hate what is evil and cling to what is good”. Rather than rationalizing and justifying away the struggles that are present in our lives, we must come face to face with them. But, we can’t stop there. We must drop our sinful ways and cling to God’s grace as well as rejoice in the good He is producing within us.

 

At first glance, urging us to hate evil and cling to what is good appears to have no connection to the charge to love those difficult people in our world. We are left scratching our head wondering how confronting the sin in our own lives helps us exhibit love to those around us. It all boils down to a perspective shift.  Because we understand the depths to which we’ve been forgiven we are able to love others through humility, have hope and patience in the midst of any circumstance, and be generous with everything we’ve been given. When one believes they are loved freely by God, they are freed to love others, even “that guy.”

 

This is easier said than done. It’s as if the author knew our human tendency to become distracted and lose sight of Christ’s love. So, he reminds his audience in verse 11 to “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor.” When we become lazy in our spiritual life and disregard our integrity, we make ourselves vulnerable towards letting status quo, convenience and our feelings direct our actions as well as our relationships.

 

However, becoming sluggish in our pursuit of God has an even more damaging effect on the message we transmit to others. If we are not excited about grace and forgiveness, how can we ever expect those who we want to influence to be drawn towards the cross? Imagine the difference and impact we could have if this body of believers applied these five short verses to our everyday life. We can no longer speak about love. The time has come to answer the call to love extravagantly on Christ’s behalf.

 

This is my Prayer:  Father God help me to love boldly as You do.  Lord let Your heart be reflected in both my actions and my words.  Jesus may the hope that I have in You speak volumes to the people You put in my path. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




June 4, 2017, 5:00 AM

In what broken relationship are you clinging to the hope that it will return to the way it was before the offense occurred?


They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” John 20:13-17

 

Jesus had a unique way of turning our world upside down. He never did things according to the book. He had little regard for our expectations of how things should be.  The crowds who flocked to Jesus were hopeful this was “the one.” This man from Bethlehem was going to overthrow the oppressive Roman government and lead them towards freedom. Jesus had different plans.  Yes, they involved freeing those who were imprisoned, but He died to overthrow the power sin had on our lives. The crowd desired insurrection. Jesus was focused on a resurrection.

 

This explains Jesus’ seemingly odd comment to Mary outside of the tomb. There was no possible way to go back to the way things once were. He had conquered death so we might live. The old system had been replaced by something new, something better.  Why revert back to a system of self-performance that could never meet the requirements for the life we desired?  The essence of what God has done through Jesus is what allows us to be forgiven and therefore free to forgive. His death brought us life.

 

We have a built-in longing to make things right. This is why we gravitate towards forgiveness. In our minds, we believe forgiveness can pave the way to how things were before the offense occurred. Yet, no matter how hard we try, things are never going back to the way it once was.  Forgiveness requires a death. For forgiveness to be felt something has to die. In order to see God’s way, our way has to die.  God’s way is the way of resurrection.  Letting go of events, relationships, hopes and dreams that we grasped onto so tightly is no easy task.

 

Unforgiveness has the power to shape our perspective, influence our words and actions and define our identity. This process of forgiveness means our pride, bitterness; anger and entitlement must die as well. As we loosen our grip, we must trust that God is up to something we are incapable of doing on our own. God takes the bad things that have occurred in our lives and redeems them for His good purposes. In God’s economy, death is not the end, but a way of resurrection. We have been created to live a life that has been resurrected. We have been called to live in relationships that are fueled by resurrection.

 

In what broken relationship are you clinging to the hope that it will return to the way it was before the offense occurred?  What causes you to hesitate in letting go of the hope that things will return to the way they once were?  What has to die so you can experience a resurrection in this relationship?

 

This is my Prayer:  Father God, when I encountered Your love my world was turned upside down. Lord may I be reminded of Your great love when I hold on to past hurt and pain. Jesus let me trust in Your redemption.  May You be glorified by my response to forgive as I’ve been forgiven. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




June 3, 2017, 12:00 AM

Can you think of anyone you “tolerate” or avoid because their life looks differently than you think they should?


A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. Mark 1:40-42

Two things strike me about the story of Jesus healing the leper. One is that the man came to Christ boldly; kneeling at His feet and telling Jesus that He could heal him if He were willing. The leper wasn’t challenging the Son of God’s ability, but His inclination and His readiness.  Now if I were Jesus, I would have been “moved with compassion” too. But you can bet I’d have taken a few steps back and healed the leper from afar. No need to risk infection of a highly contagious disease. But Jesus. Oh, how He loves. “He reached out and touched him.” Not even lesions, disfigurement and crippling stopped the Great Physician from physically laying hands on the man.

 

If only we were inclined and ready to get our hands dirty in understanding others, especially those we don’t agree with. Our culture touts tolerance, but tolerance is no substitute for healing love. Society tolerated the leper, but who dared love him except Christ?  It’s certainly possible to put up with others from afar.  But when we humbly venture into the murky unknown with a friend who is suffering from choices we’d never make, or a co-worker who scoffs at our beliefs, we are supported. Our fear of saying the wrong thing is replaced by the Holy Spirit’s guidance and strength.

 

As we express the same willingness, compassion and love that Jesus Christ gave so graciously to the leper, we are rewarded with a deep sense of joy and fulfillment.  That’s more than I can hope for from a life of tolerance.  Can you think of anyone you “tolerate” or avoid because their life looks differently than you think they should?  What would it look like to reach out to them, even in a small way? Are you willing to pray for God to arrange the opportunity?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, help me resist my natural tendencies to build walls instead of bridges. Lord give me the courage to befriend those who aren’t just like me.  Jesus draw me closer to You, so I that I can express Your love without resistance. God show me who You would have me reach out to.  In Jesus name, Amen.


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