Devotionals
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September 3, 2017, 5:00 AM

In what ways can you fight with love and the spiritual weapons God has given you?


Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of the dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

 

We see throughout the Bible that Jesus is not simply calling us to be a church that believes.  He is calling us to be a church who loves.  But let’s be real, sometimes loving others feels more like stepping into a wrestling match than a holy discipline.  In our quests to love others, we may often have good intentions but when things get hard, we find it easier to walk away. The Bible is clear about the struggles in our lives and relationships there is no struggle with flesh and blood, our struggle is with the enemy.  It is the enemy that tries to wreck havoc in our relationships and havoc in the world around us.  It is the enemy who wants us to fixate on other people as if they are the problem. 

 

The Bible says that the devil is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short.  The enemy came to kill, steal and destroy, but Jesus came to teach us to walk in the way of love. When love and forgiveness feels more like a wrestling match, let us ask God to see our true enemy.  Believe it or not, 100% of the time our true enemy is never the person standing in front of us!  It is futile to spend our time fighting people.  Understanding that our struggle is not with flesh and blood frees us to love others the way Christ has called us to. We are called to wage war differently than the rest of the world.  Paul teaches us in Ephesians 6:10-20 the kind of war we are to wage and how to take our stand against the devil’s schemes.  Christ does not call us to wage war against others with sharp words, clever comebacks and cunning tactics. 

 

Instead, Christ calls us to wage war with love (patience, kindness, and hopeful endurance) and to fix our minds on His Truth, His Gospel, His Spirit and God’s Word. So today, instead of fighting people, let us talk to God.  Let us wage war in love and prayer against our true enemy, appealing to the only One who holds the divine power to transform hearts and lives. Think about a situation in which you have found it difficult to love.  Ask God to give you spiritual eyes to see the spiritual battle that is happening.  In what ways can you fight with love and the spiritual weapons God has given you? Christ calls us to follow in His footsteps and walk in the way of love.  Ask Christ to show you the next step you need to take to love someone today.

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, forgive me for the many times I have seen my enemy as flesh and blood and not the true enemy that You describe in the Bible.  Lord help me to wage a war of love and not one filled with the ways of the world.  Jesus help me to value unity as much as You do and thank you for leading me in the way of love and peace.  Please grant me the courage to walk in it. In Your name, Jesus.  Amen. 




September 2, 2017, 5:00 AM

What different seeds do you need to start planting?


Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:7-10

 

The light and the dark. It’s the epic struggle we’ve seen depicted in our stories since the beginning of time. The hero of light struggles against the villain of darkness. We love these stories because they seem to reflect our world. They reflect our own desire that the light will win out over the darkness. But what if the tension between light and dark isn’t just a struggle happening out there? What if it’s one that’s going on in our own hearts? God says that it is. Even crazier He says that we have a role to play in the battle. We get to choose which side we’re going to sow into our lives. As we’re going to discover, Jesus is inviting us to sow the light, and our decision to do so just might make the difference between living life to the fullest and missing out on it.

 

In order to live the full life, we must confront the dark side. Darkness needs isolation in order to thrive. We separate ourselves from not only the life and love of God, but the people He has placed around us as well. Sin loves the darkness. It requires an element of isolation to pursue the lusts that we desire. The reason for this is very simple.  Darkness requires one to forsake wisdom. Instead, we take on a posture of hiding, isolation, indifference and even hostility towards the truth. Choosing the dark side pushes us to be defensive and use deceit to justify our behavior. It clouds our judgment and makes us believe we are entitled to the desires we are trying to fulfill. Don’t be deceived. Everyone is vulnerable to the allure of darkness. No one is immune to the dark side. Falling away from God and losing sight of the full life He promises happens through a series of bad choices.

 

Today matters, right now matters and your next decision matters. What we plant is what we harvest. What we sow today, we reap tomorrow. We have a responsibility for what we plant and this is why we need to consider what we are planting. It is impossible to live life to the fullest when we are making dark side decisions. We mock God by doing one thing and expecting different results. We are foolish if we believe we can plant dark seeds and expect to get light in return. When we are tempted and are struggling, we should press into the truth and pursue wisdom. It’s not enough to simply be available, we must fight for freedom. Rather than hiding, we must lean on our community of friends who are helping us in our walk.  Sharing the struggle lightens the load. It is in isolation that our unchecked desires run free. 

 

Wisdom brings the necessary boundaries to ensure that the freedom of our souls remains protected. It also provides perspective. One doesn’t get into a mess overnight which means one doesn’t get out of it overnight. There comes a point when we must stop hiding and pretending.  “Receiving Christ” is not some compartmentalized decision.  It requires coming to the light.  It involves being exposed and vulnerable. This can only occur if we are willing to break the silence and be honest about our sin. The invitation is to bring it to Christ to be exposed and forgiven.  Why? So our lives will serve as an expression of God. Where are you planting the wrong seeds? What different seeds do you need to start planting?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, let me not lose sight of the battle taking place inside me. Lord help me to realize that with every decision I make I can choose to stand freely in the light or isolate myself in the darkness. Jesus I desire to make choices that bring You glory. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 1, 2017, 5:00 AM

What unfinished business do you need to work out with God?


When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” John 21:15-19

 

After watching his friend and teacher die on a cross, Peter didn’t know where to turn. So, he returned to his old life and the only thing he ever knew: fishing. Peter was hoping the blowing winds of the sea would silence the guilt, regret, and worthlessness he felt inside. He reasoned his days of being a fisher of men were a thing of the past after denying Jesus three times. Then, Jesus appeared on the scene in a familiar way, to deal with some unfinished business.  As Peter reached the shore, there was probably a mixture of anticipation and awkwardness. None of the disciples, including Peter, knew how to start the conversation or break the ice. After all, it’s not every day that your teacher and friend conquers death.

 

This probably left them overwhelmed, especially Peter who couldn’t erase the memory of those denials and the sting of hearing that rooster crow. Peter probably reasoned “how could I, a coward, ever be a leader?” This was the unfinished business Jesus came to address. It’s the crucial conversation that needed to take place. Jesus wanted to confront the regret, restore his friend and assure Peter that he is loved. Jesus didn’t shy away from the issue, but created a clear path for the conversation and restoration to take place. This is not only good news for Peter, but it is good news to us. Why? Each one of us has at one time or another turned away. We’ve looked to lesser things to fill our heart. We’ve given our affection to someone else. We’ve sinned. We’ve failed to step out in faith. We’ve been ashamed of our beliefs. We’ve put our light under a bowl. We’ve loved the darkness. We’ve turned our backs. We’ve doubted we matter to God. We’ve given up on the life God has for us.

 

Jesus doesn’t brush aside Peter’s sin. Instead, he makes Peter confront it. But, Jesus does so in order to bring true repentance. Jesus challenges Peter in a loving way. Romans 2:4 says that it’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance. Only when someone is broken over his or her sin can God begin the process of restoration. This is a pivotal moment in Peter’s life. Confronting his regret through the lens of Christ’s love transformed Peter. Doing the same can have a profound impact on your life as well. Just like the song How He Loves says we don’t have the time to maintain our regrets when we think about the way He loves us. What would it look like for God’s love to erase your regrets? What unfinished business do you need to work out with God? What crucial conversations need to take place?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, thank You for loving me in spite of myself. Thank You for loving me during those times I run, deny, doubt and sin. Lord remind me of this love when I find myself maintaining my regrets. Jesus allow me to confront my regrets through the lens of Your love and may that transform my character and heart. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




August 31, 2017, 5:00 AM

What mistakes are you chained to?


At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:3-8

 

At one time I was [fill in the blank]. When I ran that statement through my mind, my brain was fast to fill in the blank. I mentally responded back to Paul who is writing to Titus, “yes I was foolish to others and yes I was disobedient to my parents. Oh, and yes Paul, I was enslaved by wanting to fit into this world, enslaved by alcohol, enslaved by intimate desires.” Boy was I reminded of all the pain I was in and all the shame I felt, though immediately, Paul jumps into verse four to paint the bigger picture. He points out that even though we have one time been a person we are not proud of, we have a kind and loving God seeking to save us where we are. Sounds simple, so why do we make it so complicated?

 

 It starts when we let our minds believe that we are unreachable to God because of our mistakes. We let our hardships affect our memory of His character. We limit a limitless God and ignore that He generously extends a merciful hand out to us. And, we won’t grab on because we don’t feel righteous enough. What I love most about our God is how faithful He was to us before you and I were even born. He allowed His only Son, worthy and perfect, to be arrested, crucified, die and conquer death three days later so everyone would have hope of eternal life. We have this hope because God freely gives us a choice to be in a relationship with His Son.

 

Paul eloquently explains that it is through a relationship with Jesus Christ that we can feel renewed again to move forward. Christ comes alongside of us to look at the pain we are chained to, not to judge, but to say, “I’ve suffered and wept from pain too. Here, let me take it all and wash you off.” He pours out the Holy Spirit on us to help us take a breath of fresh air and to see Him who has a better way planned for our lives. Through the Holy Spirit we are comforted and strengthened to turn from the past and run forward. Hebrews 6:18-20 says, “We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek.”

 

Christ is our forerunner. Let that soak in a bit. As we run forward we may not have an easy linear path between Point A to Point B, but we can find peace in knowing we are running behind a trustworthy Lord. Paul says, “Stress these things.” I was caught off guard when I first read this because when I think of the word stress, I immediately think about noun forms, like anxieties from circumstances. But in this statement, stress is a verb. Paul is saying to emphasize what God is doing and to stop stressing over past mistakes. Stress what is excellent and profitable. What mistakes are you chained to? Will you allow Jesus to break the chains and take it all from you? How will you emphasize these things this into your lifestyle?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, I praise You for seeking me with persistence. Lord I pray that You fill me with wisdom to believe in all that You have done for me. Jesus wash me today from what is holding me back, so that I feel renewed and see Christ ahead of me. Let courage flow through me as a run purposefully towards You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




August 30, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where do you need to bring your whole heart to an issue or situation that has grabbed your attention?


Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6

When the topic of influence is brought up often times the focus remains on sharpening our leadership skills. Without even knowing it, this mindset places us on shaky ground. If our attention is solely directed on our own ability, pride begins to creep in. We become the one who is solely responsible for the change.  We start to believe that if we have enough talent, charisma, and drive that we can accomplish any goal and we will ensure this happens by any means necessary. Suddenly, our talent is outpacing our character. Our motives for influencing others becomes murky at best. We can very easily shift towards manipulation and coercion in our relationships with others. It’s our image and recognition that matters above all else.

 

Drive is what moves and compels us. Yet, it is our character that keeps our drive in check and on the right road. Even though furthering our leadership ability is important, our competency will be of little value if we aren’t trustworthy. Relationships, and the ability to lead, require trust. The freedom to trust is built on a foundation of love. We must bring ourselves fully to our leadership so that our influence is the result of trust and not fear. True leadership involves living one’s life with an eye on God’s purpose. It’s focused not on the blessings we receive, but rather seeking out ways to be a blessing for someone else. Blessing is the act of our soul extending toward another in love.

 

To love someone is to see another person as part of yourself and this requires empathy. When we extend ourselves, we offer ourselves to another. Leadership is not about us, but it requires that we bring our whole heart and all of ourselves to every opportunity that is presented to us. Where do you need to bring your whole heart to an issue or situation that has grabbed your attention? What would it look like to have empathy for those that are in need?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, remind me that every person I come in contact with is in need of the same grace, forgiveness, and love that I am. Lord help me to see their need as my need. Rather than rely on my talent to make an impact, I desire for my character and integrity to lead the way. Jesus let my life be one that points others towards You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.


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