Devotionals
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November 12, 2017, 5:00 AM

What is one area where you sense the Lord calling you to trust Him more fully?


Good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. Hebrews 4:2

 

Have there been times when you’ve wondered why, even though you know the promises of God, you don’t seem to experience them with much frequency? You’ve read His Word, you know what He says is in store for you as a believer, but sometimes you don’t feel like someone who actually has it and lives with it. Why? What’s missing for me? Maybe it’s faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is the power switch that turns on the power Source (the Holy Spirit) who dwells in you through Christ and gives life to your mortal body. It’s not enough simply to know about this power, to understand it intellectually, or to sit in church with other people who have it. You can’t just catch it. You have to turn it on—by faith.

 

Faith is your part. Faith is the thing you can do. Jesus was once approached by a pair of blind men, begging for mercy, pleading for their sight. “Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then he touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith be it done to you.’ And their eyes were opened” (Matthew 9:28–30). Hear it again: “According to your faith be it done to you.” What if He made that same statement to you today? How would it apply to your life? Or to your marriage, to your kids, to your job, or ministry? If you’re not happy with what you’re seeing, perhaps it’s because of the inadequate amount of faith you’re placing in God to enliven, increase, expand, and embolden it.

 

Jesus said to the Canaanite woman whose daughter needed life-saving help, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (Matthew 15:28). He said to His disciples, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?” (Matthew 16:8)—when they’d already seen Him feed whole multitudes from almost no bread at all? Later, when they asked why they’d been ineffective in ministering to someone who was demon-possessed, He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

 

That’s the life of a Christian. That’s what’s available to us when we live by faith. Our world today is rocking under the weight of sin and strife, upheaval and struggle. When God looks on us, He obviously sees the awfulness and tragedy of what’s happening down here. But the Bible says, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8). This is talking about men of faith who are ready to take a mountain for Him; women of faith who are serious about changing the world for Him. Of all the problems we face, could this be the biggest? Where’s our faith? No one goes anywhere good with God without faith. Faith is what turns the switch on. Your questions may be many, but your answer is short and strong. Turn on the faith, and you’ll begin seeing life with Him in a whole new light. What is one area where you sense the Lord calling you to trust Him more fully?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, thank You for rallying me back to faith in You today. Lord forgive me for making life so complicated and complex, when You’ve offered me the remedy for all my failure, fear, and frustration. Jesus increase and deepen my faith in You. Even when nothing seems to be changing, help me to keep believing. I call out to You with faith and in the power of God.  In Your name Jesus, amen.




November 11, 2017, 5:00 AM

What conversation are you not having or not having well?


Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. Proverbs 18:21 

It’s been said that you can measure the health of a relationship by measuring the number of undiscussables. Our relational limits are determined by what remains off-limits in our conversations. We tiptoe around the tension, ignoring the rotten smell in the air and hoping not to step on any eggshells. We throw out eggshells all around us in an effort to keep people at bay. With every eggshell we toss, we are attempting to protect our image, our heart and sometimes our pride. Eggshells are the things we lay down that keep people from telling us what we need to hear. One of the biggest tragedies is how isolated and lonely our eggshells leave us. They harm every facet of our lives, including the way we interact (or avoid) our family. What eggshells do you tend to throw out to keep people at bay? When it comes to your family, how are you walking on eggshells?

 

When we live our lives walking on eggshells, we are unable to reach our full potential and become the people God wants us to become. The author of James speaks about the power the tongue holds. All throughout Proverbs, King Solomon advises his readers to pay attention to the words that come out of their mouths. Both writers understood that our words have the power of life and death. They have the ability to build-up and tear-down. They can cripple as well as breathe life and confidence into another individual. A well-spoken word is one of the best things we can have in this world. Unfortunately, we fail to leverage our words when we avoid conflict. We often see conflict as a negative. If tension exists in our relationship, we view that relationship in a poor light. Each one of us has a default response towards conflict. We avoid it in hopes that if we pretend it doesn’t exist, the problem will go away.

 

Others of us drop hints anticipating the other party will eventually open their eyes to their shortcomings. Then there are those of us who wait out the conflict to see who will go first. If that doesn’t work, we wage war on the conflict by being passive-aggressive. And, if all else fails, we simply explode. The moment conflict arises we go into fight or flight mode. We stop thinking and start reacting. On top of these responses, we begin to craft a story about the person on the other side. Since our brains are hard-wired for stories, we paint a picture in order to fill loops. This is the only way we can justify our anger, our hurt, our pain and our frustration. The more we personalize and make ourselves the victim in our story, the more likely we aren’t seeing the whole picture. There are more sides to every story than just two. We have our side, the other person’s side and then the truth. This is why we must assault our own story to see where we are off base.

 

Conflict is an opportunity. We might not see it as such, but it is. This is why we must learn how to communicate in the context of community. If we find ourselves stuck it means there is a crucial conversation that needs to take place. To love someone is to enter into a relationship by speaking the truth in love. We are moving the eggshells to the side and making a clear path for connection. Yes, when crucial conversations exist it does mean there are strong opinions, high emotions, and high stakes. But, what is at stake is our personal growth and the growth of our relationships. We can tell a lot about ourselves by the way we are able to receive correction and rebuke. If we want to be wise, it begins by making ourselves available and developing a listening ear. When you find yourself in a relationship where anything can be said, you have found yourself in a healthy place. What conversation are you not having or not having well?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, when I look around myself, I see eggshells that have been laid out by myself and others. I use them as relational landmines to prevent people from coming close and speaking into my life. Lord help me pick up these eggshells and stop pretending like they don’t exist. Let me be open to hearing words that might sting at first. Jesus give me the courage to be transparent and vulnerable to others and You as well. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




November 10, 2017, 5:00 AM

What would a significant step forward in the spiritual discipline of prayer look like in your life?


Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray . . . ” Luke 11:1–2

Roughly 60 percent of Americans claim they pray daily. Another nearly 20 percent claim to pray weekly. Those stats suggest a significant amount of praying is going on. Yet there is also evidence that what we call “prayer” doesn’t fit God’s definition or expectations. Dig a little deeper and we find that many are going through the motions, and feel frustrated about prayer even as they try to practice it. Some people “pray” without actually addressing God. Many who do voice their prayers are talking to someone they don’t even know. To them, God is a complete stranger they might turn to for help if things get bad enough. How sad and empty prayer must feel for so many, including many of us.

 

As we develop the core disciplines of a sincere faith, we must include work on prayer. Even those of us who have grown up around praying people need instruction. And who better to learn from than Jesus Christ . The twelve disciples spent three years hanging out with Jesus. They watched Him, traveled with Him, listened to Him. Even though He was a Master Teacher, there is no record they ever asked Him, “Lord, teach us to teach.” And not once did they say, “Lord, teach us how to do miracles,” though we know He worked awesome wonders. As far as we know, the disciples’ only request for instruction was, “Lord, teach us to pray.” With a front-row seat to the life of Christ, what truly captured the disciples’ attention was the way He prayed.

 

Jesus had a habit of retreating from the demanding crowds and spending time alone in conversation with His Father, as seen in Mark 1:35. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Exposed to the Lord 24/7, the disciples concluded, “The thing we’ve got to figure out is prayer. Jesus has that going on!” It's not surprising that the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, eternally in perfect communion with the Father, made prayer a priority. Jesus responded to the disciples by introducing what we now call The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2–4, Matthew 6:9–13).

 

Let’s camp today on the disciples’ request. They not only went to the right instructor, they also went with the right intent. This was more than a “how-to” request; it was a “give-us-the-desire-to-pray” petition. After noticing the pattern of prayer in Jesus’ life, they longed to see it replicated in their own lives. They saw Him slip out of the house to pray in the early morning, while they rolled over for a little more sleep. They watched Him pause to thank His Father at various times and draw attention to the bigger picture (John 11:41–42).  Before He even gave them the pattern of The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus graciously encouraged them with the words, “When you pray.” Not “if you pray” but “when you pray”—Jesus expected the disciples to pray. Driven by circumstances or as a spiritual discipline, He knew His own would turn to the Father in prayer.

 

They needed that expectation as much as we do. Our failure to pray rarely rises from lack of technique or subject matter. Often we fail at prayer simply because we don’t keep at it. We try to pray and quickly give up—yet prayer is the breathing of our spiritual life. Just as we can’t afford to stop pulling air into our lungs, so we also can’t survive spiritually without the healthy respirations of prayer. When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray,” that simple request was in and of itself praying. Make it your persistent prayer for a few days. Ask Him out loud. If a specific direction or thought doesn’t come to mind, read and reflect on The Lord’s Prayer. Spin off from certain verses of Jesus’ prayer, and expound with your own words.

 

By giving us a model, Jesus wasn’t inviting rote repetition; He was offering a healthy pattern. Just as He taught His disciples, so He is willing to teach us all things (John 14:26)—including how to pray. Give your prayer life a realistic check-up (or autopsy). What’s the status?  What would a significant step forward in the spiritual discipline of prayer look like in your life?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, teach me to pray. Lord when I open my eyes in the morning, teach me to pray, when my head rests on the pillow at night, teach me to pray. When troubles, successes, sadness, and joy come my way, or when I fear, teach me to pray. Jesus when I am calm and resolved, when I plan and when I fail, and when I consider how very little time I have left on this earth, O Lord, teach me to pray. In Jesus’ name always, amen.




November 9, 2017, 5:00 AM

What lights are flashing on the dashboard of your heart?


The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord Forever. Psalm 23:1-6

 

I’ve heard it said that there are two types of people in this world. There are those individuals who see the “E” illuminated on their car’s dashboard and think, “I got this…I can drive 15 more miles easily.” They push their car to the limit and laugh in the face of danger. They are so bold that they have been known to pass a gas station in spite of the flashing light demanding their attention. And on occasion (sometimes even more than once), their luck runs out and they find themselves broken down on the side of the road. Then you have those who are the complete opposite. They see the gas gauge not even at the half-way point and think, “Oh my gosh…I need to fill-up…NOW!” As soon as they spot a gas station, they dart in, avoiding “disaster.”

 

When it comes to my wife and I and our routine “discussions” on this matter (especially when we have an important event we need to go to), I’m the daredevil and she is Mrs. Conservative. I’m so focused on getting from Point A to Point B that stopping to get gas slips my mind. I love to be in control, and hate to alter my plans.  She on the other hand, is the more sensible one who is willing to flex a little so that we don’t end up sitting on the side of the road.  In the grand scheme of things, forgetting to fill up your gas tank and staying in control is not that big of a deal. Neither is being flexible in your plans and always making sure the tank is topped off. Yet, when it comes to caring for our heart and leading our families, both approaches are dangerous.

 

As hard as it is for me to admit this, my heart tank often hits E, it putters on the fumes of the fumes. At this stage of life I find myself, with work and family responsibilities, running on empty alot.  I’m always going and going non-stop. There has indeed been no rest for the weary.  On top of this, worry keeps me up at night as I think through every possible scenario with the issues facing my family. Some of these issues seem earth shattering and yet I know we are blessed in ways I can’t comprehend. But, this still doesn’t stop me from trying to fix everything, control everything, and just get from point A to point B. If I’m not careful I can find myself trying to be everything for everyone, and that can lead to me thinking the world is all about me. My needs. My desires. My plans. But, it’s not.

 

In order to truly love and be present for my family, I need to rest. I show value to them by valuing time to care for myself. Scripture speaks about the importance of staying connected to Christ (John 15:1-17). It goes as far as saying that apart from Him I can accomplish a whole lot of nothing. But, by relying on Him, and looking to Him to guide my steps, I can be the type of husband and father my family deserves. I know this to be true, but like any good control freak, loosening that grip and relaxing doesn’t come naturally. This is why slowing down, resting and refueling provides me with an opportunity to grow and mature. My need to be in control, or at least foolishly thinking I am, doesn’t require any faith. Yet, God has different plans for my life and they always involve pushing me to deeper faith and dependence. So, today, I will stop and rest, how about you. What lights are flashing on the dashboard of your heart? Are you running on empty? Where are you pushing yourself too much in an effort to control your situation?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, open my eyes to see that You are in control and I am not. Lord remind me that I show how much I care for others by first caring for my own soul. Jesus refuel me with Your love, grace, and mercy. Help me to simply be still.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




November 6, 2017, 5:00 AM

How have you experienced leanness of soul?


And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul. Psalm 106:15

 

Sometimes, if we complain and covet enough, God will give us exactly what we want—to our own ruin. Back in Numbers 11, God’s people launched a Complain Campaign. Their charge? “God, we don’t like this fresh manna you’re feeding us every day. We want meat. We must have meat!” On and on they complained and wept . . . until God gave them just what they asked for. Moses announced, “Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you” Numbers 11:18b–20a.

 

Should the people celebrate or shudder? God was so ticked at their arrogant rejection of His adequate provision and goodness, He gave them what they wanted. Because they thought meat could satisfy them in a way God could not, He gave them so much they choked on it.  So significant was God’s action that several hundred years later it was still the talk of Israel. It was mentioned in Psalm 106:15, as well as the consequence: “And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.” God gave them what they “had” to have but withdrew Himself.  With God, we can be satisfied and fulfilled with very little, but without Him, all that we have will be dry and deeply disappointing. With as much meat as they could eat, the Israelites could get physically fat if they wanted, but spiritually, they were starving.

 

What parallels can we see in our own lives? Do we covet or crave something, put our lives on hold, and continually beg God for it? Nothing is essential for us but Him. Things were never designed to take God’s place. When we covet something and consider it essential, then beg Him to give it to us, we are asking God to replace Himself with something we consider more important. When we do this, He may allow us to experience firsthand the consequences of substituting anything for Him, a relationship, a financial goal, a specific material dream, etc. Covetousness is such a cruel enemy. It promises prosperity but brings only painful poverty of spirit. Indeed, in time we may hate what we thought we had to have like the loathsome meat coming out of the Israelites’ nostrils.

 

In many Third World countries, people live in staggering poverty, but they can also demonstrate stunning peace and joy with very little. In contrast, many “rich” Christians are also the most miserable. We lament the spiritual poverty of the church but fail to make the connection: “And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” If you can relate to the Israelites’ insatiable cravings, be warned! Covetousness will take you to the place in life where you hate the very thing you had to have. God will essentially say, “Do you think that’s better than Me? Fine. Have it.” Beware of begging God for any non-essentials your heart craves. In time you may hate what you had to have. What’s your meat, the thing you covet and crave, put your life on hold for, and continually beg God to give you? How have you experienced leanness of soul?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, I need You and nothing more. Lord I want You and nothing more. Please forgive me for my craving, complaining, and begging for things I think will fill my heart. How foolish that I thought anything but You would fulfill me. God, I don’t want a lean soul, I want to be one of “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” for You promise, “they shall be satisfied”.  Jesus may I be satisfied in You. In your name Jesus, I pray, amen.


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