Devotions
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October 7, 2017, 5:00 AM

In what places are you ignoring the implications of God’s Truth in order to protect your own?



The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Isaiah 29:13

 

We see what we want to see. We are masters at looking for what fits our agenda and disregarding everything else. We use our mind to either find truth or hide truth. If one believes the glass is half empty, then everywhere they turn they will see a world that always hands them lemons. When one tunes into a political debate, everything they encounter will be viewed through the lens of their party affiliation meaning they can dismiss everything the other political pundit is saying. If you watch a movie knowing the surprise twist at end, you begin to notice clues that went unseen during your first viewing. The lens we use to view the world shapes our response to it.

 

This principle holds true when it comes to our understanding of God and our view of His authority. If we reason God can’t be trusted, we will more than likely pinpoint the places where, from our perception, He let us down. If we feel there isn’t enough evidence to believe in God, our eyes will search for everything to confirm this point. If we can convince ourselves God is not real, we will always have a reason why we can disobey Him. We pretend that we are unsure and claim there isn’t enough evidence to submit. But, the truth is, we don’t want to submit in the first place. We want God’s ways, but on our terms. We desire God’s vision just as long as it lines up with our perspective. We all establish a standard by which we measure truth. More often than not, the standard we use is ourselves.

 

 What implications does this truth have on me? What is God asking me to do and am I willing to do it? Rather than pursuing God’s truth, our tendency is to spend our energy protecting our own truth so we can be the one calling the shots. When we find truth but don’t like its implications, we disregard and dismiss it. On the flip side, we can obey out of obligation. “Grin and bear it” defines this type of obedience. There is no joy to be found, only duty. Obedience doesn’t automatically equal a heart that is in step with God. When we go through the motions, we remain in neutral and there is no pursuit of God’s heart. Instead, just like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, our hearts can be far from God and we can be more concerned with how others perceive us than with how God sees us.  All of this speaks to the importance of testing our motives.

 

The one thing God wants from us is the very thing we can hide from everybody else- our motives. These drivers influence everything about us, including our perspective and response to authority. It could be very easy to say that we are the only ones who know what drives our behavior but that is giving us too much credit. We don’t tend to look beneath and explore our hearts. We fail to ask important questions like: What drives our behavior? What do we really want? What is it that we truly desire? God desires truth in our innermost being. This entails testing our motives and coming face to face with what drives our behavior. In order for our hearts to be captured, they must be available. In what places are you ignoring the implications of God’s Truth in order to protect your own? How are your motives influencing your response to what you see in this situation?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, I often stay at the surface and fail to explore the depths of my heart. Lord expose where my motives are off base and not honoring You.  As difficult as it might be, Jesus help me to encounter Your Truth and let it transform my heart. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




October 6, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where do you need to create a placeholder for your heart to catch up to your obedience?



What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. Romans 6:15-18

 

What we see affects the condition of our heart. Our heart is forged by what we encounter. For better or worse, our lives are always expressing what is inside. Yet, very few of us stop long enough to consider where our eyes are set. If we did, we’d notice that our gaze is constantly moving and doesn’t stay in any spot for very long. In our search for fulfillment, freedom and purpose, we move from one thing to another. Even though we are chronically disappointed, we continue this futile search in hopes that this time will be different. The sad reality is that most of our lives are spent responding to the things that catch our eyes. There is a big difference between what catches our eye and what has the power to capture our heart.

 

Freedom is found when we focus on who we are and let the One who defines us define our days. Freedom comes from discipline and endurance so when the time comes we will be free to respond in obedience naturally. Obedience from the heart takes time. As our hearts are changed, we are free to live out as we were made. Restrictions are liberating because they help us see what we truly want and desire. God’s commands serve as placeholders to help us do what we want to do until we want to do it. Our heart always follows our obedience. We are only free to the point we are willing to submit to God’s authority. This requires trust on our part. Trust stems from the confidence we have in the authority of God. When our picture of God grows clearer, our obedience becomes more consistent.

 

It also involves understanding how God sees us. We are His children. We are worth the life of His son. We are image bearers. We are His ambassadors in this world. When we view ourselves in this way, we begin to see the purpose behind the restrictions and commands God put in place. They are not there to oppress but to liberate. God cared about our freedom so much that He gave us the Holy Spirit to serve as our advocate and guide. When we look intently into the law, the Holy Spirit prompts us to respond in ways we could not do relying on our own strength. He opens our eyes to places where we resist obedience. He cuts to the heart of our motives not to condemn but to convict. He is always pointing us towards the way of freedom.  Where do you need to create a placeholder for your heart to catch up to your obedience?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, instead of looking to lesser things for freedom, let set my eyes on Your heart. Lord I know You desire what is best for me and You want me to walk in freedom and security. Jesus help me to understand that this only comes when I am willing to submit to Your ways. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




October 4, 2017, 5:00 AM

Knowledge is more than what we know in our heads.



For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

Knowledge is more than what we know in our heads.  It is more than a compilation of facts.  Knowledge is also an experience.  As we come to know more about the character of God, we also experience the joy of His love for us.  It is personal, intimate and life-giving.  In the same way, knowledge transcends the abstract of ideas to the actual, lived experience of the heart. Generally speaking, the more we know about someone, the more likely we will love them.  I have heard it said there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.

 

In our digital age, we have more information at our fingertips than any other time in history.  As we watch our televisions or scroll through the news, we learn about the pressing issues of the day and we gain knowledge about the ins and outs of them.  It seems like everywhere we turn, we have people telling us how we should think or feel about things.  We may believe that we are free thinking beings; slowly but surely, however, we end up seeing people (and groups of people) as soundbites.  People are more than issues and soundbites.  Solely depending on FOX, CNN, newspapers or talk radio to form opinions about things does humanity a great disservice and prevents us from truly loving “the other.”

 

“Love your neighbor as yourself” Jesus tells us.  Human relationships are powerful.  They are powerful because through our interactions with another, we begin to see the world a little differently.  Relationships allow us to experience a kind of knowledge that facts never can.  The more we come to know people and the more we take the time to listen to their stories and learn from their experiences, the more we will begin to see the “issues” with empathetic eyes. Issues are really just people.  At a time in our culture when groups of people seem really angry at each other, I think it’s important to remember that the things that pull us apart are not greater than the things than bind us together. Listening is a simple and practical way that we can love our neighbors. 

 

As we navigate the issues of our day, it is crucial to form relationships and listen to people who have a different perspective than our own.  Otherwise, we end up validating our feelings as we surround ourselves with people who think and feel just like we do. Culture teaches us that we are the center of the world but God teaches us that we are part of a body and this body is part of a larger community.  Like it or not, we are connected to each other.  Love compels us to grow and stretch and be willing to see the world and people in new ways while fear wants us to remain exactly as we are.  Fear wants us to stay unchallenged and comfortable.  Fear wants to keep us suspicious of people.  Fear wants us to shun those who are different than us.  Fear desires us to be judgmental and condemning.   Fear wants to keep us isolated and segregated.  But fear is the opposite of love.

 

Love longs for us to ‘listen to learn’ not ‘listen to respond.’  Love cares for us too much to let us stay exactly as we are.  Love asks us to love others even when we don’t understand them.  Love’s desire is not to keep us comfortable but to conform us into the image of His son. Is there a particular group of people that you find yourself easily condemning?  If so, confess your sin and ask God to forgive you.  Ask Him to help you see them with new eyes.  Be brave and strike up a relationship with someone that you know is different than you.

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, thank you that You are love and that Your love for me is unconditional.  Lord teach me to love others in the same way.  Help me to seek peace with those I disagree with instead of judging or condemning them.  Jesus help me to walk in a manner worthy of the calling You have for me.  In Jesus name, Amen. 




October 3, 2017, 5:00 AM

What areas of your life are off-limits?



The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

 

Whether we realize or not, everyone has a view of God, regardless of where one is in his or her faith journey. It’s a picture that defines what we believe about God’s heart, what He values and how He interacts with humanity. With that said, what does your picture of God look like? How does this snapshot influence the way you approach Him and how you believe He approaches you? These questions are critical because they shape us at our core. Sadly, our initial pictures of God reveal how much we misunderstand the heart of God. Often, the first things that comes to mind for many of us when we think about God are rules, guidelines, and restrictions. This view drives us into a work-based agreement rather than a caring relationship. The Bible instantly becomes a dry instruction manual that needs to be followed in order to have a relationship with Him.

 

We often translate this into the assumption that we’ve got to act better in order for God to accept and love us. If we just stay in the guidelines, then we will be in His good graces. The strangest thing about this assumption, this idea that God loves and accepts us based on our behavior, is that it didn’t come from God at all. In fact, God’s message is just the opposite. God’s message is that you will never find acceptance with Him through your behavior. When sin entered into the world, there was nothing that “we” could do to atone for this condition. God sent the clearest message possible about His heart when He sent His son, Jesus Christ. It is a message of unconditional love. When you understand the heart behind the one making the rules, you will begin to see those boundaries and guidelines in a different way. You will begin to see the “why” behind God giving them to us in the first place.

 

God’s rules or guidelines are not conditions of a relationship with Him; they are confirmation of a relationship. God’s rules or guidelines are not conditions of His love; they are confirmation of His love. The problem is we tend to compartmentalize God so that He becomes something we can manage. We give Him access to some areas of our lives but restrict His access to others. Sadly, we also do this with our relationships. We keep people at arm’s distance. We might show a few cards, but keep an ace up our sleeve. We dictate who we let in, how much they know and what remains off limits. We yearn for control in all of our relationships, both with God and with others.  By forcing Him into a little box, we feel more comfortable ignoring His voice as He speaks to those past hurts, sins, failures, and regrets. By settling for self-preservation in our relationships, we don’t have others around us speaking into our life.

 

God knows that while this is our tendency, this is not what a relationship with Him or others should look like. Yet, He still offers us something that no one else can offer: unconditional love. There are no gimmicks, hooks, baits, or switches with God. He literally gives to us unconditional, no strings attached love. We have the option to accept it or reject it. And what is hard for our brains to wrap around is that if we reject God, it still does not change how He feels about us. He is in a continual pursuit for our hearts. His love never ends. When we replace God and His Love with the grasping for control, our life deteriorates. This is not how God has designed us to live. God wants to be the center of every decision, the One you go to for everything, the One you depend on, the One you respond to. What areas of your life are off-limits? Why do you restrict letting God and others into these areas? How do you try to control your relationships, including your one with God?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, thank You for loving me in the midst of my brokenness. Lord thank You for seeing all the junk that is in my heart and still loving me. Jesus teach me to reflect Your love to others through my actions and my words. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




October 2, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where are you seeing new life bloom in your actions, thought life and words?



Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.  Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. John 12:20-33

 

Seeds in a bag sitting on a shelf in a garage are pretty useless.  Safe?  Yes.  Useful?  No.  Think about what a seed has to go through, though, to be useful, to bear fruit.  It has to leave the safety of the packaging, enter the harsh, cruel world, get buried alive, spend days dying alone in the dark, have cold water poured over it seemingly drowning it, and ultimately it dies! Anyone want to sign up to be a seed? This is what Jesus is calling us to, though.  To be planted.  To give up our lives.  To give up our dreams.  To give up the safety of the sterile packaging.  To leave the comfortable structures of our lives.  To die. It’s what Jesus did.  He left the safety and comfort of heaven to be planted for a time amongst us.  He did the will of His Father.  He gave of Himself.  He sacrificed His desires and put others first.  He spent himself.  He died.

 

But the story doesn’t end with death, not Jesus’ story.  Did Jesus suffer?  Yes.  Did Jesus go through excruciating amounts of humiliation and pain?  Yes.  Was Jesus raised from the dead and given new life?  Absolutely, and we celebrate that! The story doesn’t end with death for a seed, either.  Because when it dies, new life springs forth!  When a seed dies, it can have true life, and others reap the benefit of the fruit it produces. The same can be true for us as well.  Jesus calls us to follow Him, and following Him means, first and foremost, to die.  To lay down our desires.  To lay down our hopes and dreams.  To put aside anything other than full devotion to Him and His plan for our lives.  To be willing to part with the things that we so easily cling onto for life and to say to God, “I’m willing to destroy these things if it means I can be used by You to bring You glory and bear fruit so that others may know You as God.”

 

And in the end, what is promised is life – both here on Earth and eternally with Him.  We are seeds, and we’re either sitting on a shelf alone and useless or we’ve died so that Jesus can give us life and use our fruit to bring nourishment to those around us. Where have you been planted? Who are you impacting? Where are you seeing new life bloom in your actions, thought life and words?

 

This is my Prayer:  Father God reveal to me the areas of my life that need to be put to death so that I can be fully alive.  Lord give me courage to do the things You’ve called me to do.  Jesus help me to see myself as planted where I am so that those around me can receive nourishment from the fruit that You bear through my life.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.


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