Devotionals
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October 31, 2017, 5:00 AM

What struggles are you dealing with when it comes to your family?


And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14

 

The family is one of the most central concepts of humanity, but it’s also one of the greatest sources of frustration, disappointment and shame. These emotions happen for a variety of different reasons. For some it’s a bad experience growing up. For others, it involves friction with being married or single. Throw in the pressure of kids on parents or parents on kids and you can understand why many of us view the family as maddening. This doesn’t even touch upon the devastation of divorce, blended families, infidelity and abuse. Even though we believe the family is important, we are well aware that the family is imperfect. Some of us are disappointed with our spouse.  Some of us are disappointed with our parents. Some of us are disappointed with our kids. Some of us are disappointed that we’re still single. Some of us are disappointed with yourselves.

 

If we’re really honest, our families just kind of happened to us. We don’t really have a firm grasp on what they are or why they matter. The ideal picture we have of the family is a fairytale that leads to frustration. Things don’t get wrapped up in thirty minutes with everybody happy and the problems solved like they do in the sitcoms. The condition of the family has changed over time. Kids are growing up in a different culture than the one we were raised in. The cultural understanding has morphed more than we know. Cultural acceptance hasn’t brought wholeness to the family, but neither has the church’s rejection of those families who are different and who might be struggling. The church has fought hard for the restoration and reclamation of the family. Unfortunately, they’ve also lost sight of another important element, which is the redemption of the family.

 

The reality is that we cannot just wish these issues away or pretend they don’t exist because the struggle is real. To ignore it would force people and families to wrestle with things on their own. This can’t happen because the worst possible way to struggle is alone. As believers, we have to take a deep breath, lay our limited perspective on the table, and take a step back to address the issues plaguing the family. What would it look like to make things right? Almost instinctively, our minds go back to the way things were. So, we try, fail, and feel guilty. Our efforts pour forth out of the guilt we feel. We hope that if we can just do some things it will make up for what we’ve done or what has been done to us. Yet, this will never work. The way of redemption requires us to let go of demanding things work out.

 

The danger of disappointment is that we long to go back. The danger of fulfillment is that we long for things to stay same. We can’t be bogged down with the past and it is a losing battle trying to freeze time. There is only one direction we must set our gaze towards and that is forward. God is always working towards redemption. But, redemption doesn’t necessarily look like the way things looked before. We will not find a new story for our family until we let go of the old one.  What struggles are you dealing with when it comes to your family? Who knows about these struggles? How can God begin to write a new story for your family?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, rather than trying to rewrite my family story on my own, let me remember that You are a God of redemption. Lord I can’t change the past and I’m incapable of freezing time, but I know You hold the hope for my future.  Jesus help me to let go of my old story and pick up the new story You are writing.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




October 30, 2017, 5:00 AM

What will you choose - God’s love or the pigsty the world calls life?


But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” And they began to celebrate. —Luke 15:22-24

 

The story of the prodigal son has a great ending. The father is so fired up. Can you picture the tears streaming down his face as he runs to meet his son on the road and welcome him home? Imagine the smile that doesn’t go away. Follow his almost frantic orders for the servants to clean up the son, put a new outfit on him, and cook a feast for the coming home party. Can you put yourself in the place of that father? Have you been in that son’s muddy and worn-out sandals? That incredible and undeserved love is how God feels about you. No matter where you have been or what you have done God loves you like the prodigal’s father loved him. Life will never really turn around until you accept that reality.

 

He loves you with an everlasting love beyond what words can describe. But you have to choose it, you need to act on it. Like the prodigal son, we have to get out of the pigsty and come home. The Father is waiting for you. He is watching for you. He is longing for you. Life will only make sense when you are in His embrace. No one can make this choice for you. Will you receive God’s love for you or will you turn away? The prodigal repented in the pigsty and his journey home was an act of repentance. But faced with his father’s unexpected welcome, his final choice had to be to receive his father’s unconditional love. He couldn’t buy back or earn back his father’s acceptance; he had to receive his father’s love as a priceless gift. That’s the same choice our heavenly Father tenderly offers us.

 

You didn’t earn His love and don’t deserve it any more than the prodigal did. Best of all, you don’t need to. This love comes from God Himself, who paid for your sin through the death of His Son Jesus on the cross. Now He waits for your response. It’s time to come home. Choose to receive God’s love for you. That choice will change your life. What will you choose - God’s love or the pigsty the world calls life?

 

This is my Pray: Father God, thank You for loving me. I realize I may emphasize wanting to feel that love instead of settling the matter by faith and accepting the fact that You love me whether I feel it or not. Lord forgive my moments of doubt and remind me that You continue to love me even then. Jesus thank You that Your love never fails. Please let me live within that truth this day. In Your name Jesus, amen.




October 27, 2017, 5:00 AM

How has Jesus’ act on the cross influenced and impacted the way you live, love and forgive?


And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.  Matthew 27:50-61

 

Today God reminded me just how much I have been blessed.  How you’ve been blessed, my prayer is that you would add a new item to your list. Rejoice over the fact that you know the story of God’s love and that it doesn’t end on the cross. This is an advantage those who witnessed firsthand what happened to Jesus did not possess. They were in the dark as the chaos unfolded before their very eyes. As you read today’s passage on the crucifixion of Christ did you notice how individuals reacted to the events taking place.

 

After mocking Him, the soldiers spit on and struck Jesus. Later they divvied out his clothing amongst each other. Simon, a random onlooker, was forced to carry Jesus’ cross.  One has to wonder what was going through Simon’s mind as he lugged the cross up the hills of Golgotha. While Jesus was near death, the crowds and chief priests hurled insult after insult in His direction.  Even the thieves hanging on the crosses next to Jesus couldn’t resist taking a jab at the vulnerable teacher.  No one could comprehend why Jesus didn’t utilize the power He possessed to free Himself from this predicament. This doesn’t even touch upon the confusion that arose after Jesus gave up His spirit. The earth shook, tombs broke open and holy people who died were raised to life.  Not being able to comprehend what they were witnessing, terror filled the hearts of those guarding Jesus’ body.

 

I can’t even begin to fathom what Jesus’ close friends were thinking. They had given up everything in order to follow Him and now He was gone. But, this isn’t how the story ends. Three days later Jesus conquered death by rising again. Just like those who witnessed Jesus’ death, the picture of the cross strikes a deep cord within all of us. Many don’t know how to react to the Son of God dying on a cross for their sin. The cross evokes feelings of guilt and shame for some while others experience great joy and thankfulness. It speaks to the core of who we are no matter our background. Unarguably, the cross stands as the central most important event in history. It requires our attention. The cross demands we stop and take notice. Everyone must come to grips with what this historic event means to them personally. At some point in everybody’s life, they will be confronted by the reality of the cross.

 

The question each one of us needs to ask is: what am I going to do with the cross? Will I embrace it or try to pay it back? Will I look upon it with joy or shame? Most importantly, will I lay down my life and let Christ live within me or will I ignore it and keep living for myself?  My hope is that your response to the cross is thanksgiving. When you marvel at something praise erupts from your inner being. You can’t help but give praise to the object of your affection. How would your life look different if the cross and all that it stood for caused you to erupt in praise? What will it take to get you to this point, if you are not already there? We must be able to see the cross for what it is. It is imperative to see God’s righteousness vindicated, our sins forgiven, and that once again we are His people. This is the purpose of the cross. How has Jesus’ act on the cross influenced and impacted the way you live, love and forgive?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, thank You for the beauty of the cross. Lord Your love and grace are consistent and abounding. I rejoice in the gift You’ve given me. Jesus through Your death, I’ve been given life. I want my life to reflect the sacrifice and love seen in the cross. Help me to be grateful for the generosity of grace that You extend to me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




October 26, 2017, 5:00 AM

Are you heartily serving Christ right now or stuck in a rut of thinking about it but not doing it?


Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23–24

 

Paul’s exhortation about working for the Lord is so practical we may gloss over its radical nature. In fact, other than your decision to believe in Jesus Christ, the choice to serve Him will be as formative in your spiritual life as any other decision. Serving Christ isn’t just about doing overtly spiritual tasks. No corner of our lives is ever empty of opportunities to serve the Lord, regardless of how menial or seemingly inconsequential the job He places before us. Consider the way you’re to work for Him. The word heartily doesn’t mean frantically. It refers to an all-in attitude. It also anticipates the joy you can experience when you serve Christ wholeheartedly in things He has actually wired and gifted you to do. And the commitment to serve heartily requires you to be in God’s Word regularly. You cannot afford to wander away.

 

Time in Scripture is like a briefing for the days’ activities in the place the Lord has called you. People are counting on you to be a faithful servant, whether they realize it or not. You have an awe-inspiring privilege to work in Christ’s kingdom. If you open your heart to this, you will begin to see an array of service opportunities set before you each day. Serving Christ also tethers your heart to the cross. As you begin to take steps of service, you will find it’s not necessarily a lighthearted or carefree endeavor. There will be times of intense joy, deep camaraderie, and great fun—but also times when fatigue and discouragement are part of the experience. Humbling yourself and serving is tough, and it’s easy to want to throw in the towel when things don’t go as planned.

 

When we start to feel weary, we must fix our eyes again on Colossians 3:24: “You are serving the Lord Christ.” Especially when we get discouraged, we can rest in the truth that our lives and what we do aren’t about us—they’re about serving the Lord. Now some will consider this choice to serve but do nothing. They’ll feel the tug of possibility, the longing that could lead to great things, but think, not for me, that sounds too much like work. What a tragic waste of opportunity. Others may have experienced burnout after an intense season of serving. That happens, but don't stay on the sideline forever. Ask the Master what He has next for you, and over time (and sooner than you might imagine), He will empower you for a new season of serving that flows from your deepening love for Him. Choose again to serve Him.

 

Do you want a life guided by the Lord, encouraged by His blessings, and marked by a sense of purpose? The life you were designed to experience begins with a decision only you can make: Choose to serve Jesus Christ. Are you heartily serving Christ right now or stuck in a rut of thinking about it but not doing it? If you have worked for Christ wholeheartedly, what unexpected blessings and benefits have you experienced?

 

This is my Pray: Father God, I trust Your Word, which instructs me to work heartily for You. Lord forgive me for so often revolving my days around myself and my desires. I don’t want to squander this short life or neglect the great privilege You’ve given me to work for You here on earth. Jesus please open my eyes to opportunities to serve You.  I pray that my service for You would be diligent and honorable in Your sight. In Your name Jesus, amen.




October 25, 2017, 5:00 AM

If we don’t ask what is wise, small decisions can train wreck the futures we’re imagining.


Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel that will stand. Proverbs 19:20-21

 

We’ve all had numerous people who gave us advice that went “in one ear and out the other.” To take this to another level, we’ve probably caught ourselves giving the same advice to someone else and as we hear it come out of our mouths we’ve realized that we don’t even heed what we’re saying. Our greatest regrets could’ve been avoided is we asked, “What is the wise thing to do?” and acted on our conclusions. If we would’ve sought wisdom, we could’ve spared ourselves years of chaos, brokenness and hurt.  Yet, sometimes the decisions we face aren’t so clear. They don’t involve a matter of right or wrong. Rather than being black and white, the choice we make resides in a grey area.

 

Our hearts don’t do too well with the shade of grey. We wrongly assume that if something isn’t illegal, unethical, or immoral, then it qualifies as a legitimate choice. We reason as long as there isn’t a law against it or there isn’t a Bible verse prohibiting it, then we are in the clear. But, not every decision is a moral decision. If we can deem that something is not morally wrong, then we often conclude that it’s the right decision. We say things like, “there’s nothing wrong with going to dinner with her or one date with him….there’s nothing wrong with comparing ourselves to our friend’s post on Instagram…there’s nothing morally wrong with spending that much on a car lease.”  It is true that there’s no law telling us it’s wrong to eat unlimited amounts of ice cream or wasting endless hours tuning into our favorite sitcom. Yet, this doesn’t make it wise to polish off a gallon of cookie dough ice cream while lounging on the couch binge watching Netflix.

 

Sometimes the grey area has us facing choices that can have more devastating effects than an upset stomach and tired eyes. We’re experts at rationalizing decisions that we know are wrong. No one is better at deceiving us than ourselves. We tell ourselves we can handle it, that it won’t hurt anybody and that we can quit when we want to. We’re well aware of the games we’re playing. And even if we’re not, the fact that we have to give a reason or excuse should tip us off. We never have to rationalize good decisions like eating vegetables, exercising, saving money, or avoiding bad company. Asking, “Is it wise?” takes our issue out of the arena of right and wrong by entering it into the world of wisdom. This question leaves less room for rationalization. We all know from experience how easy it is to stumble. This is why we have to be careful about the decisions we make.

 

We not only need to ask God for wisdom, but we must be proactive in surrounding ourselves with individuals who walk with integrity and provide insight. We also have to take it a step further and grant both parties access to speak into our situation and expose our hearts.  We all have a picture of our futures and what we want them to be. If we don’t ask what is wise, small decisions can train wreck the futures we’re imagining. When making a wise decision we need to consider our past experiences, present circumstances, and future hopes and dreams. Of the three, which one do you tend to lose sight of when making decisions?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, give me wisdom and insight into the decisions I face. Lord help me to make choices that set me up to become the person I desire to be in the future. Jesus show me how to surround myself with others that are pursuing Your heart and who desire to reflect You in everything they do. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.


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